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A beach home could be your escape from the busyness of your daily life, or it could be a real estate investment, complete with rental income. Regardless of whether you’re looking at a beach home for pleasure or income, you should weigh the benefits and concerns before purchasing your slice of beach property.
5 Benefits of Owning a Beach Home
If you’re a beach or ocean lover, it’s easy to see the benefits of owning a beach home.
Nothing beats looking up from a cup of your morning coffee or tea and staring into endless waters. The view is often the first benefit that comes to mind when people think of buying an oceanfront property.
A Family Gathering Destination
Exhausted from researching vacation spots and planning the family trip each year? Buying an oceanfront property could be your solution. A family beach house offers consistency and avoids the need for wrangling reservations.
Coastal properties are desirable, and you can enjoy both a vacation spot and the potential to make money with a beach home. For example, you could rent out your beach home to vacationers. According to a recent study by AirDNA, travelers are showing more interest in rental homes during less-busy months in 2023, which means you may be able to enjoy your home in peak season and rent it out during the offseason.
Whether you’re looking to buy a beach home as a rental property or move to a beach town yourself, any real estate expert will tell you it’s all about location. According to our study on the top places to buy a summer beach house, the following five beach towns saw the largest year-over-year increase in home appreciation:
- Chincoteague, Va. (17.1%)
- Atlantic City, N.J. (14.4%)
- Southampton, N.Y. (9.5%)
- Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (8.9%)
- Wilmington, N.C. (8.6%)
We determined these cities based on Zillow’s median home value data and one-year change in median home value from April 2022 to April 2023.
Peaceful During Offseason
When you own a beach home, you can enjoy the beach town experience whenever you choose. This includes the more peaceful offseasons that beach towns have each year. Owning a beach house will give you access to the offseasons if you enjoy empty beaches and quiet towns.
Offseasons vary somewhat depending on the beach’s location, but in North America, the offseason generally falls between November and March or April (with tropical states like Florida and Hawaii as an exception). Offseasons offer a chance to relax without the hustle and bustle of tourists and the crazy summer months. They may also allow you to get to know the local area better and the community of people that live there year-round.
Encourages an Active Lifestyle
Living or vacationing in a beach home opens you up to various fun ways to stay active. Your daily activities may include swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, snorkeling, fishing, playing beach volleyball, walking, running, and beach combing.
Research also suggests health benefits of living near blue spaces, and one study connects these benefits to increased land-based activities, such as walking.
5 Concerns of Owning a Beach Home
Buying a beach home is a great idea for many reasons, but it’s not without its downsides. The following are some concerns that come with owning a beach home—consider whether or not they’re dealbreakers for you.
Saltwater damage is a common concern for those buying an oceanfront home. Saltwater is corrosive and can destroy the material used to build your home if left unchecked. Near the coast, the combination of moisture, salt, and oxygen eats away at metal, causing it to break down much faster than it would inland.
Beach house maintenance includes pressure washing the house annually to remove the salt. Inside your home, consider installing a whole-home dehumidifier to protect furniture and appliances from damp air.
If you’re building or remodeling, use aluminum, composite materials, and plastic as much as possible since these are more resistant to saltwater corrosion than metal and wood. Where metal and wood are necessary, apply marine paints or oil sealants to help protect them from saltwater corrosion.
Hurricanes and Severe Weather
Hurricanes and other severe weather events, such as wind storms and flooding, are the most obvious concern of owning beachfront property. In 2022, Hurricane Ian resulted in roughly 48,000 paid losses with an average loss payout of $81,250 from national flood insurance programs.
The American Red Cross states that you should prepare for wind and flooding when severe weather is imminent. You can stay prepared for severe weather with proactive maintenance:
- Remove trees that could fall on the house
- Invest in hurricane windows
- Clean drains and gutters regularly
- Install a sump pump with a backup battery
- Elevate your HVAC systems, water heater, and electric panel
Note that coastal cities are not only susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms, but they are less climate resilient than inland areas. Zach Plopper, senior environmental director of the Surfrider Foundation, says, “Oceanfront homeowners must understand that their home may be vulnerable to future sea level rise and climate impacts as well as eroding beaches.”
Consider the future of your investment before purchasing a beach property.
