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TheStreet Open House

5 Best Beachfront Housing Markets

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Does the warm summer weather have you dreaming of buying a beach home? Here's a look at five oceanfront communities that the folks at RealtyTrac believe offer America's best combination of good weather, low crime and modest housing prices.

"A good beach town doesn't just look good on a postcard, but feels good to be there -- to see the sun, breathe the fresh air and enjoy the warm temperatures," says Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac, which recently named the Top Beach Town Housing Markets.

The firm analyzed the weather patterns, median home values and crime statistics for all U.S. oceanfront communities with 5,000 residents or more to pick its choices for America's top coastal towns.

Blomquist says the best beach communities are all generally off the beaten path and have 40,000 residents or less. "We tended to find that smaller towns made the best, least-expensive beach locations," he says.

But while he says the winners are great markets for people looking to buy vacation or retirement homes, they're not necessarily the top choices for investors.

That's because all of the communities below have median home prices higher than the roughly $180,000 U.S. average, while Blomquist says today's "sweet spot" for investors typically involves properties that sell for $150,000 or so.

"If you're an investor looking for the best returns for rentals, these are probably not the markets to go to," he says. "But if you're buying a place to live in as a vacation home or eventual retirement home, these are great locations."

Read on to check out RealtyTrac's picks for America's best oceanfront housing markets.

Estimated home prices refer to the projected median value of residences in each community as of April and include all local houses, condos and townhouses (not just those up for sale). Crime grades reflect a RealtyTrac analysis of FBI statistics, while air-pollution scores reflect U.S. Environmental Protection Agency numbers for last year and weather figures cover National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data for 2001-13. 

Fifth-best U.S. beachfront market: Marco Island, Fla.

Part of the Ten Thousand Islands chain along South Florida's Gulf Coast, this popular beachfront community has good air-quality 98% of the time, sunny days 73% of the time and a 75-degree year-round average temperature.

Also see: 5 Hidden Gems of Real Estate for the Small Investor

Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the 16,400-person community also enjoys an "A" grade for low crime. Additionally, RealtyTrac found that the typical Marco Island home costs an estimated $415,963 -- well below what you'll find in pricier South Florida locales such as Key Biscayne (median price: $922,002).

"Marco Island is a really quality beach location that's less expensive than many other places not only in Florida, but also in costlier states like Hawaii and California," Blomquist says. The island is in Collier County, a market that's popular with vacation-home buyers but generally has lower prices than nearby Miami-Dade County.

Click here to check out some Marco Island listings.

Fourth-best U.S. beachfront market: Wailuku, Hawaii 

This 15,300-population community on Maui Island boasts good air quality 100% of the time, along with a 75-degree average temperature and sunny days 73% of the time.

"Hawaii is just off the charts in terms of air quality because you're far from the mainland and a lot of industry that causes air pollution," Blomquist says. "It also has great weather and some of the highest average temperatures we found."

In fact, the only real problem RealtyTrac found in Wailuku and some other Hawaiian beach communities is somewhat elevated crime. For instance, Wailuku gets only a "B" for crime levels, whereas all of the mainland communities on RealtyTrac's rundown score an "A" or "A+."

If you still want to say "aloha" to Wailuku, click here to check out a list of properties available for purchase there. RealtyTrac says the typical Wailuku home costs $412,084.

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