May 27, 2013
The economy is improving, banks are beginning to ease standards for lending, and mortgage rates are near their record lows. These factors are making it easier for Americans to wade into the real estate market again. For those who can afford it, even vacation property, either as a second home or as an investment to rent out, is increasingly in high demand. Based on data provided by real estate listing service Trulia, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 most searched places for vacation homes on Trulia’s website between April 2012 and March 2013. A place was considered a vacation area if 25% of the housing stock was used seasonally or occasionally, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the median asking price in the area, also provided by Trulia. These are the most popular towns in which to buy a vacation home.
10. Cherry Grove Beach, S.C.
Median asking price: $219,900
Percentage change from 2012: Unchanged
Cherry Grove Beach is “a sleepy little fishing village that time has passed by,” said Annie Morse, an agent with Buyers Agent Specialty. The area is known for its Fishing Pier, a popular tourist destination. Unlike the nearby Myrtle Beach area with its many high-rise condos, Cherry Grove Beach mostly has older beach houses, which, as Morse pointed out, gives the neighborhood a quaint feeling. Many people park their car for the week and travel around the area by golf cart, she added.
9. Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Median asking price: $179,600
Percentage change from 2012: 5.6%
For the more outdoorsy type, Gatlinburg may be a very desirable place to own a second home. With a median home price of just $179,600, Gatlinburg is the most affordable neighborhood among the most searched-for vacation home spots. Gatlinburg, located at the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited National Park in the United States. Kolko said that searches for homes in the Gatlinburg area tend to originate in Cincinnati or Atlanta, which are both within driving distance. At left, the Ober Gatlinburg Tram.
8. Panama City Beach, Fla.
Median asking price: $294,245
Percentage change from 2012: 1.7%
Panama City Beach is home to a 27-mile stretch of beaches off the Gulf of Mexico. According to the state’s tourism website, the city is home to “two State Parks, dozens of public beach access points, waterfront restaurants that serve up fresh local seafood and legendary attractions.” Many consider Panama City Beach to be “the spring break capital of the world.” This allows many homeowners in the area to rent them out to college students during the season.
7. Lake Arrowhead, Calif.
Median asking price: $399,000
Percentage change from 2012: 13.2%
Lake Arrowhead, originally called Little Bear Lake, is located in the mountainous region of the San Bernardino National Forest, which is also referred to as “The Alps of Southern California.” According to Lake Arrowhead’s website, the resort features “countless outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, backpacking, bicycling, water and snow skiing, fishing and much more.” It notes that Lake Arrowhead has sunshine 310 days a year.
6. Big Bear Lake, Calif.
Median asking price: $335,000
Percentage change from 2012: 14.9%
Another popular vacation destination in the San Bernardino area is Big Bear Lake, a year-round resort town of roughly 5,000 people, which can swell to more than 100,000 visitors on holiday weekends. According to Big Bear Real Estate, the area offers clear skies and moderate temperatures 330 days a year. Home prices are slightly lower in Big Bear Lake than in Lake Arrowhead with a median asking price of $335,000, an increase of 14.9% from the same time in 2012. Prices of homes for sale in Big Bear Lake range anywhere from under $200,000 to over $1 million.
5. Marco Island, Fla.
Median asking price: $499,000
Percentage change from 2012: Unchanged
Marco Island is “the total package,” said Gerry Rosenblum, a Realtor with Prudential Florida Realtor. “There are tons of things to do: boating, fishing, tennis…you name it, we got it.” Marco Island is a popular destination with some people simply because it is secluded on an island, noted Rosenblum. There is a ferry service between Marco Island and Key West. Although Marco Island is still more affordable than it was around 2004 and 2005, Rosenblum said that potential homeowners or investors might want to act quickly because the number of sales currently taking place is “unprecedented.”
4. Ocean City, Md.
Median asking price: $275,000
Percentage change from 2012: -6.5%
“Ocean City is attractive due to all of the different options available,” said Kathryn Beck, a local real estate agent with Long and Foster. “We have houses ranging from $100,000 to more than $1 million.” Ocean City, Beck added, has both oceanside and bayside properties, which are bought as either vacation homes or investment properties to rent out. She noted that although the area is a popular vacation spot for people living in the Greater Washington, D.C., area, interest is on the rise from residents of places like Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Beck said interest in buying vacation homes in Ocean City has risen following Hurricane Sandy, as some have become wary of buying there following the storm.
3. Kissimmee, Fla.
Median asking price: $298,800
Percentage change from 2012: 34.8%
Unlike the other areas on this list, the majority of the “vacation homes” sold in the Kissimmee area are investment properties rather than second homes to spend holidays and weekends. The Kissimmee area is right around Disney World and Universal Studios, making it a hot destination for tourists. The majority of the homes rented out in the Kissimmee area are short-term rentals, meaning they can only be rented out for a six-month period. While the median home price in Kissimmee is still south of $300,000, it is up nearly 35% from the same time in 2012.
2. North Wildwood, N.J.
Median asking price: $289,000
Percentage change from 2012: 16.0%
“North Wildwood is kind of affordable—the homes are in proximity to water and there is newer construction for good prices,” said Becky Chamberlain, a local real estate agent with Coastline Realty. Chamberlain noted that most places that are farther than a block away from the beach are less than $500,000. However, she also said that homes prices in the area have been rising recently, the first time since 2007. Prices have remained stable because, with the exception of relatively minor flooding, the community was spared the worst from Hurricane Sandy.
1. Ocean City, N.J.
Median asking price: $525,000
Percentage change from 2012: -0.5%
No other area was more searched for in the past 12 months than of Ocean City, N.J. Homes generally are more expensive in Ocean City than in nearby North Wildwood, with a current median asking price of $525,000, the highest of all popular vacation neighborhoods. Kolko said that Ocean City had a major drop-off in prices following Hurricane Sandy, although it quickly rebounded. He added that many of the people searching for homes in the area are from near Philadelphia, although searches increased following Hurricane Sandy from people who had homes destroyed but still wanted to stay in the area.