Are You Ready For An Ocean Front Home?
December 1, 2015 | Ashley Brosnahan
Are you ready for an Ocean Front Home?
We all love to look at the wonderful homes that dot the Delaware Coast line.  They range from modern marvels of exquisite architecture to bungalows of a bygone era.  Each one has a story and character that goes with them.  Now if you are fortunate enough in life to be able to afford one of these Ocean Front beauties you may ask what does it take to keep up with one?  Purchase price aside it takes a lot to keep these homes in tip top shape.
The Atlantic seaboard has some real harsh weather.  Whether it be hurricanes in the summer or Nor’easters in the winter these beachfront marvels take a beating.  Before you take the multi-million dollar plunge on an oceanfront legacy home you should be aware that these homes will require consistent maintenance even when the weather is calm and serene.  That cool sea breeze in the summertime afternoon is soothing and refreshing to the senses.  However it also carries with it a constant barrage of salt and sand.  I was recently sitting on an Ocean Front deck with a homeowner and remarked how calm and refreshing it was in the cool late summer evening breeze.  Their response was somewhat amusing but brutally true.  “As we sit here enjoying this, something in this house is breaking down.”
At first I laughed but then though about how true the statement was.  For most people who have summertime retreats here at the Delaware Coast the dream is of a beautiful calming retreat.  A place for gathering family and friends to escape the constant go go of the world that got them here.  The reality is that in order to have the calm peaceful retreat you still must work hard to keep everything in tip top shape.  No one wants to come down to the beach and be on a constant maintenance mission.  Unfortunately for some this is reality.  However if you take a few common sense tips you will be able to have that retreat.
As most beach homes are second or third homes a lot of ordinary maintenance items get deferred or overlooked.  Once they leave for the season very little thought is placed on the home.  Simple things that can and do break down in a primary home are usually taken care of quickly.  A second home at the beach may have things like old HVAC equipment or shingles that get blown off during a storm.  If these items are tended to like in a primary home the likelihood of severe damage or down time remain limited.  Here are some good ideas that will keep you enjoying your home for years to come.
  1. Get a service contract from one of the local Heating and Air contractors.  There is nothing worse than showing up at your Ocean Front retreat on the Fourth of July and having the Air Conditioner take a dump.  Make sure that they do a semiannual check on the systems.  Have them change the filters and check to make sure everything is balanced right.  A good thing to have in the maintenance contract is that emergency service is guaranteed and at preset rates.  A lot of headaches can be avoided by maintaining equipment properly and at regularly scheduled intervals.  The salt air at the beach can become very corrosive to the outside units so they do not tend to last as long as units that are installed in a less harsh environment.  A laboring unit is not running as efficiently as new equipment, and will likely fail at the least opportune moment.
  2. Establish a relationship with a good property manager.  One that checks on things while you are not there, is able to accept deliveries, and meet with contractors.  It is always a pain to wait for the cable company to show up between the hours of 8-4 on a Wednesday in the middle of the winter.  Also most of the property managers have good working relationships with tradesmen if an issue crops up while you are trying to enjoy your down time.  No one wants to call 5 different plumbers to fix a clogged drain and then wait for days on end for them to show up.  Have a meeting with them at the beginning and end of the season to discuss any issues that you may think need attention.  A good plan of action is to discuss major jobs like painting the house or retiling a bathroom in the fall.  That way things can be arranged in a timely fashion.  A lot of times if you plan on things like this in the fall you can get better pricing.  Most of the contractors here at the beach get into time crunches the closer we get to the season.  The spring time is just a mad house here at the beach with local contractors scrambling to get things done prior to the start of the summer season. 
  3. Take a good look at the home while you are relaxing on the deck.  The salt air and windblown sand will take the paint off quicker than you think.  Establish a good painting routine on the exterior.     Letting things get down to bare wood can become a costly project.  If you have a good maintenance program in effect you can keep up with the elements that are constantly attacking the home.  Most of the HOA’s do not allow exterior painting in the summer months.  So being on top of things can help you to avoid having to sit through the summer staring at sand blasted wood. 
  4. Have a hurricane plan.  If we have a major weather event approaching be sure to have a plan to protect the home.  The last thing you want to be doing is putting away deck furniture in 50 knot winds.  Things like securing the furniture, hanging plants and trash cans should be thought of well in advance of an impending storm.  Make sure that you have made arrangements with a local contractor or property manager to have this done prior to the arrival of the storm.  A lot of homes already have plywood precut and ready to board up windows and doors.  If your home has this make sure you have prior arrangements for people to do this.  You don’t want to be the guy walking down the block asking the contractor next door to do your house next.  Chances are they already have several homes already in queue and may not be able to get your home done.  Be prepared to leave and have a plan to leave if it looks like things are going to get ugly. 
  5. Take a good look around before you leave for the season.  Make up a good list of things that you notice need attention and arrange early for those things to be attended to.  Light fixtures both interior and exterior will get tarnished with the salt air.  If they look worn they aren’t going to look any better when you arrive next season.  Heating and air vents will sweat and become rusty.  Exterior doors and windows if not lubricated on a consistent basis will begin to fail in short order.  Appliances will also have a diminished life span if you are one that keeps your windows and doors open in the summer time.  Place a thermometer in the refrigerator and take note of diminished cooling temps.  Anything mechanical in a beachfront home will not have as long of a life span as one in your primary home.  Keep in mind that a fix of a major appliance may be a little bit more entailed than replacing one at your primary home.  Replacing a Sub-Zero refrigerator on the 3rd floor kitchen may require hiring a crane to hoist the old refrigerator out and the new one in place.  Being proactive in this will save you the headache of having to go to the HOA and requesting permission to bring a crane in during the summer months. 
