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Is a Pandemic a Good—or Horrible—Time To Buy a Vacation Home?

August 5, 2020

buying a vacation home during pandemic

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With most of us cooped up in our apartments or houses, it may be tempting to pull the trigger and finally purchase the vacation home you’ve always dreamed about.

After all, mortgage rates are hitting record lows, and a change of scenery sounds awfully sweet right about now. If you can swing it, why not?

Reality check: We’re also living through a time of economic uncertainty. You could lose your job or find yourself up against a major financial challenge in the weeks or months to come.

Then, who knows when the economy will recover from the effects of the pandemic? Is this really a good time to take the plunge on a second home?

The answer depends on your individual financial situation and your plans for the future. We talked to experts to help weigh the pros and cons of investing in a vacation property right now.

Con: This could be a risky time to buy…

“Even though real estate is one of the more sound investments you can make, do you have the tolerance for risk that comes with it?” asks Jen Horner, a real estate agent based in Salt Lake City.

If you see yourself being ready to sell off your second home in just a few years, you should probably hold off on buying, and stick to renting in your dream destination.

If you only plan to keep the property for the short term, you’re more likely to expose yourself to risk and market volatility when it comes time to sell; who knows if your home will retain value over the next few years?

Pro: …but with low interest rates, now could be a great time to invest

“For those with the income stability … purchasing a second home may make a lot of sense,” says James Duncan, director of education and engagement at Thrive Mortgage in Georgetown, TX.

“Lower interest rates have boosted purchasing power, and for those who have ‘buy-and-hold’ mentalities, there likely has not been a better time to buy.”

That means if you plan to purchase a property that you’ll keep for years to come, you’ll be in a good position to weather the twists and turns of a volatile economy in the months (and years) ahead.

“Real estate is always a good investment, provided you have the right financial strategy in place,” Duncan says.

Ultimately, if you’re unsure about it, talk over your situation with your agent and your financial planner to decide if now is the right time to buy.

“Very good Realtors® will not only walk you through the financial steps to ensure a good investment, but will also do their due diligence to ensure you’re investing in the right area with growth,” Horner says.

Con: Getting a mortgage has gotten trickier

“In the age of COVID-19, the primary concern for all lenders has been the continuity of income,” Duncan says.

As a result, buyers are jumping through more hoops than ever to prove that they’ll be able to pay a mortgage.

Before the pandemic, lenders would run a few employment verifications before approving a new loan for a home buyer.

These days, some lenders are running checks seven—or even 10—times before approving a loan. If you lose any source of income during the buying process, that could jeopardize your ability to purchase a second home.

Pro: You can offset the cost of your vacation home by renting it out

If you buy a second home in a popular vacation spot, you could tap into a new source of income by listing your place on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Just keep in mind that renting your home to vacationers will add extra responsibilities to your plate, including maintaining the property, keeping photos and descriptions up to date, and cleaning between guests.

The possibility of rental income also comes with a major COVID caveat: During the pandemic, travel restrictions and cleaning logistics have made renting more complicated for hosts.

Be sure you understand what you’re getting into before you bank on rental income.

Con: The market where you’re buying might take a while to recover from the pandemic

Do your homework on the area where you want to buy. What kind of travel restrictions are in place? Will you be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the location, even if the restaurants and attractions are closed? Or will social distancing dampen the appeal?

You also need to consider what this means for your property value.

“If the local economy is largely driven by tourism, is it resilient enough to withstand downturns which could then impact property values?” Duncan asks.

Work with your agent and financial planner to evaluate an area’s risk before you decide to buy.

Pro: You don’t have to be a multimillionaire to own a vacation property

If the idea of a vacation home seems out of reach, here’s some good news: It’s more feasible than you think.

“Second-home purchases are not just for high-net worth individuals,” Duncan says. “There are loads of opportunities for prospective borrowers at lower price points as well.”

If you’re willing to expand your search beyond the main drag or to take on a few renovation projects, you’ll have more options, at a lower price point.

That means you might need to look for homes near the water instead of on it, or to search for homes that need a little bit of updating. If you’re flexible and willing to put in a bit of elbow grease, it’s possible to make your vacation home dreams a reality.

