Cover of the Vacation Home Counties report

The Vacation Home Counties 2021 Report seeks to analyze and contribute information on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the demand for vacation homes as government orders and advisories led to working from home, virtual schooling, and online meetings.

In conducting the analysis, NAR used Multiple Listing Service data in 1,205 counties, survey data from the monthly REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey, and publicly available data from the US Census Bureau.

Vacation Home Sales Trends

The share of vacation homes increased to 5.5% in 2020 and to an average of 6.7% during January-April 2021. Vacation home sales rose by 16.4% to 310,600 in 2020, outpacing the pace of total existing home sale of 5.6%. Sales are up 57.2% year- over-year during January-April 2021 compared to the 20% year-over-year change in total existing home sales. Vacation home sales averaged 412,500 during the first four months measured on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Overall, the housing market made a sharp rebound in the second half of 2020 that wiped out the losses in the first half of the year. However, the market was even hotter in what NAR delineated as vacation home counties, which are counties where vacant seasonal, occasional, or recreational use housing account for at least 20% of the housing stock.

Based on data from 1,205 counties (145 vacation home counties and 1,060 non- vacation home counties), existing home sales rose by 24.2% on average in vacation home counties, more than double the 11.2% annual pace in non-vacation home counties.

Home prices rose at a stronger pace in vacation home counties. The median existing home sales price typically rose by 14.2% in vacation home counties, compared to 10.1% in non-vacation home counties.

Properties typically stayed longer on the market in vacation home counties at 59 days compared to 30 days in non-vacation home counties in 2020. However, the time to sell a home in vacation home counties has speeded up more than in non- vacation home counties. In 2020, properties in vacation home counties typically sold more quickly by 13 days compared to 8 days in non-vacation home counties. Vacation home buyers are more likely to pay all-cash. During January-April 2021, all-cash sales rose to 53% of all vacation home purchases, a higher share compared to less than 50% in past years. In comparison, 22% of all existing-home sales in January-April 2021 were cash sales.

In 2020, 6.1% of workers 16 years old and over in vacation home counties typically worked from home compared to 4.3% of workers in non-vacation home counties. The opportunity to work from home could further raise the demand for vacation homes in future years.

A lower fraction of households in vacation home counties have broadband internet service, typically at 55.3%, compared to 56.7% in non-vacation home counties. Increasing the access to broadband service will be key to attracting vacation home buyers who want to use their vacation home as a workplace on weekends or for longer days during seasonal holidays and school breaks. There was a noticeable increase in net domestic migration in vacation home counties in 2020. In 2020, the median number of net movers rose to 98,279, from 78,114 in 2019.

Top 1% Vacation Home Counties

NAR classified a county as a vacation home county if the vacant housing for seasonal/occasion/recreational use accounted for at least 20% of the housing stock. Based on the US Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 5- year estimates, NAR identified 323 out of 3,143 counties (including independent cities) as vacation home counties, representing 10.3% of U.S. counties. Of the 145 counties in which NAR has market data, NAR identified the top 1% (roughly 30 markets) hottest vacation home counties in 2020 based on sales growth, price growth, change in days on market, and the number of seasonal homes in 2019 to account for market size. An additional criteria for being in the top 1% was that the county had to meet all three criteria of having higher price, higher sales growth, and faster days on market. Only counties with non-zero sales during the years 2017 through 2020 and with at least 10 sales were included in the analysis.

The top 1% of vacation home counties were in 16 states. North Carolina had four vacation counties (Swain, Alleghany, Macon, Watauga); there were three each in New York (Greene, Sullivan, Hamilton), Vermont (Windham, Bennington, Windsor), Massachusetts (Dukes, Barnstable, Nantucket), and Michigan (Oscoda, Alcona, Clare); there were two each in Florida (Lee, Collier), Missouri (Hickory, Camden), and Maryland (Garrett, Worcester). Oklahoma, Maine, Arizona, New Jersey, Georgia, New Mexico, Delaware, and Minnesota each had one vacation home county that landed in the top 1% list.

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