Investment: Marina properties

Buy-to-let properties located near the sea offer excellent rental returns, discovers Chris Partridge
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The Independent Online

Living in a marina village is not just for sailors - most marina residents are landlubbers who never venture out on the water at all.

For them, marina villages offer a bracing seaside atmosphere with bars, restaurants and shops close at hand, the interest and movement of a busy boat haven and a view that cannot be built over. Marina villages are also usually close to the facilities of a larger town.

So it is not surprising that marina villages are popular with executives posted to regional headquarters and factories who need to rent a home for a couple of years before the next move.

The first marina villages, such as Port Solent in Portsmouth, were regarded mainly as second homes for yachtsmen. The development had a rocky start - when the 1990s property slump took hold, the many second homes were dumped and prices plummeted. Happily, things have changed, according to Martin Edgar of Waterside Properties (02392 200 022), who specialises in south coast properties.

"Prices have held pretty steady over the last few years because the number of second homes has gone down to about 20 per cent," he says. "People are less tempted to sell main residences when prices move."

The predominance of permanent residents has also built up community spirit, which explains part of the appeal to landlubbers.

"A large proportion of people are quite happy to live in a marina without getting their feet wet. They like the setting, and sitting in the pub watching the world go by," Edgar explains.

Snobbery is another part of the marketing mix for marinas, Edgar says: "Marina villages appeal to people who consider themselves successful. Port Solent has no sea views and the properties at the back are up against the motorway but they still rent well."

Sailors who are also canny investors can use their marina property to get a tax deal on their boat mooring. "If you buy a property with a remote berth you don't have to go through the house to get to the boat, so you can either live in the house and rent out the berth, or vice versa. And if you buy a house on a mortgage and rent it out but use the mooring yourself, you get tax relief on the whole business which seriously helps with the mooring cost," Edgar says.

Swansea Marina is one of the new generation of marina village developments, with the marina run separately from the village. It is the centrepiece of the regeneration of Swansea. Gill Cuthbert of Marina Quay Properties (01792 463 764) has seen property prices spiral as new phases came on stream throughout the recent boom.

Lettings have been strong, she says. "We have a lot of corporate clients from companies like IBM and CapGemini." Persimmon Homes is currently building 600 homes at Swansea Marina - details on 01792 465002.

The next step for Swansea Marina is an "icon" building, now considered almost compulsory for flagship schemes like this. Planning permission has just been granted for a £53m, 29-storey tower, containing flats and a restaurant with spectacular views.

Most new marinas have been converted from defunct docks, such as Liverpool and Hartlepool, but on the south coast Sovereign Harbour has been dredged out of worked-out gravel pits, giving Eastbourne a vibrant new water quarter and halving the population's average age at a stroke.

Sovereign Harbour is huge, with a tidal basin and four locked docks. It is now two-thirds built, and will eventually provide more than 3,000 homes.

The grandaddy of them all, Brighton Marina, is also one of the most expensive, reflecting its position close to the city's vibrant centre and one-hour train service to London. However, buy-to-let landlords manage to make a decent return there.

A highly controversial plan to expand the marina village with futuristic apartment blocks was rejected by the council last year.