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Buying a home is a big decision that includes understanding how much house you can afford and working through the mortgage and purchase process. Some people will only do this once. Others will replace their main residence a few times — selling their home to buy another one. Still other people will keep their home and purchase another — a vacation property. Buying a second home requires additional planning and saving. Below are some of the ways buying a vacation home is different from buying your main residence.

1. Make Sure You Understand the Total Cost

As with a primary residence, the total price of vacation home ownership includes property taxes, insurance, carrying costs as well as maintenance and purchase costs. Even when you are not at the second home, you could be paying for electricity, water, trash removal, landscaping and other services. Although you may plan to be there less, a vacation home can be just as expensive as your main home. Mortgage rates are also often higher for second homes than primary ones. In addition, if you plan to rent the home to help manage costs, there are additional fees to be aware of such as professional property management and income tax.

2. Consider the Costs of Time Away

Getting to your home may not always be as fun as the time you spend there. To utilize a second property regularly enough for it to be worth it, it’s a good idea to factor in the time and expense of getting there. It is also important to realize that you will not be at this house as frequently as your regular home. Management costs can be very expensive on vacation homes. A leaky roof, frozen pipes or molded porch can get even more expensive if unnoticed for a long time. Owning your vacation property also usually means you may spend some of your vacation time maintaining another home. This can be worthwhile to those who want to maintain and enjoy the home simultaneously, but can be a challenge to those that are just looking for a break.

3. Have a Game Plan for Using the Home

The needs of a second home are often different from the needs of a main residence. For example, if you plan to rent out your second home when you are not using it, it’s a good idea to look at what other rentals are charging, how often they are left vacant, what features renters want, etc. In other instances you may be buying a vacation home close to other family members that you plan to pass down through the family. Still another scenario might be that you plan to buy the home now for vacations and eventually retire there. It’s important to think of why you want the home and how you plan to use it when determining the right option for you.

Some factors, of course, stay the same. Regardless of whether a home is your first, second or tenth, it’s important that you can afford it. It’s also important to make sure your credit is up to par so you can qualify for the best interest rates possible. You can see where your credit scores stand for free on Credit.com.

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