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What You Need to Know Before Buying A Beach House

beach house
Erik Von Weber/ Getty images
beach house

Erik Von Weber/ Getty images

It’s everyone’s dream… to have a house on the beach… to wake up to the sounds of the waves lapping against the shore… to see the ocean as she changes hues throughout the day, throughout the seasons, throughout the year. It’s everyone’s dream to have a place to go as an escape from the mad and busy world we live in… to have a special place where our children can create the most magnificent memories…

There are many things, however, you should know before buying into this sort of investment. The harsh realities of ocean-side property ownership could turn your dream home into a nightmarish one if you do not take the necessary precautions. Read on to ensure that you know everything there is to know before you buy your pretty house on the shore. We don’t want to discount or diminish your dreams, but we do want you to be aware of all the realities.

woman in beach house

Solskin/ Getty Images

Research your location

rows of beach houses

Barry Winiker/ Getty Images

If you’ve not spent time in the area you’d like to purchase your house it might be wise to do so. Rent a home nearby. Get to know the way of the land and talk to the neighbors. Is the house in a convenient location? Is it easy to drive to remote areas? Is there an airport fairly nearby? Are there hospitals and good medical facilities nearby? How close is the nearest grocery store? Can you run out for quick errands or will each trip cost you an hour’s worth of time round trip? Are there shops? Museums?  Restaurants? Movie theaters? Is it important to you to have these things?

Get to know your neighbors

Early morning summer sunrise illuminates the row of beautifully coloured beach huts on the North Norfolk coast at Wells next the sea.

stevendocwra/ Getty Images

Neighbors are important.  They will be able to help you find your way around. Are there children nearby? If you have children they’ll likely want friends to play with. Conversely, you’ll not want to live in an over-crowded area either, where, all-around your party houses exist.  We’ll also discourage you from buying in remote, hard to get to locations. Firstly, remote areas are appealing to robbers and thieves, secondly, they can be troublesome during emergencies and times of need.  As with any home you decide to purchase, the neighborhood is key.

Work with a local Realtor

oung elegant woman reporting the damage by phone to an insurance agent.

robertprzybyszY/ Getty Images

If you can get a recommendation through a friend or peer, do so. A Realtor will know the ins and outs of the area both during peak and off-peak season. Will you want to use this house year-round? If so you will want to find out whether businesses stay open year-round, or if certain places close after Labor Day (US) as many are apt to do in seasonal, seaside resort areas. A good Realtor should have all the information you’ll need including the history of the area and weather patterns.

When was the last big storm? How much damage did it cause? These are important facts to find out. A local library can help here too. You can research old papers and documents and look at the shoreline for any visible signs of damage. As I mentioned earlier, it’s always a great idea to get to know the neighbors, in this case, it is as well as they will fill you in on things that a Realtor may not. Communication is key. Talk to as many people as you can.

Bring in the experts. Have a home inspection.

Young Woman Shaking Hands To Male Plumber With Clipboard In Kitchen Room

ljubaphoto/ Getty Images

This is really a given – or should be, but especially in coastal areas, a home inspection is crucial. A home inspector will look for all signs of wear and tear that come naturally from age, as well as those brought on by the sea and her storms. An inspector will be able to tell if the house has flooded and whether this happens often. Floodwaters cause great damage to electrical systems, foundations, wood, and mold. These damages can be quite severe and quite expensive to repair.

If the home has signs of flooding our suggestion would be to walk away from it. If raising the home, an expensive project is a possibility, talk to surveyors and contractors. Many coastal homeowners are now raising their homes because they want to remain where they are, but need to prevent future flooding.

Hire an engineer or land surveyor

A small breakfast table sits in a sun room over looking the ocean.

Janine Lamontagne/ Getty Images

Have them note the highest level of ocean tides and whether the tides are continuously high. If so the area in question really should be avoided. In the US our weather seems to be getting more erratic and more severe and seems not to be showing an signs on calming down. A geological inspector, land surveyor or engineer should be able to check for the stability of the shore and the land around it by checking for erosion, and researching tides and storm surges.

We need to be prepared for the worst and this begins in selecting a good and safe location for your beach home. Look for greenery around your home. If there are plenty of trees, and lots of grass this is indeed a good sign as it means there is good drainage. Buyer beware, however. Do check the grasses on the property. Are they overly saturated? Are they new? A newly placed lawn could raise red flags. What indeed might the current homeowner be trying to cover up?

Consider beach-front vs off-beach property.

A sun room at a beach house in Southwest Florida.

DenGuy/ Getty Images

Does your beach house have to be sitting directly on the water? Can it be a couple of blocks away from the water? Reasons to consider a home that is set away slightly from the beach are many. First and foremost is the price. You will pay top dollar for a home that has waterfront views, while a house that is set back slightly will cost less. You’re apt to get more house and more property for the money as well. Do you have young children or a growing or a large family?

Do you need extra bedrooms and extra living space as well as some room for outdoor living on your property? A beachfront home will absolutely appreciate faster, but it is also more likely to suffer weather-related and storm-related damages. A beach-front property could also be more expensive to insure.

Buy what you can afford

Countertop in modern kitchen

Mint Images/ Getty Images

As with any home you want to stick within your means. Meet with financial experts to learn the ins and outs of buying a second property or beach property. Are there certain guidelines that must be adhered to? Is this a financial decision that makes sense? In addition to the purchasing expenses, taxes and insurance, ocean-front properties require much more maintenance than homes in-land.

Will you be able to financially handle these additional expenses? The sea, salt and high winds will cause significant wear and tear on your home and you will need to have your property inspected from time to time for signs of water damage and mold, repairs will need to be made as needed.

You’re buying a dream

Young woman meditating on bed facing open window, rear view

Justin Pumfrey/ Getty Images

Your beach house, whether it is your primary or secondary residence, whether it is something you plan on keeping in the family for generations to come or a potential source of income as a rental property, should be a purchase well thought through. This dream turned reality shouldn’t become a sudden nightmare.  Arm yourself well with knowledge and research and planning so that you know all that’s involved with owning beach property.  Your beach home should be a place of rest and relaxation, a foundation from which many memories are made for years and years to come.

If you’ve always dreamed of owning a home on or near the beach, you shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so, but you should be savvy about this investment. The more you know the better off you will be in the long run. Play it safe and be smart about your purchase. Be prepared so that when the worst-case scenario happens you won’t be caught off-guard and you and your home will be able to weather any storm.

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