Updated: Jul 11
Many of us dream of living by the sea, either as part of a retirement plan, or a better quality of life for our family or as a bolthole during high-days and holidays. A change of scene for the weekend is the perfect tonic for most of us and the demand for coastal homes over the last few years has exploded. The demands of work, never ending emails and media posts has merely highlighted the desire to escape city living.
The pace of affluent buyers looking for first-class, modern homes hasn’t translated into the same number of available options; many buyers have had to roll their sleeves up and take on projects to bring their Barn conversions, Old Rectory’s, and Victorian cottages in to 21stC modern living. This includes cable and internet access, and it is till common to come across areas where reception is slow or non-existent. The lack of mobile phone reception and speed of web browsers has become a draw for those wanting the excuse of avoiding the pressures of corporate life, the self-imposed silence and solitude has been a welcome distraction. However, the pretty hamlets and small villages are beginning to catch up with their city cousins though it is taking time.
With many looking to rediscover their ‘zen’, science shows coastal living could be beneficial for both our mental and physical health.
We explore the therapeutic benefits of being in, on and by the water along with the latest hotspots worth considering.
The 19thC saw a wave of tourists, and medical patients, flocking to seaside spas, towns, and villages, looking for the three ‘R’s’. It was ‘just what the doctor ordered’ as the old adage goes. Indeed, in Victorian times, living by the sea was a way of treating those with consumption and chest diseases such as TB, as the fresh and salty sea air was believed to have curative properties.
Fast forward to today, and our mental health has come into sharp focus, and how we can balance our life.
There is so much on offer being by the sea, beach combing for semi-precious stones (Moss Agate, Cornellians or if you’re lucky, Amber), horse riding, sailing, fishing, canoeing along meandering marshes, fossil hunting, crabbing or if you have an artistic pallet, painting. The list is almost endless.
The health benefits of living by the sea is clear.
If you're thinking of moving to live by the seaside, here are four backed-by-science health benefits that may persuade you to take the plunge and make the change to coastal life.
Sea air helps you to sleep better
If you feel sleepier or more rested after a visit to the seaside, there’s clear science to back up why. Dr Natasha Bijlani, a psychiatrist from London’s Priory’s Roehampton Hospital told Metro: “Sea air is good for sleep because it’s generally cleaner and fresher, with higher levels of oxygen, which can improve sleep.” In fact, negative ions in sea air accelerate your ability to absorb oxygen, and help balance your serotonin levels, one of the body's happiness hormones.
A 2015 study from the National Trust seems to corroborate the idea that breathing in sea air helps you to sleep better. It found that people sleep on average for 47 minutes longer the night after a decent seaside hike. That’s compared to only an additional 12 minutes for those who went on an inland walk of a similar length. Environmental psychologist Eleanor Ratcliffe, who carried out the National Trust research, said: “It’s clear there’s something really special about the coast that can allow people to boost their mood, relax and sleep.”
The coast boosts your mental health
As well as improving sleep, recent scientific research shows that coastal living can also help in warding off depression and anxiety.
A study from the University of Exeter looked at the census data of 48 million adults in England and how their rated their own health, in relation to where they lived. The results showed that people living close to the coast experience lower mental distress, but when the same people moved inland, the effects were reversed. Dr Lewis Elliott from the University of Exeter confirmed: “We discovered that the closer people live to the coast in England, the better they rate their health.”
More recently, another study from the same team published in the journal Health & Place backed up their previous findings. The researchers surveyed almost 26,000 people to analyse the mental health well-being effects of being close to the coast. The results showed that those who live less than 1km from the sea are 22 per cent less likely to have mental health symptoms compared to those living over 50km away. This corroborated an earlier study from 2013 which concluded that you’re more likely to have better mental health if you live within 5km of the British coastline.
In fact, you don’t even have to get your feet wet to feel the mental and health benefits of living by the sea. Simply looking out at the vast ocean in front of you can help to put your worries into perspective. Your fears may seem trivial when you look at the skyline ahead: this is down to the power of awe. And a 2015 study showed that even just having a view of the sea can promote improvements in mood and a reduction in heart rate. Additionally, the sound of the waves can be very calming.
Saltwater helps your body heal
Physical health improvements are another potential benefit of living by the sea. Sea water is rich in minerals such as magnesium, chloride, sodium, potassium, iodine, and sulphur, many of which have curative and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. Indeed, a study from the University of Freiburg in Germany found that a combination of sea water and UVB radiation can improve troubling skin problems such as dermatitis and psoriasis. Soaking in seawater is nature’s skin treatment – it’s great for sensitive or eczema-prone skin. With psoriasis, cell turnover is high, so replenishing it with minerals that the body has used up could explain why bathing in salty sea water helps so many people.
