2018 in Review and A Look Ahead

2018 2019 real estate highlightsAs we say good bye to 2018 and enter into the second month of 2019, we can reflect on some of the highlights in the real estate market last year.  2018 was a good year; however, there are a few trends that we should keep our eye on.

Total Sales for December were flat (less than a 1% change from December 2017) and are down 6% for the year compared to last year. The number of properties that are in an Under Contract status are 9% lower than compared to 2017. Inventory; there are 2,197 total listings on the market in the entire MLS compared to 2,091 in 2017. The 2018 Median sale price of $343,000 has been on the rise since 2012 and remains about the same as 2017. Land prices are up 3% over last year.

Distressed inventory continues to drop. This includes both short sales and foreclosures. There are just 23 properties listed for sale that are either bank owned or short sale. These make up a very small percentage of inventory and sales as compared to 2013 when they were at record highs.

real estate highlightsFor the past three years, Kill Devil Hills has been the hottest market of all the areas on the Outer Banks. The average sales price there is just under $300,000 and well below the MLS average. Corolla has the highest average sales price at just over $560,000.

Just for fun, the most expensive home on the Outer Banks is listed at $5,499,000 and is in Southern Shores. This is a 14,000 square foot 6-bedroom Creekfront Home in the gated community of Martin’s Point.

real estate highlightsContrast this with the least expensive home located in Manns Harbour for $99,000.  This is a 750 sf. Mobile home. Any takers?

Looking ahead. We are looking at interest rates beginning to rise as the stock market shows signs of improvement after tanking in October 2018. Rates haven’t really moved since then but that could change. Overall, with prices stable and flat, a manageable inventory, and rates still below 5%, this could be a very opportune time to enter the real estate market, both as a buyer or a seller.

Rick Drumm 2018 2019 HighlightsPlease feel free to contact me if you are looking to buy or sell Outer Banks real estate.  I’d love to put my 23+ years of real estate experience to work you. Remember, “Homework” is what I do best!

Richard Drumm
rick@outerbanksblue.com

Consistent Growth Shows Spring and Fall Opportunities

opportunities

The Outer Banks has proven itself to be a resilient and powerful tourist destination. From Carova on the Virginia border to Ocracoke, the area has become an economic engine that drives the economy of northeastern North Carolina. There are a number of  factors that have created the success, so many that it is not possible to discuss all of them, or even list all of them, at one time. There is, though, one part of the Outer Banks picture that is an integral part of the puzzle but is not necessarily included in discussions of what has created that success story.

The property owners who have invested in homes for the rental market are as much a part of the prosperity of the Outer Banks as any other facet contributing to the consistent growth of the region. Certainly the marketing of the Outer Banks as a premier family vacation destination has been extraordinarily important in what has happened. But if investors had not bought property and built homes for those families, it wouldn’t matter how beautiful the Outer Banks may have seemed—no one would have come.

Most of our property owners have invested here because they enjoy the Outer Banks and what it has to offer, but those properties are an investment and like any investment it needs to generate revenue.

Over the past few years there are some emerging trends in the Outer Banks market that could create some new or additional opportunities for property owners. These are opportunities to enhance the revenue a property generates; it will not replace the summer peak season income.

There has been a noticeable and consistent increase in shoulder season visitation. The observation is based on increases in occupancy tax collection over the past five years. We are using the data from Dare County, and there are two reasons for that. Dare County is the center of the Outer Banks tourism industry and is an accurate barometer of activity. Additionally Dare County’s reporting is more up to date than Currituck County or Hyde County that includes Ocracoke.

Using occupancy tax as an indicator of trends is a little bit risky—it is just one part of a larger picture. However, in this case, the trends are so strong and consistent that using occupancy tax as a bellwether seems safe.

The shoulder seasons are the spring and fall: March through May and September through November. Over the past five years, their percentage growth has outperformed the peak summer season buy a remarkable degree. Keep in mind this is a percentage increase, not a dollar increase, but those percentage increases represent a very significant growth in collections over that period of time.

The figures we are using are for 2017 since 2018 is not completed yet. For comparison, here are the occupancy tax collections as reported by the Dare County Visitors Bureau.

Spring
2017 March-May Collections: $58,987,781
2013 March-May Collections: $40,249,090
Increase 2013-2017: $18,738,691
Percent increase: 46.56%

Fall
2017 September-November Collections: $81,047,380
2013 September-November Collections: $59,573,121
Increase 2013-2017: $21,474,259
Percent increase: 36.05%

For comparison, here are the number for the peak summer season:
2017 June-August Collections: $322,399,021
2013 June-August Collections: $284,449,766
Increase 2013-2017: $37,949,255
Percent increase: 13.34%

Looking at these numbers, it is apparent that the bulk of business is occurring during the summer months. However, it is equally as apparent that the increases in visitation in the shoulder seasons is so significant that opportunity must exist in those areas.

Every property owner has to decide for themselves how they want to address some of these opportunities; that is not something that can be done effectively in this format. What can be done, though, is to outline some of the factors or forces at work that are creating the opportunities.

The Macro Trend

Probably the biggest driver of visitation in the shoulder seasons is the sustained growth of weddings and events. At one time, this segment of the Outer Banks economic picture was focused almost exclusively on weddings, but increasingly, the Outer Banks is being marketed as a place for events—family reunions, business meetings, and seminars.

