Jennifer Mack column: Questions to answer before purchasing a vacation property

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I’ve received an unprecedented number of calls recently from clients interested in purchasing vacation properties. Some want to be at the beach, others in the mountains. But the common theme is a desire to be near nature and away from traffic.

If you are thinking of purchasing a vacation property, here are some factors to keep in mind.

One of the biggest decisions to make is whether you want to rent it out to paying guests or if you will keep it for your exclusive use. If you want to rent it out, the first thing to research are local ordinances as well as any restrictions that an HOA may impose. Many HOAs limit the number of rentals an owner can entertain in a time period or restrict the length of the stay. Most local jurisdictions also collect taxes from homeowners for these stays, so it is important to understand what those amounts will be and how often they are remitted. Some areas inspect the properties and grant business licenses for them. 

Property insurance is another big factor—you have to do your research to make sure you can get insurance on a rental property for a reasonable price. You will also want to be sure the house has an adequate number of bedrooms and bathrooms and space to yield the rental rates you want to command. In addition, there are safety considerations if the property has a pool, hot tub, or boat access.

You will want to think about how long it will take you to get there in the event of a guest emergency, or if you will hire someone locally for this. Cleaners are in demand and can be difficult to find, so start researching them early.

If you plan to just use the home for yourself and your family, the key factors are ease of maintaining the property, travel time to ensure you will actually use it, and how many months out of the year you would be able to best utilize it based on where it is located. A vacation home can be a wonderful investment, especially in these stressful times, but must be carefully considered to ensure it will give you the rest and relaxation you crave.

Jennifer Mack has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry. Her team services Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., with the bulk of her business in the Woodson High School area. You can contact her with real estate questions at or by calling 703-672-0038. She’s happy to answer specific questions privately or more general questions publicly in this column.