The Challenge of Charm: Risks and Rewards of Buying a Cabin with Character

Old cabins have an understandable allure, with their architectural charm and unique character. The experience of being inside an old home, with all its lived-in quirks, is one of warmth and rich history. However, while picturesque and cozy, these cabins come with a host of potential issues that can turn your dream getaway into a costly and time-consuming project. Here are some of the primary issues to consider when purchasing an older property.

Hazardous Building Materials:

Many properties constructed before 1970 are laden with dangerous construction materials. Two of the most common are lead paint and asbestos. Lead paint, once used very widely, poses serious health risks, particularly to children. Asbestos, found in insulation and other building materials, can lead to lung diseases. Identifying and properly removing these materials is usually expensive and labor-intensive.

Outdated Mechanical Systems:

Older cabins are often hiding out-of-code systems that can pose significant risks. Knob and tube wiring is a common electrical system in older homes, and it poses a notable fire hazard. Plumbing pipes made from outdated materials can deteriorate over time, leading to costly water damage. Upgrading these systems to modern standards requires a substantial investment.

Maintenance & Upkeep:

Older cabins can hide a host of basic maintenance concerns as well, with varying degrees of risk. Foundation and structural problems, roofing and water damage, and poorly executed contractor or DIY updates are some serious concerns that can be difficult to identify. Lower risk maintenance issues include drafty windows, inefficient heating and plumbing systems, and ongoing management of old trees, roots, and shoreline.

Lifestyle Adjustments:

Older cabins lack many of the everyday accommodations we’re used to in our modern homes. Often this is desirable when one is getting away but for long-term lodging, these everyday comforts should be considered. Storage space is extremely limited in old properties, temperature control is often non-existent, and access to basic technology and entertainment may be cut off completely.

While the appeal of older cabin properties is undeniable, it’s essential to be aware of the risks and potential drawbacks. Before purchasing, be sure to conduct thorough inspections, budget for updates and repairs, and assess whether you’re ready to adapt your lifestyle to fit the limitations of an aging property. With careful planning and realistic expectations, owning an older cabin can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it’s crucial to go in fully informed and prepared.

Preserve and Protect: How to Winterize your Home for Vacancy

When leaving your home for the long and bitter winter months, it’s critical to thoroughly prepare. The winter cold presents some unique challenges and in a long-vacant home, small problems can quickly escalate. Here is a brief guide for winterizing your home before leaving it behind until spring.

Utilities, Fireplaces, and Plumbing: Reduce Your Risk

One of the largest risks to a home during the winter is a burst pipe, so be sure to shut off the water supply before leaving. Open all faucets and drain all pipes (including toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, and water heaters.) This will ensure there is no freezing or burst pipes while you’re away.

Unplug all major appliances and turn the thermostat down, though you’ll want to keep the internal temperature above freezing. If there is a fireplace, clean it thoroughly, removing any ash, coals, or other debris. Sweep or vacuum the fireplace and be sure to close any flues or dampers.

The Kitchen: Remove All Food

Another risk of vacating your home for the winter is animals. Removing all food from your kitchen will help to avoid attracting unwanted critters. Clean out the fridge and freezer completely; drain any water lines, empty the ice maker, clean and sanitize all surfaces. Leave the doors of your fridge and freezer propped open or consider using activated charcoal or baking soda to help avoid musty smells in the spring.

Remove all food from the pantry. Anything left behind should be secured in hard, sealed containers. Wash all dishes, clean your trash and recycling containers, and sanitize your sink when finished. Remove anything that should not freeze (like cans of carbonated beverages) and take out the trash.

Other Basics: Tidy, Clean, and Seal

You will want to do a basic clean of all other areas of the home including bedrooms, bathrooms, and common rooms. Wash, dry, and put away all linens. Vacuum carpets, sweep and mop floors, wipe down all surfaces. You may also consider additional weather proofing such as weather strips for doors and windows, plastic sheeting for windows, and caulking in any exterior gaps.

