Looking for a vacation home or a place to retire? Whether you have an active lifestyle or you enjoy sunshine and fine wine, these markets might appeal to you
There was a time when second-home buyers and retirees simply looked to relax and chill by the pool, thinking about their options in vague terms: “someplace warm,” or “someplace with golf.” Those days are gone, and, as with vacation travel, buyers have shifted to a more experiential, lifestyle-driven approach, with a heavier focus on amenities. For example, golf communities being built today feature a slew of extras, such as hiking and biking trails, spas, and offerings that were unheard of just a few years ago, from on-site chefs’ gardens to those suddenly ubiquitous pickleball courts.
Whether you’re driven by a passion, an investment opportunity, or a need for a change of scenery, there are endless destinations to consider—including these four red-hot markets for skiers, golfers, artsy snowbirds, and wine lovers.
For the Skier
Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado
Aspen’s global cachet is hardly new—the former silver mining boomtown became a ski resort back in 1946 and has been counted among the world’s elite destinations for winter sports ever since. Things have really heated up lately, though, as the 2023–24 ski season has seen the biggest terrain expansion at Aspen Mountain in nearly 40 years. Off the slopes, the town just welcomed a buzzy new boutique hotel, Mollie Aspen, along with several new bars and restaurants. (Aspen even earned its first Michelin star, for local favorite Bosq.) Prospective buyers will be happy to hear that the Residences at The Little Nell just got a top-to-bottom renovation. All 26 ski-in, ski-out condos, sold in one-eighth shares (a share in a four-bedroom recently went for a slightly bonkers $3.55 million), were remodeled with new gourmet kitchens, and the property as a whole got a revamped owners’ lounge, a new luxury spa, and a top-notch fitness facility.
While Aspen proper is the epicenter of the area’s dining, shopping, and nightlife, the Aspen Snowmass resort—which comprises four separate mountains—is the lodestar for powderhounds. Snowmass Village has less dining and entertainment than Aspen, eight miles away, but it boasts a greater concentration of slopeside houses and condos and is appreciably less expensive per square foot. “Overall, Snowmass might be as much as 35 percent less,” says Melanie Muss, a broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Aspen. “There are very few ski-in/out properties in Aspen, and a lot more in Snowmass.”
For the time being, however, it seems that prospective residents are still drawn to the action. “[These days,] in-town Aspen is more expensive,” Muss notes. “But to many buyers, being in the commercial core—walkable to the mountain, stores, and dining—is most attractive.”
For the Artsy Snowbird
Many places claim to offer “something for everyone,” but few deliver on this promise to quite the same extent as Sarasota, with its huge array of neighborhoods, residential styles, and price points. The online insurance marketplace Insurify named the Florida Gulf Coast city the number one home market to watch in 2024, noting a 24 percent increase in new housing units built from June 2022 to June 2023. People are willing to pay, too: The median home price rose by 148 percent from August 2013 to August 2023.
Some of the biggest growth is in planned mega-communities such as Lakewood Ranch and University Park, which contain their own town centers, plenty of shopping and dining, and recreational facilities ranging from playgrounds and pools to tennis courts and golf courses.
Needless to say, no one is more spoiled for choice here than a beach lover. “Sarasota’s Keys offer myriad options,” says Bob Ruiz, a luxury property specialist with William Raveis Real Estate. “[There’s] tropical Casey Key; the sugary, white-sand beaches of Siesta; trendy-chic Lido; or elegant, sophisticated Longboat Key.”
Ruiz adds that the Gulf is merely one of the area’s charms: “A cultural enclave, Sarasota boasts its own symphony and opera, and the Gulf Coast’s only ballet company.” Residents would be wise to get a membership at The Ringling, Florida’s official state art museum, which also encompasses the Circus Museum and the beautiful Bayfront Gardens, where you might be able to get some tips for maintaining the roses and bougainvillea at your new home.
For the Golfer
While there are Caribbean islands more renowned for their golf courses than Saint Lucia, no project in the region exemplifies the 21st-century trend toward top-shelf golf communities as much as Cabot Saint Lucia. The latest resort from the developers of Canada’s revered Cabot Cape Breton, Cabot Saint Lucia occupies a breathtaking 375-acre peninsula with a mile and a half of unbroken coastline. The on-site homes will consist of a mix of customizable lots and three-to-five-bedroom villas, but the highlight of the resort is undoubtedly the Point Hardy Golf Club, designed by one of the world’s most acclaimed golf architecture firms, Coore & Crenshaw. While courses lucky enough to have even one hole along the coast are considered “oceanfront,” Point Hardy has a whopping nine of them, including a couple that play from cliffs over inlets of crashing waves. The elevation changes are enormous, and everything about these 18 holes is larger-than-life.
Today’s most desirable golf communities are about far more than the fairways, though, and Cabot Saint Lucia offers residents all the bells and whistles of a Caribbean luxury resort: tennis and pickleball courts, infinity pools, a full-service beach club, a state-of-the-art fitness center and spa, and an activity con-cierge offering deep-sea fishing, sailing instruction, on-site scuba certification, and more. Several retail stores and three restaurants are planned, with a locavore focus that includes a large on-site farm.
“We are really good at golf, but one thing we learned during the pandemic was that people really want space, a variety of outdoor activities, lots of choices, and to be able to spend time with their loved ones when they travel,” says Ben Cowan-Dewar, CEO and cofounder of Cabot. “We’ve taken all that to heart here.”
For the Wine Lover
Napa and Sonoma, California
At the height of the pandemic, Bay Area residents flocked to Napa and Sonoma counties, checkbooks at the ready, willing to pay whatever it took for a little slice of Wine Country escapism. While demand and prices have cooled slightly, the area remains highly desirable, and its small cities, like Yountville in Napa and Healdsburg in Sonoma, have morphed into real communities, with amazing new restaurants and shops popping up seemingly every month.
Of course, much of the area’s appeal comes from the way its rolling hills and vineyards make you feel as if you’re on a permanent retreat—which perhaps explains why so many resorts have gotten into the residential game. In 2021, Montage Residences Healdsburg debuted, offering fully furnished Harvest Homes, as well as customizable home sites. Residents have access to all of the resort’s amenities—pools, spa, restaurants, experiences—plus their own clubhouse. Also debuting in 2021 was the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley, which quickly sold out (though resale opportunities are available), and 2022 brought Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection, where ownership of one of the three-to-six-bedroom Vineyard Homes or two-bedroom Villas comes with access to wine tastings, cooking classes, and morning yoga sessions. Six Senses Napa Valley is set to join the fray in 2026, taking over Aetna Springs, a mineral springs resort that dates to 1887. The 3,000-acre resort will include 16 residences, designed by Olson Kundig with interiors by 1508 London. Sales launch soon, so start planning your future (and which wine you’re going to go toast with) now.