As we move through the heart of summer, many Bay Area residents are enjoying their annual vacation trips to the lake, the mountains, the coast or perhaps tropical locales like Hawaii or Mexico. Relaxing in such a beautiful setting often makes travelers think about owning their own vacation home so the holiday never has to end.
If thoughts of owning a second home have crossed your mind, you’re not alone. In fact, vacation home sales have been surging in recent years as consumers take advantage of historically low mortgage rates and more affordable prices on many second homes.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, vacation home sales jumped 29.7 percent last year to an estimated 717,000 units from 553,000 in 2012. That compares to a 13.1 percent increase in owner-occupied purchases during that time.
If you are thinking about buying a second home, here are a few important things to consider:
- Assess your goals. You may be thinking about buying a second home for vacation enjoyment or to get a jump on a retirement home. No matter what the reason, it’s important to think through how often you plan to use the home versus the expenses, and if it truly makes sense to purchase rather than rent.
- Location, location, location. Consider a destination that offers things that interest you and your family, whether it’s a beach resort, a ski area, or a place where you can play golf or fish. Your second home should be close enough to your primary residence that you’ll be able to use it often – maybe just a few hours away. Given rising gas prices and airfares, that may be more important than ever.
- Visit the destination. By doing so, you will get a feel for the travel time and the area’s culture and resources. Many people who buy a vacation home ultimately use the property as their primary residence upon retirement, so it is extremely important to think about how the location fits into your long term plans.
- What type of property best suits your needs? Often when people think of a vacation property, they think of a cabin in the mountains or house on the shore. But condominiums and townhouses in resort communities can be a great alternative to single-family houses when it comes to vacation homes. They may have a lower price tag, the maintenance and upkeep may be less, and they may provide recreational facilities, including swimming pools and barbecue areas.
- Golf course homes. A condo or house on a golf course can make a wonderful vacation home, especially for the weekend duffer. But there can be a few traps and hazards with golf properties that you’ll need to watch out for. Depending on where your home is situated, it might be in the path of wayward golf balls and it is possible that proximity to the golf course may create other noise or nusisance issues.You may also want to partake in a few rounds of golf at the course before buying so you can assess whether or not this is where you want to play.
- Rely on a professional REALTOR®. With mortgage rates historically low and prices still affordable in many areas, this may be a good time to buy a second home. However, finding the right property at the right price can be challenging. More than ever, it’s important to work with an experienced real estate professional who understands the ins and outs of second homes and the particular market you’re considering. With a little help from a knowledgeable agent, you will be able to find a vacation home that you and your family can enjoy for years to come.