Introduction to Buying a Second Home
As a real estate investor and owner of a vacation rental property, I’ve dealt with numerous ownership questions first-hand. I’ve also read various resources over the years in order to supplement my own experiences. Yet, there are many different resources out there on various topics, from the true costs of owning a second home to the rules and regulations governing different vacation property types such as waterfront properties. As a result, it’s sometimes hard to get a clear picture of what you should know before buying a second home and what ownership is truly like. With this in mind, I set out to create one resource that provides you with everything you need to know before buying a second home and, in particular, a vacation home.
I should point out that I use the terms “second home” and “vacation home” interchangeably, mostly because second homes are often bought as vacation homes. Still, if you’re looking to buy a second home for another purpose, such as a part-time residence, investment property or eventual retirement home, the principles discussed in this article will still be relevant. Also, while this article focuses on subjects that are relevant for vacation homeowners in the United States and Canada, most topics will be relevant in other jurisdictions. With this in mind, if you’re wondering whether buying a second home is right for you, then you’ve come to the right place.
For an overview of how to buy a vacation home, explore my article on How to Buy a Vacation Home: A Practical Guide.
Setting the Stage
As you contemplate buying a second home, keep in mind that you will have your own unique set of circumstances, from personal finances to the locations you are interested in. Therefore, you should seek appropriate advice from qualified advisors, including accountants, lawyers and realtors, in your hunt for a second home. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of utilizing each of these experts, who have saved me countless headaches and likely thousands of dollars. Still, based on my own knowledge and experience, this is everything you need to know before buying a second home.
Types of Second Homes/Vacation Properties
As you consider buying a second home, a logical starting point is to consider the various types of properties. First up are the usual suspects in houses, condos, cabins and cottages.
Houses, condos, cabins and cottages
Each of these property types are fairly well understood so I won’t describe them in detail, other than to highlight what you really need to know for each:
- House vs. condo. With a vacation house, you’ll have more privacy than a condo but also higher maintenance costs. One of the things I like most about my vacation condo is that it’s fairly hands off. I can leave it vacant for extended periods of time and, other than minimal upkeep, I don’t have to worry about major repairs or landscaping the yard, for instance. It does help, however, to have a proactive and well run strata (or HOA). Still, if you want more privacy and can handle more responsibility and expense, a vacation house may be right for you.
- Cabin vs. cottage. While cabins and cottages differ primarily by the materials used to construct them, I typically consider them one and the same. Sure there may be different maintenance considerations for a log cabin versus a brick cottage, but the premise is the same. Typically a cabin or cottage is located in a more remote location close to nature. Thus, in addition to the considerations above for a vacation house, you’ll need to take into account how remoteness will impact your use and enjoyment.
Waterfront and water-access only
Waterfront properties are unique for many reasons, including the additional regulations that govern such properties and additional maintenance required. They’re in high demand and as a result typically hold their value. But the premium paid for waterfront is not the only relevant consideration as you need to keep the following in mind before buying a second home on the waterfront:
- Home inspections. In addition to the typical items to look out for in a house inspection, corrosion caused by salt in the air and mildew/mold issues from higher moisture levels can all cause damage on a waterfront property. Boundary surveys, elevation certificates and water quality tests can also be important. For instance, how far above the sea level or the lake shore is the house and is the area prone to flooding? In short, be sure to hire qualified home inspectors, surveyors and other experts before buying a waterfront property.
- Understand what you own. With waterfront property, it is particularly important to review the legal description to determine where the lot extends. Additionally, you will need to determine whether there are any additional encumbrances on title that would otherwise limit your use of, or access to, the waterfront. Whether the property is located in the United States or Canada, it may be worthwhile to run this by a real estate lawyer before buying a second home on the waterfront.
- Understand the limitations that come with it. Understanding what restrictions come with the property and what you can build on it are particularly important. Governmental regulations on waterfront properties govern such things as site density, minimum building setbacks from the water, the kinds of uses that are permitted, whether you can build a dock or seawall and even building design. In the United States and Canada, you may also need approval from other government departments including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (in Canada) for work in and around the water.
