Scout A Second Home

As we get ready to embark on spring break travel and schedule our summer getaways, the subject of investing in a second home keeps coming to mind. Whether the prime location is a beach house, ski chalet, ranch, lake house, or pied-à-terre in a favorite city, purchasing a second home is an exciting endeavor that can bring joy (and a solid return on your investment), but also one that requires research and careful planning. To get us started on our way to happy second-home ownership, we reached out to Lynn Morgan of Keller Williams Realty in New Orleans, who has helped many people acquire the getaways of their dreams for advice on what to consider; here are her recommendations:

  • Location, location, location! Carefully consider travel time/proximity. This will affect how often you are able to use the home and how much enjoyment you have when you are there. A good rule for a weekend getaway is it should be no more than a two hour drive. Nothing’s wrong with a plane ride (or two), just make sure you can stay long enough to enjoy this retreat.
  • Timing is everything. Even though interest rates are low, think twice about buying if your children’s weekends are full of soccer and birthday parties or if you have teenagers who don’t want to leave their friends for a weekend with their parents in the isolated mountains. Elderly parents or big work project are things to consider, too, as they will factor into the amount of time you’ll be able to spend at your second home.
  • Assess your needs and long-term goals. A weekend getaway, place for family gatherings, lifestyle change, investment opportunity, or place in which to spend time post-retirement all have benefits and challenges. Do you want relaxation, entertainment, recreation, stimulation, visitors, or privacy? Think about these qualities carefully, and be realistic about what type of second home best suits you.
    • Consider all the costs. Mortgage,  taxes, Insurance, utilities, maintenance, upkeep, housekeeping, boat expenses, golf course use…nothing ruins a “perfect vacation home” like being over-extended.
  • Resist impulse buying. A trip to the beach, mountains, or favorite city might not ultimately be the best environment for the relaxation/enjoyment/ lifestyle change you hope for. You may want to rent a place before you buy to get to know the area. Talk to the locals and visit in the off-season to get a feel for what is like year round. While you’re there, scope out restaurants, grocery stores, and entertainment to make sure the area has enough of the things you like to keep you interested.
  • Investigate ease of maintenance. Buy something that is low maintenance so you don’t have to “work” the whole time you are there. It is a sure way of falling out of love with your new house. After all, isn’t the point to relax?!?
  • Decide if buying a second home makes financial sense. What is the return on your investment? Building equity? Do you plan to rent the home to offset expenses?
  • Hire an expert. Once you’ve considered all of the above and decided, “Yes, I want and can buy a second home,” then make sure to get a local real estate agent—someone who knows the area well. This buy is supposed to provide much happiness, and having an experienced agent will make it so!
  • Enjoy! After all, this is the good life!

Expert tip from Lynn Morgan of Keller Williams Realty in New Orleans, LA. Property listed by Carriage Properties in Charleston, SC.