Last week I stumbled upon a marathon of “Beachfront Bargain Hunt.” The premise of the HGTV series is simple: It follows an individual or family as they search for and ultimately purchase a beach house on a reasonable budget. Incredibly, each episode they find their dream home without breaking the bank.
If you watch long enough, you’ll inevitably start perusing beach real estate listings yourself. That’s when the wake-up call hits. The TV version definitely simplifies the process. But if they can find an affordable abode, so can you, right?
Well, it depends where you’re looking—and Smart Asset’s annual list of affordable beach communities is here to help. They looked at home values, home size, property taxes and other monthly housing costs for 229 beach towns. The resulting list of the 25 most affordable beach towns is sure to inspire a move to sandy shores and year-round sunny days.
Here are the top 15 most affordable communities from that list and some reasons why you might love living in each of them.
15. Ormond Beach, Florida
Though it boasts John D. Rockefeller as one of its first residents, Ormond Beach doesn’t require you to be a millionaire to live here. It also features plenty of free ways to fill your after-work hours. For example, Tomoka State Park protects wildlife habitats and endangered species, such as the West Indian manatee, and is a haven for more than 150 species of birds and bird-watchers.
Median Home Value: $169,900
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $901
14. Gulfport, Florida
In addition to morning walks on the beach, the funky art scene and award-winning food make Gulfport stand out on the shore. People here embrace “Keep Gulfport Weird” in a variety of ways. For example, you might see pirate-themed golf carts and motorcycles zooming by. There’s never a dull moment, and nearby beaches on the Gulf of Mexico offer cleaner water for swimming.
Median Home Value: $144,300
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $870
13. Gulf Shores, Alabama
You can eat your way through Gulf Shores on a number of themed food trails, including bread pudding, crab and gumbo. You’ll need much more time than a vacation to sample everything. Gulf Shores also boasts several golf courses and the 7,000-acre Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, where you can watch sea turtle hatchlings and much more.
Median Home Value: $236,600
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $907
12. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Known for arts, culture, cuisine and 60 miles of pristine Atlantic coastline, this popular vacation destination is an even better place to call home. There are also award-winning medical centers to keep the whole family healthy and top-notch schools to help children thrive.
Median Home Value: $173,600
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $842
11. Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Part of the “Forgotten Coast,” this family-friendly stretch of sand is home to quiet white sand beaches. Recently, Thrillist named it the “most underrated city” in Florida, so plan your move soon—before everyone else catches on. Additionally, it is the deep-sea fishing capital. Whether or not you go out on the boats to fish for yourself, there is plenty of freshly caught seafood available in town.
Median Home Value: $164,100
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $937
10. Melbourne, Florida
This locale on Florida’s Space Coast offers activities for everyone. You can opt for outdoor fun like surfing, fishing, golf or snorkeling. There are also a variety of annual festivals celebrating art, film, beer and more. The Kennedy Space Center is less than an hour drive away so you can make rocket launches a part of your regular schedule.
Median Home Value: $125,400
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $849
9. Fort Pierce, Florida
Nature lovers will fall for the “Sunrise City.” It is uniquely situated near natural and artificial reefs, which offer excellent diving and fishing spots. Similarly, the Indian River Lagoon Estuary is filled with thousands of species of plants and animals. While in town, the revitalized downtown area offers farmers markets, concerts and more on the waterfront.
Median Home Value: $89,100
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $777
8. Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach is synonymous with NASCAR, so this is the ideal spot if you’re fan. It also boasts plenty of other activities if the racing scene isn’t your speed. For example, you can watch the seasonal sea turtle population, dip into calm waters for water sports and drive onto the beach.
Median Home Value: $117,200
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $757
7. Freeport, Texas
Only 60 miles from downtown Houston, there is plenty to do on and off the shore in Freeport. Fishing charters and sport fishing rank as some of the top activities. Also nearby is the expansive Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. It provides a glimpse into wild Texas and was designated an Internationally Significant Shorebird Site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Children can get involved as a Refuge Junior Naturalist and work with biologists and learn a variety of skills, like nature photography, animal identification and more.
Median Home Value: $71,000
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $565
6. Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Here, home prices and taxes are a bit higher than others on the list, however you get what you pay for. Located in Mississippi, residents will reap the benefits of a high quality of life. In fact, Mississippi ranks number six in the nation in terms of quality of life. An active art scene, with festivals and hundreds of local artists, also adds to its appeal.
Median Home Value: $151,500
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $920
5. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
This quaint shoreside city only requires an annual salary of $29,160 to afford the average home. And since most homes feature porches, it’s easy to get to know your new neighbors and instantly feel a sense of community. Historic buildings and a rich cultural heritage in Old Town also add to its appeal.
Median Home Value: $150,800
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $729
4. Port Arthur, Texas
Here, the motto is “laissez les bons temps rouler.” And the good times definitely roll for residents in this coastal community with plenty of Cajun flair and history dating back more than 1,500 years. A great way to get a lay of the land is running the Pleasure Island Half Marathon.
Median Home Value: $64,300
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $588
3. Biloxi, Mississippi
This seaside city has held the No. 3 spot for three years in a row. It features not one but two entertainment districts where you can enjoy to-go-cup beverages and is conveniently located on the Mississippi Sound. Recently, OpenTable named Biloxi the most romantic city in America thanks to plenty of romantic restaurants perfect for dining duos.
Median Home Value: $149,100
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $785
2. Pensacola, Florida
History comes alive in historic forts and other ancient sites near this beach community. Away from the busy beach and downtown areas are eclectic neighborhoods home to great local cuisine. In fact, you can take a beach cruiser and explore the streets while stopping for for casual meals along the way.
Median Home Value: $145,700
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $850
1. Gulfport, Mississippi
It’s easy to see why this community is the reigning affordable beach town. You can enjoy Gulfport’s waterfront entertainment district with drinks in to-go cups like in New Orleans. There are also 34 different parks and recreation areas for free family activities.
Median Home Value: $116,200
Median Monthly Housing Costs: $819
Imagine waking up every morning to the sound of the waves and enjoying sunsets or sunrises on the beach. Living in paradise is possible and—at least in these inexpensive beach towns—pretty affordable, too.
So, which beach town would make your dream come true?
RELATED: This little boy got lost on a crowded beach, and the way people reunited him with his mom was pretty impressive: