cape cod

In Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Every June, my family and I rent a cottage in Orleans, Mass., for a week, which is in the heart of Cape Cod. Our place is right on the bay, and we watch the tide ebb and flow from our large front porch. We just returned last week and the temperature was never above 80°. Last summer, it was so chilly, we rarely swam. The air smells clean and briny, and the architecture everywhere is like a storybook. If this sounds like paradise, you’re not far off.

cape codLife is pretty sweet in Cape Cod—I’ve had the opportunity to spend many hours driving and exploring the 15 towns that make up its 339 square miles. Cape Cod stretches from Woods Hole in the southwest (where you catch ferries to Martha’s Vineyard) to Provincetown in the northeast (where we go whale watching and fishing).

The year-round population of 220,000 swells during summer months, when many thousands like us flock to Cape Cod for a holiday. I can’t help but wonder what it would cost us to buy a place up there—it’s easy to afford something if your budget is massive, but what about more reasonably priced Cape Cod real estate?

I found three places that I think just might fit the bill.




If Samantha was your favorite American Girl doll as a kid, well then, welcome home. Be honest: You loved Samantha for her satiny rich girl outfits and that she stole Felicity’s horse. Yeah, me, too.

The ranch at 527 Christopher Court is a grown-up dollhouse of modern amenities in a suit of classic Victorian charm. Located on 6.5 acres just 10 miles from the heart of Rockwall in the Bluebonnet Ridge Equestrian Subdivision, you’ll be surrounded by fellow horse owners and a country feel, and still be just minutes from the grocery store. Bluebonnet Ridge is home to serious competive equestrians and pleasure riders alike, boasting community riding trails and a monthly newsletter that includes everything from brags on your neighbors’ horseshow winnings to reminders that resident equines’ Coggins tests are coming due.


Despite an exterior befitting the setting for a Bronte novel, the interior of this darling home has all the features a modern family is looking for. The freshly updated kitchen is highlighted by custom cabinets, granite countertops, island, and gorgeous farm sink.

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Enjoy your morning coffee on the master suite’s private balcony, completing the stunning oasis that you’ll love coming home to after a long trailride. Everyone knows that the “horse does all the work,” but in case yours doesn’t, the master bath focuses around an incredible soaking tub to relax sore muscles, providing an excellent opportunity to brush up on the latest in rider fitness.

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Stepping outside, the backyard is perfect for roasting marshmallows around the fire pit and relaxing with a glass of wine in the gazebo after a long day.


Getting to the good stuff, Christopher Court features an amazing shop-and-barn combination that will suit everyone’s interests. For the craftsman, the 30×30 shop has water, electric, and a small restroom.



The adjoining barn is a no-expense-spared paradise for the equine children in your life, with 3 oversize wooden stalls (two of which have attached covered runs), concrete aisle, tack room, and automatic Ritchie waterer.

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Outside the barn, you’ll find all pipe fencing and a large sand arena with lights, perfect for schooling after work in the wintertime or at midnight in the summer.


Needless to say, Christopher Court is the right combination of features to make your horsey friends jealous, while still close enough to civilization that your Dallas friends will come visit you. In short, the perfect hobby horse farm.

This stunning property is offered for $489,000 by Ebby Halliday Realtor Dee Evans.

Y’all come back now, ya hear!

Kathryn Roan 1Kathryn Roan is an Ebby Halliday Realtor focusing on farms, ranches, and equestrian properties. Kathryn lives in Poetry with her 7 horses. Contact Kathryn at

I love the Florida Keys, but Key West isn’t always the best place to spend a vacation. I mean, I love the Conch Republic and all, but sometimes I just want to watch the waves crash, do some surfing, or have a cocktail without navigating Duval Street.

This island is undergoing rapid development, so now is the time to buy up a lot and build your dream beach house, or buy one of these incredible homes that make the drive over the long Overseas Highway so worth it.