Outdoor Items: Secure and Store

Clean out gutters and be sure your roof is clear of debris. Arrange to have outdoor maintenance managed while you are away, such as shoveling snow or removing ice dams. Be sure to secure and store any outdoor items such as grills, fire pits, and furniture.

Overall Security: Locking Up

When leaving for an extended time, you want to ensure as much security as possible. Lock all doors and windows and remove any valuables before leaving your home for the winter. Consider purchasing automatic timers for a few lights. You may also want to arrange to have someone check on the house occasionally, throughout the winter.

Your home is a financial and emotional investment and it’s imperative that you protect it, even when you are away. By following this guide, you will limit the risks of leaving your home for the winter. From securing utilities to tending to your kitchen, these steps will help preserve your sanctuary while you are away. Remember, a well-prepared home not only shields against the cold but also grants you peace of mind throughout your winter hiatus.

Preparing to Sell Your Home? Plan for These Four High-Impact Improvements

There are countless things to do in preparation for selling your home. After the major improvements are completed, there are a variety of smaller updates and changes that can boost your home’s appeal to buyers, as well as increase its value prior to listing. These four improvements are accessible, affordable, and have a great impact.

Value-Add Improvements

Some repairs and replacements have a higher return-on-investment than others. Focus your time and money on those that will improve the final sale price. First and foremost, repair any basic damages, like a leaky faucet or broken blinds. Next, target high-ROI improvements, like updates in the kitchen and bathrooms. Any effort to refresh and update these rooms will have a positive impact. Think about small updates to fixtures and hardware, fresh paint, resurfaced cabinets, and modernized décor.

Painting & Carpet Cleaning

Painting is one of the most popular updates made before listing a home for sale. Carpet cleaning is another accessible task. Both require a bit of time but are relatively inexpensive and items you can do by yourself. In combination, they are an excellent facelift for your whole interior. It’s best to tackle these tasks 20 to 30 days prior to listing your home. This allows you to cover the mess of packing and moving, while still giving the space time to settle in. Your home will be looking fresh and bright just in time for prospective buyers!

Creating Curb Appeal

The exterior of your home is an important detail, as it will be the first impression for visitors. Make sure your yard is tidy, freshly mowed, and free of debris. Store outdoor items in a garage or shed to clear the space. Do some fresh landscaping, such as planting flower beds and mulching trees and shrubs. Finally, touch ups and simple projects can add extra impact and make guests feel welcome. Consider repainting your front door, updating your mailbox, or replacing old hardware and lighting appliances.

Decluttering and Staging

The last step in preparing your home for sale is to stage it. The goal of staging is for your home to appeal to as many buyers as possible. You want to make your home feel comfortable and tidy, while showcasing its strongest assets. Work on packing, purging, and storing unnecessary items in the months leading up to listing your home but hold onto items and décor that will be used for staging. You can find online staging guides or consider hiring help to get your home staged for sale.

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to listing your home for sale. It can be hard to focus your efforts, amidst seemingly endless recommendations and checklists. If you’re preparing to list your home, consider these four high-value improvements, and reach out to an agent today.

Celebrate Summer with the 6 Best Beaches the Region Has to Offer

Our beloved home of Minnesota is known for its abundant lakes, and there’s no shortage of beautiful beaches in the state. Here are six of our favorite area resorts with amazing beaches. Some offer public access while others are for guests only, but each provides unique features, activities, and lodging options.

Blue Water Resort | Hackensack | Private Beach Access for Guests Only

Located in the charming town of Hackensack, Blue Water Resort provides guests with private access to the clear and clean waters of Birch Lake. Boaters will also enjoy easy access to Birch Lake from the resort’s private boat launch, and anglers will find plenty of opportunities to catch walleye, northern pike, and bass. The resort offers cabin rentals and RV sites with hookups throughout the summer.

