While it’s true that many people are just now getting back on their financial feet and buying a primary residence is their number one priority, others find themselves in a better financial situation. Specifically those that weren’t laid off and didn’t lose their home to a foreclosure. Even for those whose mortgage was underwater, some have not only seen their property value return but now have solid equity again. These people (and others such as those receiving a significant inheritance) may be contemplating purchasing a vacation home in the near future.
Maybe you’ve been following the real estate market and are fully aware that asking prices for homes are out of reach for many people. However, that’s not necessarily true for most vacation homes. Sure, if your dream is in East Hampton or Nantucket the medium price is about $1.8 million. In reality, most people (80 percent) purchase a vacation home within 50 miles of their primary residence, according to National Association of Realtors (NAR). Many of these homes are highly affordable.
A vacation home is not your primary residence and an entirely different criteria is often needed when deciding what is right for you. Most people get the vacation home bug after a casual and exceptionally enjoyable visit to a destination. Something to keep in mind is if that destination was a second honeymoon in the Caribbean, are you likely to make it there for most three-day weekends?
Most people stay relatively local with lakefront retreats, mountain cabins, or oceanside cottages. Before you make this big decision, consider if this was a one-time adventure or a place that you really want to call your second home. Be sure to visit several times at different seasons of the year. If it’s a lakeside property and you want to be on the water, your first step is probably buying a boat before buying a property. If it’s a mountain ski chalet, try a season ski pass first. If you’re considering a retirement home, do you really want an A-frame loft where you’ll need to climb stairs to the master bedroom?
There are many considerations to be made before deciding on a vacation home location. Is it the thrill of a new adventure each year that you crave? Or have you truly found your idyllic destination?
The vacation home market is still mostly in the doldrums but steadily improving. Within weekend driving distance of many major metropolitan areas are vacation homes costing well less than $200,000. However, keep in mind that having a vacation home costs more than the down payment and monthly mortgage.
Because this is not your primary home, most lenders consider a mortgage a little more risky. That means you will probably have to pay a higher interest rate and come up with a higher down payment. Of course, under certain circumstances you can find more creative financing from sources such as your retirement account or by leveraging the equity in your primary home.
Is the property susceptible to hurricanes, flooding, forest fires, or landslides? If so, your insurance is probably going to cost more.
Most vacation homeowners do not rent out their properties. Who is going to be on-hand at 9 pm on Friday night to hand over the key to a renter? And then be there after the weekend to tidy up to make sure it’s ready for the next renter? If you do choose to partially supplement your mortgage payment with rental income, be sure to choose a popular destination where demand for short-term lodging is high.
Aw... the tax implications of a vacation rental home. If it’s for your exclusive use or rented less than 15 days a year, you will probably be able to write off expenses like mortgage interest and property taxes on the long form. On the other hand, if you rent it more than 15 days a year, it becomes more like a business. You can write off some expenses but also have to declare rental fees as income.
A vacation home can be a great way to expand your real estate holdings. However, it won’t be your primary home. There are different criteria to take into consideration. Be sure you understand what it means to your finances as well as enjoyment of life before making the decision.
Please leave a comment if this article was helpful or if you have a question.
Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for 10 years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. With the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.