Summertime might be over, but vacation time is just getting started. For many golf and resort markets, the first half of 2013 showed leaps and bounds in high-end activity, with some regions reporting increases as high as 50 percent compared to last year.
The opportunities each resort town offers — from boating on the Intracoastal Waterway to putting in the mountains of Colorado — combined with today’s ease of mobility has brought a wave of buyers into the second-home market. From coast to coast and even in parts of Mexico, these destination cities are thriving, and not just in their peak seasons, as more and more people find ways to make the most out of their vacation homes.
Fort Lauderdale’s luxury market is strengthening “almost weekly” this year, says Julie Jones of Premier Estate Properties, noting that new construction is booming. Jones recently sold an oceanfront property for $5.5 million, adding there are plans to redevelop and renovate it into a $15 million estate.
“The demand is for premium land for development into luxury residences on the water and oceanfront,” she says.
There’s also a huge appeal for the avid boater, who can take larger vessels into Fort Lauderdale without any concern for shallow waters, says Niki Higgins of Seaside Properties Group at Douglas Elliman.
“A person with a big boat that draws more than eight feet of water can’t take their boat to many places in Miami,” Higgins explains. “The fact that Fort Lauderdale has canals and pointe lots with deep water is very appealing to boaters.”
Fort Lauderdale’s proximity to Miami is a huge draw for buyers who work full time, but still want a “relaxed, easy lifestyle,” Higgins adds.
“People aren’t slowing down; they’re changing gears,” she says. “[It’s] a very relaxed, easygoing town. People can work, even if they’re away from their office. If you need to go down to Miami for a business meeting, it’s no big deal.”
With Miami becoming a vibrant city, Higgins likes to think of Fort Lauderdale as the Greenwich, Conn., of the region. Jones agrees, describing Fort Lauderdale as a “cosmopolitan city” with much to offer.
“You have amazing, clean beaches, beautiful parks, great restaurants and shopping plus a thriving downtown,” Jones says.
The grand re-opening of the Cordillera Golf Club, one of the area’s premier courses, has led to “positive news” for the Vail Valley, according to Gina Dizon of Ron Byrne & Associates Real Estate.
“We’re seeing improvement, a lack of inventory and various price points, and that will help support a stronger market,” she reports. She adds that prices range from $1,100 to $1,200 per square foot, depending on the community.
While golfing is a huge attraction for summer residents, Vail Valley — which encompasses the communities of Beaver Creek, Arrowhead, Red Sky, Eagle Ranch and Cordillera — offers a year-round lifestyle to its second-home buyers, Dizon says.
“The summer attracts the golfers, but there is a huge cycling and mountain-biking community. In winter, you’ve got skiing [and] snowshoeing, plus performing arts, theater, music [and] culture,” she says.
The area also attracts buyers from other big cities; the Vail Valley is “the most urban ski environment I’ve ever found,” Dizon says.
“You don’t have to drive hours to get to a source of entertainment. We think nothing of driving to Denver for the day,” she adds.
The quiet town of Telluride and its equally peaceful neighbor, Mountain Village, is nothing short of heavenly for avid golfers. There’s no heat, no stress and – perhaps best of all – gravity is on the golfer’s side, explains George Harvey of The Harvey Team.
“Golfers love to come up and play in the cool mountain weather. And at this elevation, you can drive the ball farther,” he says.
A little peace and quiet is another gift the area bestows. Approximately 90 percent of Telluride’s market is the second-home buyer, who can escape the heat in the summer, take advantage of prime skiing in the winter — or perhaps do nothing but relax and unwind.
“Telluride is a little remote, a little harder to get to — that’s one of our best qualities,” Harvey says. “We don’t have traffic jams, it’s more peaceful and you can get your pulse rate down in just a couple of days.”
Luxury in the Mountain Village community ranges from $1 million to $4 million, where the town of Telluride is closer to $1 million to $5 million, Harvey says. The home he’s currently listing in Telluride is priced at $12 million and features a limitless view of Wilson Peak out its front window.
“In the summer, it’s lush and green [and] dropdead gorgeous,” Harvey says. “I ask my clients why they came here, and it’s the natural beauty. People are awestruck by it.”
Although it’s one of many Colorado ski resorts, Aspen’s unmatched land value and rich 125-year history make it a favorite among second-home buyers.
“It’s mostly second homes and resort homes,” says Brian Hazen of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate. “People come for the skiing and stay for the summer. They spend a lot of time here — maybe more so than they do in their primary homes.”
Recreation is a predominant part of residents’ lives, Hazen says. A high-end home on one of the area’s golf courses can fetch $3 million to $4 million; a ski-in/ski-out estate 10 steps from the Buttermilk ski lift can sell for nearly $5 million.
“It has world-class recreation opportunities,” Hazen says. “You have four ski mountains, incredible mountain biking, fishing and rafting.” Hazen adds that Aspen was the kickoff city for the 2013 USA Pro Challenge, a professional cycling race through the Colorado Rockies.
Land value in Aspen remains strong as well, Hazen says, noting the sale of the 67-acre Jigsaw Ranch for $41 million earlier this year.
“Eighty-five percent [of the area] is protected by U.S. Bureau of Land Management,” he says. “It prevents a lot of density and sprawl, and puts a higher price on land value.”
In the northeastern part of the Sunshine State, the forecast is more than promising for Linda Sherrer and Christy Budnick of Prudential Network Realty. Sherrer reports that business is up 47 percent over last year. In Jacksonville/St. Augustine, home of the PGA Tour, buyers flock to the greens.
