Vacation homes sales on the rise again after serious slump

Vacation homes sales on the rise again after serious slumpAmericans are back in the second home market in significantly greater numbers, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In this country, where most of the sales occurred, half of the vacation homes purchased were in the South, followed by the West, Midwest and Northeast. Elsewhere, people clearly are looking for bargains. Among the favorite locales are several South and Central American countries, as well as Turkey and Croatia.

And one Panama vacation property company opting to crow about it neglects to mention that vacation home sales remain far below what they were before the recession began.

Vacation home sales rose 7.9% to 553,000 in 2009, from 513,000 in 2008, but that 2008 tally was down 30.8% from 740,000 in 2007. The plunge back then was largely attributed to a lack of equity from a primary home providing a convenient -- if perhaps ill-advised -- down payment for a second home. Clearly that remains a factor for many, just not for the three in 10 who paid cash for their vacation homes in 2009.

Working in the vacation home market's favor is the burgeoning population of Baby Boomers, the first of whom turn 65 later this year. "Currently, 40.1 million people in the U.S. are ages 50-59 -- a group that dominated sales in the first part of the past decade and established records for second-home sales," according to the Realtors association release.

While many have found their savings decimated by the recession, some can still preserve the dream of shopping for a second home -- to occupy occasionally or perhaps eventually permanently (26% of vacation home buyers surveyed by the Realtors assocation outlined future plans to move in full time). For other retirees, Wanderlust means buying or leasing an RV to travel the country's K-O campgrounds or downsizing a primary home to help fund more traditional travel.

A lot opt to stay relatively close to home with that second house, suggesting some still retain their job or other community and family ties -- at least for now.

"The typical vacation-home buyer in 2009 was 46-years-old, had a median household income of $87,500, and purchased a property that was a median distance of 348 miles from their primary residence," the Realtors reported. "34% were within 100 miles and 40% were more than 500 miles."

The median transaction price of a vacation home rose slightly as well, from $150,000 to $169,000, which the Realtors association attributed to renewed interest in areas of Florida and California, where prices have dropped sufficiently to be attractive to buyers, but remain above prices elsewhere in the country.

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