Vacation Home Sales on the Rise

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With the current economic boom and upswing in the housing industry in general, it only follows that sales of vacation homes should be going up as well.

June 19, 2000
Both upscale vacation homes, like this one by architect Kevin Akey, and more modest cottages are experiencing a surge in popularity.


With the current economic boom and upswing in the housing industry in general, it only follows that sales of vacation homes should be going up as well. Once thought to be amongst the playthings of the very rich, second homes are becoming an option for many more mainstream home buyers.

According to a survey done by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), vacation home sales increased 9.3% from 1997 to 1999 (no survey was taken in 1998), with approximately 377,000 homes sold in 1999.

The trend is not only limited to sales of existing homes, either. Kevin Akey of AZD Associates Architecture in Birmingham, Michigan, says he's been noticing an increase in demand for new vacation homes for the past four years or so.

In addition to the increase in discretionary income of many Americans, the surge in second home buying is being fueled by changes in tax laws that allow homeowners to sell property without getting hit by capital gains taxes.

Akey also attributes the lure of vacation homes to the convenience of the computer, although in this case, "vacation homes" might be a misnomer. "With the computer, people can more easily work out of their homes. What would you rather look at, the city or the mountains or ocean?" says Akey.

Akey, who says he builds about six new vacation homes a year, says that what is happening in Michigan, especially Northern Michigan, sums up what is happening all over. "All these little towns are becoming vacation havens." Areas where he and his family used to go in the summers to "get away" now have extravagant marinas and shoreline condos, not to mention hefty lot prices of $1 million plus.

Although the very rich are perhaps the most visible buyers in these small towns, not all second-home buyers are rolling in the dough. The NAR survey does report an 11% increase in price from four years ago, but the median price for second homes is still only $127,800. The survey also said that the average buyers were boomer-aged, married couples with a household income of $70,000.

Whether they are able to afford an extravagant mansion or something more simple, Akey says that most of his clients like to keep the cottage feel they associate with traditional vacation homes. He says they like to incorporate such things as covered porches and wood plank floors, as well as keep existing trees and the look of natural landscaping because of their idea of what a vacation home should be like. "Most people still picture vacation homes as a cute cottage with flowers all over the place."

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