Furnishing Your Second Home

When furnishing your second home, don't hastily spend thousands of dollars on items that you may not need. You have the luxury of time when outfitting your second home.

You probably won't use your second home in the same way or with the same frequency that you use your primary home unless you plan to turn it into your primary residence post-retirement. So you must decide what you really need in your new second home and what you really don't need.

To figure this out, you have to know how you're going to use your new place. Ask yourself the following questions, and answer realistically based on your work and lifestyle:

  • How often am I going to use this home?
  • How long will the home be rented out to others?
  • Will my family and friends be using the home?
  • Will I rent the home on a full-time basis until I plan to retire there in five (or however many) years?
  • Am I going to use the home a few times a year and rent it for the rest of the time on a seasonal basis?

Following are three different scenarios pertaining to your second home. In each one, consider what to include when you outfit your place, as well as what not to include:

  • You plan to use your second home only for your own vacation purposes. If this scenario rings true for you, feel free to fill your second home with as many or as few personal touches as you want. If you envision blue carpeting, avocado appliances, and that Hawaiian hula girl lamp that everybody but your husband hates, then decorate to your heart's content because you'll be the only ones who have to navigate it.
  • You plan to use your second home a few times a year, and rent it the rest of the time. Here's where you want to create a cross between a comfortable "homey" home and a hotel room. Doing so means bringing in the basics (and making sure that they're both tasteful and functional), as well as throwing in a few personal touches that say, "Yes, you're using this home now, but it belongs to someone else."
  • You'll rent the home on a full-time basis until you retire there at some point. Stick with the basics and avoid the personal touches if this scenario applies to you. Go with some tasteful living room and dining room furniture, basic bedroom sets, and enough bathroom accoutrements to keep a renter comfortable. Don't bother with personal touches like family photos, and let them bring their own shampoo.

Ultimately, your goal is to create an enjoyable living space without exceeding your budget. Because this won't be your primary home (at least not yet), adopt an "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy. In other words, forgoing that $5,000 grandfather clock that you know would look great in the foyer probably isn't a bad idea. You won't get to see it every day anyway, and why spend that kind of money for an unoccupied house or to make guests or renters happy? Use common sense when spending, create a sense of style that you like, and stick with it for the best results.

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