Oceanfront along the U.S. is varied, dazzling and the site of some of the most expensive real estate in the U.S.
By Camilla McLaughlin
The United States might rank eighth in the world for the amount of coastline, but the country offers idyllic shores such as those in Hawaii, top-rated stunning beaches, and places where unique marine features meet the Atlantic. And depending on location, region of the country, and the type of property, prices vary from under $500,000 to $15 million or much more. Not all are vacation homes, some are primary residences, as changing demographics transition some former retirement havens such as Miami Beach or St. Peters-burg, Florida, into vibrant year-round destinations. Others, such as the Florida Keys, are finding favor with a slightly younger demographic. “We are seeing lots of young retirees buying their dream home for retirement,” shares Sandy Tuttle with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Keys Real Estate / Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Knight & Gardner Realty. “Many of our buyers are on a five-year plan to move to the Keys. The soon-to-retire population now accounts for a majority of our sales. The baby boomer generation seems to be good planners; they are securing their spot for the future and utilizing mortgages with low interest rates while they have income. Many will put their home into a vacation rental program to offset the cost of ownership until they can make the move full time.”
Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world lie along northwest Florida’s pan-handle, where white sugar sand contrasts with emerald green waters. Here, there is a great diversity in locations, from Panama City’s hip beach tiki-inspired scene to an old Florida sensibility found in towns such as Rosemary Beach, Seaside and Watercolor, along a 30-mile stretch of Route 30 A, dubbed the Emerald Coast. While owners in Panama City often visit for several weeks or more a year and put their units into a rental pool, those in other Emerald Coast locations visit frequently, as often as six times a year or more. Many also rent their property when it’s not in use, but, Craig Duran with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida says, “more and more people just want a true second home. It’s probably a second, third or fifth home for them.”
Market conditions are as varied as the geography. After six years of steady appreciation, residential sales along the Pan-handle are transitioning toward a balance between buyers and sellers. “We’ve moved from a scorching hot market with under two months’ inventory to somewhat of a more neutral territory,” says Duran. Anything up to $500,000 is very active, but in most locations, he says, the higher-priced properties are moving a little slower.
After an increase of 7 percent every year since 2014, prices in the Keys are beginning to level off. Demand, however, has not slacked off and continues to be steady, Tuttle points out.
On the East Coast in the Jacksonville area, the number of sales for ocean-front homes from Atlantic Beach to Ponte Vedra has gone up by 10 percent over the last year, reports Elizabeth Hudgins with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty. Along with this increase in demand, the average sales price grew by 6.7 percent, which on average, Hudgins says, looks like an additional $200,000 for those sellers. Oceanfront captures a premium and prices along this shore range from $3 million to $13 million, says Anita Vining, also with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty. These locations are within a 30-minute drive to Jacksonville.
“We pride ourselves on being a residential community, so you won’t find a boardwalk or roadway separating homeowners from the ocean. This is the ideal place for those who want the beach lifestyle without all tourists and traffic,” explains Hudgins.
Like many coastal locations from Maine to Florida, Jacksonville offers several different waterfront categories including riverfront and Intracoastal. Both appeal to water lovers who want a boat at their back door. The St. Johns River flows through the city of Jacksonville and spills into the Atlantic. Homes here often occupy larger parcels of land, so riverfront offers greater privacy than homes along the Intracoastal. Prices for riverfront homes range from $800,000 to $12 million. Along the Intracoastal, luxury begins at about $700,000 and tops off around $3.5 million.
Ocean, Gulf, or Bay
Mention oceanfront or seaside homes and most think of a cottage on a sandy shore with breakers, near or far, rolling in. That same vision is equally applicable to locations along the Gulf of Mexico, which also boasts wide sandy beaches and vast water views. Still, that’s only a small slice of what might be considered tidal or ocean-related water along the coastal areas.
In Virginia, the tidal portion of the Chesapeake, including rivers and tributaries, covers 7,213 miles of shoreline. In the Virginia Beach area alone, Susan Pender with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Towne Realty says there are “hundreds of waterfront homes on all these tributaries. A lot of them are deepwater, which raises the price. But Virginia Beach is also located where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, which translates into miles of oceanfront and prime home sites buffered by dunes. Oceanfront properties are the most expensive homes on the market,” she says. Recent sales of beachfront proper-ties were $4.1 million and $3.3 million, and values for a typical 50-by-150-foot lot are in the $1.2 million range. Oceanfront in some locations here also means optimal viewing of everything from whales and marine life to tankers, destroyers and submarines.