The post Is a Pandemic a Good—or Horrible—Time To Buy a Vacation Home? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

7 Crucial Steps to Take When Listing Your Vacation Home on Airbnb

December 23, 2019

6 Things to Know About Listing Your Vacation Home on Airbnb


Owning a vacation home isn’t only your own personal escape hatch from the real world. Thanks to the explosion of short-term rental sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway, having your vacation home up on such sites can also net you some serious cash!

After all, the tide has turned: Short-term rentals are becoming ever-more-popular alternatives to hotels. In 2018, Airbnb made up about 20% of the total lodging spending among U.S. consumers, and HomeAway, owned by Expedia, made up 11%, according to data from Second Measure.

But here’s the thing: Renting out your vacation home isn’t quite as easy as posting a few photos and waiting for guests to arrive.

“Hosts often think that by listing the home on a particular channel that they can kick back and let the reservations come in,” says Caleb Donegan, vice president of digital at Vacasa, a vacation rental management company that uses platforms like Airbnb and VRBO to list homes.

“Major listing sites like Airbnb and VRBO have millions of properties, and it’s important to take the proper steps to become what they consider a good host.”

In this latest installment of our Guide to Buying a Vacation Home, we show you how to become the host(ess) with the most(est). Keep these insider insights in mind to maximize your profits with minimal headaches.

1. Get some protections

Not only are more guests using Airbnb and similar sites to make travel arrangements, but the sites also offer protections for homeowners renting out their homes, says Airbnb superhost Dana McMahan, who makes $30,000 per year running Airbnb properties in Louisville, KY. She also offers workshops on how others can follow in her footsteps.

But McMahan’s early experiences weren’t always so rosy. She remembers a time in 2007 when she and her husband rented out their properties by listing them on her travel blog, Body by Bourbon.

“The people came, we picked them up at the airport, we made them dinner, we were really supernice to them, and they wrote us a check and it bounced,” she says. “We never saw that money.”

Since guests are required to pay when they book on platforms like Airbnb, homeowners don’t have to worry about getting stiffed. Airbnb does charge a host fee of 3% on the booking subtotal for most listings, but most consider that money well-spent.

2. Describe the vacation home accurately

It may seem obvious, but Donegan emphasizes that homeowners be accurate in every aspect of the listing: the property description, photos, and calendar. An unhappy guest could leave a negative review, which could affect a host’s ability to attract future bookings.

“If you list your home as a ‘luxury beachfront property,’ only to have guests arrive to find the home is more of a ‘quaint bungalow many blocks away from the beach,’ they are bound to be disappointed and leave a bad review, even if they ended up enjoying their stay,” he says.

Include all details about the property (good and bad), amenities, location, and rules for the home. Also, list items the home is stocked with, like a hair dryer or dishwasher.

“One of the most important things about getting your listing right is making sure you’re very clear what you’re offering and what you’re not offering,” McMahan says, and avoiding “unpleasant surprises” for guests.

For example, one of McMahan’s guest suites is accessible by a set of steep stairs, so she mentions the stairs multiple times in the listing.

“I don’t want somebody to get here and say, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know there were stairs like this.’ Even though you can run the risk of scaring people off, it’s better to let people self-select to stay at your place based on giving them really clear expectations.”

3. Showcase the home with professional photos

Professional photographs highlighting all aspects of the home are a must, McMahan says.

The photos should accurately show off the interior and exterior of the home, along with amenities like a pool or hot tub and elements, to portray the home accurately.

Hiring a photographer may be an extra expense, but it’s key to maximizing profits on your vacation rental, McMahan says.

“Chances are you’re going to have a lot of competition, and if you don’t have great photos of a beautiful space, then you may as well not exist,” she explains.

4. Keep your calendar up to date

A common mistake new Airbnb hosts make is not keeping their property’s calendar showing its availability up to date, McMahan says.

If the home is cross-listed on multiple sites, this could mean someone might book the home on Airbnb for the same days it’s just been reserved on, say, HomeAway. As such, you’d have to cancel one of the bookings.

Not only does this send a bad message to guests, but Donegan warns that Airbnb and other sites may penalize hosts (and potentially shut down their accounts) who decline bookings on nights listed as available.

5. Keep your rental clean and well-stocked

There’s a difference between staying in a place you own versus one you pay for while on vacation. Tiny details matter, so consider what’s most important to you when you travel and offer that same experience to anyone booking your home.

