The best places to buy your dream winter vacation home
A house in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Michael Robinson | Corbis Documentary | Getty Images
Since the start of the Covid pandemic nearly two years ago, weary Americans looking for a fun, yet still safe, getaway have changed their travel habits to accommodate the new normal.
National road trips, visits to national parks and vacation home rentals and sales have soared amid privacy and exposure concerns, and remained popular even as pandemic restrictions eased.
The vacation home market, in particular, has been strong and should remain so, according to industry trackers. In the first quarter of 2021, for example, vacation home sales were up 46% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com, and overall home sales are expected to rise 6.6% in 2022.
“Given the pandemic, a second home provides a sense of security and personal space that a hotel or vacation rental cannot,” said Joe Robison, data reporter for the online moving resource. MoveBuddha.com. “And with work-from-home protocols, the freedom to move between two different home offices could be hugely appealing because it provides a change of scenery without the unknown variables of booking a vacation rental.”
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Travel insurer Allianz Partners found that 68% of Americans surveyed say a winter trip is important, and almost as many (57%) plan to vacation in the country this year.
The rental platform Vacasa.com has compiled a list of the best places to buy a winter vacation home, based on cost and rental rates, while MoveBuddha.com has compiled a list of home prices in the best affordable – and most ambitious – winter vacation spots.
There are currently more than 5 million vacation homes in the country, according to the US Census Bureau. More than a million of them are listed on major online platforms as short-term rentals, research firm AirDNA has found.
Americans buying their own winter retreats have mixed motivations, said Shaun Greer, vice president of real estate and strategic growth at Vacasa. That of the firm 2021 Vacation Rental Buyers Report found that 58% of buyers wanted a rental they too could holiday in, while 42% wanted an income-generating investment above all else.
“It really depends on the buyer and their priorities,” he said. “Whatever the motivation, it’s essential for buyers to establish the financial goals of a rental property upfront and determine how often they plan to use it.”
The more you use your vacation home yourself, especially during high demand periods such as holidays, the less income you will earn, Greer noted, “so it’s important to factor that into the projections and the budget. global”.
Daily rental rates are up this year in major markets, so gross revenue in the short-term rental market is up – although cap rates are a little below normal, found Vacasa. Here are the top markets based on cap rate and median home price:
Some of the top contenders are – such as Newry, Conway and Banner Elk – are lesser known across the country. This is due to the growing popularity of destinations within driving distance of major cities since Covid hit, Greer explained, and it will likely stay that way.
“We’ve seen a growing demand for vacation destinations within a three-hour drive of major metropolitan areas as road trips become the preferred mode of transportation – and this is especially true for mountain and beach areas where people can be outside and there’s less density,” he said.
Even as urban and more traditional (and crowded) locations start to rebound, “I think we’ll continue to see vacation home investment and customer demand in those locations,” Greer added.
MoveBuddha found much the same thing in its research, according to Robison.
“Since the start of the pandemic, there have certainly been a lot of anecdotal evidence about city dwellers in New York or Chicago choosing to split their time between the big city and a second home in more remote locations in upstate New York and the Midwest,” he said. “For these types of second home buyers, it’s easy to understand the appeal of accessible, low-key, low-cost locations.”
As part of its own survey of America’s 20 best cities for winter getaways, MoveBuddha ranked destinations by home buying costs from most affordable to least expensive. Places have also been grouped into four categories of interest: snow and piste, for skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts; sun and sand, for beachgoers and others; trails and trekking, for hikers and walkers; and comfortable and cuddly, for bookworms and other lovers of culture and comfort.
Ironwood, Mich., and Hurley, Wis., snow and slope entrants, top the affordability rankings, with average home prices of $58,990 and $75,285, respectively. That compares to nearly $1.23 million on average in ski mecca Breckenridge, Colorado, which tops the list.
Robison said the site uses a variety of population-adjusted metrics so the survey captures lesser-known places that still offer great winter vacation options.
“Ironwood, for example, is located within 20 miles of four ski resorts – the same density as Breckenridge, [and] Corpus Christi has about the same rate of beaches per capita as Honolulu,” he said.
Upstate New York cities like Utica and Syracuse might be less desirable for full-time living due to a relatively poor job market, but “that’s no problem for a vacation home “, added Robison.
“There is surely more to do in cities like Burlington, Honolulu or Breckenridge,” he said. “But Ironwood, Utica, and Corpus Christi have significantly cheaper housing markets, and for several years the smaller towns have proven attractive to millennial homebuyers in particular for that very reason.”
Robison noted that the growing popularity of lesser-known destinations for second homes is unlikely to come at the expense of more established locations.
“We wouldn’t say the Breckenridges and St. Petersburgs of the world are losing steam while the Ironwoods and Corpus Christis are gaining momentum,” he said. “Rather… more people, in general, are interested in owning a vacation home, even if it’s not in a place with a lot of influence.”
Also, keep an eye out for Alaska, Robison said.
MoveBuddha saw a 38% spike in interest in the state in its migration report 2021.
“We can’t say if it’s permanent moves or vacation homes, purchases or rentals, but the interest is definitely there,” he said.
Although the state has seen steady growth as a vacation destination, Robison added, “it’s not a winter vacation destination for the faint-hearted.”
Indeed, when shopping for a “winter” getaway spot, it’s important to assess possible year-round appeal, Greer noted at Vacasa.
“When looking to invest in a vacation rental, you need to consider what those summer versus winter demand factors are,” he said. “Good news for vacation rental owners, places like Lake Chelan in Washington, Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Big Sky, Montana have strong all-season appeal.”