Similar to saltwater damage, shoreline erosion is something that beach homeowners need to watch for. The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit defines coastal erosion as “the process by which local sea level rise, strong wave action, and coastal flooding wear down or carry away rocks, soils, and/or sands along the coast.” Erosion can sneak up on you, causing damage before you notice.
Many coastal areas are under an erosion risk—and it’s a costly concern causing roughly $500 million a year in damage and loss in the U.S. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent and slow the process of erosion, such as replenishing beach sand, elevating or anchoring your beach home, and changing the grading of your lot to encourage proper water drainage.
Climate concerns have made some insurance companies stop offering insurance in a few coastal states where it’s popular to buy a beach home. California and Florida are currently facing the biggest challenge with this. Check your insurance options before making a beach home purchase.
If you want to live in your beach home during the busy summer months, you won’t be able to avoid crowds. High tourist seasons can be difficult for full-time residents of beach towns, as you may have to put up with noise, traffic, busy beaches, longer restaurant waits, and store lines.
Using Your Beach Home as a Rental Property
If you plan on buying a beachfront property to use as a rental, the first major factor you should consider is the cost of the mortgage, according to Michael Branson, CEO of All Reverse Mortgage.
“Beach homes, due to their high demand, often come with higher price tags that require a large down payment,” says Branson. “Rental income can help offset the cost of mortgage payments. Still, you should calculate your income potential compared to what you will be responsible for paying each month.”
Branson says the mortgage payment should be the top consideration, but it’s far from the only concern.
“You may also need to consider the overhead costs associated with rental properties, such as insurance coverage, taxes, and repairs due to wear and tear. There’s also the effort to market and manage a vacation property if you decide to rent it out, which can account for additional time and money,” says Branson.
While rental income can make the effort worth it, you need to ensure you’re ready to handle the complications of putting your beach house up for rent.
Some of the most pressing concerns of buying an oceanfront property are ecological. We’ve discussed how the environment affects your home (such as saltwater corrosion), but you also need to think about how your home is affecting the environment.
“Homes built too close to the coast and the armoring—such [as] sea walls and rock revetment put in place to protect those homes—exacerbate sand loss on adjacent beaches. Meanwhile, fertilizers, pet waste, and chemicals can run off yards and sidewalks, going straight into the ocean, impacting ocean water quality and posing public health and safety issues,” says Plopper.
Knowing and following applicable regulations and laws will help you navigate the environmental impact of your home. For example, on some beaches, there are times of the year where you need to turn off outdoor lights to not disorient sea turtle hatchlings. An online search of local regulations should give you the necessary information to ensure you’re following local laws.
Plopper advises, “There may also be financial and programmatic assistance to help make the best decisions around [your beach] home. It’s important to remember that the coast and ocean are a public resource and should be accessible and enjoyable by all.”
Using renewable materials when building or repairing your beach house, picking up and properly disposing of trash so it doesn’t end up in the ocean or on the beach, and recycling are additional steps beach homeowners can take to ensure they’re not harming the environment.
Beach Homeowners Insurance Considerations
As we mentioned earlier, obtaining homeowners insurance on coastal properties is an ever-growing concern. But Branson says the challenges of getting coastal homeowners insurance varies by state.
“Many larger insurance carriers have pulled out of states such as California and Florida, where the risk is higher due to natural disasters. However, there are still options available, although the coverage will be pretty limited. Some policies may opt to cover storm damage but exclude flooding, and vice versa,” says Branson.
Some insurance companies have created new policies specifically for this reason, but these, of course, come with higher premiums, explains Branson. Lawmakers have stepped in to offer some aid as well.
“The government is also well aware of the ongoing coverage gap, and in an effort to bridge some of the gap, they have created programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This program allows homeowners to purchase coverage from an insurer that participates in the NFIP. The problem with this option, however, is it will only cover up to $250,000 in damages for most policies.”
The best homeowners insurance option for you depends on your financial situation and how much protection you feel comfortable with.
The benefits of owning a beach house outweigh the various concerns for many people—it’s nearly impossible to put a price on the beauty and tranquility that a beach house offers. Waking up to the sound of waves lapping the coast, gulls calling above, and the smell of clean ocean air could just about rid anyone of their concerns. Like any potential homeowner, though, you’ll need to weigh a variety of pros and cons before taking the beach homeownership plunge.