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Life in These 25 Waterfront Cities Is Surprisingly Affordable

John Csiszar

If you’re like many Americans, watching majestic sunsets or sunrises, hearing the soothing sound of the ocean and feeling the sand between your toes are all peak experiences. So, why not live by the ocean? The primary problem is simple: Beachfront property is often too expensive.

Or is it? It turns out, America is actually full of cities that can make your dream of living near water come true, at least to some degree.

To narrow down the list, GOBankingRates looked at 112 of the top ocean and lakefront cities in the U.S. based on median listing price, state income and overall affordability, using a variety of metrics. Cities with the highest percentage of leftover income ranked at the top of the survey. While you won’t find celebrity enclaves like Malibu on the list, you will find a wide range of waterfront cities that still remain affordable.

Last updated: Oct. 7, 2019

25. Eureka, California

  • Average state income: $67,169
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $33,375.44
  • Percentage of income leftover: 49.69%

Eureka’s meaning — “I have found it!” — lives up to its billing. Nestled up against Humboldt Bay, which offers wildlife viewing and kayaking opportunities, the city is quite affordable overall but does have the highest median home price on the list.

24. Coos Bay, Oregon

  • Average state income: $56,119
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $27,916.06
  • Percentage of income leftover: 49.74%

Surrounded by the bay bearing its name, Coos Bay is another coastal city that remains affordable. Overall, costs are low, but the median income is also not as high as in some other states.

23. Baraboo, Wisconsin

  • Average state income: $56,759
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $28,640.17
  • Percentage of income leftover: 50.46%

Baraboo, Wisconsin, isn’t an oceanfront city, but it does rest along its namesake river. The Baraboo River is one of the longest stretches of open water in the entire country, making it a dream for those who love canoeing or other wilderness activities.

22. Laconia, New Hampshire

  • Average state income: $71,305
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $36,092.65
  • Percentage of income leftover: 50.62%

Laconia, New Hampshire, is part of a community known as the Lakes District. Laconia itself is situated between Lake Winnisquam and Lake Winnipesaukee. Income is quite high in the region, offsetting some of the more expensive costs and keeping the community affordable.

21. Versailles, Missouri

  • Average state income: $51,542
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $27,126.86
  • Percentage of income leftover: 52.63%

The city of Versailles isn’t technically waterfront, but it’s a stone’s throw away from the multi-branched Lake of the Ozarks. Incomes in Missouri are the lowest of any state making the list, but low mortgage and transportation costs help make the city affordable.

Pictured: Truman Lake in the Ozarks

20. Port Angeles, Washington

  • Average state income: $66,174
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $34,860.13
  • Percentage of income leftover: 52.68%

Residents of Port Angeles, Washington, enjoy a high median state income and the lowest healthcare costs of any city on the list. Water lovers will enjoy the city’s location, right on the Salish Sea which feeds into Puget Sound.

19. Brownsville, Texas

  • Average state income: $57,051
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $30,103.79
  • Percentage of income leftover: 52.77%

Brownsville might not sound like a city adjoining water, but this Texas city lies right at the western edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The city has affordable housing and the lowest grocery costs of any city on this list.

18. Storm Lake, Iowa

  • Average state income: $56,570
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $30,333.57
  • Percentage of income leftover: 53.62%

Storm Lake, Iowa, borders its namesake lake in northwestern Iowa. Affordable housing prices and the lowest annual transportation costs of any city on this list are enough to give the city its No. 18 ranking.

17. Ocean City, Maryland

  • Average state income: $78,916
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $42,669.83
  • Percentage of income leftover: 54.07%

A town named Ocean City should border the ocean, and indeed, this Maryland city does. Occupying a thin strip of land with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Assawoman and Isle of Wight Bays to the west, Ocean City offers 10 miles of free, clean beaches and a boardwalk.

16. Clearlake, California

  • Average state income: $67,169
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $36,552.71
  • Percentage of income leftover: 54.42%

Clearlake, California, has the highest annual grocery cost of any city on this list. However, other costs are moderate, while incomes remain high. The town shares a name with the adjacent Clear Lake, a scenic recreation area good for fishing and camping.

15. Alexandria, Minnesota

  • Average state income: $65,699
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $35,852.33
  • Percentage of income leftover: 54.57%

Befitting a city in Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Alexandria is surrounded by lakes. Healthcare and transportation costs are relatively low, and state incomes are above-average.

14. Cleveland

  • Average state income: $52,407
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $28,747.92
  • Percentage of income leftover: 54.86%

Cleveland’s median home price, below $85,000, and its low healthcare and grocery costs help keep the city affordable, even when state incomes are among the lowest in the study. The city rests right on the shores of Lake Erie.

13. Aberdeen, Washington

  • Average state income: $66,174
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $36,369.44
  • Percentage of income leftover: 54.96%

Incomes are high across the state of Washington, on average, and costs in Aberdeen are low across the board, with the exception of high grocery bills. As with many cities in the Pacific Northwest, Aberdeen is blessed with a waterfront location, right on the Chehalis River.

