Some considerations for second home real estate buyers with children

Buying Sullivan County Real Estate for Families with Children

Your dream house out in the country may well be a big old farmhouse on acreage with lots of privacy. But if you have children, it may well not be their dream house. Families with children should carefully consider their children’s needs throughout their childhood and teen years when choosing property here, particularly a second home.

Consider one of Sullivan County’s lake communities
Most lake communities are very family oriented. Most have a community beach (some with a life guard) that kids can walk or bike to, with other children their own age to hang out with. It’s easy for them (and you) to make friends. Lake communities are the kinds of places where you can let your kids out to play without worrying, and parents watch out for each other’s children. There are also other recreational facilities in many of the lake communities, including tennis courts, basketball courts, swimming pools, and clubhouses. Wolf Lake, near Rock Hill, also has 1,500 acres of shared community land for hiking and cross country skiing.

Lake communities come in all styles and price ranges, from modest like Smallwood or Hunter Lake, to grand like Black Lake or the Chapin Estate. Emerald Green (on Lake Louise Marie) near Rock Hill has the widest range of recreational facilities. City trendsters sometimes pass up Emerald Green because its more ‘suburban’ style doesn’t quite fit an ideal of a mouintain lake getaway, but it can be a great family choice. Nearby Wolf Lake has that rustic mountain lake feel, and a full program of summer family activities, but is pricier than Emerald Green, particularly if you need a larger 3 or 4 bedroom home. For more information about lakefront options, check out my About Lakefront page. A uniquer community, sans lake but with a pool, tennis courts and swimming pond, is North Branch Commons near North Branch. Houses here are quite private and set in the woods, connected to the community facilities by walking trails. But North Branch Commons is quite small (maybe 20 or so houses), so there often are none available for sale.

Consider a home in a village or hamlet
A lot of Sullivan County’s villages and hamlets are a throwback to a kinder, simpler ‘Norman Rockwell’ era, where kids play outside until the street lights come on. Many of the villages and hamlets have readily accessible facilities, like playgrounds. tennis courts and basketball courts, where your children can go play on their own. They can walk or bike to friends houses. Some hamlets, like Callicoon, have youth centers with swimming pools and other activities.

If you buy a second home in a village, hamlet or lake community, you still have the whole county within easy reach — the fairs and farmers markets and everything else that makes Sullivan County so special. You also get more time for yourself, because you don’t have to shuttle your kids around all weekend. You get more money in your pocket, since these homes are more affordable than similar homes on acreage out in the country. And as your children grow up along with their friends in the country, they’ll continue to look forward to coming up here and won’t complain about being bored or lonely.

If you do choose to be out in the country

Plenty of second homers with children have chosen to settle in a more country setting and been very happy. They just have to put out a little more effort to connect with other families and children. One big help is that folks in the country tend to be very open and friendly. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with someone else pushing a baby stroller at a farmer’s market, in the supermarket, or at one of our many summer fairs. Second homers with kids naturally gravitate to each other. I know a number of teenagers whose stongest friendships in the city were formed here in the country.

Also, children have an uncanny ability to make instant friends wherever they come across other children. The Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon has a playground, swimming pool and summer arts program for children, and is a magnet for kids in the western part of the county. And a lot of children of second homers have made great friends at the Winston Day Camp near Sackett Lake. You can have your child attend Winston for as few as two weeks in the summer, and there’s bus transportation available from a number of locations in Sullivan County.

Many second homers import playmates from the city, in the form of house guests with children. When you have a house in the country, you can have a steady stream of weekend guests if you want. I have some friends who stuff their house full almost every summer weekend, and their kids have a ball just playing in the woods.

One of the joys of the country for a family with children is a whole new world of activities to explore. In the summer, there are farm farm days (open houses with tours particularly oriented to children.) Apple Pond Farm outside of Callicoon Center has a popular “Farming with Kids” program. If you’re not in a lake community, there are a number of lakes with public access for swimming or canoeing — Lake Superior State Park near White Lake, Crystal Lake west of Roscoe and Mongaup Pond NE of Livingston Manor. There are also access points along the Delaware River. (A favorite summer destination on the Delaware is Skinner’s Falls near Cochecton.)

Lake community pages:

Affordable range lakes

Mid range lakes

Upper end lakes

Communities with swimming pools (in addition to other amenities):

Camelot Woods (Sackett Lake)

Emerald Green

Lake Joseph

Lake Louise Marie


Other communities with recreational amenities (but no individual pages on this site):

Hidden Ridge
Greentree Village
North Branch Commons
Presidential Estates