Americans seeking a haven from the ravages of the stock market are putting more of their money into second homes.
"We are not giving up on the stock market, but we are not putting new money into it. We want to have real, hard assets," said Rob Gelphman, a marketing consultant in San Jose, Calif.
Gelphman, 44, and his wife Maria, 43, are looking to buy a second home in California, or possibly on New York's Long Island.
"The stock market stinks. We have lost a lot of value in our 401(k)s and IRAs. California real estate doubles every 10 years," he reasoned.
That's not to say the real estate sector doesn't have its own ups and downs. Property prices in many parts of the country might be at or near their peak, financial planners say. That means buyers must assess what they want out of a prospective property -- whether it is something they plan to keep for leisure or if they plan to sell it more quickly for a profit.
After losing $700,000 on Wall Street, Steven Style has stopped buying stocks. In the past year, he purchased his third property, an oceanfront vacation condo in Miami's South Beach neighborhood. He also owns two apartments on Manhattan's Upper West Side, one in which he lives and the other which he rents out to pay the mortgage.
"At this point, you really can't put your money in the market with all the volatility," said Style, who owns a public relations firm in New York. "Although real estate prices are high, if you shop around and find motivated sellers, you can find some decent deals."
Forty percent of Americans who said they were considering the purchase of an additional home said they are now more likely to buy because of instability in the securities market.
And more than a third of recent second-home buyers surveyed said they were more likely to buy yet a third home as a result of the stock market shake-up.
The National Association of Realtors predicts that more than 1 million second homes and vacation condos will be built in the next 10 years to keep pace with boomer demand. The association doesn't specifically track third home purchases but says they also are on the rise.
"It has been said that third homes are going to become as common as second cars. We do hear of people who have a mountain cabin and a beach house," said Walter Molony, a spokesman for the association. "This is very much a middle class, middle aged baby boomer phenomena."
Contrary to popular perception, the second-home market is not reserved for the super-rich.
Indeed, the profile of second home buyers mirrors boomer demographics. The median age of second home buyers is 46 and the median income is $77,700, according to the Realtors.
Prices on second homes also reflect the trend. The median price tag on second homes last year was $127,800, having risen 27 percent in two years. Meanwhile, last year's median price on first homes was $147,800, up about 11 percent in two years.
Interest rates, which are at 40-year lows, have helped to fuel the market.
Less than a year after buying his Miami condo, Style refinanced it at 5.5 percent over 10 years, shaving four years of mortgage payments.
Some economists predict that the flight of capital from securities to property investments will continue.
"The stock market, I think, is going to continue to be weak," said Timothy Ryan, an economist and dean of the University of New Orleans' business college. "But baby boomers still have a lot of money to invest, and I think a lot of that will go into real estate."
Individual investors will re-evaluate their strategies when the securities market begins showing solid gains, Ryan told real estate agents. "I think baby boomers are still in love with the stock market."