Money grows on water

Landlubbers dream of seeing the sails of yachts through the living- room window. The sober reality is that prices of waterside homes have a fair wind behind them. By Stella Bingham
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The Independent Online
In the Eighties, developers had the bright idea of capitalising on the British love of messing about in boats, and the astonishing premium that buyers are prepared to pay for waterside homes. They combined the two and came up with marina developments.

These suffered badly in the recession - but now the tide has turned. "Buyers are back, developers are back and prices are rising," says Martin Edgar, of the specialist agents Waterside Properties. "We have waiting lists for some homes."

In Plymouth, Peter Turner, of Fulfords, is in equally buoyant mood: "Anything on the edge of water is in high demand. People like the atmosphere, even if they've never been on a boat in their lives. You do have to pay a premium - marina developments set their own price."

Over in Poole Harbour Paul Bloomfield, of Palmer Snell, is handling the sale of Moriconium Quay. "The market has been good for the past 18 months," he says. "Buyers are coming from outside the area, with 60 per cent of the properties being bought as holiday homes." Prices start at pounds 185,000 for two-bedroom, two-bathroom flats.

There are marina developments nationwide but, says Mr Edgar, the greatest demand is for properties on the south coast, between Chichester and Poole. And as far as these most popular areas are concerned, it is a case of "buy now while stocks last". "Planning permission was given several years ago for what is going up at the moment. Now the authorities have made it clear that there will be no more planning permission for residential marinas. Marina properties cost double the price of similar houses in the area, which has alienated the local population, and it is said that natural habitat has been destroyed."

Ecological and social factors have put pressure on supply - and this, of course, has affected prices. At The Island, a Swan Hill development at Port Solent marina near Portsmouth, prices start at pounds 175,000. Peter and Cynthia Read recently bought a weekend place there. They are both keen sailors and hope to retire to their waterside home in a few years' time. "We wanted an unimpaired view of the water, and here it's almost like being on a boat," says Cynthia.

So are the Reads typical marina dwellers? Indeed, only about 40 per cent of marina buyers are permanent residents - though the figures are higher in Ocean Village on Southampton's waterfront. Jim Harrison, a solicitor, moved from a 15th-century farmhouse with an acre of land to the three- bedroom show-house at Wilcon's Mayflower Gate development for maintenance- free homes. Convenience, it seems, was the key issue. "The setting is superb, and just 10 minutes from my office," he points out. "Now the next thing is to look at buying a boat."

Most marina purchasers are empty-nesters, so Mark and Tracey Daley, who have two small children, are unusual. They came across Brighton Marina when they sailed in to seek shelter from a storm, and liked it so much that they have bought three flats there. One is their own weekend retreat, and two are to let out. "We just love it," says Tracey, a publisher. "We want to live here properly. There's such a good atmosphere about the place; it's as if you're permanently on holiday somewhere exotic."

Barratt is currently adding 400 new homes to the 300 already completed at Brighton Marina. Prices start at about pounds 58,000.

Not all marina homes are on the water itself, and budget buyers who are prepared to compromise could save themselves as much as 50 per cent of the price in, for example, Port Solent. Boat owners, meanwhile, should check out the size and availability of the moorings. In older marinas buyers may be disappointed by the fact that 10-metre berths are common. In some developments properties come with their own moorings. In others, berths may be leasehold, or bought or rented separately. Expect to pay between pounds 2,500 and pounds 3,000 a year. At Brighton Marina, for example, berths range from 8 to 16 metres and cost pounds 190 per metre per year. At Moriconium Quay, moorings start at pounds 25,000 for an 8-metre berth.

With moorings sorted out, what about the action? Some marinas are bustling and lively all the year round; others, which are mainly occupied by weekenders, are much quieter. Mr Edgar advises would-be water babies to do their homework thoroughly.

"Each marina, of course, has its own character. So it really pays to talk to people who live there, visit in your boat, or even rent, to get the feeling of the different lifestyle."

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