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.

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.

Grocery Store Wars on the Outer Banks

Grocery Store PublixNow that Publix has entered the Outer Banks supermarketer mix it seems as though the local Grocery Store Wars are kicking into high gear. And with German discount supermarket chain Lidl planning on opening where the now closed Mike Kellys Outer Banks Tavern was, well, the competition is becoming even more intense.

So what’s happening?

Hard statistics are difficult to come by but one supermarket for approximately every 8500 people seems to be about the national average. With a permanent population of a little over 40,000 between Ocracoke and Carova, reasonably the Outer Banks would have five stores, although it’s so scattered, maybe six. By our count there are 15 supermarkets in the area and when Lidl enters the mix, they’ll be 16.

To answer the “what’s happening”question in a word—Summertime. Actually it’s visitors in general, but summertime is the key.

During the summer the population swells by 300,000-350,000 every week, maybe more. No one is sitting at the bridges with a clicker counting passengers.

The Outer Banks is a family destination and most of those visitors are spending a week or two in our vacation homes, and it is a rare family that brings groceries with them. That is why supermarkets are packed with shoppers on Saturdays and Sundays—and carts are creaking under the weight of the groceries. It’s also why locals, if they have to shop on the weekend during the summer, do so as early in the morning as possible.

Making the Outer Banks even more attractive to supermarket retailers, the Outer Banks economy is healthy and growing.

One of the best indicators of that are the summary of gross occupancy tax collected in Dare County. The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau posts records of collections over the past 14 years and what the numbers show is steady, sometimes, strong growth in occupancy collections.

It is raw data, so there has to be some caution in applying the numbers. Although more visitors are the most important part of an increase in collections, weekly rental rates are also a factor. Nonetheless, what the number reveal are remarkable. Over the 14 year period from 2004 to 2017 occupancy tax collections have increased by 83.9%, far outstripping the rate of inflation.

That sustained growth is perhaps the most significant reason that supermarkets chains see the Outer Banks as a good investment.

And we should add, it’s why it’s a good investment for property owners as well.

We’ve compiled a list of Outer Banks supermarkets. For this list, we’re only including locations north of Oregon Inlet. Hatteras Island does have a Food Lion in Avon and Connor’s Supermarket in Buxton, which is a family owned business.

We are incorporating a little bit of information about each of the stores, but are not judging any way if the stores are good bad or indifferent. Stores that are opened 24 hours are indicated; for all others, hours vary seasonally.

Food Lion

The most prevalent supermarket on the Outer Banks, Food Lion has built its reputation on their focus on good quality, excellent selection and reasonable prices. The stores are always well-maintained.

Outer Banks Mall
5200 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 441-4118
Open 24 hours

Food Lion Plaza
2515 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 449-8852
Open 24 Hours

Dare Center
1720 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 449-8852

The Marketplace
5543 N Croatan Hwy, Southern Shores
(252) 261-3205
Open 24 hours

Monterey Plaza
805 Ocean Trail, Corolla
(252) 453-4544
Open 24 hours

Harris Teeter

Considered a bit more upscale than Food Lion. Deli and meat departments very good. Expect consistently good customer service. Wine and beer selection very good.

Kill Devil Hills Shopping Center
2012 S Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 449-9191
Open 24 hours

Shoreside Center
5400 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk
(252) 261-2220
Open 24 hours

The Shops at the Currituck Club
601 Currituck Clubhouse Dr, Corolla
(252) 453-0153

Walmart

One stop shopping—clothes, bathing suits, beach needs, food and groceries. Very good prices. Produce area well-maintained. Well-stocked with some areas offering excellent selection.

Shoreside Center
5400 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk
(252) 261-6011
Open 24 hours

Kmart

A bit of a hybrid—a much broader selection of groceries than a convenience store, but does not have nearly the selection of the other supermarkets. Does not have a deli or in in store meat department.

