By Marni McEntee


Rubbing elbows with your kids around a wooden table, playing cards or Monopoly or, gasp! Just talking.

Crashing through the woods on your roaring, well-oiled sled or, sipping fragrant, hot tea on your front porch as the sun rises over the steamy lake. Your lake.

Those are just some of the lures of a vacation home, and for those with the available resources, it’s all possible with the right planning.

Buying a second home is a financial investment, to be sure. But the rewards can be far more than holding property, says Minocqua real estate agent Mike Meyers.

“You don’t reap those types of benefits with the majority of your investments,” says Meyers, of Coldwell Banker. “Ten years from now you’re going to remember those weekends with family but you’re not going to remember whether the stock market went up or down.”

Rose Freidel, of Deforest, says her husband and son put some sweat equity into building their four-bedroom cabin on Upper Buckatabon Lake in Vilas County in 2004. Since then, it’s become a haven for reconnecting with her kids, and now, a grandson is part of the mix.

“Going to the cabin forces you to leave some of the stress of daily life behind, which, of course, is good for everyone,” Freidel says.


Proximity: Make sure the drive is doable regularly. “You don’t want to panic that you can’t get there when you want,” vacation homeowner Rose
Freidel says.

Build to suit: If you will remodel or build new, think about how you will use the home’s space, says Paul Dybdahl, owner of Dybdahl Design Group in Madison. “Who’s going to use it? Is there going to be a lot of visitors or is it going to be laid out for your private use.”

Get the feel: Dybdahl redesigned a small cottage on Green Lake into a five-bedroom, five-bath family retreat after sitting for many hours with the owners in a lakefront room. “We were looking out on the lake and just hand drawing on sketch pads different ideas of how the views could look,” he says.


Financing a second home is a little different than buying a first home, says Christine Haroldson, vice president of mortgage lending at Summit Credit Union. Here are some pointers:

Most lenders require a 10 percent down payment on a second home; a down payment below 20 percent may mean the buyer has to pay for private mortgage insurance.

The down payment can come from savings, a gift or a secured loan—say on the first home or a lien-free car

Lenders like to see a 43-45 percent debt-to-income ratio, excluding living expenses. The debt includes such things as credit card and car loans, student loans and home loans.

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