Bernice Davison: The very act of looking out at water is a soothing influence on our busy lives

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Living next to natural flowing water is a good thing.

Living next to natural flowing water is a good thing. Whether it's the relaxing rhythm of waves crashing on a sandy shore, or the soothing sky-high view of a silvery ribbon of river flowing gently by, the very act of looking out at water is a soothing influence on our busy lives.

And being near water certainly seems to be a popular choice for homebuyers. Seaside homes with a view of the briny attract a premium of anything up to 50 per cent over similar inland homes, according to the Halifax estate agency. In many holiday hotspot areas, such as the West Country and Norfolk, beachside properties for sale are not only more expensive but also are few and far between.

Seaside homes have that winning combination of the soothing movement of the waves, the changing natural landscape with the passing tides and the all-round freshness of that ozone-laden air which prompts a healthier outdoors lifestyle. It's a mix which has made seaside towns the perfect hunting ground for families looking to escape the sprawl of the larger connurbations, yet live within commuting distance of the major cities.

Many seaside homes are, of course second homes, and these can provide a possible source of income as holiday lets, but this is echoed in current prices for properties with sea views, especially in the tourist honeypot villages of the south-west, though prices on Britain's wilder stretches of coast have been catching up quickly as the property price boom ripples have reverberated across the land.

Urban water attracts a similar financial premium. Homes with riverside views are always the first to be snapped up in the myriad waterfront developments which are bringing new life back to revitalised urban centres across the country. Developers admit that most riverside apartments are sold off-plan, many even before their cranes have arrived at the site.

Christopher Spencer, a professor of environmental psychology at Sheffield University, says "water does have a demonstrable calming effect and can enhance de-stressing and relaxation. It provides simplicity in a complex world."

Certainly living near water rates very highly on the wish-lists of would-be buyers when it comes to new urban properties. And their wishes are being fulfilled as more and more industrial landscapes - riverbanks, wharves, mill sites, docklands or canalside warehousing - are transformed into vibrant, cosmopolitan communities up and down the country.

Loft-style living in funky refurbished buildings, or sleek new apartments with great walls of glass to make the most of those views over river or canal, both have proved winners with both buyers and investors both north and south.

We have long been told that water is good for our health; the pundits were pointing out the benefits of drinking plenty of the stuff daily. Simply being able to look out at water each day obviously has truly beneficial effects for all of us too.

Bernice Davison is Property Editor of the Independent