Money: Here Today…

retirement

Money. We work hard for it and tend to spend it quickly, so when/if you retire, will you be able to control/manage your spending?

Fixed expenses are critical to understand as you head off into the land of retirement – regardless if you decide to stay home, shovel now and babysit your grandchildren or, head to the land of sun & fun. Historically, the largest part of your fixed expenses are the possibility of still having a mortgage. It’s safe to say that a good portion of the folks we work with are working hard to either eliminate and or seriously reduce their current mortgage so that they can be in a position to be debt free, thereby increasing their disposable income.

However, that scenario unfortunately isn’t in the cards for everyone.

Therefore, let’s take a look at a few major fixed expenses that you will more than likely face as you set sail for your Golden Years. In particular, we will be looking at average fixed costs if/when you live in North Carolina.

Property Taxes
This author wishes not to get into the debate about moving to a State that has a State income tax vs a State that does not have one. Uncle Sam is not biased and will get what is due him from each of us, whether it is in no state income tax and higher property taxes or vice versa. Nobody is escaping the government.

In Brunswick County, which hosts Leland, Southport, Shallotte, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach and Calabash, everyone pays the county rate of .4425, which equates to $442.50 per $100,000 in value of your home. If you also live within one of our handful of towns that have their own tax, you could add on an additional .08 – .28 to your mil rate of .4425. For example, Shallotte town taxes are .28, so add that to .4425 and you have .7225, or $722.50 per $100,000 in assessed value. So if you owned a home in Shallotte with an assessed value of $300,000, your taxes would be approximately $2,167/year.

Insurance
With the advent of storms like Katrina and Sandy, all coastal regions on the east coast have had to increase their insurance rates so as to stuff the coffers with sufficient funds just in case. Our insurance rates have had healthy jumps over the past few years however, unless you live on the beach, our rates are still quite fair. And please remember that 95% of the homes here in Brunswick County do not require flood insurance, as you typically have to be within sight of salt water or live  near a fresh water creek that has the propensity to overflow during storms. If you do need and or opt for flood insurance here on the mainland, your annual cost is approximately $400.

A home with an assessed value of $300,000 on the mainland will pay approximately $1,600 – $2,500/year. If your home is on the beach, don’t be surprised if your total insurance costs are three times that of what folks on shore pay for their annual insurance. Please keep in mind that the majority of insurance claims after a coastal storms are from water damage due to flooding, and the overwhelming majority of Plantations to retire to are plenty far enough from the shorelines to have to worry about that type of damage.

POA/HOA Fees

Planned communities in the US typically have abundant amenities such as pools, fitness centers, walking trails, clubhouses, etc. Therefore, to pay for these on an annual basis, along with the maintenance on common grounds such as the entrance and along the roads, property owners form a Property Owners Association. The average costs here range from $800 – $1,200/year per home/property/condo. Basically, consider this your health club fee, for if you take advantage of it, you will never need to sign up to Gold’s Gym ever again!

If you live in a home here where you enjoy any of the following, these would be considering HOA (Home Owners Association) fees: Landscaping and grass cutting, group insurance rates on all the homes and exterior building maintenance.

So while you need to add these to your future fixed expenses, most of these fees are already probably part of your daily expenses, as many of you belong to health clubs, pay someone to cut the grass, pay insurance, etc.

Health Insurance
If there ever was a wild card to this group, it would be health insurance. Many of you are currently working and at least one of you have coverage offered by your employer. But what is your plan once those benefits run out?

Recently I worked with a couple that did some ballpark calculations to the cost savings of moving south. What they said is that they will be losing their current insurance when they move and will have new expenses in order to maintain the level of medical coverage they have now however, with a property tax savings of nearly $7,000/year, that savings will more than cover their health insurance premiums and the additional home insurance plus, still have enough left over to take a 7 day Caribbean Cruise.

