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Buying your second home

by Jeffrey Hammerberg
If it seems to you that more and more people these days are buying vacation homes, you’re right, they are. Statistics indicate that one-third of the 2004 residential home purchases were second homes.

Now, that’s a pretty high percentage, which lets you know that you aren’t by yourself if you’ve been thinking about doing the same thing.

If you’re already considering a vacation home, then you probably have your own reason. You may love the appeal of the gayborhood, the location, the climate or as a potential retirement home. Whatever your reason, the time has never been more right than now for buying a second home.

The mortgage industry has adopted a take-notice perspective to the amount of expendable income people have these days. What was once a luxury, affordable only to the truly financially elite, has become an option for many simply for the choosing.

However, if you’re making the choice to buy a vacation home, you’ll benefit from some practical advice. Like making any other choice, you deserve to be well informed so that your dream of owning a second home is a dream come true, not a nightmare.

Where to start
The first step to buying a vacation home is the same as it is in buying a primary home: your finances. Unless you can afford to pay cash, which most of us can’t, then you’ll save time and energy by getting pre-qualified for a loan. For financial services like pre-qualification, visit www.gaymortageloans.com for assistance.

Since how you use your vacation home will influence your taxes, you’ll also benefit from the advice of your tax consultant. He/she can help you determine whether you want to consider renting the property to help cover the costs of annual property taxes and/or maintenance, and discuss the allowable deductions for such expenses. Many second homebuyers are surprised to learn that if you rent out your second home for most of the year, you can only occupy it yourself for two weeks annually without influencing its investment property status.

Where to buy
Most people know right off the bat where they’d love to buy a second home. On the other hand, some people consider several locations depending upon their interests. Believe it or not, some people actually buy a vacation home in a certain location without ever knowing much about the area. Wherever you’re considering a vacation home, it’s essential that you have a hands-on experience before you buy. Is total solitude what you really want or will you be in withdrawal from some of your favorite perks like pizza delivery and local shopping malls?

If there’s a place you visited and fell in love with years ago, make sure to visit it again before setting your heart on buying there. Places change over time and areas that were once perfect for your second home may now be too over-developed to suit your tastes. The internet is a valuable resource for researching specific areas to learn about the climate, cost of living, recreation and other amenities.

Consider the amount of traveling you want to do to and from your second home. How much time will it take to drive there roundtrip? Is it close enough for driving or will you have to fly? Would you have to limit the number of annual get-a-ways if you had to add the expense of flying? Since it’s not much fun to own a vacation home that you rarely get to enjoy, you may want to choose a location that’s not too far from your primary residence, or at least not so far away that getting there and back is a hassle.

Where to find help
Hands down, the most valuable resource to help you in finding a second home is a professional real estate agent. Once you decide whether you want to buy at the beach, in the mountains or somewhere in between, you still have to find the vacation home that’s right for you. You can try to accomplish this on your own, but why spend valuable time and energy (not to mention the extra money of travel) to weed through properties that might, if you’re lucky, be something you’d consider.

Although you’ll still have to travel to view various homes, you’ll have the advantage of knowing that your agent knows what you’re looking for and has arranged viewings of homes that meet your basic requirements, plus your specifics as well.

In addition to finding homes that will interest you within a certain area, a real estate agent is a goldmine of information about that area. They know the amenities the area offers and those it doesn’t, plus the going rates of local comparable properties. Other knowledge they offer is potential resale value and information on the local tax base, just two items of which you’re interested in as a buyer. They take care of the contracts and other paperwork for you.

Since you won’t be living year round in your vacation home, you’ll probably need local professionals to handle maintenance, lawn care, etc. A qualified agent can provide you with names and contact information of reputable service providers in the area. Some agencies even provide rental property management and marketing services.

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