For real estate professionals serving vacation areas, marketing a property is a lot like telling a story: the story of the home, the story of the surroundings, the story of the community. Successfully selling a vacation property is contingent upon a number of factors – but because second homes often represent years of pipe dreaming and wishful thinking, making the sale can be all the more challenging – and rewarding – for the agent involved.
Despite a gradual recovery of the housing economy, vacation home sales were up nearly 30 percent in 2013, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2014 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey. Investment home sales, conversely, were down 8.5 percent – a dip indicative of a stabilizing market, says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
“[Buyers] are often looking to fulfill a lifelong dream,” says Gayle Rich-Boxman, a REALTOR® with Vernonia Realty & Insurance in the Fishhawk Lake community in Birkenfeld, Ore. “Whether it started in childhood growing up on a lake somewhere, or they’re looking to balance their current lifestyle, or leave a family legacy for generations to come.”
As an agent specializing in lake home sales, Rich-Boxman previously owned a ‘try it before you buy it’ cabin for out-of-town clients to experience all the community has to offer. And rather than spending time generating market reports, she maintains an Angie’s List-esque page on her site, full of local resources vetted by her or from a trusted source.
New Hampshire-based Country Homes Real Estate partner Joe Burns focuses on features that resonate most with vacation home buyers – a wall of windows, beam construction, southern and western views – with high quality photography.
“Doing whatever it takes to get that ‘magical’ picture to portray the feeling of the property to a prospective buyer is still probably the single most important thing when it comes to marketing,” says Burns, whose firm serves the Lake Sunapee region. The company relies on sites like LuxuryRealEstate.com and a partnership with independent brokerage network Leverage Global Partners to draw buyers.
Patience is key, says Julie Toon Timms, broker/owner of Hilton Head Island Real Estate Brokers on Hilton Head Island, S.C. “The biggest difference is the urgency in which people purchase,” Timms says. “With a vacation or investment property, it’s not a matter of needing a roof over one’s head, and I find many buyers taking a long time, sometimes years, before making the final decision.”
Building a genuine relationship, Timms notes, is much more significant than pushing a property on an indecisive client. Her marketing efforts are anchored by a strong online presence that includes her website, several specific property search sites and a Virtual Office Website (VOW) for clients.
In order to meet the needs of today’s real estate investor, data are crucial. “Having your numbers available for an investor to examine is paramount,” says Tanya Van Blake-Coleman, broker/owner of Van Blake-Coleman Realty on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. “An investor cannot make an informed decision [otherwise], and will move on to a villa that they can assess.”
“Many buy vacation homes that they can rent to tourists while they’re not using them personally so the cost of ownership is defrayed,” says Timms. “Providing accurate financial information, such as cash flows and rates of return, is essential to ensure that potential buyers are fully informed and have realistic expectations.”
Whether the market is for vacation or investment homes or both, “only consider the most recent sales in either category,” Van Blake-Coleman adds. “The market changes quickly, and you have to be on top of current trends or the property will languish.”
Buyer motivation aside, successfully selling a second home requires firsthand experience living in the area and a deep-seated love for the community above all else.
“Know the area inside and out; learn every road, every location and go and see as many homes as you can,” says Burns. “And be authentic – love the area you serve.”
“Don’t push. Develop a relationship. Be real. Really listen to the wish lists of your clients,” says Rich-Boxman. “It’s about lifestyle. Seclusion…quiet…but with the ability to be part of a community in the truest sense of the word.”
Gayle Rich-Boxman is a REALTOR® specializing in the Fishhawk Lake community in Birkenfeld, Ore. To connect with Gayle, visit www.lakehomesatfishhawk.com.
Joe Burns is partner of Country Houses Real Estate in the Lake Sunapee region of New Hampshire. To connect with Joe, visit www.joeburnsrealestate.com.
Julie Toon Timms is the broker/owner of Hilton Head Island Real Estate Brokers in Hilton Head Island, S.C. To connect with Julie, visit www.hhireb.com.
Tanya Van Blake-Coleman is the broker/owner of Van Blake-Coleman Realty in the U.S. Virgin Islands. To connect with Tanya, visit www.talk-to-tanya.com.