If you manage your rental from afar and have never stayed there (or haven’t recently), bunk down there for a night or two to see what the place might be missing.

“I can always tell when I stay in an Airbnb if the host or owner has never spent time there, because they just don’t get the details right,” McMahan says. “Until you stay there, you may not know, for instance, that you need a lamp by this couch because it gets dark here early in the winter and it makes it hard to read.”

Also, keep the home “immaculately clean,” McMahan says. “That’s the one area you cannot possibly skimp on. It doesn’t matter how nice the place is, how great your location is, how nice you are—if the place is dirty, that’s not going to fly.”

Guests also expect the home to be stocked with all of the supplies they’ll need for the stay (e.g., dish soap, paper towels, plates, and mugs). They also want detailed instructions for how to use the coffee maker, washing machine, the TV, and Wi-Fi.

Want to score some extra points with guests? Welcome them with a bottle of wine, snacks, coffee, or other gifts, Donegan says. Also provide them with details about places to eat and things to do nearby.

6. Be courteous with guests—even if they complain

Timely communication with guests, resolving issues that come up, and going above and beyond to welcome them also help hosts earn positive reviews, which are important for securing future reservations, Donegan says. Reviews play a role in the algorithms that Airbnb and other sites use to rank properties in search results.

Donegan urges hosts to thank guests for their feedback in all cases. If there’s a complaint, respond to let them know you’ll take action in the future, or use private messaging to address concerns.

7. Keep an eye on your listing

Listing your property on Airbnb or similar site can bring in extra income when you’re not using your vacation home. But McMahan emphasizes that it can be a lot of work.

“The main theme I like to get across to people is that this isn’t ‘landlording.’ This is hospitality,” she says. “There’s more to it than handing somebody your keys and saying, ‘Have a great stay.’ It’s really caring about your guests and making sure that you are doing everything you can to give them a really memorable experience and that your place becomes part of that experience. If you have a passion for it, you can really do well.”

The post 7 Crucial Steps to Take When Listing Your Vacation Home on Airbnb appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

How to Get a Mortgage on a Vacation Home: It’s a Whole Different Game

December 16, 2019


You’ve spied a cozy bungalow for sale in your favorite beach town, and it hits you—wouldn’t it be great to purchase this oasis yourself? Yet before you get ready to make an offer, consider this: A mortgage on a vacation home works light years differently than a loan for a primary run-of-the-mill residence.

So before you head down this enticing path of purchasing a home away from home, check out this latest installment of our Guide to Buying a Vacation Home. Here, we highlight everything you need to know on the mortgage front so you can sail through the process and into your own personal retreat without a hitch.

Why vacation home mortgages may incur higher costs

Mortgages on vacation homes often require higher down payments and may have higher interest rates and property taxes, depending on the location. Why? Because financing a vacation home requires mortgage lenders to take on more risk than they would with a regular home in a variety of ways, says Steve Darnell, first vice president of sales at Flagstar Bank.

For one, vacation homes are often vacant, or rented out to tourists who may have less of an interest in maintaining the place in pristine condition.

“Occupied properties are considered less risky than rental properties, where no one is on-site with a vested interest in caring for the property,” Darnell explains.

If the buyer of a vacation home also has a mortgage on a primary residence, this poses another type of risk that the buyer’s finances might be stretched too thin over two mortgages.

“It might be fine in good times,” Darnell says, “but challenging for the homeowner to keep up with payments in a down economy.”

The location of a vacation home could pose yet another liability. Many popular vacation spots are susceptible to natural disasters, like hurricanes and flooding. Even with insurance, Darnell says, “lenders can face losses.”

All this risk means home buyers may have to pay a little more for their vacation homes in the form of a higher down payment, higher interest rates, and higher insurance premiums.

How much is a down payment on a vacation home?

While it varies by lender, according to Darnell, conventional mortgage programs that might typically need only 3% down on a primary residence will require a minimum of 10% down on a vacation home. If you plan to rent out the home rather than enjoy it yourself, that down payment could go up to 15%. In addition to having a higher down payment, mortgage interest rates on vacation homes could also be higher.

Also, not all mortgage products that are available for buying a primary residence are available for a vacation home purchase. For example, FHA and VA loans can’t be used to buy a vacation home, says Sherry Graziano, senior vice president and mortgage transformation officer at SunTrust Bank.

