Tiger Woods is one dude who appreciates, among other things,  second homes.

Jeff Lichtenstein of Christie’s Great Estates & Illustrated Properties in Palm Beach Gardens, sent us a first glimpse of Tiger Wood’s backyard and private practice complex –click on that photo, this is great House Porn:

“It appears he has one tee box in the southeast east corner to hit drivers. The entire area just west of the lap pool can be used to hit long, medium and short irons into any of the 4 greens. Each green is guarded by a single trap, except the green in the northwest corner which appears to have 3 pot bunkers.

Tiger has enough open space to practice his short game from any angle, any wind condition, which really appears what this practice area is all about.

His putting green is totally surrounded by dense vegetation. One wonders if he is trying to block out the wind by doing this or if he is cutting off both sunlight and air circulation. He probably has a sub-air temperature/humidity control system beneath the green, otherwise it would be worthless in the heat of the summer, especially if the grass there is bent or some northern grass.

I’m curious as to what type of grass he planted, both on the putting green and throughout his practice area. The denser Florida or tropical grasses react quite differently with the club head and ball, and Tiger  may find he is switching grasses a number of times until he finds the right mix.

I would have thought he’d have 2 putting greens, each with different grasses.

Another curious thing I found is the placement of this particular Jupiter Island home so far back from the intracoastal. Usually, homeowners want to be very close to the water, but I believe Tiger wanted his practice area close to the water, so he reversed the norm, creating another unique signature estate among the Jupiter Island homes.”

Thanks, Jeff and Cary! I am liking Singer Island, founded by sewing machine magnate Paris Singer in Palm Beach County. Supposedly this island was purchased for his mistress, who did not like it (picky) and is home to golfer Michelle McGann and rocker  Clarence Clemons. Pretty upscale homes ans condos, but have they ever finished repairing the Tiara? Looks like you’ve got some gorgeous properties there. Any great hot deals? How about I come out, visit, rate, and tell the readers of SecondShelters all about it?

How To Find A Face Behind the Place.

Did you know there are more than 7.5 million second home owners in the U.S? I did, of course. And I also know there are about a million more properties out there waiting for owners. In the meantime, what do current second home owners do to monetize those second (and third) homes? Rent them, of course. Or maybe trade. But to whom? My biggest fear if I had to rent my vacation home: what if they trash it? How can I know and TRUST that the folks I hand a key to won’t be house monsters?

Only rent to people you know, like on FaceBook.

The folks at SecondPorch have created a Facebook-type social network to create trust in who you trade or rent your home to because these days, we seem to be lacking trust:

“According to a study released earlier this year by travel research firm PhoCusWright, trust has been identified as a significant industry barrier,” Brent Hieggelke, Co-Founder and President, Second Porch said. “Second Porch allows people to easily and tastefully promote their second homes to a trusted network of friends, and if desired, to other members of Facebook who like being able to see that there is a real person connected to the home.”

They’ve had great press and some big names behind them… Yahoo, Intel. Second Porch’s attractive, easy-to-use design allows users to display property photos, information, and updates on their profile pages. Users can choose to “follow” a property, like Twitter, which allows them to bookmark the home listing and receive updates. They can view or discuss homes their friends are following or have recommended (and totally pick them apart) and decide if they want to follow those homes as well.

This is House Porn on steroids, for Gen Y!

More beating on surfin’ dudesville. Joel Kotkin, who was in Dallas last Friday, is on his Texas kick again and I just love it. In fact, I’ve offered to help him find a house in Texas and just move in. This time he’s talking about the political and social and plain insane suicide Californians dealt themselves in the recent election: Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom. Because California, God love her, is already in a pickle and Kotkin thinks the new sheriffs will only make it worse:

Instead of a role model, California  has become a cautionary tale of mismanagement of what by all rights should be the country’s most prosperous big state. Its poverty rate is at least two points above the national average; its unemployment rate nearly three points above the national average.  On Friday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced yet again to call an emergency session in order to deal with the state’s enormous budget problems.

The proof of the pudding is in economic performance. Since 1998, according to economist John Husing, the California economy has not produced a single new net job. As Kotkin says,  public employment has swelled, but private jobs have declined.  I love this: as Texas grew its middle-income jobs by 16%, one of the highest rates in the nation, California, at 2.1% growth, ranked near the bottom. He says Texas accounted for roughly half of all the new jobs created in the country.

Yeah, we have our problems, and we need to look west to see how NOT to solve them. Do we really need more regulation on HOA’s that will drive up the cost of housing? And we need to totally get our property taxes under control.

I guess California, as much as I love her, might not be the best place for a second home after all… or any home!

STEM: Science,technology, engineering and math jobs.

Kidding. Sort of. The folks who live near those 42 vacant acres at Central and Walnut Hill are going to be tripping over ‘dozers and cement trucks now that a Missouri investor has snapped up the land and created a new chapter for Dallas real estate. But the question is, how much did he pay for it, and what’s he going to do with the real estate now that he has it?

Let’s go back to 2009, if we really must. Dallas real estate Developer Provident Realty Advisors cleared out the old apartments on this site — I recall at least two fires there. But there was also a lovely lake, where we took a pet duck after one of my zanier Easters and found out she was a female when all the male ducks tried to mate her. I thought they were killing here and intervened, it wasn’t pretty. But I digress. The 42 acres were going to be the site of yet another “West Village” at this very juicy intersection which is a few blocks from a commuter rail station and on one of the the busiest highways in the state. Let me define this version of West Village: 175,000 square feet of specialty restaurant and retail space, 1,100 apartment units, a small office building and a 104-home luxury residential village. I was told townhomes starting at $500K and high-end, boutique stores.