Although the large event homes are often where people gather, they are not always where people stay, creating an opportunity to provide housing for guests of the bride and groom or family members gathering for a reunion.

April, May, September, and October are the big months for weddings.

Music Festivals and Special Events

The fall especially has become the King of the Event Schedule on the Outer Banks.

September is filled with smaller but popular events. The Eastern Surf Association (ESA) finals are held every year in mid September at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head; Pridefest has been a very popular event; there are also a number of fishing tournaments. None are huge events, but the aggregate effect is to bring a significant number of visitors to the Outer Banks.

October has really become festival month.

There are three major music festivals—The Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival in Manteo, the Duck Jazz Festival in Duck and what was the Mustang Music Festival that is now the Mustang Rock and Roast, combining barbecue and food.

The Outer Banks Seafood Festival, which consistently attracts up to 10,000 visitors, also occurs on the third weekend of the month

Things culminate with the Outer Banks Marathon over Veteran’s Day Weekend.

There are not nearly as many events or festivals scheduled for the spring, although, and this could have an impact, the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival is moving to May in 2019.

Other Factors

There are some national and probably international trends emerging on how people view travel and leisure. One of the more important emerging trends is seeing a vacation as a time to experience what an area has to offer as opposed to sitting on the beach, reading a book and relaxing.

This seems to be a generational shift with younger travelers more apt to look for experiences.

With an extraordinary array of activities available, the Outer Banks is ideally positioned to take advantage of this trend. Surfing and water sports, wind sports, ecotourism—the Outer Banks offers all of that in abundance. And, for most of those activities, spring and fall are the best times to do them.

The shoulder seasons offer a fantastic opportunity for property owners. It is important to note, though, that there is no one size fits all way to benefit from the trends we are seeing.

Outer Banks Blue property owners, contact us and let’s discuss how best to take advantage of the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

Outer Banks Nonprofits: A Caring Community

non-profits on the Outer BanksEvery community has certain characteristics that distinguishes it—that identifies it as unique from other places. Certainly the Outer Banks has features that people who live here would say mark it as a different community.

This is a tourist driven economy. Living here, it is something that is accepted. In the offseason the pace of life slows and during the summer peak season, everyone is very busy and our roads and businesses are filled with visitors.

Communities, however, are distinguished by how they think about themselves and the people who live there, not necessarily by how everyone earns a living. On the Outer Banks, if asked, most of the people who who make this area their home would say that what truly sets it apart from other places, what makes it truly remarkable, is how generous and giving the community is.

There are many examples of that spirit of generosity and individual examples are too numerous to list; but a good way to understand what the Outer Banks culture is all about is to take a quick glance at local community based nonprofit.

Nonprofit organizations always need help, and a wonderful way to get to know an area, meet people and make friends is to volunteer with local organizations. Here are five great Outer Banks nonprofits to start the list of and we’ve added some additional opportunities after these five.

Outer Banks Community Foundation (OBCF)

(252) 261-8839

Founded in 1982 by, among others, the actor Andy Griffith and author David Stick, the Outer Banks Community Foundation fills the role umbrella organizations like the United Way often play.

The Community Foundation is very active in giving grants to local nonprofits and through endowments and bequests has been able to fund a remarkably diverse range of causes. There are funds designated for support of animal welfare, the arts and disaster relief among others

Additionally there are a large number of endowment funds that are administered by the OBCF and are linked to support of Outer Banks nonprofits. The Community Foundation has done a remarkable job of overseeing the investment funds over the years.

The OBCF also administers approximately 50 scholarship funds and it is the scholarships that perhaps best illustrates the generous spirit of the Outer Banks. Graduating seniors were awarded almost $220,000 in scholarships in 2018 from OBCF administered funds. There are some additional scholarships that will be awarded to students attending the local community college, the College of the Albemarle, and it is possible the total amount for scholarships will approach $230,000 for the year.

Outer Banks Sporting Events (OBSE)

(252) 255-6273

Back in 2006 when the first Outer Banks Marathon was run, no one was quite sure what would happen. The hope was that there would be some funds left over to donate to the Dare Education Foundation.

The marathon exceeded expectations and to manage what was apparently going to be an ongoing event Outer Banks Sporting Events was created as a 501C3 that would donate net funds from the Marathon to the DEF.

Today the OBSE sponsors five events—Running for the Leprechaun, the Flying Tiger Half Marathon, Storm the Beach, the Outer Banks Triathlon, and the Outer Banks Marathon. The Marathon is still the premier happening of the year with races and events scheduled throughout Veterans Day Weekend when it aways occurs.

The OBSE mission continues to be a source of funding for the DEF. However, the Outer Banks Relief Foundation has a also been added to the mix.

During race weekends, the OBSE has a huge need for volunteers, especially during Marathon Weekend.

The Dare Education Foundation (DEF)

(252) 255-5545

Dare County has an excellent school system—that’s not hyperbole, state performance rankings bear that out. One of the reasons for its consistently high performance is the support from the local community and the Dare Education Foundation exemplifies that function.

Founded in 2003, in 2007 it took on it’s most ambitious role. Noting that the Dare County Schools were having a difficult time bringing younger, talented teachers to the system because of the cost of housing on the Outer Banks, the DEF built 24 affordable housing units in Kill Devil Hills. In 2011 a second 12-unit complex was completed on Hatteras Island.

