What We’ve Learned in 16 Years

In March 2007, Doug followed his entrepreneurial spirit and opened Carolina Plantations Real Estate. He leased a 1600 sq foot office directly off Hwy 17 in Ocean Isle Beach, just a half mile before Ocean Ridge Plantation. Doug was one of the first three business employees; boy, was he naïve.

The market in Brunswick County was just coming down from a utopian high where we all saw homesites selling as quickly as a bulldozer could knock down a few trees. It was the “Land Grab” of the early 2000s, and man, was it something to witness. It started in 2004, and in 2005 it was in full swing. The honeymoon continued into 2006 and even a bit of early 2007; however, the cold shower was in the works, as the economy officially slipped into a recession in December of 2007. Excellent time to open a real estate company, huh?

Before venturing out on my own in real estate, Doug had worked for a prominent local developer, a large regional developer, and a friend of mine who operated a general brokerage in Southport. Real estate seemed natural for him as it allowed him to use a lot of general life knowledge that he picked up by living in NJ, TN, SC, GA, WI, MA, and NC. So, what have we learned in the past 16 years? A Lot!

Land, Design


  • Most realtors (unfortunately) know little to know about land
  • Dreams begin with a parcel of land. From there, you design & build your Dream Home
  • There is a lot to learn about what makes a suitable homesite: Wetlands, the direction of the sun, the topography of the land, soil composition, dimensions, location, pad ready, etc.
  • Years back, flipping dirt was a profitable side business. That dried up here in 2008
  • Do not purchase land haphazardly, if you don’t buy stocks haphazardly
  • The land is an asset – not an expense. It does under your Dream Home
  • Always check to see those utilities (water, cable, electric, gas, etc.) are available on your land


  • Be very careful about building in a “virtual” community. That is one in which the sales team says to close your eyes and picture a pool, fitness center, houses, golf course, etc.
  • Do your research on the developer, then do it again. There are way too many surprises out there lurking
  • Kick the tires – drive around and introduce yourself to current neighbors. Get their take and try to find similar socioeconomics or political beliefs of the neighbors (if necessary)
  • Finding a community that meets your active/inactive lifestyle is important
  • Take the time to research your monthly/annual fees. HOA, POA, and possible assessments
  • The newer a community is, the younger the residents are


  • What is outside your community is more important than what is inside your community:
    • Medical services, restaurants, shopping, entertainment venues, nightlife, big box stores, culture/museums, airports, beaches/mountains, etc.
  • Climate – What is your ideal year-round climate? Don’t switch out three months of horrible cold winters for three months of blistering summer heat
  • If you are an outdoor person (walking, gardening, tennis, golf, beach, etc.), a moderate year-round climate is best suited for you
  • Measure how far your area is from good friends, family, or big cities/mountains/beaches

Real Estate Companies

  • For the most part, Realtors generally have a small narrow geographic focus
  • In most real estate offices, Realtors are on their own. Little teamwork can be found
  • Real estate companies rarely provide their sales team leads, = you must produce your own


  • To succeed in real estate, you need a great team of outside partners, such as mortgage brokers, closing attorneys, insurance agents, home inspectors, photographers, developers, etc. Many thanks to Tom, Jennifer, Lucas, Jules, Ashley, Laurel, Vince, Kiersten, Carol, Randy, Valirie, Charlie, Jim, Kate, Vann, Jerry, Chris, Shane, Any, Melanie, etc.
  • You need a team of unselfish Brokers and admin folks to run an office. Our team is off the chart regarding teamwork, and our success thrives on this. All the thanks in the world to Patricia, Nancy, Pat, Patty, Nolan, Kyle, Bill, Seth, Mike, John, Bruce, Pam, Joe, Lori, Ryan, Christopher, Court, Haley, Mitch, Sabrina, Siy, Lindy, Sara, Casandra, Steve, Mandy and more!
Picture showing team at Carolina Plantations

Every year since 2007, our industry has faced countless challenges. Not just from the economy but external forces such as:

  • Companies that list your home for a small % but provide nothing else
  • Companies that buy your house for a reasonable price
  • Big companies that commandeered the internet search engine optimization world have zero people to assist you (all work is farmed out)

One thing that has not changed in our industry is appreciating realtors who work hard to earn your trust and put your requirements ahead of theirs. We have seen a lot of ancillary parts to our business change over the past 16 years and, at times, fell for the hype of how much Realtors are a dying breed, but that is far from the truth. It is comforting to know that the real estate market is not soon be replaced by robots, internet-based companies, or artificial intelligence (AI)!

