Now that you know your way around the basics, let's talk about a few dos and don'ts of buying a second home. Remember, you're not buying a house with the intention of moving there full-time; because of this, your priorities will be different.
- Do Evaluate Long-Term Goals
The first question to ask yourself is what your goal is with the second property. Do you want to be able to go there for summer vacation every year? Do you want to rent it out full-time and retire there in 20 years? This will change where you purchase a house.
You also need to consider what your long-term needs will be. If your children will grow out of your current favorite vacation spot (or if your current favorite spot isn't super accessible), that may throw a wrench in your long-term planning.
- Do Get to Know the Area
As with your primary residence, it's important to know the area. The difference is what you're evaluating the area for.
Let's say you've picked out a San Diego neighborhood. Thing is, you're not checking out the school system or the aspects related to permanent residence. And if you're choosing a place in your favorite vacation spot, chances are you haven't noticed some of the less obvious things that only show up when you live there—things like local politics, crime rates and property taxes.
The best way to get familiar with the area? Start chatting with people who live there. And not just about crime and politics either—ask about what there is to do year-round. If you plan to retire here but only like one event a year, you're going to be bored.
- Do Get a Local Real Estate Agent
Let's be honest: Even if you've vacationed in an area, you just don't know it like a local. If you're looking to buy a home in the area as a non-local, you need a local real estate agent to point you in the right direction. There's also the fact that real estate is a highly-localized business. To get the best deal on a property, you need a real estate agent who knows the neighborhood like the back of their hand.
- Do Know What Type of Home You Want/Need
Sure, there's appeal in a single-family house, but if you're not living there full-time, do you really need it? Think about it: If you purchase a second property, you need to maintain it. If it's a house, that means a lawn, heating and air conditioning, pipes and other tasks.
Also, if you're not living there for nine months of the year, that means you're either trekking out to the property once a week just to clean it, or you're paying someone else to clean it for you.
A condo, on the other hand, requires far less maintenance, and it's easy enough to delegate tasks to someone as needed. If you plan on retiring to your second residence, you'll also need to consider how your own needs and abilities may change as time wears on. You may not be able to maintain a house on your own, or may need a house with better accessibility.
- Don't Impulse Buy
Above all else, do not impulse buy. There's any number of reasons for this: finances, for example, or not taking a long enough look at the area. The next thing you know, you're stuck paying a second mortgage on a house that isn't really the right fit for you.
When you buy, you should be in the right mindset to take a long, hard look at your finances and how much house you can afford. A second-home affordability calculator is a great tool to use in this situation. Similarly, you need to seriously consider what you and your family need from a second residence.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.