Why you must disclose how the vacation home will be used

“When a homeowner wants to purchase a vacation home, they must declare how they intend on using it at the time of application,” Graziano adds.

There are a few ways a vacation home can be classified:

  • Primary residence, where the homeowner lives most of the year
  • Secondary residence, which is rented out for no more than 180 days a year
  • Investment property, which is used strictly as a rental to generate income

If the occupancy type changes from the terms of the initial mortgage, homeowners should consider contacting their lender, since the home may need to be refinanced to change the mortgage terms to match its new purpose.

While refinancing a vacation home may seem like a pain, in many cases the change could be beneficial. For example, Graziano says, if a vacation home was initially purchased to be used as a rental property but the owner later decides to make it the primary residence, refinancing could bring a lower interest rate, and  may qualify for a different loan product (like an FHA or VA loan).

Your property tax and insurance bills could be higher

Vacation homes may also come with a higher property tax bill than a primary residence, Darnell says. He urges home buyers to make sure they understand the tax rates, which vary by state and locality, especially if they’re buying a home in a different state that they may not be as familiar with.

Along with different tax rates, there could be different rules and laws for real estate fees and expenses, Graziano says.

Closing costs, usually 2% to 7% of the home’s purchase price, also vary, and some states have higher transfer taxes, the fee for passing a property title from one person to another.

Homeowners insurance could also be as much as 20% higher on a vacation home, especially if it is rented out.

Mortgage pre-approval for a vacation home

Due to these higher costs, experts recommend that vacation-home buyers get pre-approved for a mortgage. That’s where loan advisers review a home buyer’s loan application, which includes the individual’s income, assets, credit, and liabilities to recommend the best-suited mortgage product.

“It is always best to have a mortgage pre-approval in hand before you sign a purchase agreement,” Darnell says. “That puts you in a better bargaining position in bidding on a home.”

He suggests checking with multiple lenders to ensure that you’re being offered a competitive rate and loan terms.

On top of the monthly mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance, Graziano says vacation-home owners need to budget for the big picture, and factor in operating costs, maintenance, repairs, utilities, and “any ancillary services for sustainable homeownership.” She says these costs are sometimes overlooked.

“Purchasing a vacation home can be exciting, but it’s important that homeowners are financially confident and have budgeted for all related expenses,” she says.

The post How to Get a Mortgage on a Vacation Home: It’s a Whole Different Game appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Are You Ready to Buy a Vacation Home? 6 Questions to Ask First

December 4, 2019


Whether it’s a bungalow by the beach or a cabin in the woods, owning a vacation home is a dream for many. After all, you’d always have a place to stay in a favorite travel destination, and could rent out the place when you’re not using it. What’s not to love?

Yet all too often, people venture into a vacation home purchase with “rose-colored glasses on,” says Denise Supplee, real estate investment educator and co-founder of property management software SparkRental.

Vacation homes can be a worthy investment, but owners don’t always fully realize the time and financial commitment involved.

As Supplee describes it, “Here is a typical scenario: New to property investing. Looks at the romanticism of a home by the ocean or one tucked away in the mountains. Assumes they’ll make a fortune.”

In reality, “there is substantial risk,” she says. “That’s especially true when a vacation home is used as a short-term rental, which can bring extra costs.”

Dealing with vacancies and attracting bookings can be time-consuming, too.

All of this begs the question: Are you truly ready to buy a vacation home?

For answers, look no further than our Guide to Buying a Vacation Home, a new weekly series. For this first installment, we pinpointed the key questions you should ask yourself to gauge just how prepared you are to take the plunge. By talking with experts and people who own (and rent out) their vacation homes, you’ll learn what’s involved in this endeavor, and the risks. That way, you can enter this adventure with your eyes wide open and, yes, maybe even make a profit!

1. Why do you really want a vacation home?

So before looking for a vacation home to purchase, first consider your reasons and goals for wanting one. How much do you plan to use it personally, and what will you do with the home the rest of the time?

According to Steve Schwab, founder and CEO of Casago, a vacation rental and property management platform, common reasons people purchase vacation homes include the following:

  • They have a place to stay in a favorite travel spot.
  • They have an eventual retirement home.
  • They establish a way to make money by renting the home out.
  • They have the home as an investment that they can rent out now to cover the mortgage and property taxes, and later sell for a profit.