But then came the great credit crunch of 2008 and work on the $400 millionish project stalled. The land fell into foreclosure. Lender left holding the note, Wells Fargo, from Wachovia. Debt of $40 million.

Steve Brown says  the property has been acquired by a partnership set up by Kroenke Holdings of Columbia, Mo. Kroenke Holdings is a developer headed by billionaire sports team owner (Denver Nuggest, St. Louis Rams, Colorado Avalanche) E. Stanley Kroenke. Kroenke has holding companies owning and managing more than 20 million square feet of shopping centers in 17 states stretching from Colorado to New York, says Steve. And now Texas:

“THF Realty also has a long business relationship with retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc . Kroenke is married to Wal-Mart heiress Ann Walton.”

A Wal-Mart mini-mart might be nice here. Guess who’s got top concern over what will happen to that property? The folks who live next door. Representatives from three area homeowner’s associations really kept on top of this development, some say maybe too much — they made it too hard for the developers to do anything. Their concerns:

As most of you know, the 42-acre property at the northwest corner of Walnut Hill and Central Expressway that was owned by Provident Realty Advisors was foreclosed on by Wells Fargo late last year. Because the Wells Fargo loan pre-dated the private deed restrictions (“PDR”) that The Meadows, Glen Lakes and Windsor Park had collectively negotiated with Provident, the PDR has been negated. However, the zoning that we negotiated remains in place (see www.themeadowsna.org for a copy of the approved zoning).  Because of continued support from our City Council representative and the expectation that any future owner will likely seek changes to the existing zoning, we believe we will have reasonable influence in what ultimately transpires on the site.  As a reminder, current zoning includes, among other things, a requirement that the western-most 385 feet (approximately 17 acres) be solely residential, with no more than 140 residences that must be townhomes (rather than condos, apartments, etc). Wells Fargo has recently opened up bidding for the site.

The Joint Task Force (made up of representatives from The Meadows, Glen Lakes and Windsor Park) will continue to work with potential developers on behalf of our respective neighborhoods. The JTF is currently taking the approach that, rather than express upfront what our neighborhoods want on the site, we will wait and see what the future owner/developer has in mind.

Stay tuned. I’ve got my sources out on this one. Might be second homes, townhomes, some sort of Wal-Mart clone, or a whole new ballgame.


Vacation homes are no longer just for the rich.

Second home buyers are a lot younger than you might expect, and they are not all affluent. Where do they want to have second homes? The beach, like Florida,  which is no longer God’s waiting room but foreclosure central; Arizona, where it’s arid and there are so many foreclosed properties to choose from you can get dizzy shopping; the Colorado mountains, the rivers and ski ways of Montana, and North Carolina, a growing hotbed of second home coastal communities. Believe it or not, the bubble bursting in real estate has  made owning a second home a reality for many because pricing has been slashed and dashed. And people are buying.

According to the National Association of Realtors, meeting at this moment in New Orleans,  vacation home sales were up 7.9 percent (in 2009), to 553,000, from very low levels in 2008.

In 2005 and 2006, there were more than 1 million sales for vacation homes annually.

Second home owners are not all rich. The median age of vacation property buyers was 46 in 2009, according to the NAR. And while 39 percent of vacation-home buyers had household income over $100,000, the median overall was $87,200.

And this market is not hurting as much as first homes. According to the NAR, the median vacation home price increased by 12.7 percent in 2009 compared with 2008, which brought it to $169,000. That’s still well below the 2005 peak of $204,000, which is all the more reason why you want to buy now or in the very near future when prices could get even softer.

Half of vacation home sales are in the Sunbelt, because snow birds do crave sunshine.

Florida is like one giant Filene’s bargain basement. According to Florida Realtors, prices on existing condos are down by about 24 percent just in the last year, dropping to $81,600. Yet, sales of those price-chopper condo units are up over 22 percent for the same period, suggesting some savvy buyers see an opportunity when the prices decline.

Still, do your homework and check back with us here at SecondShelters for buying tips and pitfalls to avoid.

Go into any area with rock bottom prices with eyes wide open: can prices go any lower? Yes! What are the signs of instability? Are banks in the area still open? Are the shopping centers surrounding developments see-through empty? How many other foreclosures rub shoulders with the one you are eyeing? Is this the beginning of an onslaught of yet more foreclosures, or are they winding down? If there are HOA costs, the few buyers/owners will shoulder the burden of all the HOA dues. Once foreclosed upon, developers go bye-bye and run out on any fees. Then there’s the cost of insurance, which can be higher in hurricane-prone areas. And don’t think insurance rates on the Gulf coast won’t be going up after the BP oil spill, though BP had quite a clean-up tab. There’s property taxes, maintenance, and security to make sure no squatters move in when you are out.

To spread costs, consider sharing a home with another individual or family, the co-purchaser. It goes without saying to have a lawyer draft a written agreement, no matter how close you are. You should even do this with family members. Spell out how ongoing costs will be split, and deal with other potential sources of contention — breakdowns, water leaks, repairs and maintenance, as well as what happens if one of you wants out after a few years or worse — dies?

And you can always make numbers work by renting the vacation home out during part of the year will. But first, the IRS will have something to say about that: IRS Publication 527, “Residential Rental Property.” You will be entitled to visit your vacation property for a limited amount of time each year.  But then, like one man told me, if we are lucky enough to have jobs, we don’t get to vacation for more than a couple weeks a year. So why not rent out that home and generate some income?