Second Homes: Mull This One Over

Second Homes: Mull This One Over


This article is one in a series of occasional articles discussing the purchase of a second home whether for vacation or investment purposes.

Mountain Cabin

I mentioned last week that the second home market is worth considering right now, if that is something that you think might be right for you. Granted, not everyone has the funds to swing a second residence, but if you do there is a good chance you’ll pay less for the property than what it would have sold for in 2006.

As appealing as a second home may sound, whether for your personal enjoyment or as an investment or both, there are some things to mull over before you take the plunge. Owning one home can take up enough of your time; owning two homes could eat up all of your free time.

I Have A Story To Tell

Quite a few years ago I was living in New Jersey and working for an aviation company just outside of New York City. Half of our team was based in NJ, the rest were working on Long Island, NY. One fellow who worked at our NY office had a cottage at the shore, the Jersey Shore mind you, and he owned this home with two other siblings.

Victor, as I will call him, lived in New York and traveled to his beach property several times during the summer. From our NJ office the trip could be done in 90 minutes, but from his NY home it would take 3-4 hours each way.

One thing I realized about Victor was that he was always tired and he got sick a lot. I soon learned that his second home was partly to blame for his fatigue as the commutes to the home were wearisome and the work he had to do while there was burdensome.

I also discovered that:

  • Most of the maintenance tasks to keep the shore home up were being done by him, without any help from other family members.
  • These tasks included painting the windswept home every few years, replacing rotting fascia, winterizing the home at season end, cleaning gutters, putting furniture away, visiting the home a few times over the winter months to make sure that everything was okay, and handling whatever other emergencies came up.
  • Property taxes for this beach house was rising quickly as many residents decided to live locally year round, putting a strain on the school system which had to hire new staff, build or renovate schools, etc.

I could go on, but I must tell you that after hearing his story I lost what little interest I had in a second home when I understood how wearisome and burdensome owning a shore retreat can be. Even if Victor owned the home by himself, he would still have been responsible for all the tasks I mentioned.

Choosing A Better Way

Even though Victor’s situation was extreme, owning a second home can still be a viable option, particularly if some of the responsibilities of maintenance and upkeep are shifted to other parties.

A second home can be a good option if:

The home is within driving distance of your current residence. Or, the commute is enjoyable (unlike bumper to bumper traffic on the Garden State Parkway!)

Your home is in a planned community where association services take care of all outside work including lawn maintenance, trash removal, and the like.

The home is turnkey — no maintenance is needed, all you have to do is stop in and enjoy the place. Condos and townhouses are usually the best option in these cases.

I’m not sure what Victor is up to these days, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his ball and chain situation hasn’t changed all that much. Maybe he is satisfied with this type of arrangement (you could be too), but if not there are other ways to enjoy resort living without going crazy.

Thankfully, the second home market is robust and bargains can be had especially in markets with bloated inventories of homes available. Happy shopping!


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Categories: Home Buying

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".