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by David Leto
February 26, 2018
by David Leto
February 26, 2018
There are plenty of reasons to buy a second home, from the convenience of being nearer to family to the luxury of having an always-available vacation destination. Today, more and more people are buying a second home as an investment — in fact, at least 37% of buyers claim that their second home was purchased for this very reason.
But seeing a return on this kind of investment goes far beyond simply buying another house. It pays to set your priorities straight, to do your research on the local area, and to get the most out of tax benefits while minimizing unnecessary costs along the way.
Read on for invaluable advice from real estate experts, so you can maximize the investment potential of your second home.
If you're buying a second home it means you've bought a house before and you know the ropes — to some extent. While buying a second home also involves a down payment, a mortgage, and other associated costs, there are some differences to be aware of the second time around.
Your second home probably has a more specific use, so it's important to make sure that you choose an appropriate property. A vacation home should have all the amenities you require for a relaxing time away from your primary residence, while a home purchased to be closer to family should provide you with enough space to host loved ones during family gatherings. Buying the wrong kind of home for your needs could force you to spend more money later on to adapt the property.
Once you've found your ideal second home, you'll need to get your finances in order. Lenders are more wary about second home loans and often require a higher down payment — up to 25% in some cases. Although a down payment of at least 20% allows you to avoid mortgage insurance and minimize interest payments, overpaying will affect the value of your investment. Finding this balance is an essential part of getting a second home.
When it comes to maximizing the investment potential of your second home, it may be a cliché, but it really is all about location, location, location.
Housing prices across the US remain relatively low, making it a good time to buy property as an investment. When choosing a vacation home or investment property, there will be multiple cities in the US that can meet your needs; to narrow it down, compare the real estate markets of states or cities you're considering.
Arizona, for example, is a popular vacation locale due to its pleasant weather and an especially smart choice in the current economic climate. Experts predict that prices will rise in and around Phoenix, with single-family rental properties and apartment complexes accounting for much of the growth.
Fortunately, interest rates are reasonable and home prices aren't anticipated to exceed local incomes, so it's also a stable market to buy into right now.
Wherever you wind up, choose somewhere that has steadily appreciated over the past few years and is predicted to continue into the future, as this will boost the value of your investment.
A number of initiatives and tax breaks can help you make the most out of your property investment — you just have to know what they are.
If your second home is for personal use only, you may be able to deduct mortgage interest on the second property. The amount you can deduct will depend on the combined mortgages of your first and second home.
You may also be able to deduct real estate taxes, property taxes, and the interest on a home equity line of credit you use for improvements to your second property.
If you plan to rent out your second home, there are a variety of potential tax deductions available to you, organized into three levels. First, if you rent out your home for fewer than 14 days per year, you can enjoy tax-free income on that rental property.
If you rent out your home for more than 14 days, but you also use it for more than 14 days yourself, you qualify for the second level of tax breaks. That means, while you'll still pay tax on the rental income, you'll qualify for partial deductions on costs associated with renting out the house, from repairs and utilities to association fees.
Finally, if you rent out your property for more than 14 days per year and use it for fewer than 14 days per year yourself, you'll pay tax on the rental income, but all of the costs associated with renting the property will be deductible.
One way people maximize the investment potential of their second home is by using a 1031 tax-deferred exchange when they sell their house. If you've only been using the property as a rental, this is an excellent route to take, as the house does not qualify as a personal-use property.
The 1031 exchange essentially involves reinvesting any profit from your property into buying a replacement property in quick succession to selling. This allows you to defer any taxes on that property. It can be tricky to understand, so it's vital to consult a real estate professional who is familiar with the process.
While a 1031 exchange can be useful if you've been renting out your property, there are also benefits to living in your second home when it comes to selling it later on.
If you live in your second home for two out of the five years immediately before selling it, the property is considered your primary residence, and you can exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains as a single person, or $500,000 if you file as a couple.
Even if you didn't live there for a full two years out of the past five, you can still qualify for partial exclusion based on a ratio of how much of the time you spent there.
Maximizing the investment potential of your second home can involve a lot of work, research, and a steep learning curve; but by familiarizing yourself with the market, the area, and the law you can make a huge difference to your return.