Five beach house hotspots that aren’t the Hamptons

Once a sparsely populated area whose idyllic landscapes attracted artists from Winslow Homer to Jackson Pollack, New York’s Hamptons now rank among the most expensive residential markets in the United States.

Prices soared even higher during the pandemic, as New Yorkers fled the city and took homes. A waterfront estate in the town of Water Mill came on the market in May for $72 million, an asking price that didn’t even set a record.

The Hamptons, a 54-mile chain of towns along the east coast of Long Island, are also synonymous with New York glitz and glamour.

Part-time residents include celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. But as the year-round population has swelled, the roads are constricted and the beaches crowded.

For those looking for alternatives to the ever-hot Hamptons, with far less aggressive pricing, there are plenty of other waterfront towns across the United States that offer inspiring landscapes, sprawling homes, and similar high-end amenities. . You might not see Jerry Seinfeld or Maggie Gyllenhaal at the next table, but the locals at these five low-key seaside spots prefer it that way.

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Carmel-sur-mer, California

Officially incorporated in 1916, this Northern California beach town of 3,800 has long been sought after for its white-sand beaches, eclectic shops and restaurants, and historic architecture.

“It’s a lovely little community with amazing scenery and scenery,” said Tim Allen, owner of Tim Allen Properties in Carmel-by-the-Sea and longtime resident. “It’s also incredibly clean, with great input from residents in maintaining its natural beauty.”

View from the balcony of a five-bedroom oceanfront estate in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The property is currently listed for $18.9 million.


Prices across Carmel-by-the-Sea range from $2 million to $25 million, Allen said, with Carmel’s “Golden Rectangle” neighborhood most in demand for its ease of walking into town and the beach. A four-bedroom, three-bathroom home recently sold for “just under $6 million,” he said. In the hills of Carmel Woods, just north of the city, “prices are about 30% cheaper, $2 million to $4 million,” he said. In April 2021, real estate reported that the median home price sold here was $2.37 million; in April, that figure rose to $3.3 million.

Buyers are also looking for “cool historic homes built in the 1920s and 1930s”, including “Hansel-and-Gretel” cottages built by famous local developer Hugh Comstock, Mr Allen said.

Lake Oswego, Oregon

When Tony Mariotti was growing up in Vancouver, Wash., nearby Lake Oswego was considered “like Beverly Hills,” he said. “The lake made it unique, and that was the place to live.”

Lake Oswego, 8 miles south of Portland, has kept its character. An 8,170-square-foot lakefront recently sold for $7 million, said Mr. Mariotti, owner of real estate agency Great Vancouver Homes. “But it’s great value, at around $1,100 a square foot.”

View from a lakeside home in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Courtesy of Great Vancouver Homes

Off the lake, a similar home sold for $5.4 million, he said, and starter homes can cost around $600,000 “for a 1,200 square foot three-bedroom home.” .

Besides the 405-acre lake, most of whose frontage is private, the attraction here is “great schools, a quaint waterfront downtown with independent shops and restaurants, and eclectic architecture , with modern and traditional Pacific Northwest and mid-century modern Tudors,” he said. And while the market remains hot, “we don’t see as many multiple bidders driving up prices anymore “, Mr. Mariotti said. “The bid-to-ask ratio is getting closer. We achieve more balance.

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Mercer Island, Washington

A “boutique community” between Seattle and Bellevue, 5-mile-long Mercer Island is “a lifestyle in itself,” said Michele Schuler, realtor at Realologics Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’s very high end. But everyone is very approachable and down-to-earth, and everyone wears jeans. You don’t know who you stand next to in terms of wealth.

The waters of Lake Washington are “a huge attraction. We have two beach clubs and three public beaches. My kids are still waterskiing, paddleboarding and jet skiing.

An aerial view of Mercer Island, Washington’s upscale residential neighborhood.

Courtesy of Realogics | Sotheby’s International Realty

With “huge restrictionson new construction since 2017, including limits on home sizes, homes here are in even greater demand. Listings stay on the market for an average of five days here, Ms. Schuler said, with the median home price around $2.4 million and a high-end listing at $16.5 million. “We saw a slight shift in May as a lot of our buyers are dependent on tech stock prices,” she said. “Now it’s more about pricing homes appropriately.”

Neighborhoods in the north of the island, including Mercerdale, First Hill and Madrona Crest, are adjacent to the island’s downtown and most desirable for their “convenience factor,” she said. The South End’s more remote proximity to schools “has attracted families, especially thanks to Covid”, Ms Schuler said. Top neighborhoods include The Lakes, Mercer Island Estates, and Tarywood Park.

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Girdle of the sea, New Jersey

With its beachfront position about 65 miles south of New York City, Sea Girt has attracted a wide range of buyers during the pandemic, said Denise Dreyer, realtor at Ward Wight Sotheby’s International Realty. “We’ve had buyers from all over as people have changed their lifestyles,” she said. “It started driving up prices by at least 20% or 30%. And we don’t have a lot of inventory, so people were bidding 20% ​​or more on demand, and houses were flying off the market.

A “low-key and laid-back” community is part of the attraction, she said. “It’s a fabulous lifestyle, and we welcome a lot of people who come here as an alternative to the Hamptons.” In addition to a popular boardwalk and public beaches, “there’s plenty of biking, boating, and golfing,” with Spring Lake Country Club and Manasquan River Golf Club nearby. “But there is a long waiting list to get into these places,” she said.

This seven-bedroom beachfront home on two lots in Sea Girt, New Jersey is on the market for $10.75 million.

International luxury portfolio

With a median listing price of $2.14 million, according to, Sea Girt is home to the second most expensive zip code in New Jersey. “It is the land value, the soil, which [is] very expensive,” Ms. Dreyer said. “We currently have 13 homes on the market from $1 million to $12.9 million, and the $12.9 million waterfront is a teardown.”

A “very small” downtown area includes “two restaurants, a breakfast place, a liquor store and lots of real estate offices,” she said. The town of Spring Lake, 2 miles to the north, “has more than one downtown.”

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block island, Rhode Island

“You fall in love with Block Island, you either get it or you don’t,” said Rosemary Tobin, sales associate at real estate agency Lila Delman Compass and a resident for 24 years.

Three things kept Block Island special, she noted. “First, it’s zoning. We’ve seen what’s happening with density in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Hamptons, so it’s very strict. Second, conservation; “Each buyer pays 3% to the Block Island Land Trust, and 47% of the island is conserved open space,” Ms Tobin said. Third, historical preservation. “Everything in the city is a historic district. This leaves out franchises and signs have to be made of wood,” she added.

About 7% of Block Island is conserved open space, according to a local real estate expert.

Ross Draper

That uniqueness has helped propel home prices to an average of $1.5 million, “and more like $2-3 million on the water,” Ms. Tobin said. Buyers from New York and Connecticut are fueling the market, “along with a lot of people from Vermont. We didn’t have the crypto-billionaires. We have very bad internet. But people really like it. Broadband is coming, she added.

About 53 miles south of Providence and 102 miles south of Boston, Block Island has seen a familiar pandemic pattern of “low inventory and rising prices,” Ms. Tobin said. “Normally, we carry out 30 to 35 transactions per year. Last year we did over 70. Lots of people discovered Block Island during Covid. They realized, ‘I could be dead, why don’t I have my dream house?’ »

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Sandy A. Greer