Buying a Second Home

Allison Trull, real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Bain. Photo by Cecile Miller

If you dream of spending your weekends away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, a second home could be just what you need to turn that dream into reality. For Eastside residents looking to invest their extra cash into a second home, Allison Trull, senior associate with Coldwell Banker Bain and The Lisa Boyd & Allison Trull Team in Bellevue, has a long history of helping Puget Sound-area homeowners find exactly what they’re looking for. Whether you want to purchase a second home as an investment for the future or a legacy to pass down to your kids, Trull shares these tips. 

Financing the Dream

Because buying a second home usually costs more money upfront than a primary residence, Trull said it’s important to be aware of those additional costs going in. Interest rates on second homes, for example, typically range from a half- to a full-point higher than interest rates on primary residences, and buyers typically are required to put 30 percent or more down. “In the secondary housing market, you have to have more money in and more skin in the game,” she said.

There are a few different ways to finance, and Trull said there’s always room to negotiate. “Sometimes, depending on your portfolio, you can negotiate those rates and be pretty aggressive. There are options. It just depends how you want to do it,” she said.

Regardless of whether you pay cash, finance with another family, or decide to rent the home on VRBO to help offset the cost, Trull said real estate is a great way to diversify your assets, and it’s also the most stable.

Location, Location, Location

When choosing the location for your second home, Trull said it should be a place that you love. But equally as important, she said, it also shouldn’t be more than a two-hour drive away. “People like having a property that’s within a two-hour radius that they can escape to,” Trull said. “If it’s outside of that two-hour grid, you’ll use it a ton at the beginning, but then typically that tapers off.”

Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to find a beautiful location for your second home. Trull said popular locations in our region include Vashon, Whidbey, and the San Juan Islands, as well as Gig Harbor, Suncadia, and Cle Elum, to name a few. “We are fortunate to live in a geographic area that has a bounty of beauty that surrounds us,” she said.

Partner with the Right Agent

Whether you know where you want to purchase your second home or not, Trull said partnering with a seasoned agent is always a smart move.

“It’s important to be educated and to have somebody that’s knowledgeable on your side. It doesn’t cost you any more to work with a good Realtor, but you definitely want to have an advocate who knows what’s going on,” Trull said.

Having an experienced agent can help you determine everything from what a location is like to whether a home is a good candidate for VRBO. “It’s important to have a broker that is seasoned that does have that depth of knowledge, because that’s one more level that’s going to help protect you as well as make your wealth grow faster,” Trull said.

Make Your Property Work for You

For people who are comfortable sharing their space with strangers, renting via sites like VRBO and Airbnb can help your second home pay for itself. However, if you’re considering these options, Trull said, there are some specifics to keep in mind when hunting for your second home.

“If you’re looking at VRBO, you need first and foremost an iconic setting. When people glance through (VRBO’s site) in search of a vacation escape, they’re looking for something that is breathtaking and that they can’t necessarily duplicate,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. But it does have to be the perfect setting. I’ve always been a big believer that your dirt, first and foremost, is what you need to care about.”

If you’re thinking about using your second home as a vacation rental, Trull said there are logistical factors that must be considered as well. “If you want to do any type of sharing or VRBO, you need to check the covenants and restrictions, and you need to know whether (that community) has an active homeowners’ association or not, and whether they permit short-term housing,” Trull said.

When the time comes to list your home on VRBO, Trull said it’s not as simple as uploading a photo — you have to put real effort into marketing your property.

“When you’re renting on VRBO, it’s critical that you have professional photography and that you capture the essence and emotion of what makes your place special — and you’ve got to do a lot of full-court press marketing. You can’t just put it up there and expect people to find you and make it work,” Trull said.

Unless you’re purchasing a second home solely for the purpose of an investment property, Trull said at the end of the day the most important thing is that you love your second home.

“A second home is an emotional choice, so it’s really about figuring out what that looks like. Everyone has that dream state, and our goal is to figure out where that dream place exists.”

“It’s important to be educated and to have somebody that’s knowledgeable on your side. It doesn’t cost you any more to work with a good Realtor, but you definitely want to have an advocate who knows what’s going on,”

is a staff writer at 425 magazine. Email her.
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