Do You Want a Vacation Home?

vacation homeWhen I was in high school, I was invited to a friend’s family lake house along with several of our other friends.  We stayed there for a couple nights, waterskiing and eating and hanging out all day.  It was great fun to be hosted by that family and I had never had an experience like that before – it was tremendously generous.  I learned that the lake house was owned by my friend’s parents jointly with some of their siblings, so it was a family retreat house that they could alternate the use of or all go to together.


My family went on beach vacations just about yearly when I was a kid, but we always rented a house for the week.  My parents also owned a second home for much of my childhood, but it was a rental house, not a vacation property.  I enjoyed our beach vacations so much that I said I wanted to own a beach house of my own (this was before I had a concept of insurance).


Now I’m not so sure I want to own a second property just for my personal vacation use, and I’m wary of co-owning property with family (or anyone else).  It seems wasteful for a house to sit empty most of the time and I doubt Kyle and I will be wealthy enough to be able to afford that.  If we do own more than one house at a time the excess ones will probably be normal full-time rental houses.  I’ve never looked into whether owning a vacation home that gets rented out weekly is a true investment or just a way to defray some cost of owning a vacation home for yourself.


I do find the hospitality aspect of owning a vacation home attractive, though.  Kyle and I together have experienced being hosted by a local couple at their lake house on a few occasions through the Graduate Christian Fellowship groups at the Triangle universities, and they really have a wonderful ministry to grad and professional students.  If we ever have the kind of wealth that would allow us to afford a vacation home, I suspect we will use it to extend hospitality to others at least part of the time.


Have you had any experiences with vacation homes, through your family or others?  Would you ever consider buying one and if so would you rent it out?  If you were to own a vacation home, what would the local be – urban, mountains, lake, beach, a certain city?


photo from Free Digital Photos 


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44 Responses to "Do You Want a Vacation Home?"

  1. Close to half of our neighborhood is vacation homes. It’s great to live in a place with vacation homes full time since you get all of the amenities paid for all of the time by everyone else who is only there less than half of the time! And as a bonus, since we’re full time, our taxes are subsidized pretty heavily while the vacationers are not. =)
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..How to do taxes-DIY or pay the man?

    1. Emily says:

      Those do sound like great benefits. But do you kind of resent the high season when it gets more crowded? Or is it also more fun?

      1. We don’t resent it at all. Snowbird season changes the pace of life a bit, but in a good way. We all slow down, take more time. Locals know that’s not the time to go out to all the best restaurants and expect great service, but it’s a time when there are a lot more outdoor free events that are tons of fun.
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  2. S. B. says:

    We go to a lot of really cool places on vacation and this topic always comes up. But after we think about, it really just does not make sense for us. First, we don’t enjoy the hassles of home maintenance, and a vacation home would only increase that. Second, we’re also not interested in renting it out, so that means it would be a huge ongoing cash outflow. Third, we usually try to visit a new place each year, so we really don’t want to be tied down to a single location. But for people who love a particular location and don’t mind renting it out, I can definitely see the attraction.

    The costs of renting can sometimes be a really good deal. Over a number of years, we rented the same beach house in the Outer Banks for one week on three different years. The total cost for all three rentals was less than one year of property taxes for the owner!
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    1. Emily says:

      I think that third point is really key. Owning a vacation home is only an option if you really love returning to that particular area. My family used to vacation in the Outer Banks as well and it is lovely, but it’s scary to think how expensive it is to maintain those houses!

  3. Michelle says:

    I’m not sure if I would want a vacation home, but if I did then I would for sure rent it out! Owning something that you can only use maybe 1 or 2 weeks a year though doesn’t seem worth it to me unless I received some sort of return from it.
    Michelle recently posted..Girl Meets Debt Repayment

    1. Emily says:

      What if you used it for a whole season? We know a professor who leaves for 2 months every summer to his mountain cabin – maybe that is worth it? If you go problogger you can do that from wherever! 😉

  4. Brian says:

    We will probably end up owning a vacation home of sorts. My wife’s family owns some property down in Southern Indiana along the Ohio River. It is really a nice couple plots. There is already a nice cabin built there. We know the current owner is looking to sell in the next couple of years and would like to keep it in the family. We are probably the most likely to be able to actually afford the property, but 3rd in line for the option. If we don’t end up buying that property, we may try to buy one of the other plots and build our own cabin (or maybe I yurt, I love those things!).

    1. Brian says:

      I guess I should note that I can rent out that house to a family members who live down there full time, kind of like they do it now on a part time basis. Also they usually have it as pretty much anyone can use it any weekend and just ask for a few bucks to cover the utilities for the time they are there

      1. Emily says:

        That gets even trickier when there is money exchanged among family members but only sometimes! If you can afford it without the payments, though, they would just be bonus and you can be generous.

    2. Emily says:

      That’s a hard decision to make… Would you want to buy the property if family wasn’t involved?

  5. It would be nice to have one. Michelle’s right, if you are only going to stay there for a couple of weeks each year, might as well rent it out. Earn something form it for maintenance and all.

    1. Emily says:

      I wonder how much having renters puts additional wear on the house, though.

  6. I agree with Michelle–not sure I want one, but I would definitely rent it out as much as possible if I did buy one.

    However, I do want to buy a second home earlier in a location that I’ll decide to retire in. Ideally, buying it early will allow me to pay it off well before my golden years so that I can retire in peace and out of debt. 🙂
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..Do You Always Have an Excuse for Why You Can’t Meet Your Goals?

    1. Emily says:

      That is a great idea – a vacation home for now but a retirement home for later. And if you can get renters to pay off the mortgage, so much the better!