That’s what’s great about Islamorada — the high-end Florida Key with beautiful beaches and gorgeous homes. So here’s our love note to the stunning island, one of the larger Florida Keys:

1) 87961 Old Hwy.

87961 Old Hwy

2) 220 Plantation Blvd.

220 Plantation Boulevard

3) 75140 Overseas Hwy.

75140 Overseas Hwy

4) 88060 Overseas Hwy.

88060 Overseas Hwy

5) 138 N Rolling Hill Rd.

138 N Rolling Hill


Those of us in real estate know that when the housing market plummets,  vacation places plummet the most. Second homes are most often discretionary purchases you wait on until you feel flush with cash.

Well, get ready. Realtors say second-home buyers are returning to the store,  shopping from Cape Cod to Lake Tahoe. As I told you, nationwide vacation home sales rose 7% in 2011 to 502,000 homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. They made up 11% of total sales in 2011, more than they did in 2010.  And NAR’s spokesman Walter Molony, who I hope to see in Denver next week at NAREE, expects continued momentum.

“We’ve heard positive reports from Las Vegas, Telluride, Col., Lake Tahoe, Naples, Fla., and some areas of California,” he told Investor’s Daily. “We’ve been seeing a little bit of unleashing of pent-up demand.”

Well yes, that plus bargain prices.

But while the number of transactions is increasing, vacation home prices are still not generally appreciating. The healthiest segment of the market is, surprise surprise, upper-end properties: the luxury market.

Neal Hanks, an Asheville, N.C. agent says he is seeing significant increases in sales of homes in excess of $500,000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I hear the Florida market is even tightening up. No Girls Gone Wild, but firming. The recent death of my brother-in-law has me poking into the Naples market, where they own two homes. In nearby Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, inventory is just 4.7 months, the lowest since 2005.

In Southwest Florida,  broker associate Jennifer Calenda of Michael Saunders & Co., a luxury regional real estate firm affiliated with Ebby Halliday through Luxury Portfolio, says dollar volume sales are up. Prices are not going up, but people are buying about $100,000 over where they were — so folks looking at a $300,000 condo might spring for $400,000. Are people really feeling more flush, more confident, or just sick of depriving themselves?

Some feel people are getting back on their feet, paying off debt, and I think I read that American’s debt levels were decreasing. David Southworth, founder and CEO of Southworth Development, which specializes in upscale vacation-resort communities, says demand is coming back as people get on their feet.

“The second-home market is always a trickle-up type,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. “As the economy gets better that means small business owners start making money again and executives start getting bigger bonuses. And that’s when our customers come back.”

“During the past year, investors have been swooping into the market to take advantage of bargain home prices,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun . “Rising rental income easily beat cash sitting in banks as an added inducement.”

The median vacation-home price was $121,300, down 19.1 percent from $150,000 in 2010.

The typical vacation-home buyer was 50 years old, had a median household income of $88,600 and purchased a property that was a median distance of 305 miles from the primary residence; 35 percent of vacation homes were within 100 miles and 37 percent were more than 500 miles. Buyers plan to own their recreational property for a median of 10 years.

Eighty-two percent of vacation-home buyers said the primary reason for buying was to use the property themselves for vacations, or as a family retreat. Thirty percent plan to use the property as a primary residence in the future, while only 22 percent plan to rent to others.

Forty-two percent of vacation homes purchased last year were in the South, 30 percent in the West, 15 percent in the Northeast and 12 percent in the Midwest; Only 1 percent were located outside of the U.S.

They’re not all back. Southworth recently bought some communities on the cheap after the real estate bubble burst: Creighton Farms in Virginia horse country and most recently Willowbend in Cape Cod. Willowbend is doing the best, because of 8 million in metro Boston who can drive there. Most second home owners prefer to drive to their vacation homes, on average about 4 hours, but most often one or two.

Next week, I’ll hear more about Longcove at Cedar Creek Lake east of Dallas: 45 minutes east of Dallas.

