Best places to buy a beach house 2021

Published April 2021

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A wise person once said, life is better at the beach. And frankly, we don’t disagree. What could be more relaxing than kicking back on the shore with a good book, a view of the kids playing nearby, or simply nothing at all? It’s no wonder that according to our latest survey 57% of guests were planning a trip to the beach this spring. However, if your beach house aspirations stretch beyond renting a home for the weekend, read on for our 2021 list of the Best Places to Buy a Beach House.

Second home and vacation rental purchases continue to skyrocket, so if you are looking for your own little slice of sand, don’t hesitate—and get in touch with a licensed real estate agent to aid you in your search. As you’ll see from our 2021 list, the Best Places to Buy a Beach House aren’t just in Florida and Hawaii, but in less expected places like the Washington Coast and lakefront Michigan. If you haven’t settled on location, an agent with the right expertise can help guide you toward these hidden gems where the cap rate and coastline contribute to vacation rental success.

COVID-19 disclaimer: Indoor and outdoor attractions, restaurants, bars, events, and festivals mentioned within local market descriptions may be closed or cancelled, or may have limited service due to COVID-19. Before visiting, you are encouraged to check local regulations for the latest information and should always follow the destination’s guidelines.

The 10 best places to buy a beach house in 2021, ranked

Market

Cap rate

Median home sale price

1

Cape Hatteras, NC

8.6%

$379,248

2

Ocean Shores, WA

7.8%

$250,255

3

Dauphin Island, AL

7.8%

$289,623

4

New Buffalo, MI

7.1%

$319,306

5

Corolla, NC

6.9%

$560,599

6

Kauai South, HI

6.2%

$593,554

7

Isle of Palms, SC

5.8%

$708,920

8

Wailea, HI

5.6%

$885,086

9

South Kohala, HI

5.6%

$639,908

10

Bolivar Peninsula, TX

5.6%

$299,354

ski blue beach home in hatteras, nc

1. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Home to the tallest brick lighthouse in the country (and the tallest overall in North Carolina), Cape Hatteras and its surrounding beach towns including Avon, Salvo, Waves, and Rodanthe top the list of our Best Places to Buy a Beach House 2021. With a whopping 8.6% cap rate, visitors flock to Cape Hatteras for family reunions and larger gatherings—and for good reason. Inventories of larger homes that sleep six to 16 people are plentiful in the area, making it a perfect place to reconnect with loved ones. Guests can spend the day kayaking around the sound, enjoying the wind and waves that shape the topography of the area, or catching a glimpse of visiting sea turtles in the summer.

Featured vacation home: Atlantis #5HH

Cap rate

8.6%

Median home sale price

$379,248

Median annual gross rental revenue

$63,029

oceanfront beach condo in westport, wa

2. Ocean Shores, Washington

If you didn’t peg the Pacific Northwest as the top place to buy a beach house, we respectfully understand! The Washington State coastline is vastly different from the sunnier skies down south and out east, but there are many reasons why Ocean Shores ranked near the top of our list. For one, the barrier to entry is low for many buyers, with homes averaging around $250,000. Pair that with a cap rate of 7.8%, and Ocean Shores might start looking like a more obvious choice. Families love the area for its proximity to major metro hubs like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, as well as the miles of coastline, fun local festivals, and fresh fare.

Featured vacation home: The Seaview

Cap rate

7.8%

Median home sale price

$250,255

Median annual gross rental revenue

$38,948

pale yellow dauphin island stilt beach house framed by palm trees

3. Dauphin Island, Alabama

A delightful community of breathtaking beachfront homes on stilts lands Dauphin Island at that number three spot on our Best Places to Buy a Beach House list. This small yet always popular island is beloved by locals and tourists alike, which will bring a steady stream of guests to your vacation home each year. The Gulf Coast waters and pristine beaches are standbys for visitors, but there’s plenty more to explore in the area, including the Sea Lab’s Estuarium or Historic Fort Gaines. Homes on Dauphin Island are in the neighborhood of $290,000 and produce an average rental income of $43,000.

