Vacation Home Search Tips

Imagine the comfort and convenience of having your own vacation home located less than 90 minutes from downtown Chicago!  Vacation home sales are on the rise, but the search can seem daunting.  Where should buyers begin?  According to Tammy Barry, the director of sales and marketing at Heritage Harbor Ottawa Resort there are five important aspects buyers should keep in mind when looking for a vacation home:

1. Amenities to Suit Your Lifestyle
First, buyers should make sure any vacation home they consider offers the lifestyle and recreational amenities they value most, advises Barry. “After all, a vacation home is all about how you want to spend your valuable free time, so think hard about what activities you want to have nearby,” she said. “For instance, many buyers choose Heritage Harbor Ottawa for their vacation home because they want a boating lifestyle with a full-service harbor, a great waterfront location and the camaraderie of the marina environment. Plus, our location in Starved Rock Country offers a great active lifestyle with access to state parks for hiking, the beautiful I&M Canal Trail for biking, and areas for fishing, watching wildlife and more.” 

Barry suggests vacation home buyers should spend ample time in an area before deciding to purchase a second home there in order to experience the full lifestyle the location offers and see how they will spend their time. “It’s also a great idea to visit during different seasons to see if it is a vacation home destination you can enjoy year-round,” she said. 

2. Convenient location
According to Barry, it is also important for buyers to think about a second home location in terms of the logistics of traveling there. “Buyers should be realistic about how much traveling they are willing to do to get to and from a vacation home,” she said. “Most people want a location within two hours of their primary residence so they can get maximum use out of their second home without spending a lot of time in the car or having to purchase expensive airline tickets.” 

She added that in a major metro area like Chicago, traffic patterns and rush hour are a factor, too. “Think about whether a location will allow you to avoid typical traffic issues,” Barry said. “For example, Starved Rock Country is a great second home choice for anyone living in the southwest or western suburbs because they don’t have to go through or around Chicago to get to Ottawa. That can be a big time savings, particularly during rush hour.” 

3. Sense of Community
Many buyers are also looking for a second home where they’ll enjoy the same sense of community and belonging they have at their primary residence, noted Barry. “One of the main reasons for purchasing in a favorite vacation destination is the opportunity to put down roots and feel like you belong,” said Barry. “That’s why buyers have so much appreciation for the tight-knit community among our residents at Heritage Harbor, where neighbors really become friends, not to mention the small-town charm of Ottawa itself. Everybody knows each other and people can relax and enjoy the slower pace of the local scene.” 

4. Memories to Cherish
Another top priority for a number of vacation home buyers is having a place for family and friends to spend quality time together. “Buyers often want to be able to step away from their busy day-to-day lives and go somewhere where they can focus on their loved ones and create amazing memories,” said Barry. “We have quite a few residents who think back fondly on their own childhood and the special places their families spent time together, and they want to recreate that same legacy for their own kids and grandkids.”  

Barry added that for these buyers, a vacation home where they can live a simpler lifestyle with their family and friends is imperative. “At Heritage Harbor, they want to do things like skip rocks in the river with kids, sit around a bonfire with friends, or have family game night after a day out on the water,” she said. “The focus is really on the time spent together.” 

5, Value and Rental Income
While a vacation home is a luxury purchase for most buyers, value is still often a deciding factor for those in the market for a second home, according to Barry. “We see many buyers who are attracted to Ottawa not only because they love the lifestyle they will enjoy here, but also because they can still get a good value on a second home compared with other popular destinations, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, where the market is maxed out and prices are higher,” said Barry. “Here, buyers realize they are still getting in early on a market where prices haven’t peaked.” 

Another factor for some buyers is the home’s potential as a vacation rental property. “For many homeowners, renting out their vacation home when they aren’t using it themselves can be a good option to offset the cost of ownership,” said Barry. “Many resort communities like Heritage Harbor also offer rental management services to residents, which simplifies what goes into renting out the home such as maintenance and cleaning as well as marketing the property.” 

For information on Heritage Harbor Ottawa Resort and available homes and vacation rentals, call (815) 433-5000 or visit their website

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