- Additional maintenance. Not surprisingly, waterfront properties require additional maintenance and expense in order to keep the property in tip-top shape. Potential issues include:
- Humidity resulting in mold
- Corrosion from salt in the air (in the case of oceanfront)
- High winds causing structural damage
- Falling trees in open areas
In order to combat these issues, consider storm-proofing the house and ensure you have adequate insurance coverage. In short, waterfront properties are expensive to maintain so be prepared to pay double a typical maintenance budget.
- Water-access only. For some, owning your own private piece of paradise is appealing yet the remoteness and/or inaccessibility of water-access only properties may deter some buyers. Obtaining financing for these types of properties can also be difficult. While not for everyone, the general feedback I’ve received from other owners is that water-access only properties are an affordable alternative if you have access to reliable transportation and are willing to forego modern day conveniences.
Fractional ownership and timeshare
Fractional ownership structures and timeshares are also an affordable option for those interested in dipping their toe into vacation home ownership. I’ve personally never been drawn to these types of properties because I’ve always (a) viewed outright ownership as a better investment and (b) liked to have complete freedom and control in terms of the use of my property. With this in mind, this is what you need to know before buying a second home that falls into one of these categories:
- Fractional ownership. With partial ownership, several buyers each hold an equal interest in the title to the property. This is different from a timeshare where title to the property is 100% held by you as the principal owner. As an owner of a fractional interest in a vacation home, you’re also often allowed to use the property for a longer duration than a timeshare. From an investment perspective, you may see an increase in the value of your fractional interest over time.
- Timeshare – With a timeshare, your usage rights will vary slightly depending upon the type (e.g. fixed week, floating etc.). You also have no control over the property and they are notoriously hard to sell. Yet, timeshares are quite affordable, there is less responsibility as an owner and you’ll have certainty as to where and when to take your vacations. For these reasons, a timeshare is a lifestyle purchase as opposed to an investment. Importantly, I’ve heard of too many cases of timeshare owners making emotional decisions when buying-in originally so be sure to take some time before buying.
An owner of a leasehold property has an exclusive right to occupy the property for a specified period, in some cases up to 100 years or more. At the end of the lease, the right to occupy the property reverts to the owner. For this reason, leasehold properties are typically more affordable and there are often restrictions with what you can do with the property during the term of the lease. If you’re looking at your second home as an investment property, then I would avoid buying a second home that is a leasehold since you don’t actually own the property and therefore don’t typically enjoy the same upside in price appreciation.
Different Second Home Uses
In addition to buying a second home for vacation purposes as a “home away from home”, there are many different reasons to buy a second home. Here are a few insights I’ve learned over the years about these other specific uses:
Vacation home vs second home vs investment property
I find there is a lot of confusion as to the difference between a vacation home, a second home and an investment property and the implications of each. Importantly, the designation of your property can have implications on your mortgage terms and tax treatment. While I encourage everyone to obtain their own independent tax advice, here are some important things to know:
- Vacation home vs second home. In short, there is no real difference between the two. More specifically, a second home is a residence you intend to occupy for part of the year in addition to your primary residence. Typically, second homes are owned as vacation properties but they could be used for other purposes (such as a condo in the city for work).
- Second home vs investment property. An investment property differs from a second home in that it is owned primarily for investment purposes, typically through rental income, rather than as a second residence. A vacation rental property is one such example of an investment property, where the primary purpose is to generate income from the property as opposed to using it as a second home.
- Mortgage implications. Mortgages for second homes will typically be associated with stricter lending criteria and higher interest rates than primary residences. For an investment property, such as a vacation rental, you can expect interest rates to be even higher and even higher down payment requirements, although every lender will have their own lending terms.
- Tax implications. Depending upon the designation of your vacation home as a secondary residence or revenue-producing investment property, and the thresholds set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you may be required to report and remit tax on any income derived from your property. Additionally, taxation of capital gains upon the sale of your vacation home is treated differently from a primary residence.
