I Bought My Second Home First (Here Are 6 Things I Learned Along the Way)

It was just a few years ago that The New York Times called it out as a trend: The decision to invest in a second home (i.e., a country house) first instead of shelling out big—and often unaffordable—bucks to own an apartment in the city. The pros of a real estate move like this? A lot, which is why we were intrigued by one woman—a married sales rep working in media in Manhattan—and her quest to do exactly that: Rent in New York City and own a four-bedroom, three-bathroom in the country. (The Hamptons, to be exact.) Here, how she made it happen this past summer and what she learned along the way.

7 Things Nobody Tells You About Buying a Home

new york city
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The Decision To Buy A Second Home First Took Years

“It had been a long-term dream of mine to own my own place in the city as a young adult and I have been saving money ever since I was 15 years old. When I got married, we both started working toward owning in the city and really started saving our pennies—over seven years of a duel income, in fact. Unfortunately, after years of casually looking at New York City real estate, we realized we would never be able to afford to buy what we really wanted, yet we could afford to rent what we really wanted. Once we accepted that reality (which, btw, does have its perks like the flexibility to change neighborhoods on a whim), we opened our minds to other options for owning.”

hamptons house
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Location Is Everything, But So Is Patience

“We both grew up on Long Island and I had spent almost every summer in the Hamptons. That meant we spent a pretty penny renting out there every season. I knew a friend of a friend who bought out there, who gave us a good deal on a summer rental, but it piqued my interest in actually owning property myself. We started casually looking about three years ago. This summer, we found the right place and the right price, so we went for it and I could not be happier.”

woman on laptop

Consult An Expert To Confirm Your Math

“We had a target budget in mind and met with a wealth manager to be sure we were in the right ballpark with our renting in the city/owning in the Hamptons scenario. He has a tool where he punches in numbers: What you make currently, what you have saved, what your 401(k) and stocks look like. From there, we chatted about life goals, which included children, education, nannies and when we wanted to retire. Then, of course, we accounted for the unexpected—say, if one of us got sick or were out of a job. After everything was said and done, we still had a comfortable savings account after the down payment and could live off one paycheck if need be. Our rent and mortgage are about the same and, together, take up about 40 percent of our monthly income, which meant we didn’t have to downsize our rental in the city. (That said, we’re not in a place to expand either.) All this gave us the peace of mind to go full steam ahead with offers and bidding.”

hamptons pool

There’s A Cost For *everything*

“Since we only spend a few days a week at our home, everything needs to be taken care of by others on a regular basis. There’s a pool maintenance person, a landscaper, a pest remover/bug sprayer and garbage removal services. Each day of the week, these people come to our home while we’re away and perform the agreed upon services. We also pay for security and connected surveillance to keep an eye on things. Since the maintenance of the house only really needs to be handled five months of the year, we end up spending about $800 for garbage and around $1,500 for landscaping, bug maintenance and the pool.”

Don’t Forget To Budget For Décor

“After we became home owners, we set a very firm budget for the entire house—which has almost as much deck property as indoor space—and did a significant amount of comparison shopping. We only splurged on certain key items, like a beautiful dining room table that comfortably sits ten people, and avoided retail traps on other furnishings like mattresses. For example, Amazon was incredibly useful for all of our bedding needs in that we were able to tackle all four bedrooms (and still buy organic/hypoallergenic options) for the cost of what you’d spend on just one bedroom at a normal big box retailer.”

dinner outside

There’s Always The Option To Rent It Out

“During our financial planning sessions pre-purchase, we did our due diligence around the economics of renting out the property and the impact that it could have on our mortgage. For example, if we decided to pick a few major weekends throughout the summer, an event like the U.S. Open Golf Tournament and/or some down weeks in August, we could very easily cover half of our yearly mortgage without much inconvenience. That said, we haven’t rented out it yet, since we’re trying not to introduce too many variables as we get to know our new home.”

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...