All told, there are financial advantages to moving south, so just be sure to spend time researching all your anticipated expenses against your income. Above are four major expenses to be concerned about but please keep in mind that moving south also means no more snow removal fees, no school board assessments, cheaper gas, way fewer potholes for your car to dodge, no need to purchase winter clothes, seriously reduced dry cleaning bills and, travel expenses to the beach will be drastically less since you live here!

The Listing Agent

Listing Agent

For the most part, either you specialize in listing homes or selling homes. The majority of Realtors do both but, sooner or later each finds their niche. Today I want to explore some myths and realities about “The Listing Agent,” and since I never practiced real estate anywhere else, my observations should not be projected outside of SE NC.

Getting listings can be easy or as tough as you want to make it. A fair number of Realtors simply log onto their local MLS on a daily or regular basis and research the list of properties that expired that day. They either send letters or call these Sellers and ask for their business. Now, do these potential listing agents have excellent knowledge of the property that they are canvassing? Probably not but of course there are a handful that do. Therefore, the danger in responding to solicitors wanting to list your property are that they may have little to no knowledge of your community and property. They simply want you to list with them because this is what they know.

If you spend your time chasing listings, you probably don’t have a source to secure Buyers. There’s nothing wrong with filling out paperwork all day long and uploading listings on MLS, but that means you are not in the field working with Buyers – the people that Buy your listings. Our market in Brunswick County is unique because the majority of the 20+ Plantations here don’t permit signs on the properties, so possible Buyers typically have to secure a Buyer’s agent to help them find the real estate that matches their requirements, vs calling someone with a sign in the front yard.

Anyone can list real estate. Other than 60 minutes of paperwork, it takes no talent whatsoever so therefore, one must ask themselves what intrinsic value does each potential Listing Agent bring to the table? Are they Master Negotiators? Do they advertize in the local paper or in other states? Are they skilled in working with a camera? Do they possess a historical perspective of your community sales? Do they hold community and or Broker Open Houses? Have they sold a bunch of real estate in and or around your community? Are they the only ones that would negotiate the Realtor Fee?

What you are looking for is someone who can bring in Buyers, right? If you said yes to this non trick question, than be sure to ask your potential Listing Agent where they get Buyers. If they simply rely upon other Brokers to do so, which a large percentage does – than NEXT! And as a Buyer’s Agent, one of the comments I loathe from Listing Agents is “hey Doug, are you going to sell my listing today?” Seriously, that is your strategy?

Last year Carolina Plantations sold more real estate in Brunswick Plantation, Rivers Edge, SeaScape, Brunswick Forest and several other communities because we work with a lot of Buyers. Where does your Buyer live? Well, if you live here in Brunswick County, your Buyers are in NJ, MD, VA, PA, MA, NY and so on. So ask your potential Listing Agent this question – “what advertising do you do in those aforementioned states”? Ever see a Possum in the headlights?

In defense of Listing Agents, probably 90% of Realtors representing Buyers do not provide feedback after a showing, and the reason is very simple: They are chasing a sale and have no time to do anything but find their clients what they are looking for. This is very frustrating for Sellers and we in the industry acknowledge this but we do have to prioritize and maximize our time. What Sellers can take to the bank is that if your property is at the top of the list, the Buyer’s agent will usually contact the Listing Agent with questions.

Many good Listing Agents work off of referrals – which mean they earned someone’s respect enough to have their name passed along. Do your research and see what kind of marketing your potential Listing Agent does in the states/regions/towns where your Buyers live. In Brunswick County, advertising in local papers is almost solely for the enjoyment of the Sellers as residents here don’t move across town or across the county (an exception could be beach homes). However, in other markets that have cross town transactions, local papers are important.

