An all-season guide to the seaside

You love the resort in high summer. But will you feel the same way about it in December? Yes, you will, says Mary Wilson, if you do your research well
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The Independent Online

If you've spent many a happy week on holiday in a pretty seaside town, the day may well come when you decide to up sticks and move there permanently. Maybe you are taking early retirement or just fancy a change of scene. But you need to do your research very carefully before you take the plunge, as the area might look and feel very different to the one you have come to know at only specific times of the year.

If you've spent many a happy week on holiday in a pretty seaside town, the day may well come when you decide to up sticks and move there permanently. Maybe you are taking early retirement or just fancy a change of scene. But you need to do your research very carefully before you take the plunge, as the area might look and feel very different to the one you have come to know at only specific times of the year.

Desmond and Betty Clarke had lived in Blackheath, south-east London for 30 years and had holidayed in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast for more than 50 years. "When we decided to move out of London, we thought about Aldeburgh because we loved it, but realised that the people we had come to know there were mainly holiday aquaintances and that living there would be quite different to a holiday visit" says Mrs. Clarke.

So the Clarkes decided to buy a two bedroom apartment in one of English Courtyard Association's developments on the edge of the town, where they knew they would have a ready-made nucleus of like-minded people. "Now we have been here three years, we have made friends with a small number of residents, but still see our "holiday" friends when they visit," she says.

They have also discovered that in January and February the winds blow hard and cold, and that in the summer, it is impossible to park in the high street. "You just have to be flexible and be prepared to adjust your lifestyle accordingly," says Mrs Clarke philosophically.

Strutt & Parker is selling a four-bedroom town house with views over the town and the sea at the Terrace, in Aldeburgh, for £700,000. "This is only one street away from the high street, but it's quite a lot higher, so you look over the main hub of the town" says David Clarke. "And it has off-street parking, which is at a premium here."

English Courtyard has recently launched another of its retirement developments in one of the prettier areas of Bournemouth. The winds blow with a vengeance in the winter here, too, but the development, which has its own pretty gardens, is well sheltered by a bank of tall trees. Sandbourne Court (named after Thomas Hardy's pseudonym for Bournemouth), in West Overcliff Drive, has 16 large apartments, many with a study and some with huge decked roof-gardens or terraces. Prices for the two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments range from £395,000 to £485,000.

James Greenwood, managing director of Stacks Property Search and Acquisition says that many people are attracted to seaside locations when they visit in the early autumn. "The tendency is to think that it must be so much more beautiful at the height of the summer - but try to imagine the deserted beach you enjoyed covered in ice-cream vans and donkey rides."

However, that is for only a couple of months and you might well be away yourself at that time. "You should remember that a lot of houses will be geared up only for summer living and you should be careful to consider how they will adapt to winter occupation" he says. "Talk to people involved in local businesses about what they do during the winter and what the area is like off-season." He also advises approaching agents at the end of the season in order to get the best price.

Much further west, near St. Austell, an area to which thousands of people flock because of the Eden Project, there is an innovative development right on the long stretch of sandy beach at Carlyon Bay. The 511 apartments - called The Beach - are being sold off-plan and the scheme has been designed by architects Evans & Shalev, who were responsible for the Tate St Ives. The development is being marketed as a resort with full leisure facilities planned - swimming pools, spas and health centre, plus shops, restaurants and bars - and the apartments can be bought on a lease-back basis, where you are guaranteed a five-per-cent return for the first two years. Useful for someone thinking of buying now as an investment and moving in full-time later on. "The really key thing is the opportunity of getting a property right on the beach, which is incredibly rare. The all-year-round facilities will be something quite new for Cornwall, where previously there has only been a limited season" says Charles Weston Baker of FPDSavills, which is marketing the apartments. Prices range from £157,000 for a one-bedroom seafront apartment to £700,000 for a penthouse.

Salcombe, in Devon, is another location which is buzzing in the summer, mainly with yachties, but takes on a completely different character during the winter, when its population returns to 1,800, having swelled to 10,000 during the summer. "I know a chap who holidayed here from eight years old and always said he would buy here," says Bob Petit of Charles Head & Son (01548 843952). "Thirty years later, he bought an apartment in the converted Salcombe Hotel."

Petit is currently selling a converted Baptist chapel, right in the centre of the town, with fantastic views over the estuary. "Although it's only a minute from the main street, because it's perched up high, it's beautifully peaceful" he says.

The developers, Ash Mill, have turned the chapel into three large town houses and given every room a view - you can even lie in the bath and gaze at the yachts moored below. With an open-plan living room, French oak, limestone and slate on the floors and Philippe Starck bathrooms, the two remaining four-bedroom houses are priced at £900,000 each.

FPDSavills, 08708 505858; English Courtyard, 0800-316 5335; Strutt & Parker, 01473 214841; Charles Head & Son, 01548 843952; Stacks Property Search and Acquisition, 01594 842880.

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