Every summer my husband Thom and I rent a home in the mountains for a month. Then for a change of pace, we rent a cottage at the beach after that. Neither are fancy, but they are fun and comfortable. While I love my home in the desert southwest, it can be brutally hot during the summer, so escaping to somewhere cool when it’s scorching outside is a dream come true for me. And because we’ve “rightsized,” the cost fits easily into our budget.
But a question we always get is, “Oh, are you staying at your second home?” We happily answer “No!” That’s because when we visit these locations, we like to have the option of changing destinations and properties. Best of all, we like the freedom of not having to spend the time and money managing the property for the remainder of the year. These reasons and more prompted me to consider: is buying a second home, an RV or a boat SMART? Here’s my answer.
Why A Second Home Is Usually Not A Good Investment
The real estate question is a no brainer. Thom and I both have been real estate brokers for over 30 years, so we have experience in this area. Although I mainly write about related issues, Thom’s focus centers on commercial and investments. And although some people would like you to believe differently, a second home, an RV, or a boat are seldom good investments.
As I’ve written about before, anything that costs you money on a regular basis without a reasonable return is not a sound investment. Even if rented out part time, second homes seldom generate the cost of ownership, let alone a profit. And although some have the potential to increase in price over the years, there are no guarantees, and more times than not the overall cost to carry them through the years is a big negative.
But what about the enjoyment? It’s true that having your own place can be rewarding. Certainly, in our culture, we like to “own” things and often get pleasure by just telling others that we do. But while all that sounds fantastic, the reality of the time and money needed to maintain the property often doesn’t live up to the hype.
For example, the beach house we are renting for a month just had the stove replaced, the bathroom redone and requires constant repairs to keep it in usable shape. The owners have owned it since 1984 and while they could surely sell it for more than they paid, if they added up every single expense they have had since they bought it, they’d be lucky if they could just about break even.
On the other hand, Thom and I showed up at the first of the month and everything here was clean and in working order. Once our rental fee is paid, if something breaks or needs attention, we call the landlord. Instead of looking at all the things in a home that need work or attention, we can focus entirely on living out the month at the beach and enjoying a new location. When we leave, we drop off the key, and the only thing we take with us are positive memories of a great month.
Through the years, we’ve known scores of people who bought a second home. Even with the best intentions, much of the time they sit empty. As we walk around our beach neighborhood, nearly half sit shuttered and vacant. Unfortunately, when the owners do get to visit them, they spend much of their time fixing or maintaining things. Even those who buy hoping to rent out their beach home as much as possible, realize that it takes more time and effort than they previously imagined—and doesn’t always bring in much money. A better alternative is to consider buying an investment with a good rate of return. By using the positive cash flow from your investments to travel when, where and how you like, you can have a lot more fun and with less work. And isn’t that what vacations are supposed to be?
Is An RV The Way To Go?
How about an RV? As I mentioned a few posts ago, my parents loved their motorhome and once they retired they used it frequently. Unfortunately, I also have a sister who bought a motorhome to travel in while her kids were small. After purchasing a 32’ motorhome that could sleep all the kids, and paying over $40,000 through a loan, they took the motorhome for a two week trip across the country to visit relatives in Michigan. Once home, they parked it in storage and over the course of the following 20 years (in which they were making payments!) they probably used it less than ten more times. As time went by, when they did use it, it had to be repaired and rehabilitated so that they could travel safely. Needless to say that motorhome cost them at least double the $40,000 they paid.
I don’t think my sister and family are alone. Drive by any storage facility and you’ll see hundreds of motorhomes parked and slowly deteriorating. Chances are good, like with my sister, someone is still making payments on the “dream” motorhome or RV they always wanted to own. Meanwhile, they are working hard at a job just to make the payments without having the time to enjoy the purchase.
What About A Boat?
Boats are no different. Last week Thom and I biked along the marina where we saw over a hundred boats sitting in a storage lot, dried out and slowly falling to pieces. The marinas are also crammed with thousands of boats, waiting for someone to come and enjoy them. It’s likely that every person who owns those boats once had a dream of buying it and taking it out for a cruise every weekend. It sounds fun. It sounds romantic. The sad reality is that person is probably busy working to pay for the boat, the storage, and the ongoing maintenance, and has other things soaking up his time. Our friend John B told us the two best days he had owning a boat was, “The day I bought it, and the day I finally got it sold. “
The SMART Alternative—RENT!
