Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Beachfront Property
By Richard Tavetian June 17, 2019

SO YOU WANT TO LIVE THE BEACHFRONT LIFE?

Here’s what you will expect in this guide:

A concise, guide to get you closer to owning your beachfront dream home, second home, or vacation rental.

Moreover, below you’ll get 6 Chapters of a beginners guide to get you informed about Real Estate and what it takes to own beach property.

Eager to see beachfront homes right now? Check out my curated Beach Life Listings here.

CHAPTER 1: WHAT KIND OF BEACH-GOER ARE YOU? THE BEACHFRONT LIFESTYLE.

First let’s start with the basics.

Usually, the obvious question when looking for a home on the water is, “What kind of beach-goer are you?”

What prompted you to find this guide?

What kind of lifestyle do you want at the beach?

I’m here to help you find out.

Let’s face it, everyone has their own purpose, values, and goals.

When it comes to buying a home each person is unique, this is why I love my job so much.

It is always a fun challenge to match client needs with their dreams, especially the beachfront dream.

I’ve seen it all. Which of these motivates you the most?

  • Family Vacations
  • A place to “getaway”
  • Water Sports Enthusiast
  • Kayaking & Paddling
  • Vacation Rental Income & Flipper
  • Entertaining, Friends & Parties
  • Investor & Land Development
  • Surfing & Waves
  • Fishing, Shrimping, Oysters
  • A place to relax & unwind

Pick the one (or two) that best suit you and motivate you to find your dream home.

By being clear on “Why” you want a beachfront house you will be well on your way to get it!

CHAPTER 2: THE BEACHFRONT PROPERTY REAL ESTATE PROCESS

Now that you know yourself a bit more, the next step is to understand the process.

Often clients come to me and don’t know how to go about buying a property let alone a beach property–it’s very important to know the buying process.

For instance, check out the 5 Big Mistakes Buyers Make on the Home Search And How To Avoid Them.

Here are some quick tips into my process (I’ll teach you every detailed step and show you the tools when you hire me):

Finding beach property is not just about searching on Zillow and Trulia online–if it were that easy I wouldn’t have a job! ?

In fact a lot of listings on Zillow and Trulia sites are outdated and inaccurate (more on this later).

Don’t miss out on great deals by having inaccurate listings.

With my proprietary “Find Funnel”, tools, and resources I will teach you exactly how to find the property you will absolutely love, get the full market picture, get the best deal, and support you FOR LIFE.

CHAPTER 3: 6 STEPS TO FIND BEACHFRONT PROPERTY

1. Research the areas

It’s important to know the areas you want to buy in. I’d recommend spend at least two weeks of research in surrounding areas.

Do a few things to “test” out the area.

I call this the “Act Like a Local” test: Wake up and get ready for the day as if you are commuting in the morning just to get a feel for things like traffic, drivers, and the neighborhood.

Next do the same thing in the evening as if you are commuting back home.

Then pick a spot with a 5 mile radius and walk around the neighborhoods you’re interested in to get a feel for them.

Only you will know if you like an area or not, plus you know yourself best!

2. Know your beach towns

In other posts I describe the beachfront personalities in the Charleston South Carolina Tri County area and identify how each has its own unique personality. It’s important to look at every beach based on the research suggestions I’ve outlined above. That way you’ll know exactly which one you like the most… even though most beachfront towns are awesome!

3. Know your beachfront lifestyle

Once you know the beaches around you, your own vacationing style, it will make it easier to determine the beach town and home you love the most.

Do you prefer golf, tennis, or water sports activities?

How about alone time and enjoy your own getaway?

Or do you thrive in social situations and enjoy being around others, parties, nightlife?

What about being within walking distance of activities and events?

What’s your preference on indoor/outdoor living?

Prefer to stay in the air conditioning to enjoy a nice view of the ocean?

Do you prefer a smart/tech home or want to keep it simple and minimal?

4. Search, Pick, and Tour your beachfront house

At this point get local MLS listings/alerts from your Realtor and have him/her schedule to see them in-person to you can start touring!

I use my proprietary “Find Funnel” to ensure my clients don’t miss out on any deals.

