A beach house can be a dream come true for many homeowners. Your beach house could be a family vacation retreat, a valuable rental property, or the key to your dream lifestyle on the coast.
But a beach house is as much an investment as any other house, and it comes with drawbacks that other houses simply don’t have.
Because they’re located on the water, beach houses are subject to erosion and wind-driven rain, salt, and sand that can damage your home and require more frequent repairs. You might find yourself trying to live year-round in a neighborhood that’s mostly vacation rentals. You could even end up losing your home to rising sea levels. Here’s what you need to know before you buy a beach house.
Proximity to the ocean is both the largest benefit and the biggest drawback of buying a beachfront home. Sure, you’ll have great views of the ocean and a private beach of your own. You’ll be able to watch the sunrise or sunset, provided your home faces east or west. But the sea is a harsh mistress, and she will erode your property and degrade your home over time.
Most of the damage your beach home will sustain due to being on the sea can’t be avoided. Homes on the coast are buffeted by salty winds that erode windows, siding, flashing, and metal components like the galvanized steel joist hangers under your deck. And that’s on a good day. Your beach home will also be subject to hurricane winds and flooding, and storms are getting bigger and scarier as climate change leads to more and more extreme weather events throughout the U.S.
It can be easy to get all starry-eyed about your beach home purchase, blow your budget, and leave yourself house-poor. When you’re looking at New Smyrna beach homes for sale, or homes for sale in any beach town, it’s important to consider that buying your beach home may take more out of you financially than you anticipate.
For one thing, your beach house will likely require more extensive and more frequent repairs than inland homes do, because of its exposure to the corrosive salt air. Your beach house homeowners association (HOA) may charge higher fees than you’d pay in an inland HOA, and if you’re buying in a new development, you can expect those costs to go up as the neighborhood matures. If you need to raise your beach home to protect it from flooding, that will be a big expense. If your beach home does get flooded, you can expect to pay exorbitant mitigation costs. And the homeowners insurance for a beach home will be more expensive than for an inland home – especially when you consider flood insurance and hurricane insurance.
While a beach home can bring in rental income from vacationers, you shouldn’t count on it to pay your mortgage. There may be times of the year when no one wants to rent your beach house. Assuming that you’ll always be able to pay the mortgage with rental income could leave you unable to make the payment some months. And don’t forget, you’ll need to pay upkeep and utility costs on top of the mortgage, so that will eat into any rental income you do make.
If you’re expecting to move into a vibrant beachfront neighborhood populated by year-round residents, you could wind up disappointed. Many beachfront neighborhoods have a lot of vacation rentals and few permanent residents. Before you buy, talk to the neighbors to find out how many of the houses are occupied year-round, whether the neighborhood is a popular spring break destination for students, and whether residents are mostly retirees or if there are young families in the area, too.
Beachfront properties deteriorate in ways that inland properties don’t, again, because of their exposure to sea winds. You’ll need a coastal home inspector who can examine your home for things like corrosion, flood damage, and wind damage. Otherwise, you could wind up moving into a house that needs a lot of expensive, extensive work.
Buying a beach house could be a dream come true, but it’s one that can easily turn into a nightmare. Take care that you know what you’re getting into when you buy a beach home, so you can focus on your beautiful views and beach access, from a house that isn’t on the verge of falling down.