Best places to buy a winter vacation home 2019

From enjoying the warmth of a fire after a long day on the slopes to sipping cocoa with the kids at the kitchen counter, there is a lot to love about winter vacation homes. Buyers looking to invest in a winter vacation home have much to consider, but one thing is sure to remain constant: travelers can’t resist the appeal of cozy A-frames, plush mountain condos, and classic log cabins with room to sprawl.

Read on for our 2019 list of the best places to buy a winter vacation home. Those that made the list this year have an almost built-in guest population, as they’re situated just a short drive from highly populated residential markets and draw plenty of visitors from the surrounding area. And while winter activities bring many travelers to these destinations, the summer offers opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and more that keep vacation homes booked when the snow melts.


Investments that won’t leave you cold

In this report, we rank vacation rental markets based on aggregate cap rate, the ratio of a property’s net operating income over its cost.

To determine net operating income for this report, we first calculated gross rental income for each market. From there, we subtracted each market’s average operating costs—factoring in things like management fees and property tax rates. Finally, we divided those figures by the historical costs of buying a vacation rental to determine cap rates for each market.

Familiarizing yourself with cap rate will help you make a more informed choice when deciding where to buy a winter home. If you already have your sights set on a specific property, check out our vacation rental income calculator to determine how much income your home could generate when managed by Vacasa.

Vacasa Real Estate is here to help you find the right vacation home. For now, here’s where we think you should start your search:

The 10 best places to buy a winter vacation home in 2019, ranked

Market

Cap rate

Median home cost

1

Killington, VT

8.31%

$211,172

2

Big Sky, MT

6.10%

$585,000

3

Breckenridge, CO

5.56%

$556,905

4

Dillon, CO

4.92%

$401,894

5

Ludlow, VT

4.83%

$304,273

6

Rhododendron, OR

4.73%

$316,712

7

Warren, VT

4.57%

$263,752

8

Leavenworth, WA

4.36%

$441,617

9

Shaver Lake, CA

4.25%

$457,440

10

Big Bear City, CA

4.11%

$297,089

Killington, VT winter vacation rental

1. Killington, VT

Killington ranked number two on our 2019 Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home report, so it’s no surprise that the snowy mountain town topped our list focused on winter vacation homes. Travelers flock to Killington in the winter months to take on one of six peaks boasting downhill trails to test every level of skier. Scenic gondola tours lead you to the top of Killington Peak, and sleigh rides through Killington trails are a popular activity December through March. Killington boasts a solid cap rate of 8.31%, and with home prices hovering just above $200,000 buyers and investors can feel comfortable they’ll get the most bang for their vacation rental buck.

Explore Killington vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Killington.

Market size

1,198

Median annual gross rental revenue

$39,797

Median home price

$211,172

Cap rate

8.31%

Beautiful view of Big Sky, MT vacation home surrounded by snowy pines and mountains

2. Big Sky, MT

Big Sky is located in southwest Montana, about 44 miles from the college town of Bozeman and 51 miles from West Yellowstone, a popular tourist town and the closest access point to Yellowstone National Park. Though the town’s year-round population is a mere 2,500 residents, visitors from all over the nation book Big Sky vacation homes to enjoy the great outdoors. Big Sky Resort actually consists of two resort areas that share one mountain. These two resorts come together to create “the Biggest Skiing in America”—for every skier or rider, there are at least two acres of terrain. In addition, Big Sky Resort has some of the best snowfall in the Rockies (over 400 inches annually), and some of the shortest lift lines to boot. Cabins and homes in Big Sky, regardless of size, are well booked throughout the year and collectively yield a cap rate of 6.1%.

Explore Big Sky vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Big Sky.

Market size

1,330

Median annual gross rental revenue

$66,744

Median home price

$585,000

Cap rate

6.10%

Breckenridge, CO winter vacation rental

3. Breckenridge, CO

The small city of Breckenridge covers under five square miles, yet it boasts a wide variety of indoor and outdoor attractions. With over 70 restaurants and bars, two Nordic Centers, a golf course, 16 museums and galleries, and the Riverwalk Center Outdoor Amphitheater, this town has just about everything visitors could want. Similar to the well-known town of Vail and the ski town of Beaver Creek, Breckenridge comes alive in the winter. With cold-weather activities like dog sledding, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and even hot air balloon rides over the majestic winter scenery, guests will find that Breckenridge lives up to its winter reputation. The median cost of Breckenridge homes is on the higher end of destinations in our top 10, but both homeowners and guests will find a Breckenridge vacation rental well worth it.

