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Mike Fenton | Railey Realty

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Buyer`s Frequently Asked Questions

Working with a wide variety of people we answer a lot of questions throughout the day. Below are some of the most common questions and answers. We hope you find this information useful in your search for Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County real estate!

Deep Creek Lake Real Estate Terms

What is the Buffer Strip?
Deep Creek Lake is surrounded by a Buffer Strip of land owned and protected by the state of Maryland. The Maryland DNR regulates any cutting of trees and the general use of this land to protect the natural integrity and beauty of the lake's shoreline. No permanent structures may be constructed on the buffer strip.

What is the difference between Lakefront, Split Lakefront, and Lake Access property?
The term 'lakefront' refers to any property that borders the buffer strip of land owned by the state of Maryland.  The property owner may cross the buffer strip to access the water. The distance between a lakefront house and the water can vary. The owner of this type of property does not have to cross a road to get to the water's edge.

  • Split Lakefront means that a property borders the buffer strip but there is a road between the house and the water. The property owner usually owns the land on the other side of the road and must cross the road to get down to the lake.
  • Lake Access means you have deeded access to a common area that borders the State of Maryland property. The owner of this type of property may be able to walk to the access area from their house or may have to drive.

What does the term 'Buy Down' mean?
When the state of Maryland purchased the entire lake bed and buffer strip in 1997, they offered lakefront property owners and homeowners' associations which own lake access common areas the right to buy down additional land from their current property line to a point closer to the water. This additional land is being offered at $0.39 per square foot. However, the "buy down" land comes with a conservation easement - meaning a property owner may not modify or alter this newly acquired property in any way, including constructing buildings or cutting of trees and other vegetation.

When you buy lakefront property, does the property actually extend to the water's edge?
No - a lakefront owner's property line only extends down to the state of Maryland's buffer strip line. However, since the buffer strip is owned by the state of Maryland, you do have a right to cross this strip of land to get to the water. Permanent structures, including houses, are not permitted on the buffer strip or buydown property.

What is a Buffer Strip Use Permit?
A Buffer Strip Use Permit is an annual permit issued to a lakefront property owner or homeowners' association that owns a lake access common area. This permit gives these owners the ability to place a specific type of boat dock on the waters of Deep Creek Lake in front of their property. There is an annual fee for these permits and all docks must be taken out of the water by December 1st of each year.

What is a Type A Boat Dock?
A Type A Dock is a permitted boat dock that can usually accommodate 2 power and 1 non-power boats. Nearly all Type A docks on Deep Creek are private and only for the use of the lakefront property owner or their guests.

What is a Common Dock?
A Common Dock is a multiple slip boat dock that is usually owned by a community homeowners' association (HOA). Some property owners in that community may have a deeded right to one of the boat slips in the common dock, while other owners may only have a deeded right to use the common dock for swimming or fishing.

Renting Your Vacation Home

I keep hearing the term Transient Vacation Rental Unit - or TVRU. What is does this mean?
In August of 2003, the Garrett County Commissioners passed an amendment to the Deep Creek Lake Watershed Zoning Ordinance that now requires any house built after this date, or any house not currently a vacation rental, to get approval from the Planning and Zoning office to become a Transient Vacation Rental Unit. TVRU's are limited to a maximum of 8 bedrooms, and TVRU's for 6 to 8 bedrooms in Lake Residential zoning must go through the special exception process to get approval.

I'm thinking of buying a vacation house and will need to rent it out. How does the Railey Mountain Lake Vacations rental program work?
Basically, if a property is rented through Railey Mountain Lake Vacations, the homeowner is paid a gross rental rate. Railey Mountain Lake Vacations, in turn, will deduct a management fee from this rate for each reservation and subsequent renter stay in that property. The management fee is typically 20% of the gross rental rate, with incentive rebates for certain income levels attained. For that management fee, Railey Mountain Lake Vacations will act on behalf of a homeowner and perform all of the necessary functions to successfully rent the property and take care of its renters through the entire process - from the time they make a reservation on the house until the time they check out - and everything in between.

