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June 22, 2014

6 tips for buying the right vacation home

When Taylor Billington and her husband Gary set their goals 10 years ago, one of the items they included on their “vision board” was a vacation home.

It was more than an idle fantasy. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., homeowners, who own a marketing firm, had traveled to Orange County, Calif., many times, and they had a clear idea of what they were seeking.

“The house had to have a water view,” Taylor Billington said. “It had to be Zen. It had to be modern. It had to have a very organic feel.”

Earlier this year, they took the plunge, spending $2.9 million on a three-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach, Calif., where they’ll celebrate July 4.

The home, perched on the edge of a canyon, beckoned with its fluid decks and an abundance of windows, as well as an infinity edge swimming pool and spa. The couple isn’t crazy about Laguna Beach’s summer traffic, but it did not come as a surprise. And it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

“We just don’t hate it as bad as here,” Taylor Billington said of the congestion on South Coast Highway, in an interview from her Florida home, “because the (Laguna) views are so amazing.”

The Billingtons followed one of the top rules that real estate agents cite about buying a second home: Make sure you know the area well first. Not just the draw; the drawbacks, too.

“Many people vacation somewhere, have a great time, then decide to buy something on a whim,’’ said Phil Malamatenios, Stanfield Group manager at Hom Sotheby’s International Realty in Orange County. It’s “not a good idea without researching thoroughly.”

Vacation home sales surged in 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to the National Association of Realtors. They made up 13 percent of all residential transactions last year, the highest market share since before the housing crash in 2006.

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