Does the warm summer weather have you dreaming of buying a beach home? Here's a look at five oceanfront communities that the folks at RealtyTrac believe offer America's best combination of good weather, low crime and modest housing prices.
"A good beach town doesn't just look good on a postcard, but feels good to be there -- to see the sun, breathe the fresh air and enjoy the warm temperatures," says Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac, which recently named the Top Beach Town Housing Markets.
The firm analyzed the weather patterns, median home values and crime statistics for all U.S. oceanfront communities with 5,000 residents or more to pick its choices for America's top coastal towns.
Blomquist says the best beach communities are all generally off the beaten path and have 40,000 residents or less. "We tended to find that smaller towns made the best, least-expensive beach locations," he says.
But while he says the winners are great markets for people looking to buy vacation or retirement homes, they're not necessarily the top choices for investors.
That's because all of the communities below have median home prices higher than the roughly $180,000 U.S. average, while Blomquist says today's "sweet spot" for investors typically involves properties that sell for $150,000 or so.
"If you're an investor looking for the best returns for rentals, these are probably not the markets to go to," he says. "But if you're buying a place to live in as a vacation home or eventual retirement home, these are great locations."
Read on to check out RealtyTrac's picks for America's best oceanfront housing markets.
Estimated home prices refer to the projected median value of residences in each community as of April and include all local houses, condos and townhouses (not just those up for sale). Crime grades reflect a RealtyTrac analysis of FBI statistics, while air-pollution scores reflect U.S. Environmental Protection Agency numbers for last year and weather figures cover National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data for 2001-13.
Fifth-best U.S. beachfront market: Marco Island, Fla.
Part of the Ten Thousand Islands chain along South Florida's Gulf Coast, this popular beachfront community has good air-quality 98% of the time, sunny days 73% of the time and a 75-degree year-round average temperature.
Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the 16,400-person community also enjoys an "A" grade for low crime. Additionally, RealtyTrac found that the typical Marco Island home costs an estimated $415,963 -- well below what you'll find in pricier South Florida locales such as Key Biscayne (median price: $922,002).
"Marco Island is a really quality beach location that's less expensive than many other places not only in Florida, but also in costlier states like Hawaii and California," Blomquist says. The island is in Collier County, a market that's popular with vacation-home buyers but generally has lower prices than nearby Miami-Dade County.
Click here to check out some Marco Island listings.
Fourth-best U.S. beachfront market: Wailuku, Hawaii
This 15,300-population community on Maui Island boasts good air quality 100% of the time, along with a 75-degree average temperature and sunny days 73% of the time.
"Hawaii is just off the charts in terms of air quality because you're far from the mainland and a lot of industry that causes air pollution," Blomquist says. "It also has great weather and some of the highest average temperatures we found."
In fact, the only real problem RealtyTrac found in Wailuku and some other Hawaiian beach communities is somewhat elevated crime. For instance, Wailuku gets only a "B" for crime levels, whereas all of the mainland communities on RealtyTrac's rundown score an "A" or "A+."
If you still want to say "aloha" to Wailuku, click here to check out a list of properties available for purchase there. RealtyTrac says the typical Wailuku home costs $412,084.
Third-best U.S. beachfront market: Waianae, Hawaii
Located on Oahu Island some 30 miles northwest of Honolulu, Waianae combines near-perfect weather with relatively low property prices.
A median home in the 13,200-population community costs $309,328 -- modest for a beachfront town -- while Waianae enjoys good air quality 100% of the time, sunny weather 74% of days and a 76-degree average temperature.
On the downside, the community gets only a "B" for crime, while some 20% of locals live below the poverty line and Waianae has a large homeless population.
Still interested? You can check out Waianae property listings here.
Second-best U.S. beachfront market: Naples, Fla.
Naples is just 20 miles north of Marco Island, but Blomquist says median homes there cost less in part because they're on the mainland.
"Both communities are in [reasonably priced] Collier County, but Naples is significantly less expensive," he says. "So if you want to get the very best prices, Naples is probably the better choice for you."
RealtyTrac estimates that the typical property there costs $243,910, or 41.3% less than you'd pay in Marco Island.
But because the two communities are so close, they have identical climates: good air quality 98% of the time, sunshine 73% of days and a 75-degree average temperature. And like Marco Island, 19,500-population Naples gets an "A" for low crime.
Click here for a look at Naples' property listings.
Best U.S. beachfront market: Hobe Sound, Fla.
Tiger Woods, Celine Dion and other celebrities own or have owned homes in or near Hobe Sound, while Burt Reynolds' place has fallen into foreclosure and is available for $4.9 million.
If that's too costly for you, RealtyTrac estimates a median-priced property in this community 100 miles north of Miami runs just $191,189 -- the lowest price of any place on the firm's list of best beachfront markets.
"Hobe Sound is relatively close to Miami, but you'll find much better prices there because it's a smaller town and much more secluded," Blomquist says.
The 11,500-resident community also gets an "A+" for low crime and offers a great climate. It has good air quality 98% of the time, sunny weather 64% of days and a 76-degree average temperature year round.
Check out Hobe Sound's real-estate listings here.
This article was republished with permission from TheStreet.