Coastal markets in Florida often include a mix of gulf and bay frontage, especially along the West Coast. In St. Petersburg, there are a variety of price points as well as types of homes and types of water. “That’s the great thing about Pinellas County,” says Christian Sidwell with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group. “We’re surrounded by water. We’re a peninsula and we’re quite unique because downtown St. Petersburg is on the water. There are tons of marinas. When you’re downtown, you can see boats, yachts and small fishing boats. Condos along the downtown beach drive the look out towards the Tampa Bay. The lifestyle on Tampa Bay is also quite different than living on the Gulf of Mexico.
”Properties directly on the Gulf of Mexico, a partially landlocked sea that is part of the Atlantic Ocean, have a complete-ly different vibe. “It’s very beach driven. It’s very sand, sea and sunset driven. And then, of course, the Gulf of Mexico is a massive body of water,” explains Sidwell. Although properties along Tampa Bay, particularly for historic homes built in the 1920s, hit major price points, Sidwell says prices for gulf and beachfront are higher. Learning about waterfront options is a process for those new to this area who need to become familiar with the dynamics of various prop-continued on page 77erty types in addition to the overall market, which covers a good stretch of coastline and locations from hip beaches to urban condos to laid-back seaside towns.
In Miami Beach, dramatic new towers line the sand, but architecture has transformed more than the oceanfront. “We have totally reinvented ourself,” says Miami Beach native Esther Percal with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty. Along the beach, towering buildings on the sand with spacious residences often ranging from 4,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet replace older buildings com-posed of studios and one-bedroom condos. Today, prices can easily exceed $10 million. Changes to Miami extend beyond beach-front architecture to the elevation of the entire city, including museums and galleries.
Along with direct beachfront on the Atlantic, “almost oceanfront” options can be found in Coral Gables and private islands in Biscayne Bay including ultra-private Indian Creek. Occupying a unique location is Allison Island, part of Miami Beach, only blocks from the ocean and South Beach. All the homes on Allison Island are on the water. For instance, 6650 Allison, a 10,715-square-foot estate, which David Solomon, also with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty, describes as a “waterfront classic.” With a Contemporary style inspired by the region’s iconic aesthetic, this newly constructed home sits on the tip of the island, offering 209 feet of prime water frontage and plenty options for a boat and all the water toys.
Islands abound in coastal waters including both the Keys and Hawaii. The waterfront experience is unique. “We offer island life, right here in the USA! As a chain of small tropical islands, the vibe is very laid back and easy,” says Tuttle, noting property types range from simple 1,000-square-foot bungalows on a canal with two bedrooms and two baths at $475,000 to stunning oceanfront estates with five bedrooms, four baths, an elevator, pool and high-end finishes for $2 million-plus.
On Oahu, waterfront and waterview properties also span a range of types and locations. Asian buyers particularly prize condominiums. Especially desirable are condos on the water in an exclusive area called the Gold Coast, which is popular with residents who want to downsize, says Wana’ao Eldridge with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai’i Realty. Also, what makes Oahu unique is the diversity of oceanfront locations, says Eldridge. Along with sandy beaches there are rocky reefs and deepwater channels. Some lots are near great surf spots where, she says, you can watch the action from your backyard.
Newcomers to Miami no longer fall into a single demographic. Although foreign buying has fallen off in recent years, there is an increasingly diverse group of domestic buyers, a pattern occurring throughout Florida. Changes in tax laws are bringing more New Yorkers to Florida overall, but brokers say they are also seeing interest from buyers as distant as California. In Miami, Percal says, “I think their long-range or short-range plan is to become residents. You know, life is a lot easier here than New York. We’re not seeing as many Europeans as we used to, but there are always some, and their goal and their dream is to live here.”
What do oceanfront buyers want?
Real estate agents in almost every coastal location agree that buyers want new or completely redone. Having a home that is up to the current hurricane standards is important. “They also want views and two to three stories in many locations so they can see over the dune line. They want good construction.
Homes that are desirable don’t last long in Virginia Beach, 30 to 60 days at most,” says Pender. “If they haven’t been updated, they can stay on the market much longer.” Duran says completely renovated homes compete with new construction, also sell quickly. continued from page 5In Hawaii, Eldridge says, for luxury “the bigger the better, the more amenities the better.” Multi-generational homes, particularly from locals, are also in demand. And rather than something right on the water, Eldridge is seeing growing interest in larger, ranch-type properties. But the motivation is almost the same as the motivation to be on the water, particularly the ocean. “People are looking for tranquility,” she says.
(Reprinted from "By the Ocean", 2019, Prestige Magazine, Fall 2019, pp. 3-5, 77.)