Kids frolicking in the sand. Afternoons spent on the sailboat. Watching the sun set over the water. Ponying up a $50,000 monthly mortgage payment. Because you need that kind of cash to be able to afford a beach house, right?
Maybe not. SmartAsset’s 2019 look at the most affordable beach towns in the country might surprise you.
“To rank the most affordable beach towns in America, we examined four factors,” they said. “Specifically, we looked at the median home value, the average number of rooms per house, median property taxes and median housing costs.” Their methodology took into account “229 cities located directly on an ocean (including bays and sounds), using data from the Census Bureau’s 2017 5-Year American Community Survey.
Among their key findings: “Every city ranked in the top 10 is in a Gulf Coast State.” In fact, Mississippi and Florida each had four spots in the top 10, and the other two went to Texas. The list of 25 affordable beach towns is sprinkled with coastal spots from a handful of other states: South Carolina, Alabama, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. There is also just one California town on the list, the Northern California site of painted lady Victorian homes and soaring redwood trees, Eureka. “Seven of the 10 least affordable beach towns are in California,” they said. “Two of these cities include Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.”
Pack your swimsuits and flip-flops, and call the movers. You’re going to want to move to one of these affordable beach towns.
10. Fort Pierce, FL
Coming in at No. 10 on the SmartAsset list, “Fort Pierce is located along Florida’s eastern coast and comes with a median home value of just $91,400.” That’s not the lowest among their winners; it’s the third-lowest. “Low property taxes and housing costs helped boost the city’s ranking, but small homes with a limited number of rooms explain why it didn’t rise higher.”
9. Fort Walton Beach, FL
“Fort Walton Beach ranked at least 31st in three out of our four metrics. The city’s highest-ranking metrics came in median home value and median annual property taxes. It takes 22nd and 25th in these factors, respectively.”
8. Melbourne, FL
Melbourne is Southeast of Orlando, and right on the “Space Coast,” as the area around Cape Canaveral is called. It attracts tons of families with low home prices. “The average home is worth just under $140,000 per year,” said SmartAsset. But homes that are on the small side can be cramped for larger families. “The typical home here has 5.8 rooms, 129th most according to our analysis of beach towns.”
7. Freeport, TX
We interrupt this discussion of Florida to present a Texas option for affordable beach living. Located on the Gulf of Mexico and just about an hour from Houston, Freeport has an exceptionally low median home value of just $69,300. “But median housing costs and property taxes are slightly up” this year.
6. Ocean Springs, MS
Big homes (“equipped with 6.4 rooms, the most in our top 10”), low prices, and a location that is beloved as a “hamlet on the Gulf (that) is a confluence of Southern charm, thriving new businesses, and a stellar arts scene,” said Coastal Living, make Ocean Springs an easy choice.
5. Bay St. Louis, MS
We’re back in Mississippi, but this time it’s the charming town of Bay St. Louis, located 90 miles east of New Orleans. “Median housing costs here run just shy of $800 per month, or $9,300 per year. Property taxes here are also not too significant given the median property value in Bay St. Louis. The average property taxpayer pays $1,088 per year for an effective property tax rate of 1.64%.”
4. Port Arthur, TX
Ninety miles east of Houston and home to the largest oil refinery in the country, Port Arthur has a staggeringly low average home value of $64,300 and a monthly housing cost under $600. “But the relatively high property taxes and small homes hurt Port Arthur’s ranking. Property taxes in Port Arthur are fairly high for its value, and the average home has fewer than six rooms.”
3. Biloxi, MS
“The average home in Biloxi costs just $800 per month, fifth lowest in our study. Along with low housing costs, property taxes should not stop the average American from buying a home here. Surveys conducted by the Census Bureau estimate the average annual cost of property taxes is slightly less than $1,100 per year, or less than $100 per month.”
2. Pensacola, FL
Pensacola has the distinction of being one of the country’s earliest European settlements and also ranks on #37 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Places to Live. The city has “low home values, affordable housing costs and relatively low property taxes. The median home here is worth slightly less than $156,000, 11th lowest in our study, and the annual property taxes for the average home cost slightly less than $1,200 per year, a top-20 score.”
1. Gulfport, MS
The most affordable beach town on SmartAsset’s nationwide list is the second-largest city in Mississippi and a favorite spot for vacationers as well as full-time residents. You can purchase a home for just over $118,000 and expect to pay a little more than $800 monthly. Expect a small-ish home if you’re looking to save money, though. “Relative to those in other cities we analyzed, Gulfport homes can be slightly small. The average home here has 6.1 rooms, the 89th most in the study.”
You can check out the rest of the list here.