Lounging on white sand beaches, fishing all day, kayaking in the marshes — we have all seen drool-worthy photos like these on social media that make us long for more days by the water. Have images like these prompted you to browse Zillow and daydream of buying a coastal home? If so, you’ve probably also wondered what kinds of questions you should be asking yourself. We’ve compiled a list of 20 key questions that will help you choose the perfect home. 


1. Will I rent out my home as a vacation rental?

Your use of the property will determine your needs. Vacation rental homes will benefit from an excellent location, an established rental history, and an appealing aesthetic.

2. Which types of insurance will I need for my coastal home?

You’ll need to protect your home with sufficient insurance including wind and hail and flood insurance, if necessary. If you’ll be renting out your home, it’s also beneficial to secure a vacation rental policy that includes property damage and liability coverage.

3. Am I ready to get pre-approved?

You’ll want your offer to purchase to be as strong as possible during this seller’s market. A pre-approval letter and proof of funds could give you a competitive boost over other offers.

Team & Timing

4. Is now the best time to buy?

While it’s true that interest rates are near historic lows, the right time to buy a coastal home is specific to each homeowner. Are you a few years from retiring to the coast? You might think about buying a home now and renting it during the interim. Do you have a significant down payment? If not, it may be better to wait and save. However, we caution buyers not to wait for the next buyer’s market since the low housing inventory across the country will likely keep the market strong for the foreseeable future.

5. Is my real estate broker native to the area?

It’s essential to have local expertise on your side when purchasing a home. A Realtor who is native to your search area will know which areas are trending, which areas have experienced hurricane-related damage, and which areas have held their value.

6. How long will the due diligence period take at the coast?

There is certainly a coastal buying boom in North Carolina. As a result, appraisers are extremely busy and it could take longer to complete this step in a loan process. Consider negotiating for a longer due diligence period up front.


7. Should I consider a low-maintenance home?

If not your primary residence, will your new purchase be a retirement home, a second home, an investment property? Would you prefer time on the beach to yard work and home updates? If so, you may prefer a low-maintenance home such as a condo, townhome, or new construction. Be aware, though, that you will likely pay for someone else to maintain the property with Homeowners Association (HOA) fees. HOA fees can vary from $20 per month to over $500 depending on the amenities and services.

8. Should I buy a furnished home?

It’s not uncommon for coastal homeowners to sell their homes fully furnished. This is a bonus for buyers who want a turn-key property. Furniture and other personal property can be negotiated during the offer, counter-offer period.

9. Does it have the entertaining spaces I'll need?

What better way to enjoy your new seaside setting than with friends and family? You may have more visitors than you think once you live near the water. Do you have dining space for a dinner party? Is there deck or porch space to accommodate larger groups? Do you have a bedroom for guests? Is the kitchen/living area open concept for easier flow? Whether you’re entertaining two people or 20, make sure the space fits your needs.

10. Does it have the work/office space I need?

Do you see yourself working remotely from the coast? If so, think about your day-to-day requirements. Do you simply need a table for a computer or a dedicated home office with a door? Also, make sure that you can get a strong internet connection and cell phone service in your chosen location.

11. Does it have the coastal aesthetic I'm looking for?

What does your dream home look like? Particularly if your home is being sold furnished, does it align with your vision of a relaxing retreat? If the paint is too bright for your taste, or the flooring is dated, think about the costs to give it a cosmetic makeover.

12. Do I need a dock for my boat?

Imagine stepping onto a boat that is docked behind your house and speeding away for a day of fun on the water. This is a reality for many homeowners along the Crystal Coast. If you’re buying a waterfront home, do you need storage space for kayaks? How large is your boat and will you need deep water access? Do you want a boat lift to keep the hull out of the water? Do you have a storage area for your boating supplies?

13. What are my parking needs?

You’ll be very popular once you become a coastal homeowner! Make sure to select a home with adequate parking for guests or renters (if applicable). And, in addition to the typical car needs, you may want to stow other beach toys on your property including a boat trailer, jet skis, or golf cart.

14. Which features will my dream home have?

When you fantasize about your future beach home, which features do you see? Does it include an outdoor shower, hurricane shutters, a pool, fire pit, outdoor kitchen, a hot tub? Create a prioritized list of these features so you’ll recognize your home when you see it.


15. Have I seen the home at different times, on different days of the week and in different weather conditions?

We once purchased a vacation rental home and didn’t realize until after we closed that the backyard was left submerged in several inches of water after any heavy thunderstorm. We had to invest in a sump pump to remedy the situation. Check out your property in a variety of situations.

16. How is the noise?

This goes along with #15 above. Is it in the flight path of an airport or military base that generates sporadic, but very loud noise during the day? Or, you may find that while the home is quiet during the day, the noise level ramps up at night. We bought a home and discovered that while on our front porch we could hear loud music every Friday and Saturday night from nearby bars, restaurants, and an event venue. Fortunately for us, we considered it a nice feature to hear free live music right from our porch!

17. Am I looking for a home that is waterfront, water view, or mainland?

As you might imagine, the closer you are to the water, the higher the home’s price, but there are other factors to weigh. Beachfront homes attract visitors willing to pay a higher nightly rental fee; however, they will incur higher maintenance costs to prevent or repair salt and sand damage. Fortunately, on the Crystal Coast, there are many sounds, rivers, and creeks that can offer you a stunning water view without the harsh beachfront conditions.

18. How close will I need to be to an airport?

Identify both the local, regional, and international airports near the homes you are touring and make sure that the airlines they service travel to your top destinations. Check out this blog post for the airports near the Crystal Coast.

19. Do I want to be within walking or biking distance to restaurants and shops?

Walkscore.com is a valuable resource to determine how convenient it is to travel by foot. Simply enter your desired address to see your walk score and a travel time map.

20. Is this property in a flood zone? If so, which one?

Most homeowners insurance policies do not include flood insurance. Visit the FEMA portal to see if your address is in a flood zone and if so, which level of risk.

Regardless of your timeframe, think about working with a real estate agent as early in the process as possible. Agents walk their beat every day — they know their markets well and can identify opportunities quickly. And the more they know about what you’re looking to accomplish, the better equipped they’ll be to line the right ones up for you and guide you through a successful real estate transaction.

Hopefully the questions we offer here will help you as you look for a home along the North Carolina coast. It might be closer than you think!