If you've ever dreamed of buying a second home, now may be the moment to take action: There are plenty of condos and small homes for sale in places hit hard by the housing meltdown -- many in spots coveted by leisure lovers (and future retirees).
Consider these three improving markets, where 50 grand will give you a down payment of 30% or more. In Lakeland, Fla., the median home price is $104,000 and expected to rise 10.2% by 2017. In Tucson, it's $145,000, and forecasted to gain 7.8% in the next five years. Myrtle Beach, S.C., is expected to see similar gains, and median prices there are even lower, just $133,000.
Bonus: More than half of vacation homeowners bring in enough rental income to cover 75% of their mortgage, reports HomeAway.com.
Don't let the shaky economy stress you out. A grand can still improve your career prospects, lower investment risk, make your home safer and more.