The foundation continues to manage the apartments today. Additionally the DEF supports teachers and students through professional development grants to teachers and classroom grants and scholarships for graduating seniors.

Outer Banks Relief Foundation (OBRF)

(252) 261-2004

What the Outer Banks Relief Foundation does as well, if not better, than anyone else is get assistance to people in need quickly. The financial assistance is not large—generally $500-$2000—and is not designed to be a permanent solution for a family or person in need. Most grants are one a time event, designed to help during a time of particularly trying or unexpected circumstance.

Some assistance may be ongoing, especially for someone needing help with transportation because of an illness, but for the most part, what the OBRF does is get money to people in need more quickly than a government agency can.

Founded in 2004, the OBRF has filled a very important role in supporting the local community. Since its founding the foundation has given out well over $1.5 million to more than 700 people in need.

Children and Youth Partnership of Dare County (CYP)

(252) 441-0614

Working with parents of infants, toddlers and preschool children, Children and Youth Partnership has been in the forefront of effort to have children ready for school since its founding in 1997.

The organization has also been a leader in efforts to create a healthier and more positive environment for adolescents.

CYP begins working with parents through its Baby Links program that provides a registered nurse for parents of newborn children. The Partnership continues working with parents with additional, outreach including two early reading programs.

Other Opportunities

This is just a partial list. Whatever the interest, there is sure to be a local nonprofit that matches your interest and needs your help.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund
(252) 453-8002
Manages the Colonial Wild Mustang herd that roams the sand dune and forest north of Corolla.

Dare County Arts Council
(252) 473-5558
Maintains an art gallery in downtown Manteo and sponsors a number of activities throughout the year. Lot’s of volunteer opportunities.

Dare Literacy Council
(252) 216-7773
Works with adults and students to learn how to read. The organization is always looking for tutors.

Food for Thought
Every Friday during the school year volunteers gather to pack over 500 meals to send home for the weekend so at risk children will not go hungry.

Interfaith Community Outreach
(252) 480-0070
Helping individuals in emergency situations. Will give ongoing help if appropriate.

N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles)
(252) 441-8622
Sea turtles are regular visitors to the Outer Banks, usually to create a nest and lay eggs. N.E.S.T. is very active in education, protecting nesting sites and in the winter working to save stranded turtles.

Outer Banks Food Pantry
(252) 261-2756
Provides free groceries to individuals and families affected by a temporary crisis or emergency. Stock shelves, take in donations, hand out food—there’s a lot to do.

Outer Banks Transportation System: Hope for the Road Weary

outer banks roadsOnce upon a time, when the number of visitors coming to the Outer Banks was perhaps half of what it is today, the highways and roads of the area were adequate to meet transportation needs. That is no longer the case.

Visitors and locals are still able to move around fairly well, but there is no doubt that traffic has been steadily increasing, and improvements to our highways are needed.

NCDOT has been active in moving projects forward. Like any major undertaking there is considerable planning involved, as well as funding issues. Nonetheless, there are some major projects on the books that, if and when implemented will significantly improve the Outer Banks transportation system.

Pea Island

The replacement span for the aging Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet the is the most visible part a the project to improve the roads between the northern Outer Banks and Hatteras Island. However, the entire project area includes all of Pea Island, which is NC 12 from the south end of the Bonner Bridge to Rodanthe.

One part of the project is already completed, although it will have to be revisited at a later time. The Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge spanning the New Inlet area has a projected 25 year life and is not considered a permanent solution. At a future date, a more permanent solution will be constructed that will either take the road into the sound, possibly linking with the proposed Jug Handle at the S curves, or moving the road to the west and constructing a bridge with a longer projected lifespan.

The most visible component of the Pea Island project is the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge. Soaring above the old bridge, it is an engineering marvel.

Clearly NCDOT and project engineers learned a lot from the Bonner Bridge. The navigation spans are now wider and much higher, and there are 16 of them instead of just one. The pilings that support the bridge are being driven much more deeply into the sediment beneath Oregon Inlet.

There are other improvements as well, and as a consequence, the projected lifespan of the bridge is 100 years.

Construction appears to be on schedule to open the bridge in the fall of this year.

After the bridge is open, the old span will be demolished with much of it being used for artificial reefs off the Outer Banks coast.

The most dynamic—read prone to flooding—area of Pea Island is the S Curves just north of Rodanthe. Beach nourishment has been used as a temporary protection method for the road at that location, but because of the undersea geology, nourishment is not considered a permanent solution.

NCDOT plans call for a jug handle. The road will cross a short area of marsh and wetland, swing out into the sound and form a three mile jug handle shape coming back to the existing NC 12 at the Island Convenience Store in Rodanthe.

According to NCDOT the project is due to get underway this summer with an expected completion date in 2020.

A Highway Divided

There are very few things as terrifying in life as pulling into the center turn lane on the Bypass at the same time a driver from the other side pulls in. Or—which can be even more frightening—the other driver is using the center turn lane as an acceleration lane to merge with traffic.

In concept the center turn lane of the Bypass allows left turning traffic to make their turn without slowing or stopping cars behind them. In reality, it’s a study in terror during peak season when traffic far exceeds the capacity for the concept planners had in mind.

Aware that it is a safety issue, NCDOT has in it’s lates STI (State Improvement Investment) documentation a plan to create barricades along much of the center lane with controlled left hand turns at select intersections.

