Billy and Sharon Winn have owned seven homes. Recently, they made what is hopefully their final move into Palmetto Creek, near Southport, N.C. They’d lived in North Carolina before, but most recently had spent three years in Connecticut.
“It was the swimming pool that really sold me,” she explained. The pool is a show-stopper, with a wade-in beach, cascading waterfalls, a Jacuzzi, seating in the pool, and lots of great landscaping.
In fact, the landscaping is another plus for the Winns. “You feel as though you’re in a five-star resort, with all the palm trees and walkways.” Mrs. Winn approves of the lake area which invites canoeing and kayaking, as well as the tennis courts and putting green. “There’s no need for a golf course, because there are so many in the area, and it save expenses,” she said.
Beyond the community, the land is natural, with thick woods evoking a far more rural setting than one which is only 15 minutes from Southport, and less than 30 minutes from Wilmington.
We are close to shopping and health care and our jobs, yet it feels much further out in the country.” Renee Britt was the realtor who helped them. “She went above and beyond in every way and was always there for us – just awesome,” Mrs. Winn should know. With all those moves behind them, they’re veteran home buyers, for sure.
For Kimberly and Tom Dellinger, staying in the mountains of Western North Carolina was a given. They’re firm about providing their two young children with what they had growing up – woods and creeks to play in.
At Biltmore Lake in the Asheville area, the Dellingers found just that – plus a 60-acre lake for boating, fishing, swimming and just admiring. “Once we saw the lake and the land out there, we stopped looking,” recalls Mrs. Dellinger, 37. “As soon as we saw it, we agreed this was it.”
Across the state, on the coast between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, Louise and Charlie Bowie understand that sense of homecoming. But they wanted the ocean, a marina, and golf. Boating up the Intracoastal Waterway to the Chesapeake Bay, where Mrs. Bowie grew up, was as crucial as the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course they found at Rivers Edge, a community in Brunswick County. Now in their 60s and close to retirement, the Bowies have been using their townhome on holidays and weekends, commuting from their current home in West River, Maryland. “It’s seven or eight hours to drive, but it’s worth it,” they say. Mr. Bowie, a trial lawyer, says people in his office tell him he’s more relaxed since they bought their second home. “I’m a Type A,” he allows.
For all of these families, quality of life was the most important thing when buying real estate. And that makes them the norm for people who choose to live in these states. “I personally believe that the future for North Carolina real estate, particularly in the mountains, will remain very bright for the foreseeable future,” upholds Neal Hanks, Jr., president of Beverly Hanks & Associates, which markets properties in Asheville, Hendersonville and Waynesville. Many people who move to the mountains or coast of the Carolinas can live anywhere, but choose these areas for their beauty and educational and recreational opportunities.
Technology lets them work from home, and nearby airports make travel easy. What’s not to love?
Nothing, the Dellingers believe. For Mr. Dellinger, a medical physicist, Biltmore Lake offers the attention to natural preservation he prizes.
The hiking and mountain biking at adjacent Pisgah National Forest ice the cake. For Mrs. Dellinger, a singer-songwriter, their community provides plenty of inspiration. There’s a practical component, too. “We felt this would offer good investment potential,” Mr. Dellinger adds.
While the Dellingers live full-time in their investment, others want a vacation home for now, to sell for a nice price later.
The Bowies don’t rent out their townhome; they’ll live there permanently on retirement. But they recognize that oceanfront property is a strong investment. There’s only so much available, and historically, oceanfront has had a much better appreciation than general real estate. Rivers Edge, where the Bowies have bought, covers 500 acres near the Shallotte River. Access to a marina, the always-intriguing golf course and plenty of health care facilities helped them make their decision to own here. The clincher? A closet that was also an elevator shaft. Stairs weren’t an option for Mr. Bowie, who’s had several knee surgeries. The elevator enabled them to buy the townhome, and enjoy upper-level balconies for gardening and sunset views.
For both couples, a good view is crucial. “We need to see water,” Mrs. Bowie affirms, describing how the moonlight sparkles on the river, which they can see from their bedroom.
Mr. Dellinger likes the way Mt. Pisgah forms the backdrop against Biltmore Lake. Pristine land and waters, as far as the eye can see, are not hard to get in the Carolinas. There are an estimated 50 million-plus acres of undeveloped land in both states – steadily increasing in value during the past 30 years. For those exploring a Sun Belt move, learn from the pioneers. Of the top 10 states ranked for residential resort property purchase, the Carolinas rank third, following Florida and California.
Potential buyers should remember that the 77 million baby boomers are retiring earlier than their parents. Not only are they healthier, they’ve got more disposable income than their parents did. Therefore, it might be wise to combine a love for water, mountains, farms, or city centers, with a pragmatic look at investing in what you love, for future gains.
The American Resort Development Association predicts even more pressure on resort property and vacation home buying through the next 20 years, as more boomers seek second homes. “There is a trend showing the consumer profile moving up the socioeconomic ladder,” their report says. It goes on to explain, “The typical vacation home owner is an upper middle income, middle-aged, well-educated couple.”
Second home buyers shouldn’t expect to make a down payment and have the property pay for itself all the time.
Appliances break, renters aren’t as careful as owners, and tempestuous weather can affect profitability. Either way, you want the best possible financial and emotional value for your investment. Here are a few guidelines:
Insist on a licensed Realtor with at least three years’ experience, and one who has earned credentials as a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) or Accredited Land Consultant (ALC). Buyer agents/brokers are becoming more popular for those who want an agent to represent their interests exclusively. Study the destination market-place. Search out real estate Websites and publications and regional business newspapers in local libraries.
REAL ESTATE TIPS
Spend some time in the county courthouse. True shoppers want objective information on recent sales activity. Employees there can show you how to get the data. Some counties even offer access via the Web. With just a few minutes of instruction, you can be researching transfer records as quickly as a trained title abstractor.
Don’t hesitate to make an offer. Paper is cheap. Working with an experienced buyers’ agent Realtor will give you the confidence to make offers on property. It never hurts to make a beginning offer that seems reasonable. The worst that can happen is the seller will say no. From there, you may learn there is more flexibility than you thought.
“Cash is King.” Be prepared to make cash offers. Get pre-approved by a mortgage broker so that your financing is in-hand. This process gives you leverage to close your transaction more quickly. Consider renting with option to buy. This will help you get to know the region, the roads and the neighbors before you buy.
The Winns, Dellingers and the Bowies have no regrets. “Follow your heart and go with your gut reaction,” Mrs. Bowie says. All the Dellingers need to do is look out the window. Daughter Reagan, eight, and son Noah, five, have built a fort out of sticks in the backyard.