Kmart Shopping Plaza
901 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hlls
(252) 441-1935

Publix

The newest store in the Outer Banks mix. Very good selection of prepared meals. Deli meat and bakery departments very good. Wine selection extensive. Has built a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service.

Publix Super Market at First Flight Square
1530 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 255-5006

The Fresh Market

The smallest of the Outer Banks supermarkets. The meat department is excellent and wine selection best of any supermarket on the Outer Banks. Good selection of prepared food and artisan cheese. Well-maintained produce department.

Outer Banks Mall
5000 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 255-5022

Food-A-Rama

Manteo’s only supermarket. Family owned and very traditional in layout. Some very good values. Selection is good if not outstanding, although the meat department has built a reputation for quality. Expect friendly service with a local flair.

Food-A-Rama
226 US-64, Manteo
(252) 473-2924

Shelly Island

shelly island
Photo by Melodi Gray Schwartz

The Outer Banks is well known for the beautiful landscapes and natural beauty. Around every corner, there is more nature and recreational activities to enjoy such as hiking in Nags Head Woods, hang-gliding at Jockey’s Ridge, fishing on Pea Island, kite surfing in Buxton, and watching sunrises on the beach and sunsets on the Pamlico or Currituck sounds. The star of all the attractions, that brings flocks of visitors to the Outer Banks, is the beachfront. One of the jewels of the Outer Banks is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is known throughout the East Coast as a premier location for surf fishing, surfing, and shelling. Cape Point, located in Buxton, is especially a point of interest, as it is the eastern most beach of the Outer Banks.  The Cape Point area juts out stretching very close to the Gulf Stream. Recently, Cape Point has made national news with the formation of an island known of Shelly Island.

The unique structure of the Outer Banks creates a vast history dating back to the 1500’s.  As a string of peninsulas and islands, the Outer Banks can be occasionally known for the treacherous seas, which in the past has created a large amount of shipwrecks resulting in the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.  Harsh winds, whirling tides, and concealed shoals all come together to create a combination that can be deadly to ships.  The distinctiveness of these circumstances also allows for areas of beach to be eroded away as rapidly as they come into sight.  The shorelines of the coast are constantly shifting and moving due to currents and storms, causing land to vanish or spread out creating a wider beach.

shells on shelly island
Photo by Melodi Gray Schwartz

These sources of tides and currents create sandbars and are believed to have created Shelly Island off of Cape Point.  The newest attraction of the Outer Banks has everyone buzzing and excited visitors and locals going to check it out.  The crescent shaped island started appearing in April of 2017 and very rapidly formed into an island measuring a mile long and 500 feet wide.  The presence of bountiful and beautiful seashells has given Shelly Island its namesake.

Strong rip currents flow between Shelly Island and Cape Point.  Visitors should use extreme caution when attempting to get to Shelly Island. Cape Hatteras National Seashore and emergency officials have strongly urged visitors to not attempt to get to the island via swimming or walking. While access may be easier during periods of low tide, high tide can result in people being stranded or having to be rescued. Shelly Island is surrounded by extremely strong currents, so access to the island should be done by kayak, paddleboard, or boat.  Many sharks and manta rays have been reported to be seen on the way to the island.

For adventurers wanting to visit Shelly Island, time is of the essence.  The Island scattered with beautiful, pristine shells is far from permanent. The ever changing coastlines of the Outer Banks will take away Shelly Island as quickly as it appeared.

The Best Real Estate MarketDanielle-2015-10-14-1For more information please feel free to call Danielle and Danny Fenyak at (252) 256-1818 or email Danny at dfenyak@outerbanksblue.com.

What’s Happening with the Mid-Currituck Bridge

mid-currituck bridgeThat the Outer Banks is a wonderful place to visit is a given. A beautiful setting, soft sand, ideal for a family vacation and reasonably priced compared to most tourist destinations, it makes sense that so many people choose to come.

If there is a consistent complaint from our visitors  though, it is getting here in the summer, especially on weekends, has become a time-consuming undertaking. As it stands right now, most of our visitors come from the north and arrive on the Outer Banks via the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge that exits at Kitty Hawk.

