Looking for a Beach House? It’ll Cost You
In the first century B.C., the Roman poet Horace wrote, “Reason and sense remove anxiety/Not villas that look out upon the sea.” Two thousand years later — reasonable or not — people are still paying top dollar for waterfront homes, attracted by hypnotic waves, briny top notes and deep-blue horizons.
Even with the effects of climate change turning coastal properties into cause for anxiety, rather than an antidote, there remains a strong demand. At least that’s the consensus of five real estate brokers interviewed for this special “What You Get” column devoted to beach houses.
“The stock market’s doing well; there is more discretionary income for people who want to realize the dream of a tropical getaway,” said Jeffrey Burns, an agent at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty on Captiva Island, a sliver of land off the Florida Gulf Coast.
“We don’t see people being paranoid about buying,” said Mark Fisher, the manager of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realty’s office in Glen Arbor, Mich., which is wedged between a great lake and two smaller ones, and where some homeowners have watched rising water levels submerge their beaches bit by bit.
“Waterfront is always desirable, and there are always risks associated with it, whether you believe in climate change or not,” said Doug Coby of Rescue Dog Realty, in southern Connecticut. “People always want to be near the beach.”
Lately, scientists working with data from companies like Zillow and Realtor.com have offered detailed pictures of those risks.
Research published this year by the nonprofit First Street Foundation and Columbia University analyzed the effects of tidal flooding caused by sea-level rise on the relative value of coastal residential property in 18 states, from Maine to Texas, between 2005 and 2017. It showed an erosion of $15.9 billion that might have been avoided with less greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
The researchers also created a public database called FloodIQ that allows homeowners to enter their addresses and learn their risks of inundation, under various conditions, for the next 15 years.
A study last year by the Union of Concerned Scientists similarly analyzed the effects of sea-level rise on residential and commercial property values for the entire coastline of the lower 48 states. The study concluded that “more than 300,000 of today’s coastal homes, with a collective market value of about $117.5 billion today, are at risk of chronic inundation in 2045 — a time frame that falls within the life span of a 30-year mortgage issued today.”
Florida will be the biggest loser, the study predicted, with a million homes under water by the year 2100, followed by New Jersey (250,000 homes) and New York (143,000 homes). A publicly accessible database breaks down the figures by state, community and ZIP code.
Still thinking about that beach house? Horace also wrote, “Let him live beneath the open sky/and dangerously.” Here are five properties for sale on or near the water in a variety of regions, with some words about their environmental conditions.
Bolinas, Calif. | $3.625 Million
A three-building complex in the California Modern style, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms
Designed by Richard Borgstrom, a local architect, and built by Robert Callagy Jones as his own home, this property consists of a main house, guesthouse and bunkhouse, and is a bit less than half a mile from the Pacific Ocean. The weathered wood-and-glass buildings set the tone for the dozens of houses the two men designed in Bolinas after the Summer of Love, in 1967, when artists and surfers discovered the Northern California beach community, about 45 minutes northwest of San Francisco. (The Bay Area’s moneyed tech crowd has by now made the discovery as well, and home prices in Bolinas have shot up in recent years.)
Size: 3,768 square feet
Price per square foot: $962
Indoors: The main house has vaulted ceilings, redwood walls and terra-cotta tile floors. Two bedrooms are on the first floor, including the original master, which has a wood-burning fireplace, a study niche and sliding doors opening to a large central patio. The owner of the home in the 1970s added a second-floor bedroom suite with a small balcony.
An upstairs bedroom with a fireplace was also added to the shingled guesthouse, which is built on piers and has an open-plan first floor with pine walls and floors and multiple decks.
The one-story bunkhouse has two bedrooms and a Jack-and-Jill bathroom.
Outdoor space: The 2.83-acre property is bounded on two sides by Point Reyes National Seashore, framing what the listing agent described as a “wedding lawn” beside the main house, with distant ocean views. There is also a carport and a shed.
Environmental factors: Although Bolinas has suffered beach erosion requiring some houses to be moved back from the shore, it is not at risk of serious flooding, and this house is at the edge of a mesa that rises 100 feet above sea level.
Contact: B.G. Bates, Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, 415-706-1026; 10purplegate.com
Truro, Mass. | $1.2 Million
A 1930 beachfront bungalow on Cape Cod, with three bedrooms and one bathroom
This shingled cottage on the outer Cape frequently attracts artists who drop by to ask if they can paint it. It is on Shore Road, on a narrow stretch of land between Cape Cod Bay and East Harbor, in the Beach Point neighborhood of North Truro.
Size: 1,068 square feet
Price per square foot: $1,124
Indoors: The owner, who inherited the property from her family, updated the kitchen and bathroom at some point, but has mostly maintained its vintage character. Small, bright rooms with hardwood floors are separated by columns poised on partial walls. The living room has a white-painted brick fireplace. There is a rocking-chair porch facing the front lawn and garden, and an open-beamed back porch with tile floors and three full walls of windows looking out to the ocean.
Outdoor space: The 0.13-acre lot includes a detached, shingled garage with a matching hip roof and room for two cars. A piece of the property is across the road and used for extra parking.
Environmental factors: Last year, Provincetown, less than three miles up the road, experienced its worst flooding in 70 years, leading a number of homeowners to elevate their properties, but Truro has remained relatively unscathed. In its most dire scenario, the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that five of the 2,549 houses in the community will be at risk of inundation by 2030, with the number rising to 308 by the end of the century. This house is in a FEMA flood zone, and the owner carries flood insurance, which the buyer may assume for $5,000 a year. Shoreline erosion is a chronic concern, and the bulkhead at Beach Point is being replaced because of its age.
