But Are They Being Used?

Some 2.5 million Americans own recreational properties, and their number is increasing by about a quarter of a million a year, according to government figures. But if usage is any indication, most are making a poor investment.

The Census Bureau found that in 1995, owners had spent a median of 20 nights in their vacation homes in the preceding 12 months. But one out of five didn't stay overnight at all, and 6% used their places five nights or less. At the same time, though, 8% of all owners spent more than 100 nights at their retreats during the last year.

In addition, only about 20% of all properties characterized as recreational were rented in the previous 12 months. Even more surprising, only about a third of those that weren't used even once by their owners were rented to others.

This lack of usage is all the more shocking given the fact that three out of every four vacation homes are situated in what their owners describe as resort areas, and more than half are less than 150 miles away for their owners' primary residences.

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