From the white sands of Hawaii to the idyllic New England seaside, Americans flock to the beach for rest and relaxation. Median home prices in these towns are too expensive for most. But there are some equally charming US locales that boast being affordable beach towns.
SmartAsset, a financial information source, compiled a list of 25 budget-friendly beach cities. Granted, not all of these median prices are on the water. But if you don’t have to book a hotel or drive more than 20 miles to the water, you’re doing ok. Here are the top 10:
Military installations across the country boost local economies and stir up patriotic pride. Great metropolitan areas with bases and forts are really too many to list. Picking a top 10 isn’t easy, but these military hubs stand out for their volume of activity, historical significance, community involvement and downright special stuff. So here’s a list of our Top 10 US Military Towns and what it costs to buy a home in each city/region:
Known as the “Cradle of Aviation”, Pensacola is home to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, NASP Corry Station, Saufley Field and NAS Whiting Field. The National Naval Aviation Museum and the U.S. Navy demonstration squadron “The Blue Angels” (you can watch practice when they’re home) are a huge draw to aviation fans. “The Upside of Florida” loves its military, celebrating with events throughout the year, including two air shows.
Median single-family home price: $113,900 – a big reason it draws retired military personnel (and the white sand beaches and Caribbean blue waters aren’t too bad, either).
Hampton Roads, VA
Every branch of the military has a base of operations in the 7 cities comprising this area. Norfolk is the largest naval station in the world with 74 ships along 14 piers and 134 aircraft operating out of 11 hangars; there is a flight taking off or landing every 6 minutes. Nearby is Joint Base Langley-Eustice, the Master Jet Base at NAS Oceana, Dam Neck Fleet Training Center, US Fleet Forces Command, USMC Camp Allen, Air National Guard, US Coast Guard, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and a myriad of support services.
Median single family home price: $248,500 Virginia Beach (bear in mind that prices rise significantly farther from base activity and closer to the ocean).
Washington, DC area
The nation’s capital is also the nation’s military capital. DC is home to the Pentagon, which you can tour. In the DC-Arlington-Alexandria area you’ll find the Washington Navy Yard (yes, the “home” of the CBS show NCIS), Bolling Air Force Base, and Fort Lesley J. McNair (US Army), just to name a few. Crossing over into Maryland you’ll find more significant military landmarks, including Andrews AFB, Fort Meade, the Coast Guard Yard and the Naval Academy (in Annapolis).
Median single family home price: $500,200.
There are a ridiculous number of installations here, the most memorable of which are JointBase Pearl Harbor-Hickham, Bellows Air Force Station, and Fort Shafter (Army). The rich WWII history on Oahu here blends seamlessly with the state-of-the-art current operations. Island life is hard to beat (sand, surf and Aloha spirit), but at the same time a bit stifling (it’s a mere 2,558 miles to Los Angeles). Traffic and the high cost of living make it difficult to live in Honolulu.
Median single family home price: $733,500 (don’t worry, you can get a nice little condo for around $374K). Source: Hawai’I Life.
San Diego, CA
The home of the Navy Seals and Fightertown USA (cue Top Gun movie references), the city and county of San Diego is a Navy and Marine Corps mecca. Naval Base San Diego, NB Coronado (aka North Island), NB Point Loma, US Coast Guard Station San Diego, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar create a large military presence. Oh, and back to that iconic movie – don’t go looking for Top Gun here. Naval Air Station Miramar became a Marine Corps station in October 1997 and the F-14 Tomcat was retired in 2006 (sigh). Top Gun now exists as Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC aka Strike) at NAS Fallon, NV.
Remember the Alamo! Military City USA earned its name with 300 years of military presence and one of the largest active and retired military populations. San Antonio is home to Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston (Army), Joint Base San Antonio Lackland Air Force Base, Joint Base San Antonio Randolph AFB and a myriad of museums, forts and support services. Each year 132,000 students graduate from military training. Fort Sam Houston boasts the nation’s largest Department of Defense medical facility. The annual Fiesta San Antonio puts on a number of patriotic events, including a large-scale military ceremony at Fort Sam Houston.
Median single family home price: $186,200.
“Shall we play a game?” You know, Global Thermonuclear War. The 1983 blockbuster War Games brought Colorado Springs into sharp focus as the home of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). This ultra-cool installation under Cheyenne Mountain is the US/Canadian first alert to threats from air and space. Oh, and of course, one of their most important missions is to track and report Santa’s movements for kids around the world. Colorado springs is also home to Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Fort Carson (Army) and the incredibly beautiful US Air Force Academy. You can tour the academy most weekdays or catch a Falcons home football game.
Median single family home price: $224,200.
Vegas isn’t the biggest of the military towns, but Nellis Air Force Base has a symbiotic relationship with the city. First, they share an airport with the city. Second, it’s the 5th largest “employer” in the valley (numbers average between 12,000 – 15,000 military and civilian employees). Nellis is also home to the world-famous United States Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron. The surrounding expanse of desert provides the perfect setting for a variety of military exercises including Red Flag, an air-to-air-combat war game for US, NATO and other allied countries. Red Flag was the subject of the IMAX® movie Fighter Pilot.
Median single family home price: $197,500.
The corridor from the Lowcountry to the Midlands represents a vast swath of military history and presence dating back to the Revolutionary War. Active bases include Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Coast Guard Sector Charleston, Joint Base Charleston, Fort Jackson, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, SC State and National Guard, and Shaw Air Force Base (hosting the Thunder in the Midlands air show this weekend). There are an additional 7 historic installations.
Median single family home price: $239,500 (Charleston Trident Assoc. of Realtors); $125,700 (Columbia); $144,200 Greenville.
All branches of the service take up residence in this military hub. Major installations include Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Army, Navy, Air Force), Camp Murray Air Guard Station (Air National Guard), Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (Navy, Marines), Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton and Naval Station Everett. A huge plus for those stationed in the region is enjoy the lush scenery of the Pacific Northwest, including the majestic Mt. Rainier. Given the cost of living in Seattle, many opt to commute from Tacoma, despite its smelly downside. It’s called the “Tacoma Aroma” – the odiferous sulfur fallout of local paper mills along I-5 in the Tacoma Tideflats.
Median single family home price: $577,700 Seattle; $218,100 Tacoma.
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Home price source: Zillow, unless otherwise noted.