The Financial Sector and Real Estate

Understanding the elements of the financial sector is absolutely crucial to be a successful investor in today’s real estate market. Reading between the lines, a little common sense and a professional Broker representing you will go a long way. Knowing when and where to invest your money wisely should also depend on what’s happening with banking rates, mortgage backed securities, current and proposed financial regulations and current state of the stock market.

Our current market along the Outer Banks has been on the upswing with an improving market for the last few years. 2017 was the best year locally along the Outer Banks since 2005 with over 766,000,000 in sales and a total of 2,560 units sold! That is a good and financially sound real estate market. Contributing factors have been competition among lenders with Low Interest Rates, Record Low Inventory, Improved Economy and the rise of home values. With the recent Volatility of the Stock Markets I have been getting more calls from several Investors wanting to diversify their investments out of Stocks and into Real Estate.

When I was reading through a Few Financial articles recently I came across a Financial Bill being currently proposed in the Senate that will have great effects on Real Estate…..The Rollback of major parts of the Dodd Frank Act. Do you remember this name? If you were affected by real estate during the crash of 2007 or knew a little about the way our banking regulations worked you certainly should remember. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2010 and it’s intentions were in overhauling the Nations Financial Regulatory System. If you were an Investor, Broker or even just a property owner during that volatile time-period you certainly felt the effects the Financial sectors ultimately put on the Real Estate Market. No Documentation Loans, Fraudulent Secondary Mortgage Markets and a general lack of ethical banking and lending principles were mostly to blame. In turn most lost large portions of equity, went Upside down on their mortgages, Foreclosures were rampant and the economy was in peril.

Fast Forward 11 years….Real Estate has recovered and the economy has greatly improved. Large parts of corrective oversight in certain lending regulations passed by the Dodd Frank Act which in turn righted a lot of wrongs in the way lenders lend and the way Wall Street handles the Billions of Dollars it deals with in the Real Estate Financial sectors were a factor. That being said, as a local professional REALTOR here along the Outer Banks that takes great pride in my profession I find it concerning that a good portion of proposed rollbacks to Dodd-Frank are being passed through Congress as we speak. The Bill has many items and more than likely may have more items attached with riders in other proposed bills in order to gain support. Long Story Shortened- This Bill would Exempt Banks with less than 250 Billion in assets from tighter Federal Reserve oversight. This frees smaller banks and financial firms from the rules that were implemented originally and helped our real estate markets and economy recover. It does not take a financial genius to see that this could be a big issue. While I am for an improved economy through sound financial means I would think twice before Rolling back items that left our economy in shambles just over a decade ago. I encourage you to look into these proposals and let your voice be heard. Thanks for reading my Real Estate Blog.  I trust it was informative and made you ponder…

The value of your REALTOR®Your Native Outer Banks REALTOR- Shane Collins

For more information on all things Real Estate or any questions on the Outer Banks, feel free to contact Shane Collins directly with the OBX Island Guys of Outer Banks Blue Realty Services. (252) 202-1193 or email at shane@outerbanksblue.com.

 

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

10 Reason For Living and Investing on Colington Island

colington harbour

As a long term resident of the Outer Banks since 1981 (almost a local!), a 32 year real estate broker and 17 year Colington Island resident, I’ve had the good fortune of knowing the pros and cons of all of the communities from Corolla through South Nags Head.  Here’s my thoughts on what makes Colington Island (there’s actually two!) unique and a great place to live and invest.

1. Waterfront Living

Colington Island has miles of shorelines to enjoy the spectacular sunsets, sailing, boating, fishing, kite boarding, kayaking and crabbing; a water person’s dream!

2. Ideal Central Location

The average drive time to the Atlantic ocean and the beach is seven to twelve minutes and with dozens of public beach parking accesses. Go 15 miles north you’re in Duck, 15 miles south you’re in South Nags Head or Roanoke Island. You’re close to all of the great Outer Banks restaurants and attractions, plus the three First Flight Schools are on Colington Road!

3. 2019 NC DOT Colington Road Improvements

Within 18-24 months Colington Road will be wider. It will be raised in areas of need and will have a 5’ wide trail/bike shoulders on both sides of the road. Residents and visitors will get connected with the miles of bike paths and pedestrian trails on the Outer Banks.