We are not a traditional market here in Brunswick County and for what it is worth, www.CarolinaPlantations.com is the #1 most viewed website for nearly every single Plantation in Brunswick County. Just Google a handful of Plantations here and we are either #1 or #2 in the search results. That is how we make sure that we are in every living room, office and kitchen in the world. And oh, we also are the only real estate firm in North Carolina that sends out an informative monthly email to over 28,000 email addresses – which you already knew because, well, you are reading Carolina Dreamin’ right now!! 🙂

The Importance of a Strong ARB

Brunswick County Homes

Just about every plantation here in Brunswick County has roads, trees, public water, pool, tennis courts and perhaps a fitness center. There are a handful of others that also have a golf course or two, clubhouse, walking trails and a private beach club.  So at the end of the day, what really separates these communities?

What some folks don’t consciously consider perhaps as enough as they should is the direction the Architectural Review Board is steering the community. What makes a community beautiful is the architectural styles and grace of the homes within her four gates. Trees, flowers, ponds and amenities help, but at the end of the day, if the homes are not attractive on a consistent basis, many people will look elsewhere.

The Architectural Review Boards in BC are initially manned by the developer. Eventually, homeowners are brought onto the board and in due time when the developers leave the community, the ARB is turned over to the residents. Do you know who sits on the ARB of your community and or the community you are considering investing half of your life savings? If you don’t, you better do your research as the ARB can affect your quality of life as much as any one single factor.

At least a few times per month I leave the confines of my keyboard/office and work with clients. Yesterday was one of those days as I spent 9 hours with a couple from Maryland looking at three communities. We previewed about 10 homes and by the end of the day, the couple eliminated two of the three contenders.

In one of the plantations in particular, we were honestly amazed at how maligned the so called ARB haphazardly makes decisions. Driving down street after street we three simply stopped in front of home after home, shook our heads and said “how can this community allow homes like this to be built.”

Home Buying

The root cause of course are the people that design the homes. Quite frankly, very few designers in this area really have a full grasp of designing a home’s exterior that combines the proper balance of building materials, symmetry, balance, lines and curb appeal. In fact, a number of home builders here claim to design their own homes yet unfortunately, you might be lucky to do one well but doing both well is as unusual as snow in North Carolina in July.

A good designer will also put the brakes on clients that want to design a home that makes too much of a personal statement. Let’s face it, there are a lot of us down here from Jersey and New York and many feel that they want/need a home so unique that the home becomes more of an aberration than stately mansion. Drive around our communities and these homes stick out like carrots on a plate full of peas. I chuckle a bit here because years ago a builder in our area had a slogan “homes people talk about” – which in and of itself is a solid motto. However, when designers and homeowners egos and poor design standards are not checked by the ARB, we all talk about these homes for the WRONG reasons!

If you don’t take the ARB seriously now, you might do so later when a 7,000’ home with zero rhyme, reason or architectural appeal casts a shadow over your home. The intent of any ARB is to maintain a consistent balance of attractive homes. If however your ARB consists of non qualified persons, well then, how can one expect them to do a job that they are not capable of?

If you are still doing your research, pay close attention to the homes in the communities you are considering and if you see significant inconsistencies, then just turn around and head to the next one. Your quality of life and value of your home can very much be dictated by an ARB, so make sure that the ARB is influencing your community in a positive manner and not that of a rogue group of unqualified people who can arbitrarily make decisions that impact you negatively.

55 and Over?

W.C. Fields

W.C. Fields, one of America’s best one liner treasures, had some rather tasty comments on children:

  1. Children should neither be seen or heard from – ever again
  2. I like children – if the are properly cooked
  3. They are also very good with mustard

At Carolina Plantations Real Estate, we often are asked if we have any 55 and older retirement communities along the Carolina Coast. To my knowledge we have zero on the North Carolina coast. I have heard there are one or two small 55+ communities in Myrtle Beach and Del Webb has a joint down in Hilton Head.  That is all I know of – officially that is.

