A second home gives homeowners an opportunity to move away from the architecture and decor of their main home in favor of a community and style that fits in with the scenic surroundings. Builders and real estate agents in Georgia’s mountain and lake communities report seeing a surge in vacation home buyers as new and resale properties remain available for as low as the $200,000s.

In north Georgia, the “modern rustic” look is a departure from the typical log cabin, said Sidra McCain, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Highlands Realty in Blue Ridge. Exteriors with “D” log siding – the flat back siding with a bubble front – is becoming passé, she said. Buyers are using cedar shake and stone mixed with hand-hewn logs or live-edge wood with natural edges instead for a rustic, rugged look.

“We don’t do anything in a conventional manner. A lot of the building materials we use include reclaimed barn wood and a lot of natural product from the area,” said Keith Sumner, owner of Sumner Custom Homes and co-owner of RE/MAX Highlands in Blue Ridge. The company has homes ranging from $299,000-$800,000.

For example, Sumner Custom Homes uses thousands of square feet of stone in every house, including the bathrooms. Stacked stone joins other desirable features such as fireplaces, screened porches, sunrooms and the ability to view the mountains from multiple rooms, said Anita Wheeler, an agent with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty. Plus, decks and porches often protrude from every level of the home.

From northwest Georgia to Lake Oconee, east of Atlanta, these four communities appeal to vacation home hunters.

Currahee Club

Ralph and Janet McDaniel were looking for a lakefront property in a golf course community when they found Currahee Club on Lake Hartwell, a 1,200-acre gated development in Toccoa. The couple purchased a lot in the community, which in 2014 was named one of seven founding members of the new Southern Living Inspired Communities. Homes range from $400,000 to more than $1 million.

Builder Brian Santoro helped them maximize the views in a design that included blowing out what would have been a breakfast room for a 12-seat dining area overlooking the lake.

“We looked at a number of homes the builder selected and already constructed and took features from a number of them, but then also had a couple of things we wanted to do,” Ralph said. “We wanted the master bedroom on the main level and a second bedroom on main level, which we didn’t see in any of the other homes.”

The terrace level also incorporated a second master suite. Bigger bedrooms with walk-in closets are becoming more important to buyers, as well as master bedrooms and laundry rooms on the main levels, McCain said.

Big Canoe

Their primary residence is in Johns Creek, just 42 miles away, but after Robert Ackermann retired from Macy’s two years ago, he and his wife, Gay, began to spend more time in Big Canoe, playing golf and enjoying other activities in the 8,000-acre community about an hour north of Atlanta. Homes are priced from the $200,000s to $3 million.

The Ackermanns’ five-bedroom, four-bath home has three levels, all with decks offering different views of the trees and mountains. They designed the vacation home with two kitchens and a home theater, hosting up to 25 guests for one party.

“Make sure you make the house functional for people … when you design your bedrooms, your bathrooms,” Robert said. “If you’ve got kids, design it in a way that they’ll get not only short-term use out of it, but bring their families there.”

Cloudland Station

The architectural styles at Cloudland Station in Chickamauga reflect the rural communities with general stores, farmhouses, log cabins and other architecture that developer John Tatum saw when traveling around the area. At Cloudland Station, cottages, cabins and homes recreate architecture of the late 1700s to the early 1900s, some with Victorian details and others with slate and tin roofs.

“We’re trying to create renewal for people,” Tatum said. “We think that nostalgia and beauty and the land and the architecture is part of what renews people.”

Amenities include an infinity-edge pool, pavilions, a waterfall, lake and a wedding venue consisting of an 1871 handcrafted Amish barn and Italianate farmhouse in the community, which will have about 300 total lots. Lot prices range from $100,000-$150,000, and Cloudland Station is among the first Southern Living Inspired Communities. Most homes are between 1,500 to 2,500 square feet with three bedrooms and three baths, although cabins start at 800 square feet while other homes can reach up to 5,000 square feet. The “Valley Village” model homes range from $220,000 to $450,000, while custom “Mountain Traditional” homes range from $350,000 to $800,000.

Harbor Club

Screened porches and/or sunrooms, detailed finishes and outdoor kitchens are common features that buyers want, but beyond that, tastes vary, said Bill Lynn, owner of Patriot Builders, who has built a new model home in Harbor Club in Greensboro. For example, some people want wide-plank hardwood floors and some want travertine or limestone floors.

“People here want casual elegance, low-maintenance, attention to detail and they want to relax and have fun,” he said.

Todd and Pamela Meyers last year bought a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home in the 1,600-acre community on Lake Oconee. Homesites range from $39,900-$550,000,and home prices range from $279,000 to $2 million.

“We came up and started looking for a few months and we thought about building if we didn’t find the right house, but we found a house in Harbor Club we really, really liked,” Todd said. “We wanted to be on the lake in a golf course neighborhood. We wanted to have a terrace level to the outside and we wanted to have a pool. That would eliminate some houses, obviously, but it left us with a good pool of houses to look at.”

The lake can be viewed from anywhere in the home, and their favorite spot is the screened porch overlooking the water.

“Our home in Woodstock is also in a golf course neighborhood and has a pool and all that, but it’s all about getting away to the lake,” he said. “The difference between a vacation home and a regular home is the location in a resort lake community.”