The clouds hanging over upscale vacation-home markets are starting to lift. While prices are still falling in most regions, the luxury segment is picking up, and brokers are reporting more inquiries than they have had in years. The upshot: If you have the money and plan on staying put for the long term, now may be a good time to buy.Five years after housing’s peak, markets that once were out of sight even for well-heeled buyers are now in range. On Hilton Head Island, S.C., a three-bedroom home nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Calibogue Sound changed hands in April for $750,000, after having sold for $1.2 million in June 2006. In Vail, Colo., a three-bedroom home that fetched $3.3 million in 2008 sold in February for $2.5 million…The higher end of the market—homes in the $5 million-plus range—has held up… says Douglas Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. "At the top of the market, particularly luxury homes, prices have proven very elastic, and have sprung upward quickly," he says. Buyers are taking heed. On Palm Beach Island, Fla., sales were up 50% in the year ending June 30. Transactions in the Hamptons, on New York’s Long Island, jumped 59% in the second quarter from a year earlier. In Aspen, Colo., sales for the year ending May 31 were up 10%.
By Jessica Silver-Greenberg, July 23, 2011 WSJ

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07/23/11 WSJ