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Live Your Dream: A Comprehensive Guide to Financing Your Second Home

Matthew Levy Updated: June 27, 2023 • 7 min read
dream vacation house

Having a second home can be a great investment. It not only provides you with a permanent vacation spot, but it can also bring in additional rental income. If you want to buy a second home for your family, it's likely that you'll need a mortgage to finance the purchase. Getting a mortgage for a second home is different from getting one for your primary residence. Lets dive into second home mortgage requirements, types, and strategies. 

A Second Home Can be More Expensive than a First Home

When financing a second home, it's essential to understand the key differences between mortgages for primary residences and second homes. These differences can affect interest rates, down payment, and occupancy requirements, all of which have implications if you're seeking a second mortgage.

Higher interest rates

Second home mortgage interest rates are typically higher than those for primary residences. Rates are higher by anywhere from 0.5% to 1%. The reason for this is that lenders perceive second homes as "riskier" investments compared to primary residences. As a result, they can charge higher interest rates to compensate for the increased risk.

mortgage rates for second homes

Increased down payment requirements

The down payment requirements for second homes also tend to be more stringent than those for primary residences. While it's possible to find mortgages with low down payment options for primary residences, you'll generally need to put down at least 10% to 20% for a second home mortgage. 

Occupancy requirements in place

Some lenders may require that you use your second home for a specific minimum number of days per year or that you don't rent it out for more than a certain period. They want to ensure that the property will be adequately taken care of so that the property value doesn't decline in the long term. Be sure to clarify occupancy requirements with your lender.

Types of Mortgages for Second Homes

There are several types of mortgages available for financing a second home. Here, we'll discuss three common options: conventional, FHA, and VA loans. Each has its own set of pros and cons, which we'll explore to help you determine the best fit for your situation.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are the most common mortgage option for second homes. Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions offer these loans, and they're not generally backed by the federal government. Some key points to consider when it comes to conventional loans include:

  • Interest rates: Conventional loans may have higher interest rates for second homes than primary residences.
  • Down payment: Typically, a down payment of at least 10% to 20% is required for a second home mortgage.
  • Requirements: Conventional loans usually have stricter credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements

FHA Loans

FHA loans are government-backed mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration. While these loans are primarily designed for primary residences, they can also be used for second homes in certain circumstances, such as when you're relocating for work or your family has expanded. Some aspects to consider when it comes to FHA loans include:

  • Interest rates: FHA loans typically offer lower interest rates than conventional loans.
  • Down payment: A down payment as low as 3.5% may be possible, depending on your credit score.
  • Requirements: FHA loans tend to have more lenient credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements than conventional loans. However, using an FHA loan for a second home can be more complicated, as you'll need to meet specific conditions. 

VA Loans

VA loans are government-backed mortgages available to eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and certain surviving spouses. Although these loans are primarily intended for primary residences, they can be used for second homes in certain cases, such as when you're relocating for military reasons. Key factors to consider with VA loans include:

  • Interest rates: VA loans often have competitive interest rates.
  • Down payment: VA loans may not require a down payment, depending on your eligibility.
  • Requirements: VA loans generally have more flexible credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements than conventional loans. However, using a VA loan for a second home may be subject to additional restrictions.

When evaluating these mortgage options, it's essential to consider your unique financial situation, eligibility for specific loan types, and long-term goals for your second home. Be sure to consult a mortgage professional to help you make the best decision for your needs. Here is a table for reference:

Mortgage Type

Interest Rates

Down Payment



Typically higher for second homes compared to primary residences

10% to 20% minimum

Stricter credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements


Lower than conventional loans

As low as 3.5% (with specific conditions)

More lenient credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements; second home eligibility may be complicated



None, depending on eligibility

Flexible credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements; additional restrictions may apply for second homes


Second Home Mortgage Requirements

When applying for a mortgage on a second home, lenders will evaluate several factors to determine your eligibility. 

