“If you live in San Francisco and the pipes freeze in Tahoe, do you really want to drive up there?” asks Hehman. “I think when people purchase a second home, it’s an emotional decision and they really need to understand what they’re getting into.”

Just remember, though: Calculating the financial returns alone doesn’t add up all the rewards from second homes. After all, says Sowers, when was the last time you spent a getaway weekend in the comfy environs of your investment portfolio?

take the two-home plunge
the national association of realtors has a few tips before diving into the second-home market. at the top of the list:

do your research. is the home a comfortable travel distance from your primary residence? consider renting a place before buying one, so you get a close-up look at an area before putting your money down.

ask around; see what the locals have to say about the real-estate market and where the best values are.

shop around. there are a multitude of local freebies listing real estate. more and more online sites include a wealth of information. not surprisingly, the nar also suggests you get a great local realtor to do a lot of the footwork.

affordable second addresses

love the mountains but hate the price tag? take heart. escapehomes.com listed the top emerging second-home markets in the country — with an eye on affordability. some of their picks may surprise you.

darby, montana
fairmont, minnesota
fergus falls, minnesota
gualala, california
kern river, california
north fork valley, colorado
pinetop-lakeside, arizona
sisters, oregon
sitka, alaska
spearfish, south dakota