Additionally, the sea air contains a mist of saline water, which appears to have a soothing effect on the respiratory system’s mucosal lining. So, people living with health conditions such as sinusitis could benefit from living by the sea. It seems those Victorians were really onto something!
A more active, and therefore healthier, lifestyle
A study from the UK found that coastal proximity increased your chances of being fitter and healthier than those who lived elsewhere – partly since those living closer to the sea have higher levels of physical activity. Indeed, the study found that you’re more likely to exercise regularly if you live within 1km of the English coastline. Physical health improvements are another potential benefit of living by the sea. Sea water is rich in minerals, many of which have curative and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin.
Of course, the sea offers up the opportunity for swimming during warmer months, but the water also provides the chance to get involved in other sports all year round such as sailing, surfing or paddleboarding. Likewise, the coastline provides the perfect opportunity to keep fit through jogging, running, and hiking.
Coastal living: the takeaway
It's clear from research that there are various benefits of living by the sea for both our mental and physical health. Studies suggest that it can help with depression and that a coastal environment offers up more chance for physical fitness. So, while we all enjoy our holidays by the sea, could a more permanent move to the coast benefit us? Science seems to suggest it does.
Reviewing the latest hotspots
1. Southwold (Suffolk)
Pricing 2022: Properties in Southwold had an overall average price of £739,081 over the last year.
Most sales in Southwold during the last year were terraced properties, selling for an average price of £814,469. Detached properties sold for an average of £701,500, with flats fetching £440,667.
Overall, sold prices in Southwold over the last year were 13% up on the previous year and 32% up on the 2019 peak of £559,347.
Overview: Southwold is a seaside town and civil parish on the English North Sea coast in the East Suffolk district of Suffolk. It lies at the mouth of the River Blyth within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Almost an island, being bounded by the North Sea to the East, by the River Blyth and Southwold harbour to the South–West and by Buss Creek to the North, there is just the one road in to and out of Southwold, approached through neighbouring Reydon.
The town offers much of interest, but it is the sea and Southwold’s links with it that make this an excellent destination at any time of the year. All the attractions of the working lighthouse, beach huts, award-winning pier, busy harbour, cliff top cannon and the beach, combine to make Southwold a quintessentially English resort town.
2. Felixstowe (Suffolk)
Properties in Felixstowe had an overall average price of £271,840 over the last year.
Most sales in Felixstowe during the last year were terraced properties, selling for an average price of £237,878. Semi-detached properties sold for an average of £270,057, with detached properties fetching £394,696.
Overall, sold prices in Felixstowe over the last year were 7% down on the previous year and 2% up on the 2019 peak of £266,847.
Nestled between the rivers Orwell and Deben, Felixstowe is a charming seaside town with a vibrant town centre and a wonderful mix of attractions and activities to suit all ages and interests. The summer months see classic car shows, air shows, ‘Art on the Prom’, where families can buy local works and there are plenty of workshops on offer for the children to get involved in. A cinema, theatre and superb restaurants cater for visitors and residents alike. The ‘links’ gold course is well represented, and looking at the past members, was a who’s who of the well-to-do Londoners who took the short jaunt from The City.
The John Bradfield Viewing Area at Landguard Point offers stunning views across the estuary to the Shotley Peninsula and the Essex towns of Harwich and Dovercourt and if the weather is clear, you can even see the offshore wind turbines beyond The Naze. Famous visitors to the town include Wallis Simpson who stayed in the town for six weeks during the abdication and the actor Sir John Mills who grew up in Felixstowe.
Felixstowe is the only seaside resort in East Anglia to face southwards.
3. Teignmouth (Devon)
Properties in Teignmouth had an overall average price of £267,479 over the last year.
Most sales in Teignmouth during the last year were flats, selling for an average price of £173,040. Detached properties sold for an average of £407,877, with terraced properties fetching £227,716.
Overall, sold prices in Teignmouth over the last year were 13% down on the previous year and 3% up on the 2018 peak of £258,604.
Teignmouth is a stunning coastal town with historic Georgian buildings, long sandy beaches, and fresh local food.
The town sits on the edge of the mouth of River Teign and the South Devon coast – and is surrounded by lush Devon countryside, so you won’t find a more beautiful setting.
Located on the main Southwest train line, Teignmouth is an easy journey from London, along the most spectacular coastal train route in the country. Dartmoor National Park, Exeter and Torquay are just a few miles from Teignmouth, making it an ideal central location to explore the rest of South Devon.
