hero image for blog How To Maintain A Second Home From Afar

How To Maintain A Second Home From Afar

Photo: Home Checklist by Glenn Carstens Peters


Emily Primbs


Apr 3, 2024


Jun 17, 2024

Whether you dream of owning a vacation home that you and your loved ones can enjoy for generations to come, or view a rental property as the next step toward your financial goals, there are many reasons for buying a second home. It's an aspiration for many upwardly mobile households in the U.S.

Currently 5.4 million homes in the nation are second homes*, and they all likely started with the same questions you might have, like how do you maintain a second home if it’s a secluded cabin in the mountains, or a beach house three states away, or clear across the country?

In this guide, Mountain Luxury will explore how smart home tech can make maintenance easier, the difference between investment property and vacation home maintenance needs, how to manage a property for renting and non-renting, and what should go on your second home maintenance checklist.

Make Maintenance Easier With Smart Tech & Home Systems

Smart Home Tech by Moritz Kindler

How can you be sure the home is in good condition, even when you're away for possibly months at a time?

Chances are you won’t want to spend your entire vacation doing home-related chores that have been neglected in the time between visits. Or worse, discover that a major repair needs to be made during prime renting season.

Investing in smart home tech allows you to keep an eye on things and adjust systems from afar. A security system with video surveillance and alarms that can send alerts to law enforcement, smart thermostats, and lighting that can be programmed to turn on during certain hours, will go a long way in maintaining your second home.

Consider putting in low maintenance landscaping with a mix of hardscaping and xeriscaping, and if needed have an automated watering system installed for draught-tolerant plantings.

If you do decide to go the DIY management route, ask a neighbor to check on the house periodically.

Investment Property Vs. Vacation Home Maintenance Needs

House Cleaning By Towfiqu Barbhuiya

Deciding if your second home will be an investment property or a vacation home for personal use will determine what kind of maintenance it requires.

Investment properties are occupied by tenants or guests for the majority of the year and often experience higher wear and tear. Heavier foot traffic will require more frequent cleaning and upkeep and will benefit from having property management services that handle all of the ongoing maintenance and guest-related tasks.

On the other hand, if you occupy your second home for more than 14 days of the year while maintaining a primary residence, it is considered a vacation home. Even if you were to rent it out for less then 15 days per year, perhaps during a peak tourist season, it would still not be considered an investment property.

While it may be easier on your budget in the short term, skipping management services for your second home could end up being more costly in the end.

Not surprisingly, homes that are unoccupied for large amounts of time often need extra care and attention to prevent property damage and emergencies from issues that go unnoticed. Vacation homes benefit greatly from routine checks and maintenance that a property management company can provide.

Property Management

Property Management by Tierra Mallorca

How much do property managers charge and what exactly does a property manager do?

The cost of hiring a property management company will vary depending on the location, services offered, and whether your second home is used for personal use, short-term rentals, or long-term tenants.

These services can range from a monthly flat fee, 8-12% of the monthly mortgage or rent, or 15-50% of the rental income per booking.

A property manager can conduct regular home checks, respond to emergencies, arrange for housekeeping, and often has a trusted network of contractors for repairs.

Here are some of the specialized services that a property manager typically provides for rental and non-rental properties:

Rental Properties

  • Marketing the property
  • Streamlining the rental process
  • Managing bookings and reservations
  • Preparing the home for renters and serving as their point of contact
  • Collecting rent
  • Coordinating housekeeping between guests or tenants
  • Conducting periodic inspections for long-term tenants

Vacation Homes

  • Conducting weekly inspections
  • Performing routine maintenance
  • Taking care of landscaping or snow removal
  • Maintaining the pool and hot tub
  • House cleaning
  • Preparing for storms or weather-related issues
  • Offering concierge services, including grocery and toiletry delivery

Create A Second Home Maintenance Checklist

Home Checklist by Glenn Carstens Peters

It might make sense to hire a property management company to take care of your second home and protect your investment, especially if you will be using it as rental and it is not within a short driving distance. But do you really need a property manager for a non-rental vacation home?

It depends. If your second home is part of an HOA, they may cover things like landscape care or snow removal. However, there are other important services that are likely not included.

Regardless of whether or not you plan to hire a property manager, you can use this checklist of tasks to keep your house in shape while you're away or when the house is in between tenants.

Essential Departure Tasks:

  • Shut off the main water supply and drain the lines if the home will be unoccupied for an extended time, particularly if your second home will be vacant during winter in a cold climate. This will prevent your pipes from freezing.
  • Monitor and adjust the thermostat to a temperature that conserves energy but prevents extreme temperature fluctuations inside the home.
  • Check that all systems are working properly like the sump pump and HVAC system.
  • Check your air filters, they usually need to be replaced every 6-12 months.
  • Unplug electrical cords from outlets.
  • Empty and unplug the fridge, don’t forget to prop open the door so you don’t come back to any moldy surprises!
  • Remove all food from cupboards and pantry.
  • Take out all garbage.
  • Check that gutters are clean and clear.
  • Close any chimney flues and remove ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves.
  • Program your lighting system.
  • Close blinds, lock windows, and door.

Home Management Makes Owning A Second Home Easier

Owning a second home can be a fulfilling adventure and rewarding investment, but it requires careful planning and management.

Reviewing your lifestyle and financial goals will help you be more realistic about what aspects of the home’s maintenance you personally oversee and what services you will hire out.

Pineview Reservoir by Les Vierra

Searching for a second home in Eden, Utah? Our luxury real estate team can help you find the perfect property to fit your needs and lifestyle. We also boast the largest vacation rental network in Ogden Valley and specialize in vacation rental management services and second home care.

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