Britain loves to live beside the seaside

Britons love the seaside and estate agents know it. Buyers face premiums of up to 50% for sea views in desirable areas. So is it still possible to get a good deal?

Whether it's waking up to the sound of the sea, or walking the promenade with an ice-cream in hand, the British love the seaside and estate agents know it. Homes with uninterrupted views of water in the most desirable locations, especially on the south England coastline, regularly sell for premiums of up to 50% on similar properties even a street or two inland, says The Independent. Even in more affordable areas, such as the north of England and Scotland, premiums can be 25%-30%. And when an 85-year-old beach hut sells for £500,000, as one recently did in Dorset's Burton Bradstock, it's obvious that the seaside-property market has gone rather barmy. So is it still possible to get a good deal?

Seaside property: the lure of the South West

Not in the celebrity-saturated South West, where you'll find eight of the ten most expensive seaside towns in the country. It's also where you'll find 27% of the UK's 300,000 holiday homes, according to property-services firm Knight Frank. A recent report from the Halifax found that the most expensive seaside towns are in the South West, with properties in Sandbanks, Dorset, topping the list at an average price of £506,282. Dorset prices are up 217% since 1996, ahead of Somerset on a 212% increase and Devon on 202%. But they all trail behind Cornwall, where prices have risen by up to 268% and the average price is now £204,173.

Why such a fascination with the region? Peter Conradi and Graham Norwood, writing in The Sunday Times, blame it on celebrity chef Rick Stein, who first hit our airwaves in 1995, "singing the praises of British seafood, and by association the charms of his adopted Cornwall".

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Seaside property: look North for bargains

Despite its popularity, the general view is that if you're looking for a bargain, most of the South West is out of bounds. Martyn Rohrs of the Truro branch of Savills tells The Sunday Times that because many of the cottages and country houses people are searching for are becoming more costly, people are hoping to find a run-down barn or farmhouse that can be developed, but most will be disappointed. "It's increasingly a forlorn hope and the reality is these are rare and expensive." First-time buyers in the region are already spending 49% of their take-home pay on mortgage repayments against the national average of 42%, according to Nationwide.

But look to the North and you'll probably find a property at a more reasonable price. Nine of the ten most affordable seaside towns are in Scotland. Hartlepool in the North West of England rounds out the list. The cheapest is the town of Wick, where the average house price in 2005 was £64,612. Seaham in the North West has also registered the highest rate of capital appreciation over the past three years, with prices up 172%.

Seaside property: further expenses to bear in mind

Potential buyers need to be aware that properties built right on the coast are much more exposed to the elements, so there may be further expenses to take into account. "Many people see coastal properties in the best weather conditions," says Plymouth-based Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors spokesperson Roger Punch. "However, they often don't realise that there is a higher level of potential damage, such as high levels of corrosion, the instability of the building and water and salt damage." He says that, in the past, houses were never built in great numbers on the coast because of the damage the sea could inflict. With the potential dangers of global warming to coastal property well documented, he recommends that potential buyers visit the Environment Agency website (, where a free flood-risk assessment can be found.

It is possible to find peace and quite at a sensible price, but if you're looking to work on your tan over the weekend or in your retirement, Scotland probably isn't the place to do it. As Billy Connolly said, "there are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter".

The Most Expensive Seaside Towns in Great Britain

Post Town Region 2005 Average Price (£)

1. Sandbanks South West 506,282

2. Lymington South East 315,019

3. Fowey South West 310, 595

4. Padstow South West 294,103

5. Budleigh Salterton South West 273,359

The Most Affordable Seaside Towns in Great Britain

Post Town Region 2005 Average Price (£)

1. Wick Scotland 64, 612

2. Fraserburgh Scotland 66, 513

3. Thurso Scotland 78, 572

4. Ardrossan Scotland 80,905

5. Peterhead Scotland 82,062

Jody Clarke

Jody studied at the University of Limerick and was a senior writer for MoneyWeek. Jody is experienced in interviewing, for example digging into the lives of an ex-M15 agent and quirky business owners who have made millions. Jody’s other areas of expertise include advice on funds, stocks and house prices.