- It is increasingly popular for the well-heeled to buy a second home in the same town for regular "staycations."
- These alternative homes are often apartments in vibrant urban areas or near a nice piece of water or a view, but offering a totally different scene from the primary home.
- Agents who want access to these incoming buyers should be making themselves and their developments known in suburbs where consumers, often in groups, are contemplating a second home.
They say a change is as good as a rest. Across the country, a trend is happening for the comfortably off to buy second (or third) homes in the same metro area — packing up their things and leaving the family home on Friday for a weekend away in another part of town with no chores to worry about. Just a change of scene and no traffic hassles.
They are typically only driving around half an hour or 40 minutes away — with busy working lives, many don’t have the tolerance for the traffic grind heading out of these big cities on weekends.
And flying to get away is also losing its appeal, with airport security measures and the hassle of getting to and fro. If there’s an area nearby with a totally different vibe, why not?
In a recent report, WalletHub said certain cities are better for this than others, listing a number of Florida locations — including Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale as well as Scottsdale, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Traveling to Brooklyn or TriBeCa on the weekend
In New York, with new development taking place in all five boroughs, the excitement of discovering a new area in the same city has been part of the “staycation” trend, said Beth Fisher, senior managing director at Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group.
People collectively decide to buy real estate around certain life-cycle changes, she said. When they get married, when they have children — and when their children leave home and they have accumulated the wealth to buy a second home.
The most significant group participating in the second-home trend is baby boomers — empty-nesters.
An empty-nester herself, Fisher and her husband are currently looking for a place in Brooklyn to visit on weekends from their Manhattan apartment. Fisher also said she has friends in a blended family who live near Times Square, and they have bought a “walk-up” in TriBeCa to get away from the kids on weekends, but still remain close enough for emergencies.
There is a whole tribe of “urban explorers” taking off to Williamsburg or the revitalized Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn on weekends, said Fisher. “There are so many new destinations to explore,” she said.
Meanwhile, if Manhattanites want to head for the water, they don’t need to go out of town anymore. The Hudson River clean-up activities have made the body of water much more of a recreational area.
“Now you can kayak up the Hudson,” said Fisher.
New Yorkers are also enjoying re-engaging with the housing market in Manhattan again, having done well with it over the years — and real estate is always a popular topic of conversation in NYC homes, added Fisher.
From LA to Malibu
On the other coast, meanwhile, A-list homeowners in Los Angeles were on top of this trend before anyone else knew it was a trend. They have always bought second homes near L.A. — attractive places like Malibu, just 40 minutes or so away from Beverly Hills or Hollywood, according to Coldwell Banker’s Aly Dunne, who’s based in the Malibu West office.
“Many people love the fact that they can drive 45 minutes and be in a totally alternative environment, where it’s all about relaxation, the beach, restaurants, the social scene. It’s a contrast from what you are experiencing at home,” she said.
The Coldwell Banker Malibu West office is open on weekends to help visitors to the area who get seized by the inspiration to buy.
“It does go both ways. We have clients who have their main residence in Malibu and have a pied a terre in Hollywood,” added Dunne.
Miami suburbs to Key Largo
Miami is another place where it seems like an obvious next step to have a second place at the beach half an hour away from your comfortable suburban home.
Enrique Teran, co-founder of Avanti Way Realty in Miami, sees the second-home trend in a number of cities in his market — clients, for instance, living in Miami and buying beach apartments in Key Largo, just 30 miles away. “They are getting out of the suburban metropolis,” he said.
Agents wanting a piece of this action should try to know both markets their clients are in, and remain an expert in their main market, he suggested.
Miami luxury agent Samantha DeBianchi said she often sees clients keeping their Weston homes and buying a condo for the weekend in Fort Lauderdale beach or Miami Beach.
And it’s not all baby boomers, she added. Her friends in their 30s are buying beachside apartments and renting out their primary homes on the weekend through Airbnb while they go to their second homes just half an hour away.
DeBianchi points out that the comfort of having a vacation home in your home town means if something goes wrong, you can get there quickly.
“It’s not a plane ride away,” she pointed out.
What products and lifestyles can agents offer these clients?
In a number of cities, developers have understood that they can build the right product and the buyers will come.
Atlanta has benefited from some high-quality developments built in the city center, such as 1010 Midtown, and this is triggering a lot of interest from second- and third-home buyers.
Lisa Wu of Hartwell & Associate Realtors in Atlanta — and also a star of “Hollywood Divas” — sees it happening among her affluent clients who have large homes in the Atlanta suburbs.
“I have a lot of friends in the entertainment industry doing it, who want to be closer to the airport where they can lock up and go,” she said.
Mixed-use developments with offices, restaurants and apartments are popular, she added. Her clients like “a hotel hybrid” model, she said.
They want the extras that they get when staying in a hotel — massage and beauty services on-site, a pool, a gym and so on.
“It has to have all the amenities,” said Wu.
And they will wait for the right product, she added.
“They want to come in really early to be sure that they are getting a deal,” she said.
Wu’s advice to agents is to stay abreast of all the new developments coming into your area, and keep these second-home buyers in mind. You need to know what’s coming up, what’s next, even a couple of years in advance.