Minimizing Your Economic Footprint

Showing two feet with dollar signs in them one labeled today and the other retirement

So, are you thinking about retiring, or do you already have? Well, unless you recently won the Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, the money is probably somewhat important to you. Since Doug is heading into retirement, he wanted to share some tips on how he’s doing his best to streamline his expenses.


Do you need two homes? Do you need a home over 3000 sq. feet after the kids have all moved out (hopefully!?) Reducing your number of homes or the size of each home can save oodles and oodles of money. We are talking taxes, insurance, electric, gas, water, maintenance, landscaping, and more.


Doug recently attempted to reduce his monthly bill for his Wi-Fi and cable at his downtown Wilmington residence. Ouch. The Wi-Fi was $75 a month, and the cable was $140 a month, for $215 a month. And with all the traveling that Doug has been doing lately, this is a pretty hefty sum of money to pay for those services. So, we recommend you look for alternative sources for your Wi-Fi and cable services.

As for your phone, there seem to be a lot of options for saving money, but due to the nature of the real estate, Doug cannot afford to miss phone calls or not have good service 24/7, so he is married to Verizon, and their high rates. They are currently the #1 preferred carrier in Coastal North Carolina. But one can save money on their phone service if you shop around and compare services.


As we approach retirement, reducing our costs can sometimes mean making sacrifices. Doug purchased a Mercedes Benz GLE 450 AMG several years ago as an ego scratcher. This was a secondary vehicle, with his Buick being the workhorse. He recently had to replace the four tires on his Mercedes, costing $2700. And to make matters worse, they only had 14,000 miles on them as they are very soft racing tires. Double ouch!

So, Doug got smart and traded in the AMG for a more economical MB (with tires that get 55,000 miles), and he is going to sell his Buick. This will not only reduce the cost of his insurance and taxes. Plus, since it is a new vehicle, there should be no worries about additional maintenance costs for 3+ years because of the new car warranty. As we all know, while an older car is typically paid off, the maintenance fees can eat you alive.


Home insurance, car insurance, supplemental insurance to Medicare, dental insurance, and the list can go on and on. It is essential to find excellent coverage on all the above, but with the right deductibles, because one can spend a lot of money just on deductibles from one year to the next.

Home Improvements

If you are about to retire and live in your “forever home,” you need to plan on it being your residence for at least another twenty years. That would put most of us in our early to mid-80s; if all goes well, you may be to sit down and budget for what kind of costs your new home will incur over the next 20 years. Items could include a new roof, HVAC, water heater, possibly new siding, replacement of windows (especially if you live in cold weather), new appliances, new carpeting, indoor/outdoor painting, electrical or electrical or plumbing work, etc.

Therefore, either do as many as you can now or seriously consider purchasing a new home, as the maintenance costs of a new home versus a 40+-year-old home for the next 20 years will drastically differ. Consolidating, minimizing, cutting down, reducing, making tough choices, eliminating, being thrifty, etc., are ways to ensure that your retirement is not bogged down with unforeseen financial issues. We know everyone experiences unexpected costs as we age, so it is essential to be as streamlined as possible when that does come. If you’re ready to change to Coastal North Carolina, let us help you find your dream retirement home.

Retirees Have a Lot of Love to Give

Picture of a red heart on white background

Whether you follow your dreams and move somewhere warm when you retire or stay in your comfortable current confines, it does not change the fact that your life is about to get different, perhaps very different. Whatever your routine was or has been for years (decades), it is tossed out the window the day you retire. Are we right?

Retirees know love. We have experienced it firsthand, and we have witnessed it our whole lives. We have received tough love and probably dished out our fair share. Our hearts have been broken, scarred, and mended. We have fallen in love and, unfortunately, probably out of love. We can spell love but probably don’t pronounce it enough.

When you scour the internet for retirement tips, the results are full of information on financing, medical care, and where to retire. Nowhere will you find an article on the importance of love in your retirement years. Except here. For example: Do you know how many daily hugs an adult need to maintain health and happiness? Eight. And if you want growth in your life, you’ll need twelve.

Studies have been completed on the effects of touch with seniors. In essence, the group that was touched or hugged at least three times a day or more had more energy, felt less depressed, and rested better. Here are a couple of simple ways we can practice the art of love in our retirement years.

