Homes by the coast have long commanded a premium for the sea views, access to the beach and the more unhurried pace of life they offer.
But are values being affected by coastal erosion and other effects of climate change? If so, what is being done to combat this, and will these kinds of properties continue to attract a premium?
Premium amplified by the pandemic
According to research carried out by Rightmove this time last year, prices for coastal properties were £86,060 higher on average than those inland. This added up to a premium of 31% across the UK, with soaring demand leading to the typical premium to purchase a home with a sea view to grow by over £19,000 between December 2019 and December 2020.
Tim Bannister, director of property data at Rightmove, said at the time: “People who live in coastal areas are most content with where they live. Whether it be weekend walks along the beach or catching a glimpse through the window of the shimmering water in the distance, people value that connection with the sea and enjoy life in the areas around it.”
He added: “We’ve seen demand for coastal homes increase this year and so it stands to reason that homes with a sea view command a substantial price premium.”
Regionally speaking, the research found that the South West of England had the highest sea view price premium, at 42%, followed by the North East with 33%, and Wales with 27%.
Cornwall had the most homes advertised with a sea view, while Brighton and Hove was the city with the highest number of listings for sought-after coastal properties.
The race for space, easy access to greenery and walking opportunities, and the desire for a slower pace of life brought on by the pandemic has no doubt had an impact on the desirability of coastal homes, which were already highly popular before.
It’s previously been found that waterfront properties generate premiums of up to 70% because of the unique features they include.
A more recent survey from Halifax, conducted earlier this year, found that buyers are willing to pay more for a property near the sea than inland. The high street lender’s data revealed that, over the last decade, the average house price in Britain's seaside towns has increased by 36% (or £71,046) from an average of £194,932 in 2011 to £265,978 in 2021.
For landlords, meanwhile, there are certain advantages to letting on the coast, but also potential downsides. These are explored more in this excellent blog from agency firm Leaders.
What are the potential issues with coastal properties?
When buying or letting a home on the coast, it’s important to be aware of the potential issues and higher levels of maintenance required. Coastal erosion and flooding, things which are being worsened by climate change each year, are two of the more major issues that can arise.
Also, the term 'weather-beaten' is something that is typically far more associated with coastal properties, as these are often the homes that suffer the effects of bad weather first and most severely.
Homes will need to be maintained more frequently, with windows cleaned on a more regular basis and a close eye kept on the exterior of a home, which is the first line of defence against flooding and poor weather. If the property is especially isolated or exposed, the effect is likely to be even more apparent – so it may be the case that owners will need to keep aside a certain amount of money to pay for repairs and general upkeep to the paintwork, bricks and render.
The salt in the air – which is much more commonplace on the coast – can erode and rust any metal on a property. This includes window hinges, satellite dishes and other metal that is exposed to the elements.
Is erosion leading to a decline in value?
Coastline erosion has been a particular problem on the beautiful and rugged Norfolk coastline, as well as other exposed coastlines across the UK.
The Government’s committee on climate change has previously warned that as many as 1.5 million properties in England will be in areas at significant risk of coastal flooding by the 2080s as sea levels continue to rise.
We saw again recently with Storm Arwen just how devastating flooding can be, and it’s something that happens almost every year in Britain, with coastal areas usually amongst the worst affected.
In 2018, a report from the Committee on Climate Change warned that some 1.2 million homes will be among the buildings at risk of coastal flooding, while 100,000 properties will be threatened by eroding coastlines.
It added that hundreds of miles of major roads and railway lines, 92 railway stations and even 55 historic landfill sites will be at risk of coastal flooding or erosion by 2100 – increasing the risk of old rubbish tips collapsing onto beaches.
It also warned that 520,000 properties were already at risk from coastal flooding and 8,900 from erosion, while issuing a stark warning that sea levels could increase by up to a metre (3ft) within the lifetime of children born today. It said it would not be possible to protect the whole English coastline as it is now.
The committee claimed that members of the public were not being properly informed about the risks of coastal erosion and flooding that they were exposed to and how that would change in the future.
As far back as December 2014, the Guardian reported that nearly 7,000 UK properties would be sacrificed to rising seas. The report claimed that 800 of these properties would be lost to coastal erosion within the next 20 years.
These properties, worth well over £1 billion, would be allowed to fall into the sea because the cost of protecting them would be far greater, the paper reported. It added that there would be no compensation scheme for homeowners to enable them to move to a safer location.
Meanwhile, new analysis released last month by property data firm Hometrack found that 5% of all properties in the UK currently fall into the highest flood risk category – a figure that will rise by 1% in the next 30 years, and by a further 1% by 2080.
The study suggested that 1.5 million homes will be at risk of flooding by 2050, with 300,000 falling into the highest risk category.
The issue, it said, would not simply be limited to riverside properties, with climate change leaving homes vulnerable to increased flooding from escalating coastal erosion, sinkholes and heavy downpours like those which overwhelmed drainage systems in Hammersmith earlier this year.
What is being done to combat the issue?
The Government insists it is on track to offering improved protection from flooding and coastal erosion. The Environment Agency, which uses a red, amber, green system to regularly record how it’s performing, insists the nation is increasingly resilient to climate change.
It said that by 2025 it will have created more climate resilient places and infrastructure, by ensuring the nation is prepared for flooding, coastal change and drought.
The first year of a new six-year programme started in 2021 – and the agency insists that through investment of £5.2 billion of government funding in around 2,000 schemes, 336,000 properties will be better protected from flooding and coastal erosion.
Its year end forecasts at quarter one of this year ‘are providing confidence that 45,000 properties will be better protected from flood or coastal erosion risk by the end of March 2022’, it said.
But it also admitted there are improvements to be made when it comes to strategic adaptation actions to tackle the climate emergency. This measure is currently red as the agency awaits the adaptation report and the flood and coastal risk management (FCRM) strategy to be adopted.
There are various ways coastal erosion can be prevented or slowed down, including groynes, strategic planting of vegetation, beach nourishment, installing geosynthetic tubes and by constructing saline stone-packaging and breakwater structures, but there will be calls for the Government to go further and faster to protect coastal homes from the worst effects of climate change and prevent homes from simply collapsing into the sea with no compensation scheme in place for reimbursement.
If you are considering buying a property by the sea, it's easy to be swayed by the beautiful views and an idyllic view of coastal life. But remember to think long term about the state of your property in the future, and how you might sell it if you needed to.