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To Sell or Pass Down a Family Vacation Home?

By Gwinn Volen

My childhood memories of being in the country are vivid. Whippoorwills singing and frogs croaking in the pond at night. The smell of horses, cows and freshly bush hogged pastures. Sleepovers with cousins and friends, and even after-prom parties in high school. Once my kids were born, they too got to experience some of the joy I felt running in the woods, building forts, and fishing in the pond. ATV three wheelers were replaced with golf carts for them, but the sounds of the woods and idyllic South Carolina country life were still felt by them. My oldest son was nine when my mom decided to sell the “pond house” also referred to as “the country.” My mom was 73. The upkeep was unmanageable. She no longer enjoyed going there. And the property taxes were out of hand.

My Boys in “The Country” of Trenton, South Carolina Circa 2008

I questioned it some at first, selfishly more than anything. But in reality my time spent there was all of two times a year. And, long-term, I knew I didn’t want to buy the property and manage it from five hours away and neither did my sister. My kids asked about going back to the country for a few years which was hard. But, the truth is, that story had run its course for my mom, and our life book had moved on to new chapters. It was sad, but it was time. My mom hasn’t looked back, and I truly believe she has no regrets. In her strong southern tone “it was so much fun while it lasted, but my life is different now. It was time to move on. Great memories!”

Considerations When Thinking of Selling a Beloved Family Home

There are many things to take into consideration when you have a family vacation home.

  • How often are you enjoying the property?
  • How often is your family enjoying the property?
  • Does your or your family’s enjoyment outweigh carrying costs and burdens of vacation home ownership?
  • Do you have good support for caring for the property or is the maintenance becoming stressful?
  • If you sold are there other experiences you’d prefer to enjoy with your family using the savings from carrying costs and the proceeds of the sale? 
  • Do you need the proceeds of the sale to invest in a simpler asset for your retirement?
  • Does anyone in the family wish to buy the property? 
  • If inherited, can your kids afford the carrying costs?
  • Are your children in agreement with what should happen to the property?
The Pond House, Trenton, SC

Analysis of a Vacation Home’s Carrying Costs

ItemAnnual Costs
Property Taxes$35,468
Lawn, Housekeeping, Utilities$12,000
Repairs and Maintenance$20,000 (~1% annually)
Total $72,468
Carrying Costs on a $2M Home in Jacksonville, Florida

The above numbers show what the annual carrying costs would look like for a $2M vacation home in Jacksonville.

In this scenario, it’s important to ask yourself if the memories and time spent in your home are worth $72K a year or would you be better off freeing up those funds for other, different family memories. Is the property adding stress in addition to the cost? Additionally, would it be more beneficial for your family to have the funds from the proceeds of the sale invested differently for their future to avoid family drama upon your passing?

Oftentimes heirs don’t all have the same financial wherewithal to continue carrying the property. And, many times children disagree on what should happen. This can lead to a great deal of family tension and in some cases downright feuds.

Bottom Line

Only you can decide if selling is the right thing to do. Your gut is usually right. If the property still brings you and your family joy and you have the financial means, then you should keep it. If not, it may be time to say goodbye and relish those memories.

If you opt to keep the home in the family it’s important to do some detailed estate planning to avoid family conflicts down the road. The clearer the plan, the better.

And if you decide to sell, be sure to select a real estate professional who has the experience to delicately and painlessly handle the sale.

About the Author

Gwinn Volen is the owner of The Volen GroupKeller Williams Luxury International a Ponte Vedra Beach top producing real estate team selling in Northeast Florida with annual sales of over $100M.

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One Response to “To Sell or Pass Down a Family Vacation Home?”

  • David Brache
    Written on

    Gwinn Thank You for that information!
    Your Friend and Peer and Real Estate Colleague
    David Brache!
    P.S.Keep in touch my Friend!

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