Spouse/Partner/Special Friend

Picture 1 - Two couples playing a game of Pickleball on a court, Picture 2 - Dance party of couples in a backyard, Picture 3 - Doing outdoor activities with an older couple

Books – Find books that explore your positive power. One of the two best books that Doug has ever read was “The Celestine Prophecy.” Quick read and engaging on how it affects each reader differently.

Dancing/Pickleball/Tennis/Card Games – Do things together. Instead of saying, “How was your day, dear” you’ll say, “Wasn’t today a great day, dear?”

Travel/Day Trips/Adventures – Take a trip to the zoo, jump on a cruise ship, go for a two-mile hike along the beach, or explore a new town or state. The possibilities are endless.

Schedule Time Together – One of the two most successful marriages that Doug has ever witnessed was when he lived in Atlanta. His next-door neighbors, Susan and Bob, had three wonderful young children and busy schedules. But come every Friday night – Susan and Bob had a date night. Older people can do that too!


Picture 1 - Older man sitting in a chair with his dog sitting next to him, Picture 2 - Couple with their dog sitting in their home, Picture 3 - Older woman with a cat and Picture 4 - Older man with his cat

Dogs – Who doesn’t love a dog? And talk about being spoiled? Oh, my goodness. Retirees have so much love to give that when a dog comes into their lives, it can be smothered to death. As the flame in your relationship can fade or be diminished as time marches forward, a wagging tail can, in return, give unconditional love to every pet owner.

Cats – Dog owners often don’t understand cats or cat owners; however, the bonds people form with their furry feline friends can be just as deep with the four-legged creatures that bark. The excellent news about cats is that you can leave them for a day or two without worrying about them. You definitely can’t do that with a dog – unless you can train them to use a litter box and eat their food more slowly.

Birds/Rabbits/Reptiles/Fish – Sometimes, just coming home to a creature in your home that is dependent upon you for food/life gives you a sense of purpose for you to have a responsibility, which of course, helps you feel necessary.

While the time commitment for a pet can vary significantly, there is probably a pet out there for just about everyone. When Sophie, Doug’s wonderful Calico of 16.5 years, left him for kitty heaven several years ago, he purchased a stuffed replica of her. We cannot tell you how often he has talked to that stuffed cat as if Sophie was sitting next to him.


Picture 1 - many older couples helping with donation boxes, Picture 2 - Volunteers visiting an older person in a retirement home, Picture 3 - Young adults helping out at a retirement community with older adults

Nursing Home or Hospital – We don’t believe any nursing home has ever turned away a volunteer (well, maybe just once or twice during the pandemic). It is the opposite, plus you’ll be able to fill your quota of daily hugs in just minutes of walking in the door! And you don’t need any unique talent to simply talk to the residents, watch TV with them or kick a balloon in a group session.

Civic Organizations – Join your local Rotary, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Lions Club, or other local groups. These organizations are fraternities and sororities for adults, so not only do you forge wonderful new friendships, but you will be out there in the community helping others and sharing your love.

In the late fall of 1989, Doug and his ex moved from Atlanta to Milwaukee. Susan went home to Georgia for Christmas, leaving him at their new home with their Cocker Spaniel, Misha. On Christmas Eve, Doug walked into the nursing home just down the street and met the Activities Director. She introduced him to a handful of (also lonely) residents, and on Christmas Day, he baked and delivered a large number of cookies to the residents. Doug’s heart was soon filled with love as he saw each resident’s appreciation. He volunteered there at least twice a month until they moved away from Milwaukee. And FYI, anyone reading this can do the same thing. You don’t need the invitation to spread love and joy.

Grandchildren and Family Members

Picture 1 - Grandmother and Grandfather chasing their two grandkids on a beach, Picture 2 - Grandparents reading a book to their three grandchildren, Picture 3 - Granddaughters hugging their grandparents in their home
  • In the 20+ years that Doug has been focused on selling real estate to retirees, the #1 reason for moving to Coastal NC and back home is grandchildren.
  • Retirees have a lot of love to give, and what better audience than your children and their children? However, some folks love their grandchildren just as much but from a distance, as they feel they have already done their fair share of babysitting, rides to games, laundry, and so much more.
  • One of the best lines we have ever heard was the following – Grandchildren are the reward for having not killed your children. (I think we all feel this at some point in our lives!)
  • And speaking of family, many of us devote excessive time to love our parents or siblings. Case in point: a dear friend of Doug’s mother was experiencing memory loss. The four children are split between 4 states, and the cost of a good, not the best, memory care facility in Wilmington is $8100 a month.  