The project ranks pretty high in the system NCDOT uses to evaluate their priorities, so there is a good possibility that it will move forward. However, do not look for anything to happen right away.

Right of way acquisition is not scheduled to begin until 2015 with construction scheduled for 2027.

Mid Currituck Bridge

Who knows what’s happening with the Mid Currituck Bridge…and we’re not being facetious with that.

The most recent schedule for the $489 million project that will cross the Currituck Sound at Aydlett called for a Record of Decision (ROD) to be released in April of this year. That date has been pushed back to sometime in the summer, although nothing has been specified.

According to the NCDOT a reevaluation of the 2012 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) contributed to the delay. Project managers felt the six years that had passed since the original EIS was issued necessitated reviewing the document.

The ROD is the final step needed to outline the scope of the project, its cost and schedule. Without that document contracts cannot be awarded and the project cannot move forward.

Although NCDOT has indicated that they wish to proceed with the project there are quite a number of loose ends and at this time, there is neither a start date nor a completion date posted.

In conjunction with the Mid Currituck Bridge, NCDOT is planning on removing the turn lane from the Caratoke Highway (US 158) from the bridges interchange to the Wright Memorial Bridge. The road will be a four lane highway with left turns at managed intersections.

Under any circumstances, it seems likely that when the ROD is issued, the project will face legal challenges from a number of environmental groups that contend the bridge will exacerbate congestion, cause environmental harm to the Currituck Outer Banks and that there are less expensive and less intrusive means of alleviating traffic congestion that NCDOT has not explored.

The bridge will be a toll road when completed and will be administered by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.

Real Estate Agents are Critical for Successful Transactions

This topic never gets old for Realtors. Watching buyers and sellers trying to buy or sell without hiring a professional real estate broker can be a painful.  Our value is often questioned. The reality is, much of what we do as real estate agents is behind and scenes and elusive to the naked eye. The facts are hard to ignore.  Ninety-two percent of all for-sale-by-owners sellers end up listing with an agent to sell their home. According to NAR, the National Association of Realtors, more than 8 out of 10 real estate transactions occur with the help of real estate agent or broker. Here are some reasons why having an agent represent you is so important.

Experience & Expertise

Yes, it’s true we all can’t be experts on everything. Hiring someone who knows more than yourself about any given subject is a crucial decision. Understanding the housing market and the neighborhoods is only part of what an agent can bring to the table. Here are just a few things that all agents must be knowledgeable about: price guidance, market conditions, financing guidelines, contracts, disclosures, legal requirements, HOA covenants, permits, contract negotiations and confidentiality.  We are ethically bound to provide proper and equal guidance to every client.

Proper Marketing

Sellers will get represented on all fronts of the internet. Having your property listed with an agent assures that your home gets maximum exposure. Our MLS feeds all internet sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. It is your agent who checks to make sure that your property is properly represented. The right photos and proper verbiage can make or break a home sale. Agents also market and speak with other agents behind the scenes. Many deals are struck by a Realtor telling other agents about how special your home really is. Open houses and broker open houses can create a visual effect that far surpasses the internet.

Pricing

This is the exact reason why many sellers and buyers don’t want to use an agent. Selling or buying a home is can be emotionally draining.  Often, buyers and sellers want it both ways. Sellers want to tell us about how great their home is and how much it is worth. Buyers want to low-ball well priced homes.  Everyone wants a deal. Our job is to educate buyers and sellers to find common ground.  I find that most people just want to be treated fairly.  It is our job to ensure that this happens.

Negotiations

Few can circumnavigate the world of negotiating over large sums of money or property.  Realtors face this challenge on a daily basis. Separating the emotions from buyer’s and seller’s overall goals is challenging at times. We are the liaison that helps keep the peace and keep everyone on the same page. We are the voice of reason and frequently give emotional stability to our clients. We operate ethically and always represent the greater good of our clients.

Real Estate agents wear many hats. We are sometimes the coach and sometimes the friend. The numbers do not lie about our worth for both buyers and sellers. Still, some choose to go it alone and represent themselves.  I tip my hat to those that are successful at this process. It’s the full-time agents that are in the trenches on a daily basis that succeed in helping the most people. Realtors are experts in what we do for buyers and sellers.

I am proud of my honest approach to selling real estate in a competitive market.  I believe in representing my clients to the fullest extent.  I am available 7am to 7pm 7 days a week.  Call me if you would like to chat about the buying and selling process.

Ken Baittinger
252-305-5255
ken@outerbanksblue.com

Soundside Erosion: Waves, Wind and Protection

erosion on outer banksThe Atlantic Ocean gets all of the attention when it comes to beach erosion and the loss of shoreline, but as many soundside property owners have discovered the western side of the Outer Banks can be ever bit as dynamic as the ocean side.

In many ways the loss of shoreline on the sound is more complex—and  certainly more subtle —than what is happening on local beaches. Although waves on the sounds are not nearly as large or powerful as ocean waves, there are waves—almost always generated by wind—and those waves are what drive the loss of shoreline.

In an undisturbed environment subaquatic vegetation (SAV), shoreline vegetation, marsh and wetlands protect the shoreline. When we build in those areas, we disturb all of those natural lines of protection.

There are a number of steps that can be take to mitigate the effects of loss of those natural barriers and to protect property.

Shoreline Protection Methods

Bulkheads

Bulkheads are probably the most popular way to protect property from erosion on the soundside. A bulkhead is a vertical wall perpendicular to the surface of the water that deflects wave energy.