Just keep in mind that some of these goals might clash and be hard to juggle.

Avery Carl, a real estate agent and owner of five vacation rental properties in Tennessee, cautions against getting too emotionally attached when purchasing a vacation home as an investment.

“If there are any personal emotions tied to an investment property, the owner will never maximize its cash flow potential, and owners will end up getting upset over minor issues like makeup on towels,” says Carl, who works with investors to acquire their own vacation rentals.

“My advice is not to rent it out if it’s a personal vacation home that you have an attachment to, and if it’s an investment, keep your emotions separate—it’s a business.”

2. Do you have time to manage a vacation home?

Many homeowners underestimate the time and work involved in owning a vacation home, Supplee says. The time commitment includes marketing the home, setting up listings on travel booking sites, keeping up maintenance, dealing with guests checking in and out, and handling guest requests.

“Some people buy a vacation home and find that they didn’t buy a vacation, they bought a job,” Schwab says.

Schwab says VRBO estimates that homeowners spend about seven hours a week managing a vacation home. However, it could be less: Carl, who manages five properties, says she spends about an hour and a half per week on each.

Additionally, self-managing a property means being on call 24/7 in case renters have any questions or problems from broken air conditioning to nonworking Wi-Fi.

3. Will you self-manage the rental, or hire help?

Some vacation home owners may enjoy handling the management process themselves. For others, especially if they live some distance away, hiring a property manager can be well worth the expense.

Schwab suggests owners tally up how many hours a week they spend managing their vacation home and divide the hours by a property manager’s fee. That can help homeowners determine whether a management service is worth the cost.

Even if you don’t plan to rent out the home to vacationers, hiring a property manager to keep an eye on the home when you’re not there is a good idea, especially if you live far away. This will ensure that the home stays clean and in good repair.

4. Do you want short- or long-term renters?

While renting out your place on Airbnb or VRBO might be the most lucrative option, it does have its downsides, including higher cleaning fees, more wear and tear on the home, and more frequent vacancies as renters come and go and bail during the offseason.

If you don’t want to deal with short-term vacationers, you can also try to rent to a long-term tenant. But finding longer-term renters can also be tricky, especially if the home is located in a popular seasonal travel destination, Supplee says.

“Long-term renters in these areas are far and few between,” she explains. “My area, the Pocono mountains, does not fetch high rents in the long term.”

For example, in Pocono Summit, PA, long-term rents would be in the $900 range for a three-bedroom chalet. But Supplee says the same home may rent for more than that per night during a high-season weekend.

Long-term renters also take away some of the flexibility that vacation home owners often enjoy, Schwab says. It would limit how often you could enjoy the home yourself if a tenant signs a six-month or one-year lease.

So how do you decide? If you want your rental to remain profitable, as a general rule it should earn at least 1% of its purchase price per month, Carl says. For instance, a $100,000 home should rent for $1,000 a month for a good return.

For short-term rentals, Carl suggests that your net operating income should be around 20% higher than your carrying costs (more on what those are next).

5. How much will this vacation home cost to maintain?

Vacation homes come with mortgages, taxes, and insurance, just like any other home. But, there will likely be additional costs such as maintenance, repairs, utilities, and other locality-specific charges. Turning the vacation home into a short-term rental brings even more expenses, including the following:

  • Cleaning fees could be $90 to $150 per session, according to Home Advisor.
  • Home maintenance is typically 1% to 4% of a home’s price.
  • Insurance premiums could be as much as 15% to 20% higher.
  • Property management typically costs 10% to 40% of the gross annual income.
  • Homeowners association fees vary drastically, ranging from $150 to $700 per month.

“It is important to understand that vacation rentals have a higher operating cost than traditional rentals,” Schwab says. “The normal wear and tear to vacation rentals is disproportionately higher than long-term rentals due to the high turnover of people constantly moving in and out.”

Supplee urges vacation home owners to factor additional costs into what they plan to charge to rent out the home.

6. What are the tax implications of renting out a vacation home?

The taxes associated with vacation homes can be complex, and vary based on how the property is used and how much time it is used personally versus being rented out. It’s always best to talk to a tax professional about your unique financial situation, but here’s an overview of what to expect.

In general, the amount of personal use dictates whether the home is truly classified as a rental property.

