Buying, Renting, and Selling a Second Home

April 10, 2023
A second home is a substantial investment that lives by different rules than your primary residence. Here's what you need to consider.

Are you in the market for a second home—whether to serve as a personal getaway or rental property? Whatever its purpose, an additional property is a substantial investment—one that's subject to different rules than your primary residence. 

"Whether or not you're using it to generate rental income, a second home comes with its own set of financial considerations," says Hayden Adams, CPA, CFP®, director of tax and wealth management at the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

Here are the factors to consider when buying, renting, and selling a second home.

Buying

Once you've found the right property for your needs, it's time to figure out how to pay for it. If you need to borrow the funds, there are several financing options open to you, including:

  • A traditional mortgage: The most popular types include fixed-rate loans—typically for 15 or 30 years (generally speaking, the shorter the loan, the lower the interest rate)—and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), whose interest rates reset after a fixed period of time and adjust in response to prevailing market rates. Jumbo loans—or those that exceed $726,200 in most U.S. counties—may require heftier down payments and have higher interest rates, closing costs, and fees. One upside of a mortgage is you can deduct the interest on up to $750,000 worth of such loans (married couples who file separately can deduct up to $375,000 each). For homes bought before Dec. 16, 2017, you can apply the higher limit of $1 million (or $500,000 for married couples filing separately) for interest deductions. These limitations—set by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017—will expire at the end of 2025 unless Congress extends them.
  • A home equity line of credit (HELOC): A HELOC allows you to borrow against the equity in your existing residence—and the interest may be deductible if the funds are used to purchase, build, or substantially renovate a primary or secondary residence, up to the limits mentioned previously.
  • A cash-out refinance: Another way to use your current home's equity to your advantage can be by replacing your existing mortgage with one that carries a larger balance. The lender may require you to maintain a portion of your equity in the new mortgage, but then the difference between the two loans can be distributed as cash, which can be especially useful if you have house-related expenses over and above the new property's purchase price.
  • Securities-based line of credit from a bank: A non-purpose* line of credit from a bank can allow you to borrow against the value of your non-retirement assets while helping to keep your investment strategy on track (see "Another way to borrow"). This option does involve risk, however, and is generally suitable as a bridge loan.

However you choose to finance your purchase, do your homework to understand the considerations and risks involved in obtaining a second home. Chief among them:

  • Additional debt: Taking on new debt could impact your cash flow and savings plan.
  • Bigger down payment: Lenders may require a larger down payment on a second home, in which case you'll need to consider how to come up with the money without putting your other investments at risk.

Finally, be realistic about expenses. Beyond the purchase price, there are an array of ongoing costs, including repairs, utilities, and possibly homeowners' association fees. A good starting point is to calculate what you're paying monthly for the upkeep on your current residence and assume a similar outlay for your second home.

Also, note that many popular vacation spots, particularly in coastal communities, are at increased risk of flooding, wildfires, and other weather-related events, so make sure you're adequately insured and at a price that makes sense.

Renting

You also need to decide up front whether you'll rent out your second home, be it occasionally or on an ongoing basis.

A rental property can provide not only income but also potential tax benefits. For example, you may be able to deduct certain expenses, such as depreciation, from your annual rental income.

Keep in mind, however, that you'll likely face a host of tax obligations as well. Apart from property taxes, any rental income could potentially push you into a higher tax bracket. Also, if you use a second home as both a rental property and for extended personal use, you may not be eligible for all the deductions that a rental property alone would provide. A tax advisor can help you maximize the available deductions while helping you fulfill your tax obligations. 

"Some people think of a rental property as a hobby, but it's not—it's a business," Hayden says. "That's certainly how the IRS sees it, and that's how you should consider it, too."

Another question to tackle in advance: How will you interact with renters? Some owners take a hands-on approach to everything from collecting rent to making repairs, while others hire handymen and even full-service property managers who can find suitable renters, help refurbish the property between tenants, and do everything in between. Such white-glove service comes at a cost, but it can be especially helpful with a property in a distant locale.

You should also strongly consider setting aside emergency funds. This can help you avoid dipping into your savings or selling securities in a down market to pay for any unexpected expenses.

