Sunday, March 26, 2006

Montana Swan Song

You meet the nicest people in ski resorts. I'm at Big Mountain, in way northwest Montana near Glacier National Park. This morning I latched on to Cindy and Len Kobylenski, a delightful pair of locals, who gave me a daylong tour of the slopes. Turns out they are real estate agents in the Swan River Valley, about 1 1/2 hours from here. They tell me their area is not just gorgeous but affordable -- one of the few almost-undiscovered pieces of paradise in the state called "the last best place." But you'd better hot-foot it to Condon (their town) soon; they say second-home buyers are snapping up property faster than a bear snatches food left at a campsite.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Hamptons Up, Cape Down

What's happening in summer vacation rentals? "Mixed signals lately," according to The Hamptons in New York are hot already "with two months' rent in some towns reaching $1 million." Also quite warm: Lake Tahoe and Wisconsin's Lake Geneva. Not so hot: Cape Cod.


Shedding Some Light

Once more the Wall Street Journal uses a vacation home in our favorite City of the Platinum Real Estate Prices (Aspen) to illustrate a new trend."For the homeowner who has everything -- except enough sunshine -- a growing industry of boutique firms and architects is collecting, hoarding and taming the daylight that shines into your home. Called 'daylighting,' the practice involves gizmos from melon-shaped 'skylights' that capture and funnel sun through roofs to software programs that command shades to retract depending on the time of year."

The Aspen house has loads of sun. But the owner's lighting gizmos will point it where it can do good. "A set of automated windows and shades open the moment the outside temperature hits 74 degrees. Once installed, four platter-sized reflectors will funnel sunshine down a stairway and into the basement. "It will look like the sun is directly overhead for eight hours a day," says the owner.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Astounding Aspen

The Town That Knows Only Platinum Real Estate continues to amaze. "The first 11 free-market condos at Monarch on the Park - part of the Limelite Lodge redevelopment - went on the market" March 11, and within four days "five of them had been reserved," according to the Aspen Times. "Of the 13 single-family homes currently being offered across town at Fox Crossing, seven have been reserved." The price of those Monarch on the Park condos? From about $3.5 million to $7.5 million.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Swapping Your Second Home

You've bought a vacation home? Congratulations. Still have a yen to travel? A new service, Swapandstay .com, offers a possible solution. According to the Dallas Morning News, members pay about $90 per year to list their property on the Web site for other second-home owners to see and possibly swap for. Properties may be anywhere in the world. Unlike some house swaps, the weeks don't have to be simultaneous. Although only sole owners of a property can participate (no timeshares allowed), the second homes may be houses, condos, cabins, villas, boats or RVs.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"New Way to Spend Lots of Money"

That's how Los Angeles Times describes hybrid condo-hotels. Among the 22 projects -- luxury hotels with rooms or suites now being sold in blocks of a week or a few months a year -- in California: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego (rooms start at $400,000), and Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, (casitas and villas start at $1.9 million.)

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Indulgence, not Investment

Is now the right time to shop for a second or vacation home? "Only if you expect to keep it for many years and view it as an indulgence rather than an investment," says Jeff Brown in the Buffalo News. Sales of existing homes fell 2.8 % from December to January, the fifth straight month of falling sales. Home sales were 5.2 %below those of January 2005, says the National Association of Realtors. Brown says this confirms "stories about investment properties sitting empty while speculators who'd hoped for quick turnarounds slash prices in the absence of buyers. Second homes and investment properties are hit hardest in a cooling market because people don't need them."

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Selling in a Buyers' Market, Part 5

"Hunker down. Vacation homes can take twice as long to sell as primary homes, especially those in (areas) with seasonal draws or homes in... out-of-the-way locations....

"If all else fails, rent it out. Renting your house by the night or by the week while it's on the market creates some logistical problems... but... can help cover your expenses until the house sells."

Great ideas all-- from Outer Banks Sentinel by way of


Selling in a Buyers' Market, Part 4

"Use one-stop shopping. Mention housekeepers, groundskeepers, maintenance workers, or property managers already lined up. The thought of finding services providers... can be a turn-off.

"Pick a top-notch agent...who understands the differences between marketing second or vacation homes and primary residences..... Also, real estate firms that offering property management come with the potential for generating interest from rental clients and investors."

More next time from via Outer Banks Sentinel.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Selling in a Buyers' Market, Part 3

"Reveal the bottom line." Know how much buyers might get in a rental revenue, since many want a vacation home as an investment. Some may want to rent it out for a few weeks each year to defray expenses. "Property with proven rental income is also often worth more."

Let good prospects sleep in your place "for a nominal fee or for free.... There's no better way to get a buyer to fall in love with your property than to bed them for a weekend."

More tips next time from via Outer Banks Sentinel.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Sky Is Not Falling, Says Fool

Vacation Homes: Profit Castles? - Yahoo! News: "Investment prognosticator Harry Dent has forecast that vacation, resort, and retirement homes will continue to be real estate hot spots. Peak baby boomers -- aged 47 or 48 -- will buy vacation homes until the end of the decade. A second surge -- boomers aged 58 to 65 -- should carry the trend up through 2014 or so." (from a "Motley Fool" column)

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Watch Out for Tough Condo Rules

Owners wanting to cash in on their condo gains are facing a nasty brick wall made of paper -- condo bylaws. Rules on "parking privileges... satellite dishes, even the hours that residents can wash their cars" can scare potetntial buyers, according to a story in Realtor magazine. Selling turn-offs "have increased enough to encourage lifting some restrictions."


Selling in a Buyers' Market, Part 2

More tips from via Outer Banks Sentinel:

"Be a paparazzo. Show lots of photos. "Vast majority" of buyers view "from a distance and need lots of help visualizing the full scope of your property. Some vacation home buyers will purchase site unseen if (they) get their hands on many good quality photographs of the property.

"Write a 'get away from it all' happy ending story to describe your home. Use words like 'private,' 'peaceful,' and 'escape.' Tell about "swimming pools, tennis courts and proximity to beaches, bike trails, hiking, etc."

Still more tips next week.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

How To Sell In Buyers' Market Part 1

Concerned about the vacation-home bubble deflating? Here's smart advice from by way of a column in the Outer Banks Sentinel

"Sell it fully furnished..... (some) buyers prefer... a vacation home they plan to rent out in 'turn-key' condition -- sheets on the beds, silverware in the drawer, artwork on the walls.

"Set the stage. Make your vacation home appear like it just popped out of a 'Comfortable Vacation Retreats' periodical....A fresh coat of paint, a new comforter on the bed and a few accessories can cost less than $1,000. Likewise complete any deferred maintenance and repair tasks."

More tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hunter Takes Aim at More Condo Owners

A venerable New York ski resort is targeting still more upscale condo buyers. Hunter Mountain in the Catskills has announced that The Pinnacle -- a set of seven high-end condo units-- is to be built atop the Hunter Base Lodge this summer. Average price tag $600,000 each. Hunter first took aim at the upscale condo market with its fractional Kaatskill Mountain Club (pictured above), and the resort says that is now 95 percent sold.


The Sound of Many Fingers Clicking

This won't come as a surprise to my regular blog readers, but.... Real estate was the eighth fastest growing category in a study of Web users, according to comScore Media Metrix. January 2006s numbers show "real estate" sites got nearly 35-million unique U.S. visitors compared to over 29-million a year ago -- 17 % jump. Number One category? Taxes.


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