“If you have a vacation home that is rented [out] for more than 14 days during the year and your personal use does not exceed the greater of 14 days or 10% of the rental days, the home is then classified as a rental property—or, a business for tax purposes,” Supplee says.

When the home is considered rental property, rents received are reported as income. But you can deduct many of the expenses of renting out the property, including maintenance, insurance, taxes, and interest, according to the IRS. New tax rules also offer some benefits for rental property owners. Here are some of the tax benefits of owning a rental.

The post Are You Ready to Buy a Vacation Home? 6 Questions to Ask First appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What Is a Foreign National Loan? One Way to Buy Investment Property in the U.S.

August 3, 2018

what is a foreign national loan?


A foreign national loan is a special type of loan that helps noncitizens buy investment property in the United States. This loan has requirements (and interest rates) that slightly differ from standard Fannie Mae or FHA loans. Here are some key factors noncitizens looking to invest in property need to keep in mind.

You will need a bigger down payment

The down payment needed to qualify for a foreign national loan is much more substantial than the amount needed for a government-backed loan (e.g., an FHA loan) or a mortgage from a private lender.

“You need to put down at least 25%,” says Erika Borrero, a licensed mortgage adviser with Angel Oak Home Loans in Orlando, FL. U.S. citizens can qualify for standard home loans with as little as 3.5% to 5% down, but buyers from out of the country must have at least a quarter of the purchase price of the property to get financing.

It must be an investment property

If you’re hoping to buy a home to move into permanently, you’re out of luck.

“The purchase must be treated as an investment home. Their intention when purchasing must not be to move here,” says Borrero. “To qualify for a foreign national loan, you must be able to prove you’re living in another country and earning your income from that country.”

So why buy in the U.S.? Buyers can rent out the home for extra income, or invest capital that might not be able to provide as large of a return in their home country. Or, if they visit the United States frequently, they might just want a vacation home there.

The interest rate will be higher

In addition to requiring a bigger down payment, a foreign national loan comes with a higher interest rate. Borrero says it usually runs about 7% or so, while the interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate conventional mortgage has been averaging 4.5% to 5% in 2018.

Documentation requirements will be different

Because taxes work differently in every country, tax returns are not a requirement to qualify for a foreign national loan. Every lender has slightly different documentation requirements, so be prepared to provide any number of financial documents.

Borrero says she asks for two months of bank statements and, because many of her clients are self-employed, a letter from the borrower’s accountant verifying their income for the past two years.

Not every bank offers foreign national loans

Most local banks do not offer foreign national loans, though many international banks do, and there are lenders who specialize in this kind of loan.

Borrero suggests reaching out to mortgage brokers to find the right lender for your situation. Like with any mortgage, you want to shop around to find the best rate.

There are tax implications for a foreign national loan

Almost every local or state government charges homeowners annual real estate taxes based on a percentage of their home’s value. Tax rates range from Hawaii’s 0.32% to New Jersey’s 2.31%. If you own a home in the U.S., you will be required to pay these every year.

There are also taxes to pay when you eventually sell the property.

“The IRS requires that buyers (buying real estate owned by foreign nationals) withhold 10% of the gross sale price to prevent foreign sellers from avoiding the payment of taxes,” says Ines Hegedus-Garcia, a real estate agent in Miami. “The buyer must report the purchase and pay the IRS the amount withheld.”

There are exceptions to this tax, however, so always consult with a tax specialist or the IRS regarding how the federal government will apply this rule to your case.

The post What Is a Foreign National Loan? One Way to Buy Investment Property in the U.S. appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Your Ideal Vacation Home, According to Your Zodiac Sign

August 3, 2018

Your zodiac sign can be telling about so many important things in life—your personality traits, your compatibility with a partner, your best hair days each month.

So it only makes sense that the stars are also all-knowing when it comes to where you should spend your hard-earned vacation days. Whether you prefer seclusion in the woods or need to be near the water, your ideal vacation home/destination investment could very well be determined by when you were born and that all-important zodiac sign.

Aries (March 21–April 19): Golf course condo

This airy home in Palm Desert, CA, backs up to a 27-hole golf course.

Fore! A condo near the ninth hole on a par 3 would be ideal for a fiery, athletic Aries, says Amy Tripp, an astrologer who offers personal consultations through her website, Starheal Astrology.

