For many Americans the ultimate summertime fantasy has less to do with washboard abs and a killer tan than owning their own piece of beachfront real estate—aka bliss. From Memorial Day through Labor Day (and beyond), beach lovers across the U.S. find themselves dreaming of escaping the hellish deadlines, soul-sucking commutes, and humdrum daily grind—and trading it all in for salty ocean breezes, caipirinhas on the sand, and fresh lobster rolls from a seafood joint around the corner.
Most affordable beach towns of 2019
That’s where the sunburned data team at realtor.com® comes in. As we do every summer, we scoured the United States’ 95,471 miles of shoreline to locate the most affordable beach towns in the nation. What we discovered were a sometimes surprising selection of sun-and-sand options that are a lot more financially feasible than a “country cottage” in the Hamptons or Malibu, CA.
And we never lose sight of a very important fact: A beach home is more than a dream, it’s an investment.
So, what’s the key to avoiding a financial belly-flop of a beach house?
“At the outset, you should have some exit strategy,” says James H. Boykin, author of “Investing in a Vacation Home for Pleasure and Profit.”
In other words, getting into a sweet place with plenty of peace and quiet might be easy. But if you buy in a place that’s not desirable to other beachgoers, you might have a hard time selling or renting it out.
To find America’s most affordable beach towns, our number-crunching ninjas located the country’s biggest metropolitan areas with the highest share of listings with keywords such as “beach,” “beachfront,” and “ocean.” (Metros include an area’s main city and its surrounding suburbs, exurbs, and urban areas.) Then we made sure these markets had lots of fun water-based activities, narrowing our list to the places that boast the highest percentage of things like rafting, kayaking, surfing, boating, and fishing on Yelp.com. We then ranked these metros based on their median prices for the 12-month period of May 2018 to April 2019.
It’s important to note that not all of the cities that anchor these metros are actually on the shore. But they all include at least one sweet beach area within their confines. We limited our ranking to just two metros per state to ensure some geographic diversity. And, as in previous years, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many affordable beach options on the ever-pricey West Coast. (Sorry.)
Ready to dive in? Strap on the water wings, and let’s paddle through the most affordable beach towns of 2019.
1. Jacksonville, NC
Median list price: $198,846
Topsail and Surf City, both part of the Jacksonville metro area, have been attracting second-home owners from all over the country. They come from as far away as Boston, Ohio, and even California to Jacksonville, which rose from second place last year to nab the top spot in 2019. There’s an especially long beach season here, stretching from late March through October, and excellent boating with large docks and deep channels.
The area is particularly popular with military families, who have been stationed nearby at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Nature lovers are fond of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, in Surf City, a fun attraction for children and adults.
“It’s nice and quiet here,” says Heather Smith, the real estate broker at Coastal Compass Agency at Keller Williams. “It’s become a real hot spot for second homes, retirees, and snowbirds.”
And it can be fairly cheap, too. It’s possible to find a four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom townhome with ocean views, right on the sand starting around $300,000. Or folks can go inland a block or two and save big bucks on a beach cottage.
2. Aberdeen, WA
Median list price: $229,564
Known as the “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula,” Aberdeen is nearly two hours southwest of Seattle and just a short drive from Olympic National Park. It’s where Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain hailed from. It is not, however, a beach town itself. But the city leads to two nice oceanfront areas nearby. The ocean waters are clear but chilly, best for surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding in the area’s freshwater canals.
“The most affordable beach homes are in Greyland and Westport,” says local broker Harley Greninger of Premier Realty Grays Harbor. “You’re looking at about $150,000 to $200,000 for a single-family home.” For that price, a home may not be on the sand, but it’ll be close.
The area is full of two- and three-bedroom 1940s Cape Codders and bungalows. Most are occupied by year-round residents.
Ocean Shores, WA, on the north side, is just the opposite: Most of the homes there are owned by folks who live in Seattle and Tacoma, WA, and even Vancouver, Canada, who come in for long weekends or vacations. Buyers can get deals on condos for around the same price as a free-standing house in Westport. And the resort town offers a wide range of restaurants, breweries, and family-friendly activities like entertainment parks or horseback rides on the sand.
“Affordability is the first reason people buy here,” says Greninger. “But the ocean beaches are the nicest in the state.”
3. Atlantic City, NJ
Median list price: $241,655
Long known for shuttered casinos, high unemployment, and broken dreams, Atlantic City has been making a comeback lately. These days it’s more known for something else: killer real estate deals near some of the northeast’s widest, sandiest beaches.
Devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the boardwalk has been mostly restored to its former glory, and there are even new casinos opening on the strip.
Proximity is key here: It’s just an hour and a half from Philadelphia and two-and-a-half hours from New York City. So it’s closer than the Hamptons during traffic, and just a fraction of the price. It’s possible to feel the breeze coming off the ocean in your one-bedroom condo in a midcentury, beachfront building with a pool for under $100,000. A 1,395-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit in an oceanfront luxury high-rise with direct access to the boardwalk and beach can be found in the mid-$200,000s.
4. Myrtle Beach, SC
Median list price: $245,233
The city boasts more than 3,000 listings under $200,000, the bulk of which are townhomes and condos that are popular among second-home buyers. Many of those out-of-towners rent out their oceanfront high-rise “condotels”—condos in a building that operates like a hotel.
“You can rent it or use it yourself, as you choose,” says local real estate broker Radha Herring of the Watermark Real Estate Group. “So you can actually enjoy your investment.”
