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Vacation homes for the FIRE'd
Old 10-17-2009, 01:57 PM   #1
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Vacation homes for the FIRE'd

I found myself looking at some real estate web sites last night, scoping out vacation homes. There's some cheap stuff out there. I've gotten some feedback in the past that I'm 'too old' to go have a vacation home, now that the kids are grown. Heck, I'm not quite 56, so I have a few good years left!

Being in California, a state currently in withdrawal from the 'Everybody's got three mortgages' binge, there appear to be some good deals out in the low-midrange vacation home market. I've been looking at places on the Web, checking out the old South Lake Tahoe and Guerneville (Russian River) areas. Both of these are fairly easy drives from my current location. I had fond memories of South Lake Tahoe from camping as a child, and later family cabin rentals in the Bijou and Al Tahoe areas. There were also those fun days tubing in the Russian River.

Aside from the risks of a second childhood, maintenance expenses, and property taxes, what else should I look out for in a FIRE'd vacation home? Am I worthy? Any real grounds to that 'too old' argument?

I could always just rent, but I like the idea of a more permanent place to have my stuff, so I can just get me there and not worry about if I brought the right stuff, or enough stuff.
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Old 10-17-2009, 03:24 PM   #2
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Personally I thought I was finally getting to be "old" enough to be able, at last, to live in 2 places!

True, an infirm person (of any age) likely would find traveling back and forth, and "opening" and "closing down" two dwellings, a challenge.

In the end, the main concern we have about living in 2 places is that we don't have family/friends/neighbors to look after our place(s). In other threads on this topic, help from family/friends/trusted neighbors seems to be key to making the "vacation home" paradigm work.

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Old 10-17-2009, 03:37 PM   #3
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We already bought our 2nd home, but with the intention of turning it into the main and only residence. Houses in this area are all unique because of the hilly terrain, and I fell in love with the lot at first sight. Well, we did not realize a main residence "in the boonies" has its drawbacks, such as lack of public services of large cities and distance to travel for health care, etc...

We still love our 2nd house and will continue to enjoy it in the foreseeable future, but not as the only residence. Thinking back, our desire to escape from the tedious heat of Phoenix could be met with an RV too. Have you considered an RV as the second home?
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Old 10-17-2009, 03:38 PM   #4
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I agree with Amethyst - - having someone to look after your various homes when you aren't there, can be a big help. Thing is, we all feel differently about such things but in my case, I feel it's an imposition to ask even a friend or relative to do that on a long term basis.

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Originally Posted by M Paquette
I could always just rent, but I like the idea of a more permanent place to have my stuff, so I can just get me there and not worry about if I brought the right stuff, or enough stuff.
You could keep your "stuff" (that you are envisioning keeping in your vacation house) in a big box in your garage at your primary residence, never touch it while you are at your primary residence, and just load it into the vehicle before you drive up there to a rental house. Then there would be no worry about whether you brought the right stuff, or enough stuff. Maybe?
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Old 10-17-2009, 04:08 PM   #5
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We built a lake home 5 years ago, knowing that we would "retire to it" most of the time once retired. Currently we spend every weekend there (I should say here since I am at it now), and it really is a great place to reconnect from busy weeks.

We built as close to maintenance free as possible. We have wider hallways--just in case one is in a wheel chair at some point, and carpeted just the bedroom and office/guest room.

Since we are about 2.5 hours north of our base and in a relatively remote location weekends, we will keep our main home. I am concerned about having a base to land at in case we need medical, or if something happens to DH. Also wanted to be closer to our only child, particularily once they start a family. We may or may not sell the weekend/retirement home once we reach our 80's, but it is another choice.

You might try renting a place for a few months to see how it "fits". But we love it--and know our "neighbors" here more than we do at home!
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Old 10-17-2009, 04:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bizlady View Post
Since we are about 2.5 hours north of our base and in a relatively remote location weekends, we will keep our main home. I am concerned about having a base to land at in case we need medical ... We may or may not sell the weekend/retirement home once we reach our 80's, but it is another choice.
We are in the same situation, where we can commute easily between our places. The only concern is the cost for upkeep, taxes, utilities, etc... If we can afford it, we will maintain both residences. But, but, but I recently thought about adding this RV'ing thing, and isn't it a waste to have "stuff" that you underuse? The cheapskate in me hates that.
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Old 10-17-2009, 07:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M Paquette View Post
I've gotten some feedback in the past that I'm 'too old' to go have a vacation home, now that the kids are grown. Heck, I'm not quite 56....

