When it comes to second homes, most buyers want them not as investments but as playhouse getaways where the living is easy.

Fifty-seven percent of 15,000 respondents from households earning $125,000 or more had less interest in golf course and tennis communities and ski areas than they did in low-maintenance housing in close proximity to shops and restaurants, walking paths, and outdoor activities such as hiking and bicycling.

And, indicating a greater boom ahead for the second-home market, the recently released study estimates that 25 percent of affluent households are interested in second-home ownership in the next two to three years.

"The Second Home/Vacation Property National Study" conducted for Altamonte Springs, FL-based Centex Destination Properties (CDP) by American LIVES, Inc., of Carmel Valley, CA found that potential home buyers were also willing to travel longer, more than four hours, to play, not to use the second home as an extended office.

While the National Association of Realtors has found growth in the number of second-home property investors -- from 20 percent in 1999 to 37 percent in 2002 -- second-home buyers who want to tune out remain the driving force behind the growing second-home market.

The second-home market is expected to double by 2009, putting price pressure on the most desirable locations, which come with two climatic extremes. Buyers prefer locations with either year-round temperate climates or those with distinct seasons, the survey said.

The survey's respondents had a median age of 45, well within the range of the 75 to 80 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 who are largely responsible for the second-home market boom.

Thirty percent of those who responded were under the age of 40, 78 percent were married, and 87 percent already owned a home.

Most, 63 percent of those who responded to the survey, have already taken action to investigate second-home ownership -- 51 percent discussed it with their spouse; 25 percent requested information; 21 percent talked to a salesperson and 19 percent visited a second home or vacation community, the survey found.

Potential buyers in the survey were willing to pay $350,000 for a detached single-family home, and $295,000 for an attached dwelling. Last year, the national median price of all second homes was only $200,000, according to NAR.

The top five most popular destinations for second homes nationwide were in Florida, New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, and Hawaii's Maui, the survey said.

"Today's second home is a safe haven from the pressures of day-to-day life, where people can unplug and enjoy themselves with friends and family amidst natural beauty. We consider it not recreation, but re-creation," said Joel Sowers, CDP's executive vice president.

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