Kirby Pond

Upstate New York is an escape from the hustle and bustle of NYC, and contains some of the most stately mansions imaginable. Want to move to where the movers and shakers retreat? This waterfront mansion owned by Kaplan CEO Jonathan Grayer is on the market for just $16 million — a paltry sum considering what you get for the money.

With more than an acre on Kirby Pond in Rye, New York, this custom-designed manor boasts 11,531 square feet of living space, custom millwork, vaulted ceilings, vintage-style finishes, and an indoor lap pool for swimming when the pond is still a bit chilly.

This house is a dream!

Lap Pool Master Bath Great Room

Dan Nelson is a Dallas-based designer and president and owner of Vision Design, which he joined in 1991, was named President of in 1992, and then just bought the place outright in 2003. His roster of New York City and Dallas clients is a “who’s who” : The Crescent, The Mansion, Manhattan’s 21 Club, and some tony local clients, too, like Pat and Charles McEvoy (Pat is never NOT on the Best Dressed list thingee and and chairs almost every charity in town); Becky and Mike Casey, among others. Dan shared his second home with us, which he just returned from: 10 Park Avenue in New York City. “It was hotter there than it was here,” he tells me. I know — New York is a blast in the summer but it can be way hotter than Dallas with all that humidity. The pied a terre is about the size of a hotel room, and most of the furniture was created by Dan’s talented wife, Chipper. The artwork above the console is a Henri Cartier Bresson photograph. Home away from Dallas home is in a pre-war building (more desireable in NYC, they have more character) in the Murray Hill area and is about 450 Sq. ft. So small, in fact, it’s known as a “studio”.

“Works for me,” says Dan. And it works for me, too!

By the way Dan’s delightful wife (I cannot say better half, though he may) Chipper made all the tables and bathroom console in the co-op. Is she not amazing?

Those of us in real estate know that when the housing market plummets,  vacation places plummet the most. Second homes are most often discretionary purchases you wait on until you feel flush with cash.

Well, get ready. Realtors say second-home buyers are returning to the store,  shopping from Cape Cod to Lake Tahoe. As I told you, nationwide vacation home sales rose 7% in 2011 to 502,000 homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. They made up 11% of total sales in 2011, more than they did in 2010.  And NAR’s spokesman Walter Molony, who I hope to see in Denver next week at NAREE, expects continued momentum.

“We’ve heard positive reports from Las Vegas, Telluride, Col., Lake Tahoe, Naples, Fla., and some areas of California,” he told Investor’s Daily. “We’ve been seeing a little bit of unleashing of pent-up demand.”

Well yes, that plus bargain prices.

But while the number of transactions is increasing, vacation home prices are still not generally appreciating. The healthiest segment of the market is, surprise surprise, upper-end properties: the luxury market.

Neal Hanks, an Asheville, N.C. agent says he is seeing significant increases in sales of homes in excess of $500,000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I hear the Florida market is even tightening up. No Girls Gone Wild, but firming. The recent death of my brother-in-law has me poking into the Naples market, where they own two homes. In nearby Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, inventory is just 4.7 months, the lowest since 2005.

In Southwest Florida,  broker associate Jennifer Calenda of Michael Saunders & Co., a luxury regional real estate firm affiliated with Ebby Halliday through Luxury Portfolio, says dollar volume sales are up. Prices are not going up, but people are buying about $100,000 over where they were — so folks looking at a $300,000 condo might spring for $400,000. Are people really feeling more flush, more confident, or just sick of depriving themselves?

Some feel people are getting back on their feet, paying off debt, and I think I read that American’s debt levels were decreasing. David Southworth, founder and CEO of Southworth Development, which specializes in upscale vacation-resort communities, says demand is coming back as people get on their feet.

“The second-home market is always a trickle-up type,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. “As the economy gets better that means small business owners start making money again and executives start getting bigger bonuses. And that’s when our customers come back.”

“During the past year, investors have been swooping into the market to take advantage of bargain home prices,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun . “Rising rental income easily beat cash sitting in banks as an added inducement.”

The median vacation-home price was $121,300, down 19.1 percent from $150,000 in 2010.

The typical vacation-home buyer was 50 years old, had a median household income of $88,600 and purchased a property that was a median distance of 305 miles from the primary residence; 35 percent of vacation homes were within 100 miles and 37 percent were more than 500 miles. Buyers plan to own their recreational property for a median of 10 years.

Eighty-two percent of vacation-home buyers said the primary reason for buying was to use the property themselves for vacations, or as a family retreat. Thirty percent plan to use the property as a primary residence in the future, while only 22 percent plan to rent to others.

