Assess vacation home market as season nears

by April 2, 2014

Whether a lakeside cabin, desert ranch, riverside RV or beachfront cottage, owning the getaway home is many a consumer’s dream.

And as summer draws near, a new spate of information indicating an upswing in buyer demand makes this an opportune moment to take a look at trends in the sale of second homes and other types of vacation property.

Second homes  modular mountain home

Mens Journal urges readers to buy their second home first.

About 25 percent of Baby Boomers say they plan to buy a second home as part of their older-years strategy, according to a new survey out from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC; the survey also includes other factoids about the over-50 crowd’s property-buying and selling plans, if that’s your angle.

And the National Association of Realtors today releases its annual Investment and Vacation Homes Buyers Survey.

The NAR report shows that 2013 vacation home sales soared 29.7 percent, to an estimated 717,000 properties, compared to 2012.  Further, vacation home sales accounted for 13 percent of transactions last year, the highest since 2006, and the median price of a vacation home was up 12.5 percent to $168,700.

Interestingly, investment home sales, one of the hottest market segments in recent years, showed a decline in 2013, dropping by about 8.5 percent but still well over a million transactions.  If you’ve been following that trend in your region and its effect on neighborhoods and would-be buyers, this might be time for another look.

The complete report is available from the NAR’s media relations office and includes buyer demographics, down payment medians and more.

Some ideas for specific story angles:

Timeshares. Always an interesting slice of the market.  This recent Motley Fool article says that big-name purveyors are increasingly competing with the secondary market of individual sellers using wide-reaching online databases to find buyers.  Why not check out some of the “vacation ownership” communities in your area and talk with developers and vacationers about trends? The American Resort Development Association, the industry group, also has a website full of story nuggets from state-by-state legislative issues to the program for its conference, which opens April 6.

Being a vacation-home landlord.  Is this a good retirement or investment strategy?  HomeAway Inc., an online rental marketplace, is just out this week with its most recent survey of rental landlords; it says bookings are stable and notes, interestingly, that the average age of rental owners is trending down.  The survey also cites the top locations for vacation rental sales, most are in the south but I wonder if the firm would run numbers upon request for other states.  In addition to owning full-time rentals, how can consumers turn a dime occasionally?  Here’s a recent Forbes piece, “How to use AirBnB to profit from your second home;”

Non-traditional second homes.  The motor home parked all season in one reserved spot or the city pied a terre for those who prefer martinis to mosquitos might make for some interesting real estate markets depending on the standout features of your region.  Ask around among real estate agents about any offbeat demands from second-home buyers.

And here’s a neat twist from Men’s Journa: “Buy your second home first.  It chronicles the experiences of upwardly mobile young renters who are finding weekend properties more affordable than condos or apartments in the cities where they work.  An interesting trends piece and of course a good springboard for writing about the tax implications of primary and second homes.

The family cottage. Equitable use by multiple family members, inheritance problems and economic woes are problems faced by the second and subsequent generations to inherit these getaway gems.  Plus, today’s youngish families may prefer jetting off to a variety of destinations to cooking marshmallows on the same old campfire each weekend.  What’s happening in resort and lakeside areas near your market, traditionally home to the weekend cabin.  Are more being converted to year-round residences, sold out of the family of origin or used as rental property.