I almost did not post this foreclosure, and while I have some issues with the kitchen — what in bejesus were they thinking with those wood cabinets, all beach house kitchens need to be white! — and the master bath looks like it might get you a good bash on the head if you get in after a few too many Mojitos, I will fix said issues for that Bay view right from the porch. (Not giving up the Top Shelf.) Mix me up a pitcher of anything with booze in it, rustle up some cheese and Carr’s wafers, and let’s enjoy the sunset. One acre, across from beach, 2420 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, garage and bonus room with bath. Bank-owned at $252,000.

OK, painting party on Saturday — that green gives me indigestion! But man oh man, let the bank throw in some Sherwin Williams and camel hair brushes, I am so signing on the dotted for this number.

All I want for Christmas is a beach home in Florida. Seems I’m not alone. Elin Nordegren Woods is also on the lookout, but she has a slightly higher budget than I do — about $4,000,000. And she is looking, I hear, on Jupiter Island, a sleepy little quiet island with 516 condos and only 18 buildings. And guess who lives there, too? (Like 20 minutes away.) Prices on Jupiter, I’m told, are not as soft as they are in Miami, Naples and God’s Got-Too-Much-Sun-Waiting Room, Fort Meyers. Elin is looking at one of the newer buildings on the island, built in 1998, with just 24 homeowners and a staff that pampers like the Ritz. It’s called the Carlyle.

The Carlyle is really the cream-of-the-crop on the island, sits on the land’s highest point, and sports 270 degree views from each unit. You want terrific sunrises and sunsets? You will have them every day, in every room. To the east are spectacular sunrise views of the Atlantic, to the west are unforgettable sunsets of the Intracoastal, and the north offers views the length of Jupiter Island as far as the eye can see.

Maybe Elin will be able to see as far as Tiger’s new compound?

Elin has seriously toured The Penthouse at The Carlyle, according to sources. The penthouse offers the ultimate in scenic views plus a 3,000 square foot rooftop sky patio, which is just unbelievably fabulous for entertaining.

Besides 4000 living square feet of stunning upgrades such as floating limestone floors and David Aultz (Palm Springs contractor) spherical and triangular ceilings, views, and even includes a 3-car garage and has its own boat dock and cabana bath available. All included in an asking price of only $3,990,000. (If not, I’d make them throw it in.) Really, not bad for being right on the water. I may want to check out Jupiter Island!

This post in Brick Underground got me thinking and of course, I’ve emailed it to my Manhattan-dwelling son who is coming home this weekend without, I sincerely hope, any critters in his luggage. He is upset that I bought him one of those canvas-cooker deals to kill off any bedbugs that might stick to his shoes or a backpack/briefcase. (Upset because he has no room in his studio apartment for it.) I’ve been freaking about bedbugs ever since he and I attended a movie near Times Square July 31 and the theater closed shortly thereafter due to bed bug infestation.  People in New York are being told to not use their beds to store guest coats or purses during holiday parties, even the minks!

You know how it is living in those old, cramped flats. What we call a Sam’s closet is basically the entire apartment in Manhattan. Come to think of it, I have a large home, and we don’t have room to hang up every guest’s coat in our hall closet. People usually stash them in our library on a leather chair, which I can vacuum and wash. But I am thinking of buying a coat rack that can be assembled just for parties.

Which is what they are encouraging in the bed bug-ridden cities. You are also to keep people off your sofas and encourage everyone to stand up. How inhospitable, but of course, I cannot blame any host who does this in the name of keeping a sofa critter-free. I love the idea of handing folks a large zip-lock baggie to store purses — I’d need a SpaceBag. But that got me thinking.

When I was growing up in suburban Chicago, I would go play at a neighbor’s house that I used to call the plastic house. Everything was always covered in plastic: the sofas, the chairs, the lampshades, even the tables. I found this a bit strange and asked my friend, Margaret-Ann, why her mother covered everything in plastic in their house.

She doesn’t want it to get dirty, my friend explained.

Oh. Does she cover you in plastic, too? I asked.

Sometimes, said Margaret-Ann, matter of factly.

I thought about Margaret-Ann many times after I started living on my own. Yes, my family make fun of her plastic-covered home, but sometimes, as I was scrubbing gross stuff off a sofa or a chair into the wee hours of the night, I would think of Margaret-Ann’s mother and admire her for covering everything in plastic.