For a more complete discussion of mortgage terms and tax implications for vacation homes, see below under Vacation Home Financing and Tax Considerations, respectively.
Owning a vacation rental property
Thanks to the popularity of vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO, it’s easier than ever to own and operate a vacation rental property. Yet there are many items to take into account before investing in one, from the tax implications of ownership to how to manage your property. While I speak to tax considerations a little later on, here are some other things you need to know before buying a vacation rental property:
- Short-term rental regulations. Many cities and towns in the US and Canada have restrictions on renting out your property short-term. This can range from a simple requirement to obtain a business license to an outright ban altogether so be sure you understand the local regulations. Rules can change overnight as well so it’s best to invest in those areas that cater to tourists, such as resort municipalities, where vacation rentals are viewed more favorably.
- Vacation rental platforms. I’ve used multiple platforms over the years and each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. Importantly, it’s never a good idea to rely 100% on one vacation rental platform so I recommend using multiple platforms. I also recommend that you create your own website so that you can (a) take direct bookings through friends and family without having to pay any fees associated with rental platforms and (b) slowly build-up search engine optimization over time in order to show up in Google search results. If you do end up taking direct bookings, ensure you require a sufficient damage deposit and execute a short term rental agreement like the one provided here.
- Property management. When deciding whether to manage the property yourself or hire outside management, it ultimately comes down to your willingness to spend additional time and resources dealing with guests or whether you’re willing to pay someone else to do it. If you decide to hire a property manager, expect to pay between 25% to 30% of the rental fees. My wife and I manage our vacation rental and, in my experience, the biggest issue is finding good, reliable cleaners. If you’re willing to do the cleaning yourself then that’s one less issue to worry about.
- Cell phone and internet access. This is more of an issue for remote properties, but you’ll need to be able to communicate with your guests and deal with issues as they arise. It’s therefore important to have reliable cell phone reception and internet access.
- Insurance. This one should be obvious but you’ll need to ensure that your insurance policy adequately covers a vacation rental property. More specifically, be sure to understand the specific terms of your policy. For instance, my policy requires all guests to be 21 years or older so our house rules require it.
- House rules. Speaking of house rules, it’s important to establish house rules for your guests to follow. By doing so, you can minimize damage to your home and otherwise control the guest experience.
- Vacation rental mortgages. In order for your lender to properly assess the risk profile of your loan it will need to understand the proposed use of the property. Accordingly, be sure your lender is aware that you intend on renting out your property when you submit your loan application.
Owning a family vacation home
Dealing with family dynamics can be difficult when it comes to managing a vacation home that is shared by multiple family members. Establishing house rules and splitting up the time equitably between family members are each important. Having a proper exit strategy is also particularly important in case things don’t work out as planned or one of the family members experiences unexpected financial hardship. Before buying a vacation home with a family member, consider whether ownership as tenants in common makes more sense than joint tenants. With a tenancy in common, each family member may control an equal or different percentage of the vacation home and has the right to leave their share of the property to any beneficiary. This provides more flexibility than joint tenancy where, upon the death of an owner, title passes to the surviving owner. Note, however, that if there is a mortgage on the property, typically all borrowers sign the mortgage documentation meaning that if there is a default the lender may realize the debt on all family members.
Owning a weekend home
With a weekend home, the property will be vacant during the week when not in use, perhaps even over the winter months entirely. With this in mind, here is what you need to know:
- Costs vs benefits. With all vacation homes, and weekend homes in particular, you’ll need to ask yourself how much you can reasonably expect to use the property? In particular, ask yourself whether it makes more financial sense to rent versus own a place in your desired area. If you can regularly rent something for a reasonable price, then perhaps it makes more sense to rent instead of own.
- Travel time. Personally, I’ve always steered away from trips that are 3 hours or more unless I am planning on staying there for three or more days. Ideally, your total travel time will be under two hours if your vacation home will be used primarily for weekend use. Otherwise I just find that you spend too much time travelling to your destination as opposed to actually enjoying it. For other travel time guidelines, I find these rules of thumb useful.
