Are beach huts the new penthouses?

Exploring the seaside treasures of Scarborough and Mablethorpe

Beach huts in Scarborough are fetching £35,000, the same price as some one-bedroom flats in the town. So what do you get for your money, and why is the market for beach huts so buoyant?

"It was one of the most exciting moments in my life, having finally got a beach hut."

Margot Charlton's eyes gleamed. She has travelled the world and she loves to ski, but her Mablethorpe hut in Lincolnshire, with its saucy seaside characters painted on the outside, has been a lifelong ambition. And she is not alone.

The housing market may still be struggling, but the beach hut is one property that seems to be holding its own in the downturn.

In Scarborough, more than a hundred new "luxury" beach chalets have just been built. A number are on the market for £35,000, in a town in which you can buy a one-bedroom flat for a little more than £37,000, according to property websites.

Who spends £35,000 on a hut?

"These are local families who have been renting for years and years, paying £900 a year," says Rachel Dean of Scarborough estate agent Escape 2 The Sands.

"They see it as good value because of the location and the freedom of being down there, with the children running about in the sea. Even in the cold depth of winter, we have people in their chalets, with the tomato soup out, and the kids in their wetsuits."

Demand in Scarborough is strong as the town has undergone a renaissance, she adds, last year being named the most enterprising town in Europe.

Luxury, though, means a small wooden room, four chairs, a table, a plug, a kettle and a single cold water tap. You are not allowed to sleep in it - indeed, you have to leave it by 10.30 each evening. Neither is there hot water nor a toilet. Yet so far this year, 15 have been sold and most are fully let.

Scarborough claims to be the town that gave us the bathing hut. In the 18th Century, it was a mobile hut hauled down the beach to protect nervous bathers while they "took the waters" to improve their health.

The chalets on the North Yorkshire town's south side are now listed. But only a few years ago, many of the chalets were weather beaten and dilapidated. Today, the new brightly-coloured frontages gaze across the bay.

Eileen Prentice and Eileen Pidd are both in their 70s and have for more than 30 years rented a chalet. On the day I visited, there were 16 friends and family squeezed in and around. Next door was Beryl Johnson, another veteran who was seriously considering splashing out on buying one of the new chalets.

Arty huts

Down the coast, Mablethorpe is also having a "beach hut moment". The long seafront now hosts an annual beach hut festival in September. The old rule that the huts must be only one colour plus white has been abandoned.

Weymouth British seasides have enjoyed a busy summer

Many of the frontages are now highly decorated and there are prizes for the most beautiful. The town has even commissioned avant-garde beach huts.

The cloud hut is designed to observe clouds, the gin and tonic hut is designed to look like a gin and tonic and the canoodling hut is a good place to restore body heat lost after a quick dip in the North Sea.

The private huts, though, are basic. There is not even an indoor tap but the "hutters" are passionate about their community. They can paint whatever they like on the frontages and, for the duration of their stay, enjoy a world without technology or gadgets.

It is a summer of chit-chat, reading and endless beach cricket. And therein lies much of the appeal. Each year the children return a year older, free to roam and wander in and out of one another's little wooden houses. Barbecues are fired up. On chilly days the sweaters and anoraks come out. When the sun shines neighbours exchange sun cream and ointment.

There are around 20,000 beach huts in Britain, and in Dorset, Suffolk and Norfolk prices regularly make headlines.

But the downturn and the current vogue for 1950s "retro" charm seem to have brought a new affection for the humble hut.

Send us your comments using the form below

Beach Huts are just another 'hyped' property market, like overseas holiday homes in Bulgaria, Spain, Dubai, Florida. The media just fuel this market by publishing the same story each time we have good weather. Anyone would be mad to pay these sums for what is little more than a garden shed. Please have a reality check.

Mark, Hants

Please tell me where there is a one bedroomed flat for sale in my town at £35,000. Is this what they call journalistic licence?

Mary Jones, Scarborough, UK

The current trend for 'retro' is a backlash against the mess we've made of the economy and a desire for something more homely. If you've always loved your beach hut - keep renting unless you are passionate about passing it to your kids. In the 1990-1995 recession - everybody's house prices tanked but 'classic cars' were the new fad. Silly money paid for rusty old heaps as 'investments'. by 2000 - these cars were worth a tiny fraction of what people paid for them or the crazy money they paid for restoring them. Right now - travelling abroad is 'passe' due to volcanic ash, the Euro and a great summer in the UK. Come back in three years - the summers will be cold and rainy, the pound will be stronger again and everyone will crave a warm summer night around the pool in T-shirt sleeves with the crickets chirping.

Richard Francis, Reading

We have Beach Huts here with the most fantastic views of the river beach and up to Dartmoor, one sold this year for £83.0000 and the one before that went for £93.0000. these surely have to be a record.

P Dodd, Teignmouth Devon

For the last 7 years we have been sharing a beach hut on the sea front in Lowestoft. During that time we have had our name down for one of our own. This year our wish came true. My wife Lisa was overjoyed that she had to phone me at work. We have named it 'Palm' (first letter's of our's and kids names) and we have decked it out with a worktop and cupboards and put in gas stove so the bacon rolls and cups of teas can be done. We love it because with two young childred it's hard to keep them busy and what better way then down the beach. You get to know the people around your hut and make friends. My wife and me also go down there when the kids are at school and have a nice cup of tea and read the daily paper in peace. All said and done, we will also keep the hut and past it on to our childred when the time is right as we love it.

Paul Laughland, Lowestoft, Suffolk

Beach huts are an icon of British holidays and at the seaside. They may be viewed as retro but they hark back to simpler pleasures that many people are looking for these days and they celebrate civic pride. And not all beach huts have to be expensive

David Pickett, North Waltham, Hampshire

Great article, however i dont know why there is so much fuss about a beach hut for £35,000 when just along the coast at Mudeford they are selling for £120,000 plus. For an article based on "luxury" beach huts the ones at Mudeford would be my choice. I have seen ones with flat screen tv's, disco lights, oak fitted kitchens. There is even one rumoured to be on the market for £170,000, for a 10'x15' shed!

James Harris, Christchurch

Are beach huts the new penthouses? I can imagine John Bishop asking this in a stand up routine and the audience rolling around in the aisles. If these beach huts were gracing an Italian or French sea front, they'd be regarded as utterly hideous. Tells you everything you need to know about: a/ the state of the British seaside, b/ British taste. c/ British stupidity (forking out thousands on a... shed).

Paul, Chester

Too much money and not any sense! At least a toilet would be improvement surely? Stupid people

Mike Tally, Surrey

Wow. I thought baches were getting expensive here in New Zealand. The idea of paying 35,000 pounds to sit on a cold rocky beach sounds crazy to me (you can sit on a cold rocky beach for free here in Wellington)

Anna, Wellington, NZ

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