About a mile past the bridge there is an intersection that leads north to Southern Shores, Duck and Corolla or south to the main towns of the Outer Banks or Hatteras Island. The intersection is inadequate to handle the volume of summer traffic and consequently, traffic regularly backs up to the mainland.

To alleviate traffic at the intersection a bridge spanning Currituck Sound has been seen as the best solution for a number of year. First envisioned in 1978 as part of a planning exercise for the UNC School of Government, the Mid-Currituck Bridge has had to fight for its life since it first became part of North Carolina Department of Transportation plans.

Current Status of the Project

The Mid-Currituck Bridge is included in current North Carolina Department of Transportation plans; however, the start date has been moved back. As recently as 2016, the construction schedule had the bridge completed in 2022. Although still on the books, it is difficult to know when the bridge is scheduled to be completed.

There is an extensive permitting process that is involved in moving any project like the Mid-Currituck Bridge forward, and the most daunting task had been completed in January of 2012 when a Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued. The next step would have been issuing a Record of Decision, but a change in the political makeup of the state legislature created a change in how North Carolina Department of Transportation evaluated projects and the Record of Decision was never issued.

Because of the delay, the Environmental Impact Statement will have to be re-evaluated and how extensive the re-evaluation process is may determine the schedule.

When the bridge was re-included as part of the state’s transportation improvement plan in 2015, a new schedule of completion of the project was issued that had a date of 2022. That date was contingent on a Record of Decision being issued in the spring of this year.

That did not happen and the new Record of Decision date is spring of 2018.

It is unclear how much of an effect that will have on the overall schedule. Typically contracts are not let until the Record of Decision is issued; it is possible contracts could be awarded more quickly than usual in which case the delay would be minimal.

At this point the North Carolina Department of Transportation website lists the opening date as to be determined.

Possible Impacts

North Carolina Department of Transportation projections for traffic growth on the Outer Banks point to the necessity of building the bridge. If and when the bridge is finally built, provided the projections are accurate, the impact on traffic will be dramatic.

At this point in time, people living on the southern Currituck mainland repeatedly express frustration with being trapped in their homes on summer weekends. The bridge should remedy that. Additionally traffic that slows to a crawl through Duck and Southern Shores should move mover efficiently.

The Mid-Currituck Bridge, though, enjoys widespread regional support, not just a vote of confidence from Dare and Currituck County officials.

For the counties that makeup Northeastern North Carolina the Mid-Currituck Bridge represents employment opportunities for their residents. Unemployment rates in neighboring counties tend to be higher than the beach communities and with quicker access to Corolla, the belief is jobs would be available.

Employers in the Corolla area would also like to see the bridge completed. Because there are relatively few year round residents in the area, finding employees to fill summer needs has been a consistent problem and like the neighboring county officials, the bridge is seen as a way to relieve employee shortfalls.

If the bridge is built, it’s difficult to predict what the effect on real estate and business will be. The preferred alternative will connect Aydlett with Corolla, landing in the Outer Banks between Timbuck II and the Whalehead Club.

On the Outer Banks side, the impact will probably be minimal; buildout is continuing regardless of what happens with the bridge.

On the Currituck mainland side, it may be a different story.

There is very little commercial development in the area that will be the corridor for the bridge—at this point it’s farmland and swamp. The swamp is Maple Swamp and is protected wetlands, so there will be no building there, but there may be opportunity in the areas that will allow construction.

Will It Be Built?

That is an interesting question.

The short answer is probably but there are some significant hurdles to cross.

There are still question about how the project will be funded. Plans call for a Private Public Partnership, with financing that will be paid for by tolls. The total cost of the project is approximately $500 million, although that may go up if the delays continue.

Questions have been raised asking if the tolls will be adequate to satisfy repayment of the debt and maintain the bridge.

There is almost certainly going to be a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has been on record as opposing the project for some time. They have raised concerns about environmental damage and continuing buildout of the Currituck Banks. The organization has presented an alternative plan that would include flyovers at the troublesome intersection and other road improvements.