As a person who loves to travel and stay in homes and vacation rentals, I can attest to the fact that renting can be far more rewarding than buying. Renting gives me the freedom and flexibility to go to visit all sorts of locations and properties. And I’m not just talking about second homes. Renting an RV and/or a boat can be an excellent way to experience the enjoyment that we dream of, without a commitment to the long-term costs. They are also a good option for a person to discover if that kind of lifestyle or a particular location is something they want to spend money on in the future. Wouldn’t you like to find out if you even like camping before investing heavily in an expensive trailer or motor home?
Would I ever recommend buying instead of renting? Perhaps. If you plan to spend at least 50% of your time in another location and know without a doubt that you want to live in that location for the next ten years, then it might make financial sense to buy a second home. But then only if you can easily afford it and it does not draw funds away from your retirement savings and/or requires you to work at a job where you are unhappy the rest of the time.
What about a boat or RV? I know some people who are happily living in their RV and traveling around the country on a regular basis. I know others who do use their boat regularly—not many, but a few. If either purchase fits comfortably into your lifestyle without added expense, then yes. But just like with owning a 2nd home, a realistic assessment of costs and potential usage is necessary before the purchase.
The biggest problem we see repeatedly is that people overlook or ignore the actual costs of buying their “dream property.” It is far too easy for a salesperson to talk them into a purchase by saying things like, “Just think of how much money you can make renting it out.” Or, “This property is sure to go up in price, and you’ll make a bundle.” Real estate prices do not always go up and renting a property takes more work than most realize. Calculating actual costs is a critical step—and don’t take the salesperson’s word for it. Figure it out yourself.
Will Thom and I return to the same rentals we’ve enjoyed this summer when next summer rolls around? Maybe. We’ve enjoyed ourselves immensely. But if not, there are always other mountains, other beaches to explore, and lots of vacant 2nd homes available to rent. With renting, you have true flexibility. And sometimes the best adventures happen when plans change.
As our month at the beach winds down, I can honestly say that we’ve enjoyed our experience here far more by renting, than with the responsibility of owning. For some, it might work out well to buy a second home, an RV, or a boat. But like with so many things in life, careful consideration and self-awareness are essential. Plus, it’s always SMART to remember that what we are really seeking to find when we do anything, including buying something like a second home or a boat, is the feelings we expect to get from the experience. Often, just “renting” can satisfy us far more than we imagine.
Kathy some of the best scenarios that have ever heard, great sound advice.
Selling our home in Nashville TN
In order to fully fund our retirement account.
And sit on our money for 1 year travel some and reevaluate our situation. Without jumping into anything off the bat.
I personally don’t want to own any house for a while
Monty Wentzel says
Well said…as with my email reply there’s never enough info, yes we’ve lived in an rv for a year while building our house and we love being on the road and not that not having a house is our answer, it may be a large shock not having one, not having one may hit quick or creep up on us slowly, we don’t know. We’ve got 9 acres, a vineyard, a world-class view and we love it, but it takes work that we’re getting tired of. We can’t retire and keep all this-just too expensive. Because rv’s are such a depreciating purchase we plan on buying used i.e. an 04/5 with 15000 miles for only $36k. There always seems to be a number of them if you keep searching. For $36k there’s much less depreciation. I guess I’m just really surprised that I haven’t read someones story that has clicked with me, you know that eureka moment?
