Real Talk: Choosing a second home

Real Talk: Choosing a second home
A lakeside home offers family friendly activities like waterskiing and canoeing. (Courtesy photo)

By Heather Corey

During the height of COVID-19 in 2020, I began hearing from clients wanting to begin a search for a second home. Spending day after day inside the same walls had my clients asking, “If I could go anywhere right now, where would I go?” They wanted a second home that was an escape, far enough to where it could still be considered a “getaway” but without the stress of taking every mode of transportation to get there.

Thankfully, living in Alexandria has its perks. Just three hours from a beach, two hours to the mountains and just an hour from idyllic hunting country, Virginia has the best of all worlds.

But what makes the ideal second home?

Location should be first on your list. If you’re an ocean lover, looking for a beach to call home, Annapolis or Rehoboth Beach both provide scenic sanctuaries, complete with world-class sailing, decadent seafood and that delightful salty sea breeze. If you’re looking for an exclusive waterfront property, a home in Annapolis on the water will run you, on the low end, around $900,000 all the way to $7 million. Beachfront homes in Rehoboth tend to be a bit lower, and condos are also a great second home option if you’re looking more for an investment opportunity or looking to spend time at the beach rather than inside.

If the seclusion of the mountaintops is more your stride, consider Deep Creek Lake or anywhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Deep Creek not only offers gorgeous mountain views but a host of family friendly activities including waterskiing, canoeing and even dogsledding. The Blue Ridge Mountains showcase some of the most stunning views in Virginia, and a home here is sure to relax and recharge you. Prime lakefront homes in Deep Creek will run from $500,000 all the way to $3 million plus. Homes in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains can run anywhere between $100,000 all the way to $2 million and can be a fantastic way to get a lot of land for a smaller price, while also offering the chance to build your own home on your terms.

A country home isn’t far from reach either. Nestled in Hunt Country, Middleburg and The Plains offer historic stone cottages, views of the Shenandoah Mountains and a host of activities including horseback riding, polo and hunting. Middleburg, with its location just an hour outside of D.C. and Old Town, provides soon-to-be retirees or urban escapists with the chance to downsize from the city, without losing access to it.

Next, you will want to assess how frequently you’ll want to visit your second home and if renting it out will play a part in your decision.

If you’re a beach lover, chances are you’ll want to spend the summer there as much as possible. Or, if you’re looking for the opportunity to make an income on your property, this can play heavily into which location you choose. In a survey done by HomeAway, they found the average owner collects more than $33,000 a year in rental revenue. This can be a fantastic perk for someone looking for an income producing second home.

However, if you’re looking to just enjoy the scenery and use the space to kick back with family and friends, figuring that out now will help you to make a better, more financially stable decision for the future.

Another question I get asked is, “Should I downsize my Alexandria residence?” The answer depends on how much time you are looking to spend in your second home. Will this be a weekend home? A summer place? It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Many fantastic beachfront homes offer plenty of space for large families, while some mountain top retreats are smaller and not as spacious. You might also want to consider what activities you’ll be doing. If it’s a relax and retreat home, a big yard with upkeep might not be so desirable. If a family-friendly property is high on the list, then looking for a lot of space as well as a town with lots of activities is something to think about. Regardless of whether you choose to stay put or are looking to downsize, thinking about these things can be key to finding the perfect second home.

Whether you want a beach retreat, a family-friendly lake home, a secluded mountaintop bungalow or a hunting country cottage, the perfect second home is more than just the location. It’s the place your family will gather during holidays and birthdays and where you’ll get to see your family grow up and explore. It will be a chance to relax and recharge with fresh air and a fresh perspective on life.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, figure out what makes you happiest in life, and start looking for your second home. 

The writer is vice president of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.