The segment doing the best is the high end of the vacation market, this according to Brent Herrington, senior vice president of luxury developer DMB Associates.

“Inventory is much scarcer in the most desirable locations,” he said. “Prices are firming … we’re getting back to a world of multiple offers.”

Those amazing deals in the tops spots of the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Aspen and Vail peaked in hit in 2010-11. If you didn’t do it then, or are not quite in that league, look for the secondary markets — beachfront but not the name-drop locations.

After a few decades of recession, Palm Springs is becoming a hot second home market, beating out Santa Fe, say some realtors. And the developers are there to give buyers what they want: sun and out here, golf.

“We find our buyers appreciate all the things that Palm Springs and Indian Wells has to offer – the relaxed, resort atmosphere, no traffic concerns, friendly service, warm winters, incredible views and an abundance of outdoor activities, “ says Bill Bone, CEO and Founder of Sunrise Company, developer of Toscana, a golf community development in Indian Wells.

There is golf of course but also hiking, biking, farmer’s markets, as well as great shopping, dining, entertainment, the arts and medical facilities.

“Members have so much fun here, they call it “Camp Toscana”, says Bone. “We are very pleased with our sales results this year: have been 34 homes sold at Toscana, more than $59,000,000 in total sales.”


Palm Springs is within close proximity to sooo many Cali locales – less than 2 hours from LA, Laguna, San Diego, Palm Springs is brimming with mid century architecture, history and development.

“It appeals to people who really value properties of that era, and the new boutique hotels and restaurants keep things fun and interesting,” say Palm Springs agents Mark Godson and James Dalton Utsey. “The evolution of our downtown strip continues with the Fashion Plaza being rebuilt as a pedestrian friendly shopping and gathering place.”


Like many areas in California, Palm Springs was not spared during the housing bust, but values are beginning to inch up. Don’t have to worry about hurricanes here. Look carefully there are deals to be found.


Many consumers buy thinking they can rent out the home for cash flow and potential income, and they can. Vacation home rental listings are up at the website HomeAway. It had 433,000 listings in 2009, but 700,0000 listings now, says its vice president, Jon Gray.

Buyers are stirring, multiple offers are being reported, but there are no indications of appreciation. In some areas, prices are still falling. Do not be afraid to make an offer below asking: U.S. vacation home asking prices dropped 1.7% year over year in the 12 months ending in April, as overall listing prices fell 0.2%.

I do not advise buying a vacation home for pure appreciation. Just look for family enjoyment and maybe a place to rent out.

Still, some areas are seeing a tweak upwards when the distressed properties are all sold out. And demographics may be favorable for long term growth in vacation homes, with the average buyer age 50. There are 42 million people 50 to 59, right behind them are 43.5 million 40 to 49. Then there are 40.2 million people 30 to 39. These people grew up with vacation homes as common as swingsets and may follow their parents’ footsteps in buying.


This is a very special ranch, probably one of the most unique you’ve ever seen… dear in more ways than one. Even better: I can talk about it from total personal experience! This is the Benini Sculpture Ranch in Johnson City, Texas, 142 acres of beautiful Hill Country terrain enhanced with gorgeous, artistic sculptures. The prevailing story is that it was once owned by former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Texas legend of course and the 36th president of the U.S. Yes, the town is named after him and the LBJ ranch is only a few miles from this ranch.

Now for the real story:  we own some second home property near this ranch, and the story I’ve heard in Johnson City is that a part of this spread was LBJ’s — especially the quonset hut that was constructed to house the Secret Service. It is included in the asking price, currently being used as a fantastic art gallery and studio. Asking $2,647,000.

