Second Home

Owning multiple homes can give you a great quality of life. Just make sure you think through the financial, logistical and emotional issues carefully and consider renting before you buy.

Key Takeaways

  • Rent before you buy so you can really do your homework about the new area.
  • Be realistic about the real cost of operating two or more homes.
  • Make sure family distance is part of the equation.
  • Being a permanent owner is not the same as being on a “long vacation.”

I’ve lived all over the country, from Fairbanks, Alaska to North Carolina and Georgia in the south, to Syracuse in the northeast and here in the Chicago area for the past 30 years. Each region is different, from the weather, to the types of people, to the kinds of activities and hobbies they enjoy. In Chicago, we have a tremendous variety of services, activities and shopping, whereas in Fairbanks, Alaska, it was very limited. This kind of thing can make more of a difference than you think.

For instance, one of our Chicago-based clients—a nice couple nearing retirement age–was looking for a second home. They went down to the Georgia coast for a two week vacation and within three days, they found a property they loved. They told themselves it was going to be great splitting time between Chicago and Georgia. They excitedly made a down payment, bought the property, started shuttling back and forth—and soon regretted their decision.

So what happened?

Owning a second home is not like being on vacation

They knew they wanted to be someplace warm during the Chicago winters, but not too far away from friends and family. On the surface, Georgia fit the bill. But, they ended up buying in a predominantly young person’s neighborhood. There wasn’t anybody their age that they could relate to. And like Fairbanks, Alaska, the Georgia coast didn’t have the right medical services that they needed within a one hour’s drive of their home.

Also, the Georgia coast didn’t have the Costco’s and other large-box stores they were accustomed to in Chicago. And to their surprise, the weather wasn’t quite what they were looking for.  It was just a bad experience all around, and they spent two full years essentially moving, rather than really living.
Finally, they sold their Georgia home and even they took a loss on it so they could explore Florida, where they ultimately bought another property. This time, they rented before buying in Florida and ultimately everything worked out for the couple. But, they spent several years of their life moving—and losing money—when they should have been enjoying life.

Lessons for second-home buyers

If you’re looking for a second home in the one of the popular “sands states”–Florida, Nevada, Arizona, California, etc.– you want to rent for a few months first. You want to experience the area as a resident, not as a vacationer, to see if it’s truly the right location for you. And, that’s before you even get into issues like being away from your family, friends and grandchildren.

There are personal and financial issues, too. One of the biggest things people tend to overlook is the real cost of running two households? A general rule of thumb, we use –$25,000 to $40,000 per year–depending on the size of your home, and your lifestyle. That additional income needs to be there. As you can see, being a multiple-home owner is not the same as being a single-home owner. Your finances are different and you also have to look at emotional and social aspects of living in a different part of the country for extended periods of time.

Setting up two homes in different parts of the country is a transition that really takes some time. Do your homework on the new area; be patient and you won’t be in that “forever moving” phase.


Owning two or more homes in different parts of the country can be a wonderful experience, but it requires some financial figuring. If you, or someone you know, is considering a second home, please contact us. We can help you through the process and provide you with a second opinion to ensure that you’re not making a bad financial decision.

So until next time, enjoy. Gary.  | 1-800-480-7913


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