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Monty! Sounds like you have done some of your homework…but then there’s always something new huh? I don’t think we can ever know FOR SURE what is the best route but I also think it’s important to keep trying, even if all you find out is that one way or another isn’t what you want. I get that we want to be somewhat cautious as we get older because we can’t “afford” the same mistakes. But really? Are there any guarantees anyway? Try one thing and if that doesn’t work…never ever forget to keep trying! And if you do come across that article that “clicks” let me know! I’d love to hear it too. ~Kathy
I get the dollars and cents spent on a second home or RV, but I also don’t like the cost of renting either. RV’s are very expensive to rent and I can’t seem to get past it. Buying one is big bucks too and when you study each scenario it seems that neither one makes economical sense. We are close to retirement and live in expensive Southern California and while we generally love it here we can’t retire and stay. We also generally dislike everywhere else we visit. Cash out our home and RV for a while and see where and what we really like??? Buy a cheap condo somewhere and RV to other places? I’m kinda done with home repair and upkeep, but I like having a home too. The bottom line is nothing seems to be a good idea and with as many people online chatting about it I find it hard to believe no one has written about a good thing to do, at least one that works for me.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Monty! I agree that it can be expensive to rent either an RV or a vacation rental (especially here in So Cal where I live too 🙂 ) but compared to buying something and paying all that upfront fees only to discover it isn’t the right lifestyle for you–now THAT is expensive. Far better to do your homework first. My husband and I decided we were definitely not RV people–but once in a while it still seems tempting. And as for renting a vacation home, we are sitting in a little house about 500 feet from the beach (not beachfront but close) and enjoying the somewhat cooler temps while the rest of So Cal is baking. It wasn’t cheap but again, so much cheaper than buying.
It sounds to me that you would be better off experimenting to find out what it is that really would make you happy. Make a comparison graph and start putting things you like on one side and things you don’t on another. (cool weather vs. warm weather, stick in one place vs. move around a lot, mortgage vs. rent payment, etc) I think we all have more options than we realize but sometimes we have to really do some digging to find them. What’s the saying? Sometimes a lack of choices just show a failure of imagination. 🙂 Good luck. ~Kathy
Wow. Just now found this post. It’s so perfect for our business, which is delivered RV rentals. I preach the same thing; RV’s are typically a money pit and they sit idle almost 90% of the time!!! If you are an owner, at least share it with others to offset the cost. Oh, and damage is an issue but not if you don’t let the renter drive or tow. It becomes a vacation rental if you deliver and set up for the renter.
As you mentioned, older folks still want to get out and camp, but driving and towing may not be an option. Even if it is, the set up is not easy. I have older couples renting who just drive up to their campground where the RV is set up and ready for them. They use my stuff and I love sharing. So cool.
I read a lot of blogs, share a lot, but seldom subscribe. Doing both on this one.
Kathy, you write very well and what you write is right on. Great stuff. Thanks…Russ
Linda Meditz says
Yes, yes, yes. I have head “it’s all about the money” from my husband for years on the matter of the second home. But there is also the matter of the soul–of having a sense of belonging to a specific property in a specific place–and renting cannot touch that! We used to rent a cabin that we loved on a lake in the Adirondack Mtns, and then it was sold out from under us and we never found a good one to replace it. It I owned a cabin like that, I would never have to worry about losing my spot! AND I could furnish it with my things, in my taste, and become attached to particular features of the property–watch specific trees as they grow and mature, and the like. This is not to say that financial considerations should be tossed out the window–but renting, for those yearning for a lasting, spiritual connection to a specific place, has real limits, too.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Linda! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I so agree that it is important for us to all have a sense of “place” in the world. And I get that from my primary home and community. I don’t really think it is necessary to “own” things to feel a connection–especially if it depletes financial resources that are harmful to the family. Of course if you have plenty of money and that isn’t an issue–go for it. My idea of rightsizing doesn’t judge the size of your home or even how many you own, just that if it isn’t being used or is financially unsustainable it needs to be looked into. Right now I am in the small mountain community of Idyllwild CA where my husband and I have visited for the last 25 years every summer. We don’t own here by design. Walking, hiking and driving around it is clear that over 50% of the homes are vacant the majority of the time. If they were being used regularly I could possibly see the expense. But many are slowly deteriorating in plain sight. Again, do you have to own something or “control it?” It’s nice to think we are in control and no one can take our good from us. But really, there are never any guarantees with that. And lastly, I tend to believe that the best spiritual connection is with yourself….not your stuff. ~Kathy