4. Best Priced & Valued Outer Banks Real Estate

Without question you’ll find the most affordable primary residences starting at $200,000. Canalfront homes starting at $250,000 and soundfront homes starting at $350,000. Many waterfront homes are vacation homes with income that helps to pay for the home, provides a second home get-a-way, a retirement, or a primary residence.

5. Wide Diversity of Communities & Subdivisions

There’s nine different subdivisions to choose from. All with waterfront properties, sound access, and amenity packages.

6. Bird Watching

One morning, the first week I moved to my Swan View Shores home, I was sitting on my top deck and within 60 seconds an Osprey, Red Headed woodpecker, and Blue Heron flew right above my head. Turns out this is the norm in my location. From hummingbirds to laughing gulls to Bald Eagles. It’s amazing!

7. Boating & Sailing

Colington Harbour has deep water canals allowing residents to sail the larger, sea worthy boats. Then there’s the Colington Harbour Yacht Club sailing regalia every Wednesday. Boats of all sizes enjoy the deep water access!.

8. Fishing & Crabbing

Full disclosure: I am not a fisherman, although my wife is. I’ve heard stories of great crabbing, shrimping, and fishing for Red Drum, Speckled Trout, Flounder and Rock Fish in the surrounding sounds, creeks and canals. I have eaten the evidence!

9. Top Notch Restaurants

Colington Café and Saltbox Café are always receiving well deserved accolades for their amazing dining experience. There’s no need to leave the island for great dining. We also have Colington Pizza and a new coffee and ice cream shop.

10. Billy’s Seafood

This is where I “catch” my fish. The freshest seafood on the Outer Banks from oysters, shrimp, blue crabs, crabmeat, tuna, grouper, clams, and much more. They’re affordable and awesome. You can stop in on the way home for dinner.

The Best Real Estate Market

Hope you find this blog informative. Please let me know if you have any questions or would want to know more about Colington Island Real Estate. I’ve assisted hundreds of buyer and sellers make Colington Island their home!

For more detailed information on the current state of the Outer Banks real estate market, please feel free to call Danny Fenyak at (252) 256-1818 or email him at dfenyak@outerbanksblue.com.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Maritime Forests

Maritime Forest of the Outer BanksThe beach, that wonderful merging of ocean and sand that seems so perfect will always be the draw bringing visitors to the Outer Banks. But there is another side to this strip of sand, another world of beauty and wonder waiting for the slightly adventurous.

The soundside of the Outer Banks seems to be a world apart from the seashore. Heavily forested but with easy trails, it calls out to be explored.

There are four protected maritime forests on the Outer Banks. Three of them are part of the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve— Currituck Estuarine Lands, Kitty Hawk Woods and Buxton Woods. Nags Head Woods in Kill Devil Hills is administered by the Nature Conservancy.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve lands do have some ongoing research and they are protected lands, but all of them are open to the public and all offer some great opportunities to get to experience a the maritime forests of the Outer Banks.

Currituck Estuarine Lands

About three quarters of a mile past the village of Corolla heading north, NC12 takes a 90 degree bend to the right. At that bend there is a small parking lot that that is the trailhead to explore the Currituck Estuarine trails.

There is a gate that leads to a boardwalk. The gate must remain closed at all times. The Corolla Wild Horse herd does come into the reserve from time to time and the horses must be kept away from the heavily traveled areas of Corolla.

The boardwalk is a very easy half mile stroll to Currituck Sound. The boardwalk crosses wetlands and swamp, bordered by towering pine trees. The view at the end is wonderful, looking across to Monkey Island, an island that was once home to one of the most storied hunt clubs of the Outer Banks.

A little more adventurous, but still a very easy walk through the woods, is the three quarter mile Maritime Forest Trail. Look for some steps with a sign marking the trail on the right side of the boardwalk about 200 yards from the gate.

A good pair of sandals—not flip-flops—or walking shoes is fine for this trek. Eight years of age and up, should be fine be able to navigate the path.

The trail, marked by blue-topped posts, winds through the forest, passing through one of the most spectacular groves of live oak on the Outer Banks. Squirrels are abundant and there are lots of birds around.

A seasonal note: horses do come into this area during winter storms to get out of the worst of the wind.

Kitty Hawk Woods

A little more challenging than the Currituck trails, the paths in Kitty Hawk Woods should be fine for anyone in reasonably good shape ten years of age and up. The terrain does have some hills in it—although those hills, which are very heavily wooded are actually relict sand dunes.

Best trailhead is probably at the end of Ridge Road in Kitty Hawk. The trail will be right in front of you.

There are a couple of intersecting paths along the way. For anyone who has never hiked through Kitty Hawk Woods before, it’s probably best to stay on the main path—the trails can bet a little bit confusing at times.

This trail is remarkably different from the Currituck trail. There is enough elevation gain in the relict sand dunes and sufficient soil has accumulated to create a hardwood forest.

On both sides of the trail there is are extensive wetland swamps, and the trees and vegetation in the those areas are noticeably different than the trees and vegetation along the trail. The trail is about three quarters of a mile long so out and back would be 1.5 miles.

Bikes are allowed in Kitty Hawk Woods and any bike rider with reasonable skills on a mountain bike will have a great time in the reserve.

Buxton Woods

Unlike the other Outer Banks maritime forests, Buxton Woods, located on just south of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, does not border a sound—Pamlico Sound in this case. Rather, the forested area is protected by a line of dunes that keep the worst of the Atlantic Ocean winds away. It is located at the elbow of Cape Hatteras.

There are a number of ways to explore the reserve with entrances on the south end of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and off NC12.

It does take a while to drive there from the northern Outer Banks—45 minutes to more than an hour—but there are some very interesting characteristics to Buxton Woods.

All of the Outer Banks maritime forests are at a transitional point between subtropical and temperate zones. At Buxton woods it is at its most apparent. Towering pines, typical of temperate forests make up the canopy, but at their base, saw palmetto palm trees thrive.

The roads into the reserve are very sandy and recommended for 4WD only.

Nags Head Woods—The Nature Conservancy

Nags Head Woods has something for everyone. There is an ADA trail, simple loop trails suitable for younger children and a surprisingly rugged trail that follows the ridge line of what was once sand dunes.

For the adventurous, the Blueberry Ridge Trail is the way to go. The elevation gains are as steep as anything seen in mountain hiking, although not nearly as extended. Surrounded by hardwood trees, hiking up an incline of 25-30%, there are areas in Nags Head Woods that are unlike any other trail on the Outer Banks. Listen carefully, though, and the distant sound of the surf breaking on the shoreline create a sensory treat unique to a maritime forest.

Bikes are not permitted on the trails in the park. However, there are some dirt roads running through the preserve that make for a great ride.

During the summer especially, the Estuarine Preserve and Nags Head Woods have a number of programs geared toward kids.

The Estuarine Preserve offices are in Kitty Hawk at 4352 The Woods Road. Nags Head Woods offices are on the grounds at 701 West Ocean Acres Drive, Kill Devil Hills. The Estuarine office is very short staffed and someone is there only sporadically. Someone is always manning the Nags Head Woods office.

 

 

Photographic Deception: To Deceive or Not To Deceive

This topic is two-fold. Photographic deception, or using a Stager to make a home look it’s best so that deception is not necessary.

The current school of thought appears to be this; when listing a home for sale, hire a photographer, temporarily stage the home for photos, and have the pro take magazine quality photographs inside and out. We can pay $200 to $500 or more depending on the photographer and if we have the use of a drone.

Flashback recently…I am working with an out of State home buyer that has missed out on a few homes because he and his family could not travel here in time to look at the home.  So, we picked out 5 homes from the MLS that fit their needs and price point and they scheduled a visit a week later.  Before they could get here, 2 of the homes went under contract and another home had an offer in on it.  Frustrated, Mr. Buyer asks for advice; what can I do?  They decided to look at the pictures of the remaining homes and make an offer, sight unseen, so that they could get their foot in the door prior to their visit. Their offer was accepted.

Fast forward to their visit. What should have been a moment of excitement as they get to look at their potential new home; turned out to be a moment of deception and disappointment.  “Deception”?  Well yes, but not the kind of deception that is premeditated or illegal. The buyers felt like they were duped by glam photos that misrepresented the reality of what the home and the grounds actually looked like. So, needless to say, they withdrew their offer, and to this day have not made another purchase.