- Secure storage. If you want to avoid packing, securing and transporting all of your gear every weekend, such as a boat, ATV, paddleboard, kayak or canoe, I recommend having secure storage on site where these items can be permanently stored.
Second Home Financing
Securing sufficient financing to buy a second home, with reasonable terms, may be the most important consideration for many would-be second homeowners. As mentioned earlier, mortgages for second homes will typically be associated with stricter lending criteria and higher interest rates than primary residences. For vacation rental properties, you can expect interest rates to be even higher in addition to even higher down payment requirements. For reference, even though I have a strong credit history, consistent income and sufficient savings for a 20% down payment, only one of the Big Five Banks in Canada was willing to lend to me when I purchased my vacation rental property and my mortgage was about 75 basis points higher than a mortgage for a primary residence. The reality is that there are fewer lenders willing to lend you money to buy a vacation rental, and those that do require a higher interest rate due to the increased risk profile.
Curious to know about how much you can afford in a second home? Be sure to explore this second home affordability calculator.
Based on my own experience, and the stated policies of major banks in the US and Canada, here is what you need to know:
- Credit score. A credit score of 700 or more will increase your chances of approval, however a minimum of 640 is typically required.
- Interest rates. Expect interest rates to be as much as 0.25% – 0.5% higher than primary residence interest rates. For a vacation rental property, you can expect interest rates to be even higher (e.g. 50 to 75 basis points). With today’s low interest rate environment, however, it’s a great time to get affordable vacation home financing.
- Down payment. Expect to pay between 20% – 30% as a down payment. To lower the risk of default, lenders require higher down payments.
- Maximum debt-to-income ratio. Your debt-to-income ratio should be no more than 43% overall. Your debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes to paying your monthly debt. This includes the mortgage on your primary residence, the new mortgage on your vacation home and any other outstanding debts.
- Distance from primary residence. In the United States, if you want to take advantage of the more beneficial lending terms (e.g. lower interest rate) associated with second homes as opposed to investment properties, your second home must typically be at least 50 miles away from your primary residence. Otherwise, your second home may be viewed as an investment property in the eyes of a lender. In Canada, the distance from your home will similarly be taken into account as to whether you truly intend to use the home as a secondary residence or an investment property.
Some of the best ways to finance a second home include:
- Second home mortgage. This is the same as a traditional mortgage except that a second home mortgage will exist over, and be secured against, your second home as opposed to your primary residence.
- Home equity line of credit. A HELOC acts much like a credit card in that you can borrow up to a certain limit and are only required to pay interest on the amount actually borrowed. In order to be eligible, you will need to have equity available in your existing home. Depending upon the lender, you may be able to utilize up to 80% of the equity in your home (or lower in the case of federal financial institutions in Canada), assuming there is no outstanding mortgage or other loan secured against your home.
- Second mortgage. A second mortgage is just that – a second mortgage over your primary residence. These are riskier from a lender’s perspective as the lender will be in second position to the first lender should you default.
- Cash-out refinance. With a cash-out refinance, you cancel your existing mortgage and enter into a new mortgage with a larger amount than owed on the previous mortgage. You can then use the extra cash to buy a vacation home.
- Private lenders. If traditional banks won’t lend you money, then you may be able to obtain financing from private lenders such as friends, family, a private investor or even peer-to-peer online lending. Just be aware that private lenders typically charge higher interest rates and/or other fees given the heightened risk in lending to someone that the banks won’t.
True Cost of Owning a Second Home
Before buying a second home, it’s important to understand the true cost of ownership in order to ensure you can afford the carrying costs. In my experience, people tend to underestimate ownership costs so you can expect your monthly bill to be higher. To begin with, let’s look at my own example.
For an accurate estimate of your monthly ownership costs, be sure to explore this cost of owning a vacation home calculator.