Cathy Chester says
I want to copy John Steinbeck and get an RV to see the country. I want to have a 2nd home to have choices in where I live. But in reality we’re now selling our beloved home and renting for awhile. I doubt either of my hopes will ever happen. I’m so glad you’re living your dreams, Kathy. You are a lucky, lucky girl. Another great post!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Cathy! I saw on FB that you are in the process of selling your home. As you know I’m a fan of renting in the right circumstances so I hope that’s unfolding for you in a good way. And please never say never. If traveling in an RV and seeing the country is a dream I surely hope that you figure out a way to make that happen? Maybe short trips? Anyway, if I can ever offer you some other thoughts that might make that happen, just send me an email. I do feel like I’m living my dreams AND that I’m very fortunate, but I didn’t get here on my own and cherish those that helped me. That’s a big reason why am always happy to help others if and when possible. Just let me know. ~Kathy
Carol Cassara says
The most important thing about this post is that it urges people to think it through. There’s a lot of knee-jerk reacting that goes on when it comes to buying anything. But smart living is smart thinking it through!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Carol! BRILLIANT! You just help create my new blog motto… SMART living is SMART thinking it through! I so agree. I certainly don’t believe there is only one right way to do anything so buying or not buying a 2nd home, rv or boat is never cut and dry. Thanks for such a short and sweet way to share that message! ~Kathy
Gilly Maddison says
This makes so much sense Kathy. I dream of having an RV on the drive so we can go off whenever we want. But what you say is true, the reality probably isn’t like that. Our neighbour’s just rented a beautiful motor home to tour the UK this summer and they loved it – but then they had the luxury of handing it back until next time. I love the picture of the boat with the caption by the way – that’s the reality of owning boats I think. Our mortgage will be finished in a couple of months and we are really need to have a good think about the future as we approach retirement in about 6 years. It’s quite scary really because there is no leeway for mistakes when you get to this age!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Gilly! What a lovely idea to rent a motorhome and tour the U.K. 🙂 And the best thing about it is turning it back in when you are done. I remember when my parents got older and were less mobile, they needed help cleaning their motorhome every time they wanted to take a short weekend jaunt. Just packing it up and getting it ready was a major production. When we all dream of those “special vacations” we seldom consider all that don’t we? Far better to think it through in advance.
And good for your for being so close to paying offer your mortgage. It is amazing how freeing that will be! And although you have lots of decisions to make in the next 6 years, having no mortgage is one of the best things you can do. As long as you keep yourselves debt free and thrifty you’ll be surprised that it doesn’t have to be scary at all. What I find far more scary is all the people who are heavily in debt, have tons of bills, and are living pay check to pay check. Now THAT is scary! ~Kathy
Tom Sightings says
I too have always heard the siren song of the second home, and was always stopped by the reality of the extra expense, extra work, extra responsibility. But renting is so expensive … we spent $2,000 for one single week in a modest place in Cape Cod this summer. My friend who bought a condo in Florida two years ago says it costs him the same to own as it would to rent for three months — and he can use it whenever he wants (he usually stays four months), plus he has the equity, plus his rent doesn’t go up every year. So while I still manage to resist, the siren song still plays in my head.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Tom! Yes it can be a conundrum! We priced a monthly rental in Santa Barbara before settling on one here in Ventura (all on the west coast). The price in Santa Barbara was three times what we found one for just 25 miles away. I’ll admit that renting means a lot of research (I’m quite good at finding a good place at a great price) and sometimes it is necessary to compromise. But even if a place costs you $2,000 a week for a week, or you pay $x to buy a place, you have to be able to figure out the cost of actual usage. Oh, and just because you can buy an inexpensive condo somewhere, that doesn’t naturally compare to renting a place in another popular location. BUT–if people are looking to buy something regardless, as you well know, most of us can rationalize and justify just about anything! Every person’s needs are unique so it might work for some. I just think we all need to think about it first and really run the numbers before plunking down the money. Thanks for your thoughts on this! ~Kathy
Thanks for once again sharing your valuable thoughts with us all.
For quite a while Gerhard and I have been discussing the idea of buying a second home or an RV some time later in our lives when we are retired. But we are gradually moving in the direction you are proposing: Renting seems to be a much better choice!