I know what you may be thinking, “why didn’t I just go look at the home and let the buyer know my thoughts?”  Great question, and that is exactly what I would normally do, but I was also out of town, visiting my son at college.  So, like the buyers, I relied on the photos and the comparable sale info in the MLS (I do travel with my laptop) to help guide them with their offer, knowing that the due diligence clause in an NC real estate contract would allow the buyer to terminate the contract for any reason or no reason as long as they were within their time frame set forth in the due diligence clause (another topic for another blog).

How many times have I showed homes and heard the buyer say; “wow, this home looked so much better on the computer”, or “you Realtors are great photographers”.  And how many times has a buyer picked out the home they thought would be their favorite, based on the pictures, and when we actually go look at the home it becomes their least favorite – and even more so because of their disappointment that the home didn’t measure up to the pictures or the description.

Which brings me to the main point.  Are we doing a disservice to the general real estate public by making homes look so good that we create disappointment when the home finally has to present itself as it is to the potential buyer?  It’s very much like the glam photo on the business card that looks nothing like the actual person, or the glam profile on a dating site (not that I use a dating site, but this is what I have heard, lol.)  Eventually, the truth will reveal itself.

Here is what I do.  Depending on the home, the market history, and the budget; I have the seller allow me to hire a Stager – not a person that comes in with loaner stuff or one that tears down walls, or one that buys $10,000 worth of stuff to make the home look better.  No… A different concept.  The Stager I use works within the home and uses what’s already there – by rearranging, re-configuring, re-centering, de-cluttering, removing excess furniture and other stuff that make a room look smaller.  We do this room by room.  The only things she adds are new fluffier comforters and pillow shams so the beds look more inviting and the room more comfortable and maybe a few pieces of artwork here and there. She will touch up paint and then clean.  Anything removed can be stored away if the owner has storage rooms or closets – or it can be given away to a local charity. She orchestrates all of it.

What you are left with is the actual home – as it will appear and as it will be. Then, with my very own camera, no fancy lighting or setups, I’ll take 36 pictures of the home and upload them into the MLS where they will be syndicated through the internet real estate websites.  The owner invests $1000-$2000 in the Stager and has a home that is more saleable.  Three of the last four that I did this way have sold in less than 30 days.   A faster sale translates to more money for the seller, no matter how you slice it.  The monthly carrying costs of insurance, taxes, utilities, maintenance and mortgage (if they have a mortgage) can easily add up to $3000 to $5000 per month if not more.  So, shortening the selling process can save the seller BIG money.

If the seller doesn’t have the money to invest in the stager, I give the ideas to the seller so that they can do what they can themselves, and then I take the pictures.  It is what it is.  I have no interest in creating a pictorial of a home that is not representative of the home.  I do not want to deceive the real estate world.  If we were making a submission to Country Living, Architectural Digest, or another Real Estate Magazine for a different purpose, that would be an entirely different thing.  I want to help the seller present their home in the best most realistic way possible so that the buyers are not disappointed when they see the home and so that the home sells faster; ultimately making the seller more money.

Rick Drumm Photographic DeceptionPlease 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

 

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey's Ridge State ParkWith over 1,000,000 visitors annually, Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is one of the most visited parks in the North Carolina State Park system.

A relatively small park—426 acres—it’s appearance is striking with Jockey’s Ridge, a massive 74’ sand dune higher than any other natural feature on the Outer Banks. The park is home to the Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School, the oldest and largest in the nation. From the slopes of the dune, novice hang glider pilots learn how to soar.

It is an ideal place to learn how to fly what are actually gigantic kites. With nothing to disturb the wind, there is almost always a breeze blowing across the dunes; as landing zones go, sand is a far more forgiving surface than the packed dirt or rock of schools located in mountains.

Jockey’s Ridge may also be one of the finest places in the world to fly a kite. A consistent wind practically guarantees ideal conditions for kite flying, and the view from the top of the dune is spectacular with the Atlantic Ocean to the East and Roanoke Sound to the west.

The park, though, is much more than a huge dune or a place to fly a kite…regardless of size.

