PORT ARANSAS — As a partner with KPMG Corporate Finance in Austin, Andrew Garbutt flies all over the world for business. But when it came time to choose a vacation home for his family, he picked a condo in Port Aransas.
“I’ve lived here seven years, and my daughter was always saying, ‘Can we go to the beach? Can we go to the beach?’ ” says Garbutt, who chose the Cinnamon Shore development on Mustang Island. “I spent a lot of time flying, so it’s nice to be able to drive less than four hours to this spot. Our kids take their friends.”
There’s no denying the benefits of spending time at the beach. It slows you down and has a way of minimizing mainland hassles. People take the step to ownership for various reasons.
Miles Ponder, co-owner of South Congress Distillery, bought a condo in South Padre Island’s Las Verandas building because he runs back and forth between Austin and South Texas all the time, both to buy sugar cane for White Hat Rum and for engineering design work.
“I like the coast,” he says. “I’ve been renovating a 63-foot boat down here.”
For Austin commercial mortgage lender Charlie DiMare, buying a condo in Galveston came naturally because he grew up there.
“But I might have chosen it anyway,” he says, “because Galveston has a lot more services than those other places. It’s got a lot more going on than your sleepy fishing villages.”
Those little villages, though, have their fans. Lynn Atchison, CFO of HomeAway, chose Rockport for her condo at Allegro North, facing Aransas Bay.
“Since college I’ve been going to Rockport with friends,” she says. “It’s just got a nice little personality, and we’ve got memories there.” Her two children are in college now but still love to go to the condo, she says. When she’s not using it, she rents it out — through HomeAway, of course.
Elmer and Kathy Tablizo and their friend Bonnie Clipper went in together to buy a condo in Cinnamon Shore, the same development Garbutt chose.
“It’s part investment and part family retreat,” says Clipper, a nursing administrator and Kathy Tablizo’s business partner. “The development has a great family dynamic.” Clipper has two children; the Tablizos have three. The three-bedroom condo sleeps 10. They named it Latitude Adjustment.
Even though the two condo buildings at Cinnamon Shore, which is primarily a beach house community, are a couple of blocks from the beach, Clipper and Garbutt say they like the community’s two pools and other amenities, such as a several restaurants, a stocked lake for fishing, a fire pit, bike rentals and a manicured beach area.
If you’re contemplating taking coastal vacationing to the next level and buying a condo, there are a few things to consider:
1. Which beach do you choose? South Padre Island has a long stretch of broad, uninterrupted beach that cars can’t drive on and a good many casual seafood restaurants and bars. It’s a small town — finding a current newspaper can be very difficult — and takes about 5½ hours to reach by car.
Galveston and the Corpus Christi-Port Aransas area offer more cultural amenities, a drive-on beach and a wider variety of restaurants than South Padre. Rockport is a laid-back fishing village facing the bay; it’s not on the Gulf. All of these beaches are between a three- and four-hour drive from Austin.
2. If you choose one of the islands, do you want oceanfront or bayfront? Oceanfront gives you awesome sunrises and instant access to the sand but also puts you on the front lines in the event of a hurricane. Facing the bay, the sunset’s all yours, and you’re usually better protected (except when Ike is the hurricane; that one chose to spin in the bay for many hours).
3. Don’t keep anything in your beach condo that you can’t live without. Hurricanes, remember?
4. Things corrode quickly down there. You’ll need to replace your air conditioning or its parts often, and you’ll probably need to buy a new gas grill every year. You’ll need to wash your car often so it doesn’t rust out.
5. You’ll have to buy windstorm insurance. It’s not cheap, and those who’ve been through hurricanes say it often doesn’t come close to paying for the damage.
6. Like any condo, your coastal one will come with monthly maintenance fees and occasional big-ticket assessments. Even when you’ve paid off the mortgage, you can expect to spend thousands every year for maintenance, utilities, insurance and taxes.
That said, there’s nothing like waking up in the morning, walking out on the balcony, hearing the rush of the Gulf of Mexico and breathing in the salt air.
Coming Thursday in Life & Style
Meet an Austin designer who puts personality in beach condos.