Sep 18, 2011

For many people the answer to where they should buy a vacation home is obvious. They buy one somewhere that they love to vacation. Probably an area that they have already been coming back to for several years. Renting the vacation home is of secondary concern. Loving an area is important for more than just your own enjoyment. When you rent by owner you will be selling this place to prospective guests. If you don't love it, you won't come across as authentic.

But even with an area in mind, you probably still have the choice of several developments, neighborhoods and properties. What if you find there are multiple areas in which you would be equally happy to vacation? Often people just have a general region of the country in which they want to buy a vacation home. And for some people it's very important to know that they can cover as much of the running costs as possible with rental income.

There are both quantitative and qualitative things to look at when deciding where to buy a vacation home that you want to rent by owner. For quantitative, you can look at such things as recent comparable sale prices, current listed sale prices, rental rates and number of rental by owner properties. For qualitative, you can compare features of the property or development, like whether they offer a pool, gym, tennis court, golf course. Also compare proximity to restaurants, shopping and tourist attractions. All of these will factor into how successful you will be renting the vacation home, and how much of your running costs you will be able to cover.

In many ways the qualitative is the harder of the two. I cover more details on the quantitative approach in Part 2 of Where to buy a Vacation Home.

Features and Amenities

The kinds of features that renters will be looking for will vary greatly by the region of the country, and the type of vacation area. Is it a beach rental or a mountain rental. Is it a lake rental or a downtown rental. It helps to be looking at an area where you've vacationed for several years. A combination of your own tastes, and what you've seen other people doing, will give you an idea of what is popular. It's also useful to look at several rental listings on popular vacation rental by owner sites, like VRBO and HomeAway. Check listings for similar properties in the same area. Read how the listing describes the local area, and what it specifies for amenities.

Focus on the amenities that are fixed. Whether the properties have flat screen TVs, king size beds, and internet access will all be important later. But those are things you can change. What you're looking for now is whether 90% of the properties in the area have a pool. Because if they do, you should be trying to buy one with a pool. Look at what attractions the listings focus on being near, and whether they are walking distance, less than 5 minute drive, or less than 1 hour drive.

Be sure to focus on the kinds of properties that you are thinking of buying. If you're looking at condos on a golf course a few miles from the beach, then there's no point in comparing amenities with a beach front house. Start a list of amenities that you can use as a checklist when you begin visiting developments and properties with your Realtor.

In Part 2 of Where to buy a Vacation Home if you want to Rent by Owner, we'll get quantitative and build a spreadsheet.

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