These days, the prospect of buying a vacation home could hardly be more alluring. Mortgage rates are at historic lows. During a pandemic, escaping to a less-crowded area is just what the doctor ordered. Plus, to minimize the spread of COVID-19, many employees are working remotely well into the fall, giving them the freedom to virtually check in to the office from just about anywhere.
But getting the house of your dreams may be a challenge. In many popular areas, move-in ready homes are flying off the market, receiving multiple bids from buyers. Especially if employers extend work-from-home policies and students kick off the school year with remote learning, bustling activity in the vacation-home market may continue beyond the peak summer season.
Here, we’ve highlighted five vacation areas around the country to suit every taste, featuring seaside towns with craggy coastlines and sandy beaches, mountain getaways for hikers, skiers and snowboarders, and lake retreats for boating and fishing enthusiasts. You have a shot of snagging a great home at an affordable price at these locations, based on inventory and price data from Realtor.com. As of June, homes listed for sale in each county represented had a median price of no more than $400,000—and in some cases, median prices were significantly lower.
Door County, Wis.
- County: Door
- June 2020 median listing price: $374,950
- 2019 median sale price: $166,958
Door County covers the top of a peninsula bordered by Green Bay waters to the west and Lake Michigan to the east. With 300 miles of shoreline and more than 19 unique communities, this midwestern destination, just northeast of the city of Green Bay, has plenty of attractions to satisfy visitors of all tastes. Foodies will be drawn to the region’s restaurants—from fine-dining establishments to waterfront joints to wineries and breweries—and the county is known for its abundant cherry orchards. Enjoy the gamut of water activities and sports: swimming and sunbathing on sandy beaches, boating and fishing, and even shipwreck diving. Or stroll among the galleries and boutiques throughout the county.
For less than $500,000, you can get a reasonably spacious property near the water. In Sturgeon Bay, a town of fewer than 10,000 people, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage with 1,536 square feet of space and lake views recently listed for $449,000. Just south of Door County, in Algoma, a log cabin on the shore had a $399,000 price, three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and 2,040 square feet of living area. Willing to bump up the budget to about $600,000? In the village of Ephraim, near Sister Bay, an 1,800-square-foot condo with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a modern feel had a $579,000 asking price. Plus, you get access to a swimming pool and private beach.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
- County: Horry
- June 2020 median listing price: $239,950
- 2019 median sale price: $198,642
If sand and ocean waves are on your must-have list, you can find them at Myrtle Beach and other beaches on the 60-mile “Grand Strand” lining the South Carolina coast. Besides relaxing and swimming at the shore, Myrtle Beach visitors can wander the boardwalk and promenade—which features shops and restaurants and stretches more than a mile along the beach—head to one of the area’s amusement or water parks, or check out one of the many free festivals, parades and concerts held throughout the year. Golfers are drawn to the area’s challenging and beautiful greens and have their pick of nearly 100 courses. Shoppers can browse flea markets, factory outlets and everything in between. When you need a break from the beach scene, take a kayak or paddleboard to the Waccamaw River or birdwatch at the surrounding 55,000-acre Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge.
Recently, a furnished, $279,000 condo in North Myrtle Beach featured a balcony overlooking the ocean, modern upgrades, 951 square feet of space, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus access to indoor and outdoor pools. Further south, closer to the heart of Myrtle Beach, a 711-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit with an oceanfront balcony and pool access had a $269,000 listing price. If you’re willing to live a block or two in from the beach and bump up your budget, you may find a larger home for less than $500,000. In North Myrtle Beach, a furnished three-bedroom, three-bathroom house with 2,303 square feet of space recently had a $460,000 price tag.
Oregon's Central Coast
- County: Lincoln
- June 2020 median listing price: $399,050
- 2019 median sale price: $284,196
Looking for a seaside getaway on the Pacific Ocean? The central portion of Oregon’s coastline offers picturesque, rocky shores and towns, such as Lincoln City and Newport, where visitors shop and dine on fresh seafood. Numerous parks and recreation areas dotting the shoreline feature beach access and walking trails. Further inland, you can hike, camp, kayak and fish in the forest or at Devil’s Lake. When you’re ready to head back to the beach, pick a place to surf or watch for whales, birds and other wildlife. Water temperatures are chilly—the average on the Newport coast is 55 degrees in July—so don’t expect to do much swimming in the ocean, unless you bring a wetsuit. Portland and Salem are within a few hours’ drive.
In many areas, you can get a small cottage or condominium within walking distance of the beach—sometimes with ocean views—for between $350,000 and $400,000. In Newport, for example, a third-floor, 1,571-square-foot condo that recently listed for $389,000 featured three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an updated kitchen and a balcony facing the sea. Increasing the budget to $600,000 gives you oceanfront options. In Lincoln City, a home with two bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 1,408 square feet of space and updated finishes—plus access to a community pool and clubhouse—was recently listed at $595,000.
The Pocono Mountains
- Counties: Monroe, Pike and Wayne, Pa.
- June 2020 median listing price: $209,050 to $229,550
- 2019 median sale price: $151,891 to $158,313
You can ski, hike, fish and boat to your heart's content in the Pocono Mountains, which are convenient to New York City and Philadelphia and drew 28 million visitors in 2018. Skiers and snowboarders can choose among more than 185 hills and trails, ranging from bunny slopes to double black diamonds. Or try out other winter activities, such as snow tubing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. In warmer months, tee up at any of the region’s many golf courses, which offer a variety of terrains to challenge golfers. To keep the kids happy, take them to play mini golf or laser tag, drive go karts, or splash down water slides at one of the area’s family entertainment centers.
Skiers who want to be near Camelback Mountain can find a townhome for less than $300,000. In the Northridge community, a four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom unit with 2,465 square feet of space and a deck with mountain views recently had a $289,900 price tag. Is a lake retreat more your style? In Pocono Pines, a three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom, furnished 1,488-square-foot townhome with views of Pinecrest Lake had a $216,500 asking price. In a neighborhood surrounding nearby Lake Naomi, a newly constructed four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home had a $399,000 listing price and 3,000 square feet of space.
- County: Lincoln
- June 2020 median listing price: $349,550
- 2019 median sale price: $217,372
Nestled in southern New Mexico’s Sierra Blanca mountain range, Ruidoso is a haven from stifling summer heat in the desert basin below and a wintertime getaway for skiers and snowboarders in the Southwest. The Ski Apache resort has 55 runs and trails. With more than a million acres of national forest and wilderness lands, the region provides abundant trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. After you’ve had your fill of outdoor activities, spend an afternoon exploring the shops and restaurants in Ruidoso’s charming and rustic downtown. If you have a penchant for gambling, your best bets are the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino and the Ruidoso Downs Race Track & Casino.
A budget of up to $400,000 will get you a decent-size cabin or condo. Recently, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1,921 square feet of space, vaulted ceilings and a deck overlooking tall pine trees had a $365,000 listing price. Within walking distance to downtown, a fully furnished, 2,558-square-foot condo with three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and an updated kitchen recently had a $349,500 price tag. Boosting the price a few notches, a newly remodeled four-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom home with views of the nearby Sierra Blanca peak listed for $485,000, and it offers a roomy 3,121 square feet.
Lisa has spent more than15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.
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