Best Places For A Second Home In The West
Nov 14, 2023
Feb 8, 2024
The western United States offers some of the most stunning natural landscapes and is one of the most geographically varied regions in the country. An abundance of outdoor activities, awe-inspiring national parks, and opportunities to see wildlife make it a popular destination. People flock from all over the country as well as internationally to experience the West.
There are a variety of motivations for buying a second home including being able to vacation near favorite activities, as an investment property, or even in retirement planning.
Depending on lifestyle, priorities, and financial goals, you will likely find some of the best places for a second home here in the western United States.
Western States That Make The Best Places For A Second Home
In this guide, Mountain Luxury explores some of the most popular states in the west for second home ownership. From coastal communities, to mountain towns, to desert oases, here are some of the top places to consider:
California is often considered one of the best places for a second home. Many areas enjoy a mild and temperate climate and an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities.
You can hike and bike the trails throughout the dramatic Sierra Nevada Mountains, an area that covers much of the state's middle and includes a patchwork of protected lands like Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park with the biggest trees on Earth, and more.
Fantastic skiing and snowboarding awaits at resorts like Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, and Big Bear Lake. Joshua Tree National Park is a renowned destination for rock climbers, and the coastline is full of beautiful beaches for swimming, surfing, beach volleyball and other water sports. Try beachcombing at spots like Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach, and Malibu.
California's economy is diverse, from technology and entertainment to tourism and agriculture. The global tech hub, Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area, is home to tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Tesla. And the state attracts millions of tourists each year to Disneyland, its coastal beaches, and national parks.
While its economy is strong overall, California faces challenges such as high housing costs and issues related to affordability in certain regions. The cost of living in some areas, especially coastal cities, can be quite high. But for many, owning a second home here can be an investment in addition to a place for relaxation, as it has historically shown resilience and long-term value appreciation.
The state's property taxes are below the national average due in large part to Proposition 13, that limits the property tax rate to 1% plus the rate necessary to fund local voter-approved bonds. It also limits future property tax increases.
With California's network of international airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, and Ontario, as well as the many regional airports, it's easy to fly into the state from all over the U.S. and internationally.
Utah is home to the "mighty five" — Arches National Park with its more than 2,000 natural stone arches, Bryce Canyon National Park's red rock spires and hoodoos, the deep canyons of Canyonlands National Park that are carved by the Colorado River, Capitol Reef National Park featuring a 100-mile-long warp in the Earth's crust, and Zion National Park, one of the most visited parks in the U.S.
Some of the best ski towns for second homes are nestled around the Wasatch Mountains and the area is world-renowned for exceptional ski resorts like Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, and more. Basically, Utah is a paradise for nature lovers. Lake Powell and Bear Lake are popular spots for boating, wakeboarding, and windsurfing. Pineview Reservoir in the Ogden Valley area is a favorite for the beachcombing, kayaking, and paddle boarding.
Utah has a burgeoning tech industry, often referred to as the Silicon Slopes, with a growing number of tech companies and startups. Robust economic growth, the lower than national average unemployment rate, and rapid population growth have contributed to the state's strong real estate market, with demand for homes particularly along the Wasatch.
For many, owning a second home in Utah can be a source of rental income, especially during peak seasons in mountain towns like Eden, Park City, and others that are nearby the area's epic ski resorts. And property taxes are just 0.52%, the sixth-lowest in the country.
Salt Lake City International Airport is well connected to many cities across the U.S. and makes it convenient for second-home owners to travel to and from their properties. Airports in Provo, St. George, and Ogden primarily serve smaller markets and region areas.
The best places for a second home are often near favorite activities or hobbies, and Colorado has an abundance of recreation opportunities.
Explore Colorado's pristine alpine lakes at Rocky Mountain National Park, or go sand sledding at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the southern part of the state that has the tallest sand dunes in North America.
Visit Mesa Verde National Park, famous for its ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. And Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has great rock climbing routes and hiking trails with some of the most dramatic and breathtaking views. Climbers will also love Eldorado Canyon and Garden of the Gods for both trad and sport climbing routes.
A second home in Colorado provides easy access to world-class skiing and snowboarding at renowned resorts like Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, and Telluride. Hot springs are scattered throughout the state for a relaxing geothermal dip, and there are many popular fly fishing destinations like the Arkansas River, Roaring Fork River, and South Platte River.
It consistently ranks high for its active and healthy lifestyle because the state's many vibrant cities like Boulder, Fort Collins, Aspen, Durango and more, offer a blend of urban amenities and outdoor adventure.
Diverse industries and a business-friendly environment can be appealing to those who seek investment properties. Though many areas face a shortage of available homes for sale and competitive prices, driven in part by vacation and second-home buyers.
Property tax rates in Colorado are somewhat unique due to the limitations imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights amendment to the Colorado Constitution which requires voter approval for any tax rate increases. The rate is also applied to the assessed value, a fraction of the market value of the home, rather than the entire market value of the home.
Denver International Airport serves as the main gateway for visitors, with regional airports like Colorado Springs, Eagle County, and Sardy Field providing access to specific regions.
Oregon is celebrated for its rugged coastline along the Pacific Ocean, diverse range of forests, high desert plateaus, and the Cascade Range with its volcanic peaks.
Buying a second home in this state will give you access to practically every kind of outdoor activity from windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge, to rock climbing at one of the biggest climbing destinations in the U.S. — Smith Rock State Park.
A popular destination for hiking, Crater Lake National Park is famous for its deep blue lake, formed in the crater of an ancient volcano. Today, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. and its intense blue color and clarity comes from its purity, primarily fed by precipitation and relatively untouched by surface runoff. You can even take a boat tour around the lake. Bend, Oregon is also a favorite area for hiking, biking, skiing, and water sports, with a lively downtown full of breweries and restaurants.
