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Buying A Second Home: A How-To Guide

Victoria Araj7-minute read

January 14, 2022


Have you considered buying a second home? A secondary property can be a great investment in your future. It can also help you earn additional income and provide a retreat from everyday life.

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a second home, here are some considerations to bear in mind, plus tips for getting started.

Where To Buy A Second Home

Deciding where to purchase your next property is a major decision. Should you get a home close to your family? Or would you prefer one on a beach, in the mountains or in a city you love?

It’s important to discuss locations with your spouse and other family members who might be included in this decision. From there, spend time researching the best local neighborhoods. Partner with a local real estate agent so you find the best areas for a second home.

Uses For A Second Home

Some buyers already have a clear vision for their second home before making their purchase, but it’s OK if you’re not sure. Consider your options – it may even change your location. It’s important to note that with Rocket Mortgage®, the property may qualify as a second home if it’s rented out for no more than 180 days in a calendar year. You must also reside in the home for either 14 days or 10% of the days the property is rented, whichever is greater.

  • Vacation home: If you have a large family, you vacation often, or simply want your own spot to call home when you’re away, a vacation property might be what you’re looking for. You should choose a location you love visiting and exploring.
  • Secondary residence: Does your job require a good deal of travel or time spent in another city? You might consider using your property as a secondary residence.
  • Investment property: Some homeowners will buy a second home as an investment property. Typically, this means either flipping and reselling the home, or turning it into a rental property. Investment properties have different requirements and rates than second homes, so make sure to discuss in detail with your mortgage professional to make sure your mortgage matches your goals.

You can use your second home for any combination of the above. You could vacation there for a designated period of time and rent it out via Airbnb and short-term leases for the rest of the year.

Take the first step toward the right mortgage.

Apply online for expert recommendations with real interest rates and payments.

Can You Afford A Second Home?

Are your finances ship-shape to the point that you can afford to buy a second home? Even if you plan to collect rental income from the property, you’ll want to be sure it’s a purchase you can afford, particularly if it will remain vacant for several months.

Here are some financial factors to bear in mind.

Down Payment And Interest Rates

As with your primary residence, buying a second home will require a down payment and a mortgage (with interest, of course). Although there are ways to buy a second home with no money down, such as paying with cash.

In fact, oftentimes a higher down payment for a second home is required. Why is that? Purchases of a second home are higher risk because of the greater chance of default on a second home (versus a primary residence) in the event of financial hardship.

The same logic can be applied to interest rates as well. In order to hedge against potential losses in the event of a default, there is almost always a higher interest rate on a mortgage for a second home.

Debt-To-Income Requirements

You’ll have to meet debt-to-income requirements in order to qualify for a mortgage for a second home. DTI refers to the amount of debt you hold versus the amount of money you make. A quick way to calculate your DTI is to add up the monthly debts you pay and divide it by your monthly pre-tax salary.

Most lenders require a DTI of 43% or less to get approved for a second mortgage.

Monthly Budgeting

You may be approved for a second mortgage on paper, but you’ll want to crunch the numbers to see if an additional mortgage makes good financial sense. The best way to do this is to add up all of your monthly payments and subtract this number from your monthly post-tax salary. The remaining money is where your second mortgage payment will come from.

You might be counting on rental income to help balance out your second mortgage payment, but you’ll still want to make sure you can afford the payment on your own, in case your property doesn’t rent as quickly as you’d like.

In addition, you’ll want to consider property taxes, homeowners association fees and general upkeep costs before you make this decision.

Rental Maintenance

You’ll also want to be prepared for the cost of maintaining a rental property. As both owner and possibly landlord, you’ll be responsible for handling all repairs and damages. This could mean paying a repair person for services, purchasing paint, doorknobs and other home improvement products or paying a lawn service to maintain the yard.

Save at least 10% of the yearly rent for upkeep and maintenance. If your property rents for $2,000, the yearly rent would be $24,000. Therefore, you should save $2,400 in case of emergency repairs. Keep in mind, repairs could cost more or less than this estimate, so it’s always a good idea to have more money saved.

How To Buy A Second Home

If you’ve already been through the process of buying a house, you know that there’s a lot to keep track of.

Ready to start looking for your second home? Here’s a complete list of the steps you need to take.

Step 1: Find A Local Real Estate Agent

Your real estate agent is the most important person in this process. They’ll work to find you the perfect home, negotiate on your behalf and be there to guide you through the rest of the buying journey.

Be sure to look for an agent local to the area where you’ll be purchasing. They’ll know the intricacies of the real estate market better than a regional agent, which means they can offer advice on finances and neighborhoods to explore.

When you search for an agent, be sure to look for a buyer’s agent only. Working with a dual agent, or an agent who represents both you and the seller, can cause conflicts of interest.

Step 2: Get Preapproved For A Mortgage

It’s important to start the financing process as soon as you’re ready to start looking for a home for a couple of reasons. First, starting the process early will eliminate any financial obstacles during the closing process, which will help you close on time with no surprises.

Second, getting preapproved early will give you a better idea of how much you can finance for your home, which is helpful once you start shopping for houses.

You can shop around for local lenders or research options online. Rocket Mortgage® allows you to finance your second home completely online, with helpful tools to guide you through the process. The income verification process is also fast and easy since Rocket Mortgage® allows you to instantly verify your income with online documentation.

Step 3: Find Your Dream Second Home

Your agent can help you find your dream second home after you’re approved or preapproved for a mortgage. They’ll work with you to find homes that fit your criteria (number of bedrooms, square footage, location, amenities, etc.) and will show you homes that fit your budget and preferences.

Once you’ve found the home you want to buy, your agent will work with you to make an offer with the selling agent and negotiate any counteroffers. The next step begins once your offer is accepted.

Step 4: Close On Your Second Home

When the seller accepts your offer, it’s time to begin closing on the home. The closing process can take 30 – 40 days, on average, and includes several steps:

Choose a real estate attorney or closing agent. Depending on the state you’re closing in, you may need a real estate attorney to handle the settlement and closing paperwork. Your buyer’s agent can help recommend a trustworthy attorney to best represent your interests.

Buy homeowners insurance. You’ll need to confirm proof of your homeowners insurance at closing in order for your lender to release your funding. Shop around for local policies and be sure to review extra damage protection (flood, wind, hail, etc.) depending on your home’s location.

Buy title insurance. You’ll also work with a title company to research any outstanding liens on the property to make sure it’s clear to buy. Your title company will issue title insurance to protect your purchase.

Wait for appraisal results. Your lender will arrange for a home appraisal to ensure your home’s value is accurate. If the value is the same or higher than the listing price, you’ll move on to the next step. If it comes in lower, you’ll work with your agent to negotiate with the seller’s agent and decide if the property is still a worthwhile investment.

Schedule your home inspection. Your home inspection is separate from the appraisal and does a more thorough examination of the property. You’ll work with your agent to negotiate with the seller on pricing or repairs if issues are found. If no issues are found, you’ll move on to the next step.

Arrange a final walk-through. You fell in love with the home during your tour, but you’ll want to schedule a final walk-through to ensure the home is move-in ready.

Close on your second home. The last part of the process is to sign all of the closing paperwork and receive your keys. Your agent, closing agent or attorney will manage this process to ensure all paperwork is in order.

Take the first step toward the right mortgage.

Apply online for expert recommendations with real interest rates and payments.

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Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.