Buying Your First Vacation Home

By: Jason Couillard

It's a great time in the realty market to buy a vacation home. If you're searching out your own vacation home, a good rule is to follow the same guidelines as you would for a first home - and then some!

You may be thinking, "Does this mean location, location, location?" Well, in a nutshell, yes. It is a far better investment to buy a small home in a desirable neighborhood than to buy a large home in a problematic or third rate neighborhood.

The smaller home can often be upgraded (or not), but the neighborhood can never be changed - at least, not by you.

Baby boomers are now entering their prime wage-earning years, and many of them are thinking (or have already thought) of buying a second home. Often a couple will choose a retirement home for 'part' of the year, thus still retaining their family home and familiar home town base.

It is estimated that between six and ten percent of homes in the USA are currently vacation homes. Desirable areas show an even larger proportion of second homes. For instance, thirty two percent of all homes in Cape Cod are seasonal.

If you yearn for a vacation home, the first thing to decide is: where will it be? Here your hobbies will come into play; are you a skier, shopper, fisherman, hiker, golfer, beach-comber or sun worshipper? Are you a country mouse or a city mouse, etc.?

Another factor to take into account is perhaps one that you have not thought of: Many people think that having a vacation home means they will never want to travel abroad again. However, it is quite possible that you may still want to fly off and take vacations in foreign lands sometimes. Think about this and choose accordingly.

If you are the type of person who would still like to travel abroad, you may want to choose a small, secure home (like a condo). Alternatively, you could opt to buy a larger home so that your children can also enjoy it in your absence.

Finally, if you think you could be a future traveler, consider the option of buying a second home that you could also rent out to others for vacations. This may pay for your trips abroad!

Beware of buying a condo that does not have rental options in its Home Owners Association rules. Some condos do not want too much transience and they forbid sub-renting, so be sure to check the HOA rule book.

You must consider whether or not you want to be able to drive to your second home, so that you can escape at weekends. If your chosen place is a long way off, remember that you will always have to pay the air fare and do the airport trip etc.

If you have no clue where you would like to buy a vacation home, cast your mind back to some memorable vacations you have had. Think about making it a project to drive off into the wild blue yonder on sunny weekends and check some places out.

Price is a critical factor. Waterfront is always priced higher. Do you really want it? An ocean or lake outlook can be very pretty when the sun is sparkling on it, but it will accentuate the grayness on a dull day.

Be prepared to spend hours browsing different web sites. Browsing will give you a feel for what is out there and at what price. It will also help to familiarize you with the different locations and the amenities that they offer.

Amenities become important in retirement areas, where everyone has more time to indulge themselves. Choose an area where the amenities match your lifestyle. They give you pointers to the environment; for instance, if there is a plethora of surfing shops, your age group may be outnumbered in the summer!

When you are examining the options, try to project your thinking ahead into your older retirement years. Such amenities as community classes, libraries and hospitals would ideally be nearby.

Analyze the differences in costs. If smaller houses are better suited to your price range, weigh up whether you really need a big house for a vacation home.

Are you looking at old timer homes? Are you taking in the cost of renovations? Remember, if you remodel a bathroom or kitchen it is supposed to increase the price of your property by around 80% of the remodeling costs. Roofs are also a viable improvement that will increase the value of your property.

Find out how long a home has been on the market; if it's more than four weeks, ask if there have been any offers on it. If not, ask your real estate agent if you should consider offering a lower price. He or she can do the negotiating for you.

The hard part of choosing is over, and your agent can finish off the deal for you. Once you have made your choice, all you have to do is select your style of lounge chair!

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