A second home is a luxury that most Americans will never experience. However, for those fortunate few that have extra money to spend, now might be the best time to purchase a place to retreat for the summer months. The collapse of the housing market made way for some serious bargains in the country's most popular area codes. Here are some of the best places in the U.S. to buy a vacation home.

Los Angeles, Calif.
In 2006, CBNC reported that the median home price in L.A. was $521,000. However, today even million dollar homes are selling in the $300,000s. While there are good deals to be had, expect to pay a premium in exclusive neighborhoods like Hollywood Hills, Brentwood and Bel Air. The L.A. area isn't a hard sell, with its beaches, big city entertainment and the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood scene.

One great example is Santa Monica. The beachfront city is known for its excellent dining, shopping, cultural activities and attractions. Tourism continues to increase in the city (up 13% in 2009 since 2006), so those wishing to rent out their vacation homes will have no trouble doing so. In 2012, the median sale price for a home in Santa Monica was $815,000, a slight increase from the prior year.

West Palm Beach, Fla.
The Sunshine State is nearly synonymous with the word "vacation," so it is no surprise that one of its cities ranks high as a place to call your second home. With a population of just under 100,000, the city has a desirable blend of small town charm and big city conveniences. Currently, properties here are being sold at an average of over $90,000, which is well below the average list price of about $150,000. Even in the winter months, the average temperature stays in the high 70s, which makes it easy for residents to enjoy the city's waterfront walkways and popular outdoor sports, such as golf, tennis and equestrian polo. There are also plenty of options when it comes to shopping, fine dining, nightlife and cultural activities. The nearby Florida Everglades offers a unique opportunity to get close to wildlife and other natural attractions.

Phoenix, Ariz.
The capital and largest city in Arizona is home to more than a million residents. The city took a beating during the housing crisis, but seems to be rebounding with the median sales price for homes up 26%. The median home price in the upscale Scottsdale, Ariz. neighborhood is about $310,000. Outdoorsy types will be in heaven as Phoenix is renowned for its golf courses and opportunities for adventures such as rock climbing, hot air balloon rides and desert jeep tours. The city also touts itself as a mecca of "urban sophistication," with world-class resorts and spas, high-end shopping, fine dining and museums. Phoenix is home to professional baseball, basketball, hockey and football teams, and plays host to 15 of the biggest teams in Major League Baseball each year during spring training.

East Coast
Not all of the best vacation home destinations are located in perpetually sunny locales. East coast towns like the Poconos in upstate New York and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware have been noted for offering great deals and great amenities for second-home buyers. Atlantic City, N.J., also known as Vegas of the east, has beaches and the famous Boardwalk, in addition to action-packed casinos. Motivated sellers have set the median home price at around $114,000, a 96% drop from 2011 to 2012. In New York, the ultra-exclusive beach towns of The Hamptons beckon those who want a bargain in the million-dollar price range.

Famous folks like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Martha Stewart and Steven Spielberg have property here. While waterfront homes cost between $2 million to $10 million, there are dwellings to be had in the $1 million to $2 million price range in certain parts of town. Those that can get on the property ladder are rewarded with a vibrant social scene, some of the best beaches in the country, boutique shopping, tasty eats and a thriving arts community.

The Bottom Line
The ability to realize your dream of a summer home may be more possible now than ever before. Some of the most desirable cities and towns in the U.S. suffered greatly in the housing crisis, which means notable real estate savings for individuals who still have money to spend.

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