Explore Breckenridge vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Breckenridge.

Market size

8,008

Median annual gross rental revenue

$57,699

Median home price

$556,905

Cap rate

5.56%

Dillon, CO winter vacation rental

4. Dillon, CO

The “Mountain Lakestyle” town of Dillon lies about 32 miles east of the skiing paradise of Vail, where individuals and groups alike head to relax and take part in winter sports. The cold and snow doesn’t slow Dillon down at all—in fact, it draws in visitors by the thousands. Dillon vacation homes offer access to four of Summit County’s best ski areas: Arapahoe Basin, Keystone Resort, Copper Mountain Resort, and Breckenridge Ski Resort. While Nordic skiers and snowshoers will have their fun on the mountain, trails reserved for hikers and bikers in the summer turn into snowy trails for all winter athletes to enjoy. For a truly magical (and Instagrammable) experience, guests can visit the Dillon Ice Castles, where a display of LED lights illuminates 25 million pounds of ice. Dillon’s median home price of $400,000 sits a bit lower than Breckenridge’s, making it a more affordable option for buyers.

Explore Dillon vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Dillon.

Market size

3,864

Median annual gross rental revenue

$40,506

Median home price

$401,894

Cap rate

4.92%

Ludlow, VT winter vacation rental

5. Ludlow, VT

A popular ski resort destination, Ludlow is home to the family-friendly Okemo Mountain Resort and the perfect place for a relaxing escape from everyday life. Known as “the big Vermont ski mountain that gets the little things right,” Ludlow offers diverse trails that will delight both novices and pros, exceptional snow, and plenty of family-friendly fun. With 667 acres of skiable area and 121 runs, there’s truly something for everyone on the mountain. While Ludlow sees a peak in guests throughout the winter months, it’s truly a four-season destination for travelers—they can check out historical monuments and hiking trails in the spring and summer, and take in the views of changing leaves in the fall. Ludlow homes see a cap rate of around 4.83%.

Explore Ludlow vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Ludlow.

Market size

740

Median annual gross rental revenue

$38,154

Median home price

$304,273

Cap rate

4.83%

Rhododendron, OR winter vacation rental

6. Rhododendron, OR

Located between Zig Zag and Government Camp, Rhododendron is a charming small town in the Cascade Mountains. Rhododendron is near five different ski resorts—Cooper Spur, Skibowl, Mount Hood Meadows, Summit Ski Area, and Timberline—making it an ideal destination for winter sports. It’s also close to a variety of hiking trails great for taking in views of mountain lakes via snowshoe. Homes in Rhododendron range from cozy, classic A-frames to multi-bedroom homes with large outdoor spaces, but either way a hot tub is always a plus when travelers return home from winter activities. Buyers considering Rhododendron can bank on a typical home cost of around $300,000.

Explore Rhododendron vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Rhododendron.

Market size

251

Median annual gross rental revenue

$34,738

Median home price

$316,712

Cap rate

4.73%

Warren, VT winter vacation rental

7. Warren, VT

With beautiful rolling hills and world-class ski slopes nearby, Warren vacation homes offer picturesque views and action-packed outdoor recreation. Encompassing Sugarbush Resort—one of the largest ski resorts in New England, with 578 acres of ski-able trails—Warren is a Vermont destination for all things outdoors. Warren is also home to Mad River Glen, a skier-owned resort that relies almost exclusively on natural snowfall, which is unheard of in the New England snow scene. Mad River Glen is unlike any other ski area in the country due to its alignment with nature and “snow-farming” culture. Mad River Glen is also home to the most popular lift in America, the Single Chair lift. Warren vacation rentals yield a 4.57% cap rate on average.

Explore Warren vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Warren.

Market size

446

Median annual gross rental income

$33,328

Median home price

$263,752

Cap rate

4.57%

The exterior of a luxury cabin rental in Leavenworth, WA

8. Leavenworth, WA

Upon arrival in Leavenworth, visitors will immediately notice that nearly every building—including popular grocery stores and restaurants—is fully decked out in Bavarian-style architecture. During the winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to the region’s many mountains, and Leavenworth is blanketed with a layer of snow that makes the town feel even more festive than usual. When travelers aren’t taking in the polka music that drifts through the streets or noshing on German delights like bratwurst, pretzels, and fondue, the nearby mountains await for a day of fun on the mountain, which could include skiing, snowmobiling, or even ice climbing. The market’s 4.36% cap rate is appealing for home buyers, although it might be hard to resist keeping a vacation rental all to yourself in such a picturesque town.

