• Heritage Harbor is a planned vacation community in Ottawa near Starved Rock State Park, located less than two hours from downtown Chicago.
  • Illinois agents should become well-versed in second home and investment property knowledge to help buyers find a place in the state to purchase.
  • Asking the right questions and understanding what a buyer is specifically looking for can help ensure vacation properties are in the correct neighborhood, the right distance and with the perfect amenities.

It’s no secret that Illinois isn’t a popular vacation spot for its own residents, but that doesn’t mean local agents shouldn’t be well-versed in selling second homes. Although the majority of Chicagoans searching for a secluded oasis will search east into Michigan or north into Wisconsin, southern communities in the state have plenty to offer the vacation home seeker.

Tammy Barry with Heritage Harbor is all too familiar with the lack of knowledge of the market in one of the state’s most beloved getaway spots: Starved Rock State Park. Located just outside of Ottawa in central Illinois, Starved Rock is known for its beautiful canyon-like formations, old tree growth and network of lake and river amenities.

In 2007, just before the market crashed, the vision to create a vacation oasis less than two hours from downtown Chicago blossomed. Despite the tumbling market, the team behind Heritage Harbor stuck with their intentions and master plan to develop a nature-oriented lifestyle with homes of various sizes, a 160-slip marina, three swimming pools, a restaurant and more.

One big obstacle for the team, though, was getting both agents and homebuyers to become familiar with the vacation resort. Tammy Barry spoke with Inman News about the most important considerations for agents working with vacation home and investment property buyers in the Chicagoland area.

Keep past relationships strong and grow new ones

Agents who are feeling stale or stuck with their current client relationships can use the opportunity to sell vacation homes as a way to reconnect. Chances are, that family that purchased a home two years ago in Downers Grove isn’t looking for a new property, but they may be considering a second home.

Barry suggests reconnecting to discuss options and open up as a resource for past clients. But agents who are looking for new clients or new agents seeking to broaden their base can use their knowledge of vacation rental properties as a conversation starter over cocktails or coffee. She suggests simply asking “What do you have going on this weekend?” The question can begin to stir the pot and lead you down the right path to discuss more in-depth about vacation properties, she says.

Know how far buyers want to go

Agents who are educated on new developments and opportunities in the state are going to be more equipped to help out clients. While most second home buyers look to the surrounding states, a major plus in the favor of in-state properties is the lack of traffic. According to Barry, “Driving an hour to New Buffalo is different than driving an hour south to Ottawa.”

Sunday summer traffic from Michigan and Wisconsin is all too familiar for any Chicagoan who has taken a weekend getaway to popular destinations in these states. But having a location that is a bit more “off the beaten path” eliminates some of the stress of traveling during non-peak times.

Ask the right questions

Do you plan to rent out the property? What type of amenities are you looking for? How many seasons do you plan to live there? What’s your budget?

What kind of lifestyle do you want? How close do you need to be to amenities? Do you want a fixer upper or to be a part of a new community?

These are questions agents need to ask buyers looking for a vacation or investment property, Barry says. Many vacation home buyers also want to know what type of residents live in a specific community.

Email Kimberly Manning

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