That is not to lessen the wonder of this property by any means. Matters not whether LBJ owned one square inch or all of the spread. It is a wonder and true value. First of all, the west Austin area is hotter than hot, with people flocking to the Hill Country just one hour west. So this ranch is only about 1.5 hours from civilization. Even closer, actually: my Starbucks is 20 minutes away in Marble Falls on Highway 281. But I digress. I have watched the lights of Fredericksburg and Johnson City from the patio outside this home, from the tip top of the highest (1800′) hill. The main house is 2300 square feet, constructed in 1997 of cedar and stone with great 360 degree views. In the woods is the 1100 sq.ft. guest house. The home itself is very manageable with three bedrooms, two baths, and the guest cottages provide guests with comfort yet privacy.

Down the road is our shared ownership ranch, The Preserve at Walnut Springs, where the owners often walk: spring fed creeks, water tanks, great views, horse-back riding, barns and a beautiful new swimming hole that just begs you to skinny-dip.

The owner of the Benini Ranch is a dynamic Italian artist named Benini who, along with his talents and precious wife, Lorraine, really changed the community by bringing in artists and sculpture from across the nation. Now downtown Johnson City is teaming with art galleries.

But here’s the scoop on why you need this property: it was LBJ’s “Dear” ranch. Nope, not a misspelling. Recall that in the pre-Twitter, FaceBook, e-mail and cell phone world, once upon a time, certain presidents managed to keep their extra marital affairs quite private and did not embarrass their wives as certain people do now. (Or ask for an “open marriage.”) Who would have thought that John F. Kennedy was capable of bedding a 19-year old intern who happened to have gone to the same college I did (not at the same time, of course); I thought JFK was, er, incapable of that stuff due to war injuries or whatever. LBJ did have a reputation of being somewhat of a ladies man. Big deal. I mean, this was his town!

And this ranch is where he “entertained” his “Dears”.

TMZ is reporting that Terrell Owens took a bath on his Azure condo:

According to public documents, Owens paid $340,000 for the 2,600 square foot place back in 2006, right after he signed a $25 million contract with the Cowboys.

Owens no longer works in Dallas … and probably won’t ever work in Dallas again … so he put the place up for sale.”

I think they are wrong. Here’s the real story. Owens owns not one but TWO (2) units at The Azure, as I told you way back. He also owns a 2297 square foot townhome at the East Side Lofts on 1st Street. The smaller Azure unit on McKinnon, #307, is on the market for $279,000, price lowered from $325,000. The price per square foot is just over $300. This is a one bedroom unit at 881 square feet and while he may have paid $340,000 for that one, he bought both props in 2008. Yeah, pre-bust. But the condo he is probably most anxious to shed, and the ONE THAT IS SALES PENDING, is the big mama on the 20th floor that he had listed for $2,250,000 that is 3559 square feet with 6 garage spaces  This 3 BR, 4.5 Bath custom residence on the 20th floor comes with all those garages plus two storage spaces. There are three outdoor terraces with gas fireplaces, downtown views of the Dallas skyline, 10 ft ceilings, a loaded kitchen with built-in SubZero fridge, Miele gas cooktop and double ovens, etc. The Master suite features his-her seperate bath and closets, plus a sitting area and private outdoor terrace with gas fireplace. Best of all, the place has not been lived in much. This pad has been reduced to Holy Schnickers $1,600,000, and at that price, brings the price per square foot at The Azure for this essentially Ferrari property down to $449.56. And that’s if they got asking! 

But TMZ is right about one thing: If TO paid anywhere near $2 million for unit 2008 whenever, he is most certainly taking a bath. Actually, no, not a $56,000 bath but a million plus tsunami –that’s close to a million going bye-bye…

The price has been slashed from $16 million to just $11.5 for this amazing ranch spread one hour and a half north of the sleepy Ketchum/Sun Valley ski community of Hemingway fame. Located in the tiny town of Stanley, Idaho, and how cute is that name? (Not to be Debbie Downer, but Hemingway did commit suicide in Ketchum, which is really the town’s only claim to fame.) Prices soft in the Sun Valley environs these days; I hear there are tons of deals to steal.

