Gordy Marks

Tips on Buying a Vacation Home

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We recently listed a beautiful lake house in Western Washington. This house is a vacation rental dream — large enough to house the entire family, includes an expansive dock, located on the perfect lake for water skiing, and more. The lake house got us thinking, “What’s the process for clients when considering purchasing a vacation home, such as our listing?”

1. Buy only what you can afford

To begin with the most important factor when buying any house, figure out what you can afford. We highly recommend working with a trusted lender to assess what you can afford. Lending has changed significantly over the past decade. Banks now impose strict requirements on applicants looking to lend. A lender will be able to lay out for you the requirements you need to meet in order to apply for a loan.

2. Be aware of extra costs involved

After you know what you can afford, reconsider the extra costs involved. You’ll need to be able to cover insurance, taxes, maintenance, and utilities. Maintaining properties that are water front or in mountainous areas raise the cost of maintenance from wind, salt, ice, etc. And if you live more than an hour away, you may need to consider hiring a property caretaker. Sometimes pessimism can be a savior: when deciding on possible costs make sure to inflate the numbers in case of a worst-case-scenario. That way few extra costs will take you off guard!

3. Work with an agent is knowledgable about the area

Resort communities may all look charming from an outsider’s point of view, but sometimes they are not all that they seem! Make sure you find an agent that is knowledgeable of the area and can provide you with honest insight. The real estate agent can be an amazing resource for little-known information on community events, town quirks, local issues, and other hidden surprises!

4. Be sure the house and area are ideal to rent

If you’re looking to rent your vacation home– make sure it’s up to the standards that the general population would enjoy on their vacation. YOU may not love TV or cell reception when on vacation, but the reality is that those are necessities for most renters! In addition, you MUST be very close to whatever attraction pulls renters to the house. Whether that be the beach or a ski lodge– you must be as close as possible. Although being on the beach, for example, may be more expensive, in the long run it is much more valuable to your renters than if it was a block or two away. It’s important your house is in the midst of everything!

5. Consider all four seasons before purchasing

The summers are beautiful, but if 6 months of the year the roads are impassable…maybe you should pass it up. Research the weather patterns and local knowledge for each time of the year before buying. If you plan to make money off of your rental, it may be necessary to rent a place for a few days each season to solidify your knowledge of the area.

6. Be wary of joint property investments

Buying a vacation house with your brother or closest friend may seem like an exciting idea at first, but it may get messy quickly! Even the closest of families can be torn apart by investing in a home jointly. If you do decide to invest jointly, first set down rules regarding the percentage owned by each person and what rights those percentages align with. Make sure that everything you decide on is written down so that in the future false memories do not cause issue. Spell out EVERY detail of the rights and privileges that each joint owner has.

7. Love the home you’re buying– Don’t just see it as an investment

Finally, make sure you love the home you’re buying!! This vacation home could very well be with the family for years and be your go-to spot for summer memories and raising your kids. If you don’t love the house and area, what’s the point? Your vacation home should be a place to love and cultivate, not just another annoying expense! Make sure it is worth the time and cost for you personally.

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