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Old 07-06-2014, 12:25 PM
 
Location: St. George, Utah
755 posts, read 964,207 times
Reputation: 1971

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I'm planning our first trip to NC for next summer, and need some direction as to where to start. It will be a family vacation as well as a first house-hunting trip, and we are completely new to the area. I apologize for the long post, but we'd love some pointers as to where to get started. We'll be renting something through VRBO when we settle on a spot.

NC has been on our radar for a long time, and we're ready to start looking at the area seriously, to determine if we would enjoy (and/or could afford) a beach home somewhere along the coast. It will take us at least a year past our initial foray, we expect, to actually make a purchase. So for now we'd like to find a good base from which to explore a section of the coast/Outer Banks. (See, I don't even know what to call it properly. I'll be made fun of, but I can take it.) We haven't ruled out coastal AL or GA, but right now the Outer Banks look like our best bet.

We are hoping to keep the price under $300k. As we're in the construction industry, a fixer in a better neighborhood is a possibility. Renting it out is a likelihood too, though not our main concern. (This will not be our first vacation home, and we don't currently rent out our others, but having the home inhabited periodically prevents a lot of maintenance issues while creating some others; it's a trade off.) We are aware of the current issues with flood insurance and will be researching those costs further as we'll likely finance the purchase. We'll be looking into whether non-compliant homes are even worth looking at as we aren't sure of the feasibility and costs of bringing homes into compliance, or possibly making a cash purchase for a noncompliant home in the right location. All new to us.

This would be a vacation home, so while we need basic shopping, we don't need a big population center, jobs, etc. A few decent restaurants and a basic grocery store, with bigger shopping (Costco!) within an hour or so would be fine.

We have 4 kids ages 7-14. A variety of activities would be great, so I am looking at Surf City, Carolla so far (knowing NOTHING about these places except that Carolla shows up on a list for a decent surf spot, and has wild horses wandering around, hmmm. Surf City I'm taking a stab as having some surfing, but maybe not!) as locations with affordable homes very close to both the beach and the sound/ICW (seriously, I don't know what things are called!!). This would provide opportunity for fishing, daysailing, etc. as well as beach activities. We'd like a beach with decent, consistent surfing as my younger daughter is a beginner surfer. A surf shop nearby is a must. A short walk or bike ride to the beach, without crossing a busy highway....I guess we want it all.

I don't want to sound too stuffy, and maybe I'm being naive, but if we could find a town/beach that is family friendly and not too heavy on drug presence I'd be thrilled. We love visiting beaches in California, but it seems there is always obvious drug activity going on around us, unavoidably. We find the same on some of the beaches in Maui (more the public beaches, less the ones at resorts, obvs.). Less so on the state beach we like to visit on the NJ shore in our experience. I get that drugs are a beach thing to some extent for certain groups. Still, if there are communities that are a little cleaner cut and have the amenities I described above (while still offering houses second or third row for $350k or less!) I'd be more comfortable with the kids riding their bikes to the store, etc.--if that's still a reality in that part of the world.

Thanks in advance for any direction you can provide.
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Old 07-06-2014, 05:09 PM
 
353 posts, read 516,159 times
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You're going to need to prioritize your "want list". Figure out what you want most, because I don't think you can get everything you listed. You'll need to make some trade-offs.

I can't answer all your questions, but here are some thoughts:

There is no Costco near the Outer Banks. There is very little shopping at all there. The only Costco in NC near the beach is in Wilmington. (btw, The Outer Banks is just the line of skinny little barrier islands along the north coast of NC. It runs from about the middle of the coast up to Virginia. Look at a state map and you'll see them.)

There is good-to-excellent surfing (by East Coast standards) all along the Outer Banks, with Kill Devil Hills and Cape Hatteras being probably the best.

There are oodles of surf shops all over the Outer Banks. I have a friend who owns one.

Other than surfing, fishing, eating out, and going to bars, there's not much else to do at the Outer Banks. I think after a short time, your kids would be very bored.

Hurricanes/tropical storms hit the Outer Banks HARD. They're really nothing more than thin sand bars and any time there's any sort of storm event, the roads will be under water and often get washed out and have to be rebuilt. Mandatory evacuations are the norm for pretty much all approaching storms.

Surf City isn't in the Outer Banks. It's close to the Marine base, Camp Lejeune, and so it draws a lot of people from there.


My best advice, do some more research, take some time off, and spend a week or two at the places you think best fill your criteria. I personally wouldn't ever consider living at the Outer Banks, but other people do and like it, we're all different.
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Old 07-06-2014, 05:13 PM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
11,900 posts, read 21,829,579 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Montanama View Post
So for now we'd like to find a good base from which to explore a section of the coast/Outer Banks. (See, I don't even know what to call it properly. I'll be made fun of, but I can take it.) We haven't ruled out coastal AL or GA, but right now the Outer Banks look like our best bet.

We are hoping to keep the price under $300k.
I'll just make a few comments. The Outer Banks certainly has the best surfing on the North Carolina coast. BTW the Outer banks is restricted to the area from the Virginia Border to Okracoke island. The rest of the coast has barrier islands but they have different names. Carolla is part of the Outer Banks, and Surf City is not. Surf City has some surfing, but nowhere near as good at the Outer Banks. OTOH, the Outer Banks has far more risk of hurricane exposure.

