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Who can afford to live by the sea?

We’ve all done it.

We have a few days in Cornwall in the sunshine and we suddenly start dreaming of how wonderful it would be to live there, eating pasties and cream teas every day.

We stroll across a deserted beach on an occasional warm day in North Wales and we start looking in estate agents’ windows and realising how cheap the houses seem to be.

We enjoy our ice cream on Filey beach and forget the bitter wind that blows off the north sea for much of the year and instead start planning how that miniscule cottage on the sea front could be our family home.

The lure of the sea is undeniable, but it is also becoming less attainable.

It wasn’t so long ago that you could snap up a house in a seaside town pretty much anywhere in the country with nothing more than an equity release mortgage from the home you bought a few years back that had since soared in value.

The dream can still become a reality, but you may have to go so far from your source of income that it doesn’t make sense unless you can work form home, or give up work altogether.

The most affordable seaside town is no ugly duckling. Newbiggin by the Sea is on the south Northumberland coast and has had massive investment over recent years in the form of a new beach, and some great public art installations. Yet you can still find a decent house for under £100,000. The average price there is a shade under £90,000, but to be fair the average is brought down by some less desirable housing stock. That aside, with Newcastle just 30 minutes down the road, seaside living here and working in the city isn’t out of the question.

The Newbiggin story is far from typical though and many towns have seen average prices double over the past ten years.

In Cornwall Rock has long been known as Chelsea by the Sea, and Rick Stein’s fame has ensured that Padstow prices are beyond the reach of the common man. Recently nearby Wadebridge has seen massive increases with prices increasing by 91% in the past decade, along with Workington in Cumbria. Further down the coast in cute little Mousehole a timber built office recently sold for £105,000 only to be turned around in six months and reappear on the market at £220,00 as a two room holiday home with just a glimpse of the sea.

We’re not into the crazy prices yet though – for that look at Salcombe in Devon where the average price is £615,344, or Sandbanks in Dorset where you’ll average £507,089. I just popped Salcombe into Rightmove and the first place that came up was a modest £3 million. You have to ask who is buying these houses? To get on the market with less than £300,000 there you’ll need to wait in line for an ex-council house if you fancy having room to swing a cat, or buy a small flat in a less desirable part of town.

Yet despite these crazy prices and massive inflation in so many areas, seaside living is still cheaper on average than the whole of Britain price. Your coastal idyll is averaging just under £200k while the national average, buoyed by London’s unattainable market, is closer to £240,000. On a four times multiplier, which is a scary prospect in the first place before you consider your bills, a young couple will need to be earning £60,000 between them to borrow for the average house. OK, there are some people with that sort of income in their twenties, but not many.

When you’ve found your wonderful seaside dream home you just need to remember that your bills are going to be a lot higher there – upkeep is constant, especially if you’re in sight on the sea, storm damage is a constant winter threat, and you’ll almost certainly have to travel further for everything you need.

But do you know what? It’s probably worth it. Whether it’s bright sunshine, or lashing down rain in a winter storm, being by the sea takes some beating. It’s the place for me.

Images courtesy of Bert Kauffman; Barry; George Thomas;


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