Many use “investment property” and “second home” interchangeably, but it’s crucial to differentiate these real estate types due to their unique purposes and financial implications.
An investment property is acquired primarily for income, through renting or renovation for profit. It demands active management and maintenance to ensure financial performance. Examples include rental apartments, commercial spaces, or homes bought for income potential.
In contrast, a second home is a personal retreat, not for income. It’s a getaway, vacation spot, or potential retirement location, prioritizing lifestyle and personal benefits over financial returns. The key distinction lies in their purpose and use.
What Is an Investment Property?
An “investment property” possesses distinct characteristics:
- Non-Primary Residence: It’s not your primary home; it serves specific purposes.
- Income Generation: The main goal is income generation. This can be achieved through renting, appreciation, or tax benefits.
Investment properties take various forms and cater to diverse financial goals, offering flexibility in real estate investment.
Examples of Investment Properties:
- Residential Rentals: Houses or apartments meant for renting, providing steady income and potential appreciation.
- Commercial Properties: Real estate used for businesses, like offices, retail spaces, warehouses, and industrial facilities, generating rental income and long-term growth.
- Properties for Flipping: Investors buy, renovate, and resell properties for profit, increasing their value through improvements.
These examples showcase the diversity of investment properties and the strategies investors use to meet their financial objectives, whether it’s rental income, long-term appreciation, or strategic property enhancement.
What Is a Second Home?
A “second home” is a residential property meant for part-time occupancy alongside the primary residence.
To secure a mortgage for a second home, specific criteria usually apply. It should be in a vacation destination, like mountains or coastlines, or located at least 50 miles away from the borrower’s primary residence. Borrowers must also meet credit and other underwriting conditions.
Examples of Second Homes:
Second homes are primarily vacation properties but come in various forms:
- Vacation Getaway: These offer a break from daily life in scenic spots like beaches, mountains, or lakesides.
- City Pied-à-Terre: In cities, they act as a base for frequent business or urban visits, providing convenience and familiarity.
- Regularly Visited Properties: Some serve for frequent visits, like a city condo for business trips, offering a comfortable stay during work-related visits.
These examples show the versatility of second homes, catering to leisurely getaways or practical needs for those with multiple locations for work and relaxation. Second homes provide a way to enjoy different settings while maintaining a central base.
How similar are investment property and second homes?
Investment properties and second homes share similarities as they are both properties used without being your primary residence. For both, property owners are responsible for maintenance, repairs, property taxes, insurance, and utility bills. Both types of properties can potentially increase in value over time, and owners may be eligible for specific tax deductions or benefits.
Mortgage loans are accessible to qualified borrowers seeking to purchase an investment property or a second home. However, the terms and interest rates can differ based on various factors, including your credit history, the lender you choose, and other individual circumstances.
How Do Investment Properties and Second Homes Differ?
In simple terms, property falls into two main categories: investment property and second homes. Investment properties are primarily acquired for profit, while second homes are meant for personal enjoyment.
When it comes to mortgages, second homes are typically easier to secure and more affordable than investment properties. However, both types come with stricter lending requirements compared to primary residences.
Mortgage rates are heavily influenced by the property’s “occupancy” status, which falls into three categories: primary, second home, and investment. Lenders often charge higher interest rates for second homes and investment properties due to the associated risks. During financial hardship, homeowners prioritize their primary residences, prompting lenders to increase interest rates by 0.50 to 0.875 percentage points over primary residence rates. If you have a low credit score and a small down payment, the rate difference may be even more significant.
Investment properties typically require larger down payments compared to second homes to mitigate the risk of default. A typical minimum down payment for a second home is 10%, while a single-family investment property may demand 15% to 20%. For two- to four-unit multifamily investment properties, the down payment could go up to 25%. However, homebuyers willing to reside in one unit of a multifamily home for at least a year may qualify for an FHA-backed loan with as little as 3.5% down. The VA guarantees no down payment loans for eligible military borrowers, allowing the purchase of properties with up to seven units, provided they live in one of them.
Meeting the requirements for a second home or investment property mortgage is generally more challenging than for a primary residence. Many lenders demand a minimum credit score of 720 for second home purchases and 700 for investment properties with the lowest allowable down payment. You may also need to demonstrate sufficient cash reserves to cover two home payments for up to six months, as well as adequate income to cover both properties. In most cases, rental income from an investment property cannot be used for qualification unless you have demonstrated property management experience in your tax returns.
To offset the mortgage payment on your investment property, you might be able to include up to 75% of expected rental income. However, lenders offering this option may require a specialized appraisal analyzing local rent prices, making investment property appraisals more costly. Some lenders might also ask you to prove prior rental property management experience to credit you for potential rent income. An exception is the FHA loan program, which permits lenders to factor in anticipated or actual rental income on a two- to four-unit property, even if you lack landlord experience, as long as you reside in one of the units for at least 12 months.
Deciding Between Investment Property and Second Home: Factors to Take Into Account
When deciding between an investment property and a second home, start by clarifying your purpose for the property: whether it’s for profit or personal enjoyment. If you’re financing the purchase, closely examine the loan terms. Investment property loans often come with higher interest rates and require a larger down payment, usually around 20%, in contrast to second home loans that typically offer lower interest rates.
Additionally, choose the right location, considering factors like the rental market (if applicable) or the property’s appeal as a vacation destination. Finally, thoroughly assess all associated expenses, including mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, and potential income. This analysis will help you make an informed decision regarding the type of property and whether it represents a prudent investment.
How Do I Finance an Investment Property or Second Home?
When it comes to financing, securing a mortgage for a primary residence is more straightforward and cost-effective. During financial challenges, people prioritize payments for their main homes, leading to stricter lending requirements for second home and investment property loans in comparison to primary residences.
Both second home and investment property mortgages necessitate higher credit scores and more substantial down payments than primary residence loans. Additionally, you may need to demonstrate financial reserves sufficient to cover payments for up to six months and have the income to support two mortgage payments (primary residence and second home or investment property).
Generally, rental income from an investment property cannot be used for qualification, unless your tax returns confirm property management experience, with certain exceptions. To gain further insights, consult with a mortgage lender.
It’s generally more affordable and easier to secure a second home mortgage compared to financing an investment property, which typically presents more substantial challenges.
Stamp duty rules for second homes
Since September 2022, stamp duty on second homes has incurred a higher rate than the standard rate for primary residences, with an extra 3% surcharge. Stamp duty is a tax applicable when purchasing property or land, calculated on a tiered scale. The value of the property determines the amount of stamp duty payable.
For your primary residence, the initial £250,000 incurs a 0% charge, but for a second home, this amount is subject to a 3% charge, and so on, increasing through the subsequent tiers. As an example, if you acquired your first property for £200,000, there would be no stamp duty to pay, whereas for a second home, you would owe £6,000.
This surcharge is not applicable to second homes valued below £40,000 or to properties classified as ‘movable.’ If you intend to purchase a caravan, mobile home, or a houseboat, you would be exempt from stamp duty (though mortgages are generally not available for these properties).
Even if you’ve purchased a second home with the intention of eventually making it your primary residence, you are still obligated to pay the additional 3% surcharge. However, if you sell your first property within three years, you can seek a refund from HMRC for this amount.