So, when you retire and have a calendar where you keep your daily chores, appointments, or activities, be sure to put somewhere on there to love someone every day. It could be an Aunt Patricia, brother Chase, wife, dog named Butterscotch, neighbor Nolan and so forth. Whether you’re just looking for your retirement home or ready to move to Coastal, NC, we will be here waiting to help you through that process!

Avoiding Stage 3

Recently, Doug read a good article about the five stages of retirement, though there was a stage worth some attention. We wanted to share these stages with you as he is embarking on his pending retirement in the years ahead.

Family of grown adults throwing a party for an older lady who is retiring

According to the article, here are the five stages most people experience before and during retirement years:

  1. Pre-Retirement
  2. The Honeymoon Phase
  3. Disenchantment
  4. Re-Orientation & Finding Yourself
  5. Stability

Stage One: Pre-Retirement

To retire successfully (the first time), more time than you might think needs to be spent in the years leading up to your retirement date. Ignoring the following can be costly and lead to unnecessary stress and wasted time.

  • Financial preparation is by far the utmost vital criteria for retirement
    • Living costs & medical costs make up the most significant part of your budget
    • Family expenses can often creep up on you faster/more extensively than expected
    • Accounting for fluctuations in your investments is critical (as in NOW!)
    • Try to project your daily life as a retiree
      • What will I do after I wake up for the next 14 – 16 hours?
    • What are your goals for retirement? (Rest, be active, travel, family needs, work, etc.)
  • Where do you want to live?
    • Downsize? Upsize? Move away? Stay local? One or two places?

Stage Two: The Honeymoon Phase

Woohoo!! The day has finally arrived. No more lousy bosses, long commutes, late nights in the office, pain the rump employees, etc. Freedom at last! During this stage, you may have feelings of excitement, liberation, and relief from the stresses brought to you by the working world. These feelings often last for 1 to 2 years; however, they can last for much longer, depending on how you spend your time.

A considerable portion of your time initially will be spent reconnecting with friends and family, indulging in new & old hobbies, and enjoying more freedom to do whatever you please.

Stage Three: Disenchantment

After the emotional high begins to wear off and the honeymoon phase is over, many people start to feel disappointed and let down with their current life. Retirement is something that many of us look forward to and spend a lot of time hyping up. So, once you’ve settled into retirement, it can begin to feel less exciting than you once thought. Many people may feel lonely and bored and have lost their sense of purpose.

Stage Four: Re-orientation and Finding Yourself

Like any other stage, you eventually begin to adapt to your new circumstances and navigate your new life. This is the hardest part of retirement, as re-finding your purpose and establishing who you are takes time and a lot of conscious effort. Even though it can be tricky, this is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable stages.

Typically, this is the time to try new things, find new hobbies, and re-find your purpose in life. Without a full-time job and no children (hopefully no full-time grandchildren either) to care for, it can be hard to find a purpose. But researchers worldwide agree that finding something that reignites your spark is crucial. This could be pursuing a passion, volunteering, looking after your grandkids, or adding something fun and exciting to your daily routine.

Stage Five: Stability

The final stage of retirement brings feelings of being content and joyous in retirement and your new life. You may find yourself settled into your new routine and lifestyle, doing things you love that make you feel happy and fulfilled and enjoying your life with a new sense of purpose and identity. And this is being single or with someone you love.

Disenchantment is undoubtedly the stage that most of us need to be careful of. Think of it this way: You spend an excessive amount of time researching when and where to retire, designing and building your Dream Home, meeting new neighbors, and getting used to not having to work. Then one day, you wake up and are bored to pieces. Your spouse is engaged in numerous activities, and other than watching TV, you have very few friends, if anyone, to hang out with.

Couples especially need to be careful of having one spouse become sedate, as that will almost always lead to resentment or jealousy. And as a single person, it’s imperative not to let your guard down, as you might not have anyone to pick you back up. Retirement can be scary.

So, how does one avoid all or most of Stage Three? The best advice is to set up a daily routine, just like you had when you worked and or were an active parent. We need reasons to wake up; no, we are not just talking about going to the bathroom. You need a purpose – exercising, reading, volunteering, part-time job, neighborhood activities, taking the dog for a long walk, community civic groups, sewing club, poker night, being a candy striper, etc.

