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When a second home becomes a first home: helping buyers make the switch


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For many luxury buyers, a dream home is within reach — in fact, they might already own one. As homeowners adapt to remote work, it’s easier than ever to live full-time in vacation properties and locations once viewed as seasonal retreats. Demand is rising for real estate in second-home markets, as buyers seek year-round residences that also feel like an escape.

Yet there remain clients who are still of the mindset that second-home markets are only for holiday homes. As agents, it’s our job to help them see that there are many other options. My main market is Port Douglas — a beautiful town in northeastern Australia that gets plenty of vacationers because of the Great Barrier Reef. Up to this point, few professionals from Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane have considered making it their primary address. But that’s beginning to change.

That’s why, when I talk with my clients, I like to focus on how often other luxury buyers are choosing to move away from their primary residences in major cities to discover the lifestyle they’ve always dreamed of. People are responsive when they know their peers are doing the same thing.

Here are five other factors that I like to keep in mind when my clients are thinking about making their second homes into their first homes.

1. Visiting a resort is different from living in one

If your clients have a vacation residence they only visit occasionally, it may very well be part of a resort. That’s often the case here in Port Douglas. And while that may offer superb amenities and convenience, homeowners quickly discover they need more privacy when they live there on a more permanent basis.

Have a conversation with your clients around selling their resort properties, and finding a detached home that provides the freedom and space they’ll certainly desire. In this way, past clients become both buyers and sellers once more — and take several necessary steps on the journey towards finding their ideal residence.

2. Buyers often need to build their dream homes

Queensland Sotheby’s International Realty

Your client’s ideal residence may not even exist yet. Every single person I sell to makes changes to their homes. Whether a client is buying in your market for the first time or thinking of modifying their current vacation property, chances are they could benefit from a team of professionals to help them.

Maintaining a fantastic network of builders has been helpful for connecting clients with the right contractors for their needs. When they want to transform their home-away-from-home into a permanent residence, I’m able to introduce them to people who can make the necessary changes.

3. A full-time home needs a full-time community

When your clients move, they’re not just leaving behind the big city — they’re leaving the social network they’ve been a part of for years. That’s why, as an agent, I make a point of befriending my buyers and connecting them with others in their new community.

Two of my clients recently shared an amusing anecdote with me. Another couple asked them how they already knew so many people — this couple had moved to Port Douglas a year ago without making any meaningful connections — and my clients answered, “You didn’t go through Barbara!” It’s so important to let buyers know that there are good people where they’re going and to make those introductions.

Getting to know the town is as important as getting to know its people. Once a client falls in love with the location, a home becomes a must-have. Luxury agents should curate an exceptional experience of their local area, such as coffee at the local café, or a walk on the marina, to show buyers how enjoyable their everyday life could be.

4. Today, it’s not just retirees looking for vacation property

Queensland Sotheby’s International Realty

I’ve met plenty of buyers who have been taking tropical vacations in Bali for years and are astonished that Port Douglas has been on their doorstep the whole time. And many of them are young, affluent buyers who are now looking for primary residences where they can hike in the rainforest, sail and snorkel by the reefs, and bask in the sun while continuing to telecommute to their offices down south.

Younger buyers also have few reservations when it comes to viewing homes and closing sales virtually. I sold two properties last week on Zoom to clients that had never set foot in their new Port Douglas residences. I’m currently working with one young professional who sold her home in Canberra, and another who just left a large house in Sydney, both looking to claim their own slice of Queensland paradise.

5. Secondary markets aren’t as far away as clients think

For buyers young and old, one of the biggest obstacles to moving to their second home full-time is separation from friends and family — so it’s critical to anticipate this challenge and help them see the benefits of providing a place their loved ones will always want to visit. I share personal stories about how frequently my grandkids come to Port Douglas to see me, how this is where they gained their love of swimming and the ocean, and how they’re always on the phone asking when they can come to see me next.

Then there are would-be-buyers who subconsciously want to get out of the city but need someone to give them a little push. I happened to be standing in the doorway of my office one day, and I greeted a couple of sightseers from the city and offered to show them around town. Three days later, they signed a contract on a house. They took me for a celebratory breakfast at the restaurant where they first realized they had fallen head-over-heels in love with Port Douglas.

As an agent, you’re selling the home as well as the sizzle of a permanent vacation. But more importantly, you’re introducing clients to the location and lifestyle that they always dreamed of, but never knew was possible.

Barbara Wolveridge

With a distinguished career spanning over three decades in the business, Barbara Wolveridge, Director at Queensland Sotheby’s International Realty, has positioned herself as an international expert and leader in selling luxury vacation properties. Along with her work as an agent, she is sought for her skills as a counselor and facilitator, and has built her success over the years by earning her clients’ trust, friendship, and long-term loyalty. She cites honesty, positivity, and forthrightness as the core principles of her real estate methodology, and today her ever-growing team serves Australia’s greater Tropical Far North area.

About Sotheby’s International Realty

Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 990 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit

The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.

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