Saturday, September 6, 2014

Home, Sweet Second Home

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: This is going to sound strange coming from someone who is going to be paying college tuition through 2022 (!) but lately I've been thinking about second homes. It might have been prompted by my next-door neighbors, who have relocated to a beautiful modern condo with  fabulous view of the Rockies, but who still own their historic country house in Maine - a future summer home. 

Maybe it was seeing pictures of Marcia Talley's new beachfront  Bahamas cottage. Or it could have started last November, when I fled Maine's gloomy, chill weather during my book tour and landed in Scottsdale, having dinner poolside with Rhys and totally envying her for being able to relocate there every fall. I have a Maine friend who's just purchased a house on the Big Island of Hawaii and a Florida cousin considering a place in Vermont. If I could afford it, I would definitely jump on the bandwagon. My grandmother used to say land was the only thing worth investing in - they weren't making any more of it. (Of course, she was a farmer's daughter, and didn't live to see the crash of '08. She might advise differently now.) The big question would be: where? How to decide?

Living in a cold climate, someplace warm - Hawaii, Arizona, Florida - sounds very tempting. On the other hand, maybe a place with four seasons would be more fun. I've long thought a four-season lakefront cottage in Maine's Lake region, with swimming and skiing all within easy reach, would be ideal.

Someplace isolated, where I could be alone with my thoughts 
and writing, like a rustic Adirondack lodge? Or plunge into the social and intellectual life of New York City in a pied a terre? Near my family in northern Virginia in a Wisconsin Avenue, D.C. apartment? Or near my family in Alabama, in a waterfront home in artsy Fairhope? Or maybe Ross and I could have a traveling home - a restored Airstream trailer or a forty-foot sailboat. So many choices!

How about you, Reds? If money and travel time were no object, what would be your dream second home? If you already have one, like Rhys, is it as sweet as it appears? Do you have another place you'd consider going?


JULIA: A woman who knows her own mind. Rhys?

RHYS BOWEN: I really enjoy escaping from the brutal California winters to Arizona, Julia. We love being out in the desert and the fabulous sunsets and the fun life in Scottsdale (having Barbara and Poisoned Pen close by is a huge plus). But a third place? It's complicated enough remembering which items we left where right now, although we have pretty much equipped both places to be self sustaining. What I love about the condo is it's light, modern, 16 foot ceiling,uncluttered,  lovely landscaped grounds (that someone else takes care of), pools and spas. It's like an extended vacation for me. 

But I do secretly hanker after a little cottage in an English village, so that I can put my basket over my arm and go to buy eggs from the farmer. Or maybe a house in the  South of France, overlooking the Med. I do love beaches.... but not Hawaii or Mexico. Maybe a Greek Island? All to myself? Next to Onasis's one? I'd better write harder and faster.....

JULIA: I Mentioned to my daughter that you had a place in Arizona. She said, "Wait - doesn't Ms. Bowen live in California?" I pointed out it does get foggy and damp. Reared in Maine, she was extremely dubious.

LUCY BURDETTE: We are lucky dogs already to spend half
the year in Key West and half in Connecticut. But that doesn't stop me from imagining a little place in New York City. Greenwich Village maybe, where I could step outside and grab a bite to eat any time of night or day. And attend a lot of shows and even an occasional opera. And wander around getting to know the nooks and crannies. But then I read the real estate section in the Sunday New York Times and realize I've lost my marbles:). I would however, definitely visit Hank in Paris. And Rhys in England or the south of France. Standing by for the invite...

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Do any of you lovely Reds need a caretaker for your already existing second homes in the off season? With a husband, a son, a mother-in-law, a new foster son and two cats, I volunteer!

JULIA: Susan, my philosophy is that if you don't own a vacation home, you need friends who do!

How about you, dear readers? Are you second home owners already? Or do you have the perfect spot already picked out?


  1. A second home? How about Hawaii?
    We have just one place to call home, but it's fun to think about having another place as well . . . .

