Buying a second home

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    Who hasn’t dreamt of a holiday home, a little piece of the Provence to call their own? If second homes continue to have enduring appeal, it is because they offer the best of both worlds – the thrill and novelty of a vacation destination coupled with the comfort and ease of your own private home. Vacation homes do away with the hassle of travel arrangements and accommodation choices that can leave you exhausted before you’ve even left the house. The Ardennes or the coast? A bed and breakfast or a camping site? Breakfast only or the all-in formula? And what about the dog?

    You don’t have to worry about all those things with a second home. You make those choices once, carefully, deliberately and slowly. And then you enjoy the fruit of that labour for years to come. Imagine jumping into the car one early Friday afternoon and – just hours later – watching the sun set from the balcony of your seaside apartment as you sip a cool iced tea. That’s the wonder of vacation homes – the slower pace of the coast or the countryside’s fresh air is always just a couple of hours away – a place of respite and recreation forever within reach. You won’t ever have to compete with throngs of other tourists for a room in that five-star hotel, or worry if the rustic mansion you’re on your way too won’t turn out to be a scam. With a vacation home, you get exactly what you bargained for – no surprises. Think of a second home as an investment in your happiness – a lifetime’s worth of happiness. Who knows, maybe one day you will even choose to make your second home your primary residence and retire there.

    I know a friend whose parents own a seaside apartment that was left them by their own parents. My friend spent countless weekends there – first with her family, later with her highschool girlfriends when she threw sleepovers. Now, she goes there to escape the Brussels hustle and bustle with her current partner. My friend and her parents share that apartment with a handful of uncles and aunts, and each family can ‘book’ the apartment and enjoy the go-karts, fresh sea breeze and ice-creamscum- waffles all year round. It’s a great way to share the happiness, sure, but also a good solution to split the cost of upkeep, and it beats renting out to strangers. Though that shouldn’t be your main concern, second homes can also be a great financial investment. In fact, vacation homes are an investment you can’t really go wrong with. Even if you end up spending less time there than you thought you would, you can always rent out the place until you get more opportunities to use it. Henkjan Prins is the organizer of Second Home International, an exhibition devoted to vacation homes. Here is his advice to those looking for a second home. 

    Don’t just Google

    “You can find a lot of information on the internet, but there are a lot of people selling property there who don’t know most of the Belgian market’s rules and regulations.”

    Think about location first

    “You have to have a click with a certain region. If you don’t like the Spanish market, you’re not going to buy on the Spanish market. That’s the first step, to look at what region you’re interested in buying in.”

    Decide what kind of buyer you are

    “Do you see this only as a financial investment? Do you want to rent out the place? Do you want use of it for your family exclusively? These choices will determine what and what not to buy.”

    Seek out advice

    from the wellinformed “It’s very important to get the right information. If you’re interested in buying in Spain, it’s good to do business with somebody who knows the Belgian market as well as the Spanish market.”

    Take your time

    “A lot of people jump in too fast. You have to find your bearings, see what the price ranges are. That’s why most buyers usually take at least a year before they buy a second home.”

    Compare

    “If you buy a television on the internet or you go to a shop, you always compare prices. Here you’re talking about an average of €275,000 to buy a second home, so that’s a lot of money. And sometimes people don’t seek out enough information. You always need to compare.”

    Find your weaknesses

    “It’s also very important first to listen to the market and see where you need more information, whether it’s fiscal or financial – what are your possibilities?”

    Don’t just go there

    “Get in touch with professional real estate agents and developers before you simply go to France or Turkey and start searching there.”

    Think about Austria

    “A country that’s definitely coming up very fast is Austria. People think about the Austrian market as a very stable market. For Belgians, it’s very easy to get there by car; you can even fly there with low-budgetairlines. And the rental periods are very long; people rent it out throughout the summer and winter so they get a very high return on their investment through the rental income.“A country that’s definitely coming up very fast is Austria. People think about the Austrian market as a very stable market. For Belgians, it’s very easy to get there by car; you can even fly there with low-budget airlines. And the rental periods are very long; people rent it out throughout the summer and winter so they get a very high return on their investment through the rental income. 

    Go for it

    “Now is a really good time to think about buying a second home. The simple reason is that you don’t get much of a percentage on your savings account. If you buy a second home and you rent it out, it’s possible to get four or even five per cent of that income.”