“Their love of sports and being part of an active community would make a golf-side community a great fit,” she explains. (Investing in shatterproof windows is a must, though.)


Taurus (April 20–May 20): Timeshare at an all-inclusive resort

This condo in Miami Beach, FL, touts world-class, resort-style amenities.

A Taurus would appreciate an all-inclusive resort where housekeeping, food delivery, and poolside mojitos are built into the experience, says Suzie Kerr Wright, an astrologer and psychic medium at

“It’s nothing but the best for Taurus—they love to go high-end,” she says. “They love to be pampered and doted on, and not worry about what they’ll be doing next.”


Gemini (May 21–June 21): City townhouse

This Brooklyn, NY, townhome was originally part of a 1915 soap factory.

Paris, New York, or London—Geminis need to be where the action is, Wright says.

“A lot of excitement, parties, and places to see works fantastically for them,” she explains. “Window shopping and wandering around a city is perfect, because there are so many surprises for their curious minds.”


Cancer (June 22–July 22): Woodsy cabin retreat

This secluded log cabin in Boone, NC, sits on 2 acres above a bubbling creek.

A secluded cabin in the woods isn’t for everyone, but a Cancer would love it.

“A nest in the woods, tucked away safe from the world, with family or close friends, cooking big campfire meals, and sitting outside on the porch at night looking at the stars is the ultimate getaway for a Cancer,” Wright says. “They need to have a place to retreat on vacation.”


Leo (July 23–Aug. 22): Sailboat

Let the wind carry you to your next vacation spot.

A Leo’s life philosophy is to go big or go home. Wright can see a Leo vacationing on a sailboat out on the clear blue.

“They do everything big. And granted, not every big cat likes water—but [Leos] do,” she says. “The freedom to explore the vast expanse of the ocean is just perfect.”


Virgo (Aug. 23–Sept. 22): Country farmhouse

The Wanderin L’ Ranch in Burton, TX, sits on 35 acres and promises “abundant wildlife.”

Earthy, plant-loving Virgos would enjoy retreating to a farmhouse to escape their hectic lives, Tripp says.

“A Virgo rules in diet and health, so a place where they could grow their own vegetables would suit them well,” she explains. “Plus, a Virgo’s birthdate falls during the time of year when crops are harvested. A farmhouse aligns with this sign’s nature.”


Libra (Sept. 23–Oct. 22): Garden cottage

This charming cottage in Nashville, TN, was featured on “This Old House.”

A Libra’s love for clean aesthetics makes a garden cottage a great fit.

“A beautiful, charming, harmonious environment is what they seek,” Tripp says of Libras. “A home with flowers blooming that’s surrounded by a white picket fence would be ideal.”


Scorpio (Oct. 23–Nov. 21): Lake house

This waterfront home in Glenbrook, NV, offers dramatic views of Lake Tahoe.

Scorpios are water signs and, as such, they’d find serenity at a private lake house, Wright explains.

“The calming effect of a lake helps Scorpios settle down from their typical intensity; they need to rejuvenate with water” she says. Plus, “lakes are full of mystery—they are clean and clear, but can be exceptionally deep and foreboding, just like the depth of Scorpios’ emotions. It’s the most private of signs.”


Sagittarius (Nov. 22–Dec. 21): Camper/RV

Photo by William Johnson Architect 
Sags are the most outdoorsy and adventurous of the astrological signs, so Tripp can see them hitting the road in a camper or RV.

“An RV allows the sign of expanded horizons to be in their element—outdoors,” she says. “This sign loves going to new places, and the mobility of a camper/RV allows them this freedom.”


Capricorn (Dec. 22–Jan. 19): Mountain ski lodge

This ski-in/ski-out home in Aspen, CO, is one of a kind.

“Caps are the goats of the zodiac—they love the mountains,” Wright explains. “They also have a fondness for spaces with lots of wood beams, fireplaces, and stone, all typically found in a ski lodge.”


Aquarius (Jan. 20–Feb. 18): Tiny home

This 520-square-foot home in Anacortes, WA, offers 180-degree views of the Cascades.

If you’re an Aquarius, chances are good you’ll be drawn to go big in an adorably small home, maybe even one in a tiny-home community

“They go for anything quirky and unusual, environmentally conscious, and they love their freedom,” Wright says.