Jockey’s Ridge, that massive sand dune is called a medaño. Medaños have a number of similar characteristics; they are high, steep and hold a tremendous volume of sand. Typically vegetation does not grow on its slopes and that is the case here. Jockey’s Ridge is actually the highest of a series of dunes within the park, and because of the interaction of forces of sand, wind, sun and rain, the environment is remarkably complex for such a small area.

A good introduction to how complex the ecosystem of the park is can be seen at the end of the boardwalk that starts at the Visitors Center.

Standing on the observation deck there is a pond immediately in front of visitors. The pond varies in size by season and the amount of rain. Called a vernal pond. the water that is seen is ground water that has been forced to the surface. It is not surface water from rainfall.

That area seems to be in transition right now. Especially during the summer, if there is abundant rainfall—and that was certainly the case in 2017—the pond expands and takes on characteristics of a marsh. Grasses begin growing along its banks and sedges and rushes spring to life in the pond itself. As that first plant life dies off, it stabilizes the soil—which is sand— and provides nutrients as they decay.

If there is enough moisture, those decaying plants provide the environment for woody plants to begin to grow. Looking to the right from the observation deck, on the north end of the pond, there is an excellent example of that. A small but distinctly maritime forest has taken root. Pine trees dominate in that patch of forest; still not completely mature, larger trees—in southern coastal environments, live oak—have not yet become a part of the forest.

To see a mature maritime forest in the park…take a hike.

On the right side of the pond, there is a trail that leads up the dune and to the Roanoke Sound. Sometimes there is a bit of water on the trail, but it’s harmless water. Wade through it. The trail is not very well marked, but once on the other side of the dune, there is almost no vegetation. Keep heading to Roanoke Sound.

Even though it looks like an open field of sand, there are some interesting things to note. The entire dune field is very active, constantly migrating to the south. At one time, some areas were well-protected between two dunes with a vernal pond at the base. The fate of a maritime forest that would form at those sites can be seen in the dead, denuded tops of trees that at one time were thriving but are now covered in sand.

Arriving at Roanoke Sound, look to the south (left) and there is a beautiful, mature maritime forest. Protected from the corrosive effects of salt spray by Jockey’s Ridge, the maritime forest on the westerns side of the barrier island is representative of a barrier island ecosystem.

The evidence of that can be seen in a number of places on the Outer Banks—Nags Head Woods, Kitty Hawk Woods or the Currituck Estuarine system.

All I want for Christmas is… A Beach House

Christmas beach houseSo if your office is anything like mine at this time of the year it is less than a finely tuned machine running at full speed. Between the 2nd week of December and the end of the year we have staff out of the office for just under 100 days of combined work. It seems that when you call on any service firm (plumber, surveyor, electrician, etc.) to perform a job at this time of year the story is the same “sorry, we aren’t going to get to that until after the first of the year, you know with the holidays and all we just can’t get it done.”

The same may thought to be true in real estate sales at this time of year as many of our local attorneys on the Outer Banks close for that week between Christmas and New Year’s day (making it very difficult to get a sale closed and recorded), but hold on just a jingle bell minute. I am here to tell you….you never know!

There are still properties going under contract and selling at this time of the year. There is no reason to think that just because winter is arriving this month that sales on the Outer Banks go into a deep freeze. In fact if the property is listed at the right price you just never know when it will sell so be ready!

Just this past week I had notice of a property going under contract in Corolla and the buyer wants to close on the transaction before Christmas. That is less than 3 weeks between contract and close! This is a very unusual circumstance as most properties take 45 or more days to close, but it does happen that we get serious buyers and short closing times at this time of the year.

But the story to beat all is several years ago I was in real estate sales and had the experience of a real estate lifetime.

I was in the office on Christmas Eve morning wrapping up some loose ends before heading out to visit family that evening. I had some shopping to do and was organizing myself to head to the mall and do just that. As you can imagine from the 1st paragraph in this article that indeed things were pretty slow around the office. I was there, one of our receptionists was there, and someone in the accounting department was working for a half day that day as the company owner was closing the office at noon on Christmas Eve. Well imagine my surprise when I was called to the lobby to meet a prospective buyer who walked in and wanted to see a real estate agent to show some real estate. On Christmas Eve!