55 And Older Living

The majority of 55+ communities appear to be in Arizona and Florida – which makes sense because traditionally, these two locations draw a mature audience. The Carolina’s on the other hand appear to be targeting a more youthful and active group of retirees. If you are in your 50’s and 60’s, many still have a whole lot of gas remaining in their tanks including rounds of golf in their bags, morning power walks in their new sneakers, games of tennis with their rackets, trips up the river in your kayaks and many, many more neighborhood parties to attend!

To best understand if Brunswick County has any 55+ communities, one really needs to do a quick study of the economy here along the Southeastern Coast of NC. When you drive south from the Cape Fear River and downtown Wilmington towards Little River, SC, you will not see the never ending array of huge Class A office building one finds in the suburbs of DC, Atlanta, NY, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore and so on. You will though see lots and lots of Loblolly Pine trees.

Brunswick County historically is a service oriented economy. Beach hotels, rentals, golf courses, restaurants and grocery stores dot our sparse landscape. Therefore, the average person in their 20’s & 30’s seeking employment here will more than likely max out at a salary of $35,000. So, even if you have two young adults working here full-time, the best they will bring home is $70,000.

The reason why this analogy is important is because with a combined (top) income in this range, purchasing a home and living in one of the many plantations in our area is less likely – which equates to less Big Wheels on the sidewalk and babies in the pool.  Therefore, our plantations here are predominantly filled with retirees. Of course it is not to say that there are not young children in some of the higher end golf plantations, but if there are, the yellow bus has a very quick route to follow.

Our neighborhoods here love children and we don’t insist that they be removed from sight after 5 PM. However, if you were a young couple with young children, would it make a lot of sense to move into a community with mostly retirees? The many plantations here in Brunswick County only have a handful of younger children living in them. Right, wrong, good, bad, we don’t have signs at the entrance to our communities that say children not welcome or tolerated at certain times of the day or night.

The one exception to this rule of thumb in our area is Landfall – which is arguably the premiere private golf course community in Southeastern North Carolina. Landfall is located on the east side of Wilmington and is within walking distance to Wrightsville Beach. Of the 1,600 homes already built in the gated community, there are numerous young professionals who have been rather busy, as the community boasts a population of over 700 children.

If you are in need of a community with strict rules governing children, your best bet is to stay on I-95 through the Tar Heel state and don’t stop till you see orange groves or cactus fields!!

Bald Head Island

The sky is blue and the breeze is out of the southeast at about 10 knots. Southport is fading in your rear horizon and Old Baldy Lighthouse is growing ever so slowly. Seagulls hover in packs while waiting for someone to toss them a French fry, sandwich or anything edible. The crusty salt air permeates your memory of days spent at the ocean with family and the passing boats carelessly float on by as you pull into a finely manicured marina. Welcome to Bald Head Island.

Bald Head Island LighthouseYou have landed on an island once fought over by pirates and that has diverted thousands of ships from running aground on her sandy shoals. And rest assured that when you walk amongst the thick island growth, that you will swear you are on a Caribbean island.

If you want to get from Point A to Point B on BHI, you have two options. Your feet or a golf cart, for there are only a handful of motorized service vehicles on the island and all cars and worries are parked at the BHI ferry terminal on the mainland. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, you are going back in time, so you may want to leave your watch at home!

Bald Head Island is a 12,000 acre paradise located in Brunswick County, NC. It sits just a few visible miles off the shores of Southport and at the mouth of the Cape Fear River with the Atlantic Ocean hugging its east coastline. If you enjoy peace & quiet times alone or with family and or friends, then BHI may soon become your Mecca.

When you arrive in the islands sole marina, there is a supply store, Bed & Breakfast and dockside restaurant. The rest are homes owned by residents, most of which are part time as the US Census indicates that there are only 200 full time residents on the island. Most locals think that is high.