The plan is similar, although not identical to, one of the alternatives rejected by North Carolina Department of Transportation.

If the Southern Environmental Law Center does sue to stop the project, they will do so after the Record of Decision is issued, since the project is not officially on the books until that time.

My Behind The Scenes of HGTV’s Beachfront Bargain Hunt on the Outer Banks

Do you love HGTV?  Of course you do.  Who doesn’t love watching all the home shows and seeing the new decor trends or what property values are in different parts of the country? Or better yet, you watch to see the big reveal at the end.  Whether it’s a renovation show or a house hunting show there’s always the big reveal at the end.  Have you ever wondered how people end up on those shows and what it is like to film a “reality” TV show?  Here’s my experience of 30 minutes of fame from HGTV’s Beachfront Bargain Hunt on the Outer Banks.

My road to TV fame started back in November of 2015.  It was a typical day at the office.  I was sitting at my desk working away when I was interrupted by the phone ringing.  It was a number I did not know, but it came up as a New York number.  Since we have many people from New York that buy and sell vacation rental or second homes on the Outer Banks I was excited that it could be a call for a new listing or a buyer interested in purchasing.  It was neither.

The phone call was from a production company called Magilla.  They film the show Beachfront Bargain Hunt that airs on HGTV.  They explained that they were going to be filming in my area and wanted to know if I would be interested in filming an episode of the show for them.  I was ecstatic!  They explained  the process and the criteria, and my adventure began.

The Search for the Perfect Client

The search began for the perfect client to film the show with me.  The format of the show follows a couple or family that is looking to buy a beach house on a budget.  A real estate agent shows the buyers several homes and then they reveal their choice at the end.  Normally people apply for this show and are prepared.  From what I understand most people are on the show because either they are the buyer, have bought their home already and submit their story and home to be on the show or a real estate agent applies on behalf of their buyers that are already under contract or have recently purchased. But I was sought out and was taken completely off guard.

I had 2 months to submit my client choice to the production company.  Since this is a show about finding a bargain I was up against some tough criteria.  My buyer had to be under contract or had to have recently purchased their home.  The property had to be waterfront or have a water view.  And the price had to be under $400,000.

If you know a thing or two about Outer Banks Real Estate, you know that to find something waterfront for under $400,000 is not an easy task. At the time I had a handful of buyers I was working with all of which were in the market for homes over $600,000 so clearly they weren’t going to work with the budget restrictions. Every day I hoped the phone would ring and it would be a new client that wanted to buy a home with a water view and their budget was only $400,000.

As my deadline approached I still did not have a buyer that met all the criteria. I felt a little bit of heartbreak over potentially miss out on this great opportunity.

One Great Idea Changed Everything

One day in late January I was driving home from photographing a house in Kill Devil Hills and the idea suddenly hit me.  I called my husband, Andy, right away and told him that I had a great idea for the show.  He was a little hesitant as some of my ideas can be a little out there sometimes, but he patiently listened.  I told him we should do the show. He was confused. I explained that we personally met all the criteria for the show.  He asked me who the real estate agent would be if we were the ones acting as the buyer.  I nicely reminded him that we happened to be real estate agents and we could do the show representing ourselves in buying a new home.

Andy and I lived in Corolla for 9 years and had just recently moved to Kitty Hawk.  Our son, Charlie, was getting ready to start kindergarten and we wanted him to attend Kitty Hawk Elementary School so we made the decision to move from Corolla to Kitty Hawk.  Since we are real estate agents we represented ourselves in purchasing our new home.  And our home fit all the criteria.  It was not waterfront, but we do have a water view.

Andy agreed that we didn’t want to miss out on filming and suggested I talk it over with our casting producer to see what they thought.  Later that day I sent an email to the production company with my idea and they said they would have to get approval from HGTV directly since it did not fit their typical format of having a couple and a real estate agent.  The next day I received an email from the producer saying HGTV loved the idea and wanted to proceed.  Now that the first hurdle was jumped, it was then on to the reality that I was going to film a show for HGTV!!

