Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Site Alerts Last-Minute Vacationers

If you get sudden urges to head for a distant beach, golf course or ski slope, the new site LicketyTrip could solve lodging searches. It claims to be "the only site dedicated to truly last-minute vacation rental listings." Clever design -- you just click on a map where a rental listing for this week or next is posted and up pops a balloon with details. Limitations: now in "preview," the site covers U.S. only and is heavy on East, Midwest and West Coast, light on Rockies.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Florida Condos Still Waiting for Hurricane Money

If you own a vacation condo in Florida and your homeowner association is still drumming its fingers on the table waiting for US Small Business Administration money, you're not alone. "Condominium associations were the largest recipients of federal disaster loans ...after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne. Even as loan applications continue to pour in following Wilma in October, many applicants from the 2004 storms are still waiting for part of their money," says the Palm Beach Post.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Hotel Orlando

"Greater Orlando has approximately 120,000 hotel guest rooms. While that's far more than most U.S. cities, many hotel and condo hotel developers are confident there's still room for expansion in this popular tourist and convention destination," says industry watcher Bob Ostrander. I say: that's great for tourists but not for condo investors....


Goodbye Easy Street

"Even if [housing] prices simply flatten, it is going to cause significant pain.... Appreciation isn't bonus money for a lot of families; it's money that's already been spent," says James Chung of Reach Advisors, a market research firm in Belmont, MA. His "Moving Away from Easy Street" study says homeowners in Bubble markets are simply unprepared for flat or falling real estate prices.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New Second-Home Column

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal. Its new 'Retreats' column compares second homes and vacation homes for sale around the U.S.... and you don't need to be a WSJ or WSJ.com subscriber -- it's free.


Excessive or Extravagance?

"The only way to really get the retreat of your dreams is to build it yourself. Then you can be sure to get the myriad extravagances that no home-away-from-home should be without, whether it's an indoor squash court in your mountain chalet or a home spa in your Hamptons hideaway," writes Ronna Abramson in a TheStreet.com article on second-home excess.


Monday, February 20, 2006

"It" on eBay Might Be Your Vacation Home

You've seen the TV ads: "IT" could be anything that's up for auction on eBay. If you've just returned from a terrific Presidents Day weekend at your favorite vacation spot, eBay is where you could find a house, condo, timeshare week deed, or specific week later in the season to call your own. With the Bubble deflating daily, more and more motivated sellers seem to be turning to the auction behemoth to unload property -- everything from a multimillion-dollar loft in Manhattan to a high-rise fractional in Florida to a ski week in Colorado. There's even an entire ski resort up for auction.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Spoilsport McMotoko Strikes Again

My favorite MSM real estate reporter tells all -- about the bursting condo bubble -- in today's NY Times. "When developers in Arlington, Va., threw a party 18 months ago to showcase plans for Clarendon 1021, a condominium development that had not yet been built, 3,600 prospective buyers stood in line just for the chance to book reservations to bid on the apartments. Now, less than a year after the building opened, speculators in this and other buildings are putting dozens of units on the market at the same time, causing asking prices and profits to slip."


Another Mc-ism

Call it a trend... or Scots/Irish thinking by reporters: adding a "Mc"or "Mac" to a word to connote a tacky or tricked-out version of a certain kind of home. First there were MacMansions. Then, last week, McCondos. Now, in today's Wall Street Journal: "Coming to a subdivision near you: the McLoft. " They're new, rather than old, industrial-style lofts, built not in an urban area but in suburban or rural spots. What next? McBarn?


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Too Hot Not To Cool Down

We keep hearing about the inevitable cool-down in real estate prices, but where? Local Market Monitor LLC of Boston-based is making notes and taking names: Tops on its list of overvalued areas are two second-home favorites:

* Santa Barbara, CA by 86%
* Naples, FL by 72 %

What do the numbers mean? These spots had most appreciation over last five years-- and thus are most likely to drop in value.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

The Skinny on Condo Hotels

Joel Greene offers sensible advice on Hospitality Net. "While it's true that one of the key benefits of owning a condo hotel unit versus a traditional condo or vacation home is that you'll receive some rent revenue... cash flow should not be the main reason to buy. To set realistic expectations, think of the revenue generated by your... unit in the rental program as helping to offset your costs."

He also urges buying in the "pre-construction to maximize appreciation potential."


