I am writing this article on our way to our happy place in the South Island of New Zealand. This must be our tenth or twelfth visit to this region, but it has been nearly three years since we have visited. I miss our mountains and lakes.
Despite having been so often we have never been tempted to buy property in the locale, though we have had plenty of opportunities to do so. We first visited Wanaka for example in 1986, when you could buy lakefront property for way less than a suburban bedsit in Wollongong.
Other than it just being not on our agenda, the major reason has been that this is a “sometimes” thing for us, we have no aspirations to move here though we could live comfortably and happily quite easily. We prefer to treat our albeit regular visits as just that, a visit which we enjoy immensely, that is an enjoyable experience, but one which we look forward to before our departure, and look back fondly on our return home. It is not a permanent thing.
Good friends of ours purchased rural acreage many years ago, and consistently spent EVERY weekend there. One of their children now calls the farm home.
The point of all of this ramble is that you don’t have to own a little piece of paradise to enjoy it. If as we do with New Zealand, your visits are short and intermittent it usually makes more sense economically to either rent a place, or stay in a hotel, regardless of the expense. Ownership of property anywhere in the world usually costs much more than a weeks accommodation in the finest hotel in town, simply because you are not paying for the hotel room all year, whether you are staying there or not. On the other hand, the more regular your visits become, the more viable it is to purchase a property in your Happy Place. Long days spent looking in the Real Estate agents window will not help you to make the right decision, some time with a calculator and a pen can often help. An independent viewpoint from a friend or trusted adviser can also be of benefit, it takes the emotion out of it.
One of the advantages of owning rather than renting is that you can have all of your stuff available without having to bring it with you. Boogie boards, beach umbrellas, ski gear, gumboots, whatever it might be, are always best when accessible when you want to use them, and if like me you can be a forgetful soul, they are often left at home when you walk out for your day at the beach – they are also a pain to pack and transport. The disadvantage is that you are tied to one location, We love to travel around on our trips to New Zealand, staying a night or two here and there, then moving on. It is much the same when we holiday in Australia.
Not all decisions are economic ones of course, but speaking from experience, as families grow larger, both in physical size and in number, the opportunity to spend some time at a really large beachfront home where everyone can come together and enjoy both the location and each other’s company can be quite appealing. The cost of building and owning such a place can be prohibitive, and indeed, the cost of renting it might also give you nosebleeds, but spread across the number of family members, it is often affordable, at least somewhat. I am not going to tell you where my favourite South Coast location is of course, because you might beat me to the punch when booking.
Before you take the plunge and ruin your happy place by owning part of it, consider what it is that makes it perfect, how often you are likely to visit, and what the availability of alternative places to stay is. You might find that buying a place is the best alternative for you, but it is not the only way.