“If there are other folks into tiny homes nearby, that’s even better,” she adds. “Aquarius will be among their tribe. They love to chat with folks who have the same vision.”


Pisces (Feb. 19–March 20): Beach house

This oceanfront home in Marathon, FL, offers breathtaking water views.

As a water sign, Pisces can’t get enough of the rolling surf and warm sand, Wright explains.

“They’re the mermaids of the zodiac, and they love colors of the sea,” she says. “A beach house in a town with charming boutiques and pretty things for them to look at is best.”

Forgo anything in a noisy beach party town though, Wright warns: “A Pisces needs the quiet sounds of the ocean to lull them to sleep.”

The post Your Ideal Vacation Home, According to Your Zodiac Sign appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What Is an A-Frame House? An Adorable Home That’s Spiked in Popularity

August 3, 2018


What is an A-frame house? True to its name, this type of home is shaped like the letter A, with walls that begin near the foundation and slope upward at a slant, meeting to form a triangle.

If you’ve ever dreamed of living in a teepee, an A-frame may be the closest you’ll ever get. Sometimes quirky and quaint, sometimes sleek and modern, these triangle-shaped houses have spiked in popularity of late. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about A-frame homes.

What is an A-frame house? Key characteristics

While its triangular shape is its key characteristic, there are other features that make A-frame homes what they are, both inside and out. They typically include the following features:

  • High interior ceilings
  • Large windows
  • Open floor plans
  • Loft spaces
  • Deep eaves
  • Gables in the front and back
  • Wood siding


Where to find A-frame houses

From rustic cabins to modern masterpieces, the A-frame style can be seen across the country and around the world. They’re often the choice for vacation homes or second homes, particularly in snowy areas, as the snow slides easily from the roof.

“Here in the Los Angeles area, we see A-frame homes up in the mountains rather than in the city or the suburbs,” says Kathryn Bishop, a real estate agent in California. “I expect because the big windows in the A-frame are usually so fabulous to enjoy the views.”

While A-frames have existed for centuries, they rose to popularity in the United States during World War II and the years that followed. People had extra income for vacation homes, and A-frames were a popular choice.

Simple and inexpensive, build-your-own kits were sold through department stores and allowed people to construct their own A-frame homes.

You can still buy such kits today. For example, Avrame, a company out of Minnesota, offers kits that start as low as $35,900. You’ll have to provide the foundation, insulation, and a few other pieces, but the kits include most of the basics (e.g., the windows, doors, building accessories, and drawings) to help you put your A-frame home together.

Benefits of an A-frame house

Owen Boller, a real estate agent who covers a two-hour radius around Manhattan, says buyers love A-frame homes for a couple of reasons.

“A-frames have large windows so the natural light pours in,” he explains. Plus, “most desirable A-frames are near a lake or stream and are often built on a few acres of land, making them a private escape.”

John Nations, construction manager for New Pointe Communities in San Diego, says with A-frame homes, “it’s more of a tent, camping, outdoor nostalgic feel for the ‘outdoor’ types of people and families.”

The grandeur of the homes can vary widely though.

“A-frame homes can be ideal for first-time home buyers or investors, but that’s not to say this architectural type is not used in many multimillion-dollar, waterfront homes,” says Brad Cooke, a real estate agent with the Corcoran Group in Palm Beach, FL.

A-frames aren’t for everyone

While they’re a great option for some people, A-frame houses aren’t for all home buyers. For example, Cooke says, since A-frame homes  are typically made of wood, they’re not ideal in Florida for two reasons: termites and tropical storms.

Boller says while A-frames are often easy to maintain, they usually cost a little more to heat compared with similar-size homes due to the vaulted ceiling. He says space is also often limited in A-frame homes.

“Some bedrooms have low roofs, and there is often minimal storage,” he says.

The biggest downside to buying an A-frame home, however, may be not being able to find one.

“There are not many A-frames left on the market, due to high demand and low inventory,” Boller says. “The majority of A-frames were built in the late 1900s, and homeowners tend to hold onto them more so than other types of homes. Generally speaking, if a second home in the country is why you are purchasing a home, an A-frame might be a good option … if you can find one.”

You can search for A-frame homes at®; here are some A-frame listings to give you a sense of what’s available.

The post What Is an A-Frame House? An Adorable Home That’s Spiked in Popularity appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.