12. Toledo, Ohio

  • Average state income: $52,407
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $29,268.18
  • Percentage of income leftover: 55.85%

Like its neighbor city Cleveland, Toledo has an enviable position on the shores of Lake Erie, occupying a spot on the western edge of the lake, right on Maumee Bay. Housing and healthcare costs are low in the city, helping keep it affordable.

11. Duluth, Minnesota

  • Average state income: $65,699
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $36,806.55
  • Percentage of income leftover: 56.02%

While many cities in Minnesota lie near a lake, Duluth lies at the very western edge of the biggest of all of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior. The city benefits from higher-than-average incomes and lower-than-average costs.

10. Devils Lake, North Dakota

  • Average state income: $61,285
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $34,462.47
  • Percentage of income leftover: 56.23%

Devils Lake, North Dakota, has the second-lowest transportation costs of any city on the list. The city also benefits from relatively low home prices. It borders its namesake lake, which covers about 360 acres.

9. Buffalo, New York

  • Average state income: $62,765
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $35,681.97
  • Percentage of income leftover: 56.85%

Buffalo, New York, is well-known for the “lake-effect” snow it can receive from weather effects over neighboring Lake Erie. With the exception of transportation costs, which are the highest of any city on the list, most costs in Buffalo are low, rendering it affordable overall.

8. Hampton, Virginia

  • Average state income: $68,766
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $39,543.61
  • Percentage of income leftover: 57.5%

Hampton, Virginia, has the second-highest healthcare costs of any city on the list, but high state incomes and generally low costs overall keep the city affordable. Hampton encompasses numerous waterways, including the Hampton River and the Southwest Branch Back River.

7. New London, Connecticut

  • Average state income: $73,781
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $43,125.74
  • Percentage of income leftover: 58.45%

New London benefits from the high average state income in Connecticut and relatively low median home prices. Healthcare costs remain high, and utilities come in as the second-highest of any city on the list. The city lies right along the Thames River.

6. Brainerd, Minnesota

  • Average state income: $65,699
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $38,506.93
  • Percentage of income leftover: 58.61%

Brainerd, Minnesota, is blessed when it comes to waterfront locations, as it borders both Rice Lake and the Mississippi River. Low healthcare and transportation costs combined with a relatively high state income make Brainerd an affordable waterfront location.

5. Erie, Pennsylvania

  • Average state income: $56,951
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $33,628.30
  • Percentage of income leftover: 59.05%

As the name would suggest, Erie, Pennsylvania, sits right on Lake Erie, protected by Presque Isle Bay. Mortgage and grocery costs are among the lowest of any city on the list.

4. Oswego, New York

  • Average state income: $62,765
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $37,678.67
  • Percentage of income leftover: 60.03%

Costs are generally low across the board in Oswego. Coupled with New York’s relatively high average state income, this waterfront city is quite affordable. The city is split by the Oswego River, which flows into Lake Ontario.

 

3. Rochester, New York

  • Average state income: $62,765
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $37,989.08
  • Percentage of income leftover: 60.53%

Rochester, New York, sits not very far from No. 4 on the list, Oswego, both with Lake Ontario as their backdrop. As with Oswego, Rochester benefits from a relatively high state income and generally low costs for necessities, although utilities and healthcare cost more than average. Rochester has the second-lowest median home cost of any city on the list.

2. Atlantic City, New Jersey

  • Average state income: $76,475
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $48,490.05
  • Percentage of income leftover: 63.41%

Atlantic City, New Jersey, is famous for its boardwalk, located right on the Atlantic Ocean. New Jersey overall offers the second-highest average income of any state, benefiting Atlantic City and helping to keep it affordable. Transportation costs remain doggedly high, ranking it the No. 2 city on the list.

1. Jamestown, New York

  • Average state income: $62,765
  • Income leftover after annual necessities: $41,870.35
  • Percentage of income leftover: 66.71%

Jamestown, New York, takes the crown when it comes to affordable waterfront cities. Nestled up against the Chautauqua Lake and split by the Chadakoin River, Jamestown offers plenty of waterfront activities. The city has the lowest median home price on the list, along with the cheapest overall cost of living, making it the king of affordable waterfront locations.

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates found 25 affordable waterfront cities by evaluating 112 of the United States’ top ocean and lakefront cities along the following criteria: (1) median state income, sourced from the 2017 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau; (2) 2019 median listing price for all homes, sourced from Zillow’s 2019 data; (3) annual mortgage cost using Zillow’s mortgage calculator, and assuming a 20% down payment and a 3.56% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage as sourced from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and accurate as of Sept. 12, 2019; (4) itemized cost of living index for groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous expenditures, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey. These costs were adjusted to each city’s local cost of living, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places. Factors three and four were combined to give the (5) total annual necessities cost of living, which was then subtracted from factor one to produce the (6) income leftover after annual necessities. Factor six was then converted into (7) percent of income leftover — the determining factor for the final ranking; the higher the percentage of income leftover, the better. All data was collected and up to date as of Sept. 9, 2019. 

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Life in These 25 Waterfront Cities Is Surprisingly Affordable