NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- City people have the culture and sights, beach people have the sand and surf but woodsy people have peace and quiet, as everyone else leaves them alone.
With housing prices plummeting, temperatures following closely behind and summer settling into its last days, there are few better opportunities than the present to buy a house in the woods. The National Association of Realtors says existing home sales in July were down 3.5% from June, but still up 21% from the same time last year. A combination of average existing home prices that fell another 4.4%, to $174,000, in July on the way down from $198,100 in 2008 and a 4.15% 30-year fixed mortgage rate that's the lowest it's been since hitting 4.17% last November are building a solid foundation for homebuyers with the means and the credit.
A place in the woods, meanwhile, provides some of its own incentive. The Appraisal Institute generally looks at any green space as "positive externalities" for surrounding properties but doesn't slap a premium on the adjacent arbor. The homebuyers tend to do that all by themselves; the National Association of Realtors found that 17% of homebuyers have made parks, forests and other green space a priority. The draw is somewhat less for single women (14%) and unmarried couples (15%), but jumps to 20% for married couples and homes with families.
That's all assuming the folks who buy a tiny cabin or sprawling estate in the sticks want to live there full time. Vacation rental site HomeAway (AWAY) found that, in certain densely wooded areas, that backwoods dream house can be a popular and profitable vacation home. In Lake Geneva, Wis., and Grand Haven, Mich., for example, there's about 55% more demand to rent a place in the woods than there was last year.
Demand for a vacation spot under the trees in Lake Lanier, Ga., has grown 44%, while vacation-homeowners in Mount Pocono, Pa., and the entire Pocono Mountain region are 66% more popular than they were a year ago. That makes for a huge potential windfall in a Pocono hot spot like Lake Harmony, where demand has more than doubled availability at 118%, but still falls short of the market in Yosemite, Calif., that has 152% more inquiries than it did last year.
(AWAY) According to HomeAway's most recent Vacation Rental Marketplace Report, 48% of vacation-homeowners are able to cover 75% of their mortgage by renting to travelers, up from 38% last year. Even those who shun the city and shore for shade and silence make out on the deal. The National Association of Realtors research found that median sales prices for vacation properties dropped 11.2% in 2010 from the previous year, spurring 38% of vacation-homebuyers to make their move.
(AWAY) With help from the folks at real estate site Zillow (Z) , we found seven locations where cabins in the wilderness can still be had with the kind of costs and amenities that will make owners want to stay lost in the woods for a while: