A plantation-style house on a Carolina waterway.
A mountain lodge in the Rockies.
A desert casita on the fringes of Phoenix.
A Gulf coast beach bungalow.
Your dream of a vacation getaway house is nearly a reality. You’ve researched homes in the area and calculated the costs of owning another single-family home. Two homes, two sets of bills. Utilities, home insurance, property taxes, pool maintenance, yard work. You’ve factored in some cash for unexpected emergencies: appliance replacement, plumbing, electrical work. You’ve set aside funds for furnishings and window treatments. You’ve got all possible costs covered based on the expenses and maintenance of your current single-family home. What more can there be?
My husband and I own two single-family homes, one in New York and one in Florida. So I speak from experience when I say there are some sneaky hidden costs to owning a vacation home:
Travel. People buy getaway homes because they want a change of scenery and climate. And that means you must travel between your distant homes, sometimes at great cost. Driving from coast to coast takes days of gas consumption and overnight motel stays. Flights are pricey, even though you have clothes at your second home and won’t need to check a bag. And don’t forget the rental car or airport shuttle you’ll need to get from the airport to your vacation home and back.
Security. Installing a security system, even with a camera, isn’t enough. All the warning signs in your windows or on your lawn won’t be enough to keep lawn workers, pool boys, and general snoopers from knowing one simple fact: No one is home. We get letters in the mail every week from Florida agencies wanting to buy our home because they know from public records that it’s not our permanent residence. Even though you maintain your property with outside help, many people will know when you’re there — and when you’re not. We pay someone to keep an eye on the place, inside and out, and also ask neighbors to watch. For which we give them gift cards.
Critters. When a house is quiet for a long period of time, insects, mice, squirrels, roaches, ants, and other critters tend to make your dream house their dream house. You can place bait traps out before you leave, but nothing works 100%. One time we arrived at our Florida house to find an awful smell in the garage. It took quite a while to locate the source: a decaying citrus rat on top of our stored car’s engine.
Visitors. We love when family comes to visit us in Florida. But there’s a cost involved here too, of extra water usage from showers and laundry, food, entertainment, trips. This is what a vacation getaway is for — to show your visitors a wonderful time and make them feel at home. But forgetting to calculate these costs into your budget can make your jaw drop when your credit card invoice arrives.
We don’t rent out our vacation house, even to family, but if you’re thinking of using your getaway to generate additional income, here’s another hidden cost:
Rental upkeep. A rental agency will take a percentage of the weekly rental fee, but they will also check your house and close it up once the current renters have left. Not using an agency? Then you’ll need to handle all the details: the key, bedding, refrigerator emptied, AC/heat cut back, toilets flushed, doors locked, etc. All of the opening and closing details that you normally handle during your own stay must be repeated during the rental period. If not by you, then who? Also, you must foot the bill for any damages that occur during the rental. If renters trashed your TV or spilled red wine on your white carpet, you’re out of luck.