The first six months of the pandemic were marked by confusion, frustration and lockdowns. Confinement was the word of the moment and people had no choice but to witness their once-treasured homes turn into something resembling more of a stifling prison cell.
That’s why the second half of 2020 — and especially the beginning of 2021 — saw Americans jump at the opportunity to buy a vacation home abroad: Searches for keywords like “homes for sale in Puerto Rico,” “Puerto Vallarta homes,” and “condos for sale” in Costa Rica and Belize took off. Moreover, the explosion in searches really stood out compared to 2015 and 2018, the first two years that Point2 analysts began following Americans’ interest in buying vacation homes abroad.
So, what changed and what stayed the same in the last 12 months? Are U.S. homebuyers loyal to their trusted locations or are they changing their preferences? To discover the new trends, we analyzed search volumes for more than 2,000 real estate-related keywords in islands, countries and cities in the Americas.
Just like last year, Mexico remains the king of vacation destinations and locations for second homes for Americans. However, what did change was the number of monthly searches. After a 60% increase, the number of monthly searches for keywords related to buying real estate in the country surpassed 132,000 — and no wonder: In absolutely dreamy locations like Puerto Vallarta, Tulum or Cabo San Lucas, home seekers aren’t just looking for their next vacation home, but also a more joyous lifestyle and their very own slice of paradise.
In our last study, we discovered that the top three most-searched destinations within the country were Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende and Cabo San Lucas. But, in the last 12 months, the top three most desirable locations were Puerto Vallarta, Tulum and San Miguel.
Although we’re not talking huge numbers (as real estate-related searches went from 680 to 1,810 per month) Haiti claimed the most significant spike in interest from American homebuyers: Certainly, an 166% increase is nothing to sneeze at.
Two more countries followed in its footsteps: Chile and Aruba saw their numbers of searches double in just one year. They stood out due to their net numbers, as well: Both countries had more than 3,000 monthly searches in 2021. Then, after 2022 increases of 130% and 116%, respectively, they had close to 7,000 and 8,000 monthly searches from the U.S. alone.
Just like every action has an equal and opposite reaction in physics, it appears that similar laws govern the domain of vacation homes: For every island where there was a spike in interest, there was also an island or a country that fell from grace. In particular, homebuyers’ interest dwindled in the last 12 months in places like Grenada, Guatemala, Ecuador, the U.S. Virgin Islands and even Canada. Clearly, Americans’ desire to find their dream vacation home or forever home just across the northern border is diminishing. Whether that has to do with climate or harsher conditions imposed on foreign buyers doesn’t really matter, because U.S. buyers have so many other options to choose from.
Like any other crisis, the pandemic led to major changes, breakthroughs and, ultimately, innovation. Furthermore, it seems that the Law of Diffusion of Innovation — explained by Everett M. Rogers and following a bell curve model— might also apply here.
The curve outlines the percentage of the market that adopts a product — or, in this case, a trend — and remote work was just the trend that everyone seemed to be waiting for. With working from home making a hasty entrance when the pandemic hit, a few lucky souls were able to simply extend their vacations: They kept working from a desk facing the ocean or the white sand beaches of some tropical paradise. But as it turns out, those lucky few became the pioneers ushering in a new lifestyle. They were what Rogers calls the Innovators.
Only the Innovators had the courage to truly embrace work from home from the get-go, and quickly turn it into work from anywhere, while the rest of us were still in a haze. The Early Adopters followed in their footsteps and completely erased the line between work and life. And then, becoming aware of the incredible advantages of work-from-anywhere, the Early Majority began looking for homes not just further from the big city, but also closer to nature.
The question that now arises is: With the world returning to pre-pandemic normalcy, is this trend approaching a tipping point? Or will buying a vacation home soon become last summer’s trend? After all, two — and arguably three — large categories of people (the Early Majority, the Late Majority and Laggards) can’t or simply won’t just get up and abandon city life for vacation life.