Thursday, August 28, 2008

Breakaway: "New Urbanist" Homes Sell in North Carolina Mountains

Despite the real estate meltdown, some vacation developments with unusual qualities are experiencing good sales. That includes Breakaway, a self-described "new urbanist" community 25 miles from Asheville, North Carolina. Breakaway points out it's NOT "another gated-subdivision, outdated cabins, or pointless sprawling mansions." The planned development has its own ski hill, plus homes with views and "inviting streets" that "make walking and biking" part of daily life. An ice cream shop and a grill are finished in the village center. Some homesites are priced below $100,000 and houses are on sale from mid $300,000 up.A spokesperson says so far 5 houses are complete.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Amenity Migrants" in Flagstaff AZ, Walworth County WI & Elsewhere

National Public Radio recently ran a segment on "amenity migrants" who are buying vacation homes as weekend getaways and eventually as homes for their active retirement. NPR spoke with Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute, who may have coined the term "amenity migrants."

These people, led by baby boomers looking for retirement spots, he says, are settling in some 300 recreation or amenity regions that he has identified, from Western ski towns to New England and the lake country of the upper Midwest. They include places like Flagstaff, Arizona; Grand Traverse County, Michigan; and Walworth County, Michigan (where you can pick your own at the Apple Barn, pictured).

How do you find these places? "In non metropolitan America today, areas with significant natural amenities, recreational opportunities or quality of life
advantages have new prospects for growth and development," wrote Johnson in a 2006 report on rural America. "Many non metropolitan areas that are seeing significant population growth benefit from scenic landscapes, mild climates, proximity to rapidly growing metropolitan areas, or a combination of these elements."

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Boston area "Vacation Homes" Target of Lending Scam?

"More than a dozen condos, many in abandoned or distressed buildings" in the definitely non-vacation Dorchester neighborhood "have sold at sky-high prices to 'buyers' using mortgages designed for vacation homes, according to a local housing researcher," Scott Van Voorhis wrote in the Boston Herald yesterday. "The rash of vacation-home lending in Dorchester is stoking fears among some industry watchdogs that a new wave of speculation may be brewing in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, which are already reeling from a devastating wave of foreclosures," the article added. Local observers warn that such loans may be obtained by speculators who put only a small amount of money down using financing that is reserved for vacation-home lending, and then re-sell for quick profits.

Chris Lovett posted a Dorchester Reporter's similar suggestion of strange resales on the blog Civic Boston in late July.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Best Towns for Vacation House on US West Coast?

Continuing the survey of my most recent two posts, National Geographic Adventurer chooses as its top "next" adventure towns in West Coast states:

* Seattle, Washington
* Hood River, Oregon
* San Francisco, California

Runners up: Coos Bay, Oregon... Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii... Girdwood, Alaska... Joshua Tree, California...Leavenworth, Washington... Arcata, California...Klamath Falls, Oregon... Bellingham, Washington... Malibu, California.

Confession time: a few years ago, I wrote an article for AARP Magazine featuring Bellingham as being among the very best places where baby boomers could spend their prime years. Your thoughts on any of the picks?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Top Vacation House Towns in US West?

As mentioned in my last post, National Geographic Adventurer spotlights a bunch of varied towns as top choices for living and working... whatever that means. Here are its choices in the Rockies;

* Missoula, Montana
* Ogden, Utah
* Carbondale, Colorado

Runners up: Lander, Wyoming... Idaho Falls, Idaho... Silver City, New Mexico... Prescott, Arizona... Reno, Nevada... Pagosa Springs, Colorado... Red Lodge, Montana...Tucson, Arizona... Colorado Springs, Colorado... Hailey, Idaho.

I have friends in some of these places and I happen to love both Carbondale (that's River Valley Ranch, Carbondale, in photo above) and Missoula. But I think the magazine's choices are much too inclusive. I'd love to hear what you think.

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Top Towns in US East & South for Vacation House?

Magazines love lists of towns that they think are hot new getaways. Latest list appears in National Geographic Adventurer's Sept. issue. Unfortunately, its list for the East includes both New England and the South, which doesn't seem to make sense.

For what it's worth: 4 top picks for places in the East:

* Brattleboro, Vermont (Photo shows $249,000 house offered by Coldwell Banker Bellville Realty)
* Boston, Massachusetts
* Islamorada, Florida
* Chattanooga, Tennessee

Runners up: Charleston, South Carolina... Charlottesville, Virginia... Plymouth, New Hampshire... State College, Pennsylvania... Blue Hill, Maine... Lenoir, North Carolina... Avalon, New Jersey... Salisbury, Maryland... Saranac Lake, New York

How can you lump a chilly metropolis (Boston) with a warm-weather resort in the Florida Keys (Islamorada)? By calling all of them the "next great adventure towns." The phrase is so broad it is meaningless. Agree? Don't Agree? Let me know

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Renting or Selling? Add Decor, History or Private Jet Discount

Owners looking for ways to make their vacation rental properties stand out in a crowded market are adding historical back stories, unique decor and local crafts to their vacation homes, while some resorts are luring vacation home buyers with private jet service, according to the New York Times today.

In one article, reporter Samantha Storey notes that period furnishings, a home's place in local history and interior design employing local art and craft elements are becoming almost as important as location in improving rentals in popular places such as Savannah, Palm Springs and Taos, New Mexico (such as Casa Gallina, where the tiled sink pictured here is located.)

In a separate article, Kevin Brass tells how Cotton Bay Estates and Villas on Eleuthera in the Bahamas now offers as an incentive to buyers a discount on a charter jet service. Officials of both Halcyon Jets and Sentient Jets are quoted as saying their are making strategic partnerships with luxury resort developers because their target demographic lusts for both a snazzy getaway and a deluxe means of transportation to get there.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Monitor Your Second Home via Webcam

"As Webcams and other home-monitoring devices become smaller, cheaper and easier to install, some people have become voyeurs of their own vacation homes. While the ostensible purpose of the cameras is to monitor for intruders, some people use them to check up on the lawn guy or cleaning service, spy on visiting relatives or renters, or simply daydream about a place they'd rather be.

"Second-home owners often plug Webcams into an old PC or laptop they keep turned on and connected to the Internet. Other Webcams can link up to the Internet directly via WiFi or a cable. Basic Webcams cost as little as $10, though makers put out far more expensive ones with more capabilities. WowWee Ltd. and iRobot say they'll soon launch Webcam-topped robots that can roam about the house while sending pictures, then dock themselves at a base for recharging," From today's Wall Street Journal, by reporter June Fletcher.

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