5. Run the numbers

Work with a Realtor that knows how to run investment numbers, has the right tools available, and can give you detailed information about things like: projected income in the area, costs involved (e.g., property management, property taxes, etc.), projected return on investment, etc.

6. Find a great property management team

If your beachfront property is used as a vacation home a few seasons of the year you want to ensure you have a good property management team to maintain it during the slow season.

CHAPTER 4: WHAT TYPES OF HOMES (BEACHFRONT OR NOT) FOR SALE?

SINGLE FAMILY HOMES. ATTACHED OR DETACHED?

When searching for a home choosing the type of home is a critical part of the home buying process.

There are so many factors to consider when buying a home including the type of home you want to live in that best fits your beachfront lifestyle.

Let’s talk Single Family homes.

There are two types of Single Family homes.

First is the Single family detached home.

This is the most common home folks are familiar with.

This property allow the flexibility of usually being your own boss of the land and any improvements including the house on the property.

Some single family detached homes are subject to Homeowners Associations Covenants Conditions and Restrictions and some are not.

When looking for a single family detached home make sure to identify if the home has an HOA or not.

If they do have an HOA make sure to contact that HOA and work with your Realtor to look through the rules to ensure they fit your lifestyle and find out how much it will cost.

If the home doesn’t have an HOA then you have a lot more flexibility as to what you can do with your home whether you want to paint it purple, pink, or green! ?

This flexibility comes with responsibilities to ensure you maintain all of your property on your own…you’ll essentially be your own boss!

Next is a Single Family attached home.

This is usually considered a Townhouse or Condominium and in most cases they have an HOA governing the rules that you must comply with in your community…again make sure to ask for the HOA CCRs and see if the rules fit your lifestyle and needs.

More on Townhouses and Condos.

CONDO? TOWNHOUSE?

Most folks don’t really understand the difference between a Townhouse and Condominium and in some cases there can be significant differences when you’re looking primarily at Single Family Attached homes like condos or townhouses.

Here are the differences between the two, what you should look out for, and the pros and cons of both.

To absolutely simplify it the most I think of condos as a home where you have to maintain less and a townhouse where you generally have to maintain more.

A bit more in depth

Depending on your Homeowners Association Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions also know as your HOA CC&Rs…in most cases for condos you’ll have to maintain the interior…so from wall to wall, carpet to ceiling…now like I said if your HOA CCRs have this there could be exceptions but in most cases you will be responsible for the interior of your home because that’s what you have ownership in…that means you and only you need to maintain the interior of your home…nobody else can change your interior paint for example…it’s up to you.

Many condos also have this concept of ownership in common where you and you neighbors have shared ownership in the common areas such as the building’s roof, hallways, windows, electrical systems, landscapes, etc…this ownership in common is all driven by what the developer writes in your HOA CCRs.

What’s the difference?

Now…condos are usually different than townhouses because townhouses extend ownership a bit more…again depending on your CCRs…but most townhouses I’ve seen you have ownership of your interior AND ownership of your exterior where your property line which includes the land, roof, windows, and anything on that land is individual ownership….in addition to this you will still have ownership in common on certain amenities like tennis courts, pools, etc that your HOA defined in the CCRs.

Are you noticing a trend here?

I always recommend my clients request the Homeownership Association’s Covenants Conditions and Restrictions if they’re serious about the property they’re interested in so they know exactly what they will own.

Every HOA has different rules and restrictions that you need to be aware of

If I show a client a property with an HOA and they want to move forward with the property before even considering an offer I make sure to request the CCRs from the HOA and get that information to them to help them understand which pieces they will own individually or in common with their neighbors.

This will also give you an idea of what the HOA will be maintaining when you pay them either annually or monthly for their HOA or regime fees.

Now…when I have clients that are looking primarily at these property types I need to understand their lifestyle a bit more to support their decision.

How comfortable are you with maintenance of your home?

More specifically are you willing to put the time, effort, and cost is takes to maintain your property (e.g., mowing and watering the lawn, gardening, roof maintenance, etc.)?

These usually give me a better idea of if a condo or townhouse is for them…not that it’s my decision but I can provide more counsel and advice to my client if I have this information from them.

Since everyone is different I’ll go through both scenarios…I’ll just call them Handyman Hank and Traveling Tom.