Credit Score

Credit scores play a significant role in the mortgage approval process, as lenders use them to assess creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan. You'll likely need a higher credit score for a second home mortgage than for a primary residence mortgage. Most lenders require a minimum credit score of 620 to 640 for a conventional second home loan, some may even require the 700-750 range. FHA and VA loans may have more lenient requirements.



Lenders also consider your income, as you'll need to demonstrate a stable and sufficient income to cover both your primary residence and second home mortgage payments. To verify your income, be prepared to provide documentation, such as pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is crucial in the mortgage approval process. This ratio compares your monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income. Lenders generally prefer a DTI ratio of 43% or lower for second home mortgages, but this number can vary.

Improve your chances of meeting these requirements by boosting your credit score, increasing your income, or reducing your debt before applying for a second home mortgage. Addressing these factors proactively allows you to position yourself for a smoother and more successful mortgage application process.

DTI for second home mortgage

Impact of Credit Scores on Mortgage Approval

Credit scores play a vital role in the mortgage approval process and can affect the interest rates offered. Higher credit scores often lead to more favorable interest rates, potentially saving thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage.

Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

To improve your credit score before applying for a 2nd home mortgage, consider these strategies:

  • Review your credit report: Check for errors or discrepancies and dispute any inaccuracies with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
  • Pay bills on time: Consistent, on-time bill payments positively impact your score.
  • Reduce credit card balances: Aim to keep credit card balances below 30% of your credit limit to maintain a healthy credit utilization ratio.
  • Limit new credit inquiries: Avoid applying for new credit shortly before your mortgage application to prevent temporary credit score reductions.

Impact of Income on Mortgage Approval

Income plays a crucial role in mortgage approval, as lenders must ensure you can afford payments on both properties. Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which compares monthly debt payments to gross monthly income, is a key factor lenders consider.

Maximizing Income and Minimizing Debt

To improve your chances of second home mortgage approval, focus on increasing your income and reducing debt:

  • Seek a raise or promotion: Consider discussing salary increases or promotions with your employer.
  • Pursue additional income sources: Explore freelance work, part-time jobs, or passive income streams. (See: Achieving Financial Independence Without Sacrificing Quality of Life)
  • Rent out your primary residence or part of it: Generate extra income by renting out your property or a portion of it.
  • Pay down high-interest debt: Focus on reducing high-interest debt, such as credit card balances.
  • Refinance existing loans: Explore refinancing options to secure better interest rates or repayment terms.

By maximizing income and minimizing debt, you can improve your DTI ratio and boost your chances of securing a mortgage for your second home.

Strategies for Managing Multiple Mortgages

Managing multiple mortgages can be challenging, but there are strategies to help you effectively handle payments on both properties:

  • Refinancing: Explore refinancing options for your existing mortgages to potentially secure more favorable terms.
  • Leveraging home equity: Consider using a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) from your primary residence to help finance your second home. Exercise caution, as this increases your overall debt and puts your primary residence at risk.
  • Using rental income: You can rent out your second home when you're not using it to generate income, which can then be used to cover mortgage payments and other expenses. 

Always carefully consider your financial situation, and the risks involved, and consult a financial professional to make informed decisions about managing multiple mortgages.

renting property for income


Financing a second home can be an exciting opportunity to expand your living options and invest in real estate. By understanding the differences between mortgages for primary residences and second homes, exploring various mortgage types, and familiarizing yourself with the requirements and factors that impact approval, you can be better prepared for the application process. Additionally, implementing strategies to manage multiple mortgages and seeking professional financial advice can help you navigate the complexities of financing a second home.

Remember, each person's financial situation is unique, and it's essential to carefully consider your needs, goals, and risk tolerance before making any decisions. With thorough research and preparation, you can be well on your way to living your dream and owning a second home.

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Written by Matthew Levy

Matthew is a freelance financial copywriter with 14+ years in financial services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with business and finance options and is a CFA Charterholder. He is from Vancouver, Canada, but writes from all over the world.