Checklist: Should You Buy a Resort Home?

Before buying a house in a resort community, ask yourself these key questions.

There are numerous reasons you might be looking to buy a home in a resort area (a community where tourism accounts for the majority of the area’s economy, and part-time living is common). Resorts tend to offer beautiful scenery, numerous activities, and plenty of amenities. For example, a ski resort in Colorado is a great place to be if you love skiing or snowboarding, and beach towns in Hawaii are wonderful if you’re a sun, surf, and sand lover.

However, owning a home in a resort area can involve some unique issues. Before purchasing, make sure you can answer “yes” to most, or idealy all of the following questions:

1. Does the purchase price reflect the home’s location and view?

Location is, of course important in any home purchase -- but location and views can be especially significant in a resort area. Not only do the location and views affect your enjoyment of the home, they also can greatly affect its resale value. You will, therefore, need to recognize the need to pay top dollar for the best location and views -– but should also make sure you’re truly getting what you’re paying for.

Since resort communities are often located in the most beautiful places, the most desirable homes (with the highest purchase prices) have unobstructed views (for example, of mountain peaks or sparkling blue oceans). If the home you are interested in does have great views, check to make sure they will stay that way before you buy. If there is an empty lot between your home and that great mountain view, for example (unless the lot is a park or in some way restricted from development), chances are that the lot will be built on, and the great mountain view from your resort home will turn into a lovely view of your neighbor’s windows.

Also expect to pay a premium if the home is located close to the main attractions and activities. For example, slope-side homes in a mountain resort or beachfront properties in a sunny locale are prime properties.

Living close to the resort’s attractions has definite advantages. If the resort home is on the outskirts of town, tourist traffic can make it difficult to reach the amenities and activities during peak times. Once there, parking can be difficult to find and expensive. This means you’ll spend more of your time in the car, and less time enjoying the skiing or sunshine. While a resort home farther away from the resort’s attractions should have a lower purchase price, living farther away could reduce your enjoyment of the area while there.

2. Can you afford the additional expenses resort living requires?

Resort communities commonly involve expenses beyond those in a traditional community. Because resorts are typically in remote locations, prices on everything from gas to groceries are usually higher. Resorts also tend to have pricier boutique shops geared to tourists and fewer large bargain stores. Some resorts actually ban franchise or chain stores. This means you pay more for what you want, or spend time and gasoline traveling to the nearest city to find large bargain stores.

Taxes are often higher in resorts, as well. In many states, in addition to any state and county sales taxes, resorts are allowed to impose a “resort area tax” on goods and services sold within the resort.

The activities that draw you to the resort can also be expensive. Living in a beach resort might mean you need (or feel as if you need) to purchase the latest and greatest surfboard, for example, and living in a ski resort might cause you to spend a bundle of money frequently updating your ski equipment.

Admission to the attractions and amenities in resorts typically doesn’t come cheap either. For example a ski ticket at a top Colorado resort can cost upwards of $100 per day. In a beach resort, the cost of boat rentals, fishing trips, or surf lessons can add up quickly.

3. Are you ready for the weather?

Although the weather might be perfect during the time you normally visit the resort, most resort areas are in locations that commonly experience many, sometimes extreme, weather variations (unless you are looking to buy a home in a place like Hawaii, where the weather is usually lovely year-round).

If you own a home in a mountain community, for example, mid-winter you might be in for temperatures far below zero, harsh snow and ice storms, and slush and mud during the off-seasons. And, while winter in a beach community might be fabulous, in summer you might find searing temperatures, high humidity, and bug infestations. Visit your prospective resort home during as many different seasons as possible, ask around, and make sure you’re comfortable with all the weather conditions you might encounter.

4. Are you prepared to live with a transient population?

Because many people buy a resort home as a second home, the majority of homes in your neighborhood may be vacant most of the time. If not, the homes might be full of renters.

Unfortunately, renters are not always the best neighbors. Short-term renters are typically on vacation and might be loud partiers or trouble makers. Long-term renters might be more sedate, but they commonly don’t maintain the homes as well as owners.

Also, because of the number of transient neighbors, it can be difficult to find good friends and social groups. As soon as you connect with those next-door neighbors, they are likely to move away.

5. Can you deal with peak season crowds?

Depending on where the resort home is located, the crowds that arrive during the peak season can cause encounter unacceptable noise levels or troublesome traffic. If the home you are hoping to buy is located next to the resort’s shops and restaurants, for example, night-time crowds might interfere with your peaceful sleep.

Large numbers of tourists can pose other problems as well. The very amenities and activities that attracted you to the community can get crowded and uncomfortable during peak times. You might encounter long lines for the ski lifts, or need to squeeze in between the hordes of spring-break partiers at the beaches. Peak seasons also often mean traffic jams on the roads, full parking lots, and long lines at the stores. Before you buy in a resort, visit the resort during peak times and be sure you are prepared for the high-season crowds.

6. Are you prepared to live in a remote location?

Resort areas tend to be located far from big-city amenities such as shopping malls and large movie theaters. Some resorts are also far from large airports, and accessible only after a long drive -- possibly over icy, winding roads, or through weekend traffic.

This might not be a big deal if you don’t need to leave the resort often, or if it’s a vacation home you only go to once a year, but could be problematic if you need to travel more frequently.

7. Is the home a good investment?

This is a good question to ask when purchasing a home in any area, but in a resort area, the real estate market can act differently than a home in a “regular” market. Because the economy is based on tourism (which relies on people having some “fun” money), resort communities sometimes experience downturns before the rest of the country. Also, resort communities can be among the last to recover from an economic downturn.

Home sales in some resort communities are popular with a global market, and might be affected (positively and negatively) by economic trends overseas.

Before you buy in a resort, consult with a real estate professional in the area to better understand the local market and to better assess the potential of a home purchase as an investment in that area.

8. Will you be able to enjoy the activities over the long-term?

If you are thinking of buying a resort home that you’ll keep for many years (and are primarily attracted to the area’s activities), honestly assess how long you will be able to enjoy the activities the resort offers. Will the area still be enjoyable when you are older and not as spry? Will you still want the home if you can no longer take a brisk morning swim in the ocean, or are no longer able to ski?

A home purchase in a resort might not be the best bet if your enjoyment of the resort’s activities might diminish in the near future. On the other hand, some resort areas are perfect for retirement age and above -- for example, many older folks can enjoy golfing and beaches in areas geared toward those activities.

Purchasing any home is a big decision that requires a lot of consideration. By asking and answering the above questions, you will be in a much better position to determine whether purchasing a home in the resort community you have your eye on is a wise choice.

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