Off to Croatia in an (rented) RV in two weeks’ time,
lots of love to both Thom and you
Gerhard & Alex 🙂
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Alex (and Gerhard!) So nice to hear your thoughts on this. And I’m hoping it is helpful to people “across the pond” as much as it is for many here in the U.S. Actually, you do still have the “cabin” right? But from what you told us you use it EVERY weekend during the warmer times of the year, and you’ve kept your city life “rightsized.” I do believe there are different circumstances (and certainly different parts of the world have different options) so my SMART ideas are not hard and fast rules. But as for renting your RV for a vacation in Croatia–I think that’s an awesome idea. When we visited it a few years back, driving there was easy and there were so many great locations to explore. You will have a blast. Of course, if you did decide to buy a 2nd home there–we’d have to come for a visit for sure 🙂 Have a great time and I’m glad to hear you are doing well. Say “Hi!” to Gerhard. And love to you both. ~ Kathy
My parents owned a beach house in various locations over my entire childhood and into adulthood. We hated getting dragged away from our friends to spend weekends in the Boonies. I think the idea of renting somewhere and opening it up for visitors to join you is definitely the way to go. I am also a big fan of staying out of debt and luxuries like boats and RV’s just burn through money.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Leanne! I have often wished that I came from a family that HAD a second home at the beach on in the mountains. 🙂 Thanks for offering a different perspective from one who did. That grass always seems nicer on the other side huh? The nice thing is that renting allows us to try things on first. When you consider that most people would never buy an outfit without trying it on first to see if we like it or if it fits us, and yet we will walk through a couple of houses and pluck down a pile of cash (or sign a big mortgage) just because it seems nice. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. ~Kathy
I have thought of buying a vacation home so that we would have a place for our family to gather for vacations. Our current house is quite small. We are instead traveling a few times a year and then planning to rent a vacation house for a month and invite family and friends for a week or two each! It gives us more money to travel- we are off to Irelnd this week!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Michele! Congratulations on your coming trip to Ireland. That is certainly one of the big benefits of NOT owning a 2nd home. You don’t feel guilty about great vacations to exotic locations. And like I mentioned to Beth in her comment, I know of a couple of different families that rent large homes in fun places and invite the entire family for a visit. Having people visit and hosting family at your vacation home is always fun. But you don’t have to buy it to enjoy all the advantages. RENT! ~Kathy
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Gosh, I see by all the comments, this hit a nerve! As usual, you lay this all out realistically and with great examples! Not owning more big ticket items is a hallmark of rightsizing. We have our 26 foot older trailer that we use every weekend, parked for five months at our windsurf camp. Trailer was paid for with cash (older unit that doesn’t travel much on the road) and we consider it our “summer home.” Sad to read others’ stories about wasting their money, and equally sad to see hopeful RVs languishing in storage yards. If you want a great deal on a travel trailer check those places out when you’re ready. People will practically pay you to take it off their hands!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Terri It sounds like you’ve done a very SMART thing by using an older inexpensive trailer as your “summer home.” I have some friends that have a small travel trailer that fits easy on their full-time property and when they don’t use it they rent it out using hipcamp. It is the the trailer/RV version of airbnb. They rent out that little trailer quite a bit and bring in extra income. I think the worst is when people buy the RVs and then hardly use them, if a person can figure out how they fit into their “rightsized” life then so much the better. It sounds like you’ve figured that out nicely. ~Kathy
Beth Havey says
I always wanted a summer home, but over time we saw that keeping up the one we had was enough for our budget. Instead we traveled and in the last ten years have been to Turkey and Greece, France, Spain and Italy, Great Britain Scotland and Ireland. And Alaska. We also travel in the US
