April 15, 2014 — 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. Some of these places to retire might not be as chichi as Naples, FL, but there are surprisingly nice places to retire priced below the national median cost of a home. In this, Part 2 of our Affordable Places to Retire on the Water series, we’ve reviewed 10 coastal towns that are reasonably affordable. 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 really gone up since the 2007 recession started hammering real estate. Most of the towns we featured in Part 1 are still affordable, but are not always as inexpensive as they were then.
The other observation we would make is that your best chance of finding an affordable coastal place to retire is in Florida. Perhaps it is the sheer size of its coast and all of the possible places to retire there, or maybe it is a result of the overbuilding in the lead up to the recession, but Florida has many affordable coastal towns.
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 below the national median home price, and on or very near a coast. For the record, Zillow.com reports the median at $169,200, while the National Association of Realtors says it was $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 City-Data.com, the median selling price of a home here was $160,000 in 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. Median home sold between $100,000 – $150,000 in 2013.
Astoria, located on the northwest tip of Oregon, is at the mouth of the Columbia River and just a few miles away from the Pacific. It is the oldest permanent American settlement West of the Rockies – Lewis and Clark stayed here for the winter of 1806. With pretty, scenic backgrounds and a redone 1920s downtown, this relatively un-commercialized community is laid-back. It attracts tourists and retirees because of its location and stock of Victorian homes that date back to the town’s heyday a wealthy salmon fishing/processing location. West coast real estate tends to be expensive, so the early 2014 Zillow Home Value Index of $185,000 makes this relatively affordable.
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. Median home value is about $170,000.
Cambridge, Maryland, is a historic waterfront community on the Chesapeake peninsula of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. One of the oldest colonial cities in Maryland, it is named after the English colonist who settled it in 1684. The city’s population is just over 12,000, the median home value was $150,000 in late 2013.
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. Median home sale is at about $150,000.
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. Prices ranged from about $120,000 to $140,000 in 2013.
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 median home sold for $140,000 in late 2013.
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 median home sale was for $140,000 in 2013’s 4th quarter.
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’ median home price was between $150,000 and $160,000 in late 2013
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.