4. Paignton (Devon)
Properties in Paignton had an overall average price of £250,239 over the last year.
Most sales in Paignton during the last year were semi-detached properties, selling for an average price of £273,350. Flats sold for an average of £138,382, with detached properties fetching £385,789.
Overall, sold prices in Paignton over the last year were like the previous year and 16% up on the 2018 peak of £215,925.
One of the brightest jewels in the English Riviera’s crown, as you arrive in the seaside resort of Paignton, you are met with the sight of its long stretch of beachfront, promenade, traditional pier, colourful beach huts and green. It’s a compact resort, with the seafront and town centre shops all within proximity, making it an ideal location for that relaxing break away.
Like the rest of the English Riviera, Paignton benefits from a mild climate and sub-tropical palm trees, giving that real continental, holiday feel.
5. Southsea (Hampshire)
Properties in Southsea had an overall average price of £272,459 over the last year.
Most sales in Southsea during the last year were terraced properties, selling for an average price of £285,312. Flats sold for an average of £199,345, with semi-detached properties fetching £447,991.
Overall, sold prices in Southsea over the last year were 2% down on the previous year and 11% up on the 2019 peak of £245,749.
Nestled on the southern side of Portsmouth – with views across to the Isle of Wight – the coastal resort of Southsea has traditional British waterfront charm, with a fresh air of trendiness brought by the increasing number of independent shops and eateries that now reside in this part of the world.
There are few destinations that could rival such a coastal culture, combined with a history dating back to the first ships to leave British shores. Southsea looks out upon the Solent where sea forts are passed by ferries, cruise liners, Royal Navy ships, and even Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Team UK racing sailing yachts.
6. Saundersfoot (Pembrokeshire)
Properties in Saundersfoot had an overall average price of £314,180 over the last year.
Most sales in Saundersfoot during the last year were detached properties, selling for an average price of £389,895. Semi-detached properties sold for an average of £262,031, with flats fetching £188,808.
Overall, sold prices in Saundersfoot over the last year were 7% up on the previous year and 25% up on the 2017 peak of £251,076.
A small but very popular resort with all the facilities you might need. Wide flat, sandy beach at low tide but still plenty of space at high tide. Pretty harbour. Stunning views from the top of the hill.
Regular events such as The World Cawl cooking championships.
Note: Dog restrictions apply to the whole beach except a small area just before you get to Coppet Hall beach between 1st May and 30th September.
7. Beer (South Devon)
Properties in Beer had an overall average price of £371,300 over the last year.
Most sales in Beer during the last year were terraced properties, selling for an average price of £330,333. Detached properties sold for an average of £696,000, with flats fetching £169,500.
Overall, sold prices in Beer over the last year were 24% down on the previous year and 15% down on the 2010 peak of £434,860.
The beautiful, picturesque village of Beer is located on the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Devon. Surrounded by white chalk cliffs, the shingle beach is lined with fishing boats still bringing in their daily catches and is famous for its mackerel.
On the edge of the Southwest Coast Path, Beer has some of the most stunning coastal walks in the county, one of the best being from Seaton to Beer with dramatic views across the Jurassic Coastline. Beer was also named recently by Countryfile as the Top Picnic spot in the UK from Jubilee Gardens at the top of the headland, chose for its stunning view of the beach and village from the hillside.
8. Deal (Kent)
Properties in Deal had an overall average price of £355,276 over the last year.
Most sales in Deal during the last year were semi-detached properties, selling for an average price of £331,302. Terraced properties sold for an average of £332,722, with detached properties fetching £542,392.
Overall, sold prices in Deal over the last year were 7% up on the previous year and 22% up on the 2018 peak of £290,331.
Quaint, quirky and one of the most charming coastal towns in Kent, Deal in White Cliffs Country is steeped in history. You can visit a fantastic range of maritime exhibits at Deal Museum, the Timeball Tower Museum or explore one of the historic castles in Deal and Walmer.
Taking a stroll along Deal’s unspoilt promenade, you’ll see the pretty pebbly beach with fishing boats pulled up onto the shingle. Deal Pier, who you might recognise as a filming location from ITV’s “Liar” and view the historic buildings lining the shore that’s remained unchanged for more than 100 years.
Deal has narrow streets and alleyways, quaint fishermen’s cottages nestled amongst the cobbles with well-preserved Georgian town houses. Smugglers would try to evade King George’s men.
