5 Places Where It’s Not Overly Expensive to Buy a Vacation Home

updated Apr 21, 2021
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If throwing some clothes in a bag and zipping over to your beachfront cottage or mountain cabin for the weekend sounds dreamy, you might want to add “buy a second home” to your list of life goals.

While fantasizing about long weekends at your second home can be nice, at the end of the day, this kind of goal is about making an investment. The key to making your dream a reality? Buying an affordable vacation home in a place that other people also want to spend their PTO. If you only plan to spend a few days each year in the home, you may also want to consider renting it out on a vacation rental platform. 

To that end, vacation rental management company Evolve analyzed vacation rental revenue, home values, and expenses to determine the top places to buy a vacation property in 2021.

A quick note: Just because a destination offers top-notch ROI doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right fit for you, especially if you plan to stay in the home too, says Louis Olds, senior manager of real estate services at Evolve. 

“You should also think about how often you plan to use the property yourself,” says Olds. “Markets that deliver the best ROI might look different from markets that are high on the list of places you’d like to visit yourself.”

Also remember that the more guests who can sleep in the home comfortably, the higher the potential for revenue. And no matter where you may choose to buy a second home, keep in mind the top amenities that travelers look for in a vacation rental: hot tubs, pools, kayaks, bikes, and saunas, just to name a few. Don’t hesitate to spend a little bit more on furniture and amenities to create a lasting first impression.

“These amenities help draw in guests emotionally when they’re searching for a home to book — it’s easy to picture yourself spending time by the pool with the family or relaxing in the hot tub at night after seeing beautiful photos of what the home has to offer,” Olds says.

OK, now for the good stuff. Below, Evolve’s top destinations for buying a vacation rental in 2021.

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A waterfall at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas

5. Hot Springs, Arkansas

Love soaking in hot springs? You’re not the only one. Located outside of Hot Springs National Park, this Arkansas town is affordable and offers a good return on investment for vacation rentals. The median home listing price is $159,408 and the median rental revenue is $22,739 in Hot Springs.

4. Granbury, Texas

Located just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, Granbury offers quick access to big-city amenities and outdoor activities. Lake Granbury, in particular, is a recreation hotspot among vacationers. With median rental revenue of $42,500 and a median listing price of $262,625, Granbury is a top destination to invest in a vacation property.

3. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

With its central location near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Dollywood, this family-friendly region sees year-round vacation rental occupancy. The Pigeon Forge region, including nearby Gatlinburg and Sevierville, offers a great return on investment for second homeowners, with median rental revenue of $42,085 and a median home listing price of $221,610.

2. Blue Ridge, Georgia

This outdoorsy paradise in the South is popular for its hiking trails, waterfalls, and small-town vibes. With a median rental revenue of $47,042 and a median home listing price of $260,476, it’s a prime spot to buy a cabin in the woods and turn it into a vacation rental.

1. The Poconos, Pennsylvania

People living in cities like New York and Philadelphia love to getaway to the Poconos, a mountainous region that includes towns like Tobyhanna, Pocono Lake, and Albrightsville. The area’s four-seasons outdoor recreation options (skiing, hiking, and rafting) and abundant natural beauty make this the top spot for owning a vacation rental. According to Evolve’s calculations, the median rental revenue in the region is $36,254 and the median home listing price is $180,581.