In Doug’s semi-retirement, he attempts to do as much as possible. He plays golf with a group of men from his condo building; is attending a new Rotary club; has a couple of favorite fishing holes; enjoys dining out at new restaurants with new friends; learning to play tennis again; often traveling (5 cruises this year, and counting); vacationing with family and entire company; trying to find a new church; writing his monthly eNewsletter Carolina Dreamin’; being active as a Trustee at Brunswick Community College, and more.

PLAN PLAN PLAN. If you don’t have one, you may be mighty bored during your golden years! You’ve been a very productive person since high school, and now your calendar is wide open, so it is up to you and you only to start thinking about what you want to see on your Daily calendar when you throw in the towel at work. And once you project your future, it is time to execute because we all know that a great plan is nothing without execution. 

Moral of The Story: Avoid Stage Three!

Crystal Ball for Current, Local Real Estate Trends

Every week, the team of Brokers at Carolina Plantations is asked if this is an excellent time to buy or sell. Since timing is just about everything in life, here are some crucial factors about our market here in Coastal North Carolina (Wilmington & Brunswick County). What we need to know about the market here by no means should or could be relatable to any other market, for we know our market and only our market.

crystal ball showing 2022/2023 Real Estate Trends with hands of a woman gypsy

What We’re Seeing

Doug spoke with two builders recently, and both said that the increased costs in building products have hardly come down. Yes, it was expected to drop; however, demands remain incredibly high for new homes in our area. In the spring of 2021, our region saw a surge of buyers coming here and scrooping up homes left and right. It was similar (from what we heard) to the Western Land Grab of 1889. This unexpected tidal wave of buyers just depleted our usual level of homes on the market. Most of the demand was fueled by COVID-19; however, one should keep in mind that Coastal NC is still one of the Top 3 Retirement destinations on the East Coast. With little to no inventory of homes to sell, buyers turned to builders despite the increased pricing of lumber and virtually all building materials.

Good Examples

  • Our firm helped launch the building career of a local builder in our area in 2019. Doug spoke with David last week, and in early 2020 (pre-COVID), he was in the process of building ten homes, which is excellent for a small builder. Today, he and his team have 30+ homes under construction, and the demand has not slowed for them as we still have very little inventory of any kind of home to sell.
  • One of our long trusted regional builders, who we have worked with on over 100 homes being built for our clients over the past 12 years, is now quoting an 18-month turnaround on the completion of their homes. Two years ago, they were quoting 8-9 months for delivery of a home after breaking ground. Shortages of skilled labor and never-ending supply issues are the two caustic factors contributing to the delay.
  • With the Fed doing its jobs to slow down the economy, reports that it is affecting the real estate markets in major cities are actual, as inventories are climbing.
  • We still see multiple offers on homes and condos if the product is in good condition and reasonably priced. Bargains are not yet on the table here as we are still in a Sellers’ market along the coast.
  • We had a team meeting recently with a prominent builder in the area, and they have 17 rooftops for sale. A couple of townhomes are complete, but the homes are all under construction with a completion date of September to December. This is GREAT news as we have many buyers who have sold their homes elsewhere and need a home ASAP.
Picture on left has builders on a home and picture on right has a house with green grass and a for sale sign

Much of what we have shared with you regarding our current conditions in Coastal NC can be found in a recent Forbes article on 2022 Housing Market Predictions. This article focuses on macro while our thoughts are micro. Click Here for a good read from Forbes.

Warnings for Buyers & Sellers in our Market


  • We do not see prices for new homes going down anytime soon. Perhaps, mid-late next year, if our country can get a grip on supply issues, but we can’t guarantee it.
  • Resales prices are already leveling off, and many knuckle-headed Sellers are finding out that their asking prices are simply ridiculous.
  • You still need to act quickly on a new or resale home. You might not have as many offers to contend with, but don’t get lazy or too confident that your green money is greener than others.


  • Listen to your Realtor. Don’t ignore them. We provide you with real numbers, history, and statistics, so don’t toss those out and list your place at a price it will not sell.
  • Prices are declining nationwide, so don’t sit back and wait too long.
  • Know where you are going. Just don’t list and sell unless you have somewhere to move to. Rentals are almost non-existent, and prices for rentals have increased significantly.

We have shared with you some significant trends in our market, so now it is up to you to consider this information if you’re buying or selling soon. And as always, please contact our team at Carolina Plantations at 910-755-7557 for friendly, informative, and timely conversations.

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