Vacation Homes Sales Surge in Work-From-Home Era

HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – Covid has ignited a new exodus leading to meccas of leisure as homebuyers combine business and pleasure on an everyday basis. As long as the location has a good internet connection and better-than-average phone service, the American workplace can be located in prime vacation spots.

“We have seen that vacation homes have become a very, very popular segment of the market right now,” said Amy Bernstein, a veteran Houston real estate broker. Commenting on The Ralph Bivins Project podcast, she said: “We have seen that vacation homes have become a very, very popular segment of the market right now. You can go to Conroe, or someplace where you don’t have to get on a plane. Someplace you can drive to for a change of scenery. Country homes. We’re saying that these properties are becoming very, very important.”

The transfiguration of vacation homes into year-round abodes that have capacity for office space and, perhaps, even some square footage for schooling, giving kids or teens the facility to plug into remote educational opportunities, is a nationwide phenomenon. Traditional leisure sites are putting up “For Sale” signs as quickly as possible, though the inventory of these valuable domiciles is low, and prices are high and may continue to soar.

But the suburbs in just about every state have caught the eye of families looking to “get outta Dodge” to upsize, enlarge their residential footprint and diversify in places that have the capacity to provide space to live, work and play.

Locations within a two-or three-hour drive of major metros – and don’t require a plane trip – have been highly popular.

Texas coastal community Cinnamon Shore, located in Port Aransas, on an island less than 200 miles south of Houston, reports a 54 percent increase in total vacation bookings and a 75 percent hike in rental revenue in 2020 over 2019.

Furthermore, Cinnamon Shore North and its expansion, Cinnamon Shore South, together added almost 120 new homeowning families to the neighborhood, primarily from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth— all within driving distance.

“While 2020 was an anomaly, due to flexible work and school schedules during the pandemic, Texas vacationers and homebuyers were clearly attracted to Cinnamon Shore in record numbers, and we expect more of the same for 2021,” said Jeff Lamkin, Cinnamon Shore’s developer.

“We’re offering a quality, master-planned resort community that, until recently, was only available in far-away Florida.”

An 85 Percent Increase in Annual Sales

With 136 total properties sold in 2020 and an 85 percent increase in total sales volume closed in 2020 versus 2019, Cinnamon Shore Realty also had its best annual results ever.

The Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University offers this observation: “Herds of Texas city-dwelling buyers descended on rural locations in latter 2020. When the dust settled, 552,707 acres had been purchased for a record $1.69 billion.”

Residential sales are strong in traditional vacation venues as well.  When working-from-home means  laboring with an ocean view or a daily glimpse of the Rocky Mountains, demand for vacation homes rises quickly.

Live-Work-Play in Vacation Spots

“COVID-19 is definitely driving people to mountain towns, and with a large property like Wilder on the Taylor, with more than 2,100 acres and numerous recreational activities and services available, you don’t even have to leave the ranch,” said Brad Willett, general sales manager for Wilder on the Taylor, located along the Taylor River between Crested Butte and Gunnison, Colo., in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Art centers, museums, hundreds of miles of trails, and thriving downtown districts with locally owned shops and restaurants add to the mile-high appeal.

“When Gunnison County reopened [to part-time residents and visitors] on May 27, 2020 it was like they opened the floodgates. It’s been nonstop real estate,” said Jesse Ebner, owner/broker of Signature Properties Ebner & Associates. “The summer was really busy, with multiple bidding wars across the market.”

Crested Butte, Vail and Rarified Air

Channing Boucher, broker associate for LIV Sothebys International Realty – Crested Butte, confirmed that “the 2020 real estate market in Crested Butte turned into our biggest year ever with total sales volume reaching $400 million. The last time the market behaved like this was in 2005. The ski resort sold the year before, and a new wave of people came to our valley and bet big on the future of Crested Butte.”

“Then, the financial meltdown in 2008 stopped everything.”

Fast forward to 2020, with the first quarter beginning slowly with $20 million in sales through March 1, and then things changed in a big way.

“The pandemic drove many people and their money out of America’s cities and into rural, resort and small-town locations across our nation,” Boucher said. “Suddenly people realized they could work remotely, live in cool, amenity-rich places and seemingly avoid the virus that ravaged populated zones everywhere.”

The 2020 numbers for that area include 154 single-family homes sold ($241 million in sales) compared to 87 in 2019 ($120 million), with the average price jumping from $1.33 million to $1.56 million. This represents an increase of more than 50%. Meanwhile, the sales volume of condominiums and townhomes increased 40 percent, with average prices jumping from $480,000 to $539,000.

Ironically, COVID is reviving vacation spots that have presumably been resting on their laurels. Altus Vail, a 15-unit luxury residential development schedule to open in summer 2021, is reported to be the first new major construction in Vail Village in a decade.

It offers single-family home lifestyle, amenities, and views, along with new inventory for both Vail Village and the Vail Valley. The region faces a scarcity of new homes as it comes off a record year with $3.5 billion in real estate sales creating historic lows in inventory.

“Altus Vail residences are designed to feel like a single-family home, including a more private and intimate setting and location, while still providing close access to everything Vail Village offers,” said Stan Kniss, partner and listing broker for Slate Real Estate Advisors.

He waxed philosophical about the visitors who are in town to do more than just kick the tires. “People are re-evaluating how and where they live and spend their time and are learning it does not need to be in the traditional ways, or in the traditional locations.”

“Buyers are now looking at vacation homes and seeing them as a permanent or semi-permanent place to live,” Kniss added. “The trend is moving away from homes that people spend a few weeks in and towards the kind of place where they can spend months.”

What The Future Holds

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are still not certain what the future holds. Coronavirus vaccinations are reaching more and more people, mask mandates have begun to ease, and many shuttered businesses are starting to see the light of day, hoping it’s not too late for a restart.

But unanswered questions remain, as do worries about possible new COVID upticks and potential disease variations that threaten to turn some or all the planet into bastions of lockdowns.

The virus continues to befuddle the global populace, but perhaps no sector more than the real estate market. Many folks have forsaken their homesteads for larger residences to accommodate office space so they can live and work inside the same structure. Ditto for students who have fled brick-and-mortar classrooms, hoping to find inspiration from teachers they can watch on laptop screens poised on dining tables-turned-desktops.

The idea of transforming residential structures into combination home-offices has spurred waves of big house buying, particularly in suburbs far from urban areas thought to harbor more potential for COVID infection.

But many homeowners have taken this idea to a higher level. They feel if they can live and work in one structure, then why not combine living, working – and vacationing – in a sole location?

April 9 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021

File: Vacation Homes Sales Surge in Work-From-Home Era

Caption:   A mountain home along a private stretch of the Taylor River between Crested Butte and Gunnison, Colo. (Photo credit: James Ray Spahn)

For more about Houston development, check out the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up  by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon




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