A client recently asked us about buying a house on the beach. She wanted to use it for vacations with her family and to rent the house for the remainder of the time to cover costs and financing until she was ready to retire and move down from the North East on a permanent basis. Part of our business is operation and ownership of luxury short-term vacation rentals on Charleston SC's barrier islands, so giving her solid advice on how to achieve this is well within our expertise.
Say the word "beach" and the first thoughts are visual - sun, sea, and sand. Finances permitting, the dream is usually one of buying a vacation home directly on the beach. However, with the unrelenting salt water and sand, beachfront is hard on any material. It will find and exploit any weakness so you can expect maintenance costs to be 30-50% higher than for those homes even just one block back. Expect maintenance frequency to be yearly. We own and manage beachfront properties and have a first person experience at just what comes along with exposure to the sand and surf. How about, instead, sunset or sunrise over a lowcountry marsh or the early morning sea breeze stirring dappled sunlight through the palm fronds? These vistas offer up a changing landscape, rich with the diverse colors of the seasons and the wildlife unique to Charleston's tidal waters.
Let's next take a look at land costs. Anything front beach will typically be two times the cost of the same lot one or two blocks back. There is a reason for this, front beach is just that - a rare commodity. But can you get some of the advantages without the cost? Well yes, sometimes. A typical example would be buying one row back in front of an beachside easement so your view will never be blocked. Or designing the home so living areas are on upper floors, not the first floor, thus claiming both a panoramic view and almost permanent sea breeze to cool those evenings. However, build costs on Folly Beach will be pretty similar, front beach or not, as everywhere is considered V Zone (FEMA flood zone designation) for the purpose of construction and there is little to be saved by reducing material specifications when moving back from beachfront, as overall it is still a marine environment.
Now let's look at how these homes cash flow as rentals. As our client's preference is just that, then it's important to understand the amenities that vacationers look for when planning their beach vacation ... and not surprisingly, that means more than just laying in the sand. How far is it to the bars and restaurants? Do I have shade in the yard or a yard at all? Is there a private pool? Can I walk everywhere? Where is the boat landing? Can I take my son fishing nearby? It's the old real estate adage of "location location location" and for the renter, that does not necessarily mean having to be on the beachfront, provided there are compensatory factors that still will deliver that summer vacation they remember from their childhood ... sandy feet, popsicles on the deck, walking or biking everywhere, and sleeping with the windows open to catch the ocean breeze.
Our client, had similar vacation goals in mind - walks on the beach in the rising and setting sun. Taking the children to the nearby park and fishing for crabs in the afternoon. Surfing at the washout two hours at high tide then spending the afternoon under a tree by the pool. Privacy that allows for quiet evenings spent on outdoor porches or curled up around a fire pit. Watching the investment grow over the years as the returns more than match the costs. We knew that all of this could be achieved for her, and more so, by opening up her search to include properties on Folly Beach that meant she could happily vacation "at the beach" but not necessarily "on the beach." Because of the compact size of Folly Beach and the easy accessibility of the both the beach and the hub of activity of downtown Center Street, Folly in particular, delivers a beach living lifestyle from nearly every corner.
Note: There's a certain type of lifestyle you can only experience from living at the beach, while not living ON the beach. On the west side of Folly Beach, 313 Shadow Race Lane provides just that, sophisticated style and proximity to the beach, yet privacy and relaxation, all at once. Have a look behind the doors of this stunning Folly Beach home and imagine the possiblities ...