Note: We wrote Part 2 of this article in April, 2014. See “Part 2: 10 Affordable Places to Retire on the Coast“
June 15, 2010 — What’s not to like about retiring to a place on or near the water – except maybe the price that usually comes with that lifestyle. Until the polar icecaps melt some more, no one is making any more ocean front property, which means that as a rule only wealthy people can afford to pay for the privilege of watching the sun come up and down over the water from their front porches. Fortunately for the careful shopper though, there are different kinds of waterfront, so there actually are some affordable waterfront properties.
The first place we started when researching this article was our own Retirement Ranger. When we took our free, 10 question quiz we tried to keep it simple – we specified only 2 environmental selections – “coastal” and “lakefront”. The only other choice was “lower than average” cost of living. The Ranger came back with 50 choices, from which we chose 11 (although quite a few more towns were reasonable choices).
The results from the Retirement Ranger highlight where the bargains are. For one, lakes with big coastlines offer some relative bargains. Likewise, towns near rivers and bays can offer waterfront living with spectacular views without spending megadollars. Finally, if you choose a place on the ocean that is far from a big city or in the right region, you might be able to snag a relative bargain. We offer this list of 11 affordable waterfront places to retire, but urge you to use the Retirement Ranger and search on this and other sites for more ideas. Please note that most of these choices are located on a large body of water, but a few towns are close, but not actually on the water. Also, see end of article for a discussion of some of the drawbacks of living near the water.
- Boynton Beach FL – Boynton Beach has always been the step-child to its more prosperous neighbors like Delray Beach and Palm Beach. It’s the same ocean, just a few miles north or south. Boynton Beach, like most of south Florida, has had a real estate meltdown. Right now, prices are reasonable. The median home price in 2006 was over $350,000 – in the first quarter of 2010 it was $150,000 (houses/condos close to the water will be more). There are many communities not far from or even on the beach that the careful shopper can choose from.
- Leesburg, FL – This waterfront town in central Florida boasts 6 public beaches on 3 lakes, plus a yacht club. The centerpiece of the town is a former WPA project, the Venetian Gardens Waterside Park on Lake Harris. There is a community college plus a number of active adult communities to choose from.
- Myrtle Beach, SC – Myrtle Beach is a bargain. It offers low-cost housing, 120 golf courses, and of course – the Grand Strand, a great sandy beach that runs uninterrupted for almost 60 miles – from Pawley’s Island in the south to North Myrtle Beach.
- Port Charlotte, FL – An amazing 40% of the homes in Port Charlotte have water access, thanks to a maze of canals and estuaries, complete with hundreds of species of marine life. There are dozens of active adult and 55+ developments /neighborhoods to choose from.
- Lake Eufaula, OK – This area in east central Oklahoma is a popular resort and a low-key, relaxing retirement spot. Lake Eufaula has approximately 143,000 acres of water and over 600 miles of shoreline. Average home prices according to one source were about $80,000 in early 2010, although other sources reported them to be a bit higher.
- Paris, TN – Paris is situated between 2 giant lakes, one of them being among the largest man-made lakes in the world. Paris is a small town of about 10,000 in northwest Tennessee, 15 miles from the vast and popular Land Between the Lakes recreation area. Homes often sell below $100,000.
- Murphy, NC – The downtown is beautiful with tree lined streets and many historic buildings restored to their original state. The climate is mild and the scenery is breathtaking with mountains, lakes (several large ones like Lake Hiwassee), and streams. Find homes in the low to mid $100′s.
- St. Petersburg, FL – St. Pete offers a happy compromise in a very livable city,with many desirable neighborhoods and plenty of culture and recreation. Since St. Pete is on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, almost everything is near the water. Prices in the low $100′s.
- Blue Ridge, GA – Blue Ridge is on the border near Tennessee and North Carolina, and has about 1200 residents. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia. Lake Blue Ridge, the Toccoa River, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the southern tip of the Appalachian Trail all draw tourists.
- Port Isabel, TX – Port Isabel is a beach town and a popular resort, as well as being a retirement destination. Fishing, beach going, and relaxing are popular activities. The area is quiet and the weather is warm in the winter.
- Hayesville, NC – Lake Chatuge near Hayesville has over 130 miles of shoreline, much of which can never be developed. The artists’ community in Hayesville is diverse and growing, which gives the town another dimension.
Drawbacks of Living Near the Water
There are always 2 sides to any story. And living near the waterfront is not a total picnic. Consider these drawbacks:
- High insurance costs. Particularly in Florida, hurricane and flood insurance can be very costly and hard to get.
- Natural disasters. Related to above, it is no fun to be evacuated or have your home destroyed. As one of our commenters noted below, hurricanes are a very real threat to just about anywhere on the coast. Some towns have been hit over and over again.
- Man made disasters. The oil spill in the Gulf points out the type of disaster that might await many Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi owners of property on the waterfront. Indeed, some newspaper reports cite that a new wave of foreclosures could come to the Gulf Coast in the wake of the oil spill.
- Taxes. Waterfront properties tend to be worth a lot and appraised accordingly for taxes, so your property taxes will be higher than comparable homes inland.
What do you think?
Give us your suggestions for affordable places to retire on the water. Or throw cold water on ours, for that matter. Use the Comments section below – we would love to hear from you.