Buying a Vacation Home in the US? Here's What You Need to Know!

Do you daydream about a waterfront home where you and your family can get away from the stress of daily life on a whim? Forget the worries about availability, fees, or restrictions. As a bonus, you can cover costs by renting the home out periodically.

If owning a vacation home is part of your American dream, here's some useful information to help you make it a reality.

  • Be Realistic People often get caught up in the emotional aspect of having a vacation home without really giving any thought to how much they'll actually use it. What if you grow tired of the spot and want to vacation in different locations? Ultimately, it may be more cost-effective to make a rental arrangement with another homeowner in the area.

  • Crunch the Numbers You may spend less time at your vacation home, but it's every bit as much of an expense as your primary residence. Create a detailed budget including mortgage, insurance, taxes, and contingencies such as maintenance and repairs. Be sure to consider how the purchase of a vacation home fits in with retirement, kids' college tuition, and other big-picture goals.

  • Plan for Higher Rates Many people who purchase vacation homes still have mortgages on their primary homes, making them a bigger financial risk. As a result, lenders sometimes require larger down payments and higher interest rates for second-home mortgages, especially if it's an investment property.

  • Perform Due Diligence While a vacation home may mean fun and relaxation, it's also an investment. Approach the purchase just as you would any other major purchase and gather all the appropriate facts. You might discover that the location you have in mind has a dismal outlook in terms of real estate trends.

  • Know the Difference Between "Vacation" and "Investment" Regardless of your perspective, lenders and the IRS have specific definitions of what constitutes a vacation home vs. an investment property. For example, some lenders will consider a second home to be an investment property if you rent it out at all, while the IRS affords some leeway.

  • Learn the Tax Ramifications Tax write-offs are one of the benefits of homeownership. This also applies to vacation homes, but different criteria may apply. It's well worth the cost to consult an attorney, CPA, or another professional who is knowledgeable about current tax codes.

  • Have a Rental Plan How much will you charge? Is the property governed by the rules of a homeowners association? Will you use Airbnb or another third-party service? If you're planning on renting out the home for a significant part of the time, don't expect to play it by ear.

  • Be Cautious About Alternative Ownership Options Fractional ownership, timeshares, and other plans involving multiple parties may sound like a good answer but tread lightly. Not only do these plans come with a wide range of restrictions, but reselling them can be difficult at best.

  • Work With a Local Real Estate Agent The expert guidance you get from a real estate agent who knows the area you're looking at can be invaluable.

Businessman Arnold Glasow once said, "The average vacation is one-tenth playing and nine-tenths paying." With some clear-eyed planning, you can change that ratio with a smart investment in a vacation home that provides endless enjoyment.


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