to visit family. Right now keeping up the home we have is plenty. But I’ll admit if I had the economic ability to buy a house somewhere that would allow my family to all gather together, I would do it.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Beth! Yes even though the idea is so appealing to many of us, if we consider our finances truthfully we can usually decide it’s best not to do it. And as you said, it frees you up to travel to all those different places you would never have seen if you just visited your second home year after year after year. Oh, and by the way, I have friends who for the last two years have rented a BIG home in a location they love and then invited all their family to come visit there. You surely don’t have to buy something to host such an event. And if you pick a place the family has always wanted to visit anyway, you’ll make everyone very happy! Thanks for adding to the conversation Beth. ~Kathy
lisa thomson says
Excellent topic, Kathy. I couldn’t agree more. Renting makes sense most of the time unless one’s income can meet the costs of a second home or recreational vehicle. The worst of all of these sounds like the motorhome. Costly to maintain and deterioration in value is rapid. Thanks for the great advice!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Lisa! Yes, it is rather sad to see so many motorhomes and trailers just sitting in lots not being used. Of course, the vacant 2nd homes are crazy too. When you consider all the people who are homeless and the HUGE homes sitting vacant, it seems lop-sided for sure. I know it’s not as simple as giving homes away to people for free, but it does make me ask, how much does one person or family really need? And as far as which is worse, from what I’ve heard boats are actually more of a problem. I’ve heard them described as, “A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money.” They cost so much more than the purchase price! Thanks for your thoughts on this! ~Kathy
Buying another home as a vacation home and vacation rental takes a certain personality. I don’t have it and I would rather travel where ever and not be tied to my second home. When time shares became the rage in the 1980’s and 1990’s I never saw the thrill in that either.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Haralee! You are SO-O-O right about timeshares!!!! It is the same thing. People go somewhere on vacation and see those “wonderful” facilities and the next thing you know they are buying an overpriced week at a timeshare. The salespeople are experts at showing all the benefits as well as convincing people they will “save money” by buying one!!!! And they are still doing it. According to a recent article in the NYT, “About nine million households in the United States own timeshares, and sales have increased about 25 percent since 2010.” This is so troubling because a timeshare is NOT a good investment at all and is practically impossible to sell. The good news? Some of those timeshares are available as vacation rentals at a fraction of the cost to buy them. Thanks for adding this aspect to the conversation Haralee! ~Kathy
We rented in Ocean City, NJ for 2 wks. every year for 28 years. We had moved all over the East Coast and still came back to OC every summer. Once we moved to Philly and it was a permanent move I set out to buy a summer home in OC. I think the difference for us is having been only an hour or so away. It took us a while to find just the right one and that happened in 2000. It was a duplex so we had rental income and it wasn’t winterized so we closed it in winter. The 2nd year we had it we condo’d it and sold the first floor. That was a wonderful decision.
Then we had our ‘epiphany’ in 2014 to sell both houses and retire to Cape May, NJ. Ocean City is a resort town with very little year round population. Cape May is more suited to year round and we’ve always loved its charm.
I understand your point about rentals but, for us owning was a smart choice.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Barbara! I have seen some people buy a 2nd home that was relatively close to where they lived and that often works better. And buying one that was a duplex was certainly a better way to generate cash flow than just one unit….and even better to condo-wize it and pull out some of your equity. But as you say, finally discovering where you wanted to be for the majority of year and then buying and living there makes all the sense in the world. It sounds like you really thought through most of your decisions so I’m not surprised that it worked well for you. My goal is just to get people to think about their actions first and really decide if it will work for them before jumping in without a clue. Thanks for your perspective on this! ~Kathy
You make such great points! People get wrapped up in the romance and ignore reality. They also often forget to factor in inflation and lost opportunity costs of having their money tied up when they figure their return on investment.