Forty-two percent of vacation homes purchased last year were in the South, 30 percent in the West, 15 percent in the Northeast and 12 percent in the Midwest; Only 1 percent were located outside of the U.S.

They’re not all back. Southworth recently bought some communities on the cheap after the real estate bubble burst: Creighton Farms in Virginia horse country and most recently Willowbend in Cape Cod. Willowbend is doing the best, because of 8 million in metro Boston who can drive there. Most second home owners prefer to drive to their vacation homes, on average about 4 hours, but most often one or two.

Next week, I’ll hear more about Longcove at Cedar Creek Lake east of Dallas: 45 minutes east of Dallas.

The segment doing the best is the high end of the vacation market, this according to Brent Herrington, senior vice president of luxury developer DMB Associates.

“Inventory is much scarcer in the most desirable locations,” he said. “Prices are firming … we’re getting back to a world of multiple offers.”

Those amazing deals in the tops spots of the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Aspen and Vail peaked in hit in 2010-11. If you didn’t do it then, or are not quite in that league, look for the secondary markets — beachfront but not the name-drop locations.

After a few decades of recession, Palm Springs is becoming a hot second home market, beating out Santa Fe, say some realtors. And the developers are there to give buyers what they want: sun and out here, golf.

“We find our buyers appreciate all the things that Palm Springs and Indian Wells has to offer – the relaxed, resort atmosphere, no traffic concerns, friendly service, warm winters, incredible views and an abundance of outdoor activities, “ says Bill Bone, CEO and Founder of Sunrise Company, developer of Toscana, a golf community development in Indian Wells.

There is golf of course but also hiking, biking, farmer’s markets, as well as great shopping, dining, entertainment, the arts and medical facilities.

“Members have so much fun here, they call it “Camp Toscana”, says Bone. “We are very pleased with our sales results this year: have been 34 homes sold at Toscana, more than $59,000,000 in total sales.”

 

Palm Springs is within close proximity to sooo many Cali locales – less than 2 hours from LA, Laguna, San Diego, Palm Springs is brimming with mid century architecture, history and development.

“It appeals to people who really value properties of that era, and the new boutique hotels and restaurants keep things fun and interesting,” say Palm Springs agents Mark Godson and James Dalton Utsey. “The evolution of our downtown strip continues with the Fashion Plaza being rebuilt as a pedestrian friendly shopping and gathering place.”

 

Like many areas in California, Palm Springs was not spared during the housing bust, but values are beginning to inch up. Don’t have to worry about hurricanes here. Look carefully there are deals to be found.

 

Many consumers buy thinking they can rent out the home for cash flow and potential income, and they can. Vacation home rental listings are up at the website HomeAway. It had 433,000 listings in 2009, but 700,0000 listings now, says its vice president, Jon Gray.

Buyers are stirring, multiple offers are being reported, but there are no indications of appreciation. In some areas, prices are still falling. Do not be afraid to make an offer below asking: U.S. vacation home asking prices dropped 1.7% year over year in the 12 months ending in April, as overall listing prices fell 0.2%.

I do not advise buying a vacation home for pure appreciation. Just look for family enjoyment and maybe a place to rent out.

Still, some areas are seeing a tweak upwards when the distressed properties are all sold out. And demographics may be favorable for long term growth in vacation homes, with the average buyer age 50. There are 42 million people 50 to 59, right behind them are 43.5 million 40 to 49. Then there are 40.2 million people 30 to 39. These people grew up with vacation homes as common as swingsets and may follow their parents’ footsteps in buying.

 

This is what I remember second homes being like when I grew up, and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was loaded with these treasures. This is in the covetd Hudson River Valley of upstate New York. Check out this manicured jewel that a friend put on the market about a week ago. It’s a perfect weekend getaway only two hours from New York City, five miles to Hudson’s famed  Warren Street, with in-ground heated pool (a must in this climate, trust me) on five acres. Cathedral ceiling in spacious living area and brick walled fireplace with open kitchen has mid-century vibes. The home is fun for entertaining, and simple to maintain. Swim all summer, ski all winter — the slopes are 15 minutes away. There’s two bedrooms, one bath (who really needs more in a second home?), a garage, pool house, and out building. 

Now who says vacation home ownership is not affordable?

