The decision to establish a second home rests primarily on cost. Therefore, a thorough understanding of your potential expenses is a must to know if you can afford to make such a move.
Costs for All Second Homes
Buying and renting have different costs, but some second home costs are incurred by both owners and renters.
Maintaining Two Homes
With a second home purchase, there are double costs for mortgages, taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and many other items.
For both second homeowners and renters, there are also the costs and efforts of maintaining the main home while you’re away. For example, a water heater could start leaking at the main house in your absence. That needs to be fixed immediately to avoid even higher water damage costs. Also, you’ll need to ensure your primary home’s lawn is mowed and snow removed while you’re away.
Think about how you plan to get to and from your second home. Will you drive, fly or use some other method? If you plan to go to and from the second home frequently, how much transportation cost and time are you willing to spend? For example, 10 hours each way to a weekend retreat may not be worth the travel time.
What will it cost to get around at your second home? If you’re not driving back and forth, will you ship your car to the second home or acquire one there? Shipping costs depend on distance and level of service. For example, shipping a mid-sized SUV from Detroit, MI, to Tampa, FL, could cost anywhere from $1,300 to $1,900, depending on the level of service. Prices are less if you have flexibility regarding pickup/drop-off dates and the vehicle is not shipped in an enclosed carrier.
If you purchase a vehicle at the second home location, factor in all the costs of owning a second vehicle. However, when you are away from the second home for an extended period, you can often suspend the insurance until you resume using the vehicle.
Finally, if you plan to rent a vehicle during your second home stay, do your homework to find the best rates well in advance.
Furnishing and Other Living Items
Unless you buy or rent a furnished home, acquiring furniture and decorating items is necessary. Also, expect to obtain everything from vacuum cleaners to kitchenware to electronics if these items are not already in the home.
Watching the Main Home
While you’re away at the second home, having a house sitter can bring peace of mind knowing your main residence is safe, plants are watered, and fish are fed. The cost for a live-in house sitter could be $0 if the sitter is living rent-free in exchange for watching your house. On the other hand, some live-in house sitters may require compensation. Do some internet research to find out how much is reasonable.
Hiring a commercial service to visit the house can range from $25-$30 per visit, with overnight stays costing twice as much.
Costs for a Rented Second Home
A recent blog post mentioned several of the costs for a rented second home. Of course, the renter’s main expense is the monthly rent from which landlords cover their underlying costs like utilities. Aside from rent, here are two other costs worth noting.
Rental Start-Up Costs
You may periodically find yourself in the rental acquisition process. For example, maybe you occasionally switch up your rental site to experience different locations. In other situations, you may be forced to look for a new rental due to rent increases or the landlord selling the property, making it unavailable.
In either case, you’ll face the prospect of researching properties and qualifying as a renter. Costs can include application fees, credit reports, security deposits, first/last month’s rent, and pet deposits. In addition, there’s your time and effort to start all over in new living quarters.
When you’re not staying at the rented second home, what do you do with your stuff? As a renter, it’s unlikely you can keep your belongings in the unit. Of course, you could haul everything back to the main home, but if you expect to return to the same location, it might be more convenient to store some items. Landlords sometimes provide storage options for long-term renters. If not, you’ll need to contract for storage space somewhere nearby.
Costs for an Owned Second Home
Owning a second home comes with costs on two levels. First, there are the costs of acquiring and maintaining the home simply as a place to live. Second, there are the costs associated with treating the home as an investment and income-generating asset. This blog post focuses on the former. Subscribe to our blog, so you don’t miss our upcoming post on the latter!
Overall, many of the same expenses you pay as the owner of your main home will also apply to your second home. Here are some of the major costs of ownership.
These expenses include real estate agent fees, closing costs, appraisal fees, etc. It’s essential to know that interest rates for second homes usually are higher than for primary home mortgages, and required down payment amounts are often higher. To keep costs down, research the market in your target location and work with an experienced local real estate agent. Also, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will remove uncertainty and allow you time to compare different lender offerings.
Any discussion of taxes must address what you need to pay and what you can deduct. The taxes you’ll pay will be property taxes and any state or local taxes that arise from owning the second home. Of course, you’ll also be paying these taxes on your primary home.
As for tax deductions, mortgage interest on a second home can be deducted, assuming it meets the same rules for deductible interest as on your main residence. For tax purposes, you combine the total mortgage interest on both homes. There are limits on how much interest you can deduct, so refer to IRS and state publications to determine how you can deduct.
Also, state and local property taxes can be deducted on your federal return assuming certain conditions are met. State taxes may vary in this regard. Again, refer to IRS and state tax publications for specifics.
Electricity, gas, telephone landline, and internet will all be monthly second home costs.
Homeowner insurance is essential, particularly in this era of intense storms and other natural disasters like wildfire.
Regular maintenance of the second home’s interior and exterior preserves the property’s value. When first moving in, there will most likely be interior decorating projects to adapt the property to your style. Also, if the prior owners procrastinated on maintenance, you could face costly fix-up projects.
Owners may need to pay Homeowner Association (HOA) fees at the community where the second home is sited. The HOA handles the community’s finances and governance. Monthly HOA fees vary based on the size of the overall property and the amenities offered.
No matter the property’s attraction and location, it’s essential to consider the overall costs of a second home. A complete picture of expenses will help you decide if you can realistically afford a second home.
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