  2. My ideal second home would be that adorable little Airstream type trailer you've pictured, Julia. As Donald gets closer to retirement, the more I find us looking at this sort of thing. It's come as a huge surprise to me that this is something I'm even considering, but I am, and I'm getting pretty excited about it.

  3. Ah, impossible thoughts (although, having three book contracts seemed impossible just a few years ago, so maybe I'd better stay open to the possible).

    As a native Californian, I'd love a cottage near Santa Barbara. Gorgeous beaches. Shorts and farmers' markets all year round. Fresh citrus, plus strawberries in March. And when the "marine layer" sets in, all you have to do is drive up into the Santa Barbara mountains to the hot sunny wine country.

  4. I know, but there was just no question about it, especially Julia, since you said we didn't have to consider time and travel.

    AIrstream? Uh, see, that's where we part ways. Funny, Kaye--that was something that evolved?

    J and I always discuss whether we should get a second place, like in Truro maybe. But then we think--then we'd always have to go there, and feel guilty if we went somewhere else. And then we sigh, and then the topic is closed. For the day, at least.

  5. I love, love, love Cape Cod. A nice house close to the beach--and decorated like the house in "Something's Gotta Give." Seafood every night. Sand between my toes. Is that too much to ask for?

  6. It's an interesting question Hank poses: second home, but needing to stay put (from guilt or limited finances) or instead travel.

    We're more the homebody types (although we do travel) and knew we wanted a place on a northern lake with sunset views. We bought the land in 1997, built a rustic cabin (read that as no running anything) and built a house in 2005 when the second of us retired.

    No looking back on that decision. We love it. A few years ago we traded Cincinnati's gray winters for Savannah's hardly know its winter (although that doesn't stop natives from complaining about the "cold.")

    With enough money to spend on caretakers I'd go for a third place in the mountains. Not going to happen, though.

    ~ Jim

  7. Hank - definitely something that evolved. I'm still kinda stunned by it. I think I sense the beginning of a blog at work here . . .

  8. We had the incredible luck - really, out of the blue- to be loaned a house in Nice (old city, 2 minutes from Promenade!) If we're daydreaming, I certainly could be persuaded, even though I tend to be an Anglophile. Rhys's village looks good to me. Or maybe a return to the beautiful and relatively undiscovered St. Lawrence/1,000 Islands of my childhood.

  9. A second home sounds like one more thing to take care of. But homestays in different parts of the world - that I could do. Rome & Prague & Paris - a month in each city. Tuscany ...the Cotswalds ...Provence . . .

  10. RAIN ON THE PARADE DEPARTMENT: As someone who grew up in a two-home family, here's what I've been saying since I inherited the care of the cottages in the early 1970's-- UNLESS YOU ARE FILTHY RICH, IF YOU DIDN'T INHERIT A SECOND HOME, IF IT IS NOT A DEEP PART OF YOUR DNA, STICK WITH JUST ONE ABODE.

    Elizabeth Holzman, who served in Congress from-- I think it was Brooklyn-- about 30 years ago, said that having two apartments, one in New York and one in Washington, meant that "the milk is never fresh in either place."

    I know what she meant. I would go to the grocery store and think, "Oh, I need tissues and dish soap," but I wouldn't remember which house needed those things and I'd wind up with six bottles of dish soap in the city and still have to run out and buy another the next time I went up to the cottages. Or I would have a trunkful of such items cooking in the car all week long so that I could get them to the right place.

    Having two houses means two roofs to leak and two (or more) toilets that get stopped up-- and having to find competent (and reasonable) handymen and plumbers in two places. And if you can't afford daily (or at least weekly) maid service, it means that you clean the city place like crazy on Friday afternoon/evening (if you don't, you'll just come home to the waiting mess) and then you spend much of Saturday traveling to and cleaning up the cottage, shopping for and putting away groceries, etc. And by the time you've finished, you're too tired to enjoy the place.

    And don't get me started on the day after a large family gathering, when I would go to the laundromat and load seven or eight washers with sheets, towels, etc. (Why keep your usage to a minimum when either a grandparent, a parent, or in my case, the eldest sibling, will clean up later?)

