The Cheapest Places In America To Build Your Luxury Vacation Home

While this may come as somewhat of a shocker, the life of a travel writer is more than swanky dinner parties and African safaris. Like many other jobs, the life of a travel writer involves many behind-the-scenes moments that aren’t enviable at all: long layovers, mind-altering jet lag and all-night sessions in front of a computer screen.

Of all the problems faced by travel writers, however, one of the peskiest ones I keep running into is how to efficiently use the stacks of cash that occupy entire bedrooms of my house (please notice my tongue deep into my cheek on this one).

This is why I’m so relieved to see that CNBC just released this list of America’s best places to build your high-end vacation home. I mean honestly, I have been grappling with this for years. Once the recession hit I made the decision that I would shun purchasing “necessities” such as food and clothing and instead invest my nickels towards the purchase of an ultra-luxurious vacation home.

Now that I weigh 87 pounds and only wear underwear, I was able to reference this list and learn that if I opt to build my spacious SECOND home in Kiawah Island, SC, I can do so for nearly a third of the cost versus building the same house in somewhere like say, Hawaii ($585/square foot versus $1300/square foot).

So if you, too, are grappling with this ultra-dilemma, I suggest you check out the post and educate yourself on the benefits of constructing a place (where you’re only going to spend two weeks per year) in a state such as Wisconsin versus somewhere oh-so-typical such as Malibu.

You know where I want my second home? In a yurt on a pasture in Pucon, Chile, where my only possessions would be an alpaca wool sweater and a coffee maker. Wait – that would be my only home.

Despite scouring the article, however, I couldn’t find a yurt in Patagonia anywhere on the list. Shucks.

[Image credit: chefranden on Flickr]

World’s quirkiest rental home: The Balancing Barn

For travelers who want to have a rustic experience in the English countryside while also experiencing modern innovations, you may want to look into reserving a stay at The Balancing Barn, a unique rental home in Thorington, Suffolk, in England that defies the laws of nature. Created by Netherlands-based architectural firm MVRDV, half of the barn sits precariously over a descending slope with no ground underneath as the house actually shifts and balances. For an immersive experience in the outdoors, guests have the opportunity to literary soar over nature via a swing hanging from the bottom of the structure, just as if they were hanging from a tree. Moreover, the reflective sheet metal covering the structure responds to nature, causing the optical illusion of changing with the seasons.

For more information on how to book and what’s included, click here. To get a better idea of the project, check out the video above and the gallery below.


Jetsetter launches vacation home rental service

Flash sale giant Gilt Groupe’s travel arm Jetsetter today steps up to compete in the home rental market with the launch of Jetsetter Homes, a collection of more than 200 carefully-chosen homes around the world.

The vacation rental portion of the site will allow customers to to search pricing and availability in real time, as well as instant booking through Jetsetter.

“As anyone who has researched and booked a vacation home knows, the process is archaic and time consuming compared to hotels, flights and rental cars,” said Drew Patterson, Jetsetter Founder and CEO. “Jetsetter makes the research process fun by providing beautiful photography, including our revolutionary 360-degree tours which transport the user into impressive homes and fabulous infinity pools around the world. And, of course, we streamlined the booking process with instant booking capabilities.”

The homes will be available for rent on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis 365 days per year in the Jetsetter 24/7 collection. Monthly expansions are planned, and each week five to 10 homes will be discounted by 20 to 50% in the flash sale section of the site.

We’re particularly intrigued by this launch because it follows the same model as Jetsetter’s current hotel listings, ensuring that each home has been personally visited and verified by a Jetsetter correspondent, most of whom serve as travel writers and experts on a full-time basis. Reviews note the “good” and “bad” aspects of each property.

Many of the vacation rentals will feature 360-degree photos providing a virtual window into each home. Jetsetter custom-designed a camera to shoot dozens of high resolution photos which are stitched together to form 360-degree images. Unlike virtual tours, Jetsetter 360-degree photos pan smoothly about the room on multiple planes, without choppy pauses and distortion to give users a more realistic sense of what the home offers.

It will also be easy to spot amenities and features most important to renters, like the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, and maximum occupancy. Rates are conveniently broken down by day, week and month and also per person, for members wanting to share the cost of a home with friends.

In celebration of the launch, more than 50 percent of homes from the Jetsetter 24/7 collection will be 10 percent off until October 12. Need an invite code? We have one here.

Inspirato: Another travel flash sale site joins the mix

Just when you think you’ve seen them all … another travel flash sale site launches. The latest? Inspirato, the pet project of Exclusive Resorts co-founder Brett Handler. They tackle the deal concept with a twist – travelers pay an up-front fee to join the site and then enjoy ongoing discounted rates for the site’s portfolio of brand-owned, full-service properties. Ironically enough, it appears its closest competitor also comes from another Exclusive Resorts alumnus – we covered the launch of Next Great Place earlier this month.

Care for a flash sale? They created iDeal to offer a flash sale model that’s more similar to sites like SniqueAway and Jetsetter, offering special packaged programs at an additional discount for specific date ranges.

What we love?

  • Deals are open to the public, so everyone can see what’s being offered- but only members can book.
  • Many of the deals offered are actually on private home properties (more than 40 are currently in the portfolio) in desirable locations like Vail, Aspen, Anguilla and Italy.
  • Reservations can be booked up to a year in advance, and, because you still pay individually for room nights, there’s no limit to where or how often one can travel.
  • A Personal Vacation Advisor learns each member’s preferences and assists in vacation planning, residence selection and booking, while a Destination Concierge offers local expertise and dedicated assistance before arrival and during the member’s vacation.

What we don’t:

  • It’s expensive – the fee to join is $9,500, and rising to $15,000 on March 31, and the yearly renewal is $2,500.

What you want to know:

  • The average cost per night for all the homes in Inspirato’s portfolio is approximately $1,000, with some value season rates as low as a few hundred dollars.
  • Homes range in size from 1,708 sq. ft. in the core of Aspen to 14,000 sq. ft. in Anguilla, and have an estimated market value ranging from $2.5M to over $10M.

Sample Deal:
Casa Bella, a 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath, 3300 square foot villa located in the Auberge Private Residences at Esperanza, Cabo San Lucas.
Market rate for consumers who book a similar home: $1850 per night
iDeal rate for May 30 – June 3rd: $450 per night
The base savings: 76%, AND iDeal includes complimentary concierge-level service

Awful housing market puts vacation residences in reach

Looking for a vacation home? Well, the time is right! With home seizures hitting a record high, you don’t need to be an infomercial star to realize that prices are headed in your direction. Places that were once wholly unattainable may now almost be in reach, and second homes at nasty places you’d never want to visit (especially regularly enough to have a vacation home there) are moving for pocket lint change.

Last month, 95, 364 homes were seized by banks – a record-setting number (since 2005, when we first started keeping score). Bad loans and unemployment are making the situation worse. So, the time has come for people with deep pockets to take advantage of the less fortunate, a familiar enough refrain throughout human existence. When you close on your new vacation home, though, don’t bring cake for the vanquished: someone will probably get the wrong idea and make a big “thing” of it.

[photo by Casey Serin via Flickr]