Keeping Up With the R&R Crowd

As business surges, practitioners are adopting fresh strategies to sell resort properties and second homes.

May 2, 2014

Whether they become experts on world-class golf courses or savvy consultants on interior renovations, practitioners who work the resort and second-home markets say success is about blending traditional business practices with innovative options to net clients more dollars.

The payoff for such efforts has been significant. Last year, vacation home sales were up 29.7 percent over 2012, with 38 percent of buyers paying cash, according to NAR’s 2014 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey. Vacation home sales accounted for 13 percent of all transactions last year, their highest market share since 2006.

To keep pace with today’s savvy consumers, Deborah Bacarella, GRI, PMN, broker-owner of Elite Florida Real Estate in Boca Raton, says it’s essential to know your market. Bacarella, whose clients often own three, four, or five vacation homes, recommends that agents have an intimate understanding of the resort and vacation home options available, as well as maintenance costs, rental potential, and local amenities. In her South Florida market, it helps to know the area golf courses and any famous tournaments they host since potential clients are likely to be aficionados of the links, she says.

Embedding yourself in the community is wise, says Michael Dembinski, a sales associate with Spread Eagle Realty Inc. in East Stroudsburg, Pa. Become a club member. Live—or at least vacation—in the community, he suggests. “We really put our efforts into one community,” says Dembinski, who is also vice president of Rinehimer Construction Inc., a Pocono Pines, Pa.–based custom builder and renovation firm. The company offers “mountain makeovers” for clients looking to revamp the aging interiors of their vacation homes. Upgrades such as first-floor bedrooms for aging boomers or custom play houses for kids can help clients see potential resale value and rental and retirement options, he says.

Envision the Lifestyle, Income

Second-home and vacation buyers can provide a steady business stream. According to NAR’s 2014 survey, 52 percent of vacation buyers said they were likely to buy another vacation home within two years, and 40 percent of primary residence buyers said they were likely to purchase a vacation property within the same period. Thus, real estate professionals are developing new marketing methods to spur consumer interest.

Taking the classic walk-through to another level, Park City, Utah–based Resorts West rolled out a try-before-you-buy campaign in January. Jeff Spencer, principal broker with Resorts West, says the service, which lets qualified candidates rent sales inventory (prices start at $677 per night), so they can see what it would be like to live in the home. “We are selling a lifestyle that takes place 24 hours a day,” Spencer says. “This is a great opportunity for people to see how they like the ski access or the walk to nearby restaurants.”

A big part of the job is helping clients explore various revenue streams, such as by turning an under-used home into an income property, says Cindy Shearin, CRS, e-PRO, a sales associate with NW Real Estate Brokers in Manhattan Beach, Calif. She encourages clients to consider a remodel or dramatic staging to attract renters. Often, they don’t want to spend the money, Shearin says. “If you show that they can make more money  [by upgrading], they’ll see the opportunities for their assets to continue to grow.”