Waterfront living is a concept that seems to have endless appeal. “It doesn’t matter whether you swim or partake in water sports or not,” said Danny Hertzberg, a real estate agent with the Jills Zeder Group in Miami Beach, who sees nonstop demand in waterfront properties. “For most people, the ultimate amenity is the water. It’s always desirable.”
Interest in waterfront properties has grown significantly in the last year. Sales at the Jills Zeder Group, for instance, increased to over $1 billion in 2020 from $500 million in 2019. According to Mr. Hertzberg, a majority of these sales were waterfront homes. “We’re already on track this year to outpace 2020,” he said.
And during the first quarter of this year, page views for waterfront “amenities and features” on the website of Sotheby’s International Realty increased to 56,517 from 11,818 in the same period in 2020 — an increase of more than 378 percent.
South Florida; Los Cabos, Mexico; and Marbella, Spain, are mainstays for waterfront properties, but other places are starting to get attention, too, like these five emerging destinations.
Antigua and Barbuda
This Caribbean island nation has more than 300 white-sand beaches and four marinas, including one that housed the British fleet during colonial times and is now a base for megayachts.
Justin White, the co-owner of Anchor Antigua Realty, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, said the island was ideal for those who enjoy watersports. “We have great snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing and kite surfing,” he said. “You can come here and be active all day and start your evening with a cocktail on the beach during sunset.”
Antigua has low crime rates, making safety an advantage of owning a home there. Grocery stores, which abound, sell both imported goods and local delicacies like lobster. Although roads on the island can be bumpy, Mr. White said they were being improved.
Home buyers will find a cross section of properties in Antigua, from apartments to townhouses to spacious villas. Mr. White said that prices for a two-bedroom townhouse started at about $200,000, and that villas in upscale developments, such as Galley Bay Heights, were well into the seven figures.
More recently, Barbuda, a virtually undeveloped island, has been getting attention because the luxury real estate developer Discovery Land Company is building Barbuda Ocean Club, a community that broke ground in 2019. A chic-meets-rustic beach club with waterfront safari tents is already complete and gives interested buyers an opportunity to visit and explore ownership. The community, which occupies more than 700 acres, has seven miles of beachfront and will have 450 residences, including estates, golf villas and waterfront cottages. Ranging from 2,000 to 7,500 square feet, they have a starting price of $3 million.
“Discovery’s project is the pinnacle of luxury and is going to elevate Antigua and Barbuda to another level, but there are plenty of affordable housing options as well,” Mr. White said.
While Mexico is a well-established site for a waterfront home, Rick Moeser, executive director of Christie’s International Real Estate, said Careyes, a private resort community, and the surrounding Costalegre region were still largely uncharted.
“Unlike the rest of the country, which is overbuilt and crowded, this coastline is spread out and somewhat undiscovered,” he said.
On the Pacific coast, between the cities of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, Careyes is where the jungle meets the sea. Mr. Moeser described the landscape as “dramatic,” with many cliffs, surrounded by lush trees, framing scenic beaches.
Founded in 1968 by an Italian entrepreneur, Gian Franco Brignone, Careyes has grown over the last several decades to more than 35,000 acres. It includes a polo field and a biosphere reserve with 70 species of animals and more than 1,200 varieties of flora and fauna.
In real estate, Careyes has 65 villas, most with infinity pools, along cliffs overlooking the Pacific. There are also 40 colorful casitas, inspired by the Amalfi Coast of Italy, and El Careyes Club & Residences, which comprises 60 homes of one to four bedrooms. Prices for a one-bedroom casita start at about $400,000, while oceanfront villas average around $2.5 million.
Mr. Moeser said the community, with its Italian roots, attracted home buyers from Europe, although Americans were starting to filter in.
About an hour’s drive down the coast, Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, México, scheduled to open at the end of this year, will include clifftop villas and beachfront estates. (The exact number is still to be announced.) Sitting on a 3,000-acre private natural reserve, the resort will have three pools, a spa, a watersports center and an 18-hole golf course.
Architecturally, buyers should expect traditional Mexican homes, with stucco and natural stone. “There’s a feeling of authentic Mexico here,” Mr. Moeser said.
