City Dwellers: Your Second Home Might Be the First You Own

In many areas of the country, homeownership is a given, and young adults with jobs start house hunting as soon as they can. In larger cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles, life is different and so is real estate.

The high cost of property in those areas means many adults spend their lives leasing homes, some of them for years at a time. Some of those people are finding that they want to get out of the city on weekends, and buying a second home seems like a good idea, especially if they like to spend weekends in the same place.

If you’re thinking about buying a second home before you buy your first, these questions might help you make the decision.

Do I like to spend my weekends away from the city in the same place?

If you prefer renting different houses, going in with friends and exploring different locales, imagine what it would be like to only have one option. For some people, the appeal of having a regular routine on the weekend makes this a plus. In your own place, you won’t have to find your way around the kitchen, search for the nearest liquor store, or try to find the driveway in the dark. It really is your home away from home.

Is there a chance I may want to buy a primary residence in the near future?

If that’s a possibility, getting another mortgage in addition to the one on your vacation place will be more difficult. But if you’ve been in the city for 12 years, and you love heading up to Millerton at least one weekend every month, far more in the summer, it’s pretty likely you’ll continue enjoying it. Of course, life changes at the drop of a hat, but your current lifestyle, and how long you’ve been living it, is a pretty good indicator of your future.

Do I have a way to get there?

Unless there is easy public transportation to your place, you’ll want a car. If you aren’t used to having one, you’ll need to look into the associated costs, including parking, maintenance, and insurance. Be realistic: You probably won’t want to take the jitney every weekend, and renting cars gets expensive. You could always invite friends with cars and hitch a ride, if you like company.

Do I have the money to furnish a new place?

Though some homes are sold with their furnishings, you may still want to make some changes. And all those cute antique and local artisan shops will be tempting.

Get mortgage quotes

Can I afford to own the home without having to rent it out to other vacationers?

Though you may qualify for the mortgage, look at what it means for your monthly budget. If you’ll have to give up weeknight dinners out, and they’re really important to your happiness in the city, think twice before you blow your budget on a home that you can only visit on weekends. One thing to consider: Through what’s commonly referred to as “The Master’s Exemption,” homeowners can rent their houses for up to 14 days a year without reporting the income. This is particularly valuable if your second home is in a town with a popular festival or annual event and people look for places to stay when local hotels are full. You may miss the festival, but the extra cash will be worth it. Even renting your place for a few weekends in the summer could help.

Will you be able to get away often enough to make it worth it?

Homeownership comes with a lot of responsibility. You’ll need to make sure the home is maintained, and you may even have to pay someone local to look after it for you, if you aren’t there for long stretches. If something breaks, you’ll have to pay to fix it, or do it yourself. If those expenses will fill you with regret, think twice before you buy.

Buying in the city may be out of reach, but a second home could be the perfect getaway. And you’ll be building equity instead of paying for vacation rentals. Owning a home can be a lot of work, but the rewards are pretty great!