  7. While I am in no spot to own a vacation home, my wife and I would like to own one in the mountains. We would rent it most of the time, but would blocked off spots when we wanted to use it. It would be a hybrid rental/personal use home that we could enjoy when we wanted to. Maybe one day, but definitely not anytime soon.
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    1. Emily says:

      This is a far far far-off thought for us, too.

  8. Sara says:

    My parents did something very similar to THH’s plans. They found a beautiful spot about three hours from their permanent city and bought a home there when prices plummeted in 2008-9. Right now they’re maintaining two houses (but I believe both are paid off) but when the baby graduates from college they plan on selling the house that we grew up in and buying a condo in the city. Initially they were going to move into a condo sooner, but decided that it might be a better long-term payoff for them to hold their house for a few more years and do a few expensive updates to it first.

    I don’t expect to ever have the kind of cash flow that my parents have, but I think that the vacation/retirement home that they purchased is intended to stay in the family so we may end up partially-owning a second place.
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    1. Emily says:

      That’s so great that your parents were able to jump in at just the right time to get that deal. I like the relational idea of sharing a vacation home with family, but thinking of the finances and liabilities makes me cringe.

  9. I have a friend who is in the process of buying a vacation house, which he does plan on renting out and paying his expenses for it that way.

    One problem with a vacation house is that then you are invested in vacationing in that one spot all the time.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Why I Don’t Care About Trying to Minimize My Tax Return

    1. Emily says:

      Definitely a downside! You have to know that you will want to continue going back there for years.

  10. I’m very much like you…when I was younger I really wanted a vacation house. But now that I am older, I don’t think I would. It would be nice, but I just couldn’t deal with an empty house sitting for the majority of the year while I pay the mortgage and bills on it.
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    1. Emily says:

      I think I’d rather rent vacation homes than own one. I did like going back to the same beaches year after year as a child but now I want to see more of the world on my vacations. It would be fun to host friends at a vacation house occasionally but we would have to be really wealthy to afford that generosity.

  11. I wouldn’t mind owning a vacation house on Maui some day. I would hire a property management company to rent it out during the times we weren’t using it.
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    1. Emily says:

      Maui would be amazing but crazy expensive, no? I’ve never been to HI but my husband absolutely loves it.

  12. I’ve stayed at a lot of vacation homes in my time and I can honestly say I would never want to own one, mostly for a few reasons. First, I wouldn’t want to deal with the maintenance, taxes, ect. Secondly, I prefer to travel to different destinations and not stay at the same place.

    On the flip side you if you do buy one you could always rent it out through Home Away or VRBO, to make a little extra cash.

    1. Emily says:

      I would want to outsource the care, too, because the whole point would be that we wouldn’t live nearby!

  13. Joy Robson says:


    vacation homes are great, if you vacation. For the most part though, vacation homes just sit there for the better part of the year and you continue to pay mortgage and maintenance of it. Money-wise, I don’t think it’s worth the investment. Unless you absolutely love going to the same place, I prefer to use my money towards a vacation in different places. -Joy

    1. Emily says:

      That seems to be the a consensus and it’s a very good point! I would want to explore a lot more before we settle on a vacation home location (on the remote chance we could afford one).

  14. We thought about it, but in the end decided against it, because we like doing something different for each vacation. The only “repeat” spots for us have been Northern California and Puget Sound, but in neither have ever done the exact spot twice.

    What we REALLY need is a boat on Puget Sound, you know, one of those half million dollar jobbies. 🙂
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    1. Emily says:

      Woah, a boat like that sound like a vacation home all to itself!

      1. William says:

        Yep… at twice the price! LOL
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  16. Pauline says:

    I like the idea of convenience, not having to look for a place, book, etc when you want to go somewhere, but an empty property is too wasteful for my perspective. Occupying it for Christmas and summer mean you pass on the best rental income too. If I was crazy rich I would have a loft in Paris, NY, and a mountain home, all managed for rentals and book my slots when I please. I saw an investment that allowed you to have a unit, that would be rented but you could stay at the resort 5 weeks per year, not necessarily in your unit. Rental income is pooled too between owners unless you bring the tenant. It seemed interesting, although the impersonal setting is not something I’d like to go back to each year.
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    1. Emily says:

      Sounds like something you’ve thought through – and I agree I’d want to personalize something I was going back to year after year, not have it feel like a hotel.

  17. CashRebel says:

    I’ve always thought buying a faction property was just a bad idea justifies as an investment. Sure there could be a way to get a good deal renting it out, but most vacation properties are bought out if emotion, not financial analysis. Plus renting just gives so much more flexibility in terms of where you vacation.
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    1. Emily says:

      I’m sure you are right that the investment aspect of owning a vacation home is secondary!

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  19. One of the docs I did an internship for during school lived in South Florida and had a vacation home on some Key. He had four kids who all had kids and the whole lot of them would go down to the Keys several times a year. His Christmas cards are always a shot of the family lobster fishing or something similar. I always thought that was idyllic. My family rarely went on vacation, so I never had that experience. Like most of the comments, I would only want a vacation home if it was in a place I’d like to retire someday. Since I’m not sure where that is, I think it makes more sense to buy rentals where I live now. I wouldn’t want to have to always vacation in the same place either.
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    1. Emily says:

      That does sound idyllic! If I had so many progeny and could afford a vacation home I think that might be worth it. Maybe by the time the kids were so old your coworker was ready to “settle down” with one location.

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  21. I would love to have two homes so that I can live the life of a snowbird. The only question is what would I do with the place during the 6 months I wasn’t there.

    If I was only going to live some place for a few weeks, it wouldn’t make much sense to own a vacation home. I’d rather just rent a place, it would be far easier.
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    1. Emily says:

      If you’re living there for half the year and can afford it it seems pretty justified. Would you or anyone else want to go there during the off-season?

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