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High-end lake homes often serve as family compounds for decades

Dan, right, and Sandy Skolness stand outside their home at 24608 County Highway 22 near Detroit Lakes, Minn. It is on the market for roughly $2.5 million. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

LAKE SALLIE, Minn. - Dan and Sandy Skolness have their lake home on the market for about $2.5 million.

Who are the potential buyers?

Someone looking for a family compound, said Dan Skolness.

That was one of the reasons the Skolnesses purchased their house on Lake Sallie near Detroit Lakes in 2007.

Since then, the home built on land that was once a resort has served as a place to entertain family and friends.

With three acres to explore and a playhouse tucked away in the woods, it's a wonderland for the couple's 12 grandchildren.

"They're kind of spoiled," Sandy Skolness said of the kids.

The main house has five bedrooms. A nearby guesthouse has two more.

In between the houses is a swimming pool and a large deck.

People who show up for open houses will sometimes ask how the property can command the price they are asking.

"By the time they leave, they're saying, 'Now I can see the value,' '' Dan Skolness said.

The interior includes lots of redwood and one-of-a-kind features like stained-glass windows from the former Fargo Shanley High School.

Skolness, a former Glyndon farmer who now works full time developing renewable energy projects, said they are selling the house for a number of reasons.

He said one is the need for a place closer to Moorhead, where his wife is spending more time helping their daughter run a day care operation.

Sandy Skolness said one of the home's biggest selling points can be found just across Becker County Highway 22.

"It's the only property you're going to find with 36 holes in your backyard," she said, referring to the Detroit Country Club and its two 18-hole golf courses.

All about family

A Forum review of records from Becker and Otter Tail counties showed more than 80 lake properties - homes plus the land they sit on - valued at $1 million or more.

Many of the property owners who responded to requests for comment said their homes serve as a focal point for generations of family members to gather and spend time together.

It is not uncommon for families to have owned a lake property for decades.

Several homeowners indicated that after purchasing lake property they bought adjacent lots when they became available, forming family compounds.

Ownership structures vary.

Some families may hold land in a kind of company or partnership or place property in a family trust.

Under a trust, parents can transfer ownership to heirs and still enjoy the property for as long as they are able, said Larry Scheffler, whose family owns property on Franklin Lake in Otter Tail County.

He said a trust carries tax benefits for heirs.

Al and Laura Rostad built their home on Lake Lizzie in Otter Tail County 10 years ago.

Their son's family often visits on weekends, and everyone has fun, said Laura Rostad, a former mayor of Barnesville who describes herself as the "only woman ever" to hold that title in Barnesville.

The couple's 2½-story home sits on 2 acres of land and is valued by the county assessor's office at just under $1 million, with the building and land valued at about half a million dollars each.

A year ago, the Rostads' property was valued at just over $1 million.

The slight drop reflects a trend county assessors say is affecting lakeshore in both Becker and Otter Tail counties, which for years had seen nothing but rising prices on lake property.

Laura Rostad said they started out many years ago with a "teensy" cabin at a different spot on the lake.

She said she sometimes misses the simplicity of that small cabin and the tax bill that came with it.

"Our first cabin, our taxes were $200 a year," said Rostad, whose husband operates a dental practice in Barnesville.

On the subject of taxes, Laura Rostad said many lake homeowners are concerned about the potential impacts of things like school referendums.

"People say they'll put their houses on the market," she said.

As she walked the grounds of her property with her two springer spaniels, Rostad said she and her husband have no plans to sell their home in the near future.

Color is a major feature of her home's décor, and sunny pastels dominate.

"Our house is real Florida looking," said Rostad, adding that she loves the peace and quiet that comes with living at the lake.

"And I love to entertain. There's room for inside and outside living."