I’m curious… how do you find your vacation rentals? We are looking into some possible locations for a month-long stay.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janis! We have used a rental company in the past for our vacation rentals. But now with VRBO and Airbnb we just go direct. Out of the dozens of rentals we have done this way we have only had a few where we couldn’t recommend them for one reason or another. But the vast majority have been wonderful. You do have to keep your expectations reasonable and really read up on the reviews before committing. We also keep our expectations reasonable. They are rental homes and just like most homes they have things that could use a little attention–some more than others. Sometimes you do have to overlook things that you might do differently, so being flexible is always advised. For example, the beach cottage where we are renting in Oxnard has two bedrooms. The master has a double bed in it. The 2nd bedroom has two twins. Thom and I haven’t slept in a double bed in 20 years. Instead, we pushed the twins together and although not a perfect arrangement, at least we are sleeping close to each other! Oh, and some owners will only rent for a month, others only rent for the weekend or week. It’s all negotiable, though. If you have any specific questions, be sure and email me. ~Kathy
kim domingue says
Theses are some very good points to consider. My husband and I have been considering buying an RV. We have friends who bought a big RV years ago. We had ample opportunity to see how it lived on the road and how much it was used. It was much like driving a mobile home around the country! They used it only once or twice a year, finally selling it after years of paying for storage and maintenance. So, we’re positive that we don’t want a big one! We used to go tent camping quite a lot but, at 60ish, sleeping on the ground is not as appealing as it used to be. Whatever type of accommodations we’re staying in when we travel, we spend little time there as we’re out and about seeing the sights, visiting museums and whatnot. We basically use our accommodations for sleeping, showering and stowing our stuff. So renting a home for a week at $1500 a pop four to five times a year for the rest of our lives doesn’t work for us. Buying a small camper/RV makes more sense. However, before taking the plunge, we plan on renting one in the size we’re considering buying a couple of times to make sure that it is something we would be comfortable using and owning.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Kim! Thank you so much for adding this about motor homes. It sounds like your friends had a similar experience as my sister did. Those costs do add up for sure. But I agree that if you are planning to use it four or five times per year for a week or longer, then it will probably pencil out well to your advantage to buy. One other thing to consider is that oftentimes I can rent a place for a week for a cheaper price than you can a motorhome as long as you keep my expectations modest. Because when you rent an RV you have gas costs, overnight parking costs, and other expenses that tie to an RV. when you rent a home just about everything is included except for food. My husband Thom and I travel at least 4 or 5 times a year and I doubt it costs any more than it would with an RV. But as you say, the real key is to sit down and really consider that it is the right move for you at this time. Thanks for adding this to the conversation. ~Kathy
Mona McGinnis says
I have some friends who have second homes in other countries. A few stay 4-6 months in their condos where they pay condo fees year round and property managers while they are home here during the winter. One goes to their 2nd home for 2-3 mos during the winter, again paying property taxes and a manager while they are home here. The cost of travel back & forth is also a consideration. Their main homes have to be looked after when they are away. One had their property broken into, vandalized and things stolen while they were away last winter. Security becomes an issue. Their second homes are in other countries so the “rules” of expat ownership changes on occasion, as does the rules of their residency in a foreign country. Lots to think about. I have always found that one property/home is enough for me to look after and I would prefer the rental route. A second property seems to work better for someone who has a handyman/woman on board.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Mona! Thank you for adding in that part about owning a property in another country. Doesn’t that just sound so romantic? It sounds like my idea of an adventure but like you helpfully point out, the costs to travel to and from, condo dues, property managers, etc. etc, all add up to more than most people ever realize. And as you say, just maintaining ONE primary home is enough of an ongoing project, do you really want/need another? Surely if you are handy it helps, but again, is that the way you want to spend your vacation for the next x number of years? Not me and I’m guessing not you either. ~Kathy
Susan Mary Malone says
Boy, Kathy, this was timely for me. One of my dreams has been to buy a summer home, as in Texas, summers are just brutal as well. My friends and I talk about this, I vision it as well. Ah, a nice cool mountain home for the summer!
But I hadn’t thought of all the points you bring up, thinking instead that it would pay for itself in rentals. Of course, that’s when the water heater doesn’t break and flood the downstairs! And I really don’t like headaches. I see me as the mountain-home inhabitant, but not the rest.
Thank you, thank you! This set my head on straight!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Susan! Everyone I know has dreamed of owning a 2nd home (if they haven’t bought one already!) I think it’s like an extension of “The American Dream” for Baby boomers especially. But it is so easy to get caught up in that dream without being careful about the reality of it. (I think that’s why timeshares do as well as they do!) If you are going to use it a lot, and the money is no problem, then by all means, go right ahead. But I strongly recommend that a person at least rent one for a month or so to see if they even like living in that location. Because once you buy you will have to return there over and over again–OR you’ll feel guilty that you don’t use it more often to justify the cost. Plus, all it takes is some loud and partying neighbors or a pack of barking dogs next to your “dream vacation home” to turn it into “hell on earth.” If you rent, you can move on…if you own???? ~Kathy
Susan Mary Malone says
That just makes so much sense, Kathy! And not being independently wealthy, well, money is a factor.
I love the idea of renting a place for a month! I’ll go that direction before anything else.
Again, thank you! This truly helps!