The highest spots to buy the winter trip dwelling of your desires
A house in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Michael Robinson | Corbi’s Documentary | Getty Images
Since the start of the Covid pandemic almost two years ago, weary Americans longing for a fun-but-still-safe getaway have readjusted their travel habits to adapt to the new normal.
Inland road trips, visits to national parks, and vacation home rentals and sales have surged amid privacy and exposure concerns and have remained popular even after the easing of pandemic restrictions.
The vacation home market in particular has been strong and is expected to remain so, industry trackers say. For example, in the first quarter of 2021, vacation home sales grew 46% year over year, according to Realtor.com, and home sales in general should grow 6.6% in 2022.
“In light of the pandemic, a second home offers a sense of security and personal space that a hotel or vacation rental may not offer,” said Joe Robison, data reporter at online relocation resource MoveBuddha.com. “And with work-from-home protocols, the freedom to move between two different home offices could be hugely attractive, as it offers 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 winter travel is important, and almost as many (57%) plan to vacation domestically this year.
Rental platform Vacasa.com has compiled a list of the best places to buy a winter vacation home based on cost and rental yields, while MoveBuddha.com has compiled a list of house prices in the most affordable – and more competitive. winter resorts.
Go away and you’ll get paid
According to the US Census Bureau, there are currently more than 5 million vacation homes in the country. Over 1 million of them are listed as short-term rentals on major online platforms, research firm AirDNA has found.
Americans looking for winter retreats of their own are mixed in their motivations, said Shaun Greer, vice president of real estate and strategic growth at Vacasa. The company’s 2021 Vacation Rental Buyer Report found that 58% of buyers wanted a rental that they could also vacation in, while 42% wanted an income-generating investment primarily.
“It really depends on the buyer and their priorities,” he said. “Whatever the motivation, it’s crucial for buyers to set financial goals for a rental property from the start and determine how often they plan to use it.”
The more you use your vacation home yourself, especially during high-demand periods like vacations, the less income you generate, Greer noted, “so it’s important to factor that into forecasting and the overall budget.”
Daily rental rates have risen in the top markets this year, so gross receipts in the short-term rental market have risen – although capitalization rates are slightly lower than normal, Vacasa found. Here are the top markets based on cap rate and median home price:
Top second home markets in winter
Vacasa recently released its Best Places to Buy a Winter Vacation Home 2021-2022 report. The top 10 US destinations based on cap rate and median home cost are:
- Newry, Maine: 12.3% cap; Cost $245,965
- Gatlinburg, Tennessee: 8.4%, $335,750
- Poconos, PA: 6.9%; $274,500
- Deep Creek Lake, Maryland: 6.2%; $439,367
- Conway, New Hampshire: 4.8%; $343,412
- Big Sky, Montana: 4.8%; $850,000
- Big Bear, California: 4.5%; $417,718
- Chelan, Washington: 4.1%; $416,000
- Ludlow, Vermont: 3.9%; $346,950
- Banner Moose, North Carolina: 3.6%; $369,000
Some of the top contenders — like Newry, Conway, and Banner Elk — are lesser known across the country. That’s due to the rising popularity of destinations within driving distance of major cities since Covid hit, explained Greer, and it’s likely to stay that way.
“We have seen an increasing demand for holiday destinations within a three-hour drive from major metropolitan areas as road trips become the preferred mode of travel – and this is particularly true in mountain and beach areas where people can be outdoors and are less dense . ” he said.
Even as urban and more traditional (and crowded) places bounce back, “I think we’re going to continue to see investment in vacation rentals and guest demand in those places,” Greer added.
Similar stuff, better price?
According to Robison, MoveBuddha found pretty much the same thing during his research.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there’s certainly been a lot of anecdotal evidence that city dwellers in New York City or Chicago have chosen to split their time between the big city and second homes in more remote locations in upstate New York and the Midwest,” he said “For this type of second home buyer, it’s easy to understand the appeal of accessible, low-key, and low-cost locations.”
As part of its own survey of the top 20 US cities for winter vacations, MoveBuddha ranked destinations from cheapest to cheapest in terms of the cost of buying a home. The locations were also grouped into four categories of interest: snow and slopes, for skiers and other winter sports fans; sun and sand, for beach goers and the like; Trails and trekking, for hikers and walkers; and cuddly and cuddly, for bookworms and other culture and comfort enthusiasts.
What it costs to buy a winter holiday home
MoveBuddha.com ranked its top 20 winter vacation destinations by the cost of an average three-bedroom home, from least expensive to least expensive. Here is the list:
- Ironwood, Michigan: $58,990
- Hurley, WI: $75,285
- Syracuse, New York: $148,533
- Muskegon, Michigan: $157,262
- Utica, New York: $164,739
- Claremont, New Hampshire: $175,817
- Corpus Christi, Texas: $213,896
- Greece, New York: $261,000
- Company, Nevada: $315,000
- Grand Junction, Colorado: $335,925
- Port St Lucie, Oregon: $336,000
- Anchorage, Alaska: $355,881
- Elizabeth, New Jersey: $381,020
- Burlington, Vermont: $420,837
- St George, Utah: $443,007
- Las Cruces, New Mexico: $479,000
- Saint Petersburg, Florida: $831,000
- San Diego: $882,659
- Honolulu: $1,131,592
- Breckenridge, Colorado: $1,228,192
Snow and Piste participants Ironwood, Michigan and Hurley, Wisconsin lead the affordability ranking with average home prices of $58,990 and $75,285, respectively. That compares to an average of nearly $1.23 million in the ski mecca of Breckenridge, Colorado, which tops the list.
Robison said the site uses various metrics that are population-adjusted so the survey captures lesser-known locations that still offer great winter vacation opportunities.
“Ironwood, for example, is within 20 miles of four ski resorts – the same density as Breckenridge, [and] Corpus Christi has about the same number of beaches per capita as Honolulu,” he said.
New York state cities like Utica and Syracuse may be less attractive for full-time living due to relatively poor job markets, but “that’s not a problem for a vacation home,” Robison added.
“Certainly there’s more to do in Burlington, Honolulu or Breckenridge,” he said. “But Ironwood, Utica and Corpus Christi have significantly cheaper housing markets, and for a number of years smaller towns have proved attractive to millennial homebuyers for precisely this reason.”
Robison noted that the rise in popularity of lesser-known second home destinations is unlikely to come at the expense of more established locations.
“We wouldn’t argue that the world’s Breckenridges and St. Petersburgs are losing steam while the Ironwoods and Corpus Christis are gaining it,” he said. “Rather…more people are generally interested in owning a vacation home, even if it’s not in a place with a lot of impact.”
Also, keep an eye on Alaska, Robison said.
MoveBuddha noted a 38% increase in interest in the state in its 2021 Migration Report.
“We can’t tell if they’re moving permanently or vacation rentals, buying or renting, but the interest is certainly there,” he said.
Although the state has seen continued growth as a vacation destination, Robison added, it “is not a winter vacation destination for the faint of heart.”
In fact, when looking for a “winter” vacation spot, it’s important to assess potential year-round appeal, noted Vacasa’s Greer.
“If you’re looking to invest in a vacation rental, you should consider what these demand drivers are for summer and winter guests,” he said. “Good news for vacation rental owners: places like Lake Chelan in Washington, Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Big Sky, Montana have strong year-round appeal.”