What to Consider Before You Buy a Second Home

Contributed by: Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD Tim Wyman

Well it’s that time of year again.  No not the cold and flu season – well actually it’s that time too.  Rather, I am talking about the time of year where my wife and I go up north for a few days and after a fantastic 24 hours have the conversation.  You know, should we buy our own vacation home/condo rather than mooch off our friends (hey they are good friends)? It’s a question that many of my Empty and Soon-to-be-Empty Nester clients ask.

First Steps to a Second Home

Our friends, we will call them John & Michelle to protect their identity, decided a few years ago to purchase a condo in God’s Country (that’s northern Michigan….not way up North).   So far the purchase has worked out well and I think they did a few things right.  They actually bought the condo with another family as they knew neither of them would use the condo fully on their own.  They spelled out their “parenting” time or who had first right of refusal for each Holiday.  And last but not least, they formed a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to own the property in order to shield other personal assets from potential liability. All in all, the purchase has been wonderful for us…..er I mean them.

Consider the “Carrying” Costs

For a short period of time a second home or vacation home sounds like a wonderful idea to us (wine is involved in many instances).  However, after a few minutes we decide that it is not for us.  Although interest rates are low, making the cost more manageable, we have some other financial priorities at this time.  Also, many folks do not fully consider, or fully appreciate, the “carrying” costs of owning a second home.  The real or total cost of owning a second home is much more than principal & interest payments.  Additional costs can include:

  • Property taxes
  • Association dues
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Repairs & maintenance (necessary year round, whether or not you’re there)

Additionally, simply furnishing and updating two homes is no cheap undertaking. For now, we are content renting for the couple of times that we make it up north. 

3 Factors in Buying a Second Home

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if we decide to make a second home purchase in the future – for lifestyle purposes rather than investment.  And if we do, we’ll make the following a part of our decision-making process:

  • Use: Do we expect to use it more than just a couple of weeks? If so then buying may make sense.
  • Location: What area makes sense now and in the future? Are we willing to drive X hours?
  • Price:  What price point will still allow us to fund retirement savings? What are the ongoing expenses?

Adding a second home can have wonderful lifestyle benefits.  Many a family has built cherished memories thanks to the family cottage.  Make sure you weigh the full cost of owning a second home with the desired lifestyle benefits.

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James.