Vacation Home Cost Example
As an example, here is a breakdown of the one-time costs and ongoing carrying costs of my vacation rental property (all in Canadian dollars), which was purchased for $715,000 at the beginning of 2019 and was partially furnished:
- One-time costs:
- Down payment: $143,000 (20% of purchase price)
- Property transfer taxes: $12,300
- Conveyancing fees and disbursements (legal): $1,630.87
- Minor renovations and furnishings: $4,743.41
- Special assessment in Fall of 2019: $4,029.75
- Recurring costs (monthly):
- Mortgage: $2,898.26
- Property taxes: $246.96 ($2,963.52 annually)
- Insurance: $70 ($840 annually)
- Utilities: $40
- Cable, internet and streaming services: $122
- Maintenance and repairs: nil
- Ongoing accounting and legal fees: $41.67 ($500 annually)
- Strata fees: $557.83
Based on the above, my monthly carrying costs are $3,976.72 but I would expect that number to be slightly higher after factoring in additional nominal costs not reflected above. If I add the one-time costs (e.g. property transfer taxes, furnishings, special assessment etc.) and spread them out over the 2.5 years I have owned my home, my monthly carrying costs have been roughly $4,733.52 over that period. Further, while I have not yet spent any material amount on repairs and maintenance, I expect this will catch up to me soon and that my spending will be in line with a more typical allocation of between 1% – 4% of my home’s value being spent annually on maintenance.
Other costs that may be relevant depending upon the circumstances and location of your property include:
- HOA or resort fees
- Vacancy, general excise and other taxes (location/use specific)
- Management, cleaning and other vacation rental ownership fees
Despite your best efforts to plan for everything, I can attest to the fact that unexpected costs arise from time to time. If it’s not a special assessment from your condo association, then it will be your hot water tank or furnace that will give out. As such, keep some cash available for these unexpected costs.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked costs is opportunity cost, or the forgone benefit that would have been obtained from the next best alternative. This is not easy to calculate in every instance but I recommend trying this real estate ROI calculator. It’s a simple calculator that shows the expected return on investment (ROI) from your second home over the life of the mortgage and, for comparison purposes, the ROI should you instead choose to invest in the stock market over that same period. A little later on I will explore my own expected ROI from my vacation rental property and compare it against a stock market investment. In the meantime, let’s move on.
Second Home Maintenance
As I’ve already covered off the principal costs associated with owning a second home, I won’t explore maintenance costs any further. I will, however, provide the following insight into second home maintenance generally:
- Less may be more. The more stuff you have in your home, the more that can go wrong. While AC units and hot tubs are nice to have, consider whether it’s necessary to have them in your second home. If not, you may be better off without them.
- Prolonged vacancy. If your home will remain vacant for long periods, consider hiring someone to check on the property. In fact, you may not have insurance coverage if your home is left empty for 30 or 60 days, depending on the policy. By having someone check on your property every 30 days, you can typically satisfy the minimum requirements under your insurance policy.
- Install a security system with remote monitoring. Consider installing a security system with remote monitoring to reduce risk of vandalism or theft. With smart video cameras, you also have the ability to keep tabs on your property in case of unexpected events such as a flood caused by bursting pipes or an electrical fire.
- Winterizing. Simple steps to winterize your property will keep the cold out, the heat in and your energy bill down. Steps like flushing the water heater, adding window insulation film and adding draft guards under doors will all help and with only minor expense.
- Storm proofing. If your second home is in an area that is prone to storms, you will save yourself a lot of headache by storm-proofing the house as much as possible. Adding storm shutters, trimming trees away from the house and removing clutter from around the yard are simple things you can do. Larger projects, such as structural upgrades, may be necessary and will require hiring qualified help.
Second Home Tax Considerations
First, a word of caution. Tax rules are complex and everyone’s circumstances are different. Accordingly, you should consult a qualified tax adviser in connection with your own tax planning.
As you consider buying a second home, it’s important to understand the tax consequences of ownership. The two most significant tax implications of ownership are typically (i) taxation of revenue derived from your property and (ii) taxation upon the sale of your property. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Taxation of Rental Income
In both the United States and Canada, the IRS and CRA, respectively, will have an interest in any commercial activities associated with the property and, in particular, rental income. Thus, you will need to give adequate consideration to the tax consequences of renting out your second home.
