Considering a second home?

If It Causes Stress, Is It Really a Vacation Home?


EVERYONE needs a place to live, but no one needs a second home. So choosing which vacation home to buy and where should be enjoyable. Still, people routinely buy second homes that end up being less than they expected, or worse.


Bad neighbors abound everywhere, but they seem particularly bothersome when they are in places where you go to relax. Shouldn’t everyone just be grateful to be sitting in the sun or at fireside near the ski slopes?

The dynamics of second homeownership often conspire against this, said Milton F. Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, an organization that does research on wealthy consumers. “People become slaves to their homes. They buy into the headlines and that makes them pretty miserable with their vacation homes.”

Mr. Pedraza said one common cause of second-home misery was that owners failed to factor in how much time and money were needed to maintain a place from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.

My colleague Ron Lieber recently wrote about answering the tough financial questions that children ask their parents. That made me think that adults buying second homes should ask equally tough questions — of themselves. Why, after all, do you want a second home? What are you going to use it for? Do you have any idea how much it is really going to cost?

While many parts of the country are still struggling with falling home prices, a survey from the National Association of Realtors said sales of second homes were up 7.9 percent last year, compared with a 7.1 percent increase for primary residences. And this is the time of year when people begin to look for the winter rentals that often turn into second homes.


here’s a look at what you should know before buying a second home

  1. It's not an investment:

    • The value of a home can go down. Vacation properties are certainly not immune
    • Most buyers underestimated the maintenance costs of a second home.

  2. It's less relaxing
  3. It's time consuming: Since people do not use their second homes regularly, they cannot just walk in as if it were their primary residence. At a minimum, they have to open up the house when they arrive, make sure everything still works and close it down when they leave.
  4. It's confounding

Comments: Both my parents and Kathee's parents had two homes. Kathee's folks had a simple rural home on 2 acres in Phlox Wisconsin and a double wide mobile home in Florida. My folks had a Summer home in Dallas and a simple trailer in Pharr TX. For us we don't want two homes. We want to be one place for all of the year and then perhaps travel 3 weeks out of the year. I don't want 2 homes to take care of! Additionally I don't want to divide my time between two worship communities. I want to have one church in which to serve and worship. It may not be in Plymouth MN. But only one home!


  1. My parents had two homes for quite some time eventually selling the cabin. In the end, I think they concluded is was more work than what it was worth. But at the time, my Dad was doing computer consulting and was making a lot of money. (early 80s)

    I have known 3 people/families now to have done it a different way, but the same way. The same way in that one person owns two homes. Different in that it was a multi-family property. So, it was used quite a bit throughout the summer. Every family member was supposed to help in the upkeep when they went there.

    I think that would be the way to own a second property. Calculating the mortgage and taxes are easy, it is everything else that is complicated. And that is where having multiple families help would be beneficial.

  2. Well said. I remember Ron Blue writing something about things that, while they may appreciate in value, are not investments. He gave the example of a monster wedding ring, and asked "at what price is that thing coming off your hand, ma'am?", to illustrate this.

  3. I know it's true for all three of you, but as I read the last few sentences of the post I couldn't help but think forward to Heaven, our real home!


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