    Don't get me wrong-- I LOVED the lake place, and happily wrote several books out there (by staying out there for the summer, after semi-closing up my city place). But the property tax was so high out there-- not to mention the cost of extra utility bills, repairs, and replacements-- that our family could have used that money for one or two annual carefree vacations (with maid service and no responsibility) at a resort somewhere-- or a varying set of somewheres.

    All the places you've mentioned-- South of France, Tuscany, NYC, Hawaii, California, New England, etc.-- what would $12,000+ in annual taxes, all that time and effort and cost for repairs, and all that money tied up in the second home(s)-- have bought in terms of a family gathering at some exotic spot, or the same exotic annual RENTAL spot?

    But of course, since I grew up on that lake, I can picture my grandparents there and see my childhood there in my mind's eye, so I do miss it now it (along with the responsibility for it) are my brother's. (My teenage niece refers to it as her "happy place" but of course, she doesn't have the responsibility for its care, just goes out for a couple of weeks every summer. The responsibility hasn't occurred to her yet.)

  11. We have a condo in Florida and a house in Tennessee. Being European, though, I'd dearly love a little place over there, just to make it easier to visit family and friends. :)

  12. We are now living year round in our Cape Cod summer home -- I miss the more urban life a lot, especially during the winter months. I'm not interested in Florida or other Southern places -- I have a lot of family in California, but we wouldn't move away from our kids/grandkids.
    We are talking about renting a place in New Haven!

  13. Ellen, I hear you. I'd be so worried home number two would be broken into, flooded, set on fire... Traveling in hotels or even renting a home has none of the worry.....

  14. Jim, I definitely envy your places in the UP and Savannah! That would be close to ideal for me and Ross as well.

    Hank, no second home for you and Jonathan until you manage to swim in your pool at least once per summer!

  15. I grew up camping in a travel trailer. I actually like the idea of the freedom that provides. I might be tempted to have one of those be a second home. Then I wouldn't be stuck in any one location but could have fun traveling the country. There are just too many beautiful places to visit.

  16. I'm with the "NO SECOND HOME, PLEASE" crew. One is enough hassle. Though i do love visiting friends with homes in places like (ahem) Key West...

  17. We do have a second home, a farm in rural Kentucky, about an hour away from our home in Cincinnati. It's close enough that we can transport the fresh milk back and forth. I love it, and it is a great spot for either of us to escape, either from one another, or to get to a place where we can just be outdoors more easily. And there's a much greater privacy in the country. It's a peaceful spot.

    My oldest daughter and her husband bought a place in Michigan, north of Traverse City, about eight years ago, and we thought we'd spend time there, too. But it's a ten-hour drive for us (they live in Detroit, only about three hours away), and we found we just did not take the time to go. The farm is close enough we can go and back on the same day if we need to, and we have neighbors and tenants there who keep an eagle-eye on the joint when we aren't there. We also do not have anything of any value there, having furnished it with castoffs and flea market finds.

    Friends of ours have three homes: a huge place in town here, a ranch in Wyoming, and a gorgeous farm near ours. They have staff in Kentucky and Wyoming, which is the only possible way they could manage, and yes, my friend is always bemoaning how she's missing her belongings at one place or another. First world problem, to be sure.

  18. Sorry I didn't get my two cents in yesterday, but I couldn't decide. I can never decide. I used to daydream about Rhys's English cottage. Then I fell in love with London. And I've daydreamed about cottages or farmhouses in the south of France or in Tuscany. But I really love Paris--although not as much as London.

    Actually, I think renting a flat in London for a couple of months a years works out pretty well...

  19. When I had teenagers, I wanted an ultra chique condo in San Francisco or Seattle. Then I fantasized about a cottage on west coast of Ireland. Now I'm thinking, a second home means TWO places I'd have to dust.