Handyman Hank is great with repairs or is at least willing to learn about maintaining his property if something breaks.

If Handyman Hank wants a condo or townhouse I’d usually recommend both to him to keep his options open but leaning more towards the townhouse because he will have the ability to maintain not only the interior but in some cases the exterior of his property.

Traveling Tom works for a company where he’s expected to travel often.

Because he’s mostly on the road he has enough time to maintain the interior of his home…basic cleaning and small maintenance but he doesn’t have much time to keep up with the exterior of his home like landscaping and plowing.

In Tom’s case if he doesn’t keep up with the exterior of a Townhouse, for example, he may be fined by his HOA so I’d generally recommend to focus on a Condo with him because of his limited time available for property maintenance…but he feels strongly about a Townhouse I always recommend to keep your options open for both.

So there you have it…there really isn’t a black and white answer because it really depends on your lifestyle or situation…what I’ve highlighted here today are just a few examples…you may have a more complex situation but if you have a great Realtor by your side he or she can guide you to the best property decision for you.

CHAPTER 5: 5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN OWNING A BEACHFRONT HOUSE

Living on the coast or having a beachfront property is amazing but it’s important to protect your investment.

You’ll need to consider the following:

Flood Insurance

This is particularly important if you’re a 10-second walk from the beach. Do your research and ensure you’re not in a flood zone, if you are then flood insurance is a necessity in case there is very high tide or a storm surge. Although in South Carolina and other coastal states many beach houses are built high up on stilts to withstand the strongest storms, make sure you have this insurance.

Natural Disasters

Make sure you homeowners insurance has the option for natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Bugs and Pests

Termites, bugs, and pests live and thrive near the water. Make sure to have a termite bond and exterminator periodically treat your house to prevent and control little critters from coming in.

Property Management

If you’re investing in a beach house and don’t want to manage the property on your own you may need to hire a property manager to collect rent, handle paperwork, coordinate leases, etc. Pricing is always negotiable but expect to pay 6-12% of the monthly rental cost.

Property Taxes

In some states you’ll pay property tax differences between living in a home (owner-occupied) and having a secondary home as an investment.

In South Carolina it’s important to know you’ll have an assessment ratio of 4% or 6% is used when calculating your property taxes for owner-occupied or investment property, respectively.

CHAPTER 6: “THE SHARING ECONOMY” BEACHFRONT FOR SHORT TERM RENTALS, AIRBNB and VRBO – FOR INVESTORS

The sharing economy is at an all time high.

Websites like Airbnb, VRBO, VacationRentals, etc. are booming and “hosting” is a hot way to make some extra income on properties.

Beachfront properties are the most desirable, have opportunities for higher margins, and more desirable than non-waterfront property for travelers.

However, know your ordinances locally in your area. In particular with Charleston South Carolina I explain them here: 6 Things To Know Before Your List Your Airbnb Vacation Rental Charleston SC Edition

Vacationers are more likely to want to be near the ocean, water, beach, or lake for their getaway.

They will pay a premium, this is in your favor.

Consider this:

High Demand, Low Cost of Living

With many retirees fleeing northeast and other regions due to high cost of living, people are turning to the southeast.

States like South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and other lower cost regions due to generally lower income tax.

Low Property Taxes

South Carolina state is #6 of the Lowest Real Estate Property Taxes in the U.S.

Inexpensive Homes*

As of 2017, on average homes in South Carolina state sell at $138k. Average in Charleston County (coastal, beachfront, waterfront): $300k.

*The market moves very fast and can change these home prices.

The “Sharing Economy” Result

Low Cost of Living, Low Property Taxes, and High Demand calls for a great condition to invest.

Bottom Line

Now that you’ve read all that.. and didn’t just skip to the bottom.. I hope. ?

You’re ready and confident to find your future beachfront home and live the beachfront lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of sipping margaritas, dipping your toes in the ocean, and wiggling your toes in the sand.

About the Author

Mr. Richard Tavetian is licensed REALTOR® in Charleston South Carolina.

He is a Beach-obsessed foodie and Real Estate Agent that specializes in Beachfront, Waterfront, and Luxury properties.

He is the host of BeachLifeTV™ and is known on Instagram as @BeachPropertyGuy 

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