If you've been looking for a real estate hot spot to rent or buy a second home or vacation condominium, talk to Clint Burr. He has a constantly changing set of what he calls high-value-gain communities in most regions of the country on his hot-spots list.

Burr spends his time either visiting, researching or ranking vacation second-home and condo communities from a consumer perspective. It's a brutal job, Burr says with a smile, but as president of the 22,000-member Resort Properties Owners Association of America, he has to do it.

The association represents individual owners of condominium and second-home units in vacation communities nationwide. It has no connections with the second-home development industry and commonly finds itself at odds with it. The association also publishes consumer education reports on such subjects as how to rent out and manage your unit, how to buy, how to sell and maximize your investment values.

The top areas on Burr's real estate hot-spot list? Some of them are sleepers, some are surprises, some old favorites. Burr ranks them according to their short- and long-term prospects for appreciation in resale values.

The sleeper of the year is the Bend-Sunriver, Ore., area. A combination of moderate prices for lots, attached homes and condos -- plus what Burr calls "an incredible natural setting on the dry, sunny Eastern slope of the Cascade Mountain Range" -- gives the Bend-Sunriver area high prospects for real estate appreciation, he said. The relative economic strength of the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s already is exerting strong upward pressure on land and property values.

An old favorite bouncing back for ski buffs: the Steamboat Springs, Colo., area. "Steamboat was dead four years ago," Burr said, because of Colorado's depressed economy and the resort's relative inaccessibility. Prices hit the skids.

In the intervening years, however, airlines have increased the number of flights and the regional economy has improved. As a result, Burr said, condo buyers who compare values in the Steamboat area with similar properties in competing areas -- Lake Tahoe, Nev., or Aspen, Colo., for instance -- are likely to find advantages in Steamboat.

Burr uses selling prices rather than asking prices for his cost comparisons. He said a new $150,000 three-bedroom unit in Steamboat would cost $200,000 in Lake Tahoe and $700,000 in Aspen.

"How much price appreciation are you going to get in the next few years with a $700,000 unit {in Aspen}?" Burr asked. "I wouldn't hold my breath."

Rebound values can be had in select areas of the Northeast at the moment, according to Burr. In Vermont, selling prices for units in resorts like Sugarbush and Killington are down significantly from what they commanded three years ago.

Burr recently found a one-bedroom ski condo at Sugarbush that sold for about $175,000 two years ago is now available for $125,000.

Given a relatively strong rental demand, plus what Burr calls the "inherent value" in a well-designed ski village like Sugarbush, makes a rebound-market purchase of a unit a reasonable investment.

Prime-season rental rates in top ski areas offer discount-unit buyers the prospect for positive cash flows instead of the traditional second-home losses.

One condo community outside Killington that Burr inspected is heavily booked at $225 a night for two-bedroom condos that cost purchasers $170,000 to $180,000. The units come with deluxe saunas and hot tubs for eight inside individual units -- making the resort a good value for vacationers as well as unit owners.

You prefer beach areas? Burr's list has good marks for these waterfront communities:

Amelia Island near Jacksonville, Fla. Burr said second-home prices here had been soft, creating good buying opportunities, and are now firming up. The key to value here has been the "careful ecological management" that contrasts it with many other resorts in the state.

Marco Island, off Florida's southwestern coast. On a recent visit, Burr located a two-bedroom bungalow villa for $60,000.

"Now granted it's a bungalow," he said, "so it's not deluxe. But $60,000 for a home in good condition on a tropical island like this is a very solid value."

Myrtle Beach, S.C. Ironically, the destruction from Hurricane Hugo last fall has strengthened the real-estate attractiveness of this ocean-front resort.

The millions of dollars spent on repairs, most of it insured, have helped "spruce up and modernize many condominiums that frankly needed it badly," Burr said.

To contact the Resort Property Owners Association, write to P.O. Box 2395, North Brook, Ill. 60062 or call (800) 446-7762.