I always thought that people who bought second homes were idiots—or gluttons for complication. Two dwellings to pay for, insure, clean, and protect against burglars. Sure, there are warmer climates to consider. I live in Minneapolis, where the windchill hits –20°F in winter. But, folks, that’s why God invented beach resorts.
Now, thanks to my new (and only) grandchild, Maggie Rose—who lives with my son and daughter-in-law in Orlando—I have become one of those second-home-owning idiots. So besotted with her were my husband and I that we blithely plunked down a $330,000 chunk of our savings for a place in Florida just to be near her for half the year.
Buying a second home in the Orlando suburbs seemed easy-peasy. Condos there average $70,000, and we’d only planned on a one-bedroom—how much room could two old fartsters need? But things quickly got out of hand. I wanted to live in a walkable area, so we focused on Celebration, a Disney-built town that looks like the set from It’s a Wonderful Life. One-bedroom condos there cost $150,000.
Then we upped the search to two bedrooms. After all, where would our other son stay when he visited? Add $100,000—enough, upon reflection, to put him up for two years in a nice hotel.
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Then we learned that most condos wouldn’t allow our large dogs, which meant stepping up to a (yet more expensive) townhouse. The one we chose had us removing $330,000 in cash from our savings.
And that was just the first financial cut. There are the homeowners association stuff, about $6,400 plus utilities, and $5,000 in annual property taxes. We had to replace the washer, dryer, and fridge ($2,000) and install two new toilets ($1,000). Don’t mention the air conditioner, which I expect to fail at any second. Furnishings? Don’t ask.
Now comes the tear-in-the-eye part where I say it’s all worthwhile because Maggie is utterly adorable. It’s true—but. During the week, she’s at her babysitter’s while her parents work. Weekends are when the kids have time alone, so we try not to break in—too often.
Then again, last week Maggie created a word just for me—Mee-ma. Joy! And in August, my return on investment will double when the baby we’ve dubbed TBD is due.
Marlys Harris is a former editor-at-large at MONEY and a columnist at MinnPost.com.