This North Carolina Island Is One of the Best Places to Buy a Beach House in the U.S. — Homeowners Make an Average of $60K in Rental Income Each Year

Unspoiled stretches of golden sand, rustic charm, wildlife, and beautiful ocean views have transformed North Carolina's Hatteras Island into a haven for second homeowners.

Owning a beachfront home comes with many perks — uninterrupted ocean views, fresh seafood, perhaps a more relaxed lifestyle, and the opportunity to make some additional income by renting it out. If the latter is of particular importance to you, Hatteras Island, North Carolina, should be on your radar. The barrier island was recently named one of the best oceanfront destinations to own a beach house by Vacasa (Hatteras Island is second on the list, Lake Anna in Virginia took the No. 1 spot).

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse along the coast

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According to Vacasa's recent data, homeowners make an average of $58,556 in rental income a year, with median home sale prices at $412,500.

"Hatteras Island is one of the most unique housing markets in the country and can still afford amazing rates of return compared to many other areas. Many vacationers to the area over the years have become homeowners as they realized they could utilize rental income to supplement [the cost of] home ownership," said Brad Beacham, a broker at Landmark Sotheby's International Realty and an Outer Banks native, in an interview with Travel+Leisure.

Seagulls fight for flight along Hatteras' stormy coast

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So what else makes this thin barrier island, part of the Outer Banks, such a good investment? The answer is its central location along the East Coast, miles of unspoiled picture-perfect beaches, rich history, and endless outdoor activities on offer. Most importantly, this heavenly slice of land is part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, our country's first national seashore, established in 1953. The national seashore limited large-scale real estate development, by giving the sand dunes, marshes, and beaches protected status. This is a major draw for vacationers: in 2021, the entire National Seashore welcomed a record 3,206,056 travelers, the most since its establishment 70 years ago. In 2022, that number was 2,862,844, the second highest influx of visitors since 2002.

Hatteras Island is made up of seven quaint villages — Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras Village — connected by miles of idyllic stretches of sand overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound.

Colorful rental homes on Cape Hatteras

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"Within each village, you will find neighborhoods and communities that blend modern coastal homes with older cottages creating a one-of-a-kind community that is thriving," Beacham said. "These once sleepy little fishing villages have become tourist destinations, and it seems that the eyes of the country have now been opened to how incredible the area is."

As visitors drive south of Pea Island National Wildlife Reserve, they arrive in Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. Locals refer to them as the Tri Villages as they are located next to one another and feel like one big community, with plenty of mom-and-pop shops and restaurants. The area is a kite surfer's paradise and is home to some of the biggest kitesurfing schools on the Outer Banks.

Warm light of sunrise along beach and sand dunes at Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

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About 14 miles farther south is Avon, where you'll find the largest grocery store in the area and the first fishing pier on Hatteras Island, dating back to 1962. The wooden structure is 600 feet long and draws anglers fishing for red drum.

Next up is Buxton. Vacationers flock here to see the tallest brick lighthouse in the country, which rises 198 feet and has a distinct black-and-white pattern on its façade.

Finally, Brixton, Frisco, and Hatteras Village are the epicenter of recreational fishing on the Outer Banks.

 "Frisco feels like Hatteras Island before it was 'discovered' by generations of vacationers. Quiet and small, it offers up a bit of seclusion while putting the restaurants, groceries, and activities of Buxton and Hatteras Village within easy reach," Beacham explained. 

The town of Buxton on Hatteras Island

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So where should you start your search for the perfect beach vacation home on Hatteras Island? It is essential to find a broker who understands the local real estate market — including local regulations.

"Purchasing on a barrier island is different than purchasing a home in other parts of the country. Choose an agent with experience who can advise you on things such as flood zones, flood risks, insurance, vacation rental laws, property management, and a long list of other important topics," he added.

"Currently, there are only 71 active single-family homes on the market for sale on all of Hatteras Island. This data shows that demand for beach homes in the area is outpacing supply," he explained, noting that well-maintained residences in good locations sell fast and are in high demand. With the reasonable housing prices, idyllic surroundings, and possibility for a great return on investment, why wouldn't they be?

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