Wouldn't you love to own a little piece of property in your favorite summer vacation spot? Buying a piece of real estate to use for vacations isn't actually a bad idea—and it could save you money in the long run. Just make sure that you keep these ideas in mind.
1.) You can probably afford a vacation home more easily than you think.
The average family of four spends around $4,580 to go on summer vacation. Divided up over the year, that's a little over $380 per month that you could put toward the mortgage on a vacation property instead. At the current interest rates, you'll only spend around $443 per month for every $100,000 you borrow. If you keep your aspirations for your vacation home reasonable, you can almost pay for it with the money that would normally go on your vacation.
By putting that vacation fund into a piece of real estate instead, you actually get to keep some of your money. Your mortgage payments on the vacation property will build valuable equity—which is more than you can say for the souvenirs you might have picked up in a hotel lobby instead.
2.) Your best options are places that you can use all year.
You may normally spend your summer vacation in a lakeside cottage or a log cabin in the woods, but those places may not be practical—or comfortable—once the dark days of winter roll in. Look for real estate in the area that's comfortable to live in all year long. Make sure that there's easy road access that can be plowed out when the snows come and plenty of insulation that will keep you warm on cold days. That way, you don't have to restrict your enjoyment of the property to only the fair-weather months. A vacation property that can be used every weekend of the year is going to benefit you more than a charming little shack you can only inhabit in nice weather.
3.) The time it takes to get there could limit your use if a vacation home is too far away.
If your vacation home is eight hours away by car, how often will you use it? If you pick a spot that's no more than a couple hours away from where you live, you'll probably find yourself using it more often on the weekends. Figure out the maximum amount of time you're willing to sacrifice out of your Friday night to get to your vacation home on a weekend and only look for real estate within that range of travel.
Don't convince yourself that vacation homes are just for the wealthy—they make a lot of sense for people of more modest means as well. Done right, they can become a year-round refuge away from the daily grind for your entire family for little more than you splurge on an ordinary trip.