Riprap

Riprap are stones placed along the shoreline designed to deflect and dissipate wave energy.

Revetment

A revetment is a slanting vertical wall placed along the shoreline. Revetments and riprap are often used together.

Living Shoreline

Living shorelines are designed to regenerate the subaquatic vegetation of the shoreline and allow the natural shoreline protection to reestablish itself. Unlike hardened structure shoreline protection, a living shoreline dissipates rather than deflects wave energy.

Evaluations

Bulkheads

Provided a bulkhead is only being used to protect one property, the permitting process is simple and fairly straightforward. It will require a CAMA general permit. CAMA does require, “…adjacent riparian property owners have agreed in writing that they do not object to your proposed project…”

That requirement very neatly sums up the concerns about bulkheads and hardened shoreline protection structures in general.

Initially they work very well. Over time, however, they can create significant shoreline erosion in areas adjacent.

When a wave strikes a bulkhead, the energy is deflected, but it does not go away. The energy either goes left, right or down. If the energy goes to the left or right the neighbor’s property may be affected. If the energy goes down, over time, either the bulkhead will fail or the shoreline behind it will erode.

Advantages: Very commonly used, with a number of companies specializing in bulkhead construction. Permitting process is straightforward. Relatively inexpensive compared to other shoreline protection methods.

Disadvantage: Potential damage to adjacent properties or to to the property owner’s shoreline depending on where and how wave energy is deflected.

Riprap and Revetments

Because they are hardened structures, riprap and revetments can create many of the same problems seen with bulkheads. However, riprap especially, can dissipate some of the wave energy as it strikes the shore, although erosion at the ends of riprap can still be a problem. Riprap and revetments, particularly when used together usually cover more than one property and in some cases can be an effective mitigation tool. Extended riprap is often used to protect roads.

Advantages: Dissipates wave energy in the protected area, so it will be more effective than a bulkhead over time.

Disadvantages: Can be very expensive, especially on the Outer Banks where there is no rock suitable for riprap. There is a risk of erosion on the ends of the protected area.

Living Shoreline

A relatively recent addition to shoreline protection, a living shoreline works to recreate the original SAV, shoreline vegetation and biodiversity of the area that is being protected. Living shorelines have consistently been shown to be the most effective means of shoreline protection over an extended period of time.

In the area that is being protected, underwater sills are installed. There a number of designs and materials that can be used, but the purpose of the sills is the same in all cases—to dissipate wave energy as it approaches the shore.

The nearshore waters of estuarine shorelines are usually fairly calm, and the sills recreate that environment allowing the natural cycle of the system to reestablish itself.

Advantages: Significantly more effective than any other shoreline protection method. Has been shown to recreate or rejuvenate damaged estuarine systems.

Disadvantages: Expensive and rarely used for individual properties. A living shoreline requires a major CAMA permit, a time consuming process requiring the expertise of a coastal engineer and other experts. Although over time it is more effective than any other shoreline protection technique, bulkheads, riprap and revetments will give immediate protection.

There have been a number of relatively small living shoreline projects on the Outer Banks. There are currently two large projects—Kitty Hawk Bay at Moor Shore Road and the north end of the Coastal Studies Institute marsh—that are in the permitting process. Both projects will be among the largest undertaken in North Carolina.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Bike Paths

Bike PathsThree easy rides and a challenge. Mostly flat, but with some gentle hills, the Outer Banks is a bike rider’s paradise, and local towns and counties have put considerable effort into creating a network of interconnecting multi-use bike paths.

The multi-use paths are so extensive that it is possible to ride from Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head to Currituck Beach Lighthouse—about a 50 mile ride. Except for three miles in southern Corolla the entire ride would be on bike trails. Actually, it is possible to ride from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the Hatteras ferry. That ride would include an uncomfortable pedal across the Bonner Bridge that does not have a  shoulder or provision for bike riders. However, the road through Pea Island and Hatteras Island does have a generous shoulder that is used by riders and Dare County maintains multi-use paths through all of Hatteras Island’s villages.

Those rides are really more for the hardcore rider, though. Many Outer Banks visitors bring bikes with them, but generally it’s to take advantage of some of our easier rides. To help bike riders who may not know the area that well, here are some suggestions.

Roanoke Island—Elizabethan Gardens to Roanoke Island Festival Park

This is a very easy and very pleasant ride suitable for just about anyone in the family. There is plenty of parking available at the Elizabethan Gardens so that’s a good place to start.

The total length of this ride is about 3.5 to 4.0 miles or 7-8 miles round trip. If there are very young riders in the group, that may be a long ride for them.

The first part of the ride is wonderfully shaded. About a mile and a half into the ride there will be a windmill on the left in a small open field and there is a possibility that sheep may be grazing on the grass. The windmill, sheep and field are part of Island Farm, a restored 18th century farm originally owned by the Etheridge family.

After entering Manteo, turn left at Budleigh Street which will lead to the Manteo waterfront and Queen Elizabeth Avenue. Turn left on Queen Elizabeth and right onto the bridge that leads to Roanoke Island Festival Park.

When leaving, stay on Anais Dare, which is a one way street, to the main road.

For an interesting variation, turn right onto Wingina Avenue and stay on that until it intersects Mother Vineyard Road. Turn left on Mother Vineyard and right at the light.