In the United States, if you rent out your property for 15 days or more, then the IRS may view your property as a rental property. As a result, you will be required to report any rental income and pay appropriate tax. One of the benefits of operating a rental property, however, is that you can deduct various expenses, including property taxes, insurance premiums, condo fees, utilities, mortgage interest and depreciation. These deductions can then be used to offset a portion of the rental income, thus reducing your tax burden. Note, however, that if you also use your rental property as a residence, limitations may apply to the expenses you can deduct. According to the IRS, you’re considered to use a dwelling unit as a residence if you use it for personal purposes during the tax year for more than the greater of: (i) 14 days, or (ii) 10% of the total days you rent it to others at a fair rental price. An accountant with experience in this area will be able to advise you as to which expenses you can deduct based on your individual circumstances.
In Canada, if you rent out your property then you will similarly be required to report any rental income and pay tax on it. As an owner of a short-term vacation rental property, an important threshold to keep in mind is the annual revenue limit of C$30,000. If you exceed that limit over four consecutive quarters, you will be required to charge and remit GST/HST on any rental income. Keep in mind that, similar to the US, you’re also able to deduct appropriate expenses from any rental income to reduce your tax burden.
Whether you’re located in the US or Canada, be sure to retain accurate records of the rental income you’ve received and all of the expenses claimed on your tax return in case you’re ever audited. The retention period is three years in the US and six years in Canada.
Taxation Upon the Sale of Your Second Home
In the United States, if you have held your second home for more than one year, any profit on the sale will be taxed as long-term capital gains. Notably, tax rates for long-term capital gains are more favorable at 15% or 20% (to the extent that your taxable income exceeds the thresholds set for the 15% rate). Prior to selling your second home, you may want to consider the taxable exclusion of $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) in gains from sales of a primary residence. To qualify, you would need to treat your second home as a primary residence for at least two of the last five years prior to selling. Note, however, that a reduction is made on a pro rata basis to reflect the period of rental, vacation home or other “non-qualifying use”. Also, keep in mind the IRS’ rules on depreciation recapture tax upon the sale of a rental property. This occurs as a result of a taxpayer deducting the depreciation of a rental property from the taxpayer’s ordinary income. The taxpayer has to report any gain from the disposal of the rental property (up to the recomputed basis) as ordinary income.
In Canada, when you sell your second home any gain will be subject to taxation. This differs from the gain realized from the sale of your primary residence, which is tax-free. If you have not claimed any depreciation expense (or “capital cost allowance”), you will realize a capital gain or loss on the sale. If the sale price is more than your cost, one-half of the capital gain is included in your taxable income. If you claimed capital cost allowance, then selling the property may result in a recapture of your capital cost allowance. When you change your principal residence to a second home or rental property (or change your second home/rental property to your principal residence), it’s called a change in use for tax purposes and the CRA may treat it as if you sold the property. For a principal residence, you don’t have to pay tax on any capital gain up to the point of conversion to a second home. For a second home, any gain accruing up to the point of conversion to a principal residence is taxable. Lastly, if you’re collecting GST/HST as an operator of a short-term rental property, you are required to collect GST/HST on the sale of your property.
Pros and Cons of Owning a Second Home
Any discussion about buying a second home would not be complete without considering the pros and cons of owning a second home. With this in mind, here is my list of the pros and cons of owning a second home:
- Relatively secure investment. Real estate prices in the United States and Canada tend to go up over time and have not experienced the same volatility as other asset classes.
- Additional ways to increase ROI. By owning a vacation home, you have the ability to maximize your return on investment through home renovations and/or rental income when the home is not in use (but be mindful of the tax implications).
- Borrowing is cheap. Given the low interest rate environment, borrowing money to buy a second home is cheap (assuming you meet the stricter lending criteria). Because of this, you can build wealth using the bank’s ‘cheap’ money.
