Coastal Property Q and A: What You Need to Know

Coastal Property Q and A: What You Need to Know

The buying, selling and ownership of coastal property has a set of considerations all its own. What do you need to know when pursuing ownership of the beach home of your dreams? Let us help by answering the most frequently asked questions about beach real estate. You have questions, we have answers!


Specialized Realtor 

Do I need a realtor who specializes in coastal property?

It is in your benefit to choose a real estate professional who knows the local coastal market and is experienced in this niche of the real estate market. 

It just makes sense that a real estate agent who works (and lives) in a coastal real estate area is going to have valuable insight and working knowledge of the local market, along with the special considerations needed when buying and selling coastal property. Any home is a big investment, so you want the most knowledgable and experienced professionals to work with along the way. Choose wisely!

Read more tips on choosing the best real estate agent for you here.


Beach Erosion 

How concerned do I need to be concerned about beach erosion?

Beach erosion is a natural part of coastal living, so yes you should be informed on how it may affect your coastal property and beach home.

The greatest difference between real estate adjacent to the ocean (or an inlet) and inland real estate is the hazard of shoreline erosion. For inland real estate, property lines are generally unchanging. However, property on the oceanfront or adjacent to an inlet has a moving property line along the shore that is determined largely by the forces of nature. This moving boundary, called the "mean high water line," can change from day to day. 

Studies by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management show an average long-term erosion rate of 2 to 3 feet annually for the entire coast over the last 50 years. However, the annual erosion rate is more than 20 feet for some shoreline areas, while others have been relatively stable. Ocean shorelines near inlets and inlet shorelines usually experience the greater fluctuations.

Oceanfront property is also subject to seasonal storm-related fluctuations that can result in short-term erosion of between 75 and 100 feet. Although most of this erosion is temporary, some land area lost to storms may not return. For information on erosion rates, contact the Division of Coastal Management or the local building official in the jurisdiction where you plan to purchase or build. There are also a few private companies that analyze shoreline hazards for a fee.


Flood Insurance 

Do I need flood insurance?

Under federal law, the purchase of flood insurance is mandatory for all federal or federally related financial assistance for the acquisition and/or construction of buildings in high-risk flood areas (Special Flood Hazard Areas or SFHAs).

The basic rule is that homeowners and renters insurance covers damage caused by falling water (i.e. rain or snow); rising water (i.e., flooding) is not covered under most plans. Federally insured lenders including mortgage companies, banks and savings and loan associations require flood insurance for the life of their lien if the property is in an identified flood-prone area. Flood-prone areas are identified on Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which should be available at the local building official’s office. If your building is not in a flood-prone area or you haven’t secured a mortgage to purchase your property, flood insurance is optional. However, when building or buying near the ocean, flood insurance is always a good idea, even if it’s not required.

For more information on flood risk in North Carolina, visit the NC Flood Risk Information System


Storm Damage 

What can I do to protect my beach home from storm damage?

Several features can prevent or substantially reduce the likelihood of damage from severe storms and erosion.


Pilings can raise the first floor above expected flood elevations and waves. In many areas, embedding the tip of pilings deeper than five feet below sea level can help a building stand during severe erosion. Any walls constructed between pilings should be designed to break away when hit by waves to prevent damage to the elevated portion of the building.

Elevating a building to protect it from storm surge and flood increases its exposure to storm winds. The key to reducing storm wind damage lies in the quality of the building's design and construction. For new homes on the beach, consider employing a professional engineer to help ensure adequate structural design. If buying an existing home, an engineer can help assess the structure's strengths and weaknesses, and suggest modifications to make the house more damage-resistant.

Modifications may include: addition of hurricane clips to improve the roof's ability to withstand uplift forces of high winds; installation of storm shutters to protect window and door openings from wind-driven rain and debris; improved attachment of roof shingles; reinforcement of gable end roofs; reinforcement of the attachment of plywood roof decking to roof rafters with additional nails, screws or adhesives; and reinforcement of the attachments of porches and decks.

Sand dunes also provide significant protection during the most severe storms. You can protect and enhance frontal dunes by keeping vehicles and people off these areas, and planting additional dune grasses. Keep in mind that sand dunes protect against short-term erosion caused by very severe but infrequent storms and offer little protection from long-term erosion.



Rent it Out 

Should I rent out my beach house?

That depends on what you can afford and how much time you plan to spend at your beach house.

This is a very personal decision. Many factors come into play, but first and foremost is the financial aspect. If your beach house is a second home or investment property, then renting it out to others may be a very viable option to help you offset the costs of owning the home. But you also have to ask yourself: How much time will I be spending here? Is it worthwhile to rent it out or will the availability be too limited? Do I have time to manage a rental property and all its responsibilities or will I need to employ the help of a property manager?

It would be helpful for you to read our previous post on Top Tips for Buying a Vacation Home for more advice and suggestions on this topic.


What Else

What else do I need to know about coastal property?

For more information on these questions and more, visit our Buying NC Coastal Property FAQ page.

Or feel free contact our office and our knowledgable coastal real estate specialists will be glad to answer any questions you may have. 

Let us know if Century 21 Action in Topsail can help you with the purchase of coastal property along Eastern North Carolina and it's beautiful barrier islands. We know and love Topsail Island, NC and the surrounding region, so we can answer all of your coastal real estate questions with expertise.

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