Second home sales fell 30.8% in 2008

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The National Association of Realtors says 512,000 vacation homes were sold last year, down from 740,000 in 2007.

Investment home sales also declined 17.2%, from 1.35 million in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2008.

Vacation and investment home sales represented 30% of all home sales -- 21% were investment homes and 9% were vacation homes.

During the housing boom, homeowners were eager to snap up second homes. In 2005, 40% of sales involved investment properties or vacation homes. In 2007, second homes made up 33% of all transactions.

Property values plummeted across the nation last year, and vacation properties were no exception.

The median vacation home price dropped 23.1%, from $195,000 in 2007 to $150,000 in 2008.

But here's one of the advantages of owning a second home:

They're usually located where we want to live instead of where we have to live because of work, family or other commitments.

As a result, many people keep their vacation homes longer than they do their primary residences. That gives them more time to pay down the mortgage, wait out the downturn and rebuild their equity when prices recover.

Here's where to find out all of the financial benefits of owning a second home.

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