How much gross income does a typical vacation rental house generate at Deep Creek Lake?
This is a difficult question to answer as there are a wide variety of homes in the vacation rental pool. The lakefront homes with the most amenities, newer construction, newer furniture, and the maximum number of bedrooms usually generate the most gross rental income.  If a house for sale is currently a vacation rental, one of our agents will be glad to provide a rental history for that property so you can see how much income it has generated. If a house for sale is currently not a vacation rental, Deep Creek Lodging Company can prepare a rental projection based on other similar properties they rent if you request the information and you are a serious buyer. Any projected occupancy level or owner gross rental income is not guaranteed. 

What are the typical expenses associated with owning a vacation rental home?
In addition to the management fee that is deducted from the owner's gross rental income, a vacation rental owner will also have to pay the usual expenses of owning a home, including, but not limited to 

  • Annual Real Estate Taxes
  • Annual HOA Dues - if applicable
  • Utility Expenses - phone, electric, cable TV, propane
  • Snow Plowing
  • Wood
  • Lawn Care
  • Dock Adjusting and Take In/Take Out Service
  • Trash Service
  • General Maintenance

The Buying Process

How can I obtain financing for my vacation home and what should I expect during the loan process?
There are many loan options for people purchasing vacation homes and land. On our Useful Phone Number page, we have listed a few local mortgage brokers and lenders we have worked with in the past that you may contact for more information. While each loan program is different, typically each lender will finance anywhere between 70-89% of the purchase price with varying terms and conditions based on the amount borrowed and the type of property purchased. To get loan approval, expect to provide the lender with your last 3 years of tax returns. The entire loan process from start to finish usually takes between 30-45 days.

What is the best way to get my offer accepted?
Keep it as clean as possible. Sellers tend to become more flexible on price when other terms and conditions are not required. While we certainly recommend getting all available property inspections, you as the buyer do have the option to forego some of these.

I need to complete a Section 1031 tax-deferred exchange. Can you help me?
Yes - we work with buyers all of the time completing 1031 exchanges. Our agents are very familiar and experienced with the entire 1031 process. However, we do not act as 1031 intermediaries, nor can we give you any tax advice. Please consult a qualified intermediary or accountant for more information.

If I make an offer on a property, what inspections will be available to me and how much do they typically cost?
If you do make an offer on a house or land, you can typically negotiate with the seller to have the following inspections performed - if applicable: 
 

  • Home Inspection $300-$600 depending on house size
  • Radon Inspection $125
  • Chimney $90 per flue
  • Mold Inspection $300
  • Survey $300-$1,000
  • Water Flow Test $300-$500
  • Water Potability $85
  • Septic Evaluation $100
  • Termite $85

This is just a guideline to give you a better idea of the costs, as the buyer typically pays for these to be performed. However, these amounts can be more or less than those listed above, depending on the property.

I live too far away to attend settlement. Can I do a long-distance settlement? 
Yes. In fact, with e-mail and faxes, you can go through the entire buying process without being physically present. Our agents work with many out-of-town buyers and sellers and typically handle all of the legwork and coordinate the entire transaction. We do highly recommend being present at closing, though. Not only does it give you a chance to better understand what you are signing but it also gives you the opportunity to do a final walk-through of the property to make sure everything is fine before you take possession.

What are the typical closing or settlement costs? 
Unless otherwise negotiated, in Maryland the buyer and seller equally share in all state and local recordation and transfer taxes. The buyer's portion of these taxes and fees is approximately 1% of the purchase price. In addition, the settlement attorney will also typically charge $400-$500 to cover the settlement fee, title exam, deed recordation fees, and document preparation. You will also have the option at closing to get an Owner's Title Insurance policy. This policy will basically protect an owner for as long as they own the property against any title defects. The one-time premium cost of an Owner's Title Insurance varies from carrier to carrier but most have a similar scale to the one below:
 

Owner's Coverage Price

<$250,000 $3.50 per $1,000 of coverage

$250,001-$500,000 $3.00 per $1,000

$500,001-$1,000,000 $2.75 per $1,000

>$1,000,0000 $2.50 per $1,000


If you obtain a loan to purchase your property, some additional closing costs will be incurred at settlement as well, including, but not limited to, points, fees, pre-paid items, mortgage recordation fees, and Lender's Title Insurance. Ask your lender to prepare a Good Faith Estimate of closing costs for you at the time of loan application to give you a better idea of these additional costs.

