Greg Englesbe
Real Estate Investing

Ski town real estate boom shows signs of shift from beach property

Destination real estate has always been an in-demand target for homebuyers, whether for vacationing or as a keen-eyed rental investment.

But could the ski town slopes be edging out America’s eternally popular summer beach locales?

A new report  from the National Association of Realtors illustrates a surge of interest in U.S. ski towns, specifically in the Northeast and Midwest.

Searches of homes in ski towns increased by 36% annually in the fourth quarter of 2020, a large of enough jump that colder weather isn’t the only driver of this trend.

“Historically, residents of the Midwest and Northeast have shown a preference for warmer cities, and contributed to much of the out-of-state demand in homes in sunny states, such as Florida,” said Realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale. “This year, we found that snowbirds’ interest in ski towns increased more than interest from other areas across the country.”

Residents from eight huge U.S. markets — Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Minneapolis, among others — were behind the record interest in ski towns.

There’s good reason to believe that the coronavirus pandemic and the emphasis on social distancing play a big role in this shift.

“It’s not surprising,” Hale added. “Americans are increasingly searching for getaways that are within driving distance. Skiing is done outdoors and generally at a distance from others, making it a relatively safe sport during the pandemic.”

In Union Dale, Pennsylvania, for example, searches for homes increased 225% year-over-year. That’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Philadelphia, and the median list price in there was $185,000.

The popular Elk Mountain Ski Resort and Endless Mountain Resort attract droves of skiers and snowboarders every year, making properties a fairly safe investment with favorable returns into the future.

In North Creek, New York, searches for homes increased by 132% annually. It’s a bit more than a four-hour drive from New York City, but the median list price is also reasonable at $272,000.

Ski town real estate may be heating up, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the beach is dead.

Certain wealthy towns firmly built around the luxury beach experience have been on fire during the pandemic. In Palm Beach, Florida, County Clerk’s Office recorded more than 20 sales that exceeded $20 million in value in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

And in New Jersey, Ocean City saw the highest rate of increase in views of real estate listings among vacation towns in the United States, according to Zillow data.

In the year ahead, The Motley Fool anticipates both cold and warm weather settings will see interest continue to grow. They’re calling this phenomenon the “Zoom Town” effect, inspired by remote work conditions that theoretically make it plausible for many workers to live practically anywhere.

A wave of retirements spurred by the pandemic could similarly create a rush on real estate in towns known to attract retirees.

“More buyers may be inclined to set up residence in ski resort areas, beach towns, or other locales that would normally be considered primarily vacation destinations,” The Motley Fool’s Maurie Backman wrote. “Of course, that could, in turn, drive up home prices in these areas, but it could also ease the pressure in more populated housing markets.”

Real estate trends fueled by the pandemic are likely to be around for the foreseeable future. While vaccination efforts are now underway in the United States, containing the virus could take at least another year or two.

Expect homebuyers to get creative in the way they invest in order to cope with the realities of this new trajectory.

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