I am older than you and feel we have the best of both worlds with a home in MN and AZ, spending 6 mths in each. We feel safe with them unattended as one is in a gated community and the other is a condo.
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Old 10-17-2009, 09:01 PM   #8
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We live in an apartment here, and have two homes in California, one of which we built with retirement in mind, and the other which will be sold two years afte we move back. I have wanted to have a cabin in the mountains, up by our favorite lake, for a long time, but they rarely come on the market. What we are now more likely to do is to buy an RV and have our "2nd home" or "vacation home" wherever we happen to want to go for that week or two or three (we will never be full timers). That said, if we do find a place we like after we have done some RVing, we may toss in the towel on the RV and do the cabin instead.

...and no, I don't think you are too old for a vacation home. Most people can't afford second home when they are younger and still have kids and university and stuff like that to pay. If all that is behind you, and since you are probably at a peak in your career, it would seem more like you are in your prime than too old.

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Old 10-17-2009, 10:30 PM   #9
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Yow. Lots to think about here. What a great bunch of folks!

I posted this morning and left to do some work on the in-laws house. Re-lamping fixtures, ungunking the computer, etc. (Jack of all trades, master of none. Except maybe painting bilges...)

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Well, we did not realize a main residence "in the boonies" has its drawbacks, such as lack of public services of large cities and distance to travel for health care, etc...
Ah, there at least I'm trying.

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I'm looking for places with a very high walk score, and am cross-checking that with coverage from our HMO.

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I agree with Amethyst - - having someone to look after your various homes when you aren't there, can be a big help.
Yup. One of the things I'm considering is a condo as the 'second home.' That should help somewhat. The funny thing I noticed at the South Lake Tahoe area is that condos that aren't just apartment 'conversions' tend to be more expensive than fairly nice standalone homes.

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You could keep your "stuff" (that you are envisioning keeping in your vacation house) in a big box in your garage at your primary residence, never touch it while you are at your primary residence, and just load it into the vehicle before you drive up there to a rental house. Then there would be no worry about whether you brought the right stuff, or enough stuff. Maybe?
I'm gonna need a bigger truck.

bizlady and others mentioned the aging issues. I'd like to plan for some of that, if only in basic things like minimizing stairs, wider halls, and the possibility of going with smooth floors. My parents did that for their retirement home. Neither of them needed any of the nicities beyond grab bars in the bath, but it was nice to know that wheel chairs or walkers could be accommodated without problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambler View Post
...and no, I don't think you are too old for a vacation home. Most people can't afford second home when they are younger and still have kids and university and stuff like that to pay. If all that is behind you, and since you are probably at a peak in your career, it would seem more like you are in your prime than too old.
Thanks. That's pretty much the situation, except that I just retired 18 months ago. The investments are doing OK, though, which leads me back to thinking about this. I'd put a vacation/second home on hold during the recent economic kerfluffle, mostly out of paranoia. I don't know if I would care for RVing. I really prefer small cars, and the thought of driving one of those behemoths for hours doesn't feel very vacationy to me. But that's just me. Other folks, including some of our friends, seem to love it.

The idea of a little cabin paneled in knotty pine, with an ancient Wedgewood stove in the kitchen appeals to my childhood memories. I'll just have to map it to some grown-up sensibilities and considerations.
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Old 10-18-2009, 01:08 AM   #10
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Our vacation home is a condo in Scottsdale, Az. DW likes it for the big-city amenities. I like it for nearby hiking/biking trails. For the past 7 years, I've been going once a month for about 5 days per trip. That will change to much longer stays when we fully retire.

I'm glad we went the condo route. No maintenance. Association dues and utilities add up, but they're relatively fixed and manageable. Its in a safe gated community and check my condo daily via remote IP camera. I keep the AC at 85 in the summer, and keep the water off when I'm not there. I get no mail at the condo.

The key to having a 2nd home is keeping maintenance to a minimum and developing an easy system for managing them from far away
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Old 10-18-2009, 07:44 AM   #11
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Our weekend house is an easy 1.5 hour drive. It is nice to have a completely different living experience in easy reach (here, center city; there, waterfront open vistas). I am 61, DW 57 and we anticipate keeping the place for another ten years or so if we remain the primary users. The main reasons we would sell it are expenses and hassles. It costs a bundle to maintain a second home (especially with a pool and especially if you are too lazy or incompetent to do the work on it yourself -- that would be me). Also, when issues do come up it is a PITA to deal with them. On the other side of the equation, it is a really pleasant place to lay back and relax and it is a great place to entertain.

