There’s no place like home. Unless it’s your home away from home.
For those with disposable cash and a hankering for a vacation home of their own, whether here or abroad, the housing downturn is resulting in some solid deals where prices had once been sky high.
At the same time, the profile of the second-home shopper is changing, meaning that there are fewer investors and more homebuyers genuinely looking for a second home. “Flippers have been cast out of the temple,” says Grace Lichtenstein, who writes the Vacation Home Insider blog.
Here are five areas you should look into if you’re scrounging for hidden vacation home gems:
Compared with home prices in Western Europe, the countries to the east are a steal. Plus they have castles! Croatia, in particular, is one of the fastest growing markets, thanks to its lovely beaches, says Rick Fisher, president of Vacation Home Expo. While the country still shows some effects of the 1990s civil war, it now ranks fairly high on the quality of life index and the coastal regions are considered some of the most beautiful around, Fisher says. For a good listing of homes in all Eastern European countries, check out Redence.com, or go to Viviun.com for listings specific to Croatia (as well as several other countries). Some cabins are listed as low as $35,000.
$350,000 for a 3 bed, 2 bath stone home with a private pool and views of the countryside.
Eu.650,000 (approximately $840,000) for a Hungarian castle with three buildings, a five car garage, sauna and tennis court.
With its varied landscape of rainforests, beaches, mountains and valleys, its low cost of living and a relatively stable political climate, Ecuador is often a good move for expatriates. Amanda Sturges, marketing director at EscapeHomes.com, suggests the sleepy community of Vilcabamba, just north of the Peruvian border. Large tracts of land with multi-bedroom villas listed on EcuadorProperties.com run as low as $65,000.
Hot tip : Sturges suggests homebuyers looking in Ecuador (and elsewhere) set up a bank account in the country before buying because each country have unique financing laws.
$66,000 for a new condo in Quito with access to a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.
$99,000 for a beachfront condo in Bahia with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
$289,000 for a three bedroom villa in a gated community with maids' quarters and a grand terrace. The community has a pool, basketball court and riding stables.
Though the drug war has taken control of many of the towns along the northern border, Americans are still drawn to Mexico’s beaches and rainforests. Many of the most popular regions have already peaked (Cabo, Cancun, etc.), but there are still deals to be found. Lichtenstein, the blogger, points to Guanajuato, a historic city in the country's central mountainous region. There are direct flights there from the U.S., and Mexico City is a four hour drive. The taxes are reportedly low there, with no capital gains taxes from selling a residence. If you want to test out the area Lichtenstein suggests renting (you can find deals as cheap as $50 a night on VRBO, for example). If you’re serious about buying, try visiting city-specific sites such as Realtor Guanajuato, or larger listing sites like EscapeArtist.com, where you can find condos for less than $100,000 and villas for as little as $500,000.
$80,000 for a 2 bed, 1 bath condo in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, with a pool, security system and fireplace.
$125,000 for a 2 bed, 2 bath condo in Progreso, Yucatan, that is steps from the beach, overlooks the harbor and has a shared pool.
Don’t forget about domestic deals. As home prices drop, Florida is one of the most attractive areas for retirement homes, even though some experts predict the housing decline will continue through 2010. One such, Steve Roszell, a broker who runs CondoHotels.com and HotelsForSale.com, says, “My money is going to Florida.”
Bob Waun, CEO of Vacation Finance and author of Better Nesting: The New American Dream, says the Florida Keys have held up particularly well, with home prices not dropping as much as in Miami, where double-digit value decreases are not uncommon. His pick down there: Fisherman’s Cove, a private residence club in Key Largo. While it may be too pricey for many (residences there run upwards of $2 million), there are plenty of more affordable condos and homes in Key Largo, many of which are listed on PruKeys.com. It may also be worthwhile to check with specific brokers in the Keys, such as ActionKeysRealty.com or FloridaMoves.com.
$200,000 for a 4 bed, 2 bath home in Del Ray Beach, just outside Ft. Lauderdale.
$369,000 for a 3 bedroom townhouse in Key Largo with oceanside access and pool.
Wild Card: Cambodia
While not for the faint of heart, Sturges says some risk-taking homebuyers might want to keep an eye on this Asian country. That’s because the Cambodian government is considering changing its laws to mimic neighbor Thailand and allow foreigners to own land outright, rather than go through a lease-hold arrangement with a local. Areas such as Siem Reap, near the Angkor Wat temples, are already being groomed for foreign ownership, she says (and as evidenced by SiemReapRooms.com and AncientAngkorGuide.com). It may not be ready quite yet, but it could be the next hottest deal for globetrotting homebuyers, Sturges says.