August 10, 2015
Selling a beach or vacation home is an entirely different task than selling a typical home. There is generally a limited window of time during the year when buyers are thinking about investing in a second-home getaway – and time of year is just the first of many challenges.
Here are five important things to think about once you’ve decided to list your beach or vacation home.
In the depths of winter, few homebuyers’ minds are focused on a second home. No one wants to go walking on a cold, gray, windswept beach or snowshoeing up to a mountain cabin to view a possible summer home. So early spring tends to be the ideal time to list a vacation home – buyers have begun thinking about their family’s summer vacation plans, and the weather is getting nice enough to venture out. The listing season can then run straight through to October – some real estate professionals say listing in summer is an even better time, when vacation renters, who represent an ideal universe of would-be buyers, are in the area in droves.
When selling your beach or vacation home, it’s important to work with a real estate professional who is familiar with second-home buying, and the peculiarities that go along with second homes. For instance, there are very specific tax and financial implications relative to owning a second home that affect purchase decisions. Likewise, vacation-home purchase motivations are unique: Some realtors are fond of pointing out that many upscale second-home buyers’ purchase decisions are based, in part at least, on buyers’ year-end bonuses, which happen at Christmas. Additionally, many beach- and vacation-home buyers purchase with the intention of renting the house out when they’re not using it, at least part of the year -- which adds yet another layer of complexity to the purchase.
For a beach or vacation house located on the water, there are environmental and maintenance concerns that smart buyers will be curious about. What are water depths and tides? Are there stringent boating rules and regulations? What is the house’s vulnerability to coastal storms? Is it in a flood zone (as indeed many waterfront regions are) that requires special insurance? Are rip tides, beach erosion or storm surges a concern? The more specific data you’re able to provide buyers, the more comfortable they’re going to be making an offer.
Staging any home for sale is key, but it’s particularly important with a beach or vacation home. Unfortunately, because many second homes are all about leisure time and relaxing, sometimes maintenance gets neglected or deferred. Also, since vacation homes are exposed to extreme natural elements, everything from pitted window glass from salt-spray corrosion to moldy and mildew-y rugs from waterfront dampness can make the home seem less appealing than it might otherwise be. Lastly, the tendency of families to furnish beach houses with hand-me-down or discarded furniture pieces can lend a dreary, tired quality to vacation-house interiors. So spend time addressing the “deferred maintenance” issues unique to second homes caused by weather – and stage the interior so that it doesn’t look “secondhand.”
Remember that beach- and vacation-home purchases tend to be emotional and sometimes impulsive, in ways that first-home purchases are not. For many, the desire to own a second home is based on fond memories of cherished childhood summers spent at the ocean or on a lake. Second homes tend to be all about spending time with family across generations, and they often become “heirlooms” that are passed down through the years. The notion of “owning your own piece of paradise” is perhaps an even more revered American dream than owning a first home. Keeping all of that in mind can help you get inside the minds of potential buyers and understand their thinking.
The market for second and vacation homes is on the upswing. So if you’re thinking of listing yours, it’s a good time. Simply keep in mind the unique issues that selling beach or vacation houses present -- and work with a real estate professional who’s cognizant of them.