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Is Now the Right Time to Buy a Vacation Home along the Gulf of Mexico?

Written by Ilyce Glink on August 13, 2010 in Real Estate  |   2 comments

Is Now the Right Time to Buy a Vacation Home along the Gulf of Mexico? Week after week, the Gulf oil spill drama has dragged on, dragging down the fortunes of millions of residents and small-business owners with it. Meanwhile, Ken Feinberg, who oversaw the…

Vacation home purchase- items to considerIs Now the Right Time to Buy a Vacation Home along the Gulf of Mexico?

Week after week, the Gulf oil spill drama has dragged on, dragging down the fortunes of millions of residents and small-business owners with it.

Meanwhile, Ken Feinberg, who oversaw the 9/11 fund payments, has been appointed pay czar for the Gulf oil disaster, with the goal of making sure more victims are paid more money on a timelier basis. The federal government has billed BP $100 million for cleanup costs, and Michelle Obama recently visited the area to show off how many beaches have not (yet) been spoiled by oil and tar balls.

Tar balls or not, if you own a primary or vacation home anywhere along the eastern half of the Gulf, you have to be worried about the long-term implications of the Gulf oil spill:

  • Gulf Coast homeowners say vacation bookings are down sharply from a year ago.
  • Property prices are falling as fewer buyers are considering purchasing property along the shoreline.
  • Foreclosures are mounting as vacation homeowners struggle to make payments in the wake of cancellations.
  • Tourism dollars in states along the Gulf have shrunk, even as states spend millions of dollars promoting themselves.

That’s a lot of negative news, and indeed, some buyers are staying away. However, the contrarian in me wonders if now is the right time to buy a vacation home along the Gulf of Mexico.

Whenever you go into a troubled location, you have to be careful. Here are a few things to think about:

What is the timeline for your investment? After Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, in 1992, it took nearly a decade for the area to rebuild and get back to normal. The Gulf states, and in particular New Orleans, are only now beginning to recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. If you make this investment, think about the timeline in terms of decades.

Will this purchase stretch you financially? Are you concerned about your job security? Or do you feel like you have a lot of extra cash to play with? In uncertain economic times, you don’t want to push yourself to the brink financially.

Do you need a mortgage? If you pay with cash, then you’ll only have to worry about real estate taxes and insurance. If you need a mortgage, and you’re counting on renting the property to cover some or all of your expenses, you’re more susceptible to fluctuations in vacation traveler demand. Also, if you need a mortgage to purchase the property and you’re buying in a building that’s full of foreclosures, the property may not even qualify for financing.

Can you purchase a quality property at a rock-bottom price? There will be people whose instincts tell them to flee at the first sign of trouble. That means there could be an excellent long-term investment just waiting for a savvy buyer. Find out what property is worth today, post-spill, and then negotiate for a price you feel reflects the risk you’re willing to take.

Remember: just because a piece of property is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. To really determine if now is the right time to buy property on the Gulf Coast, you’ll have to pull out your pencil and paper and start crunching numbers.

Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.

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The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. ForgottenGulf.com says:

    Ms Glink,
    Ms Glink,
    All good points and important caveats when purchasing property along the Gulf Coast. Some areas have been heavy impacted by oil on the beach and others have mostly been the unfortunate recipient of more bad press than oil. Our little island, Dauphin Island has been the site of many a LIVE report but has had minimal direct oil impact. The same is true for Panama City Beach and even more so for St George Island. But, we have all been hugely impacted this year with rental cancellations based on the negative hype.
    With the capping of the well we immediately started seeing calls about rentals and sales pick up. At my personal vaca home on Dauphin Island I now have 4 weeks booked for Summer 2011. People's memory is short lived and most of our beaches are still clean and white.
    The Gulf is quickly being re-opened fishing, a charter company out of Panama City Beach is already having to turn away inquiries due to a full reservation calendar.
    Before the oil spill we were seeing a big upsurge in demand. Multiple offers started coming in again on market priced properties (homes and lots). So I believe a buyer (especially a cash buyer) is in a perfect situation for the astute buyer to find some good deals all along the Gulf Coast. Whether in Alabama or Florida Gulf Coast beach towns the inventory is high and the prices are at historical lows.
    One thing to consider, if buying a home for cash have the seller arrange with the Flood Insurance carrier to TRANSFER the coverage. This can be critical as Flood Insurance can be a gotcha in the current market.
    Marion Laney
    Realtor w/ACP Real Estate (of course)on Dauphin Island but formerly active on the Emerald Coast of Fla.

  2. Ilyce Glink says:


    Thank you for sharing your experiences on Dauphin Island.

    The negative hype, which President and Mrs. Obama tried to counteract with their visit to the Gulf last week, has had a direct impact on the number of visitors and the number of buyers looking to purchase property.

    I'm glad to hear that calls have started to pick up now that the well is capped. I heard a great statistic that all of the oil would fill a small percentage of the New Orleans Football stadium and you'd need 400+ million football stadiums to hold all the water in the Gulf.

    And, great advice about making sure the Flood insurance is transferable – especially with the 5th anniversary of Katrina coming up August 29.

    Appreciate the comment.

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