Bald Hear Island MarinaIf you grab a golf cart and meander south through the heavily wooded road, you will come upon The Island Club, which hosts the 18 hole golf course, the swim club, the tennis club, croquet court, banquet facilities and a myriad of dining options from sandwiches on the run to fine tablecloth dining. Travel a bit farther (and obviously nothing is far from anywhere on BHI) and you will come to The Shoals Club (pool and dining), with breathtaking views of the windswept beaches greeting the Atlantic Ocean. BTW, the Shoals Club and Island Club are for members only.

In the middle of the island you will encounter the heart of the island, as The Maritime Market fills everyone’s refrigerators with all the necessities required for a fun week or more in paradise. On the way to the market you might pass the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which hosts a very informative display of sea turtle artifacts and gift store. BHI is a major destination for Sea Turtle nesting as just this year 44 nests have been discovered.

With the economy still in recovery mode with regards to real estate here on BHI, today you can find a bungalow or small home in the $300,000s, condos in the $200,000s and SFHs up in the millions. Bald Head Island is the closest we have to “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” yet today, one doesn’t have to be nearly as rich to enjoy this incredible island lifestyle.

Check out what is available on BHI today! 

Is There Anywhere Else?

If you read Carolina Dreamin’ on a fairly regular basis, it is no surprise that I tout the many positive attributes of Coastal Southeastern North Carolina, which currently is a very popular option for those looking for a second home or area to retire to. Miles and miles of soft sandy beaches, great year round weather, affordable lifestyle, tons to do, yada, yada, yada!!

Brunswick County beach
Last month I received a number of responses and comments from people about my article on eliminating areas on your search, as this is either a conscious or unconscious decision everyone partakes in during their journey to find paradise. In fact, the bulk of folks looking at this area are typically considering points as far north as Williamsburg, VA to southern Florida, so from my decades of travel up and down the east coast, here are some thoughts that you may wish to ponder when considering the following areas:

Southeastern Virginia

  • Weather-wise you are still in the snow/ice zone and you have winters
  • Norfolk and Newport News are quite industrial. VA Beach is very touristy
  • Williamsburg offers some nice plantations but also exudes a very touristy feel to it

NC Outer Banks Region

  • Other than the beach, there’s nothing to do on the OBX
  • Albemarle Plantation and New Bern are nice but very, very remote.
  • Morehead City and Beaufort, NC are quiet and next to Camp LeJeune Marine base

Myrtle Beach Region

  • #2 family vacation destination (12+ million visitors) in the US behind Orlando
  • You have to love 24/7 mega retail, traffic, golf, tourists and congestion to live in MB
  • Pawley’s Island & Litchfield are nice resort/vacation-oriented communities

Charleston

  • If you live in or near a large city now, why would you want to move to another one?
  • Area offers very few attractive/new retirement type plantations
  • Considerable urban sprawl occurring

Hilton Head Region

  • Huge tourist destination. Traffic is a nightmare all summer long.
  • Beach access is very minimal. No downtown – just strip shopping centers
  • Bluffton is up-and-coming but you must rely on Hilton Head or Savannah for anything

Florida

  • And it’s “Hot, Hot, Hot”!!! You are living in extreme weather, so why not escape it?
  • Many Floridians flee the state from May till September. Where would you go?
  • Very far from family and friends

Brunswick County offers a myriad of options with regards to real estate. The wide open barrier islands of Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island and Bald Head Island are perfect for summer getaways and family fun. The Plantations that have sprung from the Live Oaks and Sugar Magnolias are home to thousands looking for a rich and rewarding retirement. We have new homes starting at $100,000 ranging to multi-million dollar beach front estates on our five islands, so in terms of housing, we have you covered.

They say that many places look good on paper however, you know that the only way to place merit in what “they” say is to get out and explore these areas on your own. For those of us already living here, heck, we know we’ve got it good!!
Best of luck on your journey!

Designing Your Dream Home

I can remember it like yesterday, but it was 11 years ago. I was working with a couple from the DC area and we were looking at homesite T2-8 on Heatherwood Court in Winding River Plantation. My clients were having trouble visualizing a home sitting on this vacant lot, so I had them turn their backs to the property and look directly across the street at a brand new home. I put my arms up as to frame the home and said “take a mental picture of this home and simply turn slowly towards T2-8 behind you”. The couple both put up their arms, took a mental picture of the home and moved around 180 degrees and placed the image of the home on the homesite.

