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In Becker County, one in four homes are seasonal, second homes owned by people whose first home is outside the county.

In Hubbard County, 35 percent of the housing stock consists of second homes. The number is 27 percent in Otter Tail County.

The social and economic impact of second homeowners on counties in lake country are significant, and their impact on Greater Minnesota’s civic and economic life could increase as second homes become permanent over the next decade.

These are some of the findings of a survey conducted by University of Minnesota Extension Community Economics Educators.

The study surveyed 573 second homeowners, using a random sample of homeowners in the counties of Aitkin, Becker, Cass, Crow Wing, Douglas, Hubbard, Otter Tail and Pope.

“A few findings stood out,” said Merritt Bussiere, a member of the study team.  “First, we estimate that second homeowners each bring median annual spending of $3,252 to businesses in nearby communities. So local businesses would do well to target the needs and interests of this customer segment.”

Since 56 percent reported that they plan to transition permanently to their second homes in the future, second homeowners can become a resource to bring new community and economic vitality to towns in lake country.

They are also likely to challenge communities to cope with changes with regard to infrastructure and environmental impacts.

The study reported that respondents are very active in their first home communities:  64 percent volunteer for a community organization; 47 percent hold leadership roles and 16 percent have served in a public office.

Further, more than half of second homeowners responding to the survey have experience in business ownership, operation and management.

“It is clear that respondents feel very attached to their second homes, but less attached to the communities near their second home,” said Bussiere. “Migrating these skills and resources to Greater Minnesota communities could create a civic boon.”

The study also asked second homeowners which issues most concerned them. The quality of water and other natural resources held the most significant importance.  When asked to rank amenities and services in their second homes, Internet service received the poorest ranking.  

“Given stated intentions to move permanently to their second home, 46,000 permanent households might migrate to the study area over the next 10 years,” said Bussiere.

The study, funded by the EDA Center at the University of Minnesota Crookston, was designed to inform local businesses, governments, non-profits and community development professionals as to the opportunities that second homeowners offer to their communities.

See the study at http://z.umn.edu/2ndhomeowners.

In short, big challenges, and opportunities, face lake country as owners of seasonal homes retire and move in permanently.

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