That surprise turned to stunned silence when I met the man, exchanged pleasantries and he promptly announced he wanted to buy his wife a beach house for Christmas.

Three hours later we had an offer to purchase written, and by 6 PM that night I had a copy of a full price cash contract to sell a house to this gentleman which he photocopied and presumably put under his Christmas tree for the Christmas present of a lifetime for his wife (no she did not see the house before he contracted to buy it). Talk about a Christmas miracle!  It was truly an unbelievable situation. To top it off the transaction closed without incident 2 weeks later.

Of course that doesn’t happen often (in fact I’ve never heard of it happening before or since), but it just goes to show you that as a seller you never know the motivation or timing of a buyer. As the great showman and World Wrestling Federation champion “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair said once “You don’t have to get ready – when you stay ready.”

Happy Holidays!

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: The National Parks

The National Parks of the Outer BanksThe Outer Banks stretch over 100 miles from Carova at the Virginia/North Carolina border to Ocracoke. There is even an uninhabited island just south of Ocracoke—Portsmouth Island—that could properly be called part of the Outer Banks.

There has certainly been development—the Outer Banks economy is healthy and it’s based on visitation. But an interesting feature is how much open space remains and how much effort has been made to retain that open space and to honor the history of the area. Much of the credit for that has to go to the National Park Service and the outsized role it plays in life on the Outer Banks.

There are three separate National Park areas locally, but they are administered jointly from Roanoke Island by the Outer Banks Group. They are Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

Cape Hatteras and the Wright Brothers Memorial are very well known, but all three sites are worth a visit.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers so much to do that we can’t list everything, but certainly some of the highlights are worth checking out.

There are a number of beaches that are managed by CHNS, and the Park Service does a great job of protecting the environment.

One of our favorite beaches is Coquina Beach in South Nags Head. The sand is remarkably soft, the beach is wide, there is plenty of parking, and restrooms and showers are well-maintained. There is a bit of a walk across the dunes to get to the beach, but the effort is well spent. A fantastic beach.

Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are open for climbing, although they do close during the winter. The climb is up a narrow twisting stairwell, and yes in the summer, it gets quite warm. There are height and age restrictions on children, and that is a safety issue. It would not be safe to carry a child on the stairs; if a child is too small or too young to climb on their own, it is best that they do not go.

Although Cape Hatteras gets most of the press, the view from Bodie Island Lighthouse is spectacular and worth the effort. It is a little bit lower than it’s sibling to the south, but getting to the top still takes some muscle power.

There is a wonderful nature trail at the base of the Bodie Island Light. Take a camera for the nature trails and the views.

Off-road driving is permitted at CHNS. A permit is required, and certain areas are placed off-limit from time to time. It is very important to know which areas are restricted and to not drive in those ares. The fines for infractions are significant.

The fishing is great on Cape Hatteras beaches, with The Point at Cape Hatteras offering some of the best action on the East Coast. Best access for most of the prime fishing beaches is with an offload vehicle. Local’s Tip—Fishing at Oregon Inlet at low tide? Watch the tide. High tide covers much of the beach. Also-anyone over 16 will need a North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License

Wright Brothers Memorial

This is where heavier than air flight began, and the National Park Service has done an extraordinary job of telling the story.

A good place to start is with a trek to the top of the Monument. It is a steep climb but putting energy into the climb yields a huge reward. The view is amazing and the opportunities for pictures unlimited. Along the base of the monument the words, “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, Conceived by genius and achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Look carefully at the word “commemoration.” The m and e run together; the story goes that the stone cutters miscalculated how much space would be needed for the quote.

Kids will be fascinated by the walk along the path of the brother’s flight, and if the flight paths seem short, it’s important to remember that before that first 12 second flight no one had ever launched an aircraft with an engine in it, controlled the flight and landed safely.

Also for kids, the interpreter’s discussion of the Wright Brothers and the Wright Flyer in the visitor’s center is outstanding. Adults and children will find it interesting and informative. For the over 12-year-old set—take some time to check out the museum as it  traces Wilbur and Orville’s quest to conquer powered flight. The genius of these American originals really comes to the fore.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Tucked away on the west end of Roanoke Island, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site marks the site of Fort Raleigh, the location of the Lost Colony. There is an easily walked trail behind the visitor’s center that passes by what has been interpreted as the stockade or fort. It’s a pleasant walk and a worthwhile glimpse into one of the great mysteries of history.