Filming Began

HGTV Beachfront Bargain HuntersFast forward to March of 2016 and it was finally time to film.  I had no idea what to expect.  The production company tried to prep us as much as possible in advance, but it is completely different to actually be there with the crew in person with cameras and lights and fuzzy microphones in my face and people everywhere.  It took 4 days to film our episode.  We did 12-14 hours of filming each day and it was exhausting to say the least.  But what an amazing experience.

We filmed in March, but they wanted us to act as if it were summer.  We had strong winds and cold temps during our 4 days of filming, yet we were in bathing suits on the beach and in shorts and sleeveless tops.  Our teeth were chattering and our bodies were shivering, but somehow we managed to smile through it all and get it done.

Since we had already purchased our home, the portion of the show that has us looking at different homes was more of an example of what we would have done and not actual homes we considered buying.  Before we bought our home we did look at many homes all over Southern Shores, Duck and Kitty Hawk before finally buying the home we did.  So they just recreated the process and we filmed in homes that might have been options we would have considered that all fit the criteria of the show.

HGTV Beachfront Bargain HuntersWe also decided that filming the show would have been easier if we had a script that we could have memorized.  We would walk into a house and they would film our initial reaction and comments and then they would ask us to it again so they could get a different camera angle.  And, “oh yeah please repeat what you just said.”  We were constantly asking “What did we say?” as it was difficult to remember everything we had just said about what we were seeing.  For each room and house we had to film it at least 2-4 different times so they could get different angles of us and the room.  And that doesn’t count all the times they’d yell “CUT” because something wasn’t right or we said something we weren’t supposed to.

We had certain words or phrases that were banned.  You never realize how often you say a particular word or phrase until you’re told you can’t say it.  My word was nice.  I was not allowed to say the word nice.  I quickly discovered that I really like to say the word nice.  They let a few slide here and there, but we had to start several scenes over.

We spent most of one day doing what they called interview scenes.  It was just the two of us sitting somewhere answering questions that you don’t hear asked when watching.  We went to a few local restaurants (thank you Black Pelican and Blue Point for hosting us!), sat on an oceanfront deck(thanks to a wonderful client that allowed us to film at his home) and had several scenes of us driving in our car.  The field producer would ask us a question.  We would have to repeat the question in our answer and then elaborate.  It was the same process for these interview scenes as it was for the house hunting scenes.  We would go through all the questions, think we were done, and they would say that was great now let’s do it again from another angle.  It was grueling at times, but again, an amazing experience.

HGTV Beachfront Bargain HuntersThere were several fun scenes that we got to film too.  Charlie got to go hang gliding off Jockey’s Ridge, we went tubing and boating in the sound, we played at the beach (and in the freezing cold ocean!) and we went cruising in our 1968 Mustang convertible to go crabbing and then had a crab feast with steamed blue crabs in the backyard of our new home.

On the fourth day of filming, after a little over 12 hours, we were finally done.  One of the cameramen has been on the production team since the show started several years ago.  He told us he has filmed hundreds of episodes and has never filmed an episode quite like ours before.  In the typical format of the show, while the real estate agent is filming, the buyers have a break. When the buyers are filming then the agent has a break.  Since we were both the agents and the buyers we had to do it all.

When it was all over we were exhausted and excited.  But then the waiting game began.  The production company wasn’t sure when the episode was going to air, but told us it could be 10 to 12 months.  They were right!

Our episode finally aired on HGTV on Sunday January 8th, 2017.  Originally, we were told it would be late January, but they moved our episode up to early January. This gave us very little time to get the word out to our friends, family, and clients.  There will be a second airing of the show in the near future.  If you missed the show in January and would like to be notified of the next airing, please send me an email. I’d be happy to let you know when it airs again.

