Why You Shouldn’t Buy A Vacation Home

lakenorman

This is my view as I write this.

We’re on a family vacation on Lake Norman. Here’s a video my daughter made from our trip:

Each summer, we rent a home on the lake. Our requirements for this home are as follows:

1. It must be pet friendly. (We bring our dog)
2. It must must be on the lake. (We spend most of our time in & on the lake)
3. It must have a dock (We rent a pontoon boat & jet ski)

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This is one of our favorite vacations. We’ve been coming here annually for many years. In fact, we almost moved here in 2007.

In the past, we stayed at the same home each year. However, this particular home was sold and is no longer available. So we found a new home to rent this year. On our first day, we made friends with the neighbors. Turns out that the home next to them is for sale. It’s pretty nice and they tried to talk us into buying it.

I quickly passed on this opportunity.

The reason why I passed was because I’ve made that mistake already. Ten years ago, I bought an ocean front condo in Myrtle Beach. I ended up doing a strategic default on this condo when the market crashed.

Why?

It was a costly mistake. Buying a vacation home is a bad idea for two reasons:

1. The cost per use is insanely high. If you factor in mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities throughout the year, your few weeks of vacation end up costing you $20,000 to $30,000. This is before any maintenance, repairs and home owner association fees.

To offset this expense, we offered our condo as a weekly rental to other vacationers. We blocked the weeks we wanted to use and rented out the other weeks. This income helped cover the cost, but created a great deal of extra work. We now had to manage 15 to 20 weekly rentals each year. This is 15 to 20 rental agreements, checks ins, security deposits, cleaning, etc. It quickly became a very demanding part-time job.

2. It locks you in to a specific area. A few years after we bought this condo, we started to lose our enthusiasm for Myrtle Beach. It is very commercialized and every Tom, Dick, and Harry vacation there. The beaches were packed. The restaurants had long wait times. Traffic was bad. It just wasn’t very relaxing during the summer months.

The real estate market crashed and I used this opportunity to get rid of our vacation home. We lost a lot of money on this investment, but I learned a very valuable lesson.

The lesson is renting a vacation home is far better than buying a vacation home.

Today, we definitely spend more on our actual vacations and this is because we rent the home, the boat, and the jet ski. However, we spend a lot less when compared to owning.

Someone else has to maintain the lakefront home. Someone else has to maintain the boat. Someone else has to maintain the jet ski. We simply enjoy the hell out of them for a short period of time and leave all of the headaches to others.

Even though we absolutely love the lake, I don’t think we’ll vacation here annually for years to come. These are fun “family” vacations and when my kids are doing their own thing, the trip won’t be the same. Renting gives us complete flexibility, which I find very valuable.

Looking back, I thought owning a vacation home would be an amazing experience. It was a big goal for me and a sign that I had made it. This became a major financial drain and a great deal of aggravation.

The experience can be rented and it’s just as amazing.

4 Comments

  • Gord Merrick

    Reply Reply July 24, 2016

    Hi Rob:

    Don’t agree on a number of points. My cottage is like an ATM. Bought it for 10 grand earned from a birddogging flip. It was a rundown dump facing west towards the most gorgeous sunsets. Knocked it down, rebuilt sleeps 8. Rent two weeks in June and all of July for$9,000 We take it for all of August up to closeup at Thanksgiving. It’s mortage free and I leverage it all the time. Its lakefront on Lake Huron. Bank appraisal is around $450,000. About two hours west of Toronto. We love it. Moreover since nearby farmers are allowing Xcountry skiing. I’m toying with renting in winter.We’ll see.

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply July 24, 2016

      Gord,

      Your plan is far better than my “failed” vacation home plan. I paid $300,000 for our vacation home and had a $240,000 mortgage. The monthly payments were pretty high when all of the costs were included. It was a dumb investment and I benefited from what I learned in the process. A vacation home without a mortgage would be very profitable. Congrats on your property!

      Rob

  • Mark Evans DM

    Reply Reply July 24, 2016

    Great post Rob and spot on.

    Awesome Job on the video as well.

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