Do’s and Don’ts of Buying Resort Property

dos and dontsIf you have ever gone on vacation to a resort property, the odds that you have dreamed about owning a vacation or second home are very high.  The many options available to prospective buyers can be dizzying.  Amenities such as championship golf courses, world-class skiing, and private airstrips are just a few of the options available these days in many resort communities.

Purchasing a resort property needs to also be about the right fit for your lifestyle, what you can afford, and what the resort affords you.

The Do’s of Shopping for a Vacation or Resort Home

  • Do make a budget and consider your finances before shopping for property.
  • Do interview potential real estate agents to assess their knowledge about second homes and vacations homes.
  • Do visit the property more than once – visit at different seasons, winter/summer, daytime/nighttime.
  • Do consider resale value, even if you don’t think you will ever sell.

The Don’ts of Buying a Vacation or Resort Home

  • Don’t give in to your emotions before you are 100 percent certain this property will be the destination for your future vacations.
  • Don’t drain your retirement accounts to purchase a second home or vacation home.
  • Don’t hire your primary residence real estate agent if they don’t have any specific knowledge of vacation home sales in the area you are looking to purchase.
  • Don’t buy a property on the first visit or while on vacation to the resort community.  Make it a sound business decision, not one based on your emotions – see the first Don’t.

What is the Purpose of Your Vacation Home?

You will also need to consider the primary reason for buying a resort property.  Will it be your primary residence, an investment, a weekend retreat, or maybe a retirement property?  Make this one of the first questions you ask yourself, before looking at any property.

If the property will be for weekend use, it needs to be within a few hours’ driving distance.  If it will be for retirement, then it needs to already be or be able to be made accessible, and be located near medical facilities.  If the property will be for rental income, it needs to be near a popular ski resort, lake, or river.

Extra Costs to Factor In

Vacation or second homes have expenses that your primary residence may not have.  Costs such as travel to get to the resort, maintenance, especially if it will be a rental property, vacation home insurance, and property taxes, all have to be factored into resort living.

Hire a Real Estate That Specializes in Vacation or Second Home Properties

A resort real estate agent should have the RSPS or Resort and Second Home Property Specialist Designation.  This ensures they have been trained extensively in resort living, how to buy and sell second home properties, and the nuances involved in resort communities.  For example in Mammoth Lakes, a qualified real estate agent can advise whether the property is allowed nightly rentals should you choose to rent the property when you are not there.  They should also know the area very well that you are considering.  If you determine that the real estate agent you are talking to about resort properties does not have this knowledge, immediately find someone who does, otherwise you could be steered into a bad real estate deal and no one wants that.

How are your personal finances?

If you are not paying cash for your vacation or second home property, most lenders will required buyers to put down between 20 and 25 percent on a second home.  Use the online mortgage calculator on my website to get an estimate of how much you can afford, how much you will qualify for, and how much two mortgages will cost you if you currently hold a mortgage on your primary residence.

Sonja Bush is a Resort and Second Home Property Specialist and is ready to answer any questions you may have about resort living, the Mammoth Lakes area in general, or about the current real estate market in Mammoth.

Since most property buyers start their search on the internet, why not head over to Sonja’s property search page on her website to see what properties are currently available in the Mammoth Lakes area.  Sonja can be reached by calling her at 661.979.9000, or emailing her at


When is the best time to buy property in Mammoth Lakes CA?

2013 meterIt is human nature to want to get the best deal so I’m not surprised when new clients ask this question.   My advice is not try and time the purchase to get a better price.  Often buyers think they will get a better deal on a home in the off or shoulder season.  But generally speaking, sellers are savvy and home values do not fluctuate by season.  The best time to buy a property is when you find the property you want.

Know what you want and be prepared to take action.  You have to be confident you understand where the market is and what you want out of your property.  What is your budget?  When will you be using the property?  Will you be renting?

When you do find the property you want, I recommend you request photos of the property taken during different seasons.  You really need to see the difference between summer and winter.  Where does the snow accumulate?  How is your view impacted by the snow or trees during the summer versus the winter?

Trying to time the real estate market is not recommended but do watch for trends.  It doesn’t matter if you buy the “deal of the century” if it is not something that matches your goals.   Prices were relatively flat in 2012 but we have seen an increase in 2013.  Historically Mammoth Lakes has followed the trends in San Diego and Orange County by 6-8 months.  In those markets they are currently seeing multiple offers and properties are selling for over the asking price.     The median days on market is decreasing in  Mammoth Lakes.

In summary, be prepared:

  1. Know your budget.
  2. Identify your goals for the property
  3. Know which area of town you want to buy.
  4. If financing, get preapproved.
  5. Establish a relationship with a real estate agent and communicate the info above.

A trustworthy real estate agent will help you understand the market and help you find the property that matches your goals.

For past articles, visit

What are the common mistakes made by second home buyers?

OOPS!According to real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran (you might know her from Shark Tank) if you are in the position to consider making a down payment on another property, now’s the time to do it. According to Corcoran, “It’s the smartest thing you can do right now,” adding that the second-home market is “the last area you can still get a steal of a deal.” But if you’re thinking of taking the plunge, Corcoran advises you act fast. “In the second home market, the homes are abundant but starting to shrink up.” As for Mammoth Lakes specifically, inventory levels are extremely low for both condos and single family homes.

If you decide to make a second home purchase, be sure and avoid some of the biggest mistakes made by second home buyers.

 Buying Where Your Friends Live:  Too often, Corcoran says, people fantasize about vacationing with or near friends and end up making a purchase that isn’t right for them.

Not Having a Budget: Set a budget and stick with it. “Look over your budget,” Corcoran says. She also adds that it’s a smart move to make a low bid on a property that is out of your price range, especially if it has been languishing on the market for months. “People who have the nicest homes always overprice, and it just sits on the market,” she adds.

Focusing on the Wrong Amenities: Don’t buy into a community because of its amenities. If you’re not a tennis player now, you won’t become one because your new development has a court. “Most people generally won’t use the extra stuff and they get blinded by all of that,” Cochran explains.

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For more information on Ms. Corcoran, visit