Retirement and Vacation Homes: Are They Worth The Trouble, or Expense?

Real Estate Agent with Dominion Real Estate Partners

Recently, I got sucked in by a T.V. show called "House Hunters International" on HGTV. The concept is fairly self-explanatory and involves a family who decide to buy an additional home (although some are actually re-locating) in a country other than their own. So, we are treated to Europeans of every stripe checking out properties all over that great continent, as well as Americans making the trek overseas.
I must admit that I have never been a great fan of buying a second home and have often advised friends, neighbors and clients against it. I have good friends who travel to Cape Cod from Arizona each summer for three months. They have toyed with buying an apartment back there, but I have generally discouraged it. In my mind, it is very difficult to deal with the maintenance and upkeep when you are 3000 miles away. Quite how these people cope when the 2nd home is in another country (sometimes involving a different language) is hard to fathom.

My initial thought is why would you want to go on vacation every year for the rest of your life in the same spot? In the same house, even? I can justify it only if your intention is to ultimately retire in that location. Or if your second home is used to escape the weather; to get out of the intense summer heat or get away from the winter chill in Canada or the mid-west.   I feel that a seasonal rental is the better way to go. That way you can visit a different resort, country, locale or region each year and just walk away from the property after each trip. I fully recommend a website that has holiday homes for rent by owner around the world, including entire islands. It is

Still and all, it is a fascination T.V. show to watch, especially as it showcases cultural differences between countries as related to buying and renovating homes. However, one American in Paris stopped me in my tracks the other evening. I about dropped my gin and tonic. She was looking for an apartment in the heart of Paris (they call it a Pied a Terne, which I think is French for potato) and found her ideal home priced at $250,000. Except for one thing. It was 85 sq ft! You read that right. Eight and a half feet by ten feet. Slightly less than a quarter of and average two-car American garage. Do you really want to live in Paris that badly? Or , if it is to be a vacation home, do you take your $250,000 and rent a place for $5000 for one week for the next 50 years?

As they say, you pays yer money and you takes yer choice...

Comments (2)

Dennis Duvernay Broker/Owner
Hillview Realty - Northbridge, MA

Dare I say that people who do that generally have the money to throw away so it does not matter...I for one would like to go somewhere different whether it is for 3 weeks or 3 months...of course if I had the money I may be looking for a home on a secluded island.

May 10, 2011 03:36 AM
Nor Yeretsian
Envoy Capitol Realty Inc. - Toronto, ON
Envoy Capitol Realty Inc., Brokerage Toronto

Great Common Sense Gary, I agrre with you. I would rent/lease the best you can afford and when you leave you don't worry about it. Let some local own it and maintain it.



May 10, 2011 03:38 AM