Things to Consider When Buying a Beachfront Home
Dreaming of swaying gently in a hammock while a salty-air breeze whistles through your hair? If you’re like a lot of people, this time of year finds you wistfully wishing you were on a beautiful beach somewhere, sipping on a tall, cool drink while the waves crash in the background. For most of us, the best we can hope for is the occasional beach vacation or day-trip to the ocean. But for those of us who are truly lured by the call of the waves, owning a beach property might be just the thing to soothe your soul.
Before you heed the siren’s call of the ocean and rush out to buy beachfront property, there are many pros and cons to consider and strategies that you can employ to make the most of your new home. How you plan on using your house can dramatically impact its financing and costs over time, and as always location is critical to making the most of your new dream home.
Location, Location, Location
An old saying goes that these three things are the most important things when deciding where to live, but it’s even more important if you are considering living on the beach. Not all beaches are created equal; some are more commonly frequented by tourists while others may be secluded and off the beaten path. Some oceanfront properties have beautiful, clean beaches while others adjoin rocky crags or toxic environments. Do a significant amount of research and take the time to walk around the neighborhood. Make sure that the location you are considering meets your needs and expectations. Also, take the time to check the city records to see if any significant developments are under consideration in the near future. Your beautiful view today might be someone else’s construction zone tomorrow.
The beach environment may be the driving force behind your selection of a potential new home, but that same environment can cause significant challenges during storms, faster wear and tear, and a changing landscape. If you are right on the ocean or nearby, you may see that several homes are built up on stilts, which not only minimize the risk of flooding and storm surge damage but can also give you a better view. Your land may also be at significant risk for dramatic erosion or even a situation called beach migration, where sand is blown off one property and onto another, significantly changing the landscape and even potentially shrinking or increasing your land over time. Generally speaking, higher elevations fare better, and even a small change of five to ten feet can make a dramatic difference, particularly as sea levels continue to rise. Your elevation might also impact your flood insurance which can get very pricey for some locations. Building codes are also nothing to scoff at. We’ve all seen the pictures of older beachfront neighborhoods completely devastated by a hurricane while one or two newer homes on the block remain standing. Just remember that while you are out looking for a home the weather might be gorgeous and while you are hoping for the best, don’t forget to plan for the worst and thinking about how the home might fare during seasonal storms.
If you’ve never lived on the beach, you might not be familiar with just how windy some beaches can be. The wind coming off the ocean can be very strong and steady since there are no trees or hills to break up its force. Typically beach property wind ranges from a pleasant, refreshing breeze to a nuisance of stinging sand and flapping flags. But when the wind picks up, as it often does in some locations, the wind can tear away awnings, drag away porch furniture, and drive sand across your road. Talk to some neighbors to get a feel for the seasonal changes to the wind or look through historical weather reports, watching for spikes in wind speed and rain.
Because you are on or near the beach, your view from your home might be a serious consideration. Try to find a home that utilizes an open concept, with lots of window for light that can be opened to take advantage of the cooling breezes. Light, airy decor is also popular in beach communities, reinforcing the restful mood created by most oceanfront properties.
Unless you’ve lived on the beach before, you might not be prepared for just how pervasive the local insects can be. People like to have their windows open on the beach to take advantage of those wonderful, cooling breezes, but with that, you may also get more bugs inside your home, even with good window screens.
Bulkheads, Docks and Outbuildings
Properties on the beach may have extra buildings or features that aren’t typical in other environments, but which bear special consideration when selecting an oceanfront property. A bulkhead is a wall that acts as a barrier between the water and your property. A strong, solid bulkhead can prevent erosion and keep your home’s foundation from cracking or slipping. If a property for sale comes with a dock, do your due diligence and investigate its allowable usage and maintenance. The dock may be owned by the homeowners association or might not have its proper legal permits. Outbuildings like sheds, detached garages, and barns may be in a worse state of repair or again might not be legally placed or maintained. Most neighborhoods have rules regarding the distance of outbuildings to the property line or road, but sometimes homeowners ignore these guidelines when placing these structures. Read your neighborhood’s bylaws and be familiar with any local zoning restrictions.
via Waterbridge LLC
Generating Income and Reducing Costs
A popular approach to owning a home is to purchase it with the intent to rent it out all or part of the year. It’s important to know that mortgage rates are often lower on owner-occupied properties than on investment properties or rentals. Check the real estate law for your community. It might make strong financial sense to plan on living in the home part of the year and rent it during high peak season to generate a little extra spending money. If you’re thinking of renting it out, look into peak vacation times for the area you’re interested in and seriously consider if leaving the property during those times would be suitable for you and your family. But keep in mind that being a landlord is a big responsibility and will typically increase your insurance premiums.
There is an old proverb: home is where the heart is. And if your heart yearns to be at the beach, there’s no reason that your home can’t be there too. Spend the time to do your research and investigate your options and you’ll keep your dream of living at the beach from turning into a sandy, expensive nightmare.