Second Homes Decompress: How To Manage Two Vacation Homes and a Primary Residence

Tahoe Snow

I ran into a friend over the holidays right about the time I was mailing off my water bill, frantically. Seems I had switched from paper to electronic billing, but then the emails never arrived, I got busy, and yes, I faced the holidays with a termination letter from Dallas Water. One of our refrigerators broke down and defrosted because power surges during the ice storm blew the computer panel. Just got the dryer repaired, then the pool heater broke. Our friend has a couple homes he has to maintain, and commiserated: how do you manage to keep up all your homes, I asked?

“It’s almost a full-time job,” he said. “You have these systems — heat, A/C, the pool — and at any given time one or another can go out. That’s why you have multiples.”

This friend keeps an Excel spread sheet of when every bill is due at each home, and lists all the systems — heat, A/C, hot water heaters, pool equipment, appliances, by date and when last repaired. And he never leaves home without it.

There must be an iphone ap for this?

Tahoe Vista sunset

Dallas resident Lisa Harvell has three homes, one in Lake Tahoe, one at Lake Whitney, and one in Dallas.

How does she keep them organized?

I am naturally an organized person, says Lisa. The properties outside of Dallas are very low maintenance. At Lake Whitney, it’s more natural, there’s no grass to mow, and Lake Tahoe is totally rustic.

“All we have used out at the lake is a weed eater,” says Lisa, who works at Timious Real Estate Title & Development.

No Excel tricks for Lisa — “I’m old school,” she says, “I just pay the bills when they come in the mail.”

Do you really use your homes, I asked?

Tahoe Backyard & conservation area Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe

Yes! Lisa and her husband of 44 years go to Lake Whitney, to their two bedroom, two bath log cabin with an awesome porch, almost every weekend in spring and summer. It’s a one and a half hour drive. They hit Lake Tahoe 3 to 4 times a year, flying in to Reno and then driving. That home is also a two bedroom, two bath single family with a great room and huge deck located in Tahoe Vista, population 200, on the north side of the lake.

“As you can tell, I spend half my life on that deck,” she says.

Right now, one son lives in the Tahoe house, which makes upkeep a lot easier.

Does Lisa have any second thoughts about multiple home ownership?

You have to be invested emotionally, she says. She loves being in and around nature, and has no plans to lease her casas.

“I bought them for the love of the area,” she says. “I have a high stress job and need a lot of short trips to decompress.”

Tell us how you manage all your real estate properties, keeping up first, second and third homes… it’s pretty amazing!