Also on the grounds is the Elizabethan Gardens. a marvelous formal garden done in a traditional English style. Waterside Theater, where the play The Lost Colony is performed is also part of the Fort Raleigh site.

The Play is the oldest continually performed outdoor drama in North America. Production runs from late May to mid August. The play’s production values and acting are outstanding and attending should be a part of any visit to the Outer Banks.

The headquarters for the Outer Banks Group is located at Fort Raleigh.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Urgent Care, Primary Care and Specialists

Outer BanksThere was a time on the Outer Banks when a broken wrist or birth of a baby meant a trip to Elizabeth City or Chesapeake. In March of 2002 everything changed when the Outer Banks Hospital opened in Nags Head.

Outer Banks Hospital

With 18 beds, the Outer Banks Hospital is a relatively small hospital, but it serves the needs of the Outer Banks community well. In addition to the 18 acute patient beds, there are two labor and delivery rooms and three operating rooms.

For most people the first visit to the Hospital is usually the emergency room. Depending on the month, daily visits to the ER average between 40 in the winter to 80 plus in July and August.

The Outer Banks Hospital was the first North Carolina hospital to receive a dementia friendly designation.

Part of the Vidant Health network, one of the largest healthcare providers in northeastern North Carolina, the hospital is also associated with Chesapeake Regional Healthcare system, giving patients access to larger hospitals with more resources.

The Vidant Health network includes a number of regional hospitals in northeastern North Carolina as well as the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, a 900 bed facility associated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

There are three areas of care the hospital has focused on—Women’s Health, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and Cancer Care.

Cancer Care

The Outer Banks Hospital offers cancer care through two facilities. Its Radiation Therapy Center located just across the street from the hospital. The Cancer Resource Center is located in the Medical Office Building next door to the hospital. In addition to treatment, the cancer care team is active in promoting early detection through screenings and prevention.

Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

With two clinics, one in Southern Shores and the other in Kill Devil Hills, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine offers a full range of services including surgical procedures for joint replacements and sport injuries. Surgery is performed at the Outer Banks Hospital. The medical team also provides nonsurgical care and rehab services.

The Kill Devil Hills office is located at 3102 N Croatan Highway in Kill Devil Hills; the Southern Shores office is in the Marketplace.

Outer Banks Women’s Care

Located immediately adjacent to the Outer Banks Hospital, Outer Banks Women’s Care offers a full range of services to women, including prenatal and maternity care, well woman and gynecological surgical procedures. The practice has recently been awarded a Mother-Baby award for outpatient healthcare.

Urgent Care Clinics

The Outer Banks Hospital operates two urgent care clinics. The Southern Shores location is in the Marketplace Shopping Plaza.

The Nags Head offices are located at 4923 South Croatan Highway in Nags Head, directly across from the hospital. The Nags Head office also offers primary physician care by appointment.

Sentara Healthcare

Sentara Healthcare operates five hospitals in the Hampton Roads area and one in North Carolina at Elizabeth City. Most of the healthcare providers on the Outer Banks working in Sentara facilities are associated with Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, the Elizabeth City hospital.

Sentara maintains a large facility in Kitty Hawk at 5200 North Croatan Highway.

The Kitty Hawk site provides primary and urgent care as well as a number of medical specialist including internal medicine, OBGYN, and orthopedics and sports medicine. There are also onsite diagnostic tools.

There is also a Sentara location in Manteo. Sentara Family Medicine Physicians is located at 715 N. Main Highway and provides primary care for children, adolescents and adults.

Community Care Clinic of Dare

The Community Care Clinic of Dare provides primary and urgent care to anyone who cannot afford medical care. In addition to primary and urgent care, the Community Clinic helps patients with the cost of medications.

There are two clinics in the system: in Nags Head at 425 Health Center Drive, and on Hatteras Island at 50347 NC 12 Highway, Frisco, which is the Hatteras Island Health Department building.

Building a House on a Sandbar

Building a house on the Outer BanksWith its beautiful beaches and inviting waters, there are very few places as relaxing, as perfect for a vacation or a weekend getaway, as the Outer Banks. That’s why hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive every week during the summer, and even in the shoulder seasons people still look forward to some time by the sea.