Taxes, Expenses, & Other Costs

How much are real estate taxes at Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County?
Annual Real Estate taxes in Garrett County usually equal about 1% of the purchase price initially. Under Maryland Law, properties are re-assessed every 3 years and new values are phased in accordingly. The tax year in Garrett County runs from July 1st to June 30th, with tax bills mailed out every July and not delinquent until after June 30th of the following year. However, the county does offer a sliding scale discount for those paying earlier in the yearly billing cycle. Deep Creek Lake is not an incorporated town, but you may incur additional city taxes if you buy a property located in one of Garrett County's incorporated towns such as Oakland or Mountain Lake Park.

Typically, how much are annual HOA dues and what expenses do these dues cover?
Annual dues for most of the HOA communities around Deep Creek Lake run anywhere from $250-$2,400 per year - with most falling in the $500-$1,000 per year range. These dues usually cover road maintenance, snow plowing (not driveways), common ground maintenance, and dock removal and installation. A community with higher dues usually has more amenities to offer - such as a golf course, tennis courts, trash removal, or a community building.

Other than normal utility costs, what other expenses should I expect to pay to own a vacation home at Deep Creek Lake?
If you purchase a vacation home at Deep Creek Lake you should expect to incur most of the same utility costs you have with your primary residence - i.e. electric, phone, cable, gas, lawn maintenance. However, you may also have some additional expenses that you may not be used to.

If your property qualifies for a private dock, you will have an annual $200 fee payable to the state of Maryland for your Buffer Strip Use Permit. You will also probably pay one of the local dock or property management companies to adjust your dock in the summer as the water level changes, along with taking your dock in and out of the water each spring and fall. Depending on the size of the dock, these expenses usually run somewhere between $400 and $600 per year.

Also, Garrett County gets much more snow than what you might be used to. If you want your driveway plowed, most of the local companies charge between $15 and $30 per snowfall. Depending on how much snow we get, the expense for plowing can usually run between $300 and $600 per winter season.

General Deep Creek Lake & Garrett County

How big is Deep Creek Lake and what is the lake really like?
The lake is approximately 12 miles in length with 65 miles of shoreline. The deepest part of the lake is approximately 75 feet deep with an average lake depth of 25 feet. Surface water temperatures generally top out in the mid to low 70's in summer. Since the lake is naturally spring-fed, water clarity is exceptionally good compared with other lakes.

Who actually owns and manages Deep Creek Lake?
The state of Maryland actually owns the lake bed, the water, and a Buffer Strip of land around the entire lake. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages and patrols the lake. Brookfield Power currently owns the dam and hydro-electric facility. The Maryland Department of Environment regulates the amount of water Brookfield Power can draw down from the lake, ensuring a consistent boating season.

What are the main boating regulations on Deep Creek Lake?
The main boating regulations on Deep Creek Lake are as follows:

  • No boats longer than 26 feet are permitted (excluding pontoons)
  • No speed restrictions except in designated areas
  • No Personal Water Craft (PVC's) or Jet Skis are permitted on the lake between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays between the 4th of July and Labor Day weekend.
  • Anyone born after 1972 must complete an approved Boater Safety Course to be eligible to operate any type of watercraft on the lake.

Approximately how many homes are located around Deep Creek Lake?
While the number of houses has and will continue to fluctuate over time, there are approximately 1,800 homes located along the 65 miles of shoreline and another 700 homes with lake access.  In all, there are currently 6,574 properties in tax district 18, also known as the Deep Creek Lake District.

