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Seasonal residents have significant impact

A new study from University of Minnesota Extension indicates the state’s lakes communities, like Alexandria, are impacted by seasonal residents’ spending and will be, well into the future.

Findings of the study, “Second Homes in Minnesota: A Profile of Seasonal Residents and Their Impacts in Central and West Central Minnesota,” were presented during the 2014 Symposium on Small Towns held June 4-5 at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

U of M Extension Educators Ryan Pesch and Merritt Bussiere authored the survey and compiled its results.

Most staggering in the study is the amount of money seasonal residents currently spend locally, and the number who plan to make their cabin a permanent home someday.


The research project profiled seasonal residents in eight counties: Aitkin, Becker, Cass, Crow Wing, Douglas, Hubbard, Otter Tail and Pope.

A total of 1,200 surveys were sent to a random sampling of seasonal property owners and 573 responded.

Seasonal properties account for 30 percent of all housing units in the eight-county study area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “2008-2012 American Community Survey.”


Who are the seasonal home owners in the lakes area? The survey asked respondents’ age, education, employment and income of the seasonal home owners:

● Age

The majority of respondents are ages 50 to 59 and 60 to 69.

● Education

Most people surveyed - approximately 400 – had earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

● Employment

Approximately 60 percent of respondents are employed and most of the remainder are retired.

The survey also notes that 53 percent of respondents have owner, operated or played a significant management role in a business.

Twenty-five percent of respondents report telecommuting from their second home property.

● Income

Half of the seasonal property owners’ household incomes were listed as $100,000 or more.


Most property owners bought their second home within the last 20 years, 34 percent bought their property more than 20 years ago and 31 percent purchased 11 to 20 years ago.

Natural amenities surface as the top reasons people purchased their second home: 71 percent noted “property by the lake” as their reason for purchase, followed by reasons like peaceful (63 percent), scenic beauty (57 percent) and water quality (48 percent).

On average, owners use their seasonal home 93 days per year.


Overall, seasonal residents spend an estimated $946 million in the eight-county area surveyed.

On average, each seasonal household spends $18,167 per year in their seasonal-home community.

The survey asked respondents how much they spend, on average annually, in the following categories in their second-home community:

● Grocery/liquor: $1,434; 89 percent of which is spent in their second-home community

● Dining/bars: $882; 85 percent

● Gas/auto service: $889; 84 percent

● Pharmacy: $132; 18 percent

● Home maintenance: $1,139; 81 percent

● Entertainment: $897; 81 percent

● Building/Remodeling: $12,794; 59 percent.

“If you talk to any main street retailer or service business, I think they’d tell you [seasonal residents] are a really important customer segment to them. That certainly doesn’t discount local spending. I think the local grocery store owner would tell you their number-one customer is local, but probably a close second is the seasonal resident. [The seasonal resident’s] spending is different from tourists. They’re spending and staying for an extended period of time. That’s why we see they have a good footprint on spending. It adds up,” Pesch told the Echo Press.


That local spending will likely continue well into the future.

According to the survey, 56 percent of survey respondents plan to move permanently to their second home; most plan to move within the next six to 10 years.

When asked about attachment to their second home and the community it’s located in, a whopping 87 percent of respondents said they feel “strongly attached to my second home property” and 56 percent feel “strongly attached to the community near my second home.”

The study’s authors noted that communities in the study area should undertake strategies to learn about and integrate seasonal residents:

“It is clear that respondents feel very attached to their second homes, but less attached to the communities near their second home. Respondents are civically active in their home communities. Second-home communities would benefit from their talents and leadership.

“Communities have an incentive to better integrate seasonal residents due to the importance of their spending in local economies. More importantly, their transition from seasonal to permanent resident will have significant social and economic impacts on local communities.”

Pesch said, “I think the big thing for locals… is the question about ‘How do we integrate seasonal residents as part of our community?’

“[Local people] need to ask, ‘Do I connect with seasonal residents? Did I invite them to attend an event? Have I reached out in some way?’ I really think it’s important to welcome seasonal residents into communities if we want them to become permanent residents who will stick around and be contributing members to our communities,” Pesch said. “These people are your future neighbors.”

A copy of the study’s findings is available here.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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