A vacation home might seem like it belongs squarely in your “dream goals” column—something you’ll invest in if you come into a windfall of money. But the truth is, a second home is more attainable than you think. In fact, it could even be a smart financial strategy! If a vacation home is on your radar, here’s what you need to know.
Vacation Home Statistics
According to HomeAway’s 2016 Vacation Rental Report, 70 percent of vacation home owners pay more than half of their mortgage with rental fees, and 54 percent cover more than three-quarters of their mortgage. That represents an average $28,000 in annual income with fewer than 10 hours per week of work. And since the typical vacation home owner rents out their second home for only 18 weeks of the year, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy the property for your own leisure.
Choosing a Sound Investment
Investing in real estate is far from a sure thing, but there are a few things you can do to make sure the numbers work out in your favor:
- Choose a location with a strong rental market. Renting out your vacation home is a great way to generate passive income. But if renters are in short supply or prices are low, you’ll lose money maintaining your second home. And if you select a location that relies on seasonal tourism, like a ski town, you might not be able to use the vacation home when you want to.
- Buy smaller and add your own garage space. Sometimes the best choice is to opt for a smaller space. You can save money on the purchase price as well as utilities and insurance. If you buy a smaller freestanding home without a garage, you can easily add a detached prefabricated steel garage that can house your car or function as extra storage.
- Vacation for less than two weeks each year. If you use your home for less than 14 days in a calendar year, it’s considered a rental property, and you can deduct rental expenses like management fees and depreciation. While you’ll have to pay taxes on the rental income, you’ll come out ahead if you rent the property for most of the year.
- Or rent out your home for less than two weeks each year. If two weeks of vacation isn’t enough, there’s another tax rule that can work to your advantage. If you rent out your home for less than two weeks each year, you don’t have to report the income to the IRS. This is a great option if you’re near a big annual event that lets you charge higher rental fees. You won’t be able to deduct rental expenses, but you can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes. For more information on how rental use affects tax obligations, read the IRS rule or this breakdown from Bankrate.
- Buy a home you’d like to retire to—at least temporarily. When you sell a primary residence, the first $500,000 in profit is exempt from capital gains taxes ($250,000 if you’re single). However, this exemption doesn’t apply to vacation homes, with one caveat. If you live in your second home for at least two years before selling, you can take advantage of the primary residence exclusion. This is a smart solution if you want to retire to the beach but aren’t committed to staying long term.
Protecting Your Investment
Making money off your second home only works if you take good care of it. Whether you’re renting or selling, it’s important to keep the property in good repair to get the best price.
If your primary residence is far from your vacation home, hire someone to handle maintenance and coordinate cleaners. If your vacation home is vacant for extended periods, invest in a strong security system and ask someone to check in periodically. If you have a swimming pool, be sure to install safety features like temporary fencing and pool covers to keep trespassers and wandering children out. And don’t forget to maintain the exterior, even when the property isn’t in use. Curb appeal is a major selling point, and you want your property to leave a good impression on prospective renters.
Whether your priority is generating income or having a gorgeous place to vacation, a second home is an excellent option. With the right property, you enjoy a convenient vacation destination, a potential retirement property, and passive income to enhance your lifestyle. Choosing the right vacation property for your personal goals is complicated, so consult your realtor and accountant for help making the best choice.
Guest Post Written By:
Seth Murphy, Papadiy.com