Before you list your home, be sure to check with a real estate agent and/or your homeowners' association regarding local rental rules. These can vary by municipality and even by neighborhood, and they're evolving rapidly in response to the rise of vacation rental companies. In New York City, for example, you cannot rent out an entire apartment or home to visitors for fewer than 30 days, even if you own or live in the building.

Finally, Hayden urges those planning to rent out a second home to treat it as a separate business entity. "If your rental isn't structured properly, any renter who brings a lawsuit could potentially take your car, house, or hard-earned savings," he says. For example, registering a business as a limited liability company (LLC) can help protect your assets in the event you're sued—as can purchasing liability insurance.

Selling

Once it comes time to sell a property, it's a good idea to meet with a tax professional first.

Many owners are surprised to learn that any depreciation in the value of a rental property claimed for tax purposes reduces that property's cost basis. If the property is later sold for a profit, the seller will generally owe a 25% tax on any previously claimed depreciation before being subject to potential capital gains taxes.

What's more, if the property has not been your primary residence for at least two of the past five years, you may not qualify for the capital gains exclusion, which allows you to shield the first $500,000 in profit from capital gains taxes if you're married and file jointly ($250,000 if you're a single filer). The rules surrounding the capital gains exclusion can be complex, so it's best to check with an accountant before attempting to claim this exclusion for rental properties, in particular.

Another potential option to discuss with a tax advisor is a 1031 like-kind exchange, which allows you to roll the proceeds from one rental property directly into another, thereby deferring any capital gains taxes until the second property is sold. A 1031 exchange can be done multiple times, potentially deferring the taxation of any capital gains for many years.

"A team effort"

Buying a second home involves a lot of work, not only in advance of buying but throughout the rental process and eventual sale. Finding a reliable team of professionals—an accountant, an attorney, a real estate agent, and possibly a property manager—can help. "More so even than your primary residence, successful second-home ownership is a team effort," says Hayden.

And of course, an experienced financial advisor or wealth strategist can help you to realize your dream of second-home ownership to begin with.

Another way to borrow

Leveraging the value of your assets rather than liquidating them can be a smart strategy.

If you need access to capital but are hesitant to liquidate part of your portfolio because of concerns about selling when it's not convenient, tax consequences, or other considerations, it might make sense to borrow against your assets to fund your goal.

One securities-based lending option you could consider is Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line®, a flexible, non-purpose line of credit* that lets you leverage the value of your nonretirement portfolio while helping maintain your investing strategy. This can be a good option for a bridge loan when purchasing a second home and can also be used to meet a wide range of other financial needs.

The line of credit is secured by assets held in a separate Pledged Account that is required to be maintained at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. Line amounts start at $100,000 (with a required minimum initial advance of $70,000).

Entering into a Pledged Asset Line and pledging securities as collateral involve a high degree of risk. Before you decide to apply for a Pledged Asset Line, make sure you understand the risks.

To learn more about Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line, call your regional banking manager at 888-577-7040.

Schwab Bank, in its sole discretion, will determine at any time the eligible collateral criteria and the loan value of collateral.

Leveraging the value of your assets rather than liquidating them can be a smart strategy.

If you need access to capital but are hesitant to liquidate part of your portfolio because of concerns about selling when it's not convenient, tax consequences, or other considerations, it might make sense to borrow against your assets to fund your goal.

One securities-based lending option you could consider is Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line®, a flexible, non-purpose line of credit* that lets you leverage the value of your nonretirement portfolio while helping maintain your investing strategy. This can be a good option for a bridge loan when purchasing a second home and can also be used to meet a wide range of other financial needs.

The line of credit is secured by assets held in a separate Pledged Account that is required to be maintained at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. Line amounts start at $100,000 (with a required minimum initial advance of $70,000).

Entering into a Pledged Asset Line and pledging securities as collateral involve a high degree of risk. Before you decide to apply for a Pledged Asset Line, make sure you understand the risks.

To learn more about Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line, call your regional banking manager at 888-577-7040.

Schwab Bank, in its sole discretion, will determine at any time the eligible collateral criteria and the loan value of collateral.

888-577-7040.

