How Many Homes Do We Need to Own?

“Owning a home is a joy–and a headache. How much headache can you have if  you have a second home?


My answer to this question is very diplomatic—It depends. Do you need to be rich to own one home? Not necessarily. How about two?

In the mortgage loan underwriting guidance, a second home is located in a resort area, or at least 50 miles from the “first home”. Most big cities have areas where those who can afford to, spend their weekends. For families who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, some popular locations for second homes are Lake Tahoe, or closer to San Francisco, Napa Valley, as well as the Carmel-Monterey area. Some people own cabins in the woods.

We used to own a house in The Sea Ranch that I’ve written about in the past. In 1989, we bought our first “second home” there. Some years later after our daughter Tamar went to college, (and it was a challenging time in the mortgage business), we considered selling it, but it took a while before the market improved, and we could sell it and finally be free from obligation, which was a substantial financial burden.

But since then, we have returned to The Sea Ranch again and again, renting from those who somehow managed to keep their homes.


This area rejuvenates the soul.

When our older daughter, Alona visits us from Paris, we almost always spend a weekend at The Sea Ranch. Now, my wife Elfa and I are here for the Memorial Day long weekend. The house we are staying in is located on the bluff. Through the panoramic windows, we have an unobstructed view of the sunset. From the walk on the trails along the ocean, we get “drunk” on the fresh sea air.

Yesterday, Elfa asked “the question”. If we would have an extra million dollars, would we buy a house here again, which we do not have to rent to others to subsidize the mortgage payments?

For me “extra” means paying off some other debts plus over a million dollars in our mortgages. Since this might take a while, the only solution I see is to start buying lottery tickets in our neighborhood supermarket.

Nevertheless, I suggested checking out what is going on in the local real estate market. There were 26 homes that we saw listed at the real estate office (there are quite a few of them in the area). The Sea Ranch has different areas. We typically rent on the west side close to the water. This time we started with the homes on the east, hilly side and in the forest area. Suddenly, we had a completely different sense of what The Sea Ranch experience can be.


There are trails in the forest, where we picked mushrooms on our previous visits, and the area is close to the Gualala River, where we went swimming with our children years ago in our inflatable boat.

Some homes had secluded gardens, and some an ocean view.

Instead of the six-hour drive to Lake Tahoe, it takes only three hours to drive to The Sea Ranch.

According to our friend, the best local real estate agent, Cindy Kennedy, many buyers who buy here do not need mortgages. Like in San Francisco, where prices are close to what they are here, for the better properties, many buy with cash.

But for the few who need financing, getting a mortgage for a second home can be challenging. I offer solutions in my forthcoming book, “Mortgage Solutions for Smart People: 5 Easy Ways to Get Your Loan Approved”.


A few days before coming here, I discovered that my computer’s hard drive which contains all of my 45,000+ images, has “fallen asleep” and even the “genius” at the Apple store could not wake it up. Luckily, I have all my photography stored “on the cloud”. But it will take a while to download it all onto the new hard drive.

That means that I have the challenge to download some of the old images for the story that I’ve prepared and written in advance for this week. But like in the mortgage business, I found a solution.

The result is what you just finished reading and the photos, which I took in The Sea Ranch with my iPhone and simply emailed to my assistant Samantha, who puts together my Good News stories. It is amazing what this little box can do in capable hands. As you can see, my wife Elfa and I now photograph together.



Best Wishes,