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Buying a Second Home? Here’s Where to Start

Ever wanted somewhere to escape to on a moment’s notice? For many, that dream is what pulls owners toward buying a second home.

It’s common to purchase vacation homes in a favorite locale, but there are a lot of factors to think about before taking the plunge. Here’s what to consider before investing in a home away from home.

Benefits of Buying a Second Home

There are many reasons you might be considering purchasing an additional home, but perhaps the most appealing aspect is that you’ll have a comfortable and familiar destination to visit when you need to get away. When you own a vacation home, you have the luxury of coming and going whenever you want, and you can allow friends and family to use the space, if you’re so inclined. Plus, you can outfit it with anything you need to feel comfortable — your favorite linens, foods, entertainment systems, and so on.

However, that’s far from the only perk of having a second home at your disposal. A vacation home can be used as a remote place where you can work from “home” or somewhere to stay if, for instance, your main residence is being renovated. You’ll also have the option to rent out your second home for supplementary income.

Choosing the Best Location for You

Once you’ve made the decision to purchase a second home, then comes the fun part: selecting a location. You may already have a general idea of what climate, lifestyle, and attractions you’re looking for, but also consider factors like travel options, local taxes, and neighborhood safety.

Looking for a warm location to escape to? According to Vacasa, some of the top warm-weather towns to buy a second home include:

  • Cape Hatteras, North Carolina: While it might not be the most famous place for a beach vacation, that has its benefits. And so does the location itself: Cape Hatteras, one of the barrier islands of North Carolina, offers nearly 70 miles of scenic beaches and a more tepid climate than Florida.
  • Dauphin Island, Alabama: Vacation homes on Dauphin Island are more affordable than other beachfront locales. Dauphin Island, known for its stretches of white sand beaches and walking trails, is great for those who love kayaking, boating, fishing, and other water sports.
  • Palm Springs, California: Located at the base of the San Jacinto mountains, Palm Springs is approximately a 110-mile drive from Los Angeles and 140 miles from San Diego. Known for its mid-century modern architecture, and featuring 350 days of sunshine with scenic mountain views, the city’s motto is “like no place else.”
  • South Kauai, Hawaii: For a serene tropical getaway, Hawaii is an unbeatable choice. South Kauai is popular for its beautiful beaches and golf courses, surfing, and other amazing beach activities. Keep in mind, though, that prices are quite high. The destination is also only accessible by plane.

If you prefer a mountain getaway, these are a few of the top-rated locations for a second home:

  • Big Sky, Montana: Whether you’re partial to skiing, hiking, whitewater rafting, or something else entirely, this resort community has it on offer, making it an extremely sought-after spot for vacation homes.
  • Conway, New Hampshire: A popular destination for skiing, hiking, and fishing, Conway is also a great spot to experience the stunning New England foliage in the fall.
  • Breckenridge, Colorado: Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range, Breckenridge is popular with outdoor adventurists for the area’s world-class skiing, hiking trails, mountain biking, fly-fishing, and historic Main Street shops and dining.
  • Blue Ridge, Georgia: For a more southern mountain escape, Blue Ridge offers ample natural beauty as well as hiking, fishing, and more outdoor activities.

buying a second home

Not necessarily looking for a beach or mountain location? Don’t worry! There are plenty of other hot spots with their own unique appeal:

  • Kissimmee, Florida: Located 30 minutes outside of Orlando, Kissimmee is a great spot for a vacation home if you love amusement parks. Plus, the town has ample frontage on Lake Tohopekaliga — ideal for anyone who enjoys water sports.
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Golf lovers will be in heaven among Myrtle Beach’s world-renowned courses, but the locale also offers other attractions, including a boardwalk with arcades and rides.

Think About Types of Homes

Before you start looking at properties, consider whether you might want a single-family home, a condo, or another type of residence. Each style has pros and cons, so your choice will depend on how you plan to use your second abode.

For instance, single-family homes are often larger than condos or townhouses, and they’ll give you more privacy. On the other hand, condos can be more affordable and many include maintenance, taking some of the annual upkeep off your hands.

Assess the Finances

Naturally, finances are going to be the biggest factor in your decision to buy a second home. Considerations include a second mortgage, taxes, utilities, insurance, and maintenance costs. With this in mind, it’s worth the time to create a detailed budget before buying a second home. By figuring out exactly how much you can afford to spend, you’ll be able to find the best option to fit your goals and your life.

One option to take into account is the potential to rent your second home when you’re not using it. There are certainly things you’ll need to know before going this route: whether you’ll need to report the income for tax purposes, and cleaning and maintaining the property between rentals being foremost among them.

There’s a lot to think about when buying a second home — arguably even more than when buying your first. But if you have grand plans for your vacation house, a private escape from everyday life can be a wholly worthwhile investment.

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