With that popularity, quite a number of our visitors think about moving to the Outer Banks either to work or retire. Many look to build locally, either as a second home or primary residence. Building in an environment as remarkable as the Outer Banks is different from most other locations, and there is some information first time property owners planning to build need to be aware of when they begin their project.

This is general information. There are many reputable and very good builders and contractors on the Outer Banks who can fill in the details.

CAMA

An acronym for Coastal Area Management Act, the regulations covered by CAMA are administered by the Coastal Resources Commission and enforced by the NC Department of Environmental Quality. CAMA regulations and permits cover any area of environmental concern (AEC) in the 20 coastal counties of North Carolina. An AEC is defined by CAMA as, “…an area of natural importance: It may be easily destroyed by erosion or flooding; or it may have environmental, social, economic or aesthetic values that make it valuable to our state.”

In their literature about permits and regulations, CAMA note that AECs only pertain to about 3% of the land within its jurisdiction. That figure is certainly higher in Dare County and along the Currituck Banks, but it is a valid point that not every construction project on the Outer Banks requires a CAMA permit.

However, for projects that do fall within CAMA guideline, it is imperative that a permit is issued. CAMA enforcement includes work stoppage and fines, and in some cases the fines are assessed daily until the infraction is corrected.

For the most part, CAMA regulations protect wetlands and areas near the shoreline, shorelines that include the ocean and sounds.

CAMA has created a list of general guidelines for when a project might need a permit:

▪  in, or on the shore of, navigable waters within the 20 CAMA counties;

▪  on a marsh or wetland;

▪  within 75 feet of the normal high water line along an estuarine shoreline;

▪  near the ocean beach;

▪  near an inlet;

▪  within 30 feet of the normal high water level of areas designated as inland fishing waters by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission;

▪  near a public water supply;

▪  within 575 feet of Outstanding Resource Waters defined by the Environmental Management Commission.

Outer Banks builders and contractors are aware of the guidelines and should be able to get the necessary permits if required.

Weather

On a beautiful summer day with the surf running at 2’ and a gentle southwest breeze, it may be hard to imagine how harsh the environment is on buildings. But it is. The Outer Banks is considered one of the most severe environments for building in the United States.

There is always some salt content in the air and that is exacerbated in the winter when northeast winds dominate and nor’easters track up the coast. There is also almost always moisture in the air. That combination of salt and moisture is very corrosive.

The FEMA guidelines put into perspective what to expect:

“Materials and construction methods in a coastal environment should be resistant to flood and wind damage, wind-driven rain, corrosion, moisture, and decay…”

Wind is certainly a concern on the Outer Banks and all newly constructed buildings must be able to withstand a 120 mph wind.

Construction

Outer Banks homes have two somewhat unique characteristics in their construction—pilings and septic systems.

Pilings

Almost every home on the Outer Banks is built on pilings, and there are two very good reasons for that. Neither is more important than the other, and in combination, they make a good case for elevating the structure.

Even though the latest FEMA flood zone maps have moved much of the northern Outer Banks into more favorable flood zone designations, the fact is, this is a low lying area susceptible to ocean overwash or soundside flooding during storms. Elevating the structure is the most effective way to stop 6” of water from creeping into a home.

The other reason for building on pilings is two closely related factors.

Inland areas typically have dense soils with a ground water table at least 6’-8’ below the surface and usually more. Neither is the case on the Outer Banks. The soil is sandy and the water table is just below the surface. Basement construction typical of homes inland is not practical with those environmental factors.

In some of the higher elevations, the water table is deeper, but the soil still tends to be sandy.

Septic Systems

Except for an area of the central business district of Kill Devil Hills, there are no central sewer systems on the Outer Banks. Waste is handled by septic systems that are part of the homeowner’s property and responsibility.

Because of advances in technology, septic systems have become very efficient, and the effect on new home construction should be minimal if it is even apparent. However, some older smaller lots in Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head could limit the size of a structure.

Remember—septic systems do need to be maintained.

This information is designed to guide but is not definitive. As is always the case, a reputable builder who understands local ordinances and building codes is the key to a successful project.