Summer has arrived, and for many families, that means getting away for a few weeks. While enjoying beautiful surroundings, warm sun or cultural enrichment, it’s easy to imagine how nice it would be to own a home that would let you do so whenever you wanted.
But don’t let your imagination run away with you. Before you snap up a beach house or a mountain cabin, give the same thought to the purchase as you would to buying your primary home.
The first question is whether you can afford a vacation home. Have you covered educational expenses for your children? Is your retirement secure? Is your emergency fund solid? Don’t rob yourself of essentials to cover a second home, no matter how great its potential as an asset. Even if you buy the property outright, you may not be able to access the equity for some time.
A second home entails more expense than you might imagine. Beyond the purchase price, you will need to consider maintenance, security or a caretaker, utilities, property taxes, furnishings, travel costs and other items. You may also need to pay association or assessment fees. And if you intend to rent your property, you will most likely need to pay for advertising, and possibly for a property manager.
Further, insurance can be a major expense. Property insurance for a second home often costs more than for a primary residence, and may be more difficult to obtain. The more the house will be vacant, the higher you can generally expect premiums to be. Insurers may also want you to pay more if you plan to rent the property. In areas where floods or hurricanes are possible, flood insurance generally must be added separately.
When considering how you will finance the home, remember that second mortgages are usually more expensive than primary mortgages, as banks tend to believe that they are assuming more risk. Lenders may look at an applicant’s income, rather than general assets, which can make approval harder for retirees or those approaching retirement. Some buyers consider taking home equity loans on their primary residences to fund second homes, but this puts your primary home at risk.
When deciding whether a vacation home is a practical purchase, estimate all these expenses to get an idea of the carrying costs for the property. If you plan to maintain the property mainly for your personal use, divide the costs by the number of days you plan to visit, so you can see whether renting a home or staying in a hotel might be sounder financially.
Some people do consider a vacation home a moneymaking vehicle, or choose to use…