Houses with a sea view have long commanded a premium thanks to their exclusivity and atmosphere.

In South Africa this can be seen along Cape Town’s prestigious Atlantic Seaboard,Umhlanga in Durban and smaller seaside towns like Knysna, Simon’s Town and Margate.

Living by the sea can pose a number of challenges though, says Steve Thomas, False Bay Franchise Manager for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

“The most important thing to understand is the additional wear and tear that come from prolonged exposure to sea air, which is substantially moister than average, along with being packed with corrosive salt,” he says.

This affects a number of common building materials including wood, cement and metal, shortening their lifespan if they aren’t used correctly.

Most steel, for example, will rust quite quickly due to the wet, salty air, meaning stainless steel is an expensive necessity. Wood can also rot much faster than it would elsewhere if it is untreated. Fortunately any decent builder should recognise this up front and develop accordingly.

It is also worth considering that a seaside home will almost inevitably be built on either a steep, rocky slope or a flat, sandy area. “Both of these terrain types are challenging to build on, something that will usually increase the price slightly, particularly for new buildings.”

While this is clearly a problem for builders, buyers should also take the time to understand how the unique challenges of living by the sea can affect them. “This helps to make sure they make an informed decision when buying and are aware of what to expect in terms of upkeep,” explains Thomas.

So why does anyone choose to live by the sea? There are plenty of benefits, says Thomas. “In fact, most people would probably say that as long as you’re informed as to what the maintenance demands are, they’re dwarfed by the unique pleasure of seaside living.” This is backed up by the consistently high demand for seaside properties and the resulting high prices that make these areas some of the most valuable in the country.

For starters, there is of course the splendid view. The ability to see to the horizon also means that you’re almost guaranteed either plenty of sunrises or sunsets, depending on your position. The extended mornings or evenings can make your day feel so much longer, a big factor in how people assess their quality of life.

By its very nature, true seaside living is largely restricted to smaller communities such as those dotted along the False Bay coastline. This results in quieter, more peaceful suburbs and cleaner, fresher air, things that are in ever-shorter supply elsewhere.

The problem for buyers lies in the fact that while the challenges of seaside living are quite easily quantifiable in terms of time and money, the benefits are not. “In the end it comes down to a simple decision. Living by the sea can be slightly more expensive than living elsewhere from a maintenance point of view, but the lifestyle it offers you is a very special one,” says Thomas.

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