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A few years ago, my wife and I sold our vacation home. It was a sad day, as we loved our beach bungalow. The problem was that at the end of the day, we could not justify spending all the money we were spending on the house. Here are a few alternative ideas to buying a vacation home.
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When we owned our vacation home, we would only really use it during the summer months when the kids were out of school and maybe for a couple of days during the Thanksgiving or Christmas break. What we did last year was go onto VRBO (to learn more about how to rent your place and list for free on VRBO, click here) and Homeaway (click here to list your place for free on HomeAway—only pay when you get a booking) and find a few vacation homes in the areas where we wanted to stay, and we simply contacted the owners.
The good news for us is that where we like to go, the summer months are not that popular so quite a few owners wanted to rent to us. We ended up settling for a 3 bedroom condo on the beach for just under $2,000 a month. Even though our children started school in mid-August, we still paid rent for the whole month on the condo. The owner and I have become pretty good friends and now I just call him up last minute and ask if his condo is available; if it is, then we use it for a long weekend and I just send him a check in the mail.
Renting a vacation home works because you usually do not have to pay for the monthly bills such as electricity, internet, cable, etc., and you also don’t have to pay the mortgage, homeowners insurance, HOA fees and other large items.
If you want to explore renting a vacation home for 2 or 3 months, I strongly suggest being very upfront and honest with the owners when you contact them. My family consists of 3 kids under 11 years old, and we have 2 dogs. There were a couple of owners who were not interested in renting to us, and that was perfectly fine with us. Trust me, there are a lot of vacation homes out there, and many owners would love to have their vacation homes occupied and paid in full for the entire summer.
This has become an extremely popular option over the years. This is where you buy anywhere from 10% to 50% of a vacation home, and you have other partners in ownership of the house with you. If you bought 20% of the ownership, then typically you would get to use the house 20% of the time (10 weeks a year) and you would pay for 20% of all upkeep of the house.
Fractional ownership works well if you have good partner; if you don’t have good partners, then it will not work well at all. The one main issue with fractional ownership is that it is usually very hard to sell off your percentage if you want to get out unless another partner wants to buy you out.
In a timeshare you are buying a week or two a year at a stated resort. Most timeshare companies now offer other resorts in other destinations, so you can trade out your week at one resort for a week at another resort. If you are going to buy a timeshare, you might want to buy one through a re-seller; going through one of these brokers might save you a little bit of money.
All in all, there are many different options if you are looking for the convenience of owning a vacation home without all the headaches. I will tell you, my kids were very excited when we sold our vacation home — one of the things most families do not think about when they purchase a vacation home is that every time you are planning a vacation, it is really hard not to just go to your vacation home. After all, if you are paying money every month for the house, it is really hard to justify going somewhere else. While we loved our little bungalow, my family loves the opportunity we have now to go and see new and exciting vacation spots.