The median price for these hotel-like condos is a cool $140,000. But buyers who don’t want to hear their neighbors blasting cable news through the walls can find three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes with fenced backyards in Surfside Beach, SC, for $190,000 to $200,000. They’re within walking—or golf cart—distance of the shore.
Just be wary of pickpockets, or worse: Myrtle Beach has a higher-than-average crime rate, according to NeighborhoodScout.
5. Palm Bay, FL
Median list price: $269,393
Melbourne Beach is where many already chill Floridians go when they want to really relax or maybe catch a wave. It’s one of the southernmost surf beaches in the state. The vibe is a seductive blend of Old Florida and California surfer cool.
Up and down the barrier island that protects the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean, in towns such as Melbourne Beach and Indialantic, FL, homeowners can watch the swells from bed in their oceanfront condos. Bargain alert: Two-bedroom units start under $200,000.
And, if you’re willing to cross over to the mainland, you can score a single-family home just a short walk from the Intracoastal Waterway, a 3,000-mile-long waterway, and a 15-minute drive from the sand starting around the same entry-level price.
6. Port St. Lucie, FL
Median list price: $279,696
Set on a serene slice of the Atlantic Coast, about halfway between Miami and Orlando, Port St. Lucie is a quiet and affordable city on Florida’s laid-back Treasure Coast. The median list price in the city is $205,000, making it a top choice for retirees. About a fifth of its population is over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census, drawn by the lack of a statewide income tax along with the sun, sand, and cheap housing.
Beyond the gorgeous Savannah Preserve State Park, which marks the end of the city, you’ll find Hutchinson Island. In the lovely Jensen Beacharea of this barrier island, buyers can find large one- and two-bedroom, beachfront condos starting in the mid-$200,000s. And when they’re not baking in the sun, they can shop at quirky, local businesses such as the Then & Now Gallery, or take the kiddies to the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast. Fun!
7. Virginia Beach, VA
Median list price: $284,873
Virginia Beach is a sprawling city where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, just about two hours southeast of Richmond, VA. The region has a rich maritime and military history, burgeoning culinary scene, and more activities to keep families entertained than most will ever need, from kayaking with dolphins to wild horse tours.
While beachfront homes in Virginia Beach tend to cost upward of $500,000, it is possible to find oceanfront condos on the outskirts and in neighboring towns starting in the low $200,000s.
Many second-home buyers head to Sandbridge, a northern Virginia Beach community where the single-family homes are up on stilts and condos are available under $300,000. But bargain hunters typically go farther out to Norfolk, VA, about 20 minutes west on the Chesapeake Bay, says local real estate agent Doug Derring of Chantel Ray Real Estate. His clients, who tend to be older families or soon-to-be retirees, can find small condos on the water for under $200,000 in the area.
8. Salisbury, MD
Median list price: $314,396
Maryland’s bucolic eastern shore is known for its historic towns, crab shacks, and natural beauty, including its beaches. The area is a haven for boaters, anglers, swimmers, and sunbathers. And Ocean City, MD, part of the Salisbury metro, is the epicenter of the summertime action—and a new entry to our list of best beach towns.
Set on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Wight Bay, it’s where city slickers from Baltimore and Washington, DC, want to cool off when the swamp starts to really steam up.
With a median list price of about $285,000 in Ocean City, second-home seekers who want to stroll its miles-long sandy beach and shop-lined boardwalk can get into a two-bedroom, two-bath condo overlooking the ocean for around $250,000. Investors can also purchase these properties to rent out to vacationers. Those on a tighter budget can still find condos a farther walk from the sand starting in the mid-$100,000s.
9. Morehead City, NC
Median list price: $327,589
Another newcomer to our annual ranking, Morehead City and its surrounding towns are a playground for maritime enthusiasts. The area offers every type of water sport imaginable, in both the Atlantic and the Bogue Sound. The mainland city is protected by a barrier island, Bogue Banks, boasting jaw-dropping beaches with soft sand and plenty of room to spread out for some life-affirming days (and nights) by the shore.
In Bogue Banks communities like Atlantic Beach, buyers can pick up older two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos and townhomes with water views right near the beach starting under $200,000. However, if having a dock for your boat is a priority—and you have the dough—Morehead City and the surrounding communities offer waterfront condos and houses right on the sound. You’ll need to throw down around $350,000.
10. Portland, ME
Median list price: $357,682
No, downtown Portland is hardly what one would call a beach town. The tourist fave is a vibrant, historic port city that sits right on the Atlantic with a great restaurant, bar, and cultural scene. Residents who want to spend more time on the water often go to South Portland for its small beach and easy access to kayaking and paddle-boarding.
But the metro’s real beach town is Scarborough, ME, about 20 minutes south of downtown. It’s a classic New England beach scene, with summer vacationers kayaking through coastal marshes, hiking or biking on local nature trails, and baking on wide, almost painfully picturesque sandy beaches.
The median list price of $410,000 is a bit higher than the Portland metro overall. But those seeking a place that can bring in some short-term rental cash can get into an older three-bedroom, two-bathroom Cape Cod or Colonial starting in the high $300,000-range, says local real estate broker Jeremy Lock of Portside Real Estate Group.
And fear not—there are still opportunities for ballers to drop a cool $1.2 million for a five-bedroom, two-bathroom home on the shore. Many believe they’re still a bargain.
“When I moved from San Diego, I was not expecting to find beaches of this caliber,” Lock says.
Article Courtesy of: Realtor.com- Sara Ventiera