A nice factor is the second house is a valuable asset that can be sold if some of the financial doomsday prognosticators are correct. Even at a massive loss it would still provide a decent infusion of cash and the reduction in expenses would leave us able to get by on my pension alone. If we stay flush, the ultimate decision on selling may be up to the kids. Right now my son lives nearby with a kid due in March. My daughter is at home and may or may not stay in DC. If either or both of them start to heavily use the weekend place, and are willing to take responsibility for maintaining it, we would let them take over in anticipation of inheritance.
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Old 10-18-2009, 08:02 AM   #12
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Another reason why having an RV is so attractive.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:22 AM   #13
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We built on a small lake in VT near skiing. We call it a "love-hate relationship".

Maintenance has been alot of "fun" ... freeze alarm called at 4am then again at 6am. House was 40 degrees before power was restored (and I was in the car driving to the house).

Then we had an epic ice storm last winter that knocked power out for a week. I was holed-up in the house keeping the wood stove burning for 4 days ... 4 degrees at night! If you didn't get to your house, you had a freeze-up. Lot's of those since the state highway was closed for 3 days (downed wires and poles).

Then the geothermal heat pump died in JANUARY. 20 BELOW ZERO. Part took 10 days to arrive. Burned lots of wood that week.

The motto is "be prepared" ... have a second source for EVERYTHING.

If this hasn't scared you, you're ready for a second home. Despite the head aches we really enjoy the place!
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:08 PM   #14
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We own a home and a vacation condo near Tucson AZ. We find the vacation condo quite expensive to maintain, what with the taxes, association dues, utility bills, minor maintenance issues, etc. We have to make sure the water is run every 2 weeks or so, and someone checks out the place.

If I had to do it all over, I'd do a rental condo/house/cabin/etc. instead of owning. You can rent for two or three months every year for less than you'll pay to own.

We're thinking of selling the vacation condo now.
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Old 10-19-2009, 08:04 AM   #15
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Yeah renting is a steal. We operate the lake house as a vacation rental. Heading into our 4th winter season; still can't get the thing to break-even.

It'll be a negative cash-flow the entire time we own it.
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:10 PM   #16
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In thinking about this, it looks like a rental might be the way to go, at least at first. I can rent for a week or two at a time in the areas I am interested in, and if I settle on a specific spot, I can easily lease for a year at a cost less than the realtor's commission on buying that place. (In at least one case, the year's lease is just over twice the property taxes that I wouldn't have to pay. Depressed markets...)

I've also found a number of rentals that are ALSO for sale, so 'try before you buy' looks to be pretty easy in the current market.
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:20 PM   #17
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the year's lease is just over twice the property taxes
This guy has a negative cashflow too. Heck, I pull 3x the taxes and mine is negative.

Always nice when you can rent and have the owner subsidize your stay!
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Old 10-19-2009, 09:00 PM   #18
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Of course it costs more to own, but to us there's something nice about a place that we can just hop in the car and drive to, whenever we want. Our second home has been completely set up, and we need to bring only some fresh food when we drive up there. Of course, the relative short drive between the places makes it so convenient.

Initially, I thought about having a second home in the Pacific North West, perhaps a condo for ease of maintenance. But my wife so loves our current second home that she would not want to sell it. So, a small RV as the 3rd home that we can take to the PNW? It starts to make more sense now.
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Old 10-19-2009, 11:30 PM   #19
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We are selling our vacation home in Lake Tahoe when we retire. Great place in the summer. Do not want to live in it during the winter. Running two households is more of an expense and a great deal more effort. If you got the money and the gumption. Knock yourself out.
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Old 10-20-2009, 10:58 AM   #20
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If you're going to use it a lot, like the feeling of "coming home", can afford it, and don't mind doing some maintenance work while you're there, go for it. I live at a resort where a lot of people have second homes. They like being able to head up here on short notice to spend a weekend or a week without having to worry about booking a rental or the rental cost. The drawback is that sometimes they come up here and wind up working on the house, but you can always hire people, and in many vacation spots there are businesses that handle everything for you, including turning on lights and heat for the day you arrive (though sometimes I wonder if they don't crank up the heat a couple days early if it's convenient for them, not caring about the energy usage).

If you like going to different places, you might struggle with justifying paying for a vacation elsewhere while you own a vacation place. You can and should still do it, but some people have trouble with it. But the main thing is, you are locked in for a lot of your vacation time at this place, so make sure it's where you want to be. Renting first, while investigating things like how reliable are the repair people in the area, how convenient is shopping for groceries, home repairs, etc, how friendly are the people and are there enough activities to keep me interested, how many restaurants are around, etc. There are lots of things you barely notice in a week that may be important to you if you deal with them regularly.
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