Proximity to sports venues, concert venues, restaurants and other features of a certain part of the city is all part of the draw.
According to Jim Walberg, Pacific Union-Christie’s International broker, based in the San Franciso Bay Area, the “second home” markets in San Francisco are in South Beach by AT&T park, “so that going to a Giants’ game is effortless, or to be close to their sailboats that are moored in South Beach.”
“The other area is in the theater district or opera plaza, so there is the same convenience when attending theater or opera events,” added The Bay Area Team leader.
Second-home purchases aren’t always secondary
In cities across the country, these “staycation” homes are not simple pied a terres in many cases.
Beth Fisher sees clients who are not looking for a small place — their second New York City home purchase could be as big as the primary home.
“They want the option of using it as their entire home. To be able to use it for Thanksgiving, for instance,” she said. “It still has to be elegant, they are not downsizing — it is about convenience.”
Condominium specialist Chrishena Stanley, leader of Atlanta’s The Stanley Team, laughs at the competition that goes on between her clients — many of them self-made entrepreneurs — as they strive to get the best and most luxurious condo in the city.
She sees a certain amount of one-upmanship going on.
“They are looking for an aspirational buy, something completely different-looking,” she said.
“They are very competitive because they have the money. One started the trend, and all of a sudden I was working with three or four of his friends. They wanted to be on his floor or higher.”
In buildings such as Atlanta’s 1010 Midtown, people want views — and a lot of times, they customize, she said.
“They want to outdo each other. Even though they have got granite countertops, they fly in the best marble,” she said. “They want sweeping views, to be on the higher floors, to have something they have never experienced.”
This affluent group has a completely different in-town wardrobe, too, she said.
“They wear True Religion jeans and cowboy boots. They are reliving their youth,” said Stanley.
“They are like kids again — it’s like living in a frat house — their social second coming. They move from floor to floor, condo-hopping. I say, ‘I don’t know if this is a dormitory or a luxury apartment building.’ Jello shots and all.”
Tips for reaching second-home buyers in your town
So how do real estate agents engage with this lucrative, if quirky, market?
For a start, it works in your favor if this trend is actually happening in your city. You can make the connections with relative ease.
If you are in a large brokerage, you may find you have an office in a “feeder” location, for instance.
Aly Dunne finds it useful that Coldwell Banker offices in Los Angeles meet up every couple of months to talk about their markets; she might hear about a client who is looking in Malibu West.
If that isn’t an option, Michelle Hediger, co-team leader from Re/Max Leading Edge’s SellBoston, suggests going to some open houses in the suburbs and seeing what the market is like there — what the primary homes are like.
“Start creating a pipeline, a reciprocal pipeline — that’s where the money is to be made,” she explained. “Become that touch point with an entire brokerage in the suburbs.” Then, an agent there can say, “I know someone in the city who can help you.”
It is worth the hard work, said Hediger: “Once you pick up one client, all of their friends are going to follow — I helped four people from one suburb with their move.”
Sports clubs can be another source of buyers for agents. Beth Fisher has seen groups from golf clubs coming to certain buildings in Manhattan.
“One person leads — the alpha male — and the other club members follow,” she said.
Even if you aren’t working and playing in that area, you can still market to the area, added DiBianchi.
She recommends that agents in her market talk to beachside condominium agents and ask where the interest is coming from for their apartments. Then go to that market to talk about their listings.
“Ask around — find out who has been buying the project, who are the people coming and doing the viewings for these homes.”
“If they say they have been getting a lot of people from out west, then send your marketing that way,” she suggested. “Reach people through social media, mailers, cold calls, the traditional stuff.”
The financial argument for a second home in the same town
In such a buoyant housing market, it is not hard to argue that buying a second home in a popular area can be a good idea financially.
Village Realty’s Mike Zeller‘s market of Nashville is seeing a lot of second-home buyer activity, as locals want a taste of the “energy of youth and exciting food scene” in hotspots like East Nashville.
And he is ready with the investment argument for clients if they need it.
The Dwell Music City team leader said his clients are making the most of the extraordinary growth going on in the Nashville real estate market. Why benefit from it just once?
“It’s not hard for a piece of property in a strong market to go up 10 percent year-over-year — you get so much more leverage in real estate,” he said.
He advises his clients to buy single-family homes rather than a condominium because a condominium is less easy to rent out. Many buildings have regulations barring these options, and condos typically won’t appreciate as much.
In Nashville, the second-home activity is working in both directions in this town of contrasts with lake locations and vibrant urban and rural communities.
Zeller and his girlfriend recently spent the weekend at a cabin in the semi-rural country town of Leiper’s Fork, around 40 minutes away. Zeller is thinking of buying a place there.
“Guys like me are going to buy a house, a country cabin in the country, but live in town.”
Leiper’s Fork has a lot to offer a townie — a historic area which attracts lots of country musicians, beautiful farmland, and it’s still in the Nashville area.
And although condos may not appreciate at the rate single-family homes do, the demand for second homes is actually driving prices up in the condominium market in Atlanta.
Chrishena Stanley had a client who bought his condo for $425,000, then sold it for $585,000. He then bought another one in the $600,000s, on a higher floor and in a corner.
His competitive friends have watched with interest.