Vacation Homes: Try Before you Buy!

Written by: Lisa Mercer

As baby boomers approach their twilight years, many consider purchasing a vacation home. While the idea certainly has its merits, it requires a careful analysis of the pros and cons. Before you let the fantasy of owning a vacation home seduce you into ignoring the stark realities, follow this checklist of things to do before you buy.

Rent First

Renting other people’s vacation homes or staying in friends’ homes probably inspired the idea of buying one in the first place, but keep in mind that the vacation experience usually occurs under ideal circumstances. A vacation rental of your own is worth the money if you plan to do one or more of the following:

  • Use it at different times throughout the year
  • Rent it when you’re not there
  • Allow friends and family members to stay there
  • All of the above

To determine whether any, some or all of these plans are in the cards, visit the area you love and rent vacation homes at different times throughout the year. Visit with friends and family members, and ask them their opinions. Note whether people are renting other vacation properties during the less touristy seasons.

High Season Destination, Off Season Ghost Town

In some towns, local businesses close their doors during the off-season. Note what services and amenities are available. Some vacation rental destinations thrive in all four seasons, while others turn into ghost towns during the off-season. While locals may enjoy the peace and quiet, a lack of grocery stores, medical services and community policing might reduce the attractiveness of your vacation rental.

Talk to the Locals

People often buy a vacation home because they enjoy the activities in a certain area, but these activities are subject to change. The inexpensive season passes that drew people to Summit County Colorado are now considerably more expensive. The economy may have had a negative impact on places that were once crime-free zones. If the safety of a given area has changed, do you feel comfortable leaving your vacation home unattended?

Other Factors to Consider

When you rent a vacation home, you can change your vacation destination each year and explore the world. Owning a vacation home may lock you into one destination. Are you comfortable with this idea? As you get older, will you still want to deal with the high temperatures on the Arizona golf courses? Will your heart be able to handle the high altitude destinations in Colorado and Utah? What is the real estate outlook for your targeted area? Factor in all of these issues before making you final decision, and remember, renting a vacation home leaves all of your options open!

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