We are going to feature very select hotels here on SecondShelters, because more hotels are becoming second homes, some offering CondoHotel deals as well as residences. Two weeks ago, I was in New York City, where I have had my share of negative hotel experiences. Hint: you smell Febreeze, there’s a reason. But I finally found the most perfect hotel in New York City if you want to be in the middle of Times Square and simply walk across the street to a theater. I’m talking 46th Street just a bit east of Broadway. Location with a capital L but also, once inside, a complete peaceful oasis from the NYC jungle with a huge Texas plus to make Dallasites feel right at home: interior furnishings by our very own Cantoni.   (more…)

WFAA-TV is reporting that John Wiley Price has doubled his real estate portfolio in the last 12 months. This is Price’s home in North Oak Cliff. According to some Dallas County records digging by Channel 8, Price has been buying up a lot of property in and around his North Oak Cliff home during the last year. His personal financial statements report no gifts, says WFAA, which means, I guess, how did he manage to buy $748,000 worth of property by his lonesome? I’ll say this: it’s a damn good time to buy real estate. Looking at DCAD, Price owns these seven properties: his home at 406 East 5th Avenue, valued by the county at $144,760. Then he owns some recently purchased commercial land at 715 (CLOSED 8/10/10), 621 (CLOSED 8/12/10) and 619 North Marselis (CLOSED 1/5/11), and another at 7001 Graby Niblo Road. Price also owns two homes on East 5th Ave. – 406 (where he lives) and a 2580 square foot number at 619 built in 1916. Curiously no transfer date is given or listed in DCAD. Also did not see that address in MLS. Private sale?

But I think I know what the FBI may be after: Price’s dolls

I caught up with Vern Yip, star of HGTV’s way popular design shows, when he popped in to visit I.O. Metro up near the Dallas Galleria last week. Yip has a new partnership with the Little Rock, Arkansas-based store that offers a wide variety of stylish, sleek but hip, good-looking and comfortable home furnishings at most affordable prices and a “made in America” stamp/tag. Yips fans were busting down the door, first in the Allen store, then at the Galleria location. Many brought design dilemmas — and he was so gracious! Yip has formed a new alliance with I.O., will be seen in advertising campaigns and is offering “Vern’s Picks” throughout the stores — these all items Yip has selected as design must-haves.

I sat down on a plush I.O. couch and just went right for the real estate jugular — turns out Yip is also real-estate obsessed and even has a second home in Manhattan:

VY: Second homes are really getting popular because real estate is so affordable now and it really gives you an opportunity to free up your design sense a little.

CE: Like?

VY: Oh, let your hair down, explore a different style, do something radically different from the primary residence.

CE: Load it with old furniture?

VY: Second homes are not about old furniture! They are an escape, a retreat, a gathering place for friends and family and the last thing you want to do is have it filled with old leftovers.

CE: Everything new then?

VY: Sometime used is good, sometimes it’s not — but we are not talking –

CE: Furnishings you would have take to the Salvation Army?

VY: Yes. A second home is a good opportunity to reflect a design side of yourself not seen in your primary home. Maybe go for clean lines or contemporary –

CE: If your primary home is traditional?

VY: The design must be functional for less upkeep, not loaded with a ton of stuff.

CE: Like a beach house?

VY: Yes, you need to have furniture that works, that is not just great looking. Closed storage is important. Stain resistant fabrics and furnishing s that do double duty. Second home furniture must work harder.

CE: Good point! So do you have a second home?

VY: My primary home is in Atlanta and I have a second home in New York City.

CE: Do you lease it out? (Pulling out checkbook.)

VY: No! It’ about 800 square feet at Columbus Circle with great views of Central Park. I’m there at last once a month and I always feel more relaxed there — you tend to be more relaxed in your second home because you — literally — leave your baggage in your first home!

CE: That’s what I love, too. OK, so how is it designed?

VY: Clean lines, neutral tone on tone, minimalistic and big, bold art. The windows see nothing but Central Park. I have a sofa bed that is a queen sleeper, and my one bedroom. Simple, easy, what else do you need?

CE: Sounds perfect. Everyone needs a second home in NYC. Thanks Vern!

Update: My friend Samantha tells me more about her grandparents’ amazing Kingston, NY home:

“The kitchen is a box off of that living room they showed (below). It has the ugliest wallpaper ever (brown armadillos – I think) with very outdated cabinets. The washer and dryer are in the kitchen as well. I am positive that the new owners had to put in new appliances as well – especially the stove (my grandmother had dementia late in life and burned the crap out of the stove and burners). The bedrooms overlook the back yard. All have big windows and the same outdated cabinets. It does appear that the boys (as my mother calls them) did update the patio – which is very nice. There are two bathrooms – one green that has a shower stall and linen closet and the other brown that had the bathtub.”

“Not sure what my grandparents paid to have the house built, but I think the new owners probably got it for $350K,  but I’m not sure.

It was super unique for it’s time and for the area they live in. I never heard it called the Jetson’s house nor the trailer in the sky. My sister and I are convinced that when the new owners speak of people slowing down to look – they are referring to us being looky loos!”