Buyers Are Paying a Smaller Premium for Waterfront Homes

Buyers Are Paying a Smaller Premium for Waterfront Homes

Waterfront homes sold for a 36 percent premium in the first quarter of 2018; in the second quarter of 2012, the premium was 54 percent

The premium for waterfront homes isn’t as high it used to be. Homes along the water sold for a 36 percent premium in the first quarter of 2018, according to a new Zillow® analysis. The extra cost for waterfront living is at its lowest level since the second quarter of 2002, and below the average premium since 1996 of 41 percent.

Across the country, waterfront homes tend to have higher prices than similar homes in the same area, but the gap has closed over the past several years. The typical U.S. home has more than recovered from the recession, but waterfront homes have not.

Zillow defines waterfront homes as those where the homeowner can get to the water’s edge, whether it is a lake, river, or ocean, without leaving their property. This analysis compares sale prices for waterfront homes with homes in the same metro that have similar physical features, but do not have waterfront access.

“Buyers are willing to pay extra for features that add a unique benefit to a home, and being right on the water’s edge is one of them,” said Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas. “These homes are relatively rare, making up only a small portion of the housing market, and that scarcity keeps prices high. With inventory as low as it is, buyers are spending more just to get into the market, which has narrowed the gap somewhat between waterfront homes and inland homes. Still, having waterfront access is incredibly appealing for many buyers, and even as environmental risk factors like rising sea levels and storm surges gain more attention and make some buyers more cautious in the homes they consider, the premium for waterfront homes is likely to endure.”

Markets with the Highest Premium for Waterfront Living

Metro Median Value of a
Waterfront Home
Average Sales Premium
for Waterfront Homes
Since 1996
Share of Homes that
are Waterfront
Homes
Jacksonville, Fla. $ 633,700 72% 0.27%
Cleveland, Ohio $ 463,100 68% 0.12%
Denver, Colo. $ 843,100 52% 0.04%
Baltimore, Md. $ 361,300 52% 0.04%
Milwaukee, Wisc. $ 569,800 50% 0.32%

Waterfront properties are most valuable in Los Angeles, where the typical home on the water is worth $2,018,200. In three other West Coast markets – San Francisco, Seattle, and San Diego – the median value of a waterfront home is also above $1 million.

Buyers looking for a waterfront home will have the most options in Miami, where 5.9 percent of all homes offer waterfront living.

Metropolitan Area Median Value of
Waterfront Home
Average Sales Premium
for Waterfront Homes
Sold Since 1996 (%)
Share of Homes
That Are
Waterfront Homes
United States $ 426,300 41 0.47%
Atlanta $ 644,800 34 0.08%
Austin $ 572,500 42 0.16%
Baltimore $ 361,300 52 0.04%
Boston $ 463,700 11 0.06%
Charlotte $ 697,600 41 1.03%
Chicago $ 279,000 21 0.21%
Cincinnati $ 166,600 5 0.04%
Cleveland $ 463,100 68 0.12%
Columbus $ 372,300 41 0.10%
Dallas-Fort Worth $ 410,300 41 0.08%
Denver $ 843,100 52 0.04%
Houston $ 364,000 35 0.30%
Indianapolis $ 493,000 42 0.16%
Jacksonville $ 633,700 72 0.27%
Kansas City $ 379,000 31 0.09%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-
Anaheim
$ 2,018,200 14 0.05%
Memphis $ 398,300 6 0.08%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale $ 369,300 38 5.86%
Milwaukee $ 569,800 50 0.32%
Minneapolis-St. Paul $ 483,500 32 0.13%
Nashville $ 381,300 22 0.08%
New York / Northern New
Jersey
$ 665,700 26 0.18%
Orlando $ 357,600 27 0.70%
Philadelphia $ 185,400 9 0.03%
Phoenix $ 413,600 29 0.11%
Pittsburgh $ 153,300 -11 0.04%
Portland $ 625,900 24 0.22%
Riverside $ 446,200 25 0.38%
Sacramento $ 763,100 47 0.35%
San Diego $ 1,014,800 27 0.72%
San Francisco $ 1,175,000 8 0.48%
Seattle $ 1,024,300 47 0.66%
Tampa $ 496,200 39 3.31%
Virginia Beach $ 487,700 36 0.97%
Washington, D.C. $ 469,500 30 0.13%

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After earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida, Tracey set out in the real world at Florida Realtors in 1994 as a communication assistant, working her way up to editor in chief of Florida Realtor magazine. In 2004, she left the association to start her freelance writing and editing business. One of her first clients was REAL Trends, and she started working for the organization in 2005. In 2014, Tracey was promoted to editor in chief of publications for REAL Trends. She handles the writing and editing of all REAL Trends publications and marketing materials, including LORE Magazine, the REAL Trends newsletter and the blog. She is also the primary podcast interviewer where she conducts interviews with top real estate industry leaders and affiliated industry leaders. Tracey is married with two children.

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