To make the ride even more interesting—off Wingina, at Scuppernong Road turn right and follow that to Mother Vineyard and turn left. About 150  yards on the right, there will be a massive grape vine. That is the Mother Vine—the oldest cultivated grape vine in North America. Records from the Lost Colony mention the vine and location, dating the scuppernong grape vine to at least 1586.

Kitty Hawk Woods Road

A little bit more difficult than the Manteo ride, the Woods Road multi-use trail goes through the heart of a dense and verdant maritime forest. The path does have a couple of ups and downs that don’t quite qualify as a hill, but for small legs, it will be a challenge.

The David Paul Pruitt Park is on the right just past the intersection of US 158 and the Woods Road. With a small parking lot, it is a good starting point. The path parallels the Woods Road and is shaded by the dense maritime forest canopy.

About a mile and a half into the ride there will be a fork in the road at Twiford Street, with the multi-use path proceeding next to either Twiford or the Woods Road. Our recommendation is to bear right, although either ride is interesting.

Twiford ends at Kitty Hawk Road and there will be a wooden bridge to ride across—kids will really get a kick out of it…as will adults. The path ends at Rogers Street with the Austin Cemetery occupying a small block that makes a great small loop to head back to the beginning of the ride.

Staying on the Woods Road section of the ride at the fork will take riders to Kitty Hawk Road and is part of a much longer ride that includes the Wright Brothers Memorial.

Wright Brothers Loop

Iconic and historic, it doesn’t get much easier than this, although on a windy there may be a difference of opinion on that point.

There is a wide flat road that circles the Monument that is a little over a mile. The Monument is in the middle of the Wright Brothers Memorial.

If the plan is to park at the Memorial there are two possibilities. There is a fee charged at the main entrance. Another possibility, which does not have a fee, is to park at Kitty Hawk Airport that is immediately adjacent to the Memorial. At the intersection of US 158 and Colington Road proceed to the west—away from the Ocean. Just before the runway, there will be a road on the right. Turn there and park in the airport parking lot. The sidewalk leads into the Memorial.

Kitty Hawk Woods

Our “Bit of a Challenge” rides is just that—not too hard but would be difficult for a novice rider or certainly anyone under 12 years of age. Because the ride is on a trail and dirt roads, it does require wide tires and is not suitable for road bikes.

Kitty Hawk Woods is three square miles of  beautiful maritime forest in the heart of the town of Kitty Hawk.

It is possible to do a short but fun ride by parking at the trailhead at the end of Ridge Road, but for more of a challenge and to make this a loop ride, park at the David Pruitt Park mentioned in the Woods Road ride. Follow the directions listed there but when Rogers Street intersects with Ridge Road, turn right. Ridge Road ends at the trailhead of the ride.

The trail goes through the heart of Kitty Hawk Woods. Initially following a ridge, the trail dips and takes a sharp bend almost leading to a marsh, followed by a quick climb on the other side. Be ready to make some quick gear adjustments to navigate.

There are a couple of intersecting trails, but our recommendation is to stay on the main path. It can get confusing and depending on what the conditions have been, it can get very wet on some of the side trails.

If there has been a recent severe storm, a tree or two may have fallen across the trail requiring a carry.

When the trail exits the park, turn left on the dirt road, then turn right at the next road. That road is Colleton which will lead to Barlow. Turn left on Barlow and proceed to the light at US 158. Turn Right and right again at Woods Road to complete the loop.

Outer Banks Market Trends

market trendsWe’re starting to get our first glimpse of the 2018 Outer Banks economic picture and the image that is emerging is of a growing and healthy economy. Tourism continues to increase, the real estate market is strong and the indications are that new construction continues to expand.

It’s important to remember that this is based on statistical information and there are a number of variables that may affect the numbers.

As an example, one of the numbers we look at for our tourism picture are Occupancy Tax Collections as reported by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

The numbers they report do not include increases in rental rates or any increase in the number of properties or rooms available for visitors. With that caveat in hand, we would also point out that by any standard, Occupancy Tax Collections have far outstripped the rate of inflation over the past 15 years.

Occupancy and Meal Tax Collections

These statistics come from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and are for Dare County only. Currituck County also collects Occupancy and Meal Taxes but their reports have a considerable lag time.

As noted earlier, all indications are that the Outer Banks tourism industry is healthy and growing.

Although Hatteras Island lost two weeks of revenue because the company constructing the replacement bridge across Oregon Inlet severed the power line to Hatteras Island, Dare County collections still grew at an annual rate of 5.8%. The only glitch was a 4.5% decline in August—undoubtedly a reflection of the situation on Hatteras Island.

Overall, the northern beaches outperformed Hatteras Island, although the power situation certainly affected that.

What does this mean?

Generally speaking rentals increase at about the same rate as inflation. There are a number of mitigating factors in that, but as a basis for understanding what’s happening, that is a good place to start.

With that in mind, the increase in collections occur in two areas: stronger shoulder seasons and more properties or rooms available for rental.

Both would seem to be the case.

We know April and May in the spring and September and October in the fall have become increasingly important to the Outer Banks economy and the numbers bear that out. From 2016 to 2017 shoulder season occupancy increased by 13.5%.

Visitation is harder to quantify because there is no one method to count visitors that everyone agrees is accurate. There is, however, some evidence that an increase in visitors is also occurring. Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head reported more than 1.5 million visitors last year, an increase of 18.8% over 2016, making it the most visited state park in North Carolina.

