East Coast Vs. West Coast: Who Wins The Affordability War For Beach Houses

By Jeff Vasishta August 25, 2016

Not since Tupac and Biggie were at loggerheads two decades ago has there been such a disparity between the East Coast and West Coasts. But this has nothing to do with hip-hop bragging rights but rather the right to live on the coast itself. There was a time when to mention the term “beach community” conjured up an image of hippy surfer dudes and their bikini’d girlfriends, or elderly couples leisurely walking along the promenade in desolate out-of-season resorts, seagulls and egrets tossed horizontally in the salty wind. But no more. The jobless and fixed income have no place in many of America’s once proudly counter-culture surf sanctuaries, especially in California.

Related: The Lower East Side Goes From Punk To Penthouse

California is a monster. If you dont keep up, you end up on the streets, and nobody cares,Jamie Kahn, told the Guardian recently. A college graduate who previously worked two jobs in Santa Cruz, a quintessential hippy California beach town.  “This is a public health issue. Its a catastrophe. Khan now lives in the back of her 1995 Camry station wagon.

Amid the tech boom and housing crunch in nearby Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz has recently shed its welcoming liberalism for a harder reality. The California coast is an extortionate place to live. The crux is a shortage of housing—one housing unit for every ten new residents in recent years according to the Santa Cruz county housing manager.

Santa Cruz’ scenario is echoed farther south in Orange County. Steve High, a Newport Beachbased agent, has closed three deals, each over $10 million last year, including one in Irvine Cove with a 123-foot ocean view that sold for $23 million. Its really a classic story of limited supply”, he says: You cant make any more waterfront.

Lately, Chinese investors have become a major force in the area. Last year, they channeled $28.6 billion into the U.S. real estate market, 35% of that in California, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Bolinas, a town 20 miles northwest of San Francisco, which has a median price of $3.4 million is not the kind of beach town known for its boardwalk or surf shops. And that’s just the way locals like it. Reclusive residents have been known to tear down any road sign pointing to it in an attempt to protect their privacy. In cahoots is the public-utility board which has not issued a new water meter since 1971, The New York Times reported in 2014. A great place for a cheap car wash, apparently.

On the East coast, bar exclusive Hampton and Miami waterfront enclaves, it’s a different story. Trump casinos are not the only thing that went belly up in Atlantic City. Since four casinos closed their doors, costing thousands of jobs, high priced homes are as elusive as Trump’s tax returns with a median price of $118,000. In the first half of 2015, Atlantic City posted the nations highest foreclosure rate among major metropolitan areas, according to RealtyTrac, with 1.7% of the citys housing units experiencing a foreclosure filing—a 42% jump from the same period in 2014.

Related: Is Australia’s Real Estate Boom Heading Towards Doom?  

Even cheaper than A.C. are the tropical waters of Port Richey, 40 miles northwest of Tampa, where the median list price of $78,000 will buy your way into dolphin watching and mullet fishing as the year-round sunlight pulses off crystal waters in glittering barbs. Word to the wise, others are catching onto Port Richey which is the fastest growing amongst all beach towns. Does gentrification have no shame?

If Florida becomes overpriced and you don’t fancy the harsh winters further north, your best bet for sun, sand, surf and a bargain basement price may be a trip to the gulf coast. A decade on from Hurricane Katrina, its after effects still linger, despite the extensive rebuilding. The high cost of home insurance is the major impediment to home buyers interested in Mississippi’s Pascagoula where three and four bedroom homes can be purchased for under $100,000.

But like any hot property, these are as perishable as sun setting on an ocean horizon. Get it while you can.  

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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