The wife said that this was very helpful but the husband quizzically said ‘but where’s the driveway?” Wow! I turned him back around 180 degrees and said that it is still on the left side of the home. Apparently he could move the home across the street but not the driveway.

It is not uncommon nor should it be embarrassing that one or both people in a relationship do not possess good visualization skills, so in late 2007 when a client from Ocean Ridge Plantation called me to introduce this truly amazing and wonderful company called Plan View Design, I made a beeline over to their office here in Shallotte. I sat in front of this 45” monitor and saw CAD drawings come to life in full color 3D. My jaw slammed on the desk as I felt as I was the first one to discover/invent the internet!

PlanViewDesign

Plan View Design quickly became the leading custom home design firm in Brunswick County as not only homeowners were delighted to employ such a tool but, many local builders also saw the numerous advantages to working with 3D Designs. A year later I had the opportunity to purchase the company and PVD has designed over 200 custom built homes in Southeastern NC since.

Clients/Builders quickly learn that they can request changes to the structure, materials, paint colors and so on both inside/outside the home and typically get them returned the next day. According to Haley Wilson, VP of Plan View Design, “homeowners often don’t know what floor plan will work for them until after we combine a survey of their property, a set of their HOA building guidelines, budget, personal lifestyle and personal selections (granite, paint colors, flooring, lighting, materials, etc.). Once the first draft is completed, PVD clients are provided a downloadable viewer to see their plans from the comfort of their own home and/or office.

Local builders that have worked with PVD include Ernie Crews, Blue Sky Building Company, Barker & Canady, Mark Saunders Luxury Homes, Sacchetti Construction, Ward Construction, Whitney Blair, Homes of Distinction, Plantation Building Corporation, Bill Clark Homes and more. Communities where you can find PVD homes include Ocean Ridge Plantation, Landfall, Sea Trail, Rivers Edge, SeaScape, St James Plantation, Brunswick Forest, River Landing, Waterford, Winding River Plantation, RiverSea Plantation and throughout Brunswick County beaches.

In addition to seeing your home from every possible angle before the first shovel is in the ground, homeowners are encouraged to seek bids from several builders as America’s free enterprise system will save you Ten$ of Thousand$ of Dollar$. “If you don’t go out for bids, how will you know if you are getting a good price,” according to Doug Terhune, owner of Plan View Design.

If you have a homesite and/or are considering acquiring a homesite, Plan View Design can design your home anywhere in the world, so please visit www.PlanViewDesign.com and take our virtual tour on the bottom of the home page plus, please view our Gallery of Homes and see if you can detect which is 3D and which is real! Contact Haley Wilson, CPBD (Certified Professional Building Designer) for ALL of your design needs, as PVD is a full service custom home design firm. (local builders build homes from our plans) We share the new Carolina Plantations Real Estate building on Hwy 17 in Shallotte right next to The Golden Corral restaurant. 4660 East Coast Lane Shallotte, NC 28470 910 754-9999

Eliminate. Eliminate. Eliminate.

In every job we accept, we learn at least one thing. Right/Wrong, Good/Bad – as long as our brain is still sending impulses to the rest of our bodies, we must be learning something at work. Perhaps not everyday nor as often as we wish, but learning happens. In fact, I feel very comfortable that I would not be alone by stating that I learned more about how “not” to manage people and a company from my previous employers than learning the correct way to manage. Sound familiar anyone?

At the end of 2001, I made a bold personal decision to leave a 20 year career in Industrial Automation and jump into real estate – an industry that had long piqued my interest. My first boss in the business was an ear to ear grinner from the Bay State that provided me the basic platform of information needed to be successful in this arena. Dan Shattuck was one of those rare bosses whose teachings were actually valuable and had practical use.