If you check Realtor.com, you can find houses in Carolla, or other towns like Avon, with prices under $300K. However, they probably won't be on the second row, and you may have to cross the highway. I don't think the Outer Banks has a huge drug problem, but I wouldn't want to let my kids ride to the store alone. Good Luck on finding your dream home.

Addition: The previous poster has good advice. The Outer Banks is quite isolated. The few grocery stores have higher prices than the mainland, and there are no big box stores.

Last edited by goldenage1; 07-06-2014 at 05:33 PM..
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Old 07-06-2014, 05:48 PM
 
Location: St. George, Utah
755 posts, read 964,207 times
Reputation: 1971
Thank you--these are the things we need to know. It's hard to do research on the *whole* coast when you know virtually nothing about it--I can find tourist attractions like museums, lighthouses, parks etc., and we have searched Realtor.com to get an idea of pricing. But you can't choose a location strictly on prices--so many things we don't know.

We know about hurricanes, obviously, but that about sums up our knowledge of the area, besides what friends have told us in general. We can't afford the tonier areas we've heard about, that we know for sure, but we'd like something pleasant and generally safe/ low crime if that's possible.

That's why it's important to me to start out in a pretty good bet for our first vacation, and go from there. We aren't rich, so every trip we make will have to be productive as far as getting to know which spots we would like to spend more time in, and which we can afford. No point in wasting time somewhere that we know we could never end up buying, if that makes sense.

We aren't looking to live there, just vacation regularly if we think it's a good spot. So if there are the basic box stores in whichever town we'd be flying into and driving from, that will work. It doesn't have to be Costco, just a place to stock up within an hour or so--I say this not knowing how many hours it might take to reach destinations on the beach. I wouldn't expect to see large stores in the small towns near the beaches.

I thought all the barrier islands were called "Outer Banks," so you see I am learning already and I do appreciate that kind of info.

My kids do love beach activities, but we would like to have other options for day trips as well as activities close by like bike riding, kiting, etc.

As for Corolla, and other places with wild horses...is that a nuisance? I mean we have horses, I like horses, but I've never spent time anywhere that there are wild horses. It doesn't seem like it would be a selling feature, lol, but each to his own. The photos we saw of the wild horses just looked like....horses....hanging out in the driveway.

Last edited by Montanama; 07-06-2014 at 06:38 PM..
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Old 07-08-2014, 08:27 AM
 
188 posts, read 692,943 times
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I think that you will find that Surf City and Corolla are two very different beach towns. But, they should be very good starting points for your search. Each have very unique characteristics and 'vibes'.

Surf City is the middle of three townships on Topsail Island. Beware when doing an internet search for real estate, that the town of Surf City also includes mainland properties (some adjacent to the sound/ IntraCoastal Waterway). Topsail Island is 26 miles long, so I would estimate that SC encompasses the middle third of the coastline. The most commercially developed part of Topsail Island is right around the center of SC. Access to Topsail island is relatively easy and within 45 minutes of I-40 at SC and about 30 minutes from Jacksonville, NC at the north end. You cross an old swing bridge to access the island (there is also a high rise bridge at the north end). Centered around this entry road, you will see a collection of shops, an old, independent grocery store, causual dining restaurants (including several either oceanfront or with a view of the water). As you venture either way from the center of the island, you will see less retail and more homes of varying styles and size. There is quite an active surf scene in SC. The locals tend to gather near the SC pier right in the center of town. Their are 2 surf shops in SC. While having a decent amount of retail options, SC still maintains a small beach town feel. Tourism is the biggest industry in town and the peak season can get somewhat crowded.

Corolla is at the northern end of the Outer Banks in the Currituck region. Once one of the most isolated destinations in the country, over the last two decades this region has become much more developed. Now you will find a good number of retail shops, restaurant, and grocery options. For surfing, the OBX is known to see the best waves on the NC coast. To access the OBX, you have to travel on the infamous NC highway 12, which is very vulnerable to storms. I think you will also find a wide variety of home options in or around Corolla. I think you will be able to find seclusion, privacy, and some natural wonders in this region.
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Old 07-08-2014, 10:05 AM
 
Location: St. George, Utah
755 posts, read 964,207 times
Reputation: 1971
Quote:
Originally Posted by rbcp View Post
I think that you will find that Surf City and Corolla are two very different beach towns. But, they should be very good starting points for your search. Each have very unique characteristics and 'vibes'.

Surf City is the middle of three townships on Topsail Island. Beware when doing an internet search for real estate, that the town of Surf City also includes mainland properties (some adjacent to the sound/ IntraCoastal Waterway). Topsail Island is 26 miles long, so I would estimate that SC encompasses the middle third of the coastline. The most commercially developed part of Topsail Island is right around the center of SC. Access to Topsail island is relatively easy and within 45 minutes of I-40 at SC and about 30 minutes from Jacksonville, NC at the north end. You cross an old swing bridge to access the island (there is also a high rise bridge at the north end). Centered around this entry road, you will see a collection of shops, an old, independent grocery store, causual dining restaurants (including several either oceanfront or with a view of the water). As you venture either way from the center of the island, you will see less retail and more homes of varying styles and size. There is quite an active surf scene in SC. The locals tend to gather near the SC pier right in the center of town. Their are 2 surf shops in SC. While having a decent amount of retail options, SC still maintains a small beach town feel. Tourism is the biggest industry in town and the peak season can get somewhat crowded.

Corolla is at the northern end of the Outer Banks in the Currituck region. Once one of the most isolated destinations in the country, over the last two decades this region has become much more developed. Now you will find a good number of retail shops, restaurant, and grocery options. For surfing, the OBX is known to see the best waves on the NC coast. To access the OBX, you have to travel on the infamous NC highway 12, which is very vulnerable to storms. I think you will also find a wide variety of home options in or around Corolla. I think you will be able to find seclusion, privacy, and some natural wonders in this region.
Thank you, rbcp! I appreciate the time you took to give me a clearer picture of the two towns I mentioned. We focused in on those two, as I mentioned, because they appear to have a number of homes close to the beach that are in our price range, and both appear to have some surfing activity. Beyond that it's so hard to have a clear picture of the MANY beach towns we could choose from for this first vacation/launching point. Sounds like though they are very different either one would work for our family's vacation style.

How long does it take to drive up to Corolla from the mainland? I will of course map the route online, but often drive times are seriously inaccurate and I like to have local knowledge of traffic patterns at high season, which is when we would be there most often.

We are open to suggestions for any other towns that offer a variety of beach/sound activities (my son and husband like scuba diving, which we hear is popular around the shipwrecks off the coast there, and we all enjoy occasional snorkling but don't know if that's a thing in NC) and lower-priced beach homes while still being safe and family-friendly! For now I'll concentrate my further research on these two towns based on the info I've received so far.
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Old 07-08-2014, 10:17 AM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
11,900 posts, read 21,829,579 times
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Originally Posted by Montanama View Post
we all enjoy occasional snorkling but don't know if that's a thing in NC
Near shore it would be too sandy and shallow to see anything. However, if you could snorkle from a boat, it might be OK.
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Old 07-08-2014, 10:26 AM
 
Location: Chapelboro
11,847 posts, read 12,977,735 times
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Are you finding lower-priced beach homes in Corolla (it's spelled like the Toyota, but pronounced Ka-RAH-la)? I'm surprised if so because that area is quite "tony" as you mentioned.

Check out https://www.visitnc.com/coast for more info about the NC coast. There are about 350 miles of beaches in NC, so you'd be hard-pressed to pick one location to base yourself to explore the whole coastline. You're better off dividing it up like they do on the visitnc site and making several visits.

From what you've described I think you might like the Wilmington area or the Crystal Coast (Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City) area. The Outer Banks is a very popular vacation destination, but there isn't going to be a lot of big box shopping or malls, etc. There are no airports nearby to fly into, either, unless you fly your own small plane. The nearest major airports are Norfolk, VA and RDU (Raleigh).
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Old 07-08-2014, 11:26 AM
 
Location: St. George, Utah
755 posts, read 964,207 times
Reputation: 1971
Quote:
Are you finding lower-priced beach homes in Corolla (it's spelled like the Toyota, but pronounced Ka-RAH-la)? I'm surprised if so because that area is quite "tony" as you mentioned.
Oh THANK YOU for pronunciation help. I would of course have said it the Toyota way. Hate being ignorant to things like that.

I will spend some time on the link you provided above, thank you. I'm sure it will lead to more questions for this forum!

There are homes way out of our price range in both Corolla and Surf City, but there are many listings within our range that show as close to the beach, on the beach, or second row. My concern, of course, is that those homes in our range might be in an undesirable area for whatever reason that we wouldn't discover until we get there.

I'm not sure whether we can afford something very close to the beach along the Crystal Coast, but we are continuing to look, mainly on Realtor.com. I had read, I think on this forum, that the farther south we venture, the worse the surfing will be. My daughter would really like some consistent waves, rather than sitting and waiting for those few and far between surfable swells. She really wants to learn and improve, not just hang out.

We don't have it narrowed down enough or have a clear enough picture of the area to start contacting realtors yet. We just recently finished a home search in the Phoenix area and I'm not ready to dive into another relationship with a realtor, lol. (Though ours was great, and I am a realtor!) It's one of those "which comes first" situations where you need more info, but don't have enough info to know what info you need....lol. That's one of the reasons I find CD so helpful.

I guess a larger hub within an hour or so may not be reasonable then. Not a big problem, but something to think about. The coast is much larger than we had pictured, and we are unfamiliar with the access points/driving routes. All that we'll have to get a feel for when we get there I guess. From MT, we are used to long drives but sitting in traffic does wear on us. Around here we drive far, but we drive fast, lol.
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Old 07-08-2014, 11:36 AM
 
Location: Chapelboro
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The Crystal Coast is a much less fancy, more down to earth, area of the coast compared to parts of the OBX.
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