What are the temperatures and climate really like in Garrett County? 
With elevations between 2,400 and 3,000 feet above sea level, the outside air temperatures throughout Garrett County and Deep Creek Lake are usually 5-10 degrees cooler than the surrounding metropolitan areas. The average high temperature in the summer is in the low 80's with lower humidity levels and nighttime low temperatures in the low 60's to high 50's. In the winter, Garrett County averages approximately 90 inches of snow. However, some winter seasons result in more snow than others.  In fact, two of the past three winters have resulted in more than 200 inches of snow, making for excellent skiing (downhill and cross-county), snowboarding, and snowmobiling conditions!

What activities are available? 
With so many possible activities in Garrett County, it would be much easier to make a list of things you can't do. The options are numerous - much more than other resort areas in the east and mid-Atlantic. Activities throughout the year include, but are not limited to, the following - Alpine (Downhill) Skiing, ATV (Four Wheeler) Riding, Backpacking, Biking, Bird Watching, Boating, Camping, Canoeing, Cross County Skiing, Dog sledding, Fishing/Ice Fishing, Fly Fishing, Kayaking, Golf, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Hunting, Ice Climbing, Mountain Biking, Orienteering, Rappelling, Rock Climbing, Rollerblading, Sailing, Scuba Diving, Sledding & Tubing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing, Skateboarding, Swimming, Tennis, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Whitewater Rafting, and Windsurfing.

What are the restaurants and nightlife like?
There are nearly 50 restaurants in the Deep Creek Lake area -ranging from popular franchises to fine cuisine to good old fashioned family restaurants. The nightlife revolves around the various bars, taverns, and night clubs around the lake. If you are looking for more family-friendly things to do, the Deep Creek Lake area boasts a state-of-the-art eight-screen movie theatre, as well as two family arcades that have go-karts, mini-golf, video games, and laser tag.

Are there any arts and cultural things to do?
Plenty. Not only does the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival run throughout the summer, but the town of Oakland has the weekly Little Yough Summer Music Festival that's held every Friday and Our Town Theatre puts on various plays and productions throughout the year, as well. In addition, Spruce Forest Artisan Village is a nonprofit organization of traditional artisans working in a restored village of log homes along the National Pike just east of Grantsville, Maryland. The Garrett County Arts Council promotes community arts development in western Maryland for the benefit of residents and visitors.

Will my cell phone work at Deep Creek Lake and is high-speed internet available?
Other than a few small dead spots in the county, you should be able to get a good cell signal no matter who your provider is.

Also, while not yet available everywhere in the county, many areas now have access to high-speed internet - via DSL or cable modems.

What improvements are planned for the Wisp Ski Resort and surrounding area?
The Wisp Ski Resort continues to add new trails, ski-able terrain, and higher capacity chair lifts. This has resulted in less wait time and overall better skiing conditions. Recently opened at Wisp was their North Camp expansion - which features ten new slopes and two new quad chair lifts.

In addition, adjacent to the Wisp Ski Resort atop Marsh Mountain is the planned Adventure Sports Center. Encompassing 550 acres of mountain terrain, the new Adventure Sports Center features a state-of-the-art re-circulating whitewater course and community recreation facility that will enable visitors and residents to enjoy the following activities and amenities:

Alpine Skiing

Canoeing

Swimming

Hiking

Ice Skating

Kayaking

Court Sports

Mountain Biking

Nordic Skiing

Orienteering

Rafting

Rock Climbing

Snow Skiing

Fitness Facilities

Snow Boarding

How many homes in the Deep Creek Lake watershed have public sewer?

Approximately 50% of all the homes in the Deep Creek watershed have public sewer. The other 50% have on-site septic fields for sewage disposal.

Currently, the Garrett County Sanitary District's public sewer system is operating at maximum capacity, so expansion is necessary. This expansion is currently in the early planning stages. Officials at the Sanitary District have set a goal of having all of the homes in the Deep Creek watershed on the expanded public sewer system by the year 2030.

Is Deep Creek Lake turning into Ocean City?
No.  Even though Deep Creek Lake has grown over the past several years it is still very much a peaceful mountain getaway. With current zoning laws and a scarcity of available commercial property, it's hard to ever imagine Deep Creek Lake turning into a highly commercialized resort such as Ocean City.