About a 30-minute drive west of Riga, on the Baltic Sea, the resort town Jurmala is an attraction for its golden-sand beaches, which are framed by dunes and rock formations. According to Michael Valdes, the president of eXp Global, a division of eXP Realty in Bellingham, Wash., Russians have vacationed and bought second homes there for years, but more recently, other Europeans have started to come. “You’re seeing buyers from the Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania,” he said.
Mr. Valdes added that the beaches in Jurmala were among the most scenic in Europe, and that its strong infrastructure was supported by good medical care, restaurants and grocery stores.
Jurmala offers diverse real estate options, from modest apartments in the center of town, which start at a few hundred thousand dollars, to luxury seven-figure villas on the secluded coastline.
Eriks Reinicans, the director of the local real estate company Jurmala Invest, said that for around $500,000, buyers could find a three- or four-bedroom apartment in an upscale development with a pool that was about a 10-minute drive to the beach. “You get much more value for your money if you’re willing to be away from the water,” he said.
Because Latvia’s winters can be brutally cold, Jurmala is not an ideal year-round destination, though it does offer access to historical sights in Riga and hiking in the forests that surround the sea.
The Exumas, the Bahamas
The Bahamas has long been a popular vacation and second-home destination for travelers from all over the world. Some foreign home buyers even make the country their primary residence because it has no income tax. This international influx has mostly gone to New Providence Island, home to the capital, Nassau, and numerous residential developments and beach resorts.
Lately, however, in a search for more privacy and a relaxed lifestyle away from the hubbub, buyers have been setting their sights on the Exumas. Consisting of about 365 islands, many privately owned, this chain promises secluded beaches with turquoise waters, an abundance of marine life and a wide range of watersports, including fly-fishing, scuba diving and kiteboarding.
Edward de Mallet Morgan, a partner at Knight Frank, a global real estate consultancy based in London, said the interest in owning a home in the Exumas had increased in the wake of the pandemic. “Properties used to sit on the market for six months to a year and now sell within a few weeks,” he said. “People want to be away from the crowds, and that’s what the Exumas offers.”
This new set of home buyers is mainly from California, New York, Britain, mainland Europe and South America.
Homes throughout the islands run the gamut from affordable to extravagant.
Great Exuma, for example, the biggest island and site of the district capital, George Town, has brightly colored single-family homes that each cost a few hundred thousand dollars. The Marina at Hoopers Bay, a residential community on the northwest part of the island, offers 30 residences — a mix of townhouses and villas — that cost from $350,000 to more than $3 million.
Private islands run from $5 million to $100 million, Mr. Morgan said. Little Pipe Cay, for example, a 38-acre private island with multiple homes, is currently on the market for $85 million.
Even with such lavishness, the Exumas are unpretentious and welcoming, said Brent Hurt, the managing partner of the Marina at Hoopers Bay. “This is a place where the very wealthy and everyday locals mingle together in shorts and flip-flops,” he said.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
In northwest Idaho, about a 30-minute drive from Spokane, Wash., Coeur d’Alene is known for its lake and national forest.
Lately, the city has become appealing to buyers who are seeking vacation homes in rural settings where the waterfront takes center stage, said Tammy Fahmi, the vice president for global operations and international servicing at Sotheby’s International Realty. Many are from California, Washington State and Oregon, but Canadians are also finding their way there.
“Coeur d’Alene is a year-round destination,” Ms. Fahmi said. “People love it for the fishing, boating, swimming and hiking in the summer, while in the winter, there’s snowmobiling, snowboarding and cross-country and downhill skiing.”
But beyond the city, there are more than 50 lakes within a two-hour drive, said Mike McNamara, a real estate agent with Windermere/Coeur d’Alene Realty and Windermere Hayden. They include Lake Pend Oreille, the largest in Idaho. “The area is an outdoor paradise every month of the year, and life revolves around the lakes,” he added.
Prospective buyers can expect single-family homes in Coeur d’Alene, with few apartments and townhouses, although some are currently being built. Home prices average around $477,000. “You can get a three-bedroom new-construction 1,800-square-foot house for that amount, but there are definitely more upscale options,” Mr. McNamara said.