“We have a lot of gated communities with golf surrounding them. At last count we had 67 golf courses in our area,” Sherrer says.
Buyers are also attracted to the oceanfront, and activities such as boating and fishing — and they’re also mostly looking for a primary home. The region is ideal for year-round living because the seasons are much more defined.
“You really can use your fireplace in the winter and the leaves really do change color,” she says.
But waterfront living is not limited to the ocean here.
“We have the majestic St. Johns River flowing north and over three miles wide in sections, the beaches, and the Intracoastal Waterway,” says Neil Avery of Watson Realty. “We have creeks like Black Creek and Julington Creek, which are as wide as many rivers. And there also are many lakes — like Doctors Lake — which are the jewels of our area.”
Currently, Jacksonville and St. Augustine boast the state’s lowest unemployment rate, 6.5 percent, which has driven considerable relocation business into the region.
“Relocation has picked up dramatically,” Budnick says. “We have strong employment and the cost of living is inexpensive, especially given all the amenities. We’re getting quite a few people from areas that we didn’t draw from in the past.”
For the third year in a row, the number of sales and median prices are on the rise in the Keys, according to Doug Mayberry of the Doug Mayberry Team.
“Buyers love the independent character and laidback lifestyle,” Mayberry says. “We’re finding more and more people are attracted to this ‘live and let live’ attitude. As the current advertising campaign for the Florida Keys says, ‘close to perfect, far from normal.’”
With its blue-green waters and plethora of water-related recreation, Key West easily lures buyers, Mayberry says.
In addition, two private communities, Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo and the village of Islamorada are prime markets for second, third or even fourth homes, says Russell Post of Russell Post Sotheby’s International, because each offers world-class boating and fishing.
“Over 70 percent of the homes at Ocean Reef have dockage,” he says. “In Islamorada, you have deep sea fishing, reef fishing, flat fishing and tarpon fishing. It’s a fisherman’s paradise.”
Additionally, Ocean Reef Club offers its members two championship 18-hole golf courses. Since the Keys get very little rain, Ocean Reef has been making its own water to irrigate the greens since the 1970s. The outstanding quality hasn’t gone unnoticed, Post says.
“I’ve played with a PGA professional who said they were the best greens he’d ever seen,” Post says.
Homes in the Keys start around $300,000, but can be priced as high as $15 million.
Boca Raton, Fla., has seen buyers seeking an equal mix of seasonal and primary homes, reports John List, broker/owner at Worth Avenue International Realty.
“The market for golf and resort homes is strengthening,” he says. “Prices have been going up and recouping some of the decline of the past several years.”
Perhaps known in the past as a primarily retirement- driven region, List counters that many communities in Boca Raton are bursting with family-oriented amenities. List is currently representing a lakefront estate in The Oaks, a gated community that offers the kind of lifestyle an entire family can enjoy.
“There’s a tremendous amount of golf courses and country clubs,” affirms Scott Agran of Lang Realty. “It lends itself to all sorts of activities, from golf to tennis, boating and polo.”
Prices can easily go as high as $10 million or even exceed $20 million for a coveted waterfront estate, Agran says. These top-tier homes make it known that living in Boca Raton is “like living in paradise,” he adds.
Set foot in one of the classic adobe-style homes in the private community of Las Campanas and gaze out into the endless mountain vistas. Typically, that’s all it takes for a prospective buyer to realize there’s a reason why Santa Fe, N.M., is referred to as “the city different.”
Chris Webster of Sotheby’s International Realty, who has worked in the area for 40 years, can attest to the allure of Santa Fe, where the main amenity is simply “the lifestyle.”
“There’s extraordinary ambience and aesthetic,” he says. “[You can] step outside and also step back in time, and there’s a sense of timelessness that soothes the spirit.”
At Las Campanas, residents have the freedom to renovate old homesites or build anew, Webster says. A common design element among the homes is the integration between indoors and outdoors.
“The ability to move from indoors to outdoors is common here. Many rooms have their own outside entrance where you can access the patio or garden,” he says.
Aside from the great outdoors, residents can also enjoy Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, a spa, swimming, tennis, an impressive equestrian facility and fine dining.
“It’s an amazing combination of culture. When a visitor comes here, they feel they’ve gone to a different country,” Webster says.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Nestled along the west coast of Mexico against the backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains, Puerto Vallarta is a natural haven for resort homes. And in 2013, the high-end market has “come back with a vengeance,” says Brock Squire of Coldwell Banker La Costa Realty.
“In 2012, there were maybe one or two sales in Puerto Vallarta [in the high end],” Squire says. “So far this year, we’ve seen 14 to 15 $1 million-plus sales.”
Squire also notes a shift in his buyers; four or five years ago, Americans led the way, but now it seems more evenly split between Americans, Canadians and Mexicans.
“The population pyramid [in Mexico] is so different from the rest of North America. We’re seeing a much wealthier, better-educated customer in the Mexican market here than in the past,” he says. “We’re starting to see a younger crowd coming from Canada and the United States. The wide range of activities are making it more attractive for a more active group to come and enjoy what we have here.”
Thanks to its ideal location, Puerto Vallarta has “unlimited amount of activities” that range from kayaking and boating to golfing, zip-lining and rappelling, Squire adds.
“You can probably count on your hand the number of quality cities or towns that are in a quality bay of size that have a backdrop of mountains. It really makes for a spectacular setting and a great lifestyle,” he says.