Updated October 11, 2017 — This article was originally published in April, 2014. Prices have gone up since then in most of these markets, but they are still less expensive than many other coastal towns.
Retiring near the coast is many people’s dream. Visions of beautiful sunrises or sunsets over the water, boating, swimming, fishing, walks on the beach – it sounds great. But one practical thing that often gets in the way is the price of real estate. Those great views and proximity to the water usually come with a price tag that reflects marketplace demand. Fortunately, not every town on the water is out of reach. In this, Part 2 of our Affordable Places to Retire on the Water series, we’ve reviewed 10 coastal towns that are affordable. Some of these places to retire might not be as chichi as Naples, FL, but they are surprisingly nice and reasonable priced. Part 1, “Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront“, came out in 2010 (it included some towns where the waterfront was on a lake, this one does not).
Prices have gone up
The first thing we noticed when compiling this article is that home prices have recovered nicely since the 2007 recession started hammering real estate, and that trend has continued even since we first wrote this in 2014. Most of the towns we featured in the 2014 edition of this article are still affordable, but prices went up for almost all of these towns. We substituted a few towns on this list, some because they got too expensive (Astoria, OR) , and in other cases where we found a nicer town (Chestertown, MD replaced another town in MD). Note that in most cases we used the Zillow Home Value Index to determine cost of real estate. While useful, none of these services offer perfect pricing info.
10 Affordable Towns Near the Coast
The towns profiled here are not all bargains on an absolute basis. But we think they are relatively affordable, considering they are at or near the national median home price, and on or very near a coast. For the record, Zillow.com reports the median home value at $201,900 in Oct., 2017 (vs. $169,200 at the end of 2013), while the National Association of Realtors says it was $255,600 at the end of the 2nd Quarter, 2017 vs. $196,900 at the end of 2013.
New Bern, North Carolina is a historic town located where 2 rivers join to meet the Pamlico Sound on the Southeastern coast of North Carolina. This city of nearly 29,000 has a 56 square block tree lined historic district. According to Zillow.com, the median listing price of a home here was $175,000, up about $15,000 from late 2013.
Apalachicola is a small town of a few thousand people on the Gulf Coast of Florida, about an hour south of Tallahassee. This old and wealthy fishing town has a long history due to its location on the rich fishing and oystering areas of the Gulf Coast. The interesting downtown with many restored buildings reminiscent of the Old South. The Aug. 2017 Zillow Home Value Index was $150,700, an increase from 2013.
Ocean Shores, Washington sits on Point Brown Peninsula, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Grays Harbor. The community is home to 5,622 residents. Once planned as a resort, that idea never materialized. But plots were sold, roads were laid and Ocean Shores began to grow with a construction boom that included marinas, shops, hotels and a golf course. Zillow Home Value Index is a very reasonable $153,400.
Biloxi, Mississippi is on the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Sound. This old town has miles and miles (26) of white sandy beaches and at least 7 major casinos, including the Hard Rock, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and Beau Rivage. Biloxi has a small town feel with low-key neighborhoods spreading out away from the water. The Zillow Home Value Index was $106,200, down considerably from what we reported at the end of 2013.
Chestertown, Maryland, northeast of Annapolis on the Chester River. The population is growing as more people consider it a quiet alternative to places like St. Michaels. In the mid-eighteenth century Chestertown was considered Maryland’s second leading port after Annapolis. It is home to Washington College, the 10th oldest college in the U.S. The Chestertown Home Value Index in mid 2017 was $193,600
Laguna Vista is a small residential community on the southernmost Texas coast near beautiful South Padre Island, Harlingen and Port Isabel, Texas. This popular resort area has a very warm winter climate and is increasingly home to many retirees as well as vacationers. Zillow Home Value Index is $154,000.
Although Englewood‘s population is 18,000 it swells to several times that in the winter. Rotonda West and Placida are 2 smaller communities just to the south. All are located on Manasota Key, a barrier island on southwest Florida’s coastline. Englewood Beach (previously known as Chadwick Beach) is one of four beaches here. Zillow Home Value Index was $222,900 in 2017, up quite a bit from 2013 but still good value for the coast.
Cape Coral, Florida is a relaxed town just north of Ft. Myers along the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico. Cape Coral was named one of the top 25 places to retire by Fortune in 2012. One of the most unusual things about Cape Coral is its access to the water, since it is surrounded by it on 2 sides. It has more than 400 miles of canals; many homes have boats tied up behind them. City-Data.com says the Zillow Home Value Index was $217,800 in late 2017, up considerably from 2013. The NAR reported the Cape Coral/Ft. Myers median home sold for $240,000 in 2017’s 2nd quarter.
The City of Palm Coast is an enormous planned community of 77,000 located on Florida’s northeast coast, equidistant from Jacksonville and Orlando. Many of its residents are active adults living here in retirement. Palm Coast is one of the more interesting planned communities anywhere, with businesses, retail, and residential combined. The Home Value Index was $198,900 in late 2017, well above 2013 prices.
Port Angeles, Washington is a busy port on the northern portion of the Olympic Peninsula. It offers spectacular scenery and recreational opportunities. Port Angeles is home to Peninsula College. Population is about 18,000. This coastal town is tucked between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca with a panoramic view of Victoria and southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is surrounded the by the million acre Olympic National Park. Port Angeles’ Home Value Index was $225,000 in late 2017. While that is above the national Home Value Index, for the Pacific Northwest this is reasonable.
Want more affordable places to retire?
Use the Retirement Ranger, our free, 10 question quiz to find more inexpensive communities. To help research this article we just specified 1 environmental selection – “coastal”, and “lower than average” cost of living. If you expand your search to find affordable cities near “lakes” you will find many many more possibilities.
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 and anywhere near the coast, hurricane and flood insurance can be very costly and hard to get. In some cases there is only 1 insurance provider.
– Natural disasters. Being in a hurricane is no picnic either – they are a very real threat anywhere near the coast. Having to evacuate your home can be very traumatic; worse if it is damaged or destroyed. 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 owners of waterfront property in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
– 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.
For further reference:
Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront, Part 1
Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront, Part 2
10 Affordable and More Best Places to Retire – Part 2
20 Great and Affordable Towns to Retire
8 More Affordable Places to Retire
Most Tax-Friendly Places to Retire
10 Great Places to Retire in the Southwest That Won’t Break Your Budget
Comments? Do you know of a great retirement town on the water that is still affordable? Or do you have some comments about the towns we’ve profiled here? Please share your thoughts and discussion in the “Comments” section below.