Find out if teaming up to buy a second home is right for you and your pals.

Given the current strength of the dollar abroad and the fast-moving real estate market at home, you may be thinking about buying a second home at your family’s tried-and-true vacation spot, on a sunny beach, or near your favorite ski destination. But what can your budget realistically get you?

If what your vacation-home fund allows is more fixer-upper than dream home, going in on a purchase with friends or family could be a great way to get much more home for your money. If you’re considering going this route, here’s how to get started.

1. Decide if it’s right for you

“The number-one reason to consider buying a house with friends is that it lowers your investment amount,” advises Bryant McClain, an international real estate expert specializing in luxury vacation properties in the Caribbean. “Unlike timeshares or fractional ownership opportunities, when people go in together and buy a property at market price, they enjoy the equity gains of the traditional real estate market.”

McClain also points out that the best candidates for shared property are those who want to use the home a few weeks a year, then rent out the home the rest of the time. (Just be sure you’re correctly set up to do so.)

Owners also have to be comfortable sharing ongoing expenses, like property management fees, utilities, insurance, and repairs.

2. Lay the legal groundwork

To protect all owners when the unexpected happens, and to avoid hurt feelings and strained friendships, McClain recommends hiring an attorney to set up an LLC, then purchasing the home through that company.

“Owning a property with friends or family is all fun and exciting on the front end, but what happens three years later when somebody wants out?” says Bryant.

Your attorney can draft an operating agreement that clears up expectations on everything from how utilities are shared to how a buyout would work if one owner wanted to sell and the others didn’t.

3. Start searching

Keep in mind that the vacation-home market moves quickly, and with multiple stakeholders needing to agree that a property is the one, it’s best to decide on your shared criteria before you start looking.

This is especially important if you’re searching from afar or if one person will be doing most of the home touring on behalf of the group. That way, when you find the right home, you can put an offer together quickly.

“Treat the whole transaction like a business,” suggests Bryant. “Make a spreadsheet with potential homes, list pros and cons, and ask everyone to vote — that’s where having an odd number of owners comes in handy.”

You should also enlist a local real estate professional with expertise in the destination where you’d like to buy. That person is best qualified to help you identify homes that are a good value, that will perform well in the local vacation rental market, and that are in locations likely to appreciate.

There’s plenty of legwork between “Hey, maybe we should buy a home together” and signing on the dotted line, but if you find the right people to partner with, approach it like a business transaction, and act quickly when you find the perfect home, you’ll be sitting back and enjoying your dream home before you know it.

About the author

Jennifer Lyons
Jen Lyons is a freelance copywriter in Seattle, exploring topics including real estate, travel, and retail.

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