Understanding the Difference Between Second Homes and Investment Properties in Florida

Understanding the Difference Between Second Homes and Investment Properties in Florida

Understanding the Difference Between Second Homes and Investment Properties in Florida 150 150 Ines

By Christopher Carter / The Florida Real Estate Blog / Special to Islander News

Over the past couple of years, thousands of buyers from “up north” have purchased houses and condos in Florida with various ideas about how to use the property. Some intend to relocate full-time, others plan to be seasonal residents, and some aim to offer the property for short-term rentals. Understanding the distinction between second homes and investment properties is crucial for these buyers.

Potential buyers and new owners often seek clarification on occupancy categories, which vary based on mortgage lenders’ guidelines, IRS interpretation, or Condo/Homeowners Association (HOA) rules.

  •  Key Considerations:

Mortgage Lenders: Risk Management 

Mortgage lenders categorize residential occupancy into three levels: primary residence, second home, and investment property. Each category has different interest rates and down payment requirements, reflecting varying risk levels. Primary residence mortgages have the lowest interest rates, followed by second homes, with investment properties having the highest rates.

IRS: Taxation and Deductibility

The IRS distinguishes primary and second homes for tax purposes, impacting mortgage interest deductions. According to IRS Publication 936, a second home is considered a “qualified home” for tax purposes, even if not used during the year, provided it is not rented out. When rented, the owner must live in the home for a specific period to deduct mortgage interest. Otherwise, it is treated as a rental property, subject to different tax rules (IRS Publication 527).

Condominiums and HOAs: Preserving Property Values

Condominiums and HOAs often impose rules to control non-owner occupancies to maintain property values. These rules can affect the classification and usage of second homes versus investment properties. Mortgage Guidelines:

Fannie Mae’s Second-Home Guidelines:

– Reasonable distance from the primary residence

– Occupied by the borrower for some portion of the year

– Single-family home or individual condominium unit suitable for year-round occupancy

– Exclusive control over occupancy by the borrower

– No rentals for a certain period after purchase

Failure to meet these guidelines results in the property being classified as an investment property, which involves higher interest rates and down payments. Government-insured mortgage programs (FHA, VA, USDA) are exclusively for primary residences and do not cover second homes or investment properties.


AUnderstanding these distinctions is vital for buyers to ensure compliance with mortgage lenders’ requirements, IRS rules, and HOA regulations. Misrepresenting occupancy to secure better rates and terms is a common type of mortgage fraud in Florida and should be avoided.

For more detailed information, refer to IRS Publication 936 (Home Mortgage Interest Deduction) and IRS Publication 527 (Residential Rental Property).


By understanding the differences between second homes and investment properties, buyers can make informed decisions and avoid potential legal and financial pitfalls.

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