Maybe it made her life easier; I’d wonder where she found those plastic covers for her sofas. They must have been custom made.

Maybe those would protect sofas from bedbugs. You could encase your entire sofa in a plastic slip-cover that was then sealed on the bottom, and zip it up. People could sit at your house, no bedbug worries. Hell, I may want some in my family room to keep the dog hair off my sofas.

I think we need them at the beach house, too. Our beach house is like a family time share and the sofas are so old, and so used by everyone, I sometimes spread out a towel to sit on because I am slightly OCD. You really are supposed to cover furniture at a second home — recall the movies where everyone walks into the summer home and everything is draped in sheets to protect from the dust?

In fact, I think we’ll be seeing a comeback in plastic slip covers thanks to this bedbug epidemic.

Which will just remind me more and more of Margaret-Ann. This is kind of a sad ending, though: she’s no longer with us. Her mother died of cancer, and then Margaret Ann died of cancer.

Please don’t tell me it was the plastic.

In Roatan and in La Paz, Mojitos. I am a huge Mojito girl, and love them best made with fresh mint and lime. I thought Victor’s muddled Mojitos were the best I’d ever tasted, created at Bite on the Beach in West Bay, Roatan –great restaurant — and he sent me home with the recipe and a bag of Honduran pure cane sugar. (Carrying a bag of white powder home from Central America did make me a little nervous, have to admit, but never come between a girl and her Mojitos.) But at Costa Baja in La Paz, I had another delicious Mojito and learned they pureed fresh pineapple in with the mint, lime and sugar.  What do you like to drink when you relax at home? Anyone making homemade eggnog this year?

For more ideas, check out You+Media’s new Mixology 101.

Have you ever in your real estate life had clients zero in on an item in a home that sold the home faster than you could think? I am always looking for a unique real estate story, especially anything about selling a home faster for the most in this market. (This vacation home advertises the Duxiana to pull in renters.) I met Serena Cole, owner of Duxiana Dallas, over in my favorite neighborhood haunt of Preston Center, and she told me that a Duxiana bed actually, truthfully, recently sold a house in 75230.

You have got to be kidding me, I said.

These are not what I’d call cheap beds.

Readers consistently give these mattresses high quality, high price and high service votes. A Swedish design, the Dux Bed claims its fame from the huge multiple of springs in each mattress: 4000 springs compared to the up to 900 springs found in conventional queen-size mattresses.This allows you incredible firmness and softness so that your spine is straight and not bent. And each bed is custom-fitted to the buyer’s sleep preferences by inserting cartridges into the main mattress: firm, extra firm, soft. The cartridges are interchangeable and couples can create their own, so just because your husband wants ultra firm doesn’t mean your side has to be that way.  A queen size will run you from $6,500, but should last you 50-plus years. The top cushion pads can be replaced every 7 to 10 years for about $1,000. So you can drop $5000 on a high end bed every 7 to 10 years, which is how often you should change your mattress, or get a Duxiana. 

Serena told me that when the buyer, who was also a Duxiana Fan herself – I guess there’s rather a fan club – saw the bed, they immediately zoned in on the the quality of the bed and deduced that the homeowner must have had similar standards for everything they put into the house. Something to the effect of “if they put their money into this kind of quality, we feel secure they built a solid house.” So they bought it. And this was not all that long ago; in fact, it was within the year 2010 just about the time the first time homebuyers credit was getting hearted up.

If these guys had a Duxiana, something tells me they may not have been first time homebuyers.

Now I am not telling you to run out and buy a Duxiana bed just to impress your buyers… but think about it. Real estate and beds are a natural fit, especially in this town. They are made for each other. So much of what happens in real estate happens under the covers…  or between the sheets!

Just like a great piece of blue chip real estate, a Duxiana lasts forever: at least one realtor has told me that her back pain disappeared after the first night she spent in her Duxiana. Another person told me his grandmother has a 75 year-old Duxiana –he’s hoping to get it in her will!

A 14 year old boy — a child — was arrested by Mexican authorities for beheading and cutting the genitalia off several cartel victims on behalf of the drug cartels. And he was heading for the U.S., arrested while boarding a bus for Tijuana, en route to visiting his mother in San Diego.

News like this is what is hurting the heck out of Mexico’s tourism and second home real estate market.

