No wonder seaside estate agents look forward to the summer. Inland, this is traditionally the low season for most agents, who have to resign themselves to weeks of boredom as the nation puts aside property transactions and heads off on holiday.
'Our offices are overflowing during regatta week in August,' says Christopher Parsons of the Fowey estate agents, May Whetter & Grose. 'But the serious buyers return in September, when the tourists have gone.'
The Fowey estuary, between Plymouth and Falmouth, encapsulates the charm of the south Cornwall coast. Steep, wooded slopes shelter the town from the outside world, protecting it from winter storms and also from overdevelopment.
'There are no large sandy beaches near Fowey to attract the masses,' explains Mr Parsons. 'Most people come for the walking and sailing.' He says the town has a large resident population and that 80 per cent of buyers are in the market for a retirement or holiday home. Since it is built on the side of a hill, most houses have views of the estuary and the sea beyond. And there is plenty to look at as the estuary is a favourite port of call for all manner of shipping, from warships to dinghies.
Strutt & Parker's Exeter office is marketing the sort of place that summer daydreams are made of: a four-storey Georgian house with superb views across the estuary. With elegant reception rooms and seven bedrooms, Clear House has enough space for an Espace-sized invasion of visitors. It also has that most sought-after commodity in this part of the world: a large level garden (complete with banana trees and palms). The asking price is pounds 275,000.
Houses on the river are also expensive, especially if they have moorings, but property in the town ranges widely in size and price, from pounds 40,000 upwards.
The village of Polruan, on the opposite bank, is well off the beaten track by road but has easy access to Fowey by boat. W J B Hill & Son has a three-bedroom cottage with half an acre of garden overlooking the harbour for pounds 125,000, and a two-bedroom cottage in need of renovation for pounds 39,950.
Perched on the tip of a peninsula, Fowey may have a sense of isolation, but the remoteness of the North Yorkshire resort of Whitby is a geographical fact. Surrounded on three sides by the North Yorkshire Moors and facing the North Sea, Whitby is about 20 miles from the nearest town of any size. The steep cobbled streets and grey-stone cottages have changed little since Bram Stoker chose it as the discreet landing place for Dracula in his gothic novel.
Former fishermen's cottages, tightly packed together on the hillside beneath the famous abbey, are sought-after as holiday homes. A newly refurbished cottage in Grape Lane is available for pounds 105,000 through the local office of Nationwide. The three-storey, three-bedroom house has a west-facing patio and a 16ft lounge with views over the harbour.
Sandsend is a favourite holiday and retirement village at the far end of Whitby Bay. Easy access to the beach, golf course and sailing club make properties here more expensive than in Whitby. Nationwide is quoting pounds 120,000 for a modernised, four-bedroom family house with sea views. Higher up the cliff, Edward G Astin & Associates has a striking three- bedroom house on its books for pounds 88,000.
The tiny villages beyond Whitby will appeal to those who want to get away from the holidaymakers. Exclusivity commands high prices: in Runswick Bay, a small, terraced, two-bedroom cottage on the seafront with direct access to the beach costs pounds 100,000 through Edward G Astin.
Not everyone enjoys such remoteness. On the South Coast of England, Hove, sitting cheek by jowl with Brighton, offers easy access to London and attracts commuters as well as people retiring to the seaside. It benefits from the amenities of its neighbour while remaining free of its commercial bustle.
'Hove is a lot quieter than Brighton, especially on the seafront,' says Martin Robinson of the estate agents Callaways.
Such is the demand for seafront properties in this crowded part of the coast that freehold houses are a rarity in central Hove; mansion blocks dominate the promenade and, in the squares behind, Regency and Victorian houses have mostly been converted into flats.
One of the few available seafront properties is Flat 3 Courtenay House, which stands directly on the promenade and beach at Hove. The apartment has a 19ft lounge with views over the beaches and sea, as well as three large bedrooms and two bathrooms. Callaways is offering the flat, which has a 69-year lease, for pounds 130,000.
Properties behind the seafront are less expensive. Callaways has a two-bedroom garden flat in Palmeira Square, just off the seafront, on the market for pounds 92,950.
As Hove is not a holiday-home resort but rather a place for people who choose to live beside the sea, there is no buying spree in the summer. The market at the moment is dampened by the shortage of properties for sale. 'It's a vicious circle,' says Mr Robinson. 'Buyers can't find a new property so they take their house off the market and everything grinds to a halt.'
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