The part of Florida where I live is lovely year round, but during the summer it is oppressively hot and humid. If it weren’t for swimming pools and our beaches, we’d melt. It is that heat that added to my joy a few July 4ths ago as I sat in a rocking chair on the front porch of our family’s cottage in Montreat, North Carolina. It was 55 degrees in July!

Montreat means “mountain retreat” and the house has been a sanctuary in many ways for our family over the last few decades. It is one of those places where you can leave your doors unlocked and children can go play in the park without any concern at all. Billy Graham lived up the road from us. My wife spent many a summer up there as a kid and so did our children.

I understand the allure of a vacation home. I’ve lived it and loved it. It can be a slice of heaven.    

Vacation homes can also be a living hell. I have seen many clients over the years watch their slice of heaven become a burden to their finances and a drain on their free time. This shift can happen fast. In some cases, usually after an impulsive purchase, it happens almost instantly.

Having a good experience with a vacation home starts before a property is identified. Good experiences come from an acknowledgement of why one wants a vacation home and applying some rational thinking to this emotion-driven decision.

No one “needs” a vacation home, but there are many reasons for wanting a second home. The three I have encountered most often are locking in a place for a future retirement, the joy of sharing with family and friends, and easier vacations. These sound good initially, but can fail to hold up to greater consideration.

Several clients have tried to stake a claim to a property for their future retirement but found that they were drawn to other locations as they neared retirement age. One couple was prevented from leaving our area due to a health issue that kept them from wanting to find new doctors and care facilities. More than a few others simply changed their mind and realized that what they wanted when they actually retired had changed. Another found that her child and grandchildren would be moving away from the area in which her prospective retirement home was located.

Ah. Those precious grandkids. This is probably the most common vision among retirees for a second home. “I could see our grandkids playing on this porch,” says a client during a rental stay in a beautiful locale. Next thing they know they are shopping for a house.

It is a beautiful picture and, as I mentioned, our family benefitted from being able to use the Montreat cottage over the years. I get it. For a lot of families, however, spending time at a vacation home is very challenging.

My wife chose to leave the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom. Spending many weeks up in Montreat was easily done for her. I didn’t have that option. I got a week or two here and there. Most families these days do not have a lot of free time. Even if one parent stays at home, the activities the kids are involved in allow for just a few weeks of vacation time every working year.

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