Real Estate Sales and Construction

We’re going to start this section with a reminder that nothing substitutes for working with someone with knowledge of the local market. There is a lot of nuance in any market and that’s where the experts at Outer Banks Blue become so important.

The Outer Banks real estate and housing market is healthy. The exception seems to be commercial properties that do not seem to be keeping pace with residential sales, but other than that, there does not appear to be much of a downside in the market.

A quick snapshot of the health of the real estate sales is Land Transfer Tax collections. Since every real estate transaction in Dare County carries a transfer tax, trends in the market can be tracked.

A transfer tax is a percentage of a sale and has nothing to do with the number of sales that are happening; nonetheless, if over time, there is a steady increase in collections, it’s a very good indicator that the market is expanding.

For the past five years at least, Dare County Land Transfer Tax collections have been increasing. Although we are at the mid point of fiscal year 2017-2018, it looks as though 2018 will continue that trend. Through February collections were up 6.6%

One of the trends that does seem to be emerging is a shift from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market. It’s never all one way or another, but there are some indicators that point to the change.

In 2011 the average number of days on the market after a property was listed was 238; through February of this year, the average number of has been 152.

The number of units sold is also an indicator. In 2011 1075 units were sold; in 2017, which gives us a full year for comparison there were 1544 units sold, a 43.6% increase.

The increase in the number of units sold and coupled with a decrease in days on the market is consistent with investors looking to take advantage of a growing visitation market. Not everyone is purchasing a property for rental, but an increase in Occupancy Tax collections coupled with indications of an increase in the number of visitors coming to the Outer Banks seems to point to more investors looking to Outer Banks property management opportunities.

There is a significant amount of new home construction on the Outer Banks, and early indications are that it will continue.

For the year 2017 there was a small decrease in the number of building permits issued. That trend seems to have reversed itself through February.

Building permits are very much in the raw data category. Permits are sometimes issued but construction never takes place. The number of permits also does not say what the permits are issued for. Nonetheless, there is some interesting information that can be taken from the initial reports.

The number of permits issued through February is up a modest 2.6%, but what is significant is the average permit value has increased by 11.5%. That is a clear signal that that larger, more complex projects are being planned, and a part of that would be new home construction.

That means the Outer Banks tourism market will continue to expand. It also means that, for existing rental property owners, a competitive market is going to stay competitive and may become even a bit more competitive.

Which brings us to another important point to consider. Summer is coming; properties should look as good as possible with any improvements done as soon as they can be made. However, looking at the trends in construction, it is apparent that contractors and builders are very busy right now. There is going to be lead time in getting any work done. Schedule the work as soon as possible.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Smaller Parks

parks on the Outer BanksOne of the problems that arises in writing about the Outer Banks is that there is so much to see and do, picking and choosing what’s best can become difficult. Almost impossible it seems at times. That is certainly the case when it comes to deciding how to describe the smaller parks that are part of the towns or county systems. There are so many of them, fulfilling a number of different functions and all of them are very well maintained. The problem is that writing about all of them runs the risk of becoming an endless list that can seem daunting and could easily become confusing.

Instead, we’re offering an Outer Banks Blue list of some of our favorite parks. This is by no means complete. On this list we’re not including skateparks or dog parks, as an example. Nonetheless, we think this is a good starting point.

Sandy Run – Kitty Hawk

Located on the Woods Road, Sandy Run Park is a gem of a little park that is perfect for the whole family. The park is set in the midst of a pond, with a wooden boardwalk and easy hiking trail surrounding the main impoundment. The boardwalk has an observation tower that is worth climbing

As soon as it gets warm enough—and that could be a good sunny day in January—the yellow slider turtles come out by the dozens and maybe hundreds, sunning themselves on the many logs that seem to fill the water. It is a guaranteed kid pleaser.

Toward late spring, summer and autumn, there are usually nesting osprey on the south end of the park. Fall and winter, migratory waterfowl are often in the waters.

In addition to simply walking around the park, there are other activities. The park is a catch and release sight for fishing and the fishing is pretty good. There are also two kayak or canoe put in sites.

Take a camera. The park is a photographers dream, filled with color and activity.

Nags Head Town Park

Tucked away from the main streets and road of the Outer Bank, the Nags Head Town Park is off the beaten track but worth the effort to find—not that it will take much effort. Turn at the light at the Ace Hardware—Barnes Street—and go tot the end of the road. Barnes will turn into Health Center Drive where the park is located.

This is a park that seems to have something for everyone. There is a large covered picnic pavilion with grills making it perfect for a family gathering, and a small playground with an extensive open field ideal for pick up games of frisbee, touch football, soccer…whatever the favorite sport may be.

There is are a number of easily hiked trails in the park. One of them, the Nags Head Town Trail connects with Nags Head Woods.

Dowdy Park – Nags Head

Occupying what was once Dowdy Amusement Park in Nags Head, Dowdy Park is the newest addition to the Outer Banks park collection and the town really seemed to get this one right.

Located at the intersection of the Bypass (US 158) and East Bonnett Street, its location next to Nags Head Elementary School seems fitting.

The playground is wonderfully designed with jungle gyms, swings and a roller slide that’s a lot like a sliding board only with rollers. There is also a soft material hill that kids can climb. The designers even included swings for children who are confined to a wheelchair so that they too can feel the childhood joy of a swing.

