Last month Evolve, a vacation rental and management company, named Saranac Lake the best place in the nation to buy a lakefront investment property next year.
This week, a slew of media outlets picked up that story, touting Saranac Lake as a great place to purchase lakefront investment properties while largely ignoring the broader context of the housing crisis in this area. (The articles also fail to mention that there’s many residents here who are pushing for the village of Saranac Lake to impose restrictions on vacation rentals; that the village board has considered imposing STR regulations; and that Mayor Jimmy Williams has said that he wants to support locals who maintain STRs but he doesn’t want “absentee owners” profiting from vacation rentals without giving back to the community. All things an investor would probably want to know beforehand.)
In an article in Travel and Leisure, the director of real estate services for the vacation rental and management company said “Saranac’s charm and outdoor activities in all four seasons” — Saranac. Hmmm. — “make it a great town for investors who want to maximize profits.”
“Another draw is the town’s Winter Festival,” the article goes on to say. I mean, come on. They might as well have added that the “Ice Castle” is a great thing to check out.
Saranac Lake’s elected officials should see this and not take it lightly. They should realize that while it’s good to be known as a place people should invest in, the time to impose regulations on vacation rentals — if that’s what they decide is best for this village — is before the market becomes even more difficult to regulate. Regulations should also come before it’s virtually impossible for the average family to put down roots here.
Some might say: Hey, lakefront property has pretty much always been sold at a premium and it’s been difficult for the average family to afford them for a long time. But it’s not just lakefront properties that investors are being encouraged to take a look at.
“The lake town feel is present throughout this quaint area, and an artsy downtown Main Street is another major selling point for travelers. As a result, investors looking to lower upfront costs can conduct a broader search for properties in Saranac Lake and still see success,” the vacation rental and management company says in its report.
Some Saranac Lakers like to point to Lake Placid as an example of what they don’t want this village to become. If that’s the case, consider the history of how the vacation rental market in Lake Placid grew. It didn’t explode overnight. And the larger the market, naturally, the more difficult it is to impose new rules.
With the publishing of this report and the subsequent news articles, there’s a spotlight on Saranac Lake and more investors’ eyes on us. The question is, what will local lawmakers do and when will they do it?