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Living by the beach can be expensive. Mortgage payments, property taxes and space can make your dream home unattainable. But if you know where to look, you can find a shore home without breaking the bank. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that the U.S. has over 95,000 miles of shoreline, which includes all the coastal states and Alaska, as well as the island state of Hawaii. SmartAsset took a look at popular oceanfront communities in America to rank the most affordable beach towns in 2021.
We compared data for 218 beach towns and ranked them by four key real estate metrics: median home value, average number of rooms per house, median monthly property taxes paid and monthly housing costs. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAsset’s sixth annual study on the most affordable beach towns in America. Check out the 2020 version here.
- The best deals are still in the South. The top 10 cities in this study are located in three Southern states: four in Florida, four in Mississippi and two in Texas. While Florida may be an obvious choice for many people, the prevalence of Mississippi and Texas on our list shows how thinking outside of the box can help you find affordable deals to fulfill your beach home dream.
- Low property taxes and cheap monthly costs: Homeowners in the top 10 beach communities on our list take advantage of low property taxes and affordable housing costs. Median annual property taxes for these cities are just $1,185, and median monthly housing costs are $746. By comparison, those figures are $8,677 and $2,956, respectively, for the study’s bottom 10 cities.
1. Biloxi, MS
Biloxi, Mississippi, ranks at the top of our list as the most affordable beach town in America. It overtook 2020’s winner Gulfport, a Magnolia State neighbor located approximately 13 miles west. The Gulf Coast city has a median home value of $161,700, which is the ninth-lowest value for this metric in the study. Biloxi ranks sixth overall for its low monthly housing costs, at $737. Median property taxes in Biloxi are $1,196, finishing just outside the top 10 at 13th, but still well within the top quartile of our study.
2. Gulfport, MS
With almost seven miles of white sandy beaches, Gulfport, Mississippi, ranks as a strong second. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 80 miles northeast of New Orleans, its median home value is $122,300 (fourth-lowest across all 218 cities in our study). Property taxes and monthly housing costs are also fairly low, ranking 11th overall for median tax payment, at $1,069, and ninth for monthly housing costs at $811.
3. Port Arthur, TX
Historically known as a prosperous oil refining city in the Gulf of Mexico, Port Arthur, Texas, ranks third. Located less than 90 miles east of Houston, this Gulf city has the lowest median home value in the study, at $65,800. Port Arthur also ranks first for its low monthly housing costs, at just $455. But overall, the city comes in at No. 3 because it falls in the bottom half of the study for average number of rooms per house, at just 5.7.
4. Pensacola, FL
Located on the Florida panhandle, Pensacola has a long-standing military history that helped earn its nickname as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” It ranks in the top quartile for three metrics – 18th for median property taxes at $1,291, 19th for median home value at $182,800 and 22nd for monthly housing costs at $940.
5. Ocean Springs, MS
Just east of Biloxi and Gulfport, Ocean Springs, Mississippi ranks in the top quartile for all four of the metrics we analyzed. It has the 15th-lowest median home value at $174,000 and ranks 24th out of 218 for median property taxes at $1,445. The average monthly housing cost in Ocean Springs is $1,021, ranking 33rd for this metric in our study. For its 6.8 average number of rooms per house, the beach town ranks 27th.
6. Bay St. Louis, MS
Known for its white sand beaches and charter fishing, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is located a little more than 60 miles east of New Orleans. This Gulf city places in the top 20 for three of our metrics, ranking eighth for monthly housing costs at $782, 12th for median property taxes paid at $1,140 and 14th for median home value at $172,600. Bay St. Louis homes tend to be slightly smaller, though, ranking in the bottom half of the study (tied at 118th place) with an average of 5.9 rooms per house.
7. Freeport, TX
Located almost 62 miles south from Houston, and about 45 miles southwest of Galveston, Freeport, Texas, has the second-lowest median home value across all 218 cities in the study, at $81,000. And the town also has the second-lowest median monthly housing costs, at $479. Freeport homes, however, are on the smaller side, ranking in the bottom half of this study with just 5.6 rooms on average.
8. Melbourne, FL
Melbourne, Florida, is the highest-ranked beach town on the Atlantic Ocean shore. Located approximately 35 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center, Melbourne residents average $853 on monthly housing costs, ranking 12th for this metric. This city also ranks just outside of the top 10, with the 13th-most affordable median home value, at $169,000. However, Melbourne houses tend to be on the smaller side, ranking in the bottom half of this study (tying with Bay St. Louis, Mississippi at 118th) with an average of 5.9 rooms.
9. Daytona Beach, FL
Widely recognized as a mecca for automobile racing, Daytona Beach, Florida, is located almost 57 miles northeast of Orlando. This Atlantic Coast city is a popular vacation destination, but with a median home value of just $153,000 – the seventh-lowest in our study – it is an attractive option for those who want to live on the beach full-time for relatively cheap. Daytona Beach residents pay only $723 in median monthly housing costs, the fifth-lowest across all 218 cities we considered.
10. Fort Pierce, FL
Rounding out the top 10 on our 2021 list of most affordable beach towns, Fort Pierce, Florida, is located approximately 54 miles south of Melbourne. Homeowners in this city pay only $908 in median property taxes, ranking seventh for this metric. Fort Pierce ranks third overall for its affordable median monthly housing costs, at $655. And the median value of a Fort Pierce home is $113,600, also ranking third. But the city falls near the bottom of the study for house size, with an average of 5.3 rooms per house.
Data and Methodology
In order to find the most affordable beach towns in the country, SmartAsset compared 218 cities located directly on an ocean (including bays and sounds). Specifically, we examined the following four metrics:
- Home value. This is the median home value in each city. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.
- Number of rooms. This is the average number of rooms per house. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.
- Property taxes. This is the median property taxes paid. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.
- Monthly housing costs. This is the median monthly housing costs. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.
First, we ranked each city in each metric. Next, we found each city’s average ranking, assigning an equal weight to each metric except for the average number of rooms, which received a half weight. We then ranked the cities according to this average. The city with the best average ranking received a 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a 0.
Tips for Buying a Home
- Want to live in a beach town? Start saving now, and think about getting some help from a financial advisor. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.
- Make sure your budget allows for your ideal home. Before you start looking at homes, figure out how much house you can afford so that you aren’t wasting any time looking at places that aren’t right for you.
- Time and tide wait for none. If you want to move to the shore in retirement, start saving now, and make sure to take advantage of a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k) if you have access to it.
Questions about our study? Contact [email protected]
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/benedek
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