High tide for seaside properties, but locals fear being priced out

It might be nice to be beside the seaside, but it sure isn't cheap. The cost of buying a property by the sea has more than doubled in the past decade, figures released today reveal.

House prices in seaside towns throughout England and Wales have soared by 128 per cent since 2001, with seven out of 10 seeing greater increases in property values than for the country as a whole, according to Halifax figures.

But it is not good news for most local residents, who claim that the spiralling price increases are being driven by people from outside the area buying second homes. Those who live there all the year round are finding it increasingly difficult to get a foot on the housing ladder.

Wadebridge in north Cornwall has seen the biggest gains, with house prices more than tripling in the past 10 years, from an average of £100,406 to £370,902. But yesterday residents of the town – a charming blend of boutique shops, independent butchers and bakers – pointed out the detrimental effect of the rise.

"If you're a young local it's hard to get on the ladder. There isn't the income around here for people to get a mortgage," said Paul Howard, a deputy head teacher in the town. "Tourism and second homes are the main drivers. It certainly wouldn't be local wages because they are quite low."

Maryport in the Lake District has seen average property values jump by 192 per cent to £119,604, while in Tenby in Wales they have risen by 186 per cent. With three beaches and a medieval town centre, Tenby is a big draw for tourists in the summer season, and also for second home buyers.

"A lot of people are buying holiday homes in the area, and local people are renting them out because they can't afford a mortgage," said Anne Rossi, the owner of the Ivy Bank Guest House in Tenby. "You still find a lot of houses are lying empty in the winter."

Other towns have managed to find a comfortable equilibrium. Fowey in Cornwall is in the top five most expensive seaside towns, with homes going for an average of £335,817.

"It's all about the balance," said Lynne Goold, who has live in Fowey for 35 years. "We have a mixture of second homes and dedicated holiday homes. A lot of them spend a lot of time here though, on weekends and for long periods throughout the year. They are also well integrated when they are here."

She added: "I don't think we've ever found it a problem. We welcome the tourists because they are what help us to carry on going."

Six of the top 10 seaside towns that have seen the biggest gains since 2001 are in the north of England or Wales, with three in the South West and one in East Anglia.

However, the 10 most expensive seaside towns are all in the South West, with Sandbanks in Dorset leading the way. There the average property value is £532,652, followed by Padstow in Cornwall at £381,916.

Outside of southern England, the Mumbles in Swansea has the highest house prices, with homes valued at an average of £263,494, followed by Tenby at £229,690 and Alnwick in Northumberland at £220,228.

Nitesh Patel, a housing economist at Halifax, said: "Seaside towns have always been popular places to live, but they have perhaps become even more so in recent years. This is certainly true if we take house prices as an indicator of desirability.

"Seaside towns have a distinct advantage over urban areas in offering that all-important sea view, and they typically have a high quality of life and a healthy environment. There is a romance associated with living by the sea and this is evident in the high house prices seen in many of these areas."

Five most expensive spots by the sea

1. Sandbanks, Dorset

Billed as the UK's answer to Monte Carlo, the average house price on this peninsula in Poole is £532,352. Millionaires looking for a quiet life beware: Liam Gallagher is a frequent visitor and is rumoured to be looking for a property there.

2. Padstow, Cornwall

Home to the Camel Trail – one of the most popular recreational routes in the country – houses in this harbour town go for an average of £381,916.

3. Wadebridge, North Cornwall

This market town in North Cornwall prides itself on a thriving high street full of independent shops. The average price for a house is £370,902

4. Fowey, South Cornwall

On the south coast of Cornwall, Fowey is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is home to a commercial seaport. Homes here are sold for an average of £363,494.

5. Lymington, Hampshire

A charming Georgian market town near the New Forest, Lymington has the benefit of being on the coast and on the west bank of the River Solent. The average house price here is £347,369.

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