  6. Invest in a good quality security home monitoring system.  The technology in this field has come a long way and is an invaluable tool.  All sorts of home automation, monitoring and surveillance can be at your fingertips.  Any number of things can happen while you are away.  While break ins here at the beach are rare they do happen.  The most crucial part of one of these systems is a temperature monitor.  It can alert you to any number of things that could possibly cause catastrophic damage.  It is a good thing to have to know if there is a power outage and all the heating systems shut down.  If you have monitoring system you will be alerted immediately and you can make arrangements for someone to stop by and check on the home.  This fall we had an unusual weather pattern.  We had about a three week period where the wind was blowing off the ocean and no rain.  It was causing large build ups of salt on the isolators on the large power lines on route one.  The local power companies had to hire the local fire departments to come and hose off the power lines.  This was causing power outages up and down the coastal areas.  It would be nice to have the peace of mind to know that your home is without power for an extended period of time someone can stop by and check on things.  There are any number of environmental factors could also be alerted to.  Something unexpected like a sea gull crashing through a window could cause major damage if no one was down.  Can you imagine an injured gull inside your home squawking and hundreds of others coming inside to investigate? What a mess.  Another added luxury to home security systems is the ability to remotely control systems in your home.  Imagine you find yourself with a long weekend off in the dead of winter.  You could raise the temperature in the home, ignite a gas fireplace, turn lights on in the home, and raise the temperature of the oceanfront hot tub.  By the time you get the home you could just walk into a warm home and enjoy the solitude that a winter night at the beach brings.
  7. Make sure that you know that anything on the ground level of the home can be destroyed in a flooding event.  FEMA regulations require anything below the flood elevation of a home in a flood zone be of adequate construction.  This generally includes break away walls and flood vents.  If you have storage areas or even some living space in the ground level know that the buildings construction is generally built to allow flood waters to freely pass through. Even though they may look and feel sound they are designed with the idea that when a tidal event comes everything is going to get wet.  A lot of beach toys and accessories are typically stored on the ground level for convenience.  Bikes, grills, beach chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, and innumerable such things are typically found down there.  These items are subject to getting wet.  It’s a good idea to try and not store any dry goods that you will be using down there.  Things like linens, spare clothes, extra beds or cots should be stored somewhere above the flood elevation.  It’s probably not a good idea to leave your Maserati down there if you are not going to be there as well. 
  8. Hire a local landscaping contractor and listen to their suggestions.  Unless your idea of enjoyment is hanging out in the garden and pulling weeds it is best left to the professionals to maintain the exterior grounds.  Just about all of the local landscaping contractors in the area have been planting plants and know what does and doesn’t grow here on the ocean front. Trust in their judgement to make the grounds beautiful.  You may have a favorite tree, shrub or flower that you like to see, but not all plants can survive the environment.  Their knowledge of local plants that thrive in the salty humid environment will go a long way in making your grounds beautiful. Also make sure that you communicate with them for yearly contracts.  This ensures that irrigation systems are maintained, yearly plantings are scheduled, and plantings are pruned on a regular basis.  A yearly contract with a professional local landscaping contract also ensures you that come spring time your home will be well attended to and not thrown into the mix during crunch time. 
  9. Know your HOA covenants front to back and upside down.  These govern everything from the size and style of your trash can to the color you paint your house.  Some HOA’s only allow natural products to be used on the exterior of the home.  Meaning that when it comes time to replace your siding or roof you may only be able to replace with natural cedar.  Some have restrictions on colors of the exterior.  You don’t want to be the one forced to repaint your home because you decided to paint the exterior in a colorful Bahamian scheme.  Almost all HOA’s have an architectural review committee and it’s better to submit your plans to them prior to making a drastic change to the exterior.  As well most communities restrict any renovation or construction during the summer months.  Plan on major renovations in the off season and make sure that you allow yourself ample time for completion of the renovations.  A few things that needs to be factored into this time period is architectural review, state and local governmental permitting approval.  Planning, permitting, and approvals of a major renovation can sometimes take months to achieve.  You will save yourself a tremendous amount of unwanted worry and headache if you know what these rules are and are prepared for the time it takes to get approvals.   
  10. Last but not least plan on a budget for yearly upkeep.  All of the items listed above will cost something to achieve.  Buying an Ocean Front home and expecting a get it and forget it approach will result in costly deferred maintenance.  You want to come down and enjoy the home that you worked so hard to achieve.  Forgetting about it at the end of the season with the expectation that it is spectacular when you return for next season will only leave you disappointed and working on the home when you should be enjoying it.  It’s not unrealistic to spend anywhere from 1 ½ % to 4 % of the purchase price of the home per year to maintain it. For an Ocean Front home, that cost into the millions, this number can be significant. However, knowing this going into the purchase will pay long term dividends in the enjoyment of the home.   

Owning an Ocean Front home has so many benefits that far surpass owning something inland.  The fresh sea breezes, a wonderful place for kids to grow up, watching the sunrise daily over the Atlantic, and a healthy lifestyle that includes swimming in the waves, jogging on the beach or just a leisurely shelling expedition are at your doorstep.  These homes are truly where memories are made.     If you are ready to make the plunge and invest in a home that will be creating memories for generations to come give me a call.  I’d love to take you on a tour of these Ocean Front gems! 


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