  20. I'm thinking of doing a homeswap next summer. A month in Cornwall maybe. Has anybody tried this successfully?

  21. Ah I am among the very fortunate who have two second homes. Both bought on a very middle class income. Both small but in spectacular spots!
    One in Abaco Bahamas, a 500 sq foot beach cottage, the other in the NC mountains, also less than 1000 sq feet. To me it is about the location, and a place that is just for hanging out.

  22. Paris. Hands down. No contest.

  23. I'm so envious of those of you who have second homes in such great places, and all of the "dream home" locations sound fantastic, too. Rhys, a cottage in England would be so amazing, and I think I have that picture pinned on my England board in Pinterest. Your other ideas for homes interest me, too, and, of course, your two homes now are in great locations. Lucy, you may have the perfect arrangement in my mind, Connecticut and Key West. I've often dreamed of a second home in Key West, but I'm not sure I want to give up my arm and leg to get it. LOL! Julia, all the places you mentioned would make me happy, except the airstream and the sailboat. I need something stationary. Hank, I'm thinking Paris would be wonderful to visit, but maybe the French countryside would suit me more for a home.

    In addition to dreams of mine for a cottage in England or a chill pad in Key West, I would love to have a second home in my hometown, about 250 miles from where I now live. I have family and friends in my hometown, and although I haven't lived there for 38 years, it is my familiar place, the place of my growing up memories, and I think I would really enjoy visits there to my own place.

  24. Who needs to maintain two places? If I could manage it I'd make regular visits to Cradle Mountain Lodge in Tasmania. My favourite place in the world. (That I've been to...)

  25. My reply is based on the assumption that if I could afford a second home, I could also afford the staff to maintain it in my absence! So, I'd buy a home in the place where I've been vacationing for most of the past 22 years, Chincoteague, VA. I just returned from another trip there and am already homesick for it. Even though my rest-of-the-year-home is in an area that people visit for the beaches, I find that all beaches are different, and I never run out of things to do or see when I'm in Chincoteague.

    And as much as I do love my year-round city, I'd be happier in a warmer climate. So, to continue my fantasy, maybe Chincoteague could be my winter home (it's a few degrees warmer than my CT town) and I could winter farther south, or anywhere that the temperature stays between 78 and 83 - this is MY daydream, so I can ask for that if it want to!

  26. Husband and I ended up in Louisville, KY. It was just where the best job was. We have come to love the place! Theatre, opera, orchestra...not to mention bourbon and horses and friends developed over 40 years.

    If money were no object (which it always is), husband would want a place in Maine on the ocean. Long ago we decided that if we owned such a place, it would be the ONLY place we ever went. So, to solve our Maine cravings, we rent from an agency that we have used for several decades. Then we come home to many friends and many activities---and very little snow. Plus we feel free to travel to lots of places--in the US and abroad.

  27. Every winter I think about "snowbird" friends who head off to warmer climes . . . and Hawaii does appeal. I also once considered not returning to the cruise ship and just staying on Mykonos . . . good to dream!

  28. I would choose a place near the beach--a condo or cottage but not on the beachfront--and I'd only go in the off season. This is very common where I live.

    My neighbors on one side have a place in Florida, so they disappear in the winter. My neighbors on the other side have a place at the shore (NJ, so it's the shore not the beach), so they are gone all summer. I'm always keeping an eye on somebody's house.

    No one here mentioned hunting camps. Two of my uncles have invested in places that are second homes, a weekend at a time. They are older now and don't hunt anymore, so it turns out to be a bunch of old men barbequing for weekends at a time. No ladies allowed. No ladies want to be allowed.

  29. Kaye, my father was mad, mad, mad for Airstreams and he finally got one. But his wife at the time couldn't have been less interested--would not drive the truck or go anywhere. took the wind out of his sails. But I still have a fondness for them...

    Ellen, you're so practical! Good for us to hear the other side...

    Denise, New Haven has really come up in the world since I moved there in 1985. Lots of good restaurants and culture.

    Rhys, have not tried swapping. Having pets really limits the options:) as my hub is quick to point out...