Explore Leavenworth vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Leavenworth.

Market size

1,258

Median annual gross rental revenue

$42,700

Median home price

$441,617

Cap rate

4.36%

Shaver Lake, CA winter vacation rental

9. Shaver Lake, CA

Shaver Lake has just enough time after the summer months to transform itself into a winter wonderland—and another busy season. From nearly anywhere in the area, snow-capped mountains are the main attraction, and those seeking snow can take to China Peak Mountain Resort overlooking Huntington Lake. While the mountain supports activities of all kinds, it’s a major draw for snowmobilers looking to experience the most beautiful trails in the Sierras. Sprawling lakefront homes offer plenty of space for families and large groups, and lead to a median home sale price of over $600,000.

Explore Shaver Lake vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Shaver Lake.

Market size

336

Median annual gross rental revenue

$41,958

Median home price

$457,440

Cap rate

4.25%

Big Bear City, CA winter vacation rental

10. Big Bear City, CA

Nestled among the pines, Big Bear City vacation homes are ideal for a mountaintop escape from the daily grind. Big Bear lies at the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest less than 100 miles east of Hollywood, with thousands of potential guests to the area just a short drive away. Big Bear’s twin properties, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, are destinations that offer incredible scenic views and outdoor adventures. Much like Los Angeles, Big Bear offers a ton of events for kids and adults, including Movies in the Meadow, Rail Jams, and night ski sessions. Big Bear is another destination that draws large groups, so buyers should seek homes with multiple bedrooms. However, you can find those homes for a median home sale price of under $300,000.

Explore Big Bear City vacation rentals and learn about buying a vacation home in Big Bear City.

Market size

1,407

Median annual gross rental revenue

$29,910

Median home price

$297,089

Cap rate

4.11%



Vacasa offers property management and other real estate services directly through Vacasa LLC and through Vacasa LLC's licensed subsidiaries. Click here for more information about Vacasa's licensed real estate brokerage/property manager in your state. Vacasa’s licensed real estate brokerages/property managers include: Vacasa Alabama LLC; Vacasa Arizona LLC; Vacasa Florida LLC; Vacasa Louisiana L.L.C. (licensed in Louisiana); Vacasa Michigan LLC, 947-800-5979; Vacasa Nevada LLC; Vacasa New Hampshire LLC, P.O. Box 283, Conway NH 03818, Dave Grant, Broker of Record; Vacasa New Mexico LLC, 503-345-9399; Vacasa New York LLC, 888-433-0068, Susan E. Scanlon, Real Estate Broker; Vacasa North Carolina LLC; Vacasa Pennsylvania LLC; Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Idaho, Oregon, and Utah); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Colorado, 720-727-9358); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Tennessee, 615-671-9916); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Washington, Robert Brush, Designated Broker); Vacasa Resort Rentals of Hilton Head Island LLC; Vacasa South Carolina LLC; Vacasa Tennessee LLC; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Hawaii LLC, 3350 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Suite 600, Lahaina, HI 96761; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Montana LLC, Patrice Tompkins, Licensed Property Manager; Vacasa Virginia LLC; Vacasa Wisconsin LLC.

*This document is for information and illustrative purposes only. It is not intended to provide “investment advice” or a “recommendation” regarding a course of action. The discussion is general in nature and has not taken into account your personal financial position or objectives. You should consult a licensed financial advisor or other professional to discuss your specific situation.

Estimated rental income figures and home sale prices are based on historical averages; for any specific property, the actual revenue, purchase price, and cap rate may differ materially from estimated amounts and depend on a wide range of factors outside Vacasa's knowledge or control, such as the property's condition, layout, and furnishings; expenses associated with the acquisition and ownership of the property (such as property taxes, utility fees, HOA fees, insurance fees, and mortgage-related expenses); rental calendar availability; existing and future regulations; current and future economic, social, and political trends and conditions; and weather and environmental factors. These estimates do not take into account the potential impact of state income taxes. Home costs last updated May 15, 2019.

Vacasa makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, about the accuracy of this document. Furthermore, Vacasa has no obligation to update, modify or amend this document or to otherwise notify users in the event that any opinion, assumption, forecast or estimate set forth herein changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate. Therefore, you should not place undue reliance on statements in this document.