But I digress. This piece of private paradise known as Robinson Bar Ranch on 128 acres is worth selling a few shares of commodities or gold bars to snap up while it’s still available. Now I know why all millionaires buy Idaho ranches: the property taxes on this puppy are only $3542 a year — totally serious! The ranch is located within the 756,000 acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area, one of the largest in the nation. The Robinson Bar Ranch land was acquired by Chase A. Clark in 1900, who operated it as a guest ranch and resort. Chase became Governor of Idaho and a Supreme Court Justice and a relative, Bethine Clark, married U.S. Senator Frank Church. The ranch has been the 29-year residence of singer/songwriter, Carole King, who purchased it from the Clark family. Talk about positive karma, click here: you won’t believe the interiors! It is located on a private “end of the road” setting surrounded by road less mountain ranges. You want solitude and peace away from humanity? Well, here it is. The ranch is virtually an island in a “sea” of unroaded federal land.

The spread includes a beautifully restored 7,337 sq. ft. lodge, an owner’s residence overlooking Warm Springs Creek, a caretaker’s home, guest cabins, equestrian facilities, a greenhouse, and of course a professional recording studio. There is a gorgeous hot water pool complex of a swimming pool and a soaking pool, rock-lined, the water at 135 degrees from a natural geothermal spring keeping the pool at 108 degrees. The same natural springs provide radiant heat for the lodge and studio. The property is surrounded by national forest lands and offers, well, everything you would expect for $11 million: private trails, an ecosystem rich with natural wild-life, panoramic mountain views and extensive live water with great fly fishing and white water rafting on the adjacent Salmon River. Of course the ranch is listed with ranch broker to the stars, Hall & Hall.

Update: this ranch first went on the market in 2006 at $19 million.

Graves of Ernest & Mary Hemingway, Ketchum

Father’s Day was last weekend, but this spread would have made a great gift of second home real estate for Anthony Weiner: Beaver Dam Farms. The 973-acre private estate is tucked away in the rolling foothills of Athens, Georgia. It was built from the root up and designed by country music legend Kenny Rogers – betcha didn’t know he was a designer as well as a  crooner and, in fact, had an interior design firm partnership in Atlanta. He sold the spread to wealthy rancher Wes Adams  in 2003, who died in February. And now,  Beaver Dam has just been listed privately for
$20 million.

The  estate comes fully furnished and is located on the original site of one of Georgia’s grandest plantations. It features so much I might as well create a list:  12,000-square-foot main house complete with two gyms, a movie theater, a billiards room, and an Italian marble wraparound porch.  Bring on the visitors, just as Kenny did and they can have their choice of  a 4,000 square foot six bedroom guest house, a four bedroom, 2600 square foot guest cottage, and four one-bedroom villas 1,000 square foot little villas larger than most New York City apartments.

If you think this list is exhaustive – the best is yet to come.  Beaver Dam Farms has a  private, 6,285-yard, 18-hole executive championship golf course that Rogers personally designed and is on par with world-renowned Augusta National. Here are some of the top names who have played there: Payne Stewart, Lanny Wadkins and Ray Floyd,  plus Rogers and his celeb friends.

Oh but we do not stop with the golf. The estate sports  a 6000 square foot golf clubhouse, a 9,000-square-foot state-of-the-art  equestrian and multi-use center , two barns, two swimming pools, clay tennis courts, a spa, conference center, various outdoor entertaining venues and three fish-stocked lakes. There is even a 1022 square foot guest lake house in proximity of those three lakes. I mean, you might get tired after a day of fishing and not be able to walk up those singing hills. If you think this sounds a bit commercial, well, the last owner did run it as a retreat, which is another huge possibility for this property.  Adams turned Beaver Dam it into an inclusive
resort with spa services and event rentals, running it kind of like a dude ranch: Adams also owns  The Motherwell, a dude ranch
in Colorado.