What to Know Before Buying A Winter Home

A zoomed in snowflake.

What to know before buying a winter home?

For a lot of people who spend most of their lives in places with cold and snowy climates, a vacation is just a brief respite from the cold. But what if you could avoid the coldest months in your home area altogether, every year? Yes, just picture it – packing up and, like a swallow, heading to warmer areas during the bitter cold. Sounds phenomenal, right? That’s why people think about buying a winter home! You buy an additional house in a place with a pleasant climate, and you’re all set! Now, you can enjoy every month of the year without worrying about snow blizzards. But buying a house anywhere is complicated, and that’s why we’ve prepared a few tips to get you started:

  • Consider your needs
  • Analyze your finances
  • Choose a location wisely

Figuring out where you want to spend your winters

Okay, so you’ve decided on buying a winter home – that’s great! But bear in mind that this momentous choice is just the first in a long line of decisions. And you’ll need to make all of them before you can settle into your winter quarters. First of all, you’ll need to think about what you really want out of your second house, so as to make your relocation as easy as possible. While most people think of a nice cozy place in Florida when they say ‘winter home’, there are others who don’t really mind the cold. These people buy a winter home for ambiance, not warm weather. So, would you, maybe, like a nice mountain cabin somewhere in Minnesota? And if that’s the case, consider the travel costs, if you’re moving there for the entire winter. In such situations, we advise you to relocate as early as possible to avoid rough weather.

A wooden cabin in a snowy mountainside, beneath trees.

Some people want nothing more than a cozy cabin in the woods!

Think about your lifestyle

So yes, your future lifestyle will inform your location. Also, do you intend to make a long-term investment when buying a winter home? As in, a retirement home? If so, you’ll have to think about other things you may not have considered. You see, while people are young, they tend to make long-term decisions without thinking them through. For example – are you planning to move for retirement? In that case, you’re probably buying a winter home you’d like to retire to someday. So, it’s not all about how close it is to a mountain trail or a beach. You also need to consider where important local amenities are – like hospitals and pharmacies. This is the kind of infrastructure that will be more and more important to you as you grow older.

A row of beach houses in Florida, as examples of buying a winter home.

Many people consider buying a winter home in Florida.

Consider your finances before buying a winter home

We’ll be blunt here – a second home is a huge investment, no matter where you’re buying it. And that goes double if you’ve settled on a location that’s busy during the tourist season. That’s why you’ll have to seriously analyze your financial situation before going into this. Really, if you’re asking us, first have a few serious conversations with your accountant and some financial advisors. Because buying a winter home means asking yourself a few key questions related to your finances.

Would you rent out your winter home?

Having a second mortgage is no small feat, no matter how financially stable you are. That’s why you may want to consider ways to make your winter home less of a financial burden. For example, should you buy or lease your winter home? And if you decide on buying, should you rent it out, in the periods when you’re not using it? Sure, having tenants is not easy, it’s basically a part-time job. You need to constantly have oversight, and it takes away a chunk of your time. But depending on the real estate, it may actually end up paying for quite a bit of your winter home!

Are you ready for the taxes?

If you’re mumbling curse words while paying the property taxes on your first home, prepare yourself for the ones that come with another house. Make sure you thoroughly research the property taxes in the state where you’ll be buying a winter home. And once you start handling two households, we really recommend hiring someone to help you do your taxes. It can get really complicated, and it’s easy to make mistakes that may cost you a lot once the IRS comes knocking.

What about the maintenance costs?

Keep in mind that having two houses means, well – maintaining two houses. And that also means doubling your living expenses. Because it doesn’t really matter if you’re not using your winter home all year round, does it? You still have to make repairs, adjustments, landscaping, furniture moving…just like in your own home. And consider service costs – you might need some professional assistance while equipping your winter home. So, make sure you’ve considered all of that in your preliminary budget, before buying a winter home.

A calculator in front of a computer keyboard.

Calculate all the costs of having a second home.

Choose a location wisely

Let’s picture a scenario. You go somewhere beautiful on vacation. You stay there for ten days. And then and you think: “I’m going to buy a winter home here, and enjoy it every year!” In this market, it’s something we see all the time. People fall in love with a vacation spot, and they don’t consider how superficial their impressions are. Why? Because, realistically, you can’t really know a place after one vacation. If you’re not buying a winter home in your frequent vacation spot, we recommend you check it out more thoroughly. Explore the area, examine the infrastructure, get to know the locals…there may be a deal breaker here that you don’t know about. Plus, think about the distance from your current home – long distance moving isn’t easy. And no matter how well you handle the financial side of this purchase, it can all be ruined by a bunch of noisy annoying neighbors. So be inquisitive, and be thorough.

Buying a winter home may be a great opportunity for you – if you handle it well. It’s really a major real estate investment we’re talking about, so be careful. But spare no expenses when it comes to preparing for the purchase, explore the local area before deciding on it, and you should do just fine!