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Home trend popular in vacation spots; what about here?

Lake lovers can live in a 4,600-square-foot home on a quiet Lake Murray cove for $165,000 in a market where a low-priced home costs around $500,000.

But there's a catch - this price gets you the lakefront house for only a quarter of the year.

Kathy and Ken Mason are selling three-fourths of their Prosperity home, marketing it to those looking for a part-time vacation place. The Masons and up to three other owners would take turns living in the house - by week, by month or by quarter.

It's called a "fractional sale" and is popular along the S.C. coast and in other hot vacation spots. But the technique has not been used much in the Midlands, local real estate professionals said.

And it could be a hard sell in a market that is slow to adopt change, some say.

"It makes sense, and I think it's a great opportunity," said Troy Ott, a broker with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors, who tried a fractional sale two years ago on Lake Murray. "But there's a big learning curve here in Columbia."

The sale is different from a time share. The owners are all on the deed, and since there are fewer of them, they have more flexibility for week-swapping, said Kathy Mason, a Keller Williams real estate agent who is marketing her home.

A monthly fee - estimated between $300 and $350 - would take care of additional costs: taxes, insurance, cleaning and utilities.

"They wouldn't have to spend all weekend mowing the grass and doing the cleaning," she said.

The house Ott helped sell had wide water views and valued, as a whole, in the $1.5 million to $2 million range, he said. He sold one share of the house, and it has since returned to being a private residence.

Randy Martin, an agent with Russell & Jeffcoat Realtors who specializes in Lake Murray, said his buyers have not expressed any interest in fractional ownership.

"These folks want to retire down here; they want a summer place," he said. He said it's hard enough finding people who will go for a shared dock, much less a whole house.

A sale would take finding a buyer who is close enough to be able to use the house on a regular basis and laid back enough to share it with three other families, Martin said.

But an economy that has been in a recession for the past two years could be just the catalyst buyers need, Martin said.

The price for a quarter of the Mason's home typically gets buyers a single-wide or an empty lot in the Lake Murray area, Martin said.

A fractional sale is an option for people who don't want to defer their dream of living on the lake and enjoying it with their family, said Kathy Mason, 54.

And in a down market where $400,000-plus homes have been hardest hit, Mason knew selling the $650,000 home outright would be a challenge.

"You've got to be creative in these days and times," Kathy Mason said.

The couple, a builder and a real estate agent who married in 2004, bought the house two years ago. It was an investor's special that they got for a bargain and fixed up themselves by finishing the basement.

The house has enough beds and couches to sleep 15. There are two kitchens. Also downstairs is a large game and media room with a fireplace and French doors that lead to a patio with a Jacuzzi overlooking the lake.

The price tag has generated a lot of phone calls since they put it on the market in November from people who don't realize it's not for the whole house, Kathy Mason said.

And while at least one couple is seriously interested, she said, there has been no sale.

Mason is hoping interest will pick up this spring when the heavy selling season usually begins.

"I'm hoping more people will realize this is an investment they could make instead of putting money into stock," she said. "You're able to at least use it, and it's going to increase in value, too."

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