Can You Afford A Vacation Property

Real estate has always been a good investment, especially for those who are in it for the long run and can weather the tough times. The upside of a slowing market is that, for the buyer, there are some great deals to be found. With foreclosure deals popping up all over the country, this could be your chance to find your dream vacation home.

If you're thinking of buying a vacation property, you should first be clear about your expectations. Can you afford to maintain the property, or do you expect to rent it out to offset your costs? Do you want to make a profit off the property? It is possible, but it will require some work on your part.

No matter what your plans for the property are, you'll need to first work out the costs. Figure out the monthly costs for mortgage, utilities, upkeep and maintenance. If you can maintain the house without needing it to generate income, that's great. If you need to the investment to help carry itself, find out if there are any local regulations or fees associated with running a rental property. Meet with local property managers to get an idea of their fees. Talk to a professional regarding the tax implications and write offs.

Once you have an estimate for your annual cost you need to work out how much you can rent your property for. This will depend on the location: is the area in demand? Is this spot popular with other vacationers? Get stats from the property management agencies; check out online listings and classified ads to get an idea of what the properties in the area are renting for.

Now you can figure out how many weeks a year you'll need to have your property occupied in order to break even. Remember, most of these weeks will probably be during peak times - if you aren't willing to vacate it during the height of the season you might be better off investing in a timeshare. In this case, it's difficult to have your cake and eat it too.

What about the lean years? If you can afford to carry the property to some extent you can probably live through a slump in the market, but if you are just barely treading water and a couple of empty weeks would sink you, you might want to rethink this investment.