As prices have soared in areas like Aspen, Miami and the Hamptons, some buyers are seeking out alternatives that offer luxury for a (relatively) affordable sum…
To escape eye-popping prices in the country’s best-known second home markets, some buyers are turning to less well-known destinations where their dollar can go further.
Instead of Palm Beach… Try Sarasota, Fla.
Florida’s west coast has traditionally been less expensive than the east coast, where Palm Beach and Miami boast some of the world’s most expensive real estate, said Rick Moeserof Christie’s International Real Estate. And while Naples has grown nearly as expensive as its east coast counterparts, there are still deals about 115 miles to the north in Sarasota, where waterfront homes go “for a fraction of the cost,” he said. “This part of the country has offered far more value than would have been available on the east coast,” said George Serrano, who paid about $1.5 million in 2007 for his roughly 5,700-square-foot home with a swimming pool in the Sarasota suburb of Lakewood Ranch.
Sarasota once drew its snow birds primarily from the midwest, but more northeasterners have discovered the area. Mr. Serrano raised his family in Connecticut, and had retired to New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee when he started looking for a winter home in Florida. “In Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, when you say Florida they think of West Palm,” he said, but he found many parts of the east coast to be too crowded, with “too much noise and traffic.”
Before buying a home, Brian Clayton said he and his wife explored much of Florida’s coastline. In Naples, he recalled a half-acre piece of land with about 100 feet of waterfront selling for $15 million. In contrast, he paid $4 million for a home with about 200 feet of waterfront on the Sarasota barrier island of Siesta Key.
Fashion designer Sigrid Olsen also recently moved to a three-bedroom rental on Siesta Key, where she said she can bike to the beach in five minutes and do yoga on her deck overlooking a canal. Ms. Olsen, who also owns a summer home in Gloucester, Mass., said she plans to buy a home in Sarasota sometime in the next few years.
Sarasota buyers said they’re drawn to the city’s walkable downtown, restaurant scene and arts offerings. With its laid-back, outdoorsy vibe, however, Sarasota lacks the high-octane social scene of Florida’s east coast, as well as its super-yacht culture. Another reason for its relative affordability is the area’s multiple barrier islands, which allow for an abundance of waterfront homes, according to Jim Soda of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.
Number crunchers take note: Prices in Sarasota took a tumble during the real-estate downturn of the mid-2000s and still haven’t totally recovered. The median sales price for a luxury property in the Sarasota area in 2015 was $652,508, down 3% from 2005, according to Realtor.com. In contrast, the median sale price for a luxury home in Palm Beach was $3.15 million, up 19% from 2005.
Chris Poore rented in Southampton, N.Y., every summer for six years, but was frustrated by the area’s sky-high purchase prices. After widening his search, he and his fiancé ended up with a white-shingled Colonial in Bellport, a town about 30 miles west—and considerably less expensive. At $1.5 million, the 1.2-acre property cost about half as much as Southampton Village homes they’d seen on much smaller lots.
Home prices in America’s best-known second-home markets have skyrocketed over the past 10 years. Nationally, the median vacation home price in 2015 was $192,000, up 28% from 2014, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. The cost to buy in areas like New York’s Hamptons is particularly steep: There are now over 10 homes there asking $40 million or more.
Instead of the Hamptons… Try Bellport
“You used to be able to get a cute little farmhouse for not that much money,” said New York City real-estate agent Jared Seligman of the Hamptons, the well-known string of Long Island beachfront towns that are popular weekend destinations for wealthy New Yorkers. Nowadays, “it’s hard to find [something that isn’t] a shack for under $2 million.”
Enter Bellport, a village on Long Island’s Great South Bay about 1½-hours drive outside the city. Its denizens include publishing magnate S.I. Newhouse, actress Isabella Rossellini and television host Charlie Rose, according to local agents.
Many weekenders are drawn to Bellport Village‘s charming 19th-century homes, said Annie Rohrmeier of Eileen Green Realty. And in addition to its bay frontage, the village also has an ocean beach: It is a 10-minute ferry ride to a Bellport residents-only section of Fire Island National Seashore, with a wide sandy beach similar to those in the Hamptons.
While there is summer theater, golf and tennis, the village’s tiny downtown has few nightlife and dining options (its weekenders said they prefer the low-key atmosphere).
The median sale price for a luxury Bellport home, defined as the highest-priced 10% of all homes in the market, in 2015 was $746,050, up 12% from 2005, according to Realtor.com. That appreciation is comparable to East Hampton, where the median sale price for a luxury home in 2015 was $2.3 million, up from 15% from 2005.
Instead of Aspen… Try Sun Valley
With its world-class skiing and mountainous natural beauty, Idaho’s Sun Valley has long attracted celebrities like Bruce Willis, and plays host to the annual Allen & Co. conference that draws media and tech moguls. But partly due to its remote location in the narrow Wood River Valley, hours from a major airport, the area remains far less developed—and less expensive—than other luxury Western ski enclaves like Aspen, Colo., or Jackson Hole, Wyo.
“You can really get a good value up there if you know what you’re doing,” said Claudia Graham, a Los Angeles-based biomedical company executive who recently paid $1.8 million for a three-bedroom log cabin on over an acre in Ketchum, where most of Sun Valley’s restaurants and nightlife are located. Last winter, Minneapolis resident Ranee Jacobus and her husband Randy, together with Mr. Jacobus’s business partner, bought an 85-acre property in nearby Hailey for $3.85 million. The property contains a roughly 7,300-square-foot log frame house and a guesthouse, both with mountain views.
Prices in the Sun Valley area (which generally refers to Sun Valley resort and surrounding towns) are a half to a third of those in Aspen, according to real-estate agent Sue Engelmann of Sun Valley Sotheby’s International Realty. The catch: getting there. Flights to Hailey’s tiny airport face challenges landing in bad weather, diverting travelers to Boise or Twin Falls, where they are bused two or three hours to Sun Valley. And there are no non-stop flights to Hailey from major hubs like New York City, Boston or Chicago, although the airport has recently added non-stop flights from San Francisco and Denver.
Sun Valley’s market hasn’t yet recovered from the real-estate downturn; two devastating wildfires in recent years also kept prices in check. In Ketchum, the 2015 median for a luxury home was $1.5 million, a 25% decline from 2005, according to Realtor.com. In contrast, the median sales price of a luxury home in Aspen rose 29% to $4.38 million in 2015, compared to a decade earlier.
Luxury Second Homes for Less
Residents in Sarasota, Sun Valley, Napa Valley and Bellport, N.Y. said they are getting more for their money
The Sun Valley home of Ranee Jacobus. The Hailey property, which sits on 85 acres, had been on the market for several years and received several price cuts before she and her husband bought it with a business partner for $3.85 million. They renovated the property and plan to rent it when they’re not there.