South Padre Island (SPI) is as close as Texas gets to tropical Gulf breezes on sun-kissed shores where the water doesn’t look a mini-marshmallow away from Swiss Miss (Galveston). SPI also isn’t an island. SPI is a city located on the southern tip of Padre Island which is the longest barrier island in the world. The whole caboodle is 200 square miles.
SPI has always served a colorful clientele operating as Texas’ laid-back Key West or a haunt for Spring Break Betty Ford wannabes. But it’s also home to a mess of sea turtles, the SPI Music Festival, Splash SPI and … who knew … the Texas State Surfing Championships. But all that’s so much icing on the cake.
You purchase a second home on SPI because of the water. There are lots of high-rises to suit a lock-and-leave vacation home lifestyle. There was an initial boom in the early-to-mid 1980s and then more in the early 2000s. Personally, I gravitate to the older buildings with more bang for my buck and the opportunity to renovate to my tastes.
As with all beach communities, location, location, location really means view, view, view. The further away from the beach, the less expensive. If a complex has several buildings or an odd shape, those with the best views cost more.
Built in 1984, and showing its age, penthouse 2700 offers views that never get old from the Gulf of Mexico to the Laguna Madre Bay. This south-facing property has two bedrooms and two bathrooms sprawled over 2,130 waterfront square feet. It’s listed with Troy Giles of Troy Giles Realty for a seemingly reasonable $598,750, or $281 per square foot.
Part of the lock-and-go is the security of a gated complex plus all the usual resort stuff like pools, cabana, tennis courts, and an exercise room.
The living areas are open concept with plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking everything from your perch. Obvious updates would be de-popcorning the ceiling and renovating the original kitchen. Luckily, by the 1980s ceiling popcorn wasn’t asbestos, just ugly.
The living area is nice and wide, and while I’d love a balcony, I think pressing my nose against the glass would be mighty fine.
The master bedroom doesn’t disappoint either. Clearly huge and with keep-you-awake views all the way to Mexico. What’s doubly nice is its westerly aspect for stunning sunsets and morning sun that isn’t blinding you awake.
The master bath gives an idea of the renovations required. The same type of laminate/wood cabinetry and countertops is the mix found in the other bath and kitchen. On the upside, the room is quite large, so you can do what you’d like to upgrade.
All in all, quite a buy for a 27th floor penthouse straddling an island with a double aspect of water.
The Inverness is another 1980s building in need of a quick spruce-up. This two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit is 767 square feet and listed with Dina Rich of Troy Giles Realty for $190,000. Listed since March, the unit has dropped $5,900. It’s also a corner unit with a nice balcony and Gulf facing. Not bad for under $200,000.
Truth here: The two bedrooms are quite small because the home was originally a more spacious one-bedroom, which I’d return it to. It’s the ideal couples’ crash pad offering the perfect excuse why friends have to stay in a hotel. Not that I’m stingy, but in 767 square feet, it’s a few feet shy of comfortably hospitable.
Luckily you have enough balcony space for entertaining. Everyone’s certainly going to be casting their eyes up the coastline and perhaps binoculars down towards the beach.
The main living space is all open concept with double sliding doors to the generous balcony. You can see the living area to the left with its corner window and to the right is a six-person dining area.
If you’re good at pattern recognition, you’ll notice the wicker chair from the dining area, making the kitchen opposite the windows. It’s not large, so a renovation wouldn’t be too costly. Drop the dining table from six to four, raise the dropped kitchen ceiling. Reconfigure the kitchen into a galley so that either a new slide-in range or repositioned sink faced out the windows. You’d be locked and loaded for under $15,000.
Of course the complex has its own pool, hot tub, security, covered parking, and laundry room … and of course direct beach access.
Reaching paradise will either pit you and your car against nine hours of untold highway construction or you could hop Southwest for around $230 (as of this writing). Of course once you arrive early at the airport, take a three-hour connecting flight, rent a car, and drive an hour to SPI, you might as well drive. After all, lunching at an Austin area BBQ joint offers a heavenly respite.
If your ticket to paradise doesn’t require crossing a jet bridge, SPI is the perfect place for Texans wanting to get away without crossing state lines. Being so Mexico-adjacent, visitors still get some foreign flavor … complete with Duty Free.
Remember: When I’m not stirring up trouble in Dallas, Texas or Honolulu, Hawaii for Candysdirt.com and SecondShelters.com, I’m off scouting interesting locations for a second home. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors. If you’re a Realtor with second home clients who’d like me to feature their journey, shoot me an email email@example.com