Friday, February 10, 2006

Insider News Digest

Starting this week I plan from time to time to run ultra-brief links to stories of note in mainstream newspapers. Today: Wall Street Journal's Weekend Journal details slowing of hot downtown condo markets in Boston, Minneapolis, San Diego, Sarasota and Atlanta. New York Times highlights boom in fractionals market at winter resorts.


Vermont Sizzles In Snow Season

While vacation homes in the mountain states have been soaring, not many have paid attention to the Northeast. Well, pay heed! "Housing prices have been rising 12-13 percent a year," according to the publisher of the Vermont Economy Newsletter." Says Dick Heaps, "Our first reaction is, 'how in the world can we afford this?' Families are having a harder time paying their mortgages, he adds. Still, compared with some markets, Vermont is still bargaintown -- median home price is $180,000.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Albuquerque Dreaming?

Thinking of retiring to the desert? I lived north of Albuquerque for two years and if you don't mind summertime @ 90 degrees, it's a pleasant, rather low-tax region.The big news is the Southwest Mesa, where major home builders are moving in like bark beetles during a drought.

The average new home price reportedly has climbed to and stayed above the $200,000 mark in the city but El Rancho Grande is offering single-family, detached homes for prices starting in the mid-$100,000 range.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Boomers Bullish on Age-Limited Havens

Over half of all "homeowners aged 45 to 54, and nearly 60 percent of homeowners aged 55 to 64, rated themselves either 'likely' or 'very likely' to buy a vacation, investment or new primary home sometime in the coming 60 months," columnist Ken Harney reports.

"Roughly 49 percent of owners 55 years and older say they are likely to move into some form of 'active adult' community. One out of five boomer households say they are thinking about moving to an age-restricted adult community - a figure more than double what a similar study found five years ago." Source: ProMatura Group LLC, an Oxford, Miss.-based consulting group.

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"Where Dick Cheney Wets His Fly"

A deluxe condo hotel near Jackson Hole, Wyoming -- VP Dick Cheney's bunker site -- is cleverly offering guests an “Undisclosed Location” Package for summer guests.

A press release says guests "will arrive in Jackson Hole in vice presidential style – starting with a private motorcade in a well-appointed Suburban from the airport to their comfortable accommodations for three nights at Teton Mountain Lodge, located just CLASSIFIED miles from Cheney’s home....They’ll also get a round of golf on Cheney’s home course, located adjacent to the VP’s home on the links at CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.... as well as a private guided fly-fishing trip with Worldcast Anglers on the CENSORED section of the CLASSIFIED River, where Cheney frequently wets his fly when he’s in town."


Friday, February 03, 2006

Motoko's New Word: McCondo

"Make way for the McCondo," writes New York Times reporter Motoko Rich.
"On Fisher Island, near Miami, a condo developer is offering penthouses of 20,000 square feet, more than eight times the size of the average single-family house."

And don't you agree he has a great last name for a real estate beat writer?


Dark Cloud at Sun Valley

If you're thinking of buying property near this legendary ski and summer resort, better read the Wall Street Journal's thumbs-down review of its hotel properties first. "With bland, institutional decor, little atmosphere and few amenities, the hotel appears to have more in common with the naval-convalescence hospital it served as during World War II than the famed destination of its heyday. Its once-original ersatz Tyrolean village theme is tired, and what passes for service is provided by young foreign staffers with an often-shaky command of the English language, who, while polite, seem to have little training or professional supervision." Writer: Laura Landro, a thorough and picky staffer who has criticized other deluxe place in the past.


Free Trial At Tahoe, Cabo, Others

Signiture Destinations is offering a no-fault trial of its West Coast properties. "Does the concept of a regionally focused residence club sound appealing to you? Does the thought of paying $145,000 before you get a chance to experience the club make you nervous?" writes the membership director. "If so, we have the answer. We’ll delay your membership fee payment and let you use the club for 6 months while only paying the quarterly dues."

You can try the club for up to six months with no obligation. End the trial period any time you wish. California residents are eligible for a special Bay Area Charter Membership incentive. Please note that the Vacation Home Insider is not endorsing this, just telling about it.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Action Jackson

I've just returned home from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where real estate agents play alongside the deer and the antelope. The market in Jackson is frenzied. My group stayed in the Love Ridge condominiums at Snow King resort, nicely appointed units that include a lock-out bedroom and den with murphy bed. But for $1-million, I wonder why the builders of these 3-bedroom homes didn't include elevators. From the parking garage of some of these units it's a 4-flight walkup to rooms with the Tetons as the backdrop. Talk about a view that can make you gasp!


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