Vacation Homes: Buy Low, Sell Never

There's at least one major upside to the bursting of the real-estate bubble: The kind of adventure-ready second home you've always dreamed about is suddenly within reach. From mountain retreats to lakefront outposts to slopeside condos, here's your primer on where to invest for the long haul.

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho    

Everyone knows one of those guys whose grandparents bought a vacation home for peanuts when property was cheap. Once a year, you get invited—to the lake house, the slopeside cabin—and say the same thing to yourself on the drive back: I wish my family had a place like that. Well, now's your chance. Low prices and record-low mortgage rates make this the best time in generations to buy your dream escape. Not so you can flip it—those games are thankfully over—but to use it, then, someday, hand it down. We asked Larry Olmsted, who writes the Life on Vacation second-home real-estate column for USA Today, to report on ten spots where you can get the best value for your money. Your job is to pick one. Your grandkids will thank you.

This is a quaint town with seemingly perfect summer weather (June to September can see 100 bluebird days in a row, with temps in the eighties and nineties), a 1950s five-and-dime facade, and a hardcore endurance sports scene. Set on the north end of a 30-mile-long lake offering 200-plus miles of protected shoreline, Coeur d'Alene hosts an Ironman, its biggest event all year. Road cyclists from all over come to ride the 112-mile, up-and-down route to Hayden Lake, while mountain bikers head for the extensive trail network in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. "Lance Armstrong told me this was the best mountain biking he had ever seen," said Michael Radovan, a local triathlete and salesman.
NUMBERS: Small homes within walking distance of the lake start at $165K.
INTEL: You can rent your place out for more than double the usual weekly rate during June's Ironman.
ACCESS: Seattle and Portland are five-to-six-hour drives; Spokane is 35 minutes west.

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