3 Tips for Smart Vacation-Home Buying

Vacation homes are offering plenty of good deals at the moment. In many second-home hot spots, prices are still close to five-year lows. For example, single-home prices in second-home hotspot Napa, Calif., are down 47 percent from their peak in 2006, according to Fiserv.
If you have a buyer looking to cash in on vacation- or second-home values, an article at CNNMoney.com recently offered the following tips:

1. Is it rentable? Even for buyers who aren’t planning to rent it out, they may still want to consider the rental aspects of the property, particularly since a home’s rental potential can affect its resale value, says Catherine Jeffrey, a real estate professional in Fredericksburg, Texas. Buyers will want to check with the homeowners association or township to ensure that short-term rentals are allowed.

2. How do you plan to use the home? Your loan rate will depend on how you use the property. For example, if buyers intend to use the property primarily as a second home, they’ll pay about the same mortgage rate as a primary residence, says HSH Associates vice president Keith Gumbinger. However, if they plan to get rental income from the property, the property will be treated as an investment, which means they may need to pay as much as 25 percent for the down payment and pay up to one percentage point more in interest, Gumbinger says.

3. Are you eligible for the tax benefits? If the owners rent the house out for two weeks or less, they won’t have to report income to the IRS, and they’ll still be able to deduct property taxes and mortgage interest, experts say. If the owners stay in the home for less than two weeks or has 10 percent rental days, whichever is greater, they’ll be able to deduct operating costs, such as cleaning and maintenance fees, as well as the interest and property tax, says Rick Shapiro, a CPA in West Hartford, Conn. He suggests home owners talk with a tax expert to find out what tax benefits they are eligible for.

Source: “5 Things to Know About Buying a Vacation Home,” CNNMoney.com (April 5, 2011)