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My husband and I have always considered ourselves savers. When we want something new, whether it's a vacation, furniture, or an updated phone, we're unlikely to simply withdraw that money from our savings account. Rather, we work to cut back on other things and, if possible, earn extra money to cover the item in question. 

One thing we've been saving for over the course of several years is a vacation home. In fact, in the past two years, I've taken on a lot of extra work as a freelancer to make that happen.

Based on our finances, we thought 2020 might be the year to take the leap. We had socked away enough cash for a nice down payment, plus extra to furnish the home in question. We thought we were set. But then the coronavirus outbreak hit, and that plan went to pieces.

Fear of the unknown held us back

Despite the fact we'd saved the cash to put down on a second home, my husband and I were well aware we'd need to continue paying for and maintaining that property. And part of our plan was to rent it out on a partial basis to help cover our costs. 

But when the pandemic began and unemployment numbers started to skyrocket, we realized we should delay our second home search. We've both been doing what we do for quite some time, but you never know whether an economic crisis could put your job on the line. And given the recession, we didn't want to lock ourselves into a new mortgage at a time when things were so uncertain. We also recognized it would be a logistical nightmare to rent out that property during the outbreak. As such, we decided 2020 would not, in fact, be the year to buy a vacation home.

Inventory was an issue, too

Of course, it wasn't only financial uncertainty that caused us to shift our plans. Housing inventory has been extremely limited all over the country due to the pandemic and recession. And that held true in the area where we wanted to buy. We didn't really like any of the few available homes on the market. On top of which, we weren't excited about paying an extra 10% to 20% for them due to inflation in the housing market. We knew we'd likely qualify for a low mortgage rate, but when we ran the numbers, we saw the extra costs would more than cancel out the savings we'd reap.

Refocusing and rethinking our plans

We haven't spent the money we'd earmarked for a vacation home down payment, so that option may still be on the table for another year. But interestingly, the delay caused my husband and I to reevaluate our desire to buy a second home. At this point, we're not so sure we even want one. 

When you buy a home, there's always the risk your property taxes will go up, maintenance costs could rise, and repairs can sneak up on you. And while we have a healthy emergency fund, we realized we'd need to pad it a lot more to feel truly comfortable buying a second home. 

Also, our goal in buying a second home was to have a place of our own in an area we typically visit every year. But we realized something else. As much as we like to return to the same place, we also like to explore new parts of the country. So the extent to which we'd actually use that second home is questionable. It might actually make more sense for us to continue to rent a home when we want to visit the area, or stay with friends who have a property there. 

All told, the craziness of 2020 meant we put off a very large purchase, but that purchase may not be right for us after all. And now, as we wait for life to start to creep back to normal, we can reassess our goals and see where those discussions take us.