While second home purchases rose 46% and comprised 6% of all mortgages from January to March, these 10 overlooked towns have experienced a significant uptick in vacation-home sales.

As evidenced throughout 2020, a vacation home by the water or in the mountains can be an invaluable resource — especially during a pandemic. Undoubtably, a year of lockdown and travel restrictions has rearranged priorities around where and what kind of second home people want to buy, according to a new report from realtor.com.

While second home purchases rose 46 percent and comprised 6 percent of all mortgages from January to March of this year, a number of towns and cities have experienced a significant uptick in the number of people looking to buy second homes. By examining financed properties and excluding all-cash offers, this list looks away from affluent hotspots like Malibu and Greenwich and instead showcases smaller cities with a burgeoning vacation home market.

“The pandemic has underscored for many people the idea that it’s nice to have a place to escape to,” realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale said in a statement. “If you can afford it, a second home gives you an alternate place to retreat.”


Here are the cities that are seeing the biggest influx of second home buyers this year:

Marion, North Carolina:

Median home price in March: $344,500
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 21.8 percent

Nestled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Marion has traditionally been more of a small town than a popular vacation destination — it boasts just 7,000 people and it’s quieter than the nearby arts community of Asheville. But during a pandemic, the quiet and scenic views have suddenly become very attractive commodities. Compared to a $492,000 median list price in Asheville, Marion offers an affordable alternative for a second home.

“The town’s historic Main Street is home to shops, restaurants and breweries, and a seasonal farmers market,” the realtor.com analysis states. “There is also camping and fishing at nearby Lake James as well as several golf courses and a couple of water parks not far from town.”

Sturgis, Michigan:

Median home price: $187,900
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 21.8 percent

Another town attracting vacation home buyers with its small-town feel and natural beauty, Sturgis sits at the foot of not one but six lakes. The area comes alive with vacationers with a love of hiking, fishing and boating in the summer. In the winter, it becomes a close-knit community at the halfway point between Chicago and Detroit. While a house on the lake will likely fetch much more than the town median asking price, the affordability is precisely what attracts many vacation home buyers.

“For some family fun, Camp Fort Hill boasts 220 acres of woods and 3,800 feet of shoreline along Tamarack Lake,” the realtor.com analysis states. “Nearby Fish Lake is also a popular spot for fly-fishing and baitcasting.”

Marion, North Carolina

Brainerd, Minnesota:

Median home price: $329,900
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 21.8 percent

Minnesotans have known about the virtues of a rest on the waters of Brainerd for generations. It, too, sits at the crossing of over 500 lakes within a 25-mile radius as well as the Mississippi River running through it. Brainerd’s popularity makes the median listing price slightly higher than some of the other towns on this list but its history as a vacation hotspot means that second home owners will never run out of things to do.

“There are plenty of outdoor activities to choose from, including swimming, hiking, and golf,” the realtor.com analysis states. “Snowmobiling, year-round fishing, and plenty of wildlife for hunting also make this area appealing year-round, making it a great weekend getaway.”

Ruston, Louisiana:

Median home price: $242,000
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 19.4 percent

Located in North Louisiana and at least an hour-drive away from any city, the town of Ruston has for generations been known as the peach capital of the state — the annual Louisiana Peach Festival is held here every year in June. In recent years, more and more out-of-towners have turned to Ruston to buy a vacation home for its affordability. With a median home price of $242,000, it is an affordable option offering the perennially popular delights of hiking, fishing and outdoor living.

“Ruston is another affordable, nature-friendly region for those on a budget,” the realtor.com analysis states. “Located in the Sportsman’s Paradise region of North Louisiana, residents here have plenty of outdoor activities like hunting and fishing.”

Hudson Valley, New York

Hudson, New York:

Median home price: $595,000
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 18.7 percent

A beloved weekend escape for busy New York City slickers, Hudson is far from affordable (the median home price is nearly $600,000) but has nonetheless soared in popularity during the pandemic. A year into the pandemic, many have been seduced by its accessibility (NYC is a two hour’s Amtrak ride away) and decided to settle in Hudson permanently. An abundance of farmers’ markets, boutiques and outdoor communities certainly make it an attractive place to camp out for the long term.