Schwab Bank, in its sole discretion, will determine at any time the eligible collateral criteria and the loan value of collateral.

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Leveraging the value of your assets rather than liquidating them can be a smart strategy.

If you need access to capital but are hesitant to liquidate part of your portfolio because of concerns about selling when it's not convenient, tax consequences, or other considerations, it might make sense to borrow against your assets to fund your goal.

One securities-based lending option you could consider is Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line®, a flexible, non-purpose line of credit* that lets you leverage the value of your nonretirement portfolio while helping maintain your investing strategy. This can be a good option for a bridge loan when purchasing a second home and can also be used to meet a wide range of other financial needs.

The line of credit is secured by assets held in a separate Pledged Account that is required to be maintained at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. Line amounts start at $100,000 (with a required minimum initial advance of $70,000).

Entering into a Pledged Asset Line and pledging securities as collateral involve a high degree of risk. Before you decide to apply for a Pledged Asset Line, make sure you understand the risks.

To learn more about Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line, call your regional banking manager at 888-577-7040.

Schwab Bank, in its sole discretion, will determine at any time the eligible collateral criteria and the loan value of collateral.

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Leveraging the value of your assets rather than liquidating them can be a smart strategy.

If you need access to capital but are hesitant to liquidate part of your portfolio because of concerns about selling when it's not convenient, tax consequences, or other considerations, it might make sense to borrow against your assets to fund your goal.

One securities-based lending option you could consider is Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line®, a flexible, non-purpose line of credit* that lets you leverage the value of your nonretirement portfolio while helping maintain your investing strategy. This can be a good option for a bridge loan when purchasing a second home and can also be used to meet a wide range of other financial needs.

The line of credit is secured by assets held in a separate Pledged Account that is required to be maintained at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. Line amounts start at $100,000 (with a required minimum initial advance of $70,000).

Entering into a Pledged Asset Line and pledging securities as collateral involve a high degree of risk. Before you decide to apply for a Pledged Asset Line, make sure you understand the risks.

To learn more about Schwab Bank's Pledged Asset Line, call your regional banking manager at 888-577-7040.

Schwab Bank, in its sole discretion, will determine at any time the eligible collateral criteria and the loan value of collateral.

Important risk information: At any time, including in the event that the loan value of collateral is insufficient to satisfy the minimum loan value of collateral or to support the outstanding loans, Schwab Bank may demand immediate payment of all or any portion of the outstanding obligations, or require additional cash or securities to be added to the Pledged Account maintained at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. If a Demand is not addressed, the pledged securities may be immediately liquidated without further notice to you, which may result in tax consequences.

This offer is subject to change or withdrawal at any time and without notice. Nothing herein is or should be interpreted as imposing an obligation to lend. Pledged Asset Lines are subject to credit and collateral approval. Other conditions and restrictions may apply.

Brokerage Products: Not FDIC Insured • No Bank Guarantee • May Lose Value

*A non-purpose line of credit may not be used to purchase securities, or pay down margin loans, and can't be deposited into any brokerage account. Proceeds must be used for a lawful personal, commercial, or business purpose under state, federal, or other applicable law.

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Charles Schwab Bank, SSB and Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. are separate but affiliated companies and subsidiaries of The Charles Schwab Corporation. Brokerage products, including the Pledged Account, offered by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (Member SIPC) are not insured by the FDIC, are not deposits or obligations of Charles Schwab Bank, SSB and are subject to investment risk, including the possible loss of principal invested. Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. does not solicit, offer, endorse, negotiate or originate any mortgage loan products and is neither a licensed mortgage broker nor a licensed mortgage lender. Home lending is offered and provided by Rocket Mortgage, LLC®, Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #3030. Rocket Mortgage LLC., is not affiliated with The Charles Schwab Corporation, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. or Charles Schwab Bank, SSB. Deposit and other lending products, including the Pledged Asset Line, are offered by Charles Schwab Bank, SSB, Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. Charles Schwab Bank, SSB is not acting or registered as a securities broker-dealer or investment advisor.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed. 

This information does not constitute and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, Schwab recommends consultation with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner, or investment manager.

Examples provided are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.

Investing involves risks, including loss of principal.

The Schwab Center for Financial Research is a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.

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