My first gig was at Winding River Plantation in Brunswick County, NC. Our sales office, which was several attached mobile homes with a teal colored metal roof, is still located on the corner of Hwy 211 and Zion Hill Road. Dan had been with the Blue Green Corporation for about seven years and had recently relocated from a project at Fairfield Glade in Tennessee. Dan liked to teach and well, I needed to learn, so it proved to be a good combination.

Something Dan shared with me 11 years ago still rings very true today, and that is when people come down to Brunswick County to visit St. James, Sea Trail, Ocean Ridge, Brunswick Plantation, Winding River Plantation, Rivers Edge, Crow Creek, Brunswick Forest, etc., they are actually coming down to eliminate. In addition to eliminating communities/plantations, many of our clients have other destinations to preview such as Charleston, Asheville, Florida, Hilton Head, and so on. Dan explained that on someone’s first visit down, your #1 goal was to make sure you are on their list for their second visit down!

Whether it is a conscious thought or not, people are eliminating as they tour each area, home and community. And this is a good thing because if you don’t eliminate the possibilities, your search for that perfect community to retire to will stall.

HomeChart

So if you have yet to set out on your journey to find retirement utopia, do yourself a huge favor and write down a list of destinations and communities that are in the running. At the end of every day of your search, eliminate something. Could be just a home style, a community or a particular town, but make progress and you will be grateful as every strike of the pen gets you one step closer to the rest of your life!

Mountains vs Beach?

mountains beach

As one travels down the east coast there are plenty of beaches to select from when looking for a place to retire to. Mountains living selections though draw from a much smaller list. The Smokey Mountains are located in both Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Other than that, everything else on the east coast are just hills unless you head back north to New England. Therefore, I will concentrate on living either on the Coastal Carolina Beaches or in the Smokey Mountains.

Now it might alarm you that spending my entire youth in Bergen County, NJ that I made my way south to Knoxville to secure my degree in Marketing from the University of Tennessee. My Dad’s best friend and our next door neighbor was a UT grad and two of his three kids attended UT and all three of the kids in my family attended UTK.
One of the attractions to Knoxville was the short 50 minute drive over to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. Once there we loved to go tubing down The Little River, play Hillbilly miniature golf, walk around downtown Gatlinburg and go hiking in Cades Cove. So, this Jersey Boy has a special place in his heart for the Smokey Mountains.

The idea though of living in the mountains possesses several obstacles for many people. Here are a few:

  • Weather – not only do the Smokey’s get snow, but the constant foggy mist (aka Smokey) hovering over the trees can block the much sought after sunlight quite often
  • Roads – ever attempt to get from Point A to Point B in the mountains quickly? Just can’t be done as the winding, twisting, turning, hilly roads prevent efficient driving times
  • Sports – if you love to hunt and fish, the mountains can be a paradise. If however you like to play golf, walk or jog you are in for one heckuva workout!! OMG, 18 holes can feel like 100 holes if your course has a decent rolling topography, and I am talking WITH a cart!!
  • Proximity to Other Cities – Asheville and Knoxville are pretty much it. I lived in one and traveled to the other a whole bunch of times, and while both are nice small towns, they certainly are not Charleston, Charlotte or Raleigh. On a personal note, my first job out of UT was working for Duracell batteries and was based out of Greenville, SC. Back in 1979 I remember vividly that my first 9 trips to Asheville required an umbrella.
  • Building costs – several years ago I was up in the NC mountains visiting a few developments that buddies of mine worked at. I was alarmed/shocked when I learned that the cost per square foot to build in the mountains can often reach $300’. The undulating terrain can really add to your building expense and in most cases mountain living is cost prohibitive.

