Second homes. Thoughts?


This is kinda home repair related.
I'm retiring soon and my wife and I are thinking about becoming snowbirds in Nevada to escape these dreadful Wisconsin winters.
I've given a lot of thought to owning two homes and the details that need to be taken care of such as snow plowing, shoveling, mail, junk mail, security, plant watering, trusted neighbor, furnace failure/freeze alert etc.On the other hand, I have no experience on what it takes to close up a desert property for the summer.
Just wondering if anyone has practical experience with the snowbird thing? Thoughts about both, the cold weather and warm weather aspects?
I know when we owned a lake cottage in northern Wisconsin, every tool I ever needed was always at the other house! Didn't matter what it was, or which house we were at, it was always at the other house! That was just 150 miles away, now we're contemplating 1,000 miles for 6 months at a time.
Any thoughts or experiences, negative or positive will be appreciated!
Thanks all,
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Two things:
1. Check with your home insurance agent about leaving the Wisconsin house vacant for months at a time. This will void many home owners policies.
2. What part of Nevada? We Californians travel to Nevada to go Skiing so I advise spending a winter there before you buy. You may decide to do your snowbirding somewhere warmer.
JJK JJ wrote:

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Noted the comment about homeowner's insurance. My carrier didn't give me any problem with this. Last time around, there was some issue if I was going to be away for an extended period. Insurance companies are getting pretty picky these days. Were concerned about dogs, firearms, all sorts of stuff. Tread carefully here.
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Las Vegas, Mesquite and Pahrump are where we are focused at the moment.

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We owned two places for a numbr of years until we retired to the area where we had the summer place at the DE Atlantic shore, sold that condo, and built a single-family house. Also owned two other summer places, one in Vermont, the other in the Poconos, but not all at the same time, however. Thoughts:
1. Get two sets of tools. This avoids not having the right stuff when needed. When we consolidated the two house, kept the best from each and gave the remainder to my sons. I also had a pretty good workbench in the two houses, and took over one closlet at the condo for tools,etc. You are at least going to be doing minor carpentry, electircal, and plumbing, as well as painting, papering. A couple of decent tool boxes will suffice. You need at least a good electric drill.
2. Keep enough clothes at the second place so you aren't always carting clothing back and forth. At least shirts, socks, underwear, etc., for as long as you usually stay there. Have at least a washing machine as well, and a dryer if possible. Saves time of trips to the laudromat.
3. I used the place in Vermont for skiing, so would call a local guy in advance if the drive needed to be plowed out. Didn't bother in the Poconos... just parked in the street.
4. A neighbor needs to have a key, and keep an eye on it for you. Did have one breakin in the place in the Poconos. More aggravtion than anything. Don't keep anything valuable there, like firearms, jewelry, money.
5. I shut off water and drained the systems in cold weather. Put anti-freeze in traps in sinks, toilet. Get most of the water out first with a "plumber's friend."
6. Only when I was staying for an extended period > 1month, would I have mail forwarded to the summer place. In the Poconos, I didn't even bother to have mail delivery set up, as it was only 1 1/2 hours away from my permanent home in Lancaster, at that time.. Might want to have a local PO box at the second home, instead of mail delivery.
7. Make it a point to clean out the frig pretty well before you leave. Mice were always a problem, so kept staples in metal containers, and ran a "trap line," as well as warfarin.
8. Minimal telephone service is a good idea, but with current crop of cell phones, might not bother.
9. Set up a local bank account at the second location. You can then deposit checks from your home account and draw against that, avoiding foreign ATM fees. When we moved to the DE shore permanently, my banking was already set up, as well as most other stuff.
There are undoubtedly other things that will come to mind. We will see what other posters might add to my list. It reflects my experieces. Your milage will vary.... A lot seemed to have depended on just how much time you spent as the second home. If short periods, treat it like a motel, if longer, then fit it out much like you would do for a permanent residence. You don't want to spend your "vacation" time running errands.
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Sounds fun.
Find a couple of neighbors or three that will do chores for you and pick the best one and reward him/her handsomely for their caretaker duties.
In addition, I'd install a web cam so I could watch the place 24/7 from the 'other' place.
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We did it for several years. It did not work out well, in our case. We found it to be more expensive and frustrating than we anticipated. I won't list our problems here, because some of them were odd and peculiar to our situation. Also, we new live full-time in Naples, FL where thousands and thousands of snowbirds are thriving and happy ... so, indeed it can work.
My checklist:
1/ Check with your insurers. 2/ Do not rely on neighbors. 3/ Plan for minor disasters (e.g. what if the power at your Wisconsin home is off for two weeks?). 4/ Security systems are worth considering. 5/ Make it easy for folks to contact you. 6/ Message recorders that you can access from any telephone are a must. 7/ Check into tax issues. Which will be your full-time residence? Here, there is a tax advantage for FL full-time residents (6 month + requirement, FL driver's lic., etc.). 8/ If finances are not an issue, then that is a plus for you. I mention this because many snowbirds are shocked at the fixed costs involved that they somehow overlooked.
Good luck and enjoy.
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