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Your Checklist for Closing Costs

There are many potential homebuyers, and even sellers, who believe that you need at least a 20% down payment in order to buy a home, or move on to their next home. Time after time, we have dispelled this myth by showing that there are many loan programs that allow you to put down as little as 3% (or 0% with a VA loan).

If you have saved up your down payment and are ready to start your home search, one other piece of the puzzle is to make sure that you have saved enough for your closing costs.

Freddie Mac defines closing costs as:

“Closing costs, also called settlement fees, will need to be paid when you obtain a mortgage. These are fees charged by people representing your purchase, including your lender, real estate agent, and other third parties involved in the transaction.

Closing costs are typically between 2 & 5% of your purchase price.”

We’ve recently heard from many first-time homebuyers that they wished that someone had let them know that closing costs could be so high. If you think about it, with a low down payment program, your closing costs could equal the amount that you saved for your down payment.

Here is a list of just some of the fees/costs that may be included in your closing costs, depending on where the home you wish to purchase is located:

  • Government recording costs
  • Appraisal fees
  • Credit report fees
  • Lender origination fees
  • Title services (insurance, search fees)

Is there any way to avoid paying closing costs?

  • Tax service fees
  • Survey fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Underwriting fees

Work with your lender and real estate agent to see if there are any ways to decrease or defer your closing costs. There are no-closing mortgages available, but they end up costing you more in the end with a higher interest rate, or by wrapping the closing costs into the total cost of the mortgage (meaning you’ll end up paying interest on your closing costs).

Home buyers can also negotiate with the seller over who pays these fees. Sometimes the seller will agree to assume the buyer’s closing fees in order to get the deal finalized.

Bottom Line

Speak with your lender and agent early and often to determine how much you’ll be responsible for at closing. Finding out you’ll need to come up with thousands of dollars right before closing is not a surprise anyone is ever looking forward to. By working with a good real estate agent, you’ll ensure there are no surprises waiting for you at the end of the buying process. Contact Coastal Realty Connections today to get started!

What To Expect During Your Home Inspection

So you made an offer, it was accepted, and now your next task is to schedule a home inspection prior to closing. More often than not, your agent may have made your offer contingent on a clean home inspection.

This contingency allows you to renegotiate the price paid for the home, ask the sellers to cover repairs, or even, in some cases, walk away. Your agent can advise you on the best course of action once the report is filed.

How to Choose an Inspector

Your agent will most likely have a short list of inspectors that they have worked with in the past that they can recommend to you. Realtor.com suggests that you consider the following 5 areas when choosing the right home inspector for you:

    • Qualifications – find out what’s included in your inspection & if the age or location of your home may warrant specific certifications or specialties.
    • Sample Reports – ask for a sample inspection report so you can review how thoroughly they will be inspecting your dream home. The more detailed the report the better in most cases.
    • References – do your homework – ask for phone numbers and names of past clients that you can call to ask about their experience.
    • Memberships – Not all inspectors belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, and membership in one of these groups should not be the only way to evaluate your choice. Often membership in one of these organizations means that there is continued training and education provided.
    • Errors & Omission Insurance – Find out what the liability of the inspector or inspection company is once the inspection is over. The inspector is only human after all, and it is possible that they might miss something they should have seen.

Ask your inspector if it’s ok for you to tag along during the inspection. That way they can point out anything that should be addressed or fixed.

Don’t be surprised to see your inspector climbing on the roof, crawling around in the attic, and on the floors. The job of the inspector is to protect your investment and find any issues with the home, including but not limited to: the roof, plumbing, electrical components, appliances, heating & air conditioning systems, ventilation, windows, fireplace & chimney, the foundation & so much more!

Bottom Line

They say ‘ignorance is bliss,’ but not when investing your hard-earned money in a home of your own. Work with a professional you can trust to give you the most information possible about your new home so that you can make the most educated decision about your purchase. To find the right home inspector and to make sure the process is A-OK from beginning to end, it’s best to work with a real estate agent like those at Coastal Realty Connections. Contact us today to get started!

Ready to Make an Offer? 4 Tips for Success

So you’ve been searching for that perfect house to call a ‘home’ and you finally found one – it’s time to make an offer! The price is right, and in such a competitive market you want to make sure your offer is good so that you can guarantee your dream of making this house yours comes true!

Freddie Mac covered “4 Tips for Making an Offer” in their latest Executive Perspective. Here are the 4 tips they covered along with some additional information for your consideration before you make an offer:

1. Understand How Much You Can Afford

“While it’s not nearly as fun as house hunting, fully understanding your finances is critical in making an offer.”

This ‘tip’ or ‘step’ really should take place before you start your home search process.

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and will allow you to make your offer with the confidence of knowing that you have already been approved for a mortgage for that amount. You will also need to know if you are prepared to make any repairs that may need to be made to the house (ex: new roof, new furnace).

2. Act Fast

“Even though there are fewer investors, the inventory of homes for sale is also low and competition for housing continues to heat up in many parts of the country.”

The inventory of homes listed for sale has remained well below the 6-month supply that is needed for a ‘normal’ market. Buyer demand has continued to outpace the supply of homes for sale, causing buyers to compete with each other for their dream home.

Make sure that as soon as you decide that you want to make an offer, you work with your agent to present it as soon as possible.

3. Make a Solid Offer

Freddie Mac offers this advice to help make your offer the strongest it can be:

“Your strongest offer will be comparable with other sales and listings in the neighborhood. A licensed real estate agent active in the neighborhoods you are considering will be instrumental in helping you put in a solid offer based on their experience and other key considerations such as recent sales of similar homes, the condition of the house and what you can afford.”

