Well, vacation home sales are picking up. A survey by the National Association of Realtors found that sales rose 10.1% last year, compared with a 2.1% decline in investment-home sales and a 17.4% increase in sales of primary homes. (Vacation homes are bought primarily for the owner's use, while investment homes are used mainly as rentals.) For the year there were 553,000 vacation-home sales, 1.21 million investment-home sales and 3.27 million sales of primary residences. The median price for vacation homes was $150,000, up from $121,300 in 2011, mainly due to increased sales of more expensive properties, the NAR said. "We had a strong stock market recovery, which helps more people in the prime ages for buying vacation homes," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. "Attractively priced recreational property is also a big draw."
A partner in the survey, HomeAway ( AWAY), operator of online rental sites such as Vacation Rentals By Owner, noted that 38% of vacation homebuyers said they were motivated primarily by low prices. Another 28% cited the desire for a family retreat.
And most important: Can you afford to maintain the property even after a setback such as a job loss or a shortage of renters? If all the answers to these questions make a vacation home look like a sensible purchase, now is a good time to start looking. Prices are still well below their peaks of the past decade, and mortgage rates are still incredibly low.