Along the coast, nature lovers enjoy the dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, and picturesque seaside towns like Cannon Beach, Seaside, Newport, and Lincoln City. Bustling promenades offer art galleries, shops, and restaurants after a day of beachcombing and tide pooling.
At Pacific City Beach and its iconic sand dune, Cape Kiwanda, you'll find consistent swells, making it a great spot for both beginner and experienced surfers to catch a wave — just don't forget your wetsuit.
The ski resorts Mount Hood Meadows and Timberline Lodge & Ski Area on the slopes of Mount Hood, as well as Mount Bachelor, Mount Ashland, and other ski areas, are known for their friendly and relaxed skiing experiences for a range of skill levels. Are you a classic horror film buff? The Timberline Lodge was featured in "The Shining".
Discover Oregon's wine country, Willamette Valley, known for its wineries, vineyards, and wine tastings. Or spend time in the Portland Japanese Garden and explore the city's vibrant arts scene, quirky shops, craft breweries, and eateries.
The Portland metropolitan area in particular has a strong tech presence with companies like Intel and Nike, and is often referred to as the Silicon Forest. Agri-tourism, renewable energy, education, and biotechnology are some of the sectors that contribute to the states growing economy.
Especially along the coast, there has been significant real estate market growth driven by second-home buyers and retirees. Urban areas like Portland, Bend, and Eugene have also seen a consistent increase in home prices and demand for housing.
With property taxes at about 1%, Oregon has the 23rd-highest rate in the country but your tax bill will vary wildly based on where you buy your home, as property taxes include school district taxes, local government taxes, and voter-approved bond levies.
Portland International Airport is the largest in Oregon and serves as a major gateway for international and domestic visitors. Other airports like Eugene, Redmond Municipal, North Bend/Coos Bay, or Southwest Oregon offer domestic flights to their regions and provide access to various destinations within the state and beyond.
Visitors flock to Wyoming to take in a slower pace of life, natural beauty and wildlife. It’s a haven for hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, skiing, and horseback riding. Here you’ll find some of the most iconic national parks and monuments in the United States like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Devils Tower, and Fossil Butte.
Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, and today its home to bison, elk, grizzly bears, wolves, and many birds. Geyers like Old Faithful, and mud pots like the Artist Paint Pots attract people from all over the world to its 2.2 million acres. The many boardwalks and roads make it one of the most accessible parks as well.
If you want to be transported back in time to the wild west and enjoy world-class skiing, you'll love Jackson Hole. Located near the entrance to Grand Teton National Park and its dramatic mountain landscapes, this charming mountain village is brimming with cowboy heritage, delicious restaurants and shops. Jenny Lake is just a quick drive or scenic bike ride away for more hiking, kayaking, and paddle boarding.
Nearby East Yellowstone and Shoshone National Forest, the town Cody is often called the "Rodeo Capital of the World" for its nightly rodeo events during the summer. Other towns like Laramie and Casper offer a mix of cultural attractions, historic downtowns and outdoor activities.
The hot springs of Thermopolis, the largest mineral hot springs in the world, offer a warm and soothing soak surrounded by the scenic Wind River Canyon.
Wyoming has one of the lowest population densities in the country, which means second-home owners can enjoy a sense of solitude and privacy while still having access to amenities and services. Overall, this state has strengths in energy production, agriculture, and tourism. However, it also faces challenges related to dependence on energy markets.
Known for its tax-friendly environment, Wyoming has no state income tax and ranks among the lowest property taxes in the nation — 47th out of 50 states. This can make second-home ownership more affordable.
Wyoming's largest airport is Jackson Hole Airport and primarily serves domestic flights with connections to major hubs like Denver International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport.
Arizona has a rich history influenced by Indigenous People cultures, Spanish Colonization, and the Wild West era. Its warm and sunny climate is attractive to "snowbirds" who like to escape colder areas during the winter months. However in the northern part of the state, particularly in Flagstaff and the White Mountains, you can still get your winter fix at Arizona Snowbowl— the state's premier ski resort.
Immerse yourself in the area's stunning geography and explore Sedona's red rock formations, Monument Valley's iconic buttes, the saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert, and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World — the Grand Canyon.
Popular climbing spots like Queen Creek Canyon, Mount Lemmon near Tuscon, and Oak Flat in the Tonto National Forest have sport and trad climbing routes for a variety of experience levels.
This state is also a popular destination for golfers, with numerous world-class golf courses and resorts in cities like Scottsdale and Phoenix.
With major universities, research institutions, and aerospace and defense industry contributing to the education sector, as well as tourism and technology innovation, Arizona has a steady and growing economy.
It is one of the best places to buy a second home and a favorite retirement spot due to its low cost of living, favorable tax environment for retirees, and senior-friendly communities. The median property tax in the state is around .51%, which is well below the national average of .99%.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Tucson International Airport, and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, make it relatively easy for second home owners to reach their properties.
What States Stand Out To You As The Best Places For A Second Home?
Overall, the western United States offer incredible natural beauty, iconic national parks, four-season outdoor recreation, and a diverse array of wildlife. Many states in the west are popular travel destinations that boast relatively low property taxes. That means your personal vacation spot could potentially make a great investment.
Whether you are looking for the best places near the west coast to buy a second home, or the best mountain towns that put you as close to the slopes as possible, this region of the country has it all.
Keep in mind the real estate market can vary widely within each of these states. Consider your budget, lifestyle preferences, and investment goals when choosing the best place for a second home.
Looking at Utah for your second home? Consult with our Utah real estate agents to help guide you through the process of buying a second home.