The chance to live near water is an opportunity few people turn down. Although the practical reasons not to buy a waterfront vacation home are myriad — the expense of maintaining a second house, the potential for natural disasters and the cost of flood insurance, for starters — many people do it anyway.
Glenn S. Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty, a Web-based brokerage of lake-related real estate, says this pull toward water is “primal,” and he has the numbers to prove it. So far this year, $40 billion in lake property has been sold in the United States.
“We need to be near water,” he said. “It soothes us.”
Allison Stine, a Long & Foster agent in Sussex County, Del., agrees.
“I hear a lot of people from Washington, D.C., telling me the minute they cross the Bay Bridge they have this overwhelming sense of [peace],” she said. “They are attracted to the lifestyle. They have means. They feel like this is a great investment in their family. . . . Some people just don’t want to rent.”
Phillips says the largest cohort of lake-home buyers is ages 55 to 64 and the second biggest is 65 years and older.
“They have more money,” he said. “They’re flexible, not as bound by school systems.”
Stine, who sells more than 100 homes a year, many of them beach properties, says her buyers fit into three categories: those who buy a beach house for their own use, those who buy one planning to eventually retire there and those who buy one with plans to rent it out when they are not using it.
While the rest of the housing market struggles with low inventory, the market for beach houses is more balanced.
“If somebody really wanted a beach house right now, I think they’d find a good selection,” Stine said. “There’s a misconception that you need millions of dollars to get by the water, and that’s just not true. . . . [Recently] I showed a gorgeous, gorgeous four-bedroom townhouse that is 20 steps to the ocean that is one-third the cost of the house directly across the street from the ocean.”
The problem Stine runs into is that most people fantasize about a single-family beach house and won’t consider a townhouse or a condo, even though they may be spending only a handful of nights in it each year.
“Sometimes they come here with their minds completely closed,” Stine said. “By not considering everything that’s available in their price range I think some people are actually missing out. . . . They don’t have to compromise on location if they would just open their minds to the possibility of a condo.”
The biggest market for lake homes is not surprisingly around one of the biggest lakes, Lake Michigan, according to Lake Homes Realty’s Summer 2019 Lake Real Estate Market Report. Deep Creek Lake in Maryland is the biggest lake-home market in the state, while Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke is the biggest lake-home market in Virginia.
“Many of today’s lake-home buyers believe we are at or near a market price peak,” Phillips said. “They show little appetite for paying what they believe is an unrecoverable premium as we approach an inevitable economic downturn.”
If living near the water appeals to you, we have some homes to show you. With the help of Realtor.com, we have rounded up a dozen beach and lake houses for sale. As you can see, they come in a variety of sizes and can be opulent or cozy. Some are year-round homes, while others are weekend getaways. But all have one thing in common: water.
4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms.
Square footage: 2,275.
Price per square foot: $205.
Lot size: N/A.
Features: The bay front condo at Mallard Cove on the Bay has views of the Ocean City skyline and Assawoman Bay. The kitchen has granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. The unit has a private elevator to the entrance of the home and a two-car garage. The community includes a swimming pool, crabbing pier, boat slips and a private beach. The home is sold fully furnished. The monthly homeowners association fee is $168.
Listing agent: Allison Stine, Long & Foster.
4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms.
Square footage: 1,644.
Price per square foot: $364.
Lot size: 0.44 acre.
Features: The 2013 house is one of the many colorful houses on stilts along the Bolivar Peninsula, a 27-mile stretch of land in the Gulf of Mexico north of Galveston. The main living area has views of the water. The kitchen has a large island and opens to the spacious, partially covered deck. Two of the bedrooms also have views of the Gulf.
Listing agent: Luz Gray, Cobb Real Estate.
2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
Square footage: 3,400.
Price per square foot: $231.
Lot size: 2.76 acres.
Features: The 1997 house on Kachemak Bay has expansive views of the Grewingk Glacier and Kenai mountain range from the living room. Wildlife such as moose, bear, eagles, cranes, pheasant and shorebirds roam the property. The master bedroom opens to a deck with stairs to the backyard and rocky beach. A four-car garage is attached.
Listing agent: Kary Brinson, Homer Seaside Properties.
3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms.
Square footage: 2,455.
Price per square foot: $527.
Lot size: 4.79 acres.
Features: The 2007 contemporary is on the Wisconsin River, just north of Lake Wisconsin. The wooded lot has 371 feet of waterfront. The house has 9- to 12-foot ceilings, oak and marble flooring, and doors with concealed hinges. The kitchen was designed by Snaidero. The screen porch has a built-in grill.
