Maintaining a Vacation or Second Home: Why a Concierge Service Ought to Come With the Title

As my site’s tagline reads, “you can never have too many homes.” Apparently, many buyers and homeowners agree. The latest Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey from the National Association of Realtors reported that vacation-home sales rose 7 percent in 2011.

In all, as I may have told you, vacation-home sales accounted for a healthy 11 percent of all real estate transactions in 2011. Not bad for a still-sluggish housing market.

And look at this gorgeous property I just found in Dana Point, California: $2500 per square foot at The Strand.

Of course, buying a vacation home is one thing. Maintaining it is another. What if you live in Dallas and your vacation home is in North Carolina or Miami or this $25 million number on the west coast? How do you make sure the kitchen sink isn’t leaking or the windows aren’t broken when you’re hundreds of miles away?

Simple. (Well, not that simple.) You hire a concierge service. These services – also known as property management services — will watch over your second home while you’re away, make sure that the grass is mowed and the snow (if your second home resides in a chillier clime) is plowed.

I recently spoke with my mortgage guru Marcus McCue, senior vice president with the Plano office of Guardian Mortgage Company, about the steps owners of vacation homes can take to find the right concierge service for their second residences. Mortgage companies tend to like it when you take care of your property. Not only do many of his customers have second homes, his family also maintains a vacation home in Colorado – one of the top two states for second homes for Texans.

Candy: First, why do you think the vacation-home market has remained so strong even during a slow time for primary real estate?

 Marcus: You have to consider the buyers in the second-home market. They are buying these homes because they want to, not because they need to. The economic slowdown obviously hasn’t hurt these people as much. They still have money to spend, and they want to spend it on vacation homes that they and their entire families can enjoy. Because of this, the second-home market isn’t as impacted by the ups and downs of the economy.

Candy: That’s exactly what we heard at NAREE. The second home market can be rather insulated. It’s easy to enjoy a vacation home while you’re there. But what about when you’re not? That’s the challenge, right, maintaining these homes when you live across the country from them?

Marcus: That can be a challenge. You need to hire a concierge or property management company to take over the day-to-day maintenance of these second homes. You can do little when you live hundreds of miles away. You can’t just leave and forget about that second home once your vacation is over. Who knows what can happen to that property when you’re not there?

Candy: A woman in Dallas has a second home in East Texas, very remote, and the thing BURNED — she didn’t even know it ’till she drove out there! What can the owners of vacation homes expect their concierge services to do for them?

Marcus: Basically, they do everything that you do for your primary residence. There’s the basic upkeep, of course, but they are also there to handle any emergencies. Maybe a front window gets broken. They’ll take care of it. If there’s a leak in your home, they’ll handle it. Need someone to open the gate for a furniture delivery? Your concierge has the keys.

Candy: What about handling rentals? Many owners of vacation homes rent out those homes when they’re not using them. Concierge services can help with that, too, right?

Marcus: Definitely. Good ones screen renters and set up their schedules. They collect the rent and arrange for cleaning afterwards. Plus, they check the home for damage after a stay.

Candy: What questions should vacation-home owners ask when they’re investigating concierge or property management companies?

Marcus: First, ask a company how long it’s been in business. You want to work with a service that has a lot of experience. The more experience a concierge service has, the more prepared it will be to react to any problem. Also, make sure to ask how long a concierge service has worked in your vacation-home market. You don’t want to work with a company that may have many years of experience but has never tried to rent out a condo or home in your vacation home’s neighborhood.

Owners should ask, too, for a complete rundown of concierge services’ fees and what services come with these costs. They should ask how a concierge company will market their vacation homes. That’s important when it comes to securing renters. Finally, ask services how often they’ll check on your vacation property. Ask if they’ll do a complete walk-through after each group of renters checks out.

Candy: Do you have anyone you recommend?

Marcus: There aren’t any nationwide concierge services so you need to find one near your vacation home. In Colorado, I can recommend The Grand Concierge in Winter Park and Frias Properties in Aspen.

Candy: Thanks, Marcus. This conversation makes me want to take another vacation. I think it’s time we checked out YOUR second home in Colorado!

If you have questions about buying, financing and maintaining a second home, feel free to contact Marcus McCue at 972-200-3380, marcusmccue@gmc-inc.com or on Facebook.

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