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    Second Base

    mark pennAs we approach the decline of summer, it’s still timely to discuss a subject that many of us dream about: vacation homes. The president of our company just sent us some data about this, and it’s pretty good stuff, so let me see if I can paraphrase.

    Vacation/second home sales have been surging recently as consumers take advantage of historically low mortgage rates and more affordable prices in many areas. In fact, interest rates just this past week have dropped again, largely due to the current global instability. We are once again near the record lows that we thought were a thing of the past. As these rates remain low or even close to this level, and as the economy strengthens, sales of second homes continue to grow.

    According to the National Association of REALTORS®, vacation home sales jumped 29.7 percent last year. We thought that a 13.1 percent increase in owner-occupied purchases during the same time was good, but this is over twice that level. So, what are some things to consider in the purchase of a second home? Here are a few:

    Assess your goals.

    Are you buying the home for vacation only or as a potential retirement spot? Consider how often you will use the home, and do the math as to the sensibility of owning versus renting or hotel-stays, etc. Buying a second home is a commitment, but there can be many advantages, if you do it right. And consider speaking with your CPA about tax and financial advantages and liabilities.

    Give a lot of thought to the location.

    Sometimes an area just calls you, and then it’s almost a no-brainer. Otherwise, try to find an area that matches your strongest interests, such as a beach resort, a ski area, or a place where you can play golf or fish. And try to keep in mind the logistics; your second home should be close enough to your primary residence that you’ll be able to use it often— maybe just a few hours away.

    Visit the destination frequently.

    Get to know it intimately. This will help introduce you to all the goods and the bads. Try to go at different times of the year and stay in different facilities or areas. Subscribe to the local newspaper and learn about the politics and the demographics. Be sure you are comfortable with the community.

    Consider which type of property best suits your needs.

    Often when people think of a vacation property, they picture a cabin in the mountains or a house on the shore. But condominiums and townhouses in resort communities can be a great alternative when it comes to vacation homes. They may have a lower price tag, the maintenance and upkeep may be less, and they may provide recreational facilities, including swimming pools and barbecue areas.

    With mortgage rates historically low and prices still affordable in many areas, this may be a good time to buy that second home. Be sure to enlist the services of a knowledgeable and local professional. If you need some help finding a REALTOR® in the locale of your second home, there are lots of resources available, but nothing can compare to personal referrals. You can also always ask your hometown agent for a recommendation. Our network is far-reaching, yet still intimate enough to allow most agents to direct you to the right person who can help you make your vacation home dreams come true.

    A Bay Area native, Mark Penn has been a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker since 2004. He is also active in animal welfare, and is a former educator, facilitator, and air traffic controller. Mark can be reached at