Featured vacation home: Bella Vista

Cap rate

7.8%

Median home sale price

$289,623

Median annual gross rental revenue

$43,316

dark blue lake cottage in union pier, mi

4. New Buffalo, Michigan

Sitting 70 miles from downtown Chicago, the town of New Buffalo is just moments off the highway, but feels completely separated from the hustle and bustle of a city center. Never heard of it? Well tune in, as New Buffalo snagged the number four spot on our list and has a lot to offer vacation home guests beyond the majestic beauty of Lake Michigan. Spend a sunny afternoon playing in the sand, use the launch area for a boating adventure, or swim in the lake’s waters. Lake Michigan is an enormous body of water, and it’s easy to forget you aren’t actually on the ocean as the wind gently whips up small whitecaps. Speaking of caps? A 7.1% cap rate ain’t too shabby for south Michigan.

Featured vacation home: Lake Shore Cottage

Cap rate

7.1%

Median home sale price

$319,306

Median annual gross rental revenue

$55,413

whitewashed deck of corolla, nc beach house

5. Corolla, North Carolina

Nestled between two bodies of water—namely the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound—Corolla is an increasingly popular vacation destination that truly has it all. Check out the luxury and local shopping, a plethora of spots to eat and drink, and, of course, the stretch of sandy beach where you can simply lounge in the sun. Or, take part in an activity unique to the area and catch a glimpse of Corolla’s wild horses. The remote area of the beach where these Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs roam requires a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach (with the option of guided tours), but making the trek is one of Corolla’s most popular activities. After a day outdoors, guests can return to their often spacious vacation rental to enjoy the home’s amenities, which can include private pools, hot tubs, game rooms, and even volleyball courts. Interested buyers will pay a little more for these homes, with the average home price hovering around $560,000.

Featured vacation home: Skipper’s Sail Away BU30

Cap rate

6.9%

Median home sale price

$560,599

Median annual gross rental revenue

$65,222

oceanfront condo with outdoor pool and plenty of lounge chairs

6. Kauai South, Hawaii

The sun soaked skies of south Kauai draw in hordes of visitors every year, and while 2020 was an exception, tourism in Hawaii is bouncing back nicely. And why would we expect anything less? Kauai, and more specifically southern Kauai near Poipu, is the perfect place to switch from real life to island time due to its proximity to the area’s stunning beaches. Whether you plan to plot your spot on the sand or hit the links at the area’s nearby (and also stunningly beautiful) golf courses, homes here can cost a pretty penny at around $600,000, but the opportunity to earn approximately $65,000 average annual rental income may just keep you afloat.

Featured vacation home:Poipu Palms 103

Cap rate

6.2%

Median home sale price

$593,554

Median annual gross rental revenue

$65,162

light blue beachfront home with beautiful landscaping in Isle of Palms, SC

7. Isle of Palms, South Carolina

A small beach town in the other Carolina comes in at number seven on our Best Places to Buy a Beach House list. Isle of Palms, which lies just 18 miles from Charleston, offers more than meets the eye with championship golf and tennis, a bustling marina, and countless water sports and activities. A friendly blend of locals and tourists mingle on the sand, often taking in beach volleyball games and live music, and noshing on local yet understated fare like pizza and ice cream. To make a piece of Isle of Palms your own will cost you around $700,000, but a steady stream of East Coast travelers will help offset costs.

Featured vacation home: Oceanfront Bliss

Cap rate

5.8%

Median home sale price

$708,920

Median annual gross rental revenue

$75,338

outdoor table and chairs look out over the Pacific Ocean and sandy beach in Kihei, HI

8. Wailea, Hawaii

Located in South Maui and just a 30-minute jaunt from the major airport, Wailea is perfect for guests looking to combine a relaxing environment with true Hawaiian luxury. Crescent-shaped beaches beckon children and adults alike, with warm waters to splash in just steps away. Golf courses that brought acclaim to the area are nearby for those seeking a more active reprieve, and the Shops at Wailea are an ever-popular attraction. However, the simple pleasures such as jogging the Wailea Beach Path or discovering volcanic rock formations at Little Beach bring equal joy to guests. Homes and condos in the area are highly sought after and typically sit around $880,000. A cap rate of 5.6% will ease the burden as you slowly sip a Mai Tai.

