Buying and maintaining coastal properties

The Kent coast was once the mainstay of Victorian holiday makers and we think it’s experiencing a bit of a revival. If you saw our last article, you’ll know Folkestone is on the up and you’ll find some really good value for money property around there.

The towns and villages along the Kent coast near our Hythe offices offer something for everyone – foodies and creatives head for Folkestone, families head for Dymchurch and its amusements and arcades, there’s a more genteel way of life in Hythe, and Margate is becoming a hotbed for modern British artists. And whether you prefer pebbles or sandy beaches, we have both – including some stunning dunes further beyond Dymchurch towards Greatstone.

This idyllic lifestyle pulls many a visitor to buy second homes to use themselves, or to let out when they are vacant, and sometimes to up sticks and make the permanent move here.

But there’s a lot to beware of when buying property right by the sea and we’d recommend always having a full building survey on these properties.

Buying a coastal property – what we spot in a building survey

Number one on the list of problems you might encounter in a coastal property is damp. Damp is part of the deal – you get the view, you get damp walls. The very exposed seaward elevations on properties built before 1980 are nearly always damp. Brilliant sunshine in August, lashing rain in November. There are options available for fixing damp problems, but it can be expensive and not always 100% reliable in a coastal property. We always suggest considering how important resolving all of a damp problem really is – if it doesn’t affect the structure, the finishes or your health, it may not need sorting out at all.

And speaking of damp, coastal flooding might be an issue, but it depends where you’re looking to buy – we wrote an article previously on the risk in the Hythe area.

You should also consider the risk of stone damage to your property if you’re buying a beachfront property where the beach is mainly shingle like Sandgate and Hythe. There may be a seawall to protect your house, or your parked car, but when the tide is high and the wind is strong, shingle will be thrown at your property or car every time a wave comes walloping in. And if there’s sand, like at Dymchurch or Lydd, then in strong winds houses get sandblasted.

If you choose to spend less on your property and get extra bricks for your mortgage, then you might choose to move to an area not so close to the sea, or without the sea view, but you’ll still experience the high levels of salt in the air. This salty atmosphere plays havoc with anything metal, especially window hinges and fixings which can become stiff and difficult to open and close as rust develops. Metal balconies will suffer the same and you may not have considered your satellite dish – a standard one will last about three years on a house very near the sea. You might also want to consider the impact this salty air might have on your parked car.

If you want to buy property further round the coast in Capel or near Dover, you might be looking at cliff top homes. Coastal erosion is a very real risk. You should always consider this and where your potential new home could be in 30 years’ time – how close to the cliff edge do you want to live?

Finally, you might think buying a new build will give greater benefits in terms of maintenance costs and upkeep, but they will still suffer the same conditions as an older property. Though everything is brand new, you might still have issues with doors and windows.

Maintaining a coastal property – avoid future building survey issues

The key thing to owning a coastal property is making sure you have a regular maintenance programme, so if you’re thinking of buying a beach front property make sure you have an annual budget available. Buying in an exposed spot will always lead to greater maintenance costs.

Consider things like a regular painting schedule for rendering, brickwork, and timber window frames and doors, or for fixing fencing or cladding that has succumbed to the elements. Choose your paints carefully – marine grade paints are good but expensive and need to be properly mixed and applied. Brickwork and pointing can be eroded by the salty air and damp atmosphere over time too, so you’ll need to keep an eye on that. You’ll also want to regularly clean your window fixings and check leading seals where they meet brickwork. Speaking of windows – if you like clear ones then expect to be cleaning them regularly as they’ll develop a thin film of salt after wet and windy weather.

The seasonal considerations of buying a coastal property

Aside from the problems you might have with your actual property, you might find that beautiful idyllic spot is not quite the same at a different time of year.

If you visited outside of peak tourist season, consider the additional road users and visitors to your town in the peak of summer – will you be able to park your car outside your new home? Or will your commute to work be more stressful? If you visited in the middle of a scorching heatwave and enjoyed the sun, sea and relaxation that brought, consider the rough seas and storms in the winter months.

It’s always good to visit us at different times of the year before making that big decision. But whatever you decide, the people of Dymchurch, Hythe and Folkestone are always welcoming of newcomers and we love our coastal spaces.

If you are buying and would like a professional building survey on a coastal property, get in touch for a free no obligation quote.