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KIRO Radio's Tom Kelly digs deep into the Puget Sound real estate market

Real Estate

Many RVs are second homes - with growing numbers

Pictured: The motorhome on the TV show "Breaking Bad," which is not used for living in.

A 50s something man climbed down from behind the wheel of the massive recreational vehicle in the parking lot of a county park.

"It's my second home," the man said to nobody in particular. "Took early retirement. And, I needed a deduction.''

In the world of housing and shelter, the RV - letters now more common than the spelled-out recreational vehicle - also can qualify for the mortgage interest deduction as a second home.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, all "second homes" must be used as security of the loan and must have basic sleeping, cooking, and toilet accommodations.

Virtually all RV types - motorhomes, van campers, travel trailers, truck campers and even some folding camping trailers - are equipped with these facilities.

In a capsule, an RV combines transportation and temporary living quarters for travel, recreation, and camping. The two main categories are motorhomes (motorized) and towables (towed behind the family car, van, or pickup).

Types of towable RVs are folding camping trailers, truck campers, conventional travel trailers and fifth-wheel travel trailers.

And, there's a reason you are now seeing more of them on summer roadways. There are more than 12,000 RV-related businesses in the U.S. with combined annual revenues of more than $37.5 billion. The RV industry employs more than a quarter million Americans, and has a total payroll of approximately $4.9 billion.

More than 11 percent of U.S. households headed by 35-to-54-year-olds own an RV, exceeding the 9.3 percent ownership rates of those 55 and over. The 35-to-54 age group posted the largest gains in a 2011 study by the University of Michigan.

The RVIA reports today's typical RV owner is younger than five years ago. Today's owner is 48 years old, married, with an annual household income of $62,000 - higher than the median for all households, according to the Michigan study. RV owners are likely to own their homes and spend disposable income on traveling - an average of three weeks annually, RVIA research shows.

In addition, lenders are viewing RV buyers are reliable borrowers. Fewer than 2 percent of all RV loans are delinquent, the RVIA says, sparking lenders to extend RV loan terms and thus making monthly payments more affordable.

The prices for RVs are all over the board. New RVs are typically $5,000-$22,000 for folding camping trailers; $6,000-$55,000 for truck campers; $8,000-$95,000 for conventional travel trailers; $43,000-$200,000 for Type C motorhomes and $60,000-$500,000 for Type A motorhomes.

Loan terms for new, large RVs typically range from 10-12 years, with some lenders willing to extend to 20 years. While many dealers offer their own in-house financing, RV loans can be obtained from credit unions, banks, savings and loans, and finance companies. According to the RVIA, a majority of RV lenders require less than a 20 percent down payment while some are willing to accept less than 10 percent down.

Mortgage interest is deductible on federal income tax on two homes. (Some analysts call the guideline the "Congressmen's rule" because lawmakers need residences in their home states and the nation's capital). Although mortgage interest is not a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, it does reduce taxable income.

The IRS publishes two booklets that contain helpful information regarding the tax deductibility of loan interest. Copies of "Publication 936 - Home Interest Deduction" and "Publication 523 - Selling Your Home" are available by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-3676.

And, there can be an investment side to an RV purchase. Depending upon time of year and area, dealers and rental outlets generally charge between $100-$2,500 a day for motorhomes and from $80-$150 a day for truck campers and travel trailers. Individuals who rent their units personally typically charge less.

According to Richard Morse, attorney and tax-deferred exchange specialist, RVs can be exchanged much like rental homes in a Section 1031 exchange. However, rental homes are real property and recreational vehicles are personal property.

"You certainly can do personal property exchanges," Morse said. "The timelines are the same, but personal property exchanges are much more stringent. You must trade an RV for an RV, a truck for a truck."

Tom Kelly's new novel "Cold Crossover" is now available in print at bookstores everywhere in both print and Ebook form from a variety of digital outlets. Follow real estate agent and former basketball coach Ernie Creekmore as investigates the disappearance of his star player on a late-night boat. Check out the national reviews and put "Cold Crossover" on your list.

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