Almost 40 percent of all vacation home sales last year were distressed sales, like this house on Cross Lake that once belonged to bankrupt auto mogul, Denny Hecker. It was one of three lake homes that TCF National Bank paid $7.01 million for in sheriff’s sale. Photo by Brian Peterson.

Sales of vacation and investment homes across the country spiked last year, rising to their highest level since 2005, according to a annual survey of investment- and vacation-home sales from the National Association of Realtors.

The group found that the number of homes bought by investors was up 65 percent to 1.2 million, or one in four home sales. In 2010 only 17 percent of all sales were investment properties. Buyers took advantage of low prices to snap up vacation homes, as well. Sales of second or vacation homes increased 7 percent to 502,000; they represented 11 percent of all sales, up slightly from the year before.

In a statement, NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, attributed the increase in sales to the ability of an increasing number of buyers to pay with cash. “Investors have been swooping into the market to take advantage of bargain home prices,” he said. “Rising rental income easily beat cash sitting in banks.”

Those all-cash deals represented 49 percent of investment-home buyers and 42 percent of vacation-home buyers. NAR said that half of all investment homes and 39 percent of all vacation homes bought last year were distressed sales, including foreclosures and short sales. 

 Are you planning to take advantage of low prices to snap up an investment or vacation home this year?

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