Essential Questions to Ask Before Investing in Beachfront Real Estate

Essential Questions to Ask Before Investing in Beachfront Real Estate

  • Alissa Christie
  • 11/30/23

In the sphere of prestigious luxury real estate, for many high-end buyers, beachfront properties sit at the top of their list of must-have homes. After all, the allure of waking up to ocean waves crashing upon the shore, evening strolls along your private stretch of sand, and the potential for consistent (and considerable) year-round income in an area as serene and luxurious as Newburyport and Plum Island is compelling.

But that beachfront home also comes with a unique set of conditions and challenges, mainly when that beachfront belongs to the North Atlantic Ocean. It's paramount to exercise due diligence beyond your usual home buying considerations, including the following essential questions to ask before investing in beachfront real estate.

What impact does the natural environment have on the property?

Waterfront property of any kind adds an additional layer of responsibility to your ownership duties. But a beachfront home requires the most scrutiny—both before making a purchase and after you close the deal. The primary reason is the home's natural environment.

More so than a standard luxury home purchase, the ownership challenges of a beachfront property extend well beyond the property itself. Nature can prove a punishing force for any building within a mile of the coast, not to mention its impact on those homes that sit directly on or adjacent to sandy shores. Items to inquire about include:

  • When did the property last flood, if ever? — Beachfront properties often sit at or just above sea level — some areas of Plum Island sit 5 to 7 feet above sea level—which means they could be prone to water intrusion during coastal storms. Inquire about a property's flood zone, past flooding events and future risks and any efforts to mitigate such concerns.

  • What are area erosion rates? — Coastal properties can be prone to land erosion. Check historical data on how much the shoreline has changed over the past decade.

  • How much will tidal rates impact the property? — Understand the property's elevation and how tides could affect the potential for flooding and beach accessibility.

  • What is the wildlife presence near or around the home? — Proximity to the sea often means a different set of fauna. While generally a charming feature, understanding the types of wildlife in your area can better inform your property choice.

  • What is the coastal climate like, and how does it impact the home? — As devastating as a hurricane or tropical storm is, it won't be your most pressing climate concern along the New England coast. Heavy rains and winds can batter the region on a far more regular basis and create just as much havoc as more powerful yet less frequent storms.

What is the maintenance requirement for a beachfront property?

Arguably, the most significant tradeoff in owning a beachfront property is the investment requiring considerably more maintenance than inland counterparts. The need for continuous, ongoing upkeep stems directly from the beachfront property's idyllic location amidst the corrosive effects of the salty sea air.

At times, the maintenance is both time-consuming and costly. But it's necessary if you want to keep your home in excellent condition and retain and improve the value of your investment. Maintenance questions and concerns to examine, especially during the inspection phase of your acquisition, include:

  • What is the property's resistance level to corrosion? — The corrosive nature of salty sea air can wreak havoc on an ill-prepared home. It can impact everything from wood and metal to electrical components and HVAC systems to breaking down building materials, including insulation, concrete, and bricks or stucco. Verifying the overall health and integrity of a home's structural, mechanical and electrical condition is vital to a sound beachfront investment.

  • How robust is the property's weatherproofing? — Given New England's dynamic weather, how are the property's exterior walls, roof, and windows prepared to handle harsh elements? Are they insulated against both heat and cold?

  • What is the condition and health of additional interior and exterior aesthetics? — The more thorough you can vet these areas before purchase, the greater peace of mind you'll have in your investment. Ensure inspections cover paint and flooring, landscaping, sand distribution, pool or spa amenities, docks and piers, and irrigation and water treatment systems (if present).

Are there limitations on use or zoning, or do community regulations govern your beachfront property?

The intricacies of zoning and regulations are a critical aspect of luxury real estate investments, especially for beachfront properties in New England. Unlike standard residential properties, beachfront locales often have unique zoning laws, environmental regulations, or community-specific ordinances. Rules prove even more complex if the home is in a historic district.

Research and partnering with a real estate professional with deep local knowledge can help you make sense of a coastal enclave's dos and don'ts. Start with these critical questions:

  • Is the property zoned purely for residential use? Specific coastal communities incorporate mixed-use classifications with allowances for certain commercial activities. This could influence future resale value or your ability to add amenities or make improvements.

  • Are there restrictive building codes that also limit improvements? Properties along the coastline often have stringent building codes, especially relating to structural integrity and environmental impact. Familiarize yourself with these codes, as they can severely restrict future renovation plans.

  • Does the property have specific setback requirements? Coastal properties typically have rules regarding how close any structure can be to the high tide line. Be sure to understand these limitations, which influence construction and landscaping improvements.

  • Does the community feature an HOA or a specific set of guidelines or restrictions? To maintain the integrity of a beachfront neighborhood and property values, some luxury communities possess and strictly enforce policies that dictate architectural styles or exterior appearance, additions or amenities such as private docks or beach crossovers.

  • Do additional regulations cover the beachfront or adjacent waterways? Based on an area's historical, environmental, or commercial importance, a beachfront property may be subject to limitations due to any number of the following: coastal zone management, wildlife protections, water use and waste management, and beach access and waterway navigational rights. Your real estate advisor may suggest using a knowledgeable land-use attorney should further questions arise.

What do you want out of your beachfront property?

The final question worth asking involves your ultimate ownership goals. Are you acquiring a beachfront property as a primary residence, second or third home, or income generator?

Your answer can have various long-term implications that involve where you buy, your future tax bill, and overall ROI. You'll also need to answer questions about the need for easy access to local roads and services or cultural centers on land and the availability of boating, fishing and other waterborne activities — both for yourself or future renters.

Seeking the advice of a trusted real estate expert who understands the nuances of the coastal marketplace, especially in unique destinations such as Newburyport, can help you make sense of what you're looking for.

Establishing a plan and set of ownership goals early on will make the property search and acquisition a much less stressful and far more successful proposition.

Are you ready to learn more about Newburyport real estate?

While you should never overlook the basics—such as home inspections, title searches, and a thorough vetting of the selling price—it's crucial to recognize that beachfront properties require an extra layer of consideration. These homes aren't just an investment; they're a lifestyle choice with a complex set of variables.

They are also highly lucrative and deeply rewarding, able to fulfill both personal and financial goals for a fortunate owner. If you're ready to explore more of Newburyport real estate, including its luxurious beachfront properties, contact Alissa Christie today to begin your coastal home search.

Work With Alissa

I am dedicated to helping you navigate the process as seamlessly as possible doing everything I can to help you buy the right home at the right price, or get top dollar for what is probably your biggest financial investment.

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