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The six-mile move that knocks £130k off seaside property prices

Stacy Weeks
Stacy Weeks, 44, is struggling to find anything to buy in St Merryn within her budget of £500,000 to £600,000 - Dale Cherry

On a clear evening, Stacy Weeks likes nothing better than grabbing her paddleboard and heading down to the beach. Five minutes later, she is out on the water watching the sun set.

Living by the sea in Cornwall has proved a healing experience for her. She moved to St Merryn, just outside Padstow, last year – returning to the county where she was born and raised after getting divorced.

“Everything seems to melt away when you get out on the water, you feel instantly relaxed,” says Weeks, 44, who runs her own Pilates studio. “Bobbing out on the water becomes a bit hypnotic, it takes away a lot of that stress.”

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Living by the sea has huge lifestyle benefits. But the downside is that these homes are dramatically more expensive than those even a short distance away.

Exclusive research by estate agent Hamptons found that homes in Padstow cost an average of £731,950. In Wadebridge, some six miles inland, that drops to £599,630, equal to a 22pc premium for being 20 minutes closer, by car, from the coast.

In Northumberland, the difference is even steeper. Homes in coastal Bamburgh cost an average £403,500. Just 16 miles away, in the equally beautiful but landlocked market town of Alnwick, average prices are 30pc lower at £284,330.

A study of 10 pairs of coastal and nearby inland locations – comparing surf with turf – found that seaside was more expensive than land-locked in the majority of cases, representing significant savings for those prepared to live not quite on the coast.

This anomaly represents a conundrum for Weeks. Before the move, she and her ex were renting a four-bedroom detached cottage in Huntsham, Devon, an hour’s drive from the beach.

But although the Huntsham property was “twice the size” of her current home, it was also considerably more affordable – renting at £955 per month compared to the £1,600 she pays now.

Weeks is now house hunting with her new partner, but they are struggling to find anything to buy within their budget of £500,000 to £600,000. She knows that if she were to move inland the story would be different, but is reluctant to move too far from the sea.

“It is a difficult situation,” she says.

The Hamptons research found that while most seaside towns were more expensive, there were some exceptions.

In Sussex, for example, the town of Hurstpierpoint, where many homes are large and detached, is more expensive, at an average £646,100, than coastal Brighton, 10 miles away. But this difference is due to the varied housing stock – the presence of plenty of flats in Brighton brings the local average price down to £516,130.

Along the coast in Dorset, the seaside reigns supreme. At an average £372,000, homes in Weymouth, Dorset, with its pretty harbour and access to the West Dorset Heritage Coast, are significantly more expensive than those in the beautiful town of Dorchester. Eight miles – or a 13 minute train hop – inland, average prices drop to £324,000.

Mark Parker, of Parkers Property Consultants and Valuers, believes there will always be buyers willing to pay a premium to wake up to a sea view and a finite supply of such properties.

“Even in Weymouth, properties half a mile inland are worth nothing like what they are right by the coast,” he says. “I reckon you are looking at 75pc more for a seafront property.

“Why will people pay that much? It is the dream, isn’t it?” he says. “There are people who have the financial capacity to pay more, and they will.”

Some coastal homeowners have started wising up to this anomaly, and are cashing in.

One of the biggest price differentials in the research is in Suffolk, where homes in Southwold sell for an average of £573,000. In Bungay, 16 miles inland, the average price is almost half that at £326,000.

Will Stopher, of Musker McIntyre estate agents, says Bungay’s market is being strongly driven by people who live on the coast deciding to move inland, joined by relocators who realise how much more bang they can get from their buck if they live a few miles from the coast.

“It is very much a trend at the moment,” he says. “People are cottoning on to the fact that they can do a 15 minute drive and buy a property for half the price. And a lot of people who live in places like Southwold and [the neighbouring village of] Walberswick are realising that they don’t have to live there.

“Southwold is a fantastic place but they feel it has been overtaken by all the holidaymakers and second home owners. It is a crazy place in the summer, and desolate in the winter.”

A similar trend is emerging in Wadebridge, Cornwall. Debbie Browning, of Bond Oxborough Phillips estate agents, says many of her buyers are selling up in Padstow village – as well as other tourist honeypots like Polzeath and Rock – and moving slightly inland.

Not only can they release large chunks of equity by doing so, but Browning says many are sick of living in a holiday resort.

By decamping to Wadebridge they can escape the worst of the tourist hordes, make use of more comprehensive basic local amenities – food shops, doctors’ surgeries – and find a stronger sense of community.

“A lot of people sell up in Padstow and buy something cheaper in Wadebridge,” she says. “I think a lot of it is that they are fed up with the second homes. I love Padstow but I avoid it in summer, and it is a ghost town in winter.”