Oh We Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside: Exploring the enduring appeal of waterfront living

61% of British buyers want to live by water, says Strutt & Parker

It’s not going to come as a surprise to anyone that Brits want to live by the seaside. But Strutt & Parker has done a survey anyway, discovering that, yes, a lot of people do want to live by the seaside. But also that a surprising number of those that already do – over a third – work from home.

The firm’s annual poll quizzed 2,000 sorts across the UK, and tells us that 61% of respondents want to live near to water in the future – with 62% of these hoping to live on the coast, 10% on a river or estuary, 15% on a lake or loch and 4% on the banks of a canal.

A period cottage comes out on top as the dream waterfront property (41%), while nearly a quarter of respondents said they’d prefer to live in a modern or contemporary waterside home (24%); 10% aspire to live in a penthouse flat overlooking the water.

Questions about why water appeals didn’t reveal many hidden depths; going with the flow seems to be the main reason, followed by nice views and a quite surprisingly strong emphasis on (perceived) health and wellbeing.

For 10% of respondents, living near the water was a lifelong dream, while 5% had returned to a childhood home, or were planning to. Local food and dining out was also an attraction for 7%.

Top reasons for wanting to live by water

Relaxation 58%
Views 47%
Better air quality 41%
Mental well-being 29%
Wildlife watching 23%
Water sports (surfing, swimming, fishing, sailing) 18%

64% of respondents said that they thought people who lived near the water were generally happier than those who didn’t. 56% said they believed people who lived by the water were both physically healthier and mentally healthier than those who did not.

60% of those surveyed already owned or rented a home within three miles of water – 40% of these lived on a river, 29% by the seaside, 17% by a canal and 10% on a lake/loch. For the vast majority of these waterside dwellers (95%), this property was their primary home (we should probably bear in mind that the survey was probably done recently, in the depths of winter). For the remaining 5% for whom their waterside property was a secondary home, 53% used it as a private holiday home and 40% as a holiday let and nearly 8% specifically used Airbnb to rent their waterside home out to visitors.

44% felt that living near to water or having a second home near to waterside was an obtainable aim for them in the next five years. However over half of respondents (56%) felt it wasn’t going to be possible for them to do so in that time scale. With 28% of those surveyed imagining that they would move to the waterside in 6-10 years, 12% felt that they would move much later in life (over 30 years’ time).

Interestingly, more than a third of those already living on the coast worked from home (34%). Good public transport links were either important or very important for 53% of those surveyed who lived on the coast. When seaside dwellers were asked whether it was important to live in proximity to a major city such as London or Edinburgh, the vast majority felt this was important at 59%.

Merrieweather, near Chichester in West Sussex (£2.75m with Strutt & Parker Chichester)

Richard Speedy, Head of Strutt & Parker’s Waterside department: “It is hardly surprising that the waterside holds such a special place in the heart of the British homebuyer. The whole of the UK has amazing and picturesque beaches, rivers, lochs and lakes, offering views that can’t be matched elsewhere in the country.  Then there’s the lifestyle aspects, whether you’re a family wanting access to swathes of sandy beaches for walking the dog, are looking to do more fishing in your retirement, or want to buy that boat you’ve always promised yourself.  Direct access to the water via a slipway, quay, running mooring or pontoon is important to many buyers, increasingly so at the top end of the market.

“The wellness element of being by the water is key to a work/life balance and with more and more companies offering flexible working hours, the increase in good internet connectivity across the country has encouraged them to allow employees to work from home which often increases productivity due to the lack of commute and beautiful surroundings. I think the national waterside market will increase ahead of the national country market, over the next 12 months as more baby boomers opt to downsize or retire to waterfront locations.”

Vanessa Hale, Partner in the Strutt & Parker Research department: “Research has shown that living by water can have a number of health benefits – fresher air, coupled with more time outside in the sunshine and a more active lifestyle is bound to make us healthier or at least feel it! In fact, the University of Exeter published a study which found that, on average, the closer we live to the sea, the more likely we are to report good health.

“Through our own Housing Futures work, we have identified a new tribe of people we call the ‘MECos’, those who place their personal health and wellbeing at a premium, and want a home that reflects this priority. Our surveys from 2013-2016 showed that 10% of people desired to have outstanding views over water in their dream future home, whilst nearly 20% identified themselves as MECos and 54% said they would consider moving to a ‘HEAL’ house (which stands for Healthy Eating Active Living).”

Stuart House in Torquay
(four bedrooms; £1,550,000 with Strutt & Parker Exeter)