I'm not sure how California utilities are sold, but you can usually contact the electric provider that the home is under contract with and they can give you estimates of the last year's use and price. Of course, if the home's been empty for some time that won't work. Other utilities should be able to do the same, by address.
A good Realtor should be able to provide you with lists of other service providers that you can call and get estimates from .
You're on the right track!! I know a lot of people who bought VR homes and didn't think things through well.
If you do not have access to the owner's records, you need to do your own research. Don't make a decision based on a realtor's figures because the realtor is going to be forwarding the sale. I'm not suggesting the realtor will lie or mislead you, but you should have an independent source(s), outside of the parties the will profit from the sale, to provide you with or confirm information you are given.
When we bought our first house the owner had provided a year's worth of utlitity records to review. We contacted multiple service providers to request estimates for the services we would require. Cable, internet, telephone, etc are relatively straightforward. For cleaning, landscaping, plumbing, electric, and other "retainer" services, contact multiple contractors to determine rates. Don't base your estimates on one provider. When we interviewed landscapers we found great variation in costs. There was less variation in the hourly rate for cleaning services.
If you are buying a new house or building a house you will need to rely on estimates. Before we built our house (sold the first) we contacted service providers in the area and asked for quotes based on providing their services to a four bedroom, three bath home of ___ square feet / __ acreage.
Good luck. And always estimate higher, not lower. It never (ok, almost never) turns out to cost what you estimate, and certainly not lower than you estimate, in my experience.
And, a final thought, you could consider purchasing in a community that includes a property management service that provides needed management and servicel for a regular fee. I am not familiar with this type of community, but there are members that have experiince with managed properties that could address this option. .
That's where I am, so here's my take:
1) Get a management company, especially if you're not local. I'll be happy to recommend mine, if you're interested. They can give you good feel for what various costs are. Don't go by what a realtor, who gets paid when you buy, says.
2) Insurance varies widely. I was quoted between $1,500 and $4,000. Again, if you're interested, I'll let you know who I used.
3) Departure cleans, weekly pool cleaning, and pest control are handled by my management company. The departure cleans are $105 each, pool cleaning is $90 per month, and pest control is $40 per month. I've seen lower and higher prices for each.
4) Lawn care is handled by my HOA, so not sure here.
5) Electric (Progess Energy) has run me between $399 and $550 per month. Water (Polk County - very expensive) is right about $125 per month.
Let me know if I can help with anything else. I love the area so moved here.
I'd love to get a recommendation on a property management company (although, I think I still want to handle the marketing and reservations myself). If can also pass along the insurance company you used, I'd like to contact them to get an estimate before going in, too.
The costs you gave are all about what I've been able to research so far except for electric and water. All I can say is, "Yikes!" The property I'm looking at is in Kissimmee, which I think is Osceola county. Its about 1300 sq. ft. I'm hoping your energy/water bills are for a much larger home and/or due to being in a more expensive county.
The house I'm looking at is on the low end (about $140K). It's very similar to the type of houses I have rented in the past. (3 bedroom/2 bath) Looking at their booking calendars, they are booked about 28-34 weeks of the year, averaging about $700-$800 per week. According to my calculations, I have to book right about 35 weeks to break even (that was assuming $250 for electric and $75 for water/sewer - figures I got off a property management web site). That seems to be teetering on the brink of disaster to me as it is.
It is beginning to appear that it may actually be better to go with a more expensive house that will more easily cover the operating expenses with fewer bookings.
Sorry, there's a typo in my electric bill range - it should be $300 to $550, which varies mostly due to A/C and pool heat use. I've just installed the Vera system, micasaverde.com, which has already noticably reduced my electric bill. For reference, my house is 4 bed, 3 bath.
My management company is Florida Spirit, FloridaSpirit.com. Tell them Mike sent you. I handle most of my own bookings, on which they charge a $35 Booking Fee. They get me an occassional renter, but I can't come close to relying on that. Though I live locally, the primary reason I use them is so they can answer the phone at 3:00am. I can do everything else, but I do not want to do that. Their $100 per month fee is well worth my peaceful sleep!
I think you'll still be with Progress Energy for electric, but will defintely not have Polk County water if you buy in Osceola County. Polk County is known for expensive water, but it will be costly no matter where you buy.
For sourcing insurance, I used Florida Insurance Specialists, thefis.com.
Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck!
I too own a vacation home in the Disney area. My monthly expenses are very similar to those Mike has quoted. My electric bill tends to be a little lower though ($200-$400 in the summer--$125-$225 in the winter but I have a gas pool heater). Another expense you should consider is an umbrella policy to protect yourself from any claims of liability. Most vacation home owners carry this--most management companies require it. My best advice to you is this: if you cannot afford to pay all the operating costs and the mortagage each month out-of-pocket, you should not purchase a vacation home. Too many people jump in with the expectation that rentals will cover the costs. There is never a guarantee of X number of weeks rented each year. Owning a vacation home is great experience but please proceed with caution! You are definitely on the right path, checking into all the potential expenses before jumping in! Hope it works out for you!