You’ve worked hard your whole life, so now it’s time to relax in style. Like many retirees, you’ve had a vacation property in the back of your mind for a while, but you aren’t entirely sure how to go about making that dream a reality. It’s not easy, as the average cost of owning a second home is $700 a month — and that doesn’t even include the mortgage. But if you’re ready to commit to owning a second home in Seattle, here’s some advice to make sure you end up with a sound investment, not a money pit.
Settle the Financing
Before getting started, it’s important to know how much house you can actually afford. Now is a great time to take a close look at your financial situation. Afterward, you can get down to business. If you can pay cash up front, that’s great, but if not, consider borrowing against your primary residence, in which case it must be worth more than you owe the bank. There are other ways to finance, but they may mean more risk than you’re willing to take.
And don’t forget those other expenses. There’s routine maintenance, such as heating, air conditioning, and plumbing, and if your home needs professional work done, you’ll also need to tack on the cost of hiring a contractor. There are some jobs you can do on your own, but keep in mind that if you start a project you’re ultimately not qualified to do and need a pro to complete it, you’ll end up spending more than if you’d hired a specialist in the first place. You could offset these costs by renting out the home when you’re not there, but keep in mind the costs of utilities and property management services if you take this route.
Find the Right Area
Once your budget is set, it’s time to take a look at your schedule. You want to make sure you’re at your vacation home often enough to justify the money you’re spending. You may get the most out of the house if it’s within striking distance of your primary residence or accessible to other family members as a place to gather for reunions.
Seattle, of course, is a wonderful spot for a second home, and there a number of different neighborhoods to choose from, depending on what you want. Ballard, for example, is considered one of the city’s “hippest neighborhoods,” according to Turnkey. Although the area began its life as a fishing village, it’s now the home of coffee shops, cafes, and a number of renowned restaurants. Queen Anne, meanwhile, is more historic and picturesque, and it offers a number of Victorian homes that might catch the eye of those looking for a property with character. Regardless of what you’re after, Seattle has a little something for everyone.
Rent It First
You’ve found the right area… maybe. You may want to consider renting for a while before buying so you can be sure. For starters, how was the travel? If it seemed a bit too long (and you’re not a fan of cramped airline seats), then that’s a sign you’re too far from home. And the weather? It may have been unusually warm when you came here on vacation for the first time, but now you get to see what it’s really like. Does it have all the amenities you want to be close to, like shopping, bars, and restaurants?
Cut Insurance Costs
Insurance is one of those hidden costs for second homes, but there are ways to keep your premiums low. First, shop around for the best coverage option, and don’t just go with your mortgage provider. There are also adjustments you can make to the property to reduce payments. These include actions like installing burglar alarms (which start as low as $29 per month, but can save you hundreds in insurance premiums over the year), as well as fireproofing and removing tall trees near your home.
Plan for Maintenance
This may not be necessary if you’ll be making frequent visits throughout the year. If not, then you’ll need to look into other options for upkeep, according to HouseLogic.com. You could hire a property manager, who will normally find suitable staff to open and close your property while handling guests and payments if you’re renting it out during your absence. Hiring a caretaker, on the other hand, will save you money. You’ll need to check references, though, as they’ll be going in and out of your place to check on the utilities and inspect for damage.
Hopefully, at the end of all this pondering and planning, you’ll have found a place in Seattle to call your home away from home. Just make sure to plan and prepare wisely so you can really make the most of every moment you spend at your vacation abode.
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