Sun Belt Isn't Sole Second-home Hot Spot

If you haven’t noticed the boom in vacation properties, you must have been, well, on vacation.

March 1, 1999

Century 21, on the basis of results from its monthly trends survey, the Century 21 Index, estimates that the number of Americans who own second homes rose by roughly 2 million during the 1990s to 7.5 million. Compare that with the 1980s vacation home increase of only 320,000, and you get an idea of how big the snowball is getting.

For the first time ever, owning a vacation home ranked as the No. 1 status symbol in a recent poll by New York-based Roper Starch Worldwide. At the end of the 1980s, vacation homeownership ranked 10th.

Today nearly six in 10 Americans say they’d like to own a vacation home, according to the Roper Starch poll. Since fewer than one in 10 currently do, the market’s potential is staggering.

To help tap this potential, real estate companies are forming programs specifically designed to focus on the vacation and second-home market. Coldwell Banker, for instance, created the Resort Property Network to provide consumers with material on buying and selling second homes. And Century 21 joined the fray by publishing the Century 21 Guide to Buying a Second Home: For Vacation, Retirement, Investment and More! edited by Ruth Rejnis (Dearborn Trade, 1998; $15.95).

Driving this burgeoning market are the more than 70 million baby boomers. Alex Perriello, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker, says, “Many other demographic groups are interested in purchasing or selling a vacation home, but baby boomers have the strongest buying potential, and their high incomes are driving home sales and real estate prices.”

According to the Roper Starch survey, almost 75 percent of households making $75,000 or more want a vacation home. Among households making $50,000 plus, that figure is 69 percent.

When marketing to potential buyers of vacation homes, don’t stray too far afield. A survey by Chase Manhattan showed that 54 percent of vacation homes are within 300 miles of their owners’ primary residence. “That way, owners can get away a dozen to two dozen times a year instead of just one or two times if they have to fly,” says Hugh Merkle, salesperson at Coldwell Banker--James C. Otton Real Estate, Stone Harbor, N.J. Having sold $24 million of vacation homes in 1998, Merkle qualifies as an expert in the field. He estimates that about 65 percent of his business comes from the Philadelphia area, about 90 minutes away. About a third of his customers and clients aren’t even that far away: They’re people who already own area vacation homes and are trading up.

So where do people want their vacation homes? Near water.

Chase Manhattan reported that 46 percent of owners surveyed had vacation property near a beach and 38 percent near a lake.

The Sun Belt has always been a popular region for vacation homes,but at least one survey shows some vacation hot spots (or cold spots) that may surprise you.

The Polk Co., a Southfield, Mich.-based consumer research company, finds that places in the United States with the highest percentage of vacation homes areFort Meyers-Naples, Fla.; Marquette, Mich.; Anchorage, Alaska; Alpena, Mich.; Bangor, Maine; Fairbanks, Alaska; and Traverse City-Cadillac, Mich.

Other hot spots for vacation homes, according to U.S. News & World Report, include Breckenridge, Colo.; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Del Mar, Calif.; New Hanover County, N.C.; Palm Springs, Calif.; and the White Mountains area of New Hampshire.


Fewer than one in 10 Americans own a vacation home.
Six in 10 would like to own one.

Source: Roper Starch Worldwide

Where are most vacation homes?

Within 300 miles of primary residence 54 percent
Near a beach 46 percent
Near a lake 38 percent

Source: Chase Manhattan

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