Have you ever wanted to be on HGTV?  If so, contact me. I have been in talks with a production company to film 4 more episodes.  The criteria is a bit different, but if you are thinking of buying a home in the Outer Banks we would love to be part of your story!

New Water Park in Lower Currituck

water park in Lower CurrituckDid you take notice of the press release earlier this month about a water park coming to the Outer Banks?   The plans consist of the construction of an 80 acre park about 2 miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge. The park is supposed to represent an Outer Banks historical theme with lighthouses, pirates and planes.

The park will have a multitude of water slides and a section dedicated to just children of over 2 acres. There is also plans for a FlowRider, wave pool and adventure lagoon. Specialty restaurants and private eating and gather areas will be offered on what looks to be an upscale family amenity that the Outer Banks is very short on right now.

The big point of discussion on this park is the developers are proposing to limit the number of people that they will allow in per day and they will not be allowing the general public to come into the park. The plan is that there is a limit of 4000-5000 guests each day (much lower than comparably sized water parks) to insure guest’s experience. Locals in Currituck and Dare County will be permitted to purchase admission at any time, but there will be no local advertising and the developers claim they will not be permitting folks from Chesapeake or surrounding areas that want to just make a day trip to the water park.

This park is set to break ground in the next 30 days and is expected to be finished sometime before the summer of 2017.

How will this affect our real estate market? It’s difficult to say exactly what effects the park will have on our overall real estate market. We do know that the park has the potential to boost rents as the only guests admitted will need to be renting from a select rental agency that is a “partner” in the water park.   No, not all rental companies will be partners and thus there may be a residual effect on rentals for those houses with agencies that are exclusive partners.  At this time it looks like about half of the local agencies will be participating in their partner program.  In turn this could cause better rents and better rents always mean more value. The park will also mean more jobs for the locals in the surrounding areas which is always a plus.  These jobs might help stimulate what has been a stagnant real estate market of lower mainland Currituck. The homes in this area were the hardest hit after the recession and are still struggling to regain value.  Land prices around the surrounding area might rise slightly by the number of new people visiting the park. Surrounding business could also have increased numbers.

It is really too soon to know what effects that the proposed park may have on our economy, but I tend to believe that construction of such a large project will definitely bring positive effects.  Only time will tell and with any luck the wave pool will actually produce a ride able wave for the locals on flat days.

mid-currituck bridgeFor more insights about the Outer Banks and surrounding area please feel free to contact Ken or Pete with Best Buy OBX of Outer Banks Blue.

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

or

Pete Salitore
Pete (252) 202-4868
pete@outerbanksblue.com

Beach Nourishment to Take Place in Towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills

Beach Nourishment on the Outer BanksIt is hard not to overlook the big changes that have occurred over the years for those who have been vacationing or residing on the beaches of the Outer Banks. The beaches may seem to be more crowded attributable to families spreading out their endless amounts of chairs, umbrellas, and coolers, or the same cottage in Kitty Hawk your family stayed in every year since the 1950’s appeared to just vanish in thin air. No, the summer heat is not getting to you, beach erosion is.

Beach erosion causes the beaches to become narrower, due to the loss or displacement of sand alongside the shoreline by the events of waves, currents, tides, winds, or human caused actions. The frequency and intensity of hurricanes, tropical storms and depressions, and nor’easters will demonstrate the most noticeable impacts of beach erosion. During such storms, sand is transported to nearby areas to form sandbars and removed from the beach and the sand dunes.

The Outer Bank in particular is more susceptible to significant erosion because of its location. Because of the shorelines facing North East, the occurrence, duration, and strength of storms and nor’easters is higher than most other shorelines. Many studied trends illustrate that the barrier islands of North Carolina are naturally moving inland.

One of the best, proven ways to help facilitate the shrinking shoreline is beach nourishment. Beach nourishment pumps sand from sources such as nearby sandbars, inlets or waterways, or offshore, onto the eroding shorelines. Widening the shoreline helps guard properties and communities on the shoreline from coastal storms and erosion.