There are plenty of art galleries and exhibitions. At Deal Braderie, the town’s annual street market, you’ll find stalls selling vintage clothing, jewellery, crafts, bric-a-brac, memorabilia, books, and antiques.
9. Lytham St Annes (Lancashire)
Properties in Lytham St. Annes had an overall average price of £238,921 over the last year.
Most sales in Lytham St. Annes during the last year were flats, selling for an average price of £167,270. Semi-detached properties sold for an average of £246,787, with detached properties fetching £390,574.
Overall, sold prices in Lytham St. Annes over the last year were 12% down on the previous year and 1% up on the 2017 peak of £236,446.
Just two miles from the bright lights of Blackpool, Lytham and St Annes, Fylde, are worlds apart in both character and atmosphere. The dual seaside towns are nestled along a picturesque stretch of coastline lined with well-tended lawns, a boating lake, and pretty parks.
With an expansive sandy beach), a Victorian pier, historic windmill, a ‘royal’ golf course and stylish independent shops, the dual seaside towns of Lytham and St Annes continues to do well.
The Georgian Lytham Hall, set in 78 acres of grounds with a popular tearoom, busy events calendar, and a popular wedding venue or worth a visit.
10. Robin Hood’s Bay (North Yorkshire)
Properties in Robin Hoods Bay had an overall average price of £359,604 over the last year.
Most sales in Robin Hoods Bay during the last year were terraced properties, selling for an average price of £297,531. Detached properties sold for an average of £685,000, with semi-detached properties fetching £282,500.
Overall, sold prices in Robin Hoods Bay over the last year were 3% up on the previous year and 21% up on the 2017 peak of £297,216.
Robin Hood's Bay is a picturesque old fishing village on the Heritage Coast of the North York Moors. It is a fantastic place for adults and children alike with a beautiful family (and dog!) friendly sandy beach, as well as rock pools to explore and ancient fossils to discover. Wandering through its narrow, twisting cobbled streets and alleyways, sailors and fishermen, smugglers and press gangs used to walk the streets looking for fresh ‘volunteers’. Thankfully those days are long gone! Today it is a vibrant village, with a wide range of cafes, pubs, restaurants, small shops.
SECOND HOME DILEMMA?
It is worth noting there has been, in recent months, a Second home crackdown by some councils and local authorities as house prices have exceeded local residences budgets. This long-standing resentment is now boiling over into a, at present, non-legal position by some local governmental parties. In the run up to the Queen’s Speech the government had been expected to announce a new crackdown on these second homes but so far, no concrete details have emerged.
It had been widely speculated in the media that councils would be handed discretionary powers to increase council tax by 100% on second homes that are neither used nor let out by their owners for at least 70 days per year, in a bid to contain price inflation in picturesque areas.
There is now a movement by residents to vote in favour of banning second home ownership. St Ives in northern Cornwall voted for a second home ban six years ago.
Residents of the North Yorkshire coastal resort of Whitby have voted by an overwhelming majority to ban the sale of new build properties to second homeowners.
A total of 2,339 people turned out to vote in the non-binding referendum to restrict the sale of new-build and additional housing to full-time residents, with 2,111 votes in favour and 157 against. The question put to voters was: “Should all new build and additional housing in Whitby Parish be restricted to full time local occupation as a primary residence only and forever (in perpetuity)?” Scarborough Borough Council, which controls planning in Whitby, has reportedly agreed to adopt the ban on second homeowners buying new build properties in the resort, which means it could become effective by the end of the year. Whitby has become the latest in a growing list of tourist hotspots around the UK to ban or restrict the sale of second homes to non-residents following widespread fears that spiralling property prices are pricing local people out of the housing market. According to reports, Whitby experienced the second highest price increases of any coastal resort in the country last year, up by 17% and second only to Padstow in Cornwall, with up to 28% of all homes in the fishing port being classed as second homes or holiday lets. While the average property price is reportedly around £255,000, according to the Rightmove property website, most local people are said to earn an average of £18,900 a year. And it appears that Whitby's astonishing decision may have sparked a 'quiet revolution' among disgruntled residents in a string of historic seaside towns across Britain - from Lyme Regis, Salcombe and Falmouth to Tideswell and as previously mentioned, St. Ives.
With the recent central government shenanigans, any meaningful movement will take longer to implement, if at all.
Pricing Source acknowledgement: House price data produced by Land Registry. This material was last updated on 6 July 2022. It covers the period from 1 January 1995 to 31 May 2022 and contains property transactions which have been registered during that period. Contains HM Land Registry data © Crown copyright and database right 2022. This data is licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
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