Buying a memorable staycation

Six dos and don’ts for picking a second home
July 28, 2013 12:00PM

From Luxury Listings NYC: If you ask Dan Dicarlo where to find value, the 42-year-old Retired Wall Street trader will tell you the Sandy-ravaged Jersey Shore. That’s where he found his second home.

A few months back, after more than a year on the hunt, Dicarlo finally settled on a 1927 oceanfront cedar-shake house in Lavallette, just an hour from his primary residence. The $1 million-and-change deal was all cash, letting him bypass the lengthy inspection process that mortgage holders have to endure.

When Wendy Jones needs a break from Cincinnati, she heads to Martha’s Vineyard. Not long ago, the Grammy-nominated songwriter decided she wanted to trade the woods for the water—and found herself wearing the hats of both buyer and seller, which could have been a nightmare. It wasn’t, though. Her secret to avoiding the real estate equivalent of a migraine: Lesely Heidt of Sandpiper Realty of Edgartown, Mass., who took only six months to find a buyer willing to pay the asking price.

“The single most important thing was finding the right agent,” Jones said.

Now, a half-dozen more insider tips on buying and selling a personal playground, whether it’s high in the Adirondacks or on the shores of Cape Cod.

1. DO ask a fair price

The difference between a snappy sale and listing languor hinges on being realistic with your asking price.

“The market is absolutely improving, but that does not mean it is time for sellers to ask ‘more’ for their homes,” said Deirdre O’Connell, senior vice president of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in the North Fork. “Homes priced appropriately are selling and homes priced too high are not.”

2. DON’T rely on the Internet (too much)

Buyers can know nearly everything about every home for sale in a community by simply jumping online. All that information isn’t necessarily a good thing, though. It needs to be filtered by someone familiar with the market—i.e., a broker, said Aspasia Comnas, executive managing director of Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons.

“The Internet,” Comnas said, “can only tell part of the story.”

3. DO get an inspection/survey

Wherever you’re looking to vacation, seaside or in the mountains, it pays to have the property surveyed and the home inspected.

The Adirondacks, for example, have roughly 2 million acres of private land and property lines can be fuzzy in places, according to Dawn Timm, owner of Timm Associates in Old Forge, N.Y.

And on the beach, an assortment of weather-related factors—heat, humidity, rough waters and high winds—have been known to damage even the sturdiest of structures. That’s why you’re smart to get a home inspection before you sign on the dotted line.

4. DO know your lifestyle

Having a clear idea of what you want from a vacation property—and being able to communicate it to your broker—is essential.

“On the North Fork we have homes on or near the water, but there is a variety of water: bay, sound, inlet, pond. The sound has gorgeous sunsets, the bay is perfect for sailing or kayaking and inlets can offer docks for boats,” O’Connell said. “A second home is more than an additional home, it is a lifestyle. Buyers need to know what kind of lifestyle will make them happiest.”

5. DO shop off season

To find the best deals, buyers should hunt in the fall when everybody else is packing up and heading back to the city, according to Bett McCarthy, regional vice president of Kinlin Grover Real Estate in Cape Cod.

Besides, who wants to go tour a home full of seasonal renters and their stuff? It’s awkward for both you and them.

6. DON’T forget the pool!

Buyers dream of swimming pools—and that is why a seller who doesn’t have a pool should get a building permit for one. A permit in hand can seal the deal, O’Connell said.

“There is definitely an inherent value,” she said, “and it avoids sellers being faced with offers contingent on approval [of a permit].” – Christopher Cameron