The Fairhope area has sidewalks, shopping, community events, and is the quaint little bay town like none other. Also it is very centralized from Mobile, Pensacola, and the beach. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach has great walking/bike trails and will give you the beach lifestyle, but does not have the small baytown atmosphere that Fairhope will give you. Are school districts of any concern? Insurance plays a big part also. The further you are from water the better your insurance rates will be. There is no city sales tax in Fairhope which adds up in groceries, etc. I have worked both the beach and the eastern shore for the past 5 years and no both markets extensively. I feel that you can get exactly what you want for less money in today's market and also take advantage of today's great interest rates.