Pine Ridge Resort | Longville | Public Beach Access

Pine Ridge Resort is located on the shores of Boy Lake, known for its pristine water and excellent fishing. The resort features a sandy beach with a gradual slope, making it perfect for swimming and water activities. The beach is open to the public, and day visitors can access the beach for a fee. Pine Ridge Resort is also great for kayaking and canoeing, as the lake is relatively calm with many bays and inlets to explore. This resort offers cabin rentals and camping sites.

Wildwood Beach Resort | Hackensack | Public Beach Access

Wildwood Beach Resort features a wide beachfront on the sandy shores of Little Boy Lake. The beach is open to the public, and day visitors can access the beach for a fee. The beach is great for swimming and sunbathing, and the water is perfect for water activities like paddleboarding and kayaking. The resort offers cabin rentals and camping sites and also features a playground for kids and a fire pit for roasting marshmallows.

Shores of Leech Lake | Walker | Private Beach Access for Guests Only

Located in the town of Walker, Shores of Leech Lake offers a large beach area with soft sand and crystal clear water. The resort is situated on a bay, making it a great spot for fishing and boating. The beach is private and exclusive to resort guests. Shores of Leech Lake also features a sauna and a hot tub, perfect for relaxing after a long day on the water. The resort offers cabin rentals and RV sites.

Tri Birches Resort | Hackensack | Public Beach Access

Tri Birches Resort offers not one, not two, but three beautiful beaches on Woman Lake. Each of the beaches at Tri Birches Resort features translucent waters and soft sand. The beaches are open to the public, and day visitors can access the beach for a fee. Boaters can access Woman Lake from the resort’s private boat launch, and anglers will have the chance to catch walleye, northern pike, and musky. The resort offers cabin rentals and camping sites.

Hiawatha Beach Resort | Walker | Private Beach Access for Guests Only

Hiawatha Beach Resort is located on the southern shore of Leech Lake and boasts a sandy beach with crystal-clear water. The resort offers private and exclusive beach access to resort guests only. The resort offers easy access to Leech Lake, one of Minnesota’s largest and most popular lakes. Boaters will enjoy easy access to the lake from the resort’s private boat launch, and anglers will find plenty of opportunities to catch walleye, northern pike, and musky. The resort offers cabin rentals and RV sites.

We love our region, and we wait all winter to watch it come alive in the sun. Walker, Hackensack and Longville have some of the best lakes and beaches the state has to offer and they are perfect for summer vacation. Whether you are looking for calm waters, sandy beaches, great fishing, or family fun and activities, you’ll find it all in North-Central Minnesota.

8 Things to Look for When Viewing a Potential Property

Buying any real estate can be an overwhelming process but buying a cabin comes with its own unique considerations. Here’s what to look for when you’re viewing a potential property.

Cabin Location

It’s critical to consider the location and accessibility of the property. While you can make changes to the building and accommodations, you cannot change the property’s location. Is it in an area that makes sense for you? Is it far enough for a getaway, but also close enough to “home?” Are the access roads well-maintained?

The Changing of the Seasons

There are dramatic swings in weather in Northern Minnesota. If you plan to be heading up to the cabin in the winter, don’t forget to think about the snow! Be sure to ask about winter access and how the roads are handled. Some cabin communities provide snow management, others leave you to handle this yourself.

The Cabin or Vacation Home Lot

Making changes to the lot will come at a considerable cost and require a lot of work down the line. Be sure to look at how water flows, naturally, through the property. Are there areas where rainwater has washed out the landscape? Are there problematic trees or other concerns with the lay of the land?

Water Properties and Quality

Water is a huge consideration and something to stay aware of when viewing potential cabins, especially if you’re looking at a waterfront property. Be sure to research the water you’re buying near. You may want to research how high the water levels get, especially during the Spring thaw and major rains. Also, consider the quality of water in the lake, and what kind of systems are needed for treating it.

Cabin Building Blocks

If you’re looking at rustic or log-style cabins, the building materials and structure itself are something to pay attention to. Log cabins should always be raised off the ground by rocks, concrete or other materials. There should be no rotting, large gaps, or cracks among the logs. The roof should overhang the walls to protect logs from rain and snow.