Listing agent: Brandon Grosse, Accord Realty.
4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms.
Square footage: 4,100.
Price per square foot: $632.
Lot size: 1.6 acres.
Features: The 2017 house in the Vandevert Ranch community is on Rainbow Lake with views of Mount Bachelor. It was designed by Bozeman, Mont., architect Jerry Locati. The main living area has a stone fireplace, beamed ceiling and a wall of glass that overlooks the water. The large island in the kitchen is topped with stainless steel. The master suite has a fireplace and opens to a screened porch. The terrace has a built-in grill and large fireplace.
Listing agent: Deb Tebbs, Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty.
5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms.
Square footage: 3,485.
Price per square foot: $861.
Lot size: 0.51 acre.
Features: The 1978 house on Three Mile Harbor has an open floor plan with living and dining areas that face the water. It has a fireplace in the main living area and an updated kitchen. The master suite has a private balcony. The grounds include a heated swimming pool, patio and outdoor shower. The 155 feet of waterfront includes a mooring for a boat.
Listing agent: Mala Sander, Corcoran Group.
4 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms.
Square footage: 6,483.
Price per square foot: $616.
Lot size: 1.53 acres.
Features: The 2001 house is on a peninsula that juts out onto the Kiawah River with unobstructed views of a marsh, tidal creeks and the Atlantic Ocean. The house has antique pine floors, arched openings, wall-to-wall windows and an elevator that runs to three floors. It also has several decks and a screened porch. The property includes a deep-water dock and a two-car garage. Purchase of membership at Seabrook Island Club is mandatory.
Listing agent: Pamela Harrington, Pam Harrington Exclusives.
7 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms.
Square footage: 11,013.
Price per square foot: $544.
Lot size: 3.68 acres.
Features: The 1908 estate on the North Shore of Lake Michigan was designed by noted Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. Known as Stornoway, the three-level house has an elevator and six fireplaces, two of which are in the second-floor master suite. The property includes a private beach with a private pier, one of only two in Lake Forest. A bluestone terrace surrounds the swimming pool, which overlooks the water.
Listing agent: Ann Lyon, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
7 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms.
Square footage: 8,196.
Price per square foot: $1,086.
Lot size: 3.68 acres.
Features: The 1995 house is a classic New England cottage perched high above Frenchman Bay on Sols Cliff. It was remodeled in 2006. The view stretches from the Porcupine Islands to Egg Rock Lighthouse. A 130-foot granite and bluestone terrace has an outdoor kitchen and granite fireplace. The three-story great room has a cathedral ceiling with wood beams and a granite fireplace. Above the four-car carriage house is a two-bedroom apartment.
Listing agent: Steven Shelton, Acadia Realty Group.
6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms.
Square footage: 6,600.
Price per square foot: $1,666.
Lot size: 0.25 acre.
Features: The 2010 house is on Barefoot Beach, one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on Florida’s southwest coast. Because it is the only beach home that neighbors the villa beach preserve, it has unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico. The main level has an open floor plan that opens to a lanai with a fireplace. The fourth-floor covered lanai offers views from Naples to Captiva Island.
Listing agent: Barry DeNicola, Barry DeNicola Realty.
4 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms.
Square footage: 5,065.
Price per square foot: $5,919.
Lot size: 0.44 acre.
Features: The newly built house is on the southwest shore of Maui, which is also a nesting beach for the hawksbill turtle. The house has an open floor plan where interior spaces seamlessly transition to covered lanais. The great room has a 20-foot cathedral ceiling, raw stacked coral on accent walls and white limestone flooring. The house has two master suites, one on the main level and one on the second floor. The back of the home opens to a tiled swimming pool with spa.
Listing agent: Ryan MacLaughlin, Island Sotheby’s International Realty.
3 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms.
Square footage: 3,800.
Price per square foot: $9,211.
Lot size: 0.57 acre.
Features: The 2007 house made of stone, wood, steel and glass is built into the rocks on a small cliff that juts into the Pacific Ocean. The property has private access to two beaches. The owners call it Il Pellicano after the Tuscan hotel where they spent their honeymoon. The exterior is made from reclaimed stones and terra cotta tiles from Italy. Doors come from Morocco, India, Tibet and Egypt. The Indian stone fireplace in the main living area is built into a glass wall that overlooks the ocean.