Buying a vacation home is at the top of the list for most people. Many retirees have the unique ability to realize this dream after years of hard work and saving. Depending on the location of your proposed vacation home, though, the experience of owning a vacation home can be more complicated than expected.

A vacation home requires upkeep, a process that can be much more difficult than the work necessary to maintain a house you live in full-time. Here are some ideas on how to navigate the vacation home-buying and owning process.

Should you consider a vacation home?

Although the idea of your dreams being fulfilled may be exciting, be cautious and prudent about your vacation home purchase. It is easy to make a wrong decision and difficult to reverse once a choice is made. Since a vacation home is a commitment, invest your time appropriately in the decision. Consider:
 

  • Is the location ideal for you and your family? Make sure you’ve visited the area before. If you have any hesitation about spending a lot of time in the area, delay your purchase and spend time there on an extended vacation. If you can, try out several places to find the best fit.
  • Will you own the home yourself or with family or friends? If family members or friends are going to share the vacation home experience with you, make sure you put down some concrete rules. It’s crucial to know who is responsible for upkeep and repair to best avoid problems later on down the road.
  • What if a home requires renovations to meet your needs? If changes are necessary, you’ll need to include in your preliminary budget the cost of hiring a contractor and the major improvements you want. Take note: You’ll also need to account for a timeline if renovations will keep you from moving in for several months.

Find your home

When you have decided on the location and how you will handle upkeep, it’s time to do some research. Check online to see prices and recent sales in your desired area. Reach out to real estate brokers that represent homes that you like and ask for some assistance. Most will gladly offer buyer’s broker services and help you find the vacation home of your dreams.
 

Determine how the property will be cared for in the off-season

Although overall care responsibilities should be part of your plan if you are sharing the home with others, you’ll need to determine property maintenance requirements year-round regardless of who is signing the checks for the work. If your vacation home is far from your home residence, you should develop a strong relationship with a property maintenance company. The prior owner or a local real estate agent may be good sources of connections. You’ll also want to install a security system to help ensure your home is being monitored -- whether by you or a private company -- while you’re away.

Make your vacation home a retirement home

When you find that dream home, think about whether it works as a full-time retirement home. Some retirees stay at their homebase for family reasons, but living full-time in a frequent vacation spot gives your family a fun and exciting place to visit. Even if a full-time residence does not seem likely today, make a “what-if” in the event you change your mind.

A vacation home is an exciting decision that can yield great return on investment and provide years of relaxation. Take it easy and consider all of your options and responsibilities carefully and you’ll find a home and location that fits your needs and your life.

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