The #1 alternative to mountain living is living at the beach. From the VA border to the GA border, the Carolinas have hundreds and hundreds of miles of white soft sandy beach fronts. Along with the relaxed atmosphere you will almost always find at the beach, don’t be surprised if there’s a little Jimmy Buffett in all of us! Spending a day with soft white sand between your toes and your favorite adult beverage in your hand sounds a little like paradise, doesn’t? Here’s how the beach compares:

  • Weather – the thermal layer here protects us in the summer and in the winter, so we are considerably less extreme than our inland counterparts.
  • Roads – we have flat, straight roads where getting from Point A to Point B is easy and quick
  • Sports – surf casting, saltwater fishing, hundreds of (flat) golf courses, kayaking, tennis, windsurfing, walking…..
  • Proximity to Other Cities – Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Raleigh and even Charlotte are never far from you if you live on the coast
  • Building Costs – Customized homes run $110- $130’ while custom homes are $140 – $200’

One of the wild cards in all this is GRANDCHILDREN. Back about 12 years ago I was working with a nice couple from CT and I will never forget what the husband said after I gave him a thorough tour of the area. He said “Doug, this area is the honey for the bees”, and I knew right away he was referring to their grandchildren. Let’s face it; a week in Disney will cost your kids $5,000+ however, a FREE week at Grandma & Grandpa’s home at the beach…..Priceless!

Like we say to all of the great people we are fortunate to work with, you will never know if there is an area for you that matches your lifestyle requirements until you get out of the house and explore, so Happy Exploring!

Your Top 10 Priorities

In 1999 I sold my home north of Boston and came to Wilmington with a fistful of hot cash. I had owned five homes up till my move to North Carolina and all had been in planned communities. This time though I was bound and determined to break the mold. I was headed to the warm sands of Wrightsville Beach and nothing was going to stop me.

The first home my Realtor showed me was about 7 homes from the beach. Wow – imagine being able to hear the roar of the Atlantic at night from your bedroom window? However, on closer review, the house was in shambles and still had shag carpet from the 70s. Nothing in the house was new and fresh like I was accustomed to plus the price was about $150,000 over my pain level. So off we went to look at a condo on the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). Bingo! l love boats and I was going to make this work. Well, that was until I realized the condo consisted of only one bedroom which was stuck in a loft whose only access was a small spiral staircase. Oh, and did I mention the entire square footage was 587’?

Eventually I built a new custom built home in a very nice community that was about 10 minutes from Wrightsville Beach but, at least I did give the beach a try, albeit an unsuccessful one at that. It was then that I learned a valuable lesson on priorities and expectations of real estate.

Moving is without a doubt one of the most exciting yet terrifying experiences one encounters in their lives. Often though moving enables dreams to come true, be it a bigger home, newer home, closer to the beach or family, etc. And whether you consciously create a list of priorities for your new place or not, you have them, I promise.

For fun, I thought I would attempt to show how women’s priorities often change as well as men’s priorities both before and after their first trip south. Keep in mind that while I am using generalities here, there is more truth to what I print than one might initially think!

Top10Priority

And here is what a guy’s view of moving south looks like before and after his first trip south.

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When I entered Real Estate many years ago, I learned of a bit of a controversial phrase that has been kicked around for years – “Buyers are Liars”. I take exception to this fable because Buyer’s often do not have all the information they need to make a well informed decision as they begin their search. However, once they do have this information, they quite often change their minds. This is not lying mind you, this is just the natural flow of processing information.

A good example is that a couple could come down and be very focused on living on the water. However, after a week of scouring the area, several communities and numerous homes, they abandon their search for water views in exchange for a brand new home in a very friendly golf course community. This happens every day of the week here and is no surprise to those of us in the industry of making dreams come true!

If you have not begun your search, have some fun and write down your Top 10 Priorities for your eventual move south. Put it somewhere you will be able to find it in a year or so and once you find your ideal location/community/home, pull it out to compare with your original priorities. Our team of professionals have been doing this for years and we know that in order for our clients to make well informed decisions that they require significant information.