They might surprise you.
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From Florida to South Carolina, and especially in small towns across the country, the real estate market for vacation homes is on fire. The surge in sales caused by the ongoing pandemic shows no signs of slowing down for certain markets. So, what are the most attractive destinations for prospective buyers? Pacaso, the real estate platform that helps people buy and co-own luxury homes, found the answer to that question. And as it turns out, it's not the well-known spots that are the most sought after.

Apalachicola River at dawn, Florida, USA
Credit: Lynne Buchanan/Getty Images

Franklin County in Florida topped the list with the most significant increase in second home mortgages year-over-year at 11.5 percent. The area — one of the least populous in the state — is located along the Gulf of Mexico and is home to miles of beautiful, unspoiled beaches. The average price of a second home there is also the highest of any other spot on the list: $877,000.

Beautiful sunset panorama over the horizon of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
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Second place goes to Sevier County in Tennessee, with a 9.2 percent increase in second home mortgages and an average price of $574,000. The region is home to the most visited national park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The third and fourth spots are occupied by Trigg County, Kentucky, and Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, respectively, while Hardy County in West Virginia snatches fifth place.

Sign in Tombigbee National forest for Chuquatonchee Bluff Research Natural Area
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"In 2021, instead of hopping on a flight to a new international city or a remote, sunny beach somewhere, many people looked for places to get away from it all that were within driving distance of their homes, and what we're seeing is that many families found places not too far from home that they'd like to continue to return to again and again," Austin Allison, co-founder and CEO of Pacaso, told Travel + Leisure via email.

He explained that the southeast corner of the U.S. (where the top five vacation home markets are all located) has seen the biggest gains in second home market activity in 2021. Interestingly enough, more established markets such as Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, saw a dip this year.

This is due, according to Allison, to the fact that people are looking for places that are a short car ride away from their homes.

"Even though airline travel is ticking back up again, there's still some amount of uncertainty around it. […] Given the shift toward more remote work flexibility, many people actually desire a second home getaway that's easily accessible for shorter impromptu trips. Having a regional destination that's nearby also makes it easier to bring along friends and family," he explained.