Second Home Dream Destinations

110If you own a home, you’ve already been through the arduous process associated with homebuying, which practically makes you a homebuying expert. Given this savvy, you may have been toying with the idea of buying a second home.

You wouldn’t be alone: Vacation properties accounted for 21 percent of homes sold in the United States in 2014 — the sector’s highest market share in more than a decade — according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.

While 33 percent of buyers purchase a second home as an escape from day-to-day life, 19 percent of second-homebuyers say they are establishing roots for a smooth transition to a retirement residence once the children leave the nest. These homes can even be a great heirloom for children and grandchildren to inherit.

Despite the hefty initial price tag, buying a second home can be a good investment. If you plan to sell down the road, your second home will likely gain appreciation over time.

Additionally, these homes are prime to rent. Services like Airbnb can help make it easy, and renting provides homeowners with additional income.

Photo courtesy “Look Up: Ocean Shores” ©2014 GD Taber, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy “Look Up: Ocean Shores” ©2014 GD Taber, Creative Commons

The old real estate adage “location, location, location” is especially true with second homes. Homes with proximity to the beach are by far the most desirable second homes, with an estimated 40 percent of buyers looking for beach properties. However, homes that are located on a lake, in the country, or in the mountains are also highly sought-after.

Whether you’re looking for a home on the beach or in the mountains, a good rule of thumb when establishing a vacation home search radius is sticking within a close enough drive from your primary residence.

With this guide in mind, we set up a search radius and found the best spots to buy a second home.

Lake Chelan
With a lake that spans more than 50 miles in length, Lake Chelan is pretty impressive. The Chelan area boasts both spacious working farms and intimate cottages; with this variation the average cost of a home in Chelan is approximately $445,000. If you are looking for lakefront property, consider The Lookout, Chelan’s walkable, close-knit community with 700 feet of waterfront and a private marina. Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar; after all, the entire valley is home to only 7,000 people. That gives Chelan that secluded, small-town feel. There is no shortage of activities for residents; the lake (which is the largest natural lake in Washington) boasts family-friendly activities for every season: cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, mountain biking and hiking in the spring, water sports on the lake in the summer, and harvest festivals and grape stomping in the fall.

Photo courtesy “Soundside houses near Possession Point State Park in Clinton, WA” ©2014 Lindley Ashline, creative commons

Photo courtesy “Soundside houses near Possession Point State Park in Clinton, WA” ©2014 Lindley Ashline, creative commons

Whidbey Island 
More than 71,000 people call the 168-square-mile island home. The biggest concentration of island residents surrounds the island’s largest employer, the Naval Air Station, which is situated on the north end of the island near Oak Harbor, while the south end is made up of intimate pocket communities. Whidbey is also a heaven for a large cross-section of authors and artists who have flocked to the island in their retirement to draw inspiration from its scenic views. While lavish, Whidbey waterfront homes typically sell for seven figures; inland homes are much more sensible featuring three- or more bedroom family-sized homes often for less than $300,000. Whidbey is accessible by air through the Whidbey Air Park, via the Deception Pass Bridge on State Route 20, and via the Coupeville to Port Townsend ferry or the Clinton to Mukilteo ferry.

Ocean Shores
Ocean Shores on the Washington coast isn’t just great to visit in the summer months — it’s a fun place to get away from the hustle and bustle all year long. Unlike many of the newer vacation destinations, many of Ocean Shore’s homes are older, having been built primarily in the 1980s, and as a result, there are still some affordable properties. The median price for a home in Ocean Shores (not all have waterfront views) is about $175,000. If your taste is more modern than vintage, consider Oyhut Bay, a new seaside village. This bay at the southern edge of the peninsula boasts new bright and airy cottages nestled around walkable trails and, soon, convenient shops. In addition to the shoreline, the Ocean Shores area boasts wildlife and 23 miles of freshwater lakes and canals so residents can spend their time clam digging, bird watching, and fishing.

“Patos Sunset, San Juan Islands” ©2014 Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Creative Commons

“Patos Sunset, San Juan Islands” ©2014 Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Creative Commons

San Juan Island
If you are looking to get off the grid, this archipelago in Puget Sound is as good as it gets. Accessible by ferry from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, and with spotty cell phone reception and small-town seclusion, San Juan will make you feel like you’ve completely unplugged. The islands offer a plethora of activities like whale watching and hiking during the summer months, yet can also provide a cozy winter escape in the off-season. Island homes range from cozy cottages deep in the woods to sprawling waterfront estates. The cost of a second home here is as diverse as the homes themselves; the island’s single-family homes sold for a median price of $392,000 in 2015, up 12.5 percent from the prior year. This trend will continue to rebound, especially through the summer months, so buying sooner than later is preferable. Don’t forget to stop by Pelindaba Lavender Farm in Friday Harbor to fill your new vacation home with the relaxing scent of lavender.

Seabrook
Just north of Ocean Shores, Seabrook is the destination for families seeking a postcard-perfect beach experience. It has more than 280 privately owned homes and room to grow. Owning a home in Seabrook is also a safer bet in case of a tsunami; it’s more than 70 feet in elevation in relation to other lower, more vulnerable ocean towns. In addition to striking ocean views, homeowners will find a wealth of food and retail shops in a classic small-town atmosphere: Restaurant Mill 109 Pub, grocer Front Street Market, pet gift shop The Salty Dog, home décor store Seaworthy, pottery painting studio Imagine That, and arts-and-crafts space Crafty Christine.

Photo courtesy “Hedley Spit” © 2015 Daniel Gasienica, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy “Hedley Spit” © 2015 Daniel Gasienica, Creative Commons

Bainbridge Island
Accessible by bridge or ferry, this 27.78-square-mile island in the Puget Sound features miles of rocky shoreline and densely wooded, rolling landscapes. Bainbridge Island exemplifies close-knit island culture even though it is a stone’s throw from Seattle thanks to a 35-minute ferry ride. Regardless of budget, Bainbridge Island has something for everyone. The island’s real estate market runs the gamut from 900-square-foot condos, to small, affordable single-family homes built in the 1950s, to sprawling estates with views that sell for more than $10 million. Residents can bask in the small-town charm of the island’s town center, Winslow, or explore the nearby farms, wineries, trails, and art scene.

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is an assistant editor at 425 magazine. Email her.
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