Renting out a second home is one way to pay off the mortgage while leaving time for family fun
By ANYA MARTINUpdated Aug. 3, 2016 8:30 p.m.
The rise of short-stay rental sites like Airbnb and HomeAway is tempting homeowners to purchase vacation homes that will also generate income. For some, renting is a way to recoup some costs of a second home purchased primarily for family fun. Others do the math and find it makes sense to rent full time or close to full time. Rental income can also defray the cost of improvements if the second home is a fixer upper, says Brian Sharples, CEO of HomeAway, which has more than 1.2 million paid listings in 190 countries. Vacation homeowners make an average of $28,000 a year in rental income, according to results of a quarterly survey released in March of 1,253 owners who list on HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com.
In a separate annual HomeAway survey released in June, 70% of 663 respondents said rental income covered more than half of their mortgage payments. Fifty-four percent said rental income covered 75% or more of their mortgage payments. Owners also used the income to fund their everyday living expenses (23%), upgrade and renovate the property (23%), pay for a child’s education (21%) and save for retirement (11%).
Last year, the average purchase price for a vacation home in the U.S. was $192,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. Of the 920,000 vacation homes sold, 61% were financed with a mortgage. ( News Corp , which owns The Wall Street Journal, also owns Realtor.com, the listing website of the National Association of Realtors.)
Overall, home prices have been rising over the past few years in most vacation hot spots. But buyers also should consider that interest rates are low, says Don Ganguly, CEO of HomeUnion, a California-based residential investment and management firm. “It could be the perfect window to blow cheap money into an area that is doing well and rents are going up,” he adds. Buying a property solely for rental income has its risks. And how the property is used affects the borrower’s mortgage options. Both conforming and jumbo mortgage rates for a second home usually are equal to or within a quarter of a percentage point of current market rates for a primary residence mortgage, says Norman T. Koenigsberg, president and CEO of East Brunswick, N.J.-based First Choice Loan Services. Lenders typically require a minimum down payment of 10% for conforming loans and 20% for jumbos on second home mortgages, he adds.
Also, the lender will factor in the borrower’s existing home payments as well as the new mortgage payments when calculating the debt-to-income ratio, which reflects the borrower’s monthly debt payments as a percentage of gross monthly income. Lenders prefer a ratio that is 43% or lower, but some will go up to 45% for an otherwise strong applicant, Mr. Koenigsberg says.
However, if an owner plans to rent the home most of the time, a lender will categorize the property as “investment,” making it ineligible for a second-home mortgage, says Dave Gorman, Bank of America sales executive for the Northwest region. Qualification guidelines are tighter for investment-home mortgages, including a higher minimum credit score, higher down payment (25%), and a lower DTI, he says.
On the plus side, projected rental proceeds may be included in income calculations for an investment-home loan, Mr. Gorman says. If a home hasn’t been previously rented or is a new property, the lender will consider comparable rental income for the area, he adds.
Here are a few more considerations:
* Local regulations. Some counties and municipalities consider vacation-home rentals the same as hotel stays and require owners to collect occupancy or lodging taxes from guests. Communities also sometimes limit the number of homes that can be rented on a temporary basis, so vacation-home buyers who intend to rent should check for any local restrictions before purchasing, Mr. Gorman says.
* Budget fully. While borrowers may be able to afford another mortgage payment, they should be comfortable paying for the property taxes, insurance and upkeep of any property they own and finance, Mr. Gorman says. Remember these expenses remain even if there are no renters, he adds.
* Repair and write off. If the vacation home is rented, expenses related to repairs, maintenance, cleaning and utilities may be tax deductible, either fully or prorated based on the time it’s rented. However, costs for improvements must be capitalized and then depreciated. Check with a tax expert for specific rules and restrictions.
Corrections & Amplifications: Investment-home mortgages may require a higher down payment of 25%. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the down payment could be 75%. (Aug. 3, 2016)