Cabin Usage

Make sure there is room for everyone! Is this cabin going to be a quiet family getaway? Or a shared, multi-family property? How many people will be staying here at the same time? It’s important to provide a bed for everyone, even if it requires sharing rooms. Sometimes cabins have “bunk rooms” that can sleep 4 or more people in the same space.

Maintenance for Your Vacation Home

All properties require maintenance, but cabins are unique. They may be older buildings, made with different materials than our standard homes. Keep an eye out for how the property has been maintained. How well have the previous owners cared for the cabin?

Terms of Sale

Make sure you understand the terms of the sale agreement and what is included in the price of the cabin. Are you just buying the lot and the building? Are there any appliances the owner is willing to leave behind? Is there any outdoor equipment such as docks, boats, or other lake toys, that may be included?

Buying any property can be overwhelming but viewing cabins “up north” should be a fun and exciting experience! With a trusted team by your side, it’s easy to keep track of all these details and enjoy your property viewing experience!

3 Reasons Why You Should Invest in a Vacation Home

Real Estate is one of the most popular ways for individuals in the United States to build wealth and equity. If you’ve been looking for ways to earn more income, buying a vacation home might be right for you. Here are the reasons why we think you should consider buying a vacation home. 

Your Equity Will Grow

Just like your main living property, your vacation home will grow its own equity over the years. All you have to do is maintain your property and make occasional upgrades. It’s rare that a property decreases in value. 

You Can Rent Out Your Cabin

If you want to make some extra money, renting out your vacation home is a great way to do it. With services like Air BnB and VRBO, it has never been easier to make extra income on your property. Of course, you have to make sure you are maintaining and cleaning your space, and keeping your listing updated. But if you’re willing to put in a little work, the benefits can really start to stack up!

Save Money on Your Vacations

One of the most simple ways that your vacation home will keep a little extra money in your pocket is by saving you money on your vacations. With a designated Northern Minnesota vacation spot that you can escape to at any point, you’ll save on hotels and food when you stay and cook at the cabin!


We think lake life and vacationing Up North is one of the best ways to relax, unwind, and spend time with the people you love. Why not make it work for you by making some extra money. We’re here when you’re ready to invest in your vacation home. Take a look at our current properties to find the property that’s right for you.

4 Ways to Keep Your Cabin Energy Efficient This Winter

Winter in Northern Minnesota can really wreak havoc on your heating and energy bills. If you like spending time at your cabin during the winter months, below freezing temps and lots of snowfall, can make it difficult to keep it heated. Here are some tips to help you stay warm and energy efficient during cold weather. 

Take Advantage of Warmth from the Sun

When the sun is shining take advantage of that warmth and open up all of your curtains and blinds. You’ll be surprised at how much warmth sunshine can provide, even through a window. But don’t forget to close them when the sun sets so that you can prevent cold, drafty air from entering your spaces at night. 

Cover or Seal Drafty Windows

If you have older, drafty windows, you might notice that cold air easily seeps through making it difficult to stay warm. In lieu of purchasing all new windows, you can cover or seal them instead. Grab a tube of caulk or some self-adhesive weather stripping from your local hardware store and reseal the edges making sure that you don’t seal your windows completely shut. You can also buy an inexpensive window insulation kit to keep out the cold. 

Keep Your Furnace and Vents Clean/Clear

Regular furnace maintenance such as vent cleanings and professional service can ensure that your heating system is in tip-top shape and running at full capacity to keep you and your loved ones warm. You can also vacuum or wash your vent covers regularly to prevent dust and grime buildup so that airflow is not impacted. 

Cozy up with Warm Clothes and Blankets

It might seem too simple, but putting on an extra layer or grabbing a warm blanket when you’re sleeping or lounging around can help you stay warm without having to bump up the temperature on the thermostat. While there’s no need to completely freeze yourself out, you’ll be surprised how much a couple of degrees can save in energy usage and on your next bill.


