Survey says: Naples, Fla., is the best spot for beach real estate

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Looking for a beachfront home, either as a permanent abode or as a vacation getaway? Put Naples, Fla., on the top of your to-see list.

That Florida Gulf Coast community came out on top in a ranking of more than 140 beach towns nationwide, based on a new survey by Wallethub.

The firm used 62 key data metrics, ranging from overall housing costs to safety to quality of beach water, to come up with its ranking. And while Naples wasn’t in the top 10 in the component pieces of the survey, it did well enough across the board to end up on top.

Rounding out the top five were Lahaina, Hawaii; Newport Beach, Calif.; Carlsbad, Calif.; Boca Raton, Fla; and Sarasota, Fla. Next were North Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Encinitas, Calif.; Santa Monica, Calif.; and Venice, Fla.

(Click here for the ranking and other details.)

Looking for the top of the list in housing affordability? That would be Merritt Island, Fla. (which ranked 107th overall). Tops for best weather was Port Royal, S.C. (#46 overall). Lahaina parlayed its #1 ranking for economy (and #4 ranking for overall safety) into the #2 position overall.

More facts and figures:

• Port Lavaca, Texas, had the lowest median home price as a share of income – 1.78 times. Compare that to Malibu, Calif., where a home will set you back 14.7 times the median community income.

• Wailuku, Hawaii, had the lowest median annual property-tax rates. The highest – in Shirley, N.Y. – were 18.4 times higher.

• Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne, all in Florida, and Port Royal, S.C., each had the fewest disaster declarations (12 each) since 1953, compared to 69 for a host of Southern California beach towns, including Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Malibu and Manhattan Beach.

• Galveston, Texas, had the highest average water temperature, followed by Biloxi, Miss., and Gulfport, Fla. Most chilly water was was found along the Pacific coast, with the lowest in Anacortes, Wash., followed by Richmond and Alameda, Calif.

• The lowest rate over overall violent crime was found in Key Biscayne, followed by Westport, Conn., and Palos Verdes Estates. The highest was found in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Riviera Beach, Fla; and Asbury Park, Fla.

And now to the $200,000 (or, depending where you live, the $5 million) question: How is the prospect of sea rise going to impact beach communities across the U.S.?

The view of the experts is mixed.

“That is the Achilles’ heel for anyone wishing to purchase beachfront property,” said William Cohen, a professor at Temple University. “Rising sea level is already making its impact felt. It is my view that is it inevitable that all coastal regions will suffer some alteration; in some cases, entire communities will be affected.”

But Robert McCormick, a professor of economics at Clemson University, says the short-term view is less dire.

“The sea-level rise is not much of an issue, because we are talking inches over very long periods of time,” he said. “The fearmongers have told horror stories about a big rise, but even the worst estimates are decades away – as we get richer and find better tech to build, and build smarter (and higher), I don’t see much concern here.”

But McCormick does agree that a rising number of hurricanes could be a concern, particularly along Florida coastlines.

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