The middle of the park is a large open field with plenty of room to run around and play sports. Not quite as large as the open field at Nags Head Town Park, but big.

Something not seen in the past on the Outer Banks parks—there are tables with a checker or chess board embedded in them. Picnic tables and grills, as well as a fitness trail that wraps around the open field are part of the park.

On the east end there is a stage and the town has used it from time to time for performances.

Playground Parks

David Paul Pruitt Park – Kitty Hawk

Located just past the Dominion Power offices on the Woods Road, the Paul Pruitt Park is a small park that younger children especially love. The ground is mulched to keep it soft, the playground rides are designed with toddlers and younger children in mind. Not quite as busy as some of the other playgrounds, it creates a nice atmosphere for parent and child.

Hayman Street Park – Kill Devil Hills

For anyone wondering where the locals take there kids, this is it. Located in the heart of Kill Devil Hills, Hayman Park is located on Hayman Street—of course. The road, though makes a big circle around the common area, forming large open space for the park.

Swing sets, jungle gyms and a slide with multiple shoots are part of the attraction, as well as an open field where kids can run, picnic tables and live oak trees with low branches that children invariably climb.

Rec Park – Kill Devil Hills

A county facility that is home to youth soccer, football, baseball, softball and basketball, Rec Park in addition has a marvelous little playground that includes the standard equipment as well as spring balanced rocking horses that children seem to gravitate to. The park has what may be the largest covered picnic pavilion in Dare County.

Whalebone Park – Nags Head

Across the street from Jennette’s Pier, at the back of the parking lot, Whalebone Park is easy to overlook. It does have a vey nice collection of nautically themed swings, slides and climbing areas. There is not quite as much shade at the park as other parks, although there is a small covered picnic area. Nags Head labels it as a “Need a break from the beach?” park. They’re probably right.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Golf Courses

Golf on the Outer BanksThe Outer Banks has so much to do that it’s easy to overlook some of the best activities. For golfers, that may very well be the case, although local golf courses have built a reputation for great greens and beautiful scenery requiring a full range of skill levels.

The courses are fairly close together—the longest ride between any of them is 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the season creating a perfect opportunity unity for a golf weekend or week.

The courses also offer a remarkable variety of styles and difficulty, from the relatively easy, family-friendly Holly Ridge in Harbinger to the more challenging courses of Kilmarlic or the Currituck Club.

All Outer Banks courses are open year around, although weather conditions do create some closures. If hitting the links in the summer, take water, sun repellant and bug spray.

Mainland Currituck

Kilmarlic

A Tom Steele designed course, Kilmarlic may be the most beautiful course of the Outer Banks group.The course seems to wander through a maritime forest of ancient live oak, pine and holly.

A challenging course with lots of water hazards, the course regularly hosts the ODU/OBX Golf Tournament in the fall, and has hosted other tournaments in the past.

Also located on the grounds of Kilmarlic are tennis courts, pool and a full service gym.

Par: 72
Length: 6535 yards
Slope: 133
Rating: 72.2

The Pointe

A well-maintained course with an open design and relatively short length make.The Pointe perfect for a relaxing few hours outdoors.

The greens greens especially are well-maintained. Practice facilities include a driving range and putting greens.

The staff gets consistently high marks in comments about the course. The clubhouse restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for good food at a reasonable price.

Par: 71
Length: 6343 yards
Slope: 126
Rating: 70.0

Holly Ridge

Very much a beginners course. With the most reasonably priced green fees, Holly Ridge is very family-friendly, but more experienced golfers may enjoy other Outer Banks courses more.

Par: 71
Length: 5533 yards
Slope: 122
Rating: 67.5

Outer Banks Courses

Currituck Club

Wandering along the natural contours of the Outer Banks, this Rees Jones designed course has a bit of everything. Spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound from the from the ridge lines that wander into the wetlands of a maritime forest.

Often rated as one of the best courses in North Carolina.

A challenging course, but not overwhelming is the general consensus.

Par: 72
Length: 6,885 yards
Slope: 136
Rating: 74.0

Duck Woods Country Club

 

The first Outer Banks golf club, Duck Woods is an Ellis Maples design that opened in 1969. The course is very well-maintained. Not much elevation gain at all, but still has some challenges.

Duck Woods Country Club is a full service private club, but check with staff; there are a couple of workarounds they have for golfers who want to get on the course.

Excellent lunch and dinner at the clubhouse.

Par: 72
Length: 6589 yards
Slope: 128
Rating: 72.3

Sea Scape Golf Links

 

The Sea Scape course follows the ridge line of relict sand dunes—which is another way of saying, it may be at the beach, but it is not flat.

A challenging par 70 course, the exposed hill greens can get windy at times, which can make the somewhat narrow greens more difficult to play.

Management has done a good job over the past few years of maintaining the greens.

Par: 70
Length: 6,231 yards
Rating: 70.0
Slope: 124

Nags Head Golf Links

 

A true links style course bordering Roanoke Sound, everything about the conditions can change in a moment depending on wind direction and speed. Most golfers will find Nags Head Links challenging; more skilled players will enjoy the challenge of the wind conditions; novices will learn a lot.

A very well-maintained course with beautiful views of Roanoke Sound.

Par: 71
Length: 6126 yards
Slope: 130
Rating: 68.8