1. Second home trends: Affluent Baby Boomers will retire later and downsize from their large McMansions for which utilities and taxes have become prohibitive, to smaller homes, maybe condos,  in the city and a second home — in the cheaper boonies, or in another city. Just last night a reader emailed me that his biggest dream is to own a second home condo in Quebec! Cripes, even Disney is getting into this market.

2. According to a study by E360 Global Research, 45% of current second home owners think now is a great time to buy a second home. Of those, Mexico has a strong pull for almost half — and this survey was done in August, 2010. The drug cartel crime in Mexico is isolated to certain areas, they believe.

3. Of the 54% who say now is not a good time to buy a second home, most say the next two years will be. E360 (who provided much of this information) expects big growth in the second home markets surrounding highly populated areas.

4. Most people want a second home as a vacation haven to de-stress. Most prefer a lake or ocean view, with a mountain view coming in second. North Carolina, for example, is one of the fastest-growing second home destinations.

5. What kinds of amenities are second home buyers looking for? Good question. To some extent, they want great medical facilities (resuscitate me!) and a spa. Golf and eco-green based living also does not turn them on. I’ve read that many want to re-live their college years, with classes and intellectual stimulation (and pot?) nearby. Boulder, Colorado is home to a lot of intelligent people and gaining a large second home population, for example.

6. Pricing sweet spot: $200,000 to $400,000 and pay cash, if possible. I mean, those 401Ks are doing so well, right?

7. Vacation and lifestyle are the reason 46% want to buy; another 41% want to buy for investment. Only 11% give a rat’s tooshie about retirement.

8. 49% of second home buyers want a single family home, and 60% just want a 2 bedroom, 2 bath floor plan.

9. 49% of second home purchasers will buy domestically, but a growing contingent is eying Mexico and  Central America — Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama — as a low-cost of living second home and place to retire.

10. The second home won’t be too close to the first: 30% of buyers want to be 100 to 300 miles from their primary home; 40% want to be 500 to 1000 miles from the primary home; 11% are willing to be more than 1000 miles away from the primary home.

I’ve never really told you why I started a blog called SecondShelters. Truth is, I wanted to call it SecondHomes, but the URL was already taken. I like the word “shelter” because that is the purpose a home serves — it is really a shelter from the elements, from the big, bad world. As a real estate reporter, blogger and now agent,  I saw several trends emerging that I thought would serve such a highly-focused blog well. (And I know a little about blogging.) Ultimately, I hope to serve up mainly Second Home House Porn and information here once I find a place for my “Dallas Dirt”.  And my husband has put in a request for a tab on boats and yachts — apparently the prices are way down now due to the higher cost of petrol? But the trends I found were conceived from what you see going on in this photograph taken after my daughter’s wedding in September, 2009. This is the porch of the family beach house in Maine that my husband’s grandfather bought for his family to enjoy back in 1947. Today, it’s like a family timeshare that has spawned so many wonderful memories and gatherings being there is instant comfort and has spoiled me hopelessly to what the perfect beach should be. Second home ownership, you see, is not new. It has been around for ages in America as people escaped the heat and “summered” on the shore — Long Island, the Cape, Maine. In Europe, the gentry lived in the city and escaped to the country on long, restful weekends. We visited summer homes — and palaces –in Japan. With the advent of air conditioning, some perhaps thought this trend would end — people would stay put in their Bauhaus, egalitarian, 1500 square foot homes year ’round. (Of course, comrad!) Second homes in the 1950′s and 1960′s were lake cabins, or Winnebagos or Airstreams. But then came the developers who decided to “fractionalize” ski resort home ownership to get more paying bodies out on the slopes. If one family owned a chalet, but only skied a few times a year, the lifts were pretty sparsely populated. Fractionalize that chalet, bring in warm, credit-card carrying new ski bodies each week, and that resort revenue started looking fine.

Then came that dirty little word we do not use on SecondShelters lest we get our mouth washed out with a very finely milled soap: time-share. No, dear readers, I care about you too much to let this word slip in. Time shares are NOT good real estate investments, and I would not recommend them on this blog.

My jury is still out on Condohotels — stay tuned.

We may fractionalize, we may buy into an equity fund that invests in real estate, we may buy for fun or to lease. Whatever we do, we buy for value and future appreciation.

Those trends? Next post!