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Second Home: What Type Is Right for You?

By Peter Keers February 12, 2024 Lifestyle

As noted in the first blog of this Sixty and Me series, there are various types of second homes:

  • Single-family house
  • Condominium or apartment
  • Mobile/manufactured home
  • Recreational vehicle or trailer
  • Boat

In this blog, we’ll cover each type so you can wisely analyze which one is best for you.

Single-Family House

  • Stand-alone structure or a townhouse.
  • Typically has a dedicated driveway and garage and maybe a yard.
  • Some developments offer shared amenities like pools or social rooms.
  • May have more storage space than other second home options.
  • The homeowner must deal with exterior and interior maintenance.
Single-family American craftsman house.

One thing to remember for all second home types is the “double up” situation. This means the homeowner has the responsibility of ownership for two homes. Whether it’s do-it-yourself or hired out, there is more effort to maintaining two homes. Of course, if the second home is rented, the landlord will cover some costs.

Potential second home buyers need to consider the possibility of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) and the rules for all homes under its authority. These might include:

  • Architectural and maintenance specifications
  • Allowed noise
  • Property upkeep standards
  • Parking
  • Policies about short-term rentals like VRBO or Airbnb
  • Trash and recycling
  • Pet types and numbers.

HOAs typically assess fees for their services. Home buyers need to factor these potential costs into their buying decisions.

Condominium/Apartment

  • Multi-unit buildings.
  • More likely to offer shared amenities like social rooms or outdoor greenspaces.
  • Additional storage may be offered for extra fees.
  • Rentals cover most maintenance, while condo owners depend on the HOA to cover some maintenance.
Close-up view of a typical riverside balconies in London.

A condominium or apartment may be the only way some can afford a second home. The tradeoff is that multiple unit dwellers live close to their neighbors, so there are more rules to help everyone enjoy a peaceful living experience.

In researching the condominium or apartment, check to see if the building accepts temporary living because some HOAs, landlords or property managers prefer year-round residents.

Although some may have to endure other residents who don’t follow the rules or management that neglects building maintenance, condominium or apartment residents don’t have to worry about day-to-day maintenance. Another advantage may be numerous social interaction opportunities because more people are around.

Mobile/Manufactured Home

  • Stand-alone structures towed into place on an owned or leased lot.
  • May have a yard that may or may not be HOA-maintained.
  • Some communities offer shared amenities like pools or social rooms.
  • Less storage in the unit, but some lots allow outbuildings.
  • The homeowner is responsible for the maintenance of the structure.
Mobile home park, age-restricted (55+) community in small beach town in California.

A mobile/manufactured second home makes sense for the budget-conscious. In 2022, the average cost was $145,200 compared to $428,700 for a traditional home.

Despite their “cheap” reputation, late-model mobile/manufactured homes are higher quality than in the past. Also, many of these homes are situated in communities with well-maintained streets, sidewalks and communal areas like pools and clubhouses.

Unfortunately, mobile/manufactured homes tend to lose value over time. Owned land beneath can appreciate over time, but the structure itself depreciates. It’s also important to remember that mortgage financing may only be available from a lender specializing in mobile/manufactured homes.

RV Living

  • Mobile one-family home on wheels – motorhomes and towable RVs.
  • Usually parked permanently or temporarily in parks with services and amenities.
  • Very little storage.
  • The owner covers all expenses of the RV, although RV rentals are popular.
RV Home in the Tatra Mountains, Poland.

While calling an RV a “second home” might seem strange, enthusiasts revel in life on the open road. RV living was popular before COVID-19, but interest spiked during the pandemic. Nevertheless, important pros and cons must be considered before committing to this lifestyle.

Pros:

  • Ability to move or stay as desired.
  • Social interaction with other RVers.
  • Traveling in both comfort and style.
  • Lower costs versus staying in hotels and motels.
  • Closer to nature.

Cons:

  • Smaller living and storage space.
  • Lack of privacy/too much togetherness.
  • Depreciating asset.
  • Weather risks.
  • Maintenance time and expense.
  • Ongoing planning for travel and resources.

One trend that has emerged in the last decade is upscale RV parks. These communities feature luxury conveniences, including pools, tennis courts, fitness centers, clubhouses and restaurants.

Read more about RVs at RV TRAVEL TIPS FOR SENIORS and THE BEST RV TRAVEL CLUBS FOR SENIORS.

Boat

  • “RV on the water.”
  • Can be a houseboat permanently moored at a pier.
  • All the small space constraints of an RV or worse.
  • The owner bears all maintenance costs, which can be significant.
Docked boat house.

Boat living as a second home shares many pros and cons with an RV lifestyle. One big positive committed boaters report is living on the water brings one closer to the natural rhythms of life. Also, the camaraderie among other “boat people” creates a great social atmosphere.

There are many options for a second home. Careful consideration of all the pros and cons of each will help you choose the right type for you.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Which type of second home sounds like something you might invest in? Why? Are you more of a freedom seeker or do you prefer to be securely grounded? Where would you consider purchasing/renting a second home?

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2 Comments
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gail

Is there some sort of equation a person can use to determine if buying a second home is better vs staying at a hotel? What is the tipping point where hotel stays warrant a second home instead?

Ruth

Good questions. I would like to know that, too.

The Author

Peter Keers is a writer and video blogger focusing on topics for the over-50 audience. Defining himself as a curious seeker, Peter’s interests range across both the art and the science of living an authentic and fulfilling life in the 21st century. See Peter’s eBooks on travel, long-term care, Medicare and other topics at living50.com.

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