Keep the Beach—These Homeowners Are Trying Lagoons on for Size

Article originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

Lagoons offer the perks of waterfront living without the hassle—and in some cases, price—of the ocean


Petra and Alex Higby met when Mr. Higby, a professional sailor, was in San Francisco for the America’s Cup. For their new home, the Higbys skipped choppy waves for the balmy waters of Belvedere Lagoon, a body of water located along the coast of Richardson Bay in Marin County, Calif.

In February, the pair bought a four-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot house on the Lagoon for $3.65 million and moved in two days later. Living there was a long-held dream, said Ms. Higby, 32. Within days of the move, British-born Mr. Higby, 36, got out on the water from the home’s private boat dock. Soon afterward, the couple attended a neighborhood Super Bowl Party where guests arrived on paddle boats.

“We love the house. It’s charming, homey and happy, but the fact that it’s on the Lagoon was the most important thing,” said Ms. Higby, who owns The Caviar Co., an online retailer with a store in San Francisco and tasting room in Tiburon. Compared with the ocean, the couple felt that the Lagoon was warmer and safer, with a calm surface that would soon allow their daughter Adriana, 2, to learn how to sail.

For homeowners like the Higbys, lagoon living beats the beach. Lagoons are defined as a shallow sound, channel, or pond near or communicating with a larger body of water, and, say fans, they lack the stiff wind and invasive sand of the oceanside. On many lagoons, boaters can live right on the water, without a beach to cross or the public peeking in. From Paikō Lagoon near Honolulu to natural and man-made lagoons in the Caribbean, the still water adds serenity and wildlife to real estate around it.

Most waterfront buyers who can afford a house on the ocean prefer it to one on a lagoon, says Jonathan Spears, founder of the Spears Group in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. But not all. At Belvedere Lagoon, prices have been rising. In the last 16 months, four houses on the Lagoon sold for over $10 million, including a four-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot property that sold for $11.5 million in March. In the past, the highest-priced sales were in the $7 million range, said Shana Rohde-Lynch, an agent with Compass in Tiburon, Calif., who sold the Higbys their home.

Once a summer destination for city residents, the Lagoon attracts older buyers drawn to its single-story houses and young families, said Ms. Rohde-Lynch. Along with the Lagoon, the Higbys say they came for its close-knit community, with friendly neighbors, block parties and sailing races. Inside the home, the couple took the shutters off all windows to see as much water as possible.

Texans KC and Larissa Kronbach bought a contemporary, four-bedroom vacation home on a tranquil, emerald lagoon at Rosewood Mayakoba, a resort on the Mexican Riviera between Cancún and Tulum, for $4.2 million in 2017. The couple has seven children and Ms. Kronbach, 38 and originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, has a large family that gathers at the airy 4,500-square-foot house. At sunset, the Kronbachs have cocktails on the lagoon, sometimes followed by an outdoor movie set against its dark, lush greenery. The family enjoys the resort’s beach but likes to come home to its private horizon pool extending out into the waters of the lagoon.

“With the lagoon, you have a totally different vista, a different vibe,” said Mr. Kronbach, 46, a Dallas-based private-equity investor. “It’s very peaceful. You don’t have the waves and the sound of the water, more like the humming of nature.”

Since twins Sophie and Lily joined siblings Sidney, Pearson, Eva, Harvey and Audrey two years ago, the Kronbachs have decided to look for a bigger house and listed the Mayakoba villa for $4.5 million. For Mexico City-based RLH Properties, a developer which owns the Mayakoba resort area, the resort’s lagoons have created real-estate value away from the beach. Lagoon-side villas cost between $3.6 million and $6.5 million, compared with around $12 million for houses on the beach at the resort.

“If you’re on the lagoon, you are paying 50% of the price that you’d pay on the beach,” said Borja Escalada, the company’s chief executive officer.