How Will You Maintain Your Second Home?

Maintenance considerations based on different property types.

You probably won’t be at your second home as often as your first. Weeks or months might pass between visits to your property. But that doesn’t mean the grass will stop growing, the dust will take a break from collecting, or the sprinkler system will refrain from breaking down.

How to handle property maintenance is a huge consideration for anyone buying a second home, especially if you won’t live within a comfortable driving distance.

Of course, you can hire a property management company to maintain the property and handle repairs. If you plan on being a landlord, the management company can also screen and find tenants, and collect rent on your behalf. But these companies aren’t charities. Their services come at a cost, so you’ll have to balance the hit to your budget against the potential headaches and travel time involved in doing it yourself.

Let’s look at what the primary maintenance concerns are with different types of properties.

Maintaining a Single-Family Home

Single-family homes require more upkeep than other home types. And the larger the lot size, the more upkeep is required. Dreaming of a second home on a half-acre lot in the country? Now picture yourself mowing all that grass and trimming the hedges — or writing the check for someone else to do so. The same goes for painting, cleaning gutters, and a slew of other maintenance demands. Don’t forget to pack your work clothes (or checkbook), and be ready to make unexpected visits to the property more often than you’d planned for mere vacations.

See “When Should a Landlord Hire a Property Management Company?” for tips on what services to expect and how to find a good service provider.

Maintaining a Multi-Family Home

If you plan on renting out your property, a multifamily home could be a great way to maximize rental income. The more units on the property, however, the more chances there are for things to go wrong. (To learn about your responsibilities for property upkeep, see the “Rental Repairs and Maintenance” section of Nolo’s website.)

Taking care of a four-unit property is, nevertheless, not as burdensome as managing four separate single-family homes. In fact, most property management companies will charge less per unit the more units you have. Multi-unit properties also tend to have easy-to-maintain landscaping and other money- and timesaving features.

Maintaining Townhouses, Condominiums, and Co-Ops

Townhouses, condos, and co-ops require far less maintenance than single-family homes. While the inside of the unit (and the small front and back yards commonly found in townhouses) are the responsibility of the owner, exterior maintenance (such as painting, roofing, and landscaping) is usually handled by a homeowners’ association or the board of directors.

Of course, that all comes at a price, which you’ll pay as part of your monthly dues, plus any special assessments. And you may have to shell out more money on your own, to comply with design and landscaping standards set forth in the community’s rules. For more on what to expect, see the “Choosing a House” section of Nolo’s website.

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