From the majestic Adirondacks to the postcard-worthy beaches of the Hamptons to the bucolic Hudson River Valley, New York truly has it all. The Empire State boasts 180 state parks that are home to lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, making it a prime destination for water sports enthusiasts. Meanwhile, its three major mountain ranges — the Adirondack, Catskill, and Appalachian mountains — mean it’s a hiker’s paradise, too. And whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or culture vulture, New York’s charming small towns have something to offer every type of traveler as well. With so much appeal, it’s not surprising that more and more buyers are opting to invest in a vacation property here.
Demand for second homes in the state is up 35% since before the pandemic, with prices rising 20% year over year to a median of $513,000, according to a recent report by Redfin.
But if you’re still looking for a home away from home, we rounded up the most popular places in New York to buy a vacation home.
The Finger Lakes area — comprising 11 glacier-formed lakes and many gorges and waterfalls — is the preferred vacation destination for travelers who crave a laid-back vibe and gorgeous views.
“The village of Skaneateles is considered the ‘jewel’ of the Finger Lakes region,” explained Ellen O’Connor of Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty. There are waterfront restaurants, majestic lake views, quaint shops, and elegant historic homes. Skaneateles Lake is considered one of the cleanest in the United States and is home to the most spectacular residences in the Finger Lakes region.”
She noted that eight of the top 10 most expensive homes sold in the last 12 months in the Finger Lakes region were on Skaneateles Lake, which had the highest sale of $13 million.
She added, “Inventory of available properties is limited. Multiple offers are the norm, and buyers have to submit extremely competitive offers for a chance at securing a home.”
Located less than a two-hour drive from Manhattan, the Mid-Hudson Valley is known for its rich history and scenic landscapes dominated by the beautiful Hudson Highlands. Tour the area’s many historic mansions, attend an open-air art show or a play, or explore the region’s vibrant food and wine scene.
Among some of the popular second home destinations here are the villages of Millbrook and Rhinebeck.
With 100-plus miles of coastline, this group of more than 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River between Canada and New York is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream vacation destination. Scuba diving, world-class fishing, boating, camping, and hiking are all popular here. The area’s rich historical and cultural heritage, which spans Native American sites, opulent Gilded Age homes, castles, and forts, is another draw for repeat visitors.
“The Thousand Islands area is easily reached by car, and this has also created more people seeking a ‘getaway’ vacation spot,” said Robin Lucas of Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty. “Of course, the low interest rates and local area popularity have strengthened this demand. Our area marinas are now experiencing a shortage of dock space and boat inventory compared to previous seasons.”
If you’d like to make the Thousand Islands your home, you have to act fast, though. Lucas explained that homes usually move into contract within a week to two months from being listed.
The East End of Long Island, known as the Hamptons, has long been a favorite destination for summer vacationers. And miles of pristine beaches, cultural events, world-class dining, designer shops, and charming villages have made the region a top choice for second home buyers, too, especially those living in New York City. But even for an area that often makes the news for its high-end real estate transactions, the surge in demand for the past two years has been unprecedented. The average home price in the Hamptons in 2021 was $2,803,562, an increase of 19.3% from 2020 and a record, according to Shannan North, an associate broker with Brown Harris Stevens, Luxury Portfolio International.
“If a property is priced correctly from the start, interested buyers have to move fast in the current climate,” explained North. “In a traditional second home market, this is unusual, but it has become the norm recently, particularly as more and more buyers are making the Hamptons their primary residence.”
If you’re after a more hip, laid-back vibe, consider making Montauk your second home. This small hamlet, located at the tip of Long Island, is the East Coast’s premier surfing and fishing destination.
“There’s a little bit of everything in Montauk, from beach bungalows to traditional Tudors to modern waterfronts. Whether you want to be down the street from Ditch Plains, on the water looking across Gardiners Bay, or on a peaceful acre in the woods, there are many unique areas for everyone,” said Ethan Dayton of Sotheby’s International Realty — East Hampton Brokerage.
Upper Hudson Valley
Referred to by many as upstate New York, the Upper Hudson Valley is a bucolic region nestled between the Catskills and Berkshires. Excellent restaurants, farmers markets, breweries, wineries, and boutique hotels draw travelers looking to enjoy the gorgeous river and mountain views in a relaxing environment.
“Each county has its own magic. Columbia County has been on a high with Hudson — a little city with fabulous restaurants, eclectic coffee shops, and boutiques — and hamlets like Old Chatham,” said Nancy Felcetto, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens.
The area, which was already popular with New Yorkers before the pandemic, is now seeing a surge in sales, with buyers coming all the way from the West Coast.
There were almost twice as many luxury home sales in 2021, compared to 2019, in Columbia County — 60 versus 33, according to data from Andrew Gates, a broker with Houlihan Lawrence, Luxury Portfolio International.
The scenic Lake Placid in the Adirondacks has been a hub of resort activity for a long time. Thanks to having hosted two Olympic Winter Games (in 1932 and 1980), the area still attracts much attention from professional organizations that use its venues to hold sporting events. In the winter, visitors can enjoy ski jumping, skiing, bobsledding, and luging, and come summer, the destination’s waterways and hiking trails offer ample opportunities for open-air activities and water sports.
Another benefit is that the area is not as overbuilt as other popular vacation destinations, so homeowners enjoy the scenery and unobstructed views in complete privacy. Of course, on the downside, a limited inventory means that prices are soaring, according to Margie Philo, a real estate broker and owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Adirondack Premier Properties.
“During COVID, people felt especially safe here thanks to the fresh air and seamless connection to the outdoors. It was also during this time that we experienced a surge in sales from the Manhattan tri-state area. Consumers were buying homes sight unseen and setting up remote work. They have since become permanent residents,” said Philo.
Ulster County, Catskill Mountains
With the Hudson River shoreline, Shawangunk Mountains, and Rondout Valley, Ulster County is a year-round haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, skiing, camping, and boating are favorite pastimes here, while foodies can indulge in culinary farm-to-table experiences.
“When prospective buyers start asking questions about our region, I tell them, instead of elevator speeches, we use ‘farmstand speeches,’ denoting the size and charm of our area,” explained Laurel Sweeney, an associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty and a longtime resident of the Catskills and Hudson Valley regions.
The average and median sale prices of properties here continue to rise — $442,000 and $360,000, respectively, for 2022, and prospective buyers should keep in mind that inventory is declining, so be prepared to offer above asking if you find a home you like. Sweeney also added that four of the homes she most recently closed on sold for an above-asking price. The towns in the county with the highest average sale prices for 2021 are Woodstock, Gardiner, and Marbletown.