While staying warm Up North can be a challenge, it can also help you get more time at the cabin year-round instead of waiting until the weather is warm to enjoy your vacation home. Check out our other blogs for tips on enjoying your time at the cabin.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Opening Your Cabin this Spring

There’s still a bit of time left before winter is over and we’re ready to start making our weekend trips to the cabin. But it is never too early to be prepared! We’ve pulled together some tips to help you get prepared to open your cabin this spring! 

Make a Plan

Decide what needs to be done and make a list for both the inside and the outside. Don’t forget to check on your licenses for fishing and boating as well. Verify what items need to be renewed or purchased. Also be sure to have a plan to turn on any services that you had shut off for the winter. 

Do an Opening Inspection

Upon arriving, test your smoke and CO2 detector batteries. Turn on water and heating and inspect for any damage to the exterior that might have happened over the winter. 

Check for Critter Damage

Look for holes in your screens, siding, gnawed wires, or rodent droppings, and create a plan for removing or exterminating.

Restock Necessities

Create a list of items that are must-haves in your cabin. Restock non-perishable food items, your first aid kit, and other emergency supplies. 
While it might feel like a long way off, Springtime and cabin days will be here before you know it! Until then, keep an eye on our hot list for the latest properties on the market!

Two Changes That Could Be Coming to the Housing Market in 2023

The pandemic caused some major changes to the Northern Minnesota housing market—especially in the vacation home market. More people were looking for escapes from their homes and cities and to spend time in nature. Fewer people were moving so, there was less inventory for buyers. This meant that sellers often had the upper hand, but also that rates for buyers were at an all-time low. As we move out of 2022 and into 2023 (three years after the pandemic began), we are seeing a shift. Here’s what you could expect from the housing market in 2023. 

There Will Be a Gradual Shift Toward Buyers

The “seller’s market” in the last few years has been tough on those looking to buy, even for those looking for vacation homes. But in 2023, there will be a sure, but gradual shift back toward a “buyer’s market”. That means that you’ll get better prices, and mortgage rates are predicted to stay relatively the same as they are now. You will also have more options to choose from and less competition when you make an offer! 

Rental Property Is Becoming a Lucrative Source of Income

Even if you’re looking for a vacation home to spend time with your family or friends, there are a ton of great opportunities to do long or short-term rentals to others for some extra income. With DIY rental apps such as VRBO and AirBnb, you can easily make your family cabin a substantial source of income. More and more people are opting for using these rental services instead of hotels when they travel so it could be a great way to make some extra money when you’re not at the cabin!If you’re curious about what else might be happening in the Housing Market in 2023, U.S. News has made lots of predictions for next year’s housing market. And as always, you can reach out to our team at Bill Hansen Realty to help guide you through buying your vacation home!

Three Activities to Keep You Entertained at the Cabin this Winter

While most of us Minnesotans are used to the cold and snow, there are just some days when you feel like cozying in and having an indoor activity day. These three activities are fun for all ages and will help you pass the time as you stay warm and dry.

Create an Indoor Obstacle Course

Gather the pillow, blankets, chairs, and anything else you can find – it’s time to start an obstacle course! For days when it’s too cold, or you just don’t feel like getting wet outside, this is a great activity for all ages. From building the course to racing through it, this will account for hours of fun for everyone. Don’t forget to remove anything breakable and make sure you’re making safe decisions! 

Host an Indoor Scavenger Hunt

This is another great option for people of every age to enjoy the day. Hide clues around the cabin and form teams, or make it a group effort to solve riddles and find a prize! You could also take turns creating scavenger hunts for each other so that the fun lasts even longer!

Get Baking

Whether it’s bread or cake or cookies, this is an activity everyone can get behind. Even if some of your group doesn’t want to participate in the baking, you can be sure that they’ll join in when it comes time for the tasting.
However you choose to spend your time this winter, the team at Bill Hansen Realty hopes that you stay warm and safe! As always, reach out to us at any time with all of your vacation property needs!