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What To Consider When Buying a Beach House in California
Real Estate

What To Consider When Buying a Beach House in California

Contemplating buying a beach house? Love the beach bum lifestyle? Read on to discover tips for buying a beach house in California.

Betty White

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4 min read

April 21, 2021

I am the happy owner of a beach house in the Bay Area, though, for some reason, my husband is raising an eyebrow here. When we were buying a beach house in California, I thought the process was going to be a piece of orange cake. Oh, how little we knew.

Almost a year later, we're sitting on our deck listening to the waves sweeping over one of the best local beaches and reminiscing about those times. It's impossible not to feel happy after all we had to do and consider to get where we are now. Especially when I take into account the challenges the pandemic imposed at the time. If you plan on joining us in the neighborhood, here are a few of my, okay, our tips.

5 Tips for buying a beach house in California

For a romantic getaway, take your beaux to Orange County's gorgeous Laguna Beach. Then figure out how to live there full-time.

1. Invest your time in careful budgeting

The good thing about buying a house, and especially a beachfront house, with a spouse is that your credit scores help each other. We were both reasonable with our expenses for years, as we were dreaming about owning a house on a beach for a long time. Still, there was so much paperwork, and going through the approval process was quite stressful. Not to mention timing the end of the lease and the purchase of our new house.

So, we had to calculate every little detail and hope for the best. In the end, we somehow managed to omit a few things that could have somewhat complicated our relocation. If you plan on following our steps, do make sure you:

  • Keep an impeccable credit score for your pre-approval. It gives you an edge over other people interested in buying the same beachfront property
  • Don't spend every last cent on the house purchase. There are so many expenses following, closing costs included. And we actually split them with the seller 50-50
  • Plan your yearly expenses, particularly beach house insurance, pest control, and maintenance, but also the local real estate taxes
  • Take into account what, when and from how far are you relocating to the California coast, and avoid unpleasant last-minute surprises
  • Consider renting your beachfront property. We were not planning on it at first, but we got a few offers to rent it while we're away

2. DOn't forget about moving costs

Moving expenses were almost too much, but it was our fault entirely (another raised eyebrow). In the end, we had to plan the budget carefully because we came dangerously close to our upper limit. Our savings were drying up just too quickly. You'd expect it when buying a beach house in California, but not on that level.

And that has nothing to do with my insisting (now both eyebrows went up) that we find a beach home in lovely Marin County that is perhaps a tiny bit more expensive than other beachfront locations in the Bay Area. We were saving for this; it made perfect sense to get the best of it. However, we almost made an oversight that could have ruined everything at the last moment. We hadn't asked for a moving quote on time, and we were about to move plenty of heavy things long-distance, during peak season.

Luckily, we got a good recommendation and arranged for an interstate move with unexpected ease. Even though we seriously considered moving on our own at first, we ultimately gave up on a DIY move. Now, when I look back, I'm happy that we did. We had so much other work to complete before the move, and I couldn't possibly think about packing, loading, driving, and unloading. We're still unpacking, almost a year after the move, but I blame the slow beachfront life for that.

Take care of the beach house maintenance so you can actually reap the benefits of beachside living.

3. You can't avoid maintenance

I knew it from the start: a house is a money pit. What I didn't know is how big that pit would be before buying a beach house in California. First things first—our wisest decision thus far—we hired a licensed home inspector to survey the two houses that went to the finals. One of them had severe structural issues that the seller freshly repainted. The other required only minor upgrades and was closer to some of the most amazing hiking trails in the San Francisco area that my husband likes. You can guess which one we chose in the end.

Our local agent managed to deal with the seller and take off those cosmetic repair costs from the final price. However, he warned us fairly. The climate itself—aka the sun, humidity, and salty air—all have a detrimental impact on outdoor home features. We had to invest quite a lot in flood insurance, too. Also, he advised us not to save on pest control expenses, so we didn't.

4. Possibility for passive income

As I mentioned, renting out my own home hadn't even crossed my mind at first. However, my more practical husband suggested we rent it for a few weeks every year when we go to visit our folks. We would need to obtain a permit, though, and pay transient occupancy tax, acquire a business license, and provide a plethora of details.

While the idea of earning passively from a property is quite attractive, we don't feel ready to deal with the paperwork so soon after moving in. Perhaps once we truly settle in, we might consider this possibility of extra income. Luckily, short-stay rentals in the San Francisco Bay Area are legal, as long as the rental is for thirty days or less.

Smile as you hit the waves. Is there anything better than finally living the dream? We think not, and we know you agree.

5. Smile and waves, boys, smile and waves

Finally, we got the hang of it. And if you ask me—well, us—if buying a beach house in California was a good idea after all, I'll just raise a glass of my fizzy beverage in salute and lean in our comfy beach chair to savor it with a mysterious smile.

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