From the category archives:

Markets to Watch

(By Camilla McLaughlin, Unique Homes Magazine)

Individually, each of these markets gives us a reason to take notice. Collectively, they will indicate where luxury real estate is going. We’re watching. Are you?

1. Annapolis, Md. Boaters gravitate to this historic city on the Chesapeake Bay, as do buyers seeking quality of life in a town reminiscent of Williamsburg. Affordable prices compared to Washington’s luxury enclaves and a reasonable commute to both Washington and Baltimore make this waterfront gem highly desirable.

2. Asheville, N.C. A perennial on lists of great places, Asheville continues to draw upscale buyers looking for a low-key, outdoorsy lifestyle. The city’s eclectic ambiance, which fosters folk arts, great restaurants and lots of entertainment, adds to the allure.

3. Aspen, Colo. The fire hasn’t gone out of this market. No longer just a ski enclave, Aspen has four-season appeal and a reputation as a platinum location. Restrictive zoning and growth policies restrain supply, so don’t expect a property explosion or bloated inventories here.

4. Atlanta, Ga. No bubble worries here with respectable, not astronomical, appreciation. Luxury still lives in Buckhead, where the teardown trend continues. New upscale communities with lots of lifestyle amenities, city retreats and waterfront on nearby Lake Lanier continue to sell, fetching top dollar.

5. Austin, Texas Lots of untapped potential for luxury exits in this Texas hill country city, which posted record gains for much of 2006. The University of Texas, two lakes, and the bragging rights to the “music capitol of the world” bring a mix of newcomers.

6. Bellevue/Medina, Wash. A latecomer in appreciation compared to other areas of the country, prices here continue to escalate with 28-percent appreciation in some upscale neighborhoods in 2006. Mid-year sales volume is off, but expectations are that any slowdown will be short lived.

7. Beverly Hills, Calif. The luster of this platinum location remains untarnished as does its reputation as a Mecca for luxury, thanks to strong demand from global buyers seeking one-of-a-kind properties. Slower sales translate into more choices for buyers in some prized Westside enclaves. Particularly hot: Hollywood Hills.

8. Idaho This state is a luxury newcomer in the Pacific Northwest with growing resort markets in Coeur d’Alene, McCall and Sandpoint. Sandpoint even had to expand the airport to accommodate the increase in corporate and private jets. Boise ranks second among U. S. metros for price appreciation.

9. Jupiter, Fla. Luxury reached new heights on this exclusive island with Tiger Woods’ purchase of a 10-acre, $38 million estate. Prices continue to climb as a result of this benchmark.

10. Manhattan Uptown, downtown, midtown: luxury markets abound. Wall Streeters flush with bonuses in 2006 resulted in record sales of more than $5 million. Most desired are cooperatives and town houses. The peak is past, but local brokers attribute the slowdown to buyers sitting on the sidelines. Still, a growing number of homes on the market, realistic pricing and a robust economy should tempt buyers in 2007.

11. Miami, Fla. One of the country’s most international cities, Miami’s appeal still sizzles even if real estate is on a slow burn. Still hot is demand for single-family homes on the water, particularly in the ultra high end. Condo sales are off and inventories are high, which makes this a buyer’s market to watch.

12. Nashville, Tenn. There is a new song here. America’s country music capital is also the top-ranked city for business relocation. Insurance, book publishing and manufacturing bring newcomers. With the increase in sales volume exceeding price appreciation, and a positive economic outlook, the beat should go on in 2007.

13. Newport, R.I. No other place has a comparable luxury pedigree. Last year’s white hot market has mellowed but upscale sales still keep pace. Affordability compared to the Hamptons, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is the big draw. A bonus: steady growth in affluent residents statewide.

14. Palo Alto, Calif. Memories of the dot-com bust resurfaced when Bay Area prices dropped in September, but experts say fundamentals are strong. With prices down by more than 10 percent here, this is a market for buyers to watch in 2007.

15. Panama Maybe still a glimmer on the resort horizon, Panama is getting lots of attention from potential expats and developers. Dynamic terrain ranges from jungle to beach. The widening of the canal is generating lots of interest from investors.

16. Philadelphia, Pa. Small neighborhoods, big city panache and a city center undergoing a renaissance woo empty-nesters, dual income professionals, even commuters. Prices have risen solidly, but luxury homes are still less expensive than nearby Washington, D.C., and New York.

17. Provence, France History, charm, and anonymity bring celebrities, sports figures, and corporate leaders who readily pay a premium for villas and chateaus unattainable in the U. S. The opportunity to be part of the community without turning heads or the paparazzi? Priceless.

18. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Buying in Mexico is easier than ever. Great values, low ownership costs, a community with an array of services and a location that hugs the Bay of Banderas attract buyers. Also giving a nod are American firms from Four Seasons to the Michael Graves Design Group.

19. San Antonio, Texas No bubbles here even though sales have exploded. No longer just a military/tourist town, San Antonio draws out-of-state and out-of-country buyers. Bio-medical is the top industry. A beautiful climate and luxury that begins around $500,000 also attract equity-rich retirees.

20. San Diego, Calif. Sales are off dramatically but the biggest adjustments are for new construction. Single-family resale prices were off 3 percent from the prior year. As prices correct, look for buyers to come off the sidelines and return to the market.

21. Sanibel Captiva, Fla. The best news for Florida real estate this year came from the weather. Sales might be off, but as the season in the Sunshine State gets underway some locals say a hurricane-free 2006 has things perking up here and in Ft. Myers.

22. Savannah, Ga. A lifestyle that hints of a bygone era combined with a lively arts scene (thanks to one of the largest art schools in the country) brings newcomers. Fetching highest prices are waterfront plantations, gated communities and historic neighborhoods. Once confined to the city’s original historic district, the luxury market now extends to several landmark areas.

23. Sedona, Ariz. Luxury lives in Sedona where there is strong demand for properties priced at $1 million and up. Upscale sales in 2006 exceed 2005, with those of more than $2 million almost doubling. Retirees, pre-retirement boomers looking for second, third or even fourth homes, and telecommuters gravitate here.

24. St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands Boating, snorkeling, all the waterfront delights are here. Most owners willingly pay a premium for a home here in exchange for privacy and the charm of the islands as well as the security of still being in the U.S.

25. Woodstock, Vt. Rolling green hills, ponds, river frontage and a “quintessential New England village” make for an understated luxury perennial. Some of the best skiing in the east is nearby as is Hanover, N.H., and Dartmouth College. One million dollars buys an upscale home and acreage here.