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Should You Take Up Residence in Your Vacation Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

Apr 16, 2020 by Maurie Backman

Though COVID-19 cases have been popping up in all corners of the country, those living in major cities, in particular, may feel that they're at a higher risk than the average American. And given the way New York City has evolved into the outbreak's epicenter, that fear is by no means unfounded.

It's for this reason that some people are seeking out COVID-19 retreats -- rental properties in more remote areas of the country where they can socially distance more easily. But local officials are frowning on that practice, and some are even taking steps to prohibit it. Take Florida, for example, which recently imposed a ban on short-term rentals.

But while you may not have the option to rent a property right now, what if you already own a vacation home in a more remote location? Technically, since that property is yours, you have the right to occupy it whenever you choose. So should you pack your bags and head to that second home? Or should you continue to shelter in your primary home -- wherever it happens to be?

The case for staying put

When you own a home in a scenic or remote location, escaping to it can hold appeal. But there's a danger in taking up residence in a small town or village right now: If you go that route and a lot of other people do the same, you'll stretch that area's limited resources dangerously thin.

Imagine you live in a major city. That city probably has a dozen or more supermarkets you can access and several major hospitals and healthcare facilities. Now, think about the beach house you might own in a tiny town with one supermarket and a small hospital equipped to treat a handful of emergency patients at once. If too many people invade that town, you'll at the very least make it more difficult for locals to get the food and supplies they need. And in a more dangerous scenario, you'll risk overwhelming the one hospital in town.

This very situation is playing out right now in the New York City area, where a large number of people own beach homes along the Jersey Shore. Most shore towns are used to an influx of visitors and residents during the summer months. Right now, however, they're ill-equipped to handle a surge of shoppers in supermarkets and patients in hospitals, and so property owners are being strongly urged not to occupy their second homes -- even if they have the right to do so.

Another thing to remember is that there's a danger in traveling right now. Stopping for gas or to use a public restroom could mean interacting with more people who may be capable of transmitting COVID-19 or are at a higher risk of contracting it, and that's a chance you really don't need to take right now.

Tempting as it may be to flee to your vacation home, doing so could put an undue strain on a small town's resources and put you in a position where you risk not being able to get the supplies or care you need. While you may be desperate for a change of scenery right about now, your best and safest bet may be to do exactly what health officials are saying: Just stay home.

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