During a meeting held on March 17, 2016, Dare County Board of Commissioners accepted the bid that would allow beach nourishment to take place in the Town of Duck, Town of Kitty Hawk, and Town of Kill Devil Hills. These towns are following in the footsteps of the Town of Nags Head who replenished their beaches through beach nourishment from May 2011 to October 2011.

The Town of Nags Head completed the nourishment on 10 miles of beach while dumping 4.6 million yards of sand. The beach nourishment resulted in Nags Head having protective offshore sandbars, protective dunes, and a large, visible beach. Prior to the project starting, property lines were set and a static vegetation line was set for measuring oceanfront setbacks. During the actual process, about 1,000 feet of the beachfront was impinged on. Visitors of the beach could walk around construction areas and the areas were usually only affected for 24-36 hours.

During the March 17, 2016 meeting, the bid accepted was from Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. Of the four bids received, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company was the lowest, totaling $38,596,850, approximately $4,900,000 under budget.

The schedule for the beach nourishment includes:
Town of Duck: April 1, 2017- June 1, 2017
Town of Kitty Hawk: June 1, 2017- August 20, 2017
Town of Kill Devil Hills: August 20, 2017- October 10, 2017

The Best Real Estate MarketDanielle-2015-10-14-1For more information please feel free to call Danielle and Danny Fenyak at (252) 256-1818 or email Danny at dfenyak@outerbanksblue.com.

Drill or Not to Drill on the Outer Banks: Should We Still be Worried?

Not The Answer NCI thought it was a good idea to provide an update since it had been a year since we last mentioned offshore drilling, as it relates to the Outer Banks. But then the exciting news came, after I had started writing this, of the Administration’s reversal in the plan to not include the Atlantic as a leasing option.  The big talk on the Outer Banks was still all about #NotTheAnswer or #NotTheAnswerNC or #KilltheDrill up until March 15.  The local Surfrider Chapter continued to make a lot of noise and was still making national news about saying no to offshore drilling for the Atlantic.  The National Chapter really saw this issue as an important one as it ties directly to Surfrider’s mission and came on board with the Not the Answer campaign.  Their campaign included a surfboard being passed around to local businesses starting in Florida and it moved up the East Coast ending up with over 1,000 signatures to show that they oppose offshore drilling.  That signed surfboard was hand delivered to DC this past February.  Well, it seems that the Obama Administration noticed all the opposition and on March 15 the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced a revised proposal for the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022 which removed the mid and south Atlantic lease sales.  They elaborated that the removal of these areas makes sense since the revised proposal focuses leases in areas with the highest potential, greatest industry interest and where there is already established infrastructure.

It seems we still my have to convince our current Governor Pat McCrory that the potential negative impacts far out weigh any hope of income or jobs, and that these are the real concerns to his constituents.  After he initially praised the Administration’s proposed plan last year, he then went on to say that the 50 mile buffer in the plan is putting roughly 40% of his State’s offshore energy resources off limits and wanting that buffer reduced to only 30 miles.  He continues to say that drilling will bring jobs and significant revenue to our State.  It appears that the coastal counties in NC, with the exceptions of New Hanover and Carteret, have made it clear that they do not want drilling and that they feel the same way Dare County does: it is not worth the risk.  We have a huge economy that would be at risk if drilling were to commence and even more so if a spill ever occurred.  The coastal tourist industry is a well established source of revenue for the State especially here in Dare, Currituck, and Hyde counties. We cannot risk that industry for drilling.