“No, prices aren’t what most people would call cheap, but New York City–area buyers can get more space for their money upstate,” reads Realtor.com.

Kapaa, Hawaii:

Median home price: $918,500
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 17 percent

Any Hawaiian town feels a bit like cheating since the state in its entirety is an attractive (and expensive) second home destination. But compared to the types of mansions being built by Silicon Valley billionaires in Maui and the Big Island, the Kauian city of Kapaa real estate market offers options that do not cross into the seven-figure budget —including a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath condo with beach access listed for $575,000.

“Adventurous types can hike to its highest point, which resembles a reclining figure’s forehead,” the realtor.com analysis states. “Residents can also explore the east side of the island using the Kapaa bike path, which extends nearly 8 miles along the coast.”

Kapaa, Hawaii | Realtor.com

Edwards, Colorado:

Median home price: $534,500
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 16.6 percent

As evidenced by the real estate market explosion in Aspen and Vail, Colorado is an extremely popular vacation destination and place to wait out any sort of crisis. Sitting at the foot of the Rocky Mountains at 100 miles from Denver, Edwards is a more affordable option to these ultra-affluent enclaves — a combination of both single-family homes and condos on the market means that someone with a smaller budget can still secure a second home.

“With 184 inches of snow every year, Edwards—a gateway to the Beaver Creek Resort—remains one of the best bets for skiers flocking to Central Colorado,” the realtor.com analysis states. “But it’s not just snow that brings visitors to this nature lover’s paradise. Temperate summers are perfect for hiking, fishing, and whitewater rafting.”

Branson, Missouri:

Median home price: $256,200
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 16.5 percent

Making realtor.com’s list of the country’s most affordable lake towns for two years in a row, Missouri’s Branson is a spread-out lakeside community at the foot of the Ozarks. Numerous resorts sit throughout Table Rock Lake while single-family homes dot the thousands of acres of forest land surrounding it. In recent years, Branson has also become a popular destination to see historic mansions and, given the country singer’s reemerging popularity among millennials, Dolly Parton’s Stampede.

“There’s plenty of opportunities to socially distance from strangers across the lovely 43,000 acres of Table Rock Lake,” the realtor.com analysis states. “Take it in on a paddleboard, kayak, or boating trip. For a more meditative day, spread out and fish for trout in the clean, cool waters of Lake Taneycomo.”

Branson, Missouri | Realtor.com

Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin:

Median home price: $162,450
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 14.8 percent

The most affordable small town on this list, Wisconsin Rapids is less known outside the Midwest but particularly popular among fans of extreme sports — the annual water-skiing championships at Lake Wazeecha and the national BMX Bandit cycling championship both take place here every year. When indoor entertainment has been closed across most of the country for more than a year, a lake on which one can both sail leisurely and race made it a popular vacation destination for many in 2020.

“But buyers who want a home on the water should expect to pay premium prices compared with other homes in this region,” the realtor.com analysis states. “A newly constructed home with three bedrooms and 2.5 baths on the nearly 500-acre Lake Nepco is listed at $445,000.”

Barnstable Town, Massachusetts:

Median home price: $759,950
Increase in second-home sales percentage: 14.2 percent

A home on Cape Cod can hardly be called a novel or affordable second home idea but Barnstable Town does have less expensive options compared to some of the other places on the islands around Boston. Similarly to the Catskills or the Hamptons, many have chosen to make Cape Cod their permanent home since the start of the pandemic — the water and tranquility make it extremely attractive for those with funds to break into the affluent waterfront community.

“People want their own resort,” Jack Cotton, a Realtor at Sotheby’s International Realty, told realtor.com. “Privacy used to be at the top of the list; now it’s been supplanted by elbow room.”

UPDATE: This article was updated to correct the driving time from Denver to Edwards.

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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