6 Questions to Ask to Find the Beach House of Your Dreams

Part of the mystique of a beach getaway is that you are far, far away from your normal life and concerns. But here’s the rub: like any other commute, getting from your home to your home-away-from-home will eventually feel like a chore. You are less likely to use and enjoy a beach house that is hard to get to.

Some beach towns, like Rumson, New Jersey, are right next door to the big city. Longer distances get more deceptive. For instance, from New York City, getting to a beachfront cottage in rural Maine could easily take you ten hours or more. In about half that time, you could be arriving at your cottage in Bermuda.

What is your Perfect Beach?

When you visualize life on the beach, are you imagining a party atmosphere? A secluded, sexy, arc of sand? A rocky windswept coastline where you can almost smell the salmon offshore? A quiet but social marina where neighbors trade fish tales? All of these beaches are available, and to a surprising degree, they are available all over the world. You can find something approximating the sultry tropics in Oregon, and crowded party beaches in Scotland. So you want to spend some time absorbing the specific atmosphere of the places you are considering; don’t just go by the regional standard.

What do you like to do with / on the ocean?

If you want to look at the ocean, but you don’t like getting seasick or getting sand in your sandals, you have a wide range of options. These including “beach” cottages that are a mile inland, which sometimes command truly majestic views, depending on the topography. If you like to swim or hang out on the beach, you want to be closer. And if you boat, then you really have tough choices to make. If the boat itself is your second home, the beachfront property is just a place to tie it up. Sure, you could find a marina down the road. But nothing compares to having your own dock, even if that means you have to compromise on some other points.

The Climate Question

Climate change is a complex and controversial topic. A lot of the time, that gets played out in terms of an abstract us-vs.-them politics. But if you are buying property on a beach, it gets very real. Because that decision, more than probably any other decision you will make in your life, is affected by climate.

Some beaches seem to be fine, despite the doomsayers. Other beaches have always gotten hit with periodic storms, and you need to factor that into your calculus. But some beachfront properties are definitely getting more risky by the year. Politics aside, you need to pay attention to the local trends.

Do you plan on hosting?

For many people, having a second home is a way of sharing your lifestyle with family and friends. “If that is an important aspect of what you are looking for in a beach house, it changes the equation a bit,” said RE/MAX Surfside. A cozy little one-bedroom cottage might be fine for your own needs. But if you want to host large gatherings, you need some more rooms and parking, and you need a slightly different feel: a kitchen built to do real work and a plumbing system that isn’t going to throw in the towel.

Are the fundamentals sound?

When you bought your first home, you probably got someone to take a look at things for you. Was the foundation solid? Was there water damage? Was the plumbing about to fall through the floor? All of those unromantic things are a crucial part of what is usually the largest purchase of someone’s life.

Buying a beach home can feel completely romantic, so it is tempting to forget about looking under the hood. But beach homes, even more than other properties, ought to be checked over very thoroughly. They take the brunt of fairly extreme weather. Many of them were built on the cheap, as seasonal dwellings, and upgraded later. If a house is picture-perfect but has no real foundation and dubious wiring, sometimes the wise move is to walk away.