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The Best Places to Buy a Beach House

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This time of year, it’s natural to dream about owning a beach home. Perhaps you’ve even stared longingly at listings taped to a real estate agent’s windows in your favorite beach town — and then walked away sad.

But if you are willing to try some overlooked, small towns, and travel a bit farther, there are still beach homes around the country that are … if not “affordable” … at least worth thinking about.

The folks at RealtyTrac crunched the numbers to find the best beach “bargains”, and they’ve come up with an intriguing list. It’s not purely about cost: the report also weighed factors like crime rates and days with good air quality. Only cities bordering the ocean with a population of 50,000 or fewer and with an average June-to-August temperature between 60 and 80 degrees were included.

From the resulting list of 1,400 cities, RealtyTrac came up with the top bargain beach town in all 15 states that met the criteria.

“Buying a second home or investment property in a beach town can help families save on summer vacations for years to come and also potentially generate vacation rental income,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, in a press release. “While real estate close to the ocean tends to be pricier, bargains are still available, particularly smaller towns off the beaten path where home prices have been slower to bounce back from the housing downturn.”

A few predictable names are on the list, like Palm Beach, Fla. (2016 median price $497,500. So, not exactly affordable) and Bethany Beach, Del. ($467,500. Same deal). But there’s a few surprises. Madison, Connecticut is between New York and Boston, making it not terribly convenient for residents of either city, and that helps keeps the 2016 median price down to $378,000. Crisfield, Md., is the southernmost town in Maryland, making it a tough ride from Washington D.C. — but the 2016 median price there is $50,559.

Of course, if things are really a bargain, there tends to be a reason. RealtyTrac’s top bargain for New Jersey is Keansburg, an oft-overlooked beach that’s even closer to NYC than popular the Sandy Hook area. But Keansburg was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy — as were many beach towns. So buying there comes with its own set of issues. Still, with a 2016 median price of $71,000, it’s another place worth thinking about.

Here’s the full of RealtyTrac’s top 15 beach bargain towns.

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Remember, whether you’re buying a beach house or primary residence, it’s a good idea to check your credit before applying for a mortgage. Good credit scores generally qualify for the best terms and conditions on a home loan, so you’ll want to see where you stand and whether you can do anything to improve your credit — like disputing errors on your credit report — ahead of the home-buying process. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)

[Offer: If you need help fixing errors on your credit report, Lexington Law could help you meet your goals. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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Image: Susan Chiang

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