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Should I buy vacation home in Columbia County?

For vacationers and day trippers, the lure of Columbia, Greene, Dutchess and surrounding counties is unmistakable. Against the bustle and demands of urban or suburban living, the down-shift gears of our rural life brings visitors back again and again to explore hiking and cycling trails, skiing and snowshoeing, poking about the farmer’s markets and back roads and visiting hip and trendy Hudson. From here, you can venture to our region’s cultural spots here and to the nearby Catskills and Berkshires.


house-for-sale-yellowAs Realtors®, we see it often: visitors to our area get comfortable after they check in for a few days, a week, or a month. They are charmed and unwound by the easier pace. They find they can slip in and out of the city with ease by car or train, or often, they can keep up with their city jobs from a local coffee shop or from their vacation spot. They start to wonder: why not get a weekend place here? Soon, they drop in to local real estate offices and start looking at listings. Soon, the visitor becomes a new resident, with a permanent foothold in the community.


There's no question that the inventory of vacation homes is tightening: the supply is lower and prices are higher, but there are still dream homes to be found. A survey by the National Association of Realtors ® found that vacation home buyers typically purchased property 200 miles from their primary residence. Even if you are familiar with your targeted search area, chances are you are not up to speed on local market conditions. Once you have a general idea of the area and type of vacation home you want, your next step is to contact a locally-based Realtor. Working with a professional can save you time, money and a lot of stress, by providing first-hand local knowledge about the local market. He or she can help you determine what you can afford and what towns or neighborhoods fit your wish list.


Before you begin looking for a vacation home, meet with a Realtor to talk about what kind of home you want, and where. Hassle-free condo? Or a house where you can putter and garden? Do you want a cabin in the woods or a spot in town? Knowing what you want can help establish a price range and location you can use to begin your search. Current real estate values, utility costs, municipal services, taxes and facilities, zoning laws that may affect your property – all are topics that a local Realtor can assist you with as well.


When you meet with a real estate professional, ask about his or her expertise with selling vacation properties. Ask how many vacation home listings he has listed, how many years she has worked in the industry? Inquire about any particular specialties – some Realtors have earned the Resort and Second-Home Property Specialist (RSPS) certification, which indicates specialized training in buying and selling second homes.


As you are searching for your vacation residence, you should also be getting your finances in order. If you are adding a second mortgage to your financial life, it will expand your debt-to-income ratio, and you may need to make a substantial down payment on any second-home purchase. However, mortgage interest on a second home is deductible. Be ready to dive into some paperwork, and ask your Realtor how to connect with locally based banks and closing attorneys who can help streamline your process.


Are you considering renting your vacation home when you are not using it? If so, ask your Realtor about renting to others. He or she can advise you on potential restrictions, advantages and disadvantages, and tips for making your vacation home a top-notch investment as well as a fun retreat for your family. You may also want help connecting with locally-based caretakers or property managers.


A vacation home can be a great getaway and long-term investment. Vacation homes often become retirement homes, but in many cases, well before retirement, some families decide to decamp from their busy urban lifestyles for a new full-time life in the country. A Realtor can help make it happen.


Ron Caplan is president of the Columbia-Greene Board of Realtors, online at

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