Is a vacation home worth it? Let’s just cut to the chase. No, it’s not. I mean, unless money is of no concern to you.
Of course it’s not always about money, is it?
Vacation with your pet
I have been joking lately that I bought my vacation home in the Napa Valley for my dog and sold it for my cat. That joke is not really far from the truth, in that it actually is the truth.
Fifteen years ago, when we bought our cute little cottage in the wooded hills of Calistoga, I did have more in mind than just vacationing with my beagle Murphy. We lived in San Francisco where the weather is cold and foggy in the summer. I would commute home each evening from the sunny peninsula into a bank of fog, don gloves and a knit cap, and brave the wet wind to walk my dog after work. All while knowing 30 minutes in any direction it was 80 degrees.
The idea of owning a vacation home some place warm was appealing.
Add to that the fact that I was only allotted three weeks of vacation each year to get away, and a weekend get-away property just seemed dreamy. The icing on the cake was that we could bring our doggy to our home-away-from-home and so the whole family could be on vacation together.
Vacation with your friends
Not only that, our vacation house became a great gathering place for our friends. Friends would come up for winetasting weekends. We’d dine al fresco on the warm summer nights and play games by the fire in the winter. And of course our friends loved it even more because we often loaned it to them for their own getaways, even without us.
Life changes and you still own that house
A few years after buying that house, we moved down to the peninsula so I could eliminate my grueling commute. That put us 1) farther away from our vacation home, and 2) in a spot where the weather was just as good as Calistoga, if not better. We didn’t go quite as often.
And also our friends’ lives got busier with kids and life in general, and those wine-tasting weekends dwindled.
After I retired, we figured it was only a matter of time before we would be selling the house so we decided to move there for two years and convert it to a principal residence so we could sell it and exclude the gain from our taxes. We could kill two birds with one stone--save some taxes and get our fill of the place before we sold it.
That was 2008-2009. The housing market tanked and so that tax plan turned out to be irrelevant. There was no longer any gain to worry about if we sold the house. So we held on until now.
Back to pets
So here we were, using the house less and less, when the neighbor’s kitty decided to move in with us. Cat’s don’t like to go on weekend getaways like dogs do. And if I’m going to be away from my cat to go on a little trip, I’d rather it be somewhere else, not the same place I’ve been going to for 15 years.
So there you have it, I bought the house for the dog and sold it for the cat. But when you read a title like is something worth something, you’re thinking about money, not pets, right? So let me tell you about the money.
Yes we sold the house for more than we paid for it. That would make you think it was worth it wouldn’t it? Wait a minute.
Don’t forget all the money we put into it, taking out dead trees, rebuilding a damaged bridge on our private road, the new water-heater, the kitchen and bathroom updates, the landscaping, the furnishings, I could go on and on.
Not to mention, it costs money just to keep a house, property taxes, insurance, utilities.
Basically it was a wash. After considering all the net costs, we walk away even. Which sounds great really, right? Because that means you got free vacations for 15 years. Sort of.
The other way of looking at it is if we took all the money that we put into that house and instead invested it, the earnings on that money would have paid for all those vacations and then some. Even at the Four Seasons. Oh, and at the Four Seasons you don’t have to do yard work or clean up after yourself when you’re done.
But then I couldn’t have vacationed with my doggy. So I guess it was worth it after all.
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