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Upper end lake communities
The Chapin Estate, Bethel, NY

The Chapin Estate, Bethel, NY

The Chapin Estate is Sullivan County’s most upper end lake community, and the only one that can truly carry the “luxury home” moniker (although there are certainly ‘luxury homes’ at some of our other lakes.) The Chapin Estate covers a total of more than 2,600 acres, with lake frontage on two of our largest motorboat lakes, Swinging Bridge and Toronto. The minimum parcel size here is 5 acres, and there are extensive covenants to ensure a natural environment.

The Chapin Estate was developed in the early 2000’s with the objective of replicating the Adirondack great camp style. Houses here are mostly in the grand lodge style, with massive stone fireplaces, peeled log detailing, and in some houses, elaborate wood carvings. Houses here tend to be large, with lakefront homes probably averaging upwards of 4,000 sq. ft., and a few houses in the 10,000 sq. ft. range. Lakefront houses start here in the low $1 million range, and can go as high as about $4 million. A good target for a lakefront home here with good lake frontage is probably between $1.5M and $2M. Non-lakefront houses, which are somewhat smaller, averaging in the 2,400 sq. ft. range, are typically priced between $600,000 and $1.2M.

There can be a significant variation in the lake frontage here, which can be a significant contributor to price. Both Swinging Bridge and Toronto are reservoirs, and the lake level can vary. Some of the lakefront parcels, particularly on Toronto, are on shallower coves, where the drop in the lake level can be much more apparent. So cove or shallow water houses tend to be priced less than non-cove deeper water houses.

A major choice buyers face at Chapin is “Swinging Bridge or Toronto?”, as the community straddles both lakes, and there are some differences. On Toronto, the lakefront parcels are wider, most around 350′ wide with some homes at the end of some of the peninsulas enjoying more than 1,000 feet of lake frontage. On Swinging Bridge, the lots are narrower and deeper, generally more in the 250′ wide range. While there are setback requirements and covenants against sideline tree cutting, houses on Swinging Bridge can feel a bit less private than on Toronto.

But there are other considerations. The lake level traditionally varies less on Swinging Bridge than Toronto. While both lakes permit motorboats, jet skis are prohibited on Toronto (because of eagle nesting), but permitted on Swinging Bridge. Swinging Bridge has two commercial marinas, which makes it easier to service, store and gas a motorboat. Swinging Bridge is also a busier lake, and the shoreline on the eastern side of the lake across from Chapin is more built up. While there is public access to both lakes, Toronto overall feels more private.

The Chapin Estate has a lake club on the Swinging Bridge. Membership, though, was not mandatory for the early phases (not sure about the current lot releases.) The lake club has a small outdoor pool, covered pavillion, an indoor event space for lectures and gatherings, a small fitness center and docking space for club members. There’s also a large lakeside deck where yoga classes are sometimes held. There are no tennis courts, however.

For non-lakefront homeowners, there’s lake access to Swinging Bridge at the lake club, as well as accesses to Toronto from the Top Ridge and Peninsula sections. Docking space on Toronto is available to Chapin homeowners who are lake club members. The Chapin Estate is very large, so it can be a few miles to get from the Toronto side to the Swinging Bridge side, where the lake club is located.

Property taxes here can be an eye-brow raiser, with annual tax bills on lakefront houses in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, and $15,000 to $20,000 for non-lakefront homes. While these are hefty sums, they’re not of line in terms of the tax rate in this area.

There are a few other tidbits to know about Chapin. There are a number of trails that wind through conservation land that you can use for hiking and cross country skiing, but motorized recreation (i.e. ATVs and snowmbobiles) is not permitted on the trails. (Snowmobiles can be used on Swinging Bridge lake when the lake is frozen.) Hunting is also not allowed on the Chapin property.

Chapin also offers a concierge service, providing whatever services an owner needs, including snow plowing, arranging maintenance or repair services, and accepting deliveries.

For buyers looking to buy land and build, there are some lakefront and non-lakefront parcels available here. For lakefront, expect to pay between $400,000 and $700,000 for a 5 to 6 acre parcel. (Cove fronts may be available for less.) Non-lakefront parcels can sometimes be found less than $100,000. Note, though, that there are significant covenants at Chapin to maintain a certain aesthetic, so if you’re looking to build something very modern, it might not pass architectural review.

The Chapin Estate Quick Facts
  • Frontage on two motorboat lakes, Swinging Bridge and Toronto
  • Total community size: approx. 2,600 acres
  • The Chapin Estate is gated, but the lakes have public access
  • Lake Club on Swinging Bridge
  • Concierge Services
  • 98 miles from the George Washington Bridge
  • Parcel sizes: 5 to 6 acres a few larger
  • Some rental limits; no short term rentals
  • House prices: Lakefront $1M to $4M. Non-lakefront $600,000 to $1.2M.