For many decades, the British seaside was the destination of choice for most family summer vacations until cheap flights to the sun caused a major decline from the 1970s. seaside popularity has declined among home visitors (although stays are expected to increase this summer because of you-know-what), the opposite is happening with people who wish to make the coast their permanent place of residence .
Demand for housing in many British coastal communities has grown by 10% (or just over £ 24,000) in the past year, with the average price currently standing at 265, according to a new Halifax Bank survey. £ 978. Salcombe in Devon is the most expensive seaside town in the country, where average prices are not far from £ 1million, even pushing Sandbanks, near Poole in Dorset, to second place (despite regular publicity given at the location by its most famous resident, Harry Redknapp, former manager of Spurs, West Ham and five other big clubs).
But wait. Although the ten most expensive seaside towns are all in England, the ten cheapest are located north of the border. It goes from Millport, the ‘capital’ of Cumbrae Island, which costs £ 74,148, to Stranraer where the average price is £ 110,674.
Significantly, perhaps, eight of the Scottish locations are on the west coast with the other two – Wick and Thurso – in the far north. Despite this, Port Bannatyne on Bute recorded one of Britain’s biggest annual increases – from £ 95,665 to £ 128,405, an increase of more than a third. Across the country, the fishing port of Eyemouth in Berwickshire saw an even larger increase of 36%, from £ 135,754 to £ 183,997, while further up the east coast at Anstruther , prices went from £ 176,073 to £ 215,659.
According to the Halifax, the annual percentage price hike in Eyemouth (2019/20 to 2020/21) was the second largest for a British seaside location while Port Bannatyne was tied with Padstow in Cornwall (location of the famous fish restaurant by Rick Stein) for the largest increase (75%) in ten years. In real terms, however, Port Bannatyne is significantly cheaper than Padstow – £ 128,405 compared to £ 616,368.
Coastal locations have always had a particular appeal for buyers approaching or have reached retirement age, but these numbers may suggest that the appeal is spilling over to the younger and middle age groups. In cities and towns, there has been a marked increase in demand for housing offering greater space (especially outdoor variety) due to covid; after all, what could be better, in terms of space, than a bungalow with a large garden – and the ocean at the end of the road?
However, some people who ‘retired to the seas’ found their choice of location too retirement-oriented and complained about the lack of mixed age groups. Other concerns are access to shops offered by supermarkets, general practitioners’ offices and long travel times for hospital appointments.
The most popular destinations are those which offer the best of both worlds, for example North Berwick, which is the archetype of the attractive small seaside town but which also has good rail and road links to Edinburgh and, for motorists, a easy access to the A1. North Berwick is also the kind of place where a home for sale will attract a wide range of buyers. It wasn’t that long ago that one apartment building we were aware of was selling like hot cakes and demand was coming from all of the adult age bracket.
So while most non-industrial seaside towns may seem attractive places to live, the “place, place, place” rule applies here as well as inland.
David Alexander is Managing Director of DJ Alexander