Town and Country Living
by Greg Kagay
Is it right for you?
Have you ever thought about buying a weekend place in the country? I myself am a city escapee, having for several years worked weeks in the city (New York) and retreated on weekends to the country (East Hampton). Starting my little Jeep, which was waiting for me at the train station when I arrived on Fridays, was the happiest moment of my week. This town and country setup served me extremely well. (Ultimately I gave up on the city aspect and moved to the Texas hill country outright.)
For career-minded folks in Austin and San Antonio, the Texas hill country is a great consideration for a nearby weekend retreat. Country homes can serve many purposes for city dwellers. A weekend home offers a place to recreate with friends and family, with plenty of elbow room that sometimes does not exist on small city lots. Country retreats put one into frequent close proximity to nature and outdoor activity. They also offer useful constraints. For anyone overburdened with big-city social obligations, a not-too-distant weekend retreat offers a great excuse to be away from tertiary "opportunities", like company picnics and nephews' recitals.
With modern technology, country living is easier than ever. The Wall Street Journal, most magazines, and most books are delivered instantly to your phone and tablet over cell service. Fast wi-fi for streaming movies and games is already available across much of the hill country, and service areas are expanding as providers build out their wireless networks. (So-called 5G networks promise even better user experiences in the not-too-distant future.) Finally, with satellite television, sports and other television programs are just as available in the country as in the city.
Town or Country, Which is Primary?
A weekend retreat offers a place to entertain, read, cook, and/or craft. Or as a headquarters to explore the region. For cyclists, one makes a great club house from which to take advantage of the tremendous hill country roads. I encourage city dwellers to think big. Or, at least, think differently. In my experience as a former town and country career man, I emphasized my country home as my primary home, and my city apartment as something more like a hotel room. My city place was small and simple, a spot at which to sleep while working and from which to focus on big-city enjoyment of restaurants and attractions, not at-home puttering. I minimized my financial and maintenance upkeep investments in my city place (I only ever rented there), putting all of my nesting energy into my country home. This country-bias may not be for everyone, but it worked very well for me.
Investing in the Texas Hill Country
Anyone considering a country retreat should consider the investment potential. In addition to stocks and bonds, most money managers encourage inclusion of real estate as its own asset class in one's portfolio. Although not especially liquid, real estate tends to be a favorable inflation hedge. That is unless a property is not maintained, or the local market becomes less favorable. At present, the long-term value trends of the hill country appear favorable. Tremendous investment here in wineries, distilleries, restaurants, beer gardens and other attractions is being met with strong visitation trends. Combined with our state's population growth, the geographic beauty of the hill country along with its existing infrastructure suggest property in this region should hold its relative value well.
Another investment consideration for a country retreat is rentability. Whether one rents one's country home to friends and family only, or offers if for rental online through portals such as airbnb.com or homeaway.com, a country retreat could be more affordable than you think. It could even be a favorable side business.
Of course owning a second home presents not only opportunities bus also responsibilities and, well, inconveniences. I don't recommend owning a second home to anyone who is not already a good steward of their primary home, either through do-it-yourself efforts or do-it-for-me third-party management. Whichever route you choose, even a mix of both, adding a second residence adds complication.
Another aspect of country living important to consider is patience. Wherever one is in the hill country, one is never surrounded by a diversity of grocery stores and home centers, like in big cities. When things break, one may have to wait a few days to receive replacement or repair parts by mail, or to visit a city with a Lowe's or Home Depot. And the average small town grocery will not have the wide assortment of, say, mushrooms that your big city Whole Foods or Central Market offers. Favorably, unlike for us full-time country folks, anyone commuting back and forth on the weekends is in an enviable position to easily re-provision regularly.
If you are curious about or interested in investing in a Texas hill country weekend retreat, contact me to get started pursuing your town and country lifestyle.