The local Surfrider Chapter had continued to voice their concerns and stepped it up again in August 2015 when Governor McCrory was in Manteo at the Dare County Arts Council for a fundraiser.  They paired up with a local grassroots organization, LegaSea, and quickly organized a peaceful protest outside of the Council building.  About 70 people, including local students from Manteo High School’s Environmental Action Coalition group were outside the building with signs.  This isn’t the first time LegaSea has had to speak up against drilling off our coast.  They had to do this same thing in 1989 when Mobil was putting together a plan to drill a well off Cape Hatteras.  They managed to get all the way to DC with the support of the governor at that time and other officials to get their voices heard to get Mobil to go away.  Then, more recently, Surfrider had a banner fly over, that said “Oil Drilling is Bad for Busineess. NOTTHEANSWERNC.ORG” during the ground breaking ceremony of the new Bonner Bridge replacement that Governor McCrory spoke at where many other local representatives were also in attendance.  Dare County has been one of the most vocal opponents while McCrory has been one of the most vocal proponents for offshore drilling, so they make their voice known any chance they can.  The local Chapter also had another float in our infamous Kelly’s St Patrick’s Day parade on March 13th that included about 50 locals marching for their Not the Answer campaign again this year.

This battle seems to continue however, since McCrory and the American Petroleum Institute are still speaking out that they feel that the reversal from the Administration was for the far lefts and extremists only. That is simply not the case – it wasn’t just liberals or environmentalists that were speaking out opposing drilling in the Atlantic.  It was also business owners, fisherman, other commercial users and even the military and NASA, that are worried what the oil and gas industry can do when the use of our waters get limited or even worse, what happens when there is a spill.  The Interior Department indicated that it had received more than a million comments during the public comment period.  The opposition was bipartisan with 110 municipalities along the east coast passing resolutions against drilling. The risk is too big and it is not even proven that any additional jobs or revenue would be seen in any of the States along the Atlantic if drilling were allowed off of our coasts.  Well, the Atlantic is safe temporarily but not necessarily forever.  Pay attention if you feel that drilling is just not the answer!

not the answer Outer BanksCara Muglia, REALTOR®
Outer Banks Blue Realty Services

Mid-Currituck Bridge Update

The Mid-Currituck bridge proposal is back on the table and gaining steam.  Many are enthusiastically hopeful that the bridge will begin construction sooner rather later. Last time I reported, the skeptics were leading the charge about the bridge not being a possibility. Now there is some hope that the long awaited expanse will create a new frontier to Corolla. Here are the facts based on the latest NC-DOT report.

The Mid- Currituck bridge project would create a north crossing of the sound that would bypass lower Currituck, Southern Shores and Duck. This crossing would greatly help alleviate congestion and improve the flow of traffic on Saturday’s in the summer,  and if there were a hurricane evacuation The 7-mile toll bridge would connect Aydlett (Mainland Currituck) to Corolla. The project will cost 440 million. The funding will come from bonds paid back from future toll revenue and a combination of state and federal transportation tax.  At this point they don’t know how much the toll will be.

The project was put on hold in 2013 but has since been approved for inclusion in the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program. An amendment in this program states that the project should begin in 2017 fiscal year (which starts July 2016). There is a lot of preliminary work that NC-DOT will need to do before construction begins. This will include: developing a new traffic and revenue study, toll financing plan, selecting a builder, preparing final design plans, acquiring right of way, and obtaining environmental agency permits.

What does all this mean for the future of this bridge? Well that really depends on who you ask.  In my opinion with projects this large on the Outer Banks there always will be some hang up’s.  Although I am more optimistic that the bridge will eventually be built. I would much rather air on the side of cautioun based on the time it has taken to approve the Bonner Bridge, which crosses Oregon Inlet. Obtaining environmental permits in the past has been a slow process.

The future does look bright for most residence if the bridge is built. Increased revenues and home prices should follow with easier access to the Northern part of the island. Surely, businesses will see an increase in incomes as more visitors invade the beaches. The environment may be inversely impacted by the increase unless proper laws are put into place to help regulate the already difficult task. Change is an inevitable fact of life and as my father has always told me, “Embrace change son or you will get swallowed up by the past”. The future holds bright for us Outer Bankers if we follow our hearts and do what’s right in life.

mid-currituck bridgeFor more insights about the Outer Banks and surrounding area please feel free to contact Ken or Pete with Best Buy OBX of Outer Banks Blue.

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

or

Pete Salitore
Pete (252) 202-4868
pete@outerbanksblue.com