Why Vacation Homes Are Booming in Alabama and New Hampshire


This article has been reprinted with permission from The Escape Home, a newsletter for second owners and those who want to be. Subscribe here. © 2021. All rights reserved. Inhabitants of large cities in the US trying to cope with the pandemic have shifted their search for vacation homes from flashy hot spots to remote areas. Call it extreme social distancing.

The shift, to small and rural towns, is largely due to price as more middle-class families, not just the wealthiest, are eager to join the movement, said Monica Neubauer, real estate agent and host of a podcast for the Association. National Real Estate Agents. In established vacation home markets like Jackson Hole, Wyoming or Nantucket, Mass., Prices have moved “beyond what normal people can afford,” Neubauer said. As an alternative, he said, more people are looking for small towns near state parks or national parks that are affordable and still offer a retreat from urban life. The Escape Home wanted to know which specific locations are the most popular with potential buyers and buyers. So we asked Redfin RDFN, + 2.20%, the tech-driven real estate broker, to help us find out. The results are somewhat surprising. Redfin looked at micropolitan areas, which the government defines as a county that has at least one city with a population between 10,000 and 50,000, which are often surrounded by even smaller cities or towns. Redfin also considered rural areas. The company’s economists then compiled a list of areas that had the highest percentage increase in searches on the Redfin.com website in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019. The top location on the list turned out to be Marshall County, Alabama, which includes Lake Guntersville, Alabama’s largest lake at over 69,000 acres and home to a booming vacation home market fueled by the booming city of Huntsville. The area includes Lake Guntersville Resort State Park, which sits along the banks of the Tennessee River and is considered a resort-style retreat. The second most surprising finding on the list is the number of times the New Hampshire locations appeared. In fact, it appears that the “Live free or die” state is capturing the hearts, minds and wallets of a growing number of families seeking change. Of the top 20 locations, six were in New Hampshire, more than any other state. Redfin also compiled a list of micropolitan areas with the highest total number of searches in the fourth quarter. Of the top 20 locations on that list, Washington State dominated with seven locations, but New Hampshire ranked second with four locations. Small Cities and Counties with the Largest Change in Page Views 2019-2020 Percent Change Mashall, Ala. 2817% Dodge, Neb. 707% Douglas, Minn. 637% Otter Tail, Minn. 583% Klamath, Ore. 567% Jasper, Iowa 400% Cherokee, Oklahoma. 379% Cheshire, NH 372% Becker, Minnesota 368% Essex, Vt. 362% Harlan, Ky. 360% Grafton, NH 348% Sullivan, NH 339% Belknap, NH 336% Franklin, Kan. 330% Wayne, Ind. 322% Beltrami, Minn. 316% Merrimack, NH 311% Carroll, NH 311% * Percentage change in page views since Q4 2019 Source: Redfin Why New Hampshire? Shoppers are flocking to New Hampshire for a number of reasons. The state ranks as one of the lowest taxing states in the nation. It does not have a state income or sales tax. It also has favorable estate laws, a key issue for wealthy retirees. According to FBI crime statistics, New Hampshire has one of the lowest rates of violent crime. Only two other states, both also in New England, Vermont and Maine, had lower crime rates than New Hampshire last year. Home prices, of course, are also a consideration. In Cheshire County, home to several universities and located on the southern border with Massachusetts, the median home price was $ 272,000 in December, almost 24% more compared to December 2019, according to the Association of Dealers of New Hampshire Real Estate. Sales volume increased 30%. Redfin’s data shows that the number of visits to the Cheshire page increased by 372%, the most of any smaller location in the state. The New Colorado? Shoppers are also drawn to New Hampshire’s reputation as a place where work and play can be balanced, and where recreational activities include boating, skiing, hiking and biking, said Christopher Masiello, CEO of Masiello Group at Bedford, NH Your real estate brokerage firm closed 7,500 home sales transactions last year; about half were vacation homes. Masiello says many buyers relocating to New Hampshire are looking to replicate the outdoor lifestyle often associated with western states, but want to stay on the east coast. That explains why he and others refer to New Hampshire as the “New Colorado” on the east coast. “New Hampshire and really all of Northern New England (New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont) have similar lifestyle characteristics to Colorado,” which “is generally considered a popular place to relocate and is generally mentioned in the best places to live”. That may be, but keep in mind that cold air in humid places like the Northeast feels colder than cold air in dry places in western states like Colorado. So you may not be spending as much time outdoors in the Great North as you think. Unless you apply those tax savings to a new hot tub. This article has been reprinted with permission from The Escape Home, a newsletter for second owners and those who want to be. Subscribe here. © 2021. All rights reserved.