- Hosting friends and family. Owning a vacation home is a great way to bring family and friends together as there will be no shortage of visitors.
- Retirement. What better way to plan for retirement than owning a second home as an eventual retirement home?
- Pride of ownership. Speaking from personal experience, one of the best things about owning a vacation home is the joy it brings. Quite frankly, this is often the biggest reason to buy a vacation home.
- Real estate historically outperformed by stock market. If you’re buying a second home for investment purposes, it’s worth noting that real estate in the United States and Canada has historically been outperformed by the stock market.
- Lack of diversification. Spending further money on real estate may be risky, especially if you’re not well diversified in other asset classes.
- Ownership isn’t passive. Unlike owning stocks, owning a second home isn’t passive as it will require ongoing time and commitment, from paying annual property taxes to renewing your insurance.
- Ownership costs. The expenses can pile up pretty quickly as your second home will require ongoing repairs and maintenance.
- Usage may be less than you expect. This will certainly vary from owner to owner but you may find that you don’t actually use your property as much as you expect. I have historically only used my property roughly two weeks a year but then again I’m also operating a vacation rental property.
- Vacation home moochers. While hosting friends and family is one of the benefits of owning a vacation home, you may also have to deal with freeloaders looking for a free stay.
Is Buying a Second Home Worth it?
With the above in mind, is buying a second home worth it? As mentioned previously, this real estate ROI calculator enables you to directly compare how a real estate investment will perform (with or without rental income) against a stock market investment. Let’s consider some return on investment scenarios using my own example:
- Vacation home purchase price: $715,000
- Down payment: $143,000
- Mortgage terms: 3.61% interest rate with a 25 year amortization schedule
- Monthly rental income: $5,000
- Aggregate monthly expenses: $2,000
Based on the above assumptions, the real estate ROI calculator shows that I’m netting an extra $102.58 per month in rental income, which would not be available if I instead chose to invest in the stock market. Therefore, I need to compare the value of my vacation home plus $102.58 in monthly rental income after 25 years against investing $143,000 (i.e. the size of the down payment) in the stock market over that same period with no additional contributions. Here’s what it shows under the following scenarios:
Scenario 1: Vacation Home Appreciates 4% Annually and Stock Market Grows 8% Annually
- Value of vacation home (and net rental income) at end of term: $1,971,116.09
- Value of stock market investment at end of term: $1,049,645.16
Scenario 2: Vacation Home Appreciates 4% Annually and Stock Market Grows 6% Annually
- Value of vacation home (and net rental income) at end of term: $1,971,116.09
- Value of stock market investment at end of term: $638,490.68
Scenario 3: Vacation Home Appreciates 2% Annually and Stock Market Grows 8% Annually
- Value of vacation home (and net rental income) at end of term: $1,209,119.17
- Value of stock market investment at end of term: $1,049,645.16
As you can see, I’m better off buying a second home in each of the above scenarios. Of course, the above doesn’t take into account appropriate tax planning strategies. For instance, by utilizing a tax sheltered account such as a 401K plan in the United States or RRSP/TFSA account in Canada, you may be able to shelter some or all of the tax burden of a stock market investment. All of the sudden investing in the stock market doesn’t look so bad, especially if you can’t claim a primary residence tax exemption under the vacation home scenario. The other difficulty is that not all of the benefits or drawbacks of buying a second home can be objectively measured. After all, you can’t put a price on the time spent with the kids (or grandkids) and the lifelong memories that result. On the flip side, it’s hard to quantify or value the additional time spent maintaining your property. Personally, I’m very happy with my vacation home. From the revenue it generates as a vacation rental to the joy it brings me and my family, I expect to hold onto it for many years, and ski trips, to come.
With that, I encourage you to consider each of the items noted above in this article before buying a second home. This is certainly everything I wish I knew before buying my vacation home.
About the Author
Peter is a father, entrepreneur and real estate investor. Together with his wife, he owns and operates a vacation rental property in Whistler, BC and is eager to pass along his knowledge and personal experience.