8 Things To Know Before Buying A Vacation Home

By Trulia Contributer to Forbes.com

I’ve had a property in sunny Palm Springs, CA for years, so I’m pretty familiar with the ins and outs of owning a vacation home. Having a second home for getaways sounds glamorous – and it can be – and many times, it’s even a really good long-term investment. But don’t jump in blindly. Here are eight considerations to make before plunking down on a vacation home:

Spend Time There First

Don’t even think of buying a vacation home until you’ve visited the area a few times. It sounds basic, but you better be sure you simply adore and can’t get enough of that beach town, ski village, lakeside community or country ranch before you commit to buying there, since you’ll be spending a great deal of your free time there in the future. Unlike hotels and timeshares, owning a vacation home doesn’t allow you the option to change destinations if your tire of the scenery.

Know All Your Costs

Just like your primary residence, you have to understand the total price of ownership including property taxes, insurance, and any other carrying costs.  Remember, even when you’re not there, you’re still being charged for water, gas, electrical, trash removal, landscaping, and other maintenance services. Be sure to include all these overhead costs into your budget, because nothing ruins a ‘perfect vacation home’ like being in over your head financially.

Who Is Going To Watch When You’re Away?

Speaking of costs, there’s one more expense specific to a vacation homes: management fees. If you plan to visit infrequently – and are even considering renters while you’re away – make sure you find a local property manager that will maintain your home. It will cost extra, but so will the damage from those frozen pipes or leaky roof, especially if it goes unnoticed for a long period of time.

Not Every Day Is A Vacation

For me, the entire first weekend of the season becomes an unrelenting (and very un-relaxing) spree of vacation home maintenance and repairs.  In fact, a good number of your ‘vacation’ days may spent at the local home improvement store.  It’s a house, not a hotel, so it needs just as much year-round upkeep as your primary home.

You’ll Want A Rental Income Option

A smart vacation home purchase is one that incorporates rental potential into the equation. If managed correctly, some of your costs can be offset by allowing renters while you’re away. And from a long-term investment standpoint, rental income may allow you to build equity and eventually pay the property off.  Analyze nearby vacation homes, talk to local agents and vacation rental companies, and look online to see what’s renting (and for how much).  And don’t forget to research occupancy rates; how often people are renting is important, too!

Holidays Could Be A Battle

Many popular vacation spots are areas that have a ‘high’ season.  For instance, in Florida, high season is winter, and in most ski towns, visits spike from December to February. This type of seasonality becomes a battle when the rental demand for your vacation home collides with the time-frame you want to use it.  So if you’re planning on maximizing your home’s rental income, be prepared to give up some of that peak-season vacay yourself.

Safety Never Takes A Vacation

Check crime in the area on Trulia before you buy, especially if you’re going to leave the home unoccupied for long stretches of time. A break in or other crime at your vacation home can be particularly frustrating when you’re not around.  And don’t forget to add the cost of a security and alarm monitoring systems to your budget.

Getting There Is (Not) Half The Fun

How easy will it be for you to get to your new vacation home? Your best options are accessible ones. For me, it’s a two-hour drive door to door.  While it may sound romantic to have a cabin high in the hills of the Carolinas, if it takes you two flights, a rental car, and a three-hour drive to get there, I can promise it won’t get much use.

Re-posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”

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