Contact: Rose Kennedy, Kinlin Grover Real Estate, 508-560-0866; rosekennedy.kinlingrover.com
A Vintage Florida Cabin
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Sanibel Island, Fla. | $800,000
A two-bedroom, one-bathroom wood cottage built in 1957, one parcel away from the beach
This midcentury house is on the east end of Sanibel Island, 23 miles southwest of Fort Myers, Fla. — a causeway leads to the mainland — and a two-minute walk from a historic lighthouse and park. Two-thirds of the island is conservation land or federal wildlife preserve, and strict regulations limit development there.
Size: 960 square feet
Price per square foot: $833
Indoors: The home’s original wood floors and ceilings have been preserved. The great room has a vaulted ceiling, rows of louvered windows and walls with natural wood siding up to waist level and painted wood, with perpendicular graining, above that. A galley kitchen is tucked into a corner. The two bedrooms share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom with a blue-and-white tile floor.
Outdoor space: The half-acre lot is large by Sanibel standards and planted with palms, sea grape and sea oats. There is a raised porch facing the beach off the great room, as well as a yard.
Environmental factors: The house is elevated on short piers and has survived two hurricanes: Charley (2004) and Irma (2017). But it requires flood insurance if buyers take out a mortgage. Of Sanibel’s 8,657 homes, 342 are at risk of inundation by 2030, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ worst-case scenario. By the end of the century, if insufficient measures are taken to arrest climate change, that number is predicted to increase to 8,289.
Taxes: $6,521 (2018)
Contact: Jeffrey Burns or Tiffany Burns, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, 239-395-5847; sothebysrealty.com
A Lakefront Escape
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Glen Arbor, Mich. | $639,000
A 1960 cottage with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and 78 feet of lake frontage
If the back of your left hand were a map of Michigan, this house would be near the top of your pinkie. It is in the township of Glen Arbor, a small tourist community 25 miles northwest of Traverse City that is between Lake Michigan and two smaller inland lakes and surrounded by the 71,000-acre Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The price is low for waterfront homes in the area because of the narrow lot, the proximity to the M-22 state road and the house’s modest size.
Size: 1,265 square feet
Price per square foot: $505
Indoors: The home looks small from the road, but it is built into a bank overlooking Big Glen Lake. Last remodeled in the mid-1990s, when the upper floor was added, the house has expanses of textured drywall trimmed in knotty pine and wide windows with water views.
The kitchen, tucked into a niche, has tiled countertops and backsplash, and knotty-pine cabinets. There is a bedroom and bathroom (with paneled walls and blue-tile accents) on each of the three levels.
Outdoor space: The lower two levels have decks. The 1.18-acre property jumps the road and backs up to Sleepy Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The lake frontage has a sandy bottom, and there is a private dock.
Environmental factors: Although FEMA has classified all of Lake Michigan’s shoreline in the township of Glen Arbor as a flood zone, no areas more than 125 feet inland are considered prone to flooding.
Taxes: $6,637 (2018)
Contact: Mark Fisher or Peter Fisher, Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors, 231-633-5041; cbgreatlakes.com
A Connecticut Island Cottage
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Cedar Island, Conn. | $299,900
A shingled house built in 1930, with three bedrooms and one bathroom, on the end of a peninsula that can be reached only by private boat
Cedar Island lies across a harbor from Clinton, Conn., on the north edge of the Long Island Sound. No longer an actual island — it is attached by a marshy spit to Hammonasset Beach State Park — it is nonetheless inaccessible by any means but private vessel. One of about 50 seasonal homes on the island, this house has a direct water view across a vacant lot and is owned by the real estate broker. It has been thoroughly remodeled and is being sold with all of its furnishings and appointments.
Size: 1,040 square feet
Price per square foot: $288
Indoors: The décor is modeled on Nantucket cottages, with exposed ceiling rafters, white bead-board walls and blue-painted floors. The living room has a marbleized wood fireplace, sofas and beachy lounge chairs.
The kitchen has new cabinets, new appliances, including a propane refrigerator, and a farmhouse sink. It is separated from the dining area by a marble-topped breakfast bar.
Two downstairs bedrooms share a bathroom with a combined tub and shower. The third bedroom is upstairs, under a gable.
Outdoor space: Residents keep Boston whalers or skiffs in marinas on the mainland and use them for the minute-long ride to the island, parking them at a dock on the north side, about 500 feet from this property. (Car parking is available at the marinas, as well.) Each house has its own solar package providing electricity, and propane is used for fuel. A line from Clinton Harbor conveys public water, which is turned off from November to April. This home’s lot is 0.16 acres.
Environmental factors: Much of the island was submerged by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This property is elevated about two feet and came through the ordeals with minimal damage.
Insurance in this flood zone is strongly recommended, if not mandatory. Of the 6,933 homes in Cedar Island’s 06413 ZIP code area, which includes the mainland, 98 are deemed at risk of inundation by 2030, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ worst-case scenario; the number rises to 837 by 2100.
Taxes: $4,922, plus a $250 annual homeowner’s association fee
Contact: Doug Coby, Rescue Dog Realty, 203-645-2453; rescuedogrealty.com
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Published at Fri, 02 Aug 2019 14:05:30 +0000