Featured vacation home: Nani Kai Hale 409

Cap rate

5.6%

Median home sale price

$885,086

Median annual gross rental revenue

$86,539

family home with attached garage and beautiful landscaping in Waikoloa, HI

9. South Kohala, Hawaii

The South Kohala district includes the towns of Puako, Waikoloa Village, Waimea, and unincorporated Kawaihae and Kawaihae Harbor. It’s one of the most sought-after destinations on the Big Island of Hawaii, but somehow it remains relatively untouched by people. It can be a welcome change of scenery compared to most people’s idea of Hawaii, with lush, green stretches of rolling hills that are the center of Kohala’s ranching culture. In addition to weekly farmers’ markets, South Kohala is known for its incredible dining scene. From the pricey Redwater Cafe to the family-friendly Pau Pizza, there’s something for everyone in South Kohala, including homes and condos that run around $639,000 and boast a cap rate of 5.6%.

Featured vacation home: Star of Waikoloa

Cap rate

5.6%

Median home sale price

$639,908

Median annual gross rental revenue

$64,179

large teal beach house with matching outdoor tables and chairs in Port Bolivar, TX

10. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

As they say, everything’s bigger in Texas. A 27-mile stretch of pure paradise awaits in the Bolivar Peninsula. Crystal Beach, Gilchrist, High Island, and Port Bolivar are all popular destinations within this laid-back, tech-free (don’t worry, there’s WiFi) destination on the Gulf Coast. Locals say it’s one of those places that takes you back in time—where mom and pop shops line the streets and the Big Kite and Surf Shop retailers are the main game in town. Oh, and don’t worry about transportation. Daily—or weekly—golf cart rentals are always available, where you can cruise the sand to your heart's content. Rounding out our top 10 Best Places to Buy a Beach House, Bolivar Peninsula homes come in at roughly $299,354 and boast a healthy cap rate of 5.6%.

Featured vacation home: Shore Thing

Cap rate

5.6%

Median home sale price

$299,354

Median annual gross rental revenue

$41,564

Our methodology

To determine its ranking of top vacation rental markets, Vacasa and its licensed subsidiaries (collectively "Vacasa") analyzed home sales data from the last twelve months for vacation destinations throughout the country, and overlaid it with actual performance data for thousands of U.S. vacation rental properties. Vacasa utilizes data from the markets where it actively operates vacation rentals to ensure accuracy of performance. To calculate average cap rate, we considered the averages of the following in each market: property taxes, utilities, HOA fees, insurance, and property management fees.

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*This document is for information and illustrative purposes only. It is not intended to provide “investment advice” or a “recommendation” regarding a course of action. The discussion is general in nature and has not taken into account your personal financial position or objectives. You should consult a licensed financial advisor or other professional to discuss your specific situation.

Estimated rental income figures and home sale prices are based on historical averages; for any specific property, the actual revenue, purchase price, and cap rate may differ materially from estimated amounts and depend on a wide range of factors outside Vacasa's knowledge or control, such as the property's condition, layout, and furnishings; expenses associated with the acquisition and ownership of the property (such as property taxes, utility fees, HOA fees, insurance fees, and mortgage-related expenses); rental calendar availability; existing and future regulations; current and future economic, social, and political trends and conditions; and weather and environmental factors. These estimates do not take into account the potential impact of state income taxes.

Many locations restrict or impose conditions on the use of properties as vacation rentals, or restrict vacation rentals to certain defined areas. Before purchasing a particular property as a potential vacation rental a buyer should confirm that the property can legally be used for this purpose.

Vacasa makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, about the accuracy of this document. Furthermore, Vacasa has no obligation to update, modify or amend this document or to otherwise notify users in the event that any opinion, assumption, forecast or estimate set forth herein changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate. Therefore, you should not place undue reliance on statements in this document.