Are you buying a home and looking for a deal on a resort property for family summer getaways or retirement? If so, this may be the last season that you can find bargains-of-a-lifetime in some of America’s most popular beach and resort markets.

Prices in some resort destinations, notably in Florida and California, hit bottom a year or more ago. Pending another wave of foreclosures, it’s unlikely prices in these markets will drop again to the 30 percent to 50 percent price trough below the price peak in 2006.

With smaller inventories and slowing increasing demand, the consensus is that the best deals are gone in popular retirement markets like Fort Lauderdale, Daytona, Fort Myers, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. However, good values relative to prices paid during the 2004 to 2006 boom years are still widely available, especially if you are up for a foreclosure or short sale. Appreciation is the name of the game. What look like higher prices today may be brilliant moves in a few years as the local housing economy recovers.

Here are five resort and retirement destinations picked from the database, the leading source of online listings. These markets are slow to recover, which means deals abound today and the timetable for appreciation will probably trail markets that have already bottomed out.

Knoxville, TN
Prices at this beautiful Appalachian gateway to the Smoky Mountains are 6.3 percent below where they were a year ago, and its median listing price of $177,900 is down about 12 percent from 2009. However, the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors reports sales are picking up. According to the association, there were 2,313 single-family homes and condos sold in the first quarter of 2012, the highest first-quarter tally since 2008, and only the second time since 2006 that first-quarter sales rose from one year to the next. You won’t find many foreclosure bargains in Knoxville; only 1 percent of the housing inventory consists of foreclosures and short sales.

Myrtle Beach, SC
Prices may be bottoming this spring after falling 5.6 percent from a year ago in this lovely seaside resort, so this is the time to buy. Single-family home sales were up 6 percent in 2011 when compared to the year before, according to the Multiple Listing Service; condo sales managed to tick up just 1 percent last year. Inventories are down about 10 percent from last year. Foreclosure filings were up in the first quarter, but nothing like the flood that devastated single-family and condo prices in 2010.

Melbourne-Titusville, FL
Florida’s Space Coast is still a good place to find bargains this summer, with prices down 3.79 percent from last year and no relief in sight now that the Space Shuttle program is terminating 7,000 local jobs in a labor market where more than one in 10 is unemployed. The median value of a home in Cape Canaveral, the nearest city to the space center, went from under $250,000 in 2007 to around $110,000 in May. The locals’ loss could be your gain if you love beaches, boating, or fishing along Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Ventura, CA
Prices are down 2.2 percent from last year in Ventura, but they have been rising on a monthly basis through the spring buying season. Inventories are down a lot from last year, 22 percent, and demand has cut the median time on market for listings to just 75 days. All those signals suggest that this southern California coastal resort is bottoming out and that prices will rise steadily. Foreclosure inventories in the county are down significantly from last year, but bargains can still be found at courthouse auctions or bank sales.

Monmouth-Ocean, NJ
The Jersey Shore is a good buy, and it might get even better in the months to come. Prices are down 3.07 percent from a year ago, though they were rising as the summer season neared. Foreclosures are still a major part of New Jersey’s economy. As one of the states that will feel the impact of foreclosures backlogged during the Robogate scandal, New Jersey also has the second-highest percentage of mortgage loans in foreclosure—8.4 percent. If you’re in the market for a bungalow on the shore, this might be the year to buy.

As you shop for vacation deals, bear in mind that every local market is different. Do your research on real estate websites. Look for locations where you can find not only a good price today but also appreciation in the years to come. Resort areas with strong natural attractions and healthy infrastructures are good bets, even if prices today are low.

Steve Cook is Executive Vice President of Reecon Advisors and covers government and industry news for the Reecon Advisory Report.

During his 30 year career in public relations and journalism, Cook has been a print and broadcast news correspondent, served two Members of Congress as press secretary, was a senior executive in the world’s largest independent public relations firm in Washington and Chicago and was vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors from 1999 to 2007.At NAR, Cook supervised external communications including news and editorial coverage, video production, speech writing and communications strategic planning. He helped to manage NAR’s multimillion dollar network advertising program.

Cook is a member of the National Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America and the National Association of Real Estate Editors, where he served as second vice president. Twice he has been named one of the 100 most influential people in real estate. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where he was editor of the student newspaper. In addition to serving as managing editor of the Report, Cook provides public relations consulting services to real estate and financial services companies, and trade associations, including some of the leading companies in online residential real estate.