How much should you pay for a sea view?

By Brian Milligan
Personal Finance Reporter, BBC News

  • Published
Murdo's cottage, Tanera Mor
Image caption,
This view could be yours for £2.5m - it comes with an island and half a dozen cottages

Number 305 Mudeford Spit, near Christchurch in Dorset, is on the market for £200,000, just a touch above the average house price in Britain.

But number 305 is not a house. It is a beach hut.

At £1,000 per sq ft, "Needleview" is one of the most expensive pieces of property you can buy outside Mayfair.

Especially when you consider that its lease only runs for a further 16 years.

But then Mudeford Spit offers its residents beguiling views in two directions. The first over golden sands, past rafts of sailing boats, to an aquamarine horizon and the Isle of Wight; behind it, Christchurch Harbour offers a second watery perspective, with an anchorage that has seduced many a smitten artist.

Image caption,
Sarah Litchfield is selling her beach hut for £200,000

"It is something to do with the British psyche," says Needleview's owner, Sarah Litchfield.

"Being here by the water, you've got your castle as well, your own little spot," she says.

Listening to the laughter of children with fishing nets, and watching the stunts of Sandwich terns plunging into the sea, it is hard to disagree that we are indeed a nation of water-watchers.

But are we also inclined to pay the earth, just to look at the sea?

'View premium'

The property agency Knight Frank has actually put a price on the quality of a sea view.

They compared the value of a waterside property with the value of the same property moved five miles inland.

They found that properties in the south-west of England have the biggest uplift, with a water view premium of up to 66%. Properties in Scotland attract a premium of 29%, and in Wales it is 26%.

But the most desirable, and therefore most expensive, view, they say, is not of the sea, but an estuary.

Image source, Josephine M Collingwood
Image caption,
Estuary views can be even more pricey, like this one on the River Dart

Whereas estuary views command a premium of 82%, and harbour views 81%, a beach or coastal view is only worth an extra 47%.

One such example is Toft Quay, on Devon's River Dart estuary. The five-bedroom property comes complete with its own jetty and boat hoist. It is for sale for £2.25m.

"Rivers are changing environments, and many people find them more interesting," says Alasdair Pritchard of Knight Frank.

"And by the sea they get the wind. You can't get have your eggs Benedict on the balcony without getting it all over your face."

However, having your own private beach changes the value again, he says. And there are places in Britain where you can still buy that, and more.

Image caption,
Tanera Mor, with views back to the Scottish mainland


One such place is Tanera Mor, the main island in the Summer Isles, off Ullapool.

It has 800 acres, six holiday cottages, an owner's residence, a cafe and post office, a sailing school and several beaches.

It is on the market for £2.5m.

"It's impossible to quantify the view in monetary terms," says John Bond of agents CKD Galbraith in Inverness.

"It's the lifestyle and the wilderness, as well as the sea views. There's also a scarcity value. They don't make islands any more."

To the lighthouse

But buyers can also find wilderness with a good sea view at much lower prices too.

Image caption,
Cottages at Cantick Head lighthouse are for sale

Three cottages at Cantick Head lighthouse on the Orkney island of Hoy are for sale for £350,000.

Anyone who has taken the ferry across to Stromness may be familiar with the sight of the lighthouse looming out of the mist, just as the ship reaches the lee of the islands.

It may be four miles from the nearest shop, and accessible only by ferry, but owner Nadia Schwartzmann says it will suit people looking for a change of lifestyle.

"It is isolated, but the views across the Pentland Firth to Scotland are unique," she says.


Only slightly more expensive is Fog House, the site of a former foghorn on the Welsh island of Anglesey.

"As you drive over the mountain, you suddenly see the buildings right below you. The view is fantastic," says Nick Withinshaw of estate agents Jackson Stops & Staff in Chester.

"You are on the edge of a cliff, and on a clear day you can see Ireland."

He believes the "view premium" is between 20% and 25%, on the asking price of £475,000. In other words, the view alone costs around £100,000.

Image caption,
Fog House can only be reached with a 4x4 vehicle

Russ Mclean, a former policeman with an obsession for buying lighthouse buildings, says spectacular sea views do not have to be so expensive.

He's bought three, currently has sealed bids in for another two, and has even started a website for others with similar dreams.

"A 30% premium stacks up for Scotland as a whole," he says.

"But if it is quite remote there can be a negative premium, because it is remote. There are bargains to be had."

'Anything nautical'

Image caption,
Owners can sleep in Mudeford's beach huts over the summer

On Mudeford Spit, the beach hut Needleview has already had plenty of enquiries from potential buyers.

Neil Chalmers, of Waterside Properties, believes it is worth its premium price.

A similar hut went earlier this year for £176,000, and he rents them out for £750 a week.

"At first I thought they were having a laugh," he says.

"But then it's basically camping on the beach. You can surf, have a barbecue, and then you've got somewhere to sleep."

When I ask the vendor, Sarah Litchfield, if it really is worth £200,000 for just 16 years, she laughs, and says, "Where's your soul?"

Her reply may well reflect a uniquely British preoccupation with boats, the sea and a view of anything nautical.

"It's the watersports, the lifestyle. It's happiness!" she declares.

Media caption,

The beach hut has a modern kitchen but no water

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