Consider ways of making your offer stand out! Many buyers write a personal letter to the seller letting them know how much they would love to be the new homeowners. Your agent will be able to help you figure out if there are any other ways your offer could stand above the rest.

4. Be Prepared to Negotiate

“It’s likely that you’ll get at least one counteroffer from the sellers so be prepared. The two things most likely to be negotiated are the selling price and closing date. Given that, you’ll be glad you did your homework first to understand how much you can afford.

Your agent will also be key in the negotiation process, giving you guidance on the counteroffer and making sure that the agreed-to contract terms are met.”

If your offer is approved, Freddie Mac urges you to “always get an independent home inspection, so you know the true condition of the home. If the inspection uncovers undisclosed problems or issues, you can typically re-negotiate the terms or cancel the contract.”

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or your fifth, having a local real estate professional who is an expert in their market on your side is your best bet to make sure the process goes smoothly. Let’s talk about how we can make your dreams of homeownership a reality! Contact Coastal Realty Today and start the conversation.

Getting a Mortgage? Why So Much Paperwork?

Why is there so much paperwork mandated by lenders for a mortgage loan application when buying a home in North Carolina today? It seems that they need to know everything about you and require three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form. Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago.

As a matter of fact, there are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history.

1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank prove beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of paying the mortgage.

During the run-up in the housing market, many people “qualified” for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their homes. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again.

2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business.

Over the last seven years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and also negotiating another million+ short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they need to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news about this situation.

The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a mortgage interest rate below 4%.

The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty years ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990s and 6.29% in the 2000s).

If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of below 4%, they would probably bend over backwards to make the process much easier.

Bottom Line

Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates. If you’d like to take advantage of those rates, contact Coastal Realty Connections. Our talented real estate agents will help you cut through the red tape so you can find and buy the home of your dreams.

Why Getting Pre-Approved Should Be Your First Step

In many markets across the country, the amount of buyers searching for their dream home greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home in coastal North Carolina is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

But even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence to know if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website.

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

      • Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
      • Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
      • Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
      • Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Bottom Line

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted. Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be surprised at your ability to do so as well. Contact Coastal Realty Connections to learn more!

What Do You Need to Qualify for a Mortgage?

Fannie Mae’s “What Do Consumers Know About The Mortgage Qualification Criteria?” study revealed that Americans are quite misinformed about what is really required to qualify for a mortgage when purchasing a home.

To help correct these misunderstandings, let’s take a look at the survey results compared to the latest Ellie Mae Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently approved loans.

Survey Results vs. What’s Really Required

    • 59% of Americans either don’t know (54%) or are misinformed (5%) about what FICO score is necessary to qualify.
    • Many Americans believe a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher. 53.9% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.
    • 76% of Americans either don’t know (40%) or are misinformed (36%) about the minimum down payment required.
    • Many believe that they need at least 20% down to buy their dream home. New programs actually let buyers put down as little as 3%.

You Can Save for a Down Payment Faster Than You Think

In a study conducted by Builder.com, researchers determined that nationwide, it would take “nearly eight years” for a first-time buyer to save enough for a down payment on their dream home.

Depending on where you live, median rents, incomes and home prices all vary. By determining the percentage of income a renter spends on housing in each state, and the amount needed for a 10% down payment, they were able to establish how long (in years) it would take for an average resident to save.

According to the study, residents in North Carolina are able to save for a down payment the quickest in just under 7.32 years.

What if we changed that percentage? What if you were able to take advantage of one of the Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae 3% down programs? Suddenly saving for a down payment no longer takes 5 or 10 years, but becomes attainable in under two years in many states. In North Carolina, you could save up a down payment in just 2.19 years. Suddenly, owning a home isn’t a far off dream – it’s a reality that’s just down the road.

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will definitely make the mortgage process easier. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just started to save for a down payment, or have been putting away money for years – you may be closer to your dream home than you think! To find out how close, contact Coastal Realty Connections today. We’ll make sure you find the best home at the best price sooner rather than later.

The Benefits of Working with a Real Estate Agent

Many people wonder whether they should hire a real estate agent to assist them in buying their dream home or if they should first try to do it on their own. In today’s market, the answer is clear: you need an experienced professional!

You Need an Expert Guide if You Are Traveling a Dangerous Path

The field of real estate is loaded with land mines. You need a true expert to guide you through the dangerous pitfalls that currently exist. Finding a home that is priced appropriately and ready for you to move in to can be tricky. An agent listens to your wants and needs, and can sift out the homes that do not fit within the parameters of your “dream home.”

You Need a Skilled Negotiator

In today’s market, hiring a talented negotiator could save you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. Each step of the way – from the original offer, to the possible renegotiation of that offer after a home inspection, to the possible cancellation of the deal based on a troubled appraisal – you need someone who can keep the deal together until it closes.

Realize that when an agent is negotiating their commission with you, they are negotiating their own salary; the salary that keeps a roof over their family’s head; the salary that puts food on their family’s table. If they are quick to take less when negotiating for themselves and their families, what makes you think they will not act the same way when negotiating for you and your family? If they were Clark Kent when negotiating with you, they will not turn into Superman when negotiating with the buyer or seller in your deal.

Bottom Line

Famous sayings become famous because they are true. You get what you pay for. Just like a good accountant or a good attorney, a good agent will save you money, not cost you money. If you’re ready to begin the home buying journey, don’t embark on this difficult path alone! Contact Coastal Realty Connections and find a real estate agent that will guide you, fight for you, and serve you well. You won’t regret it!

Buying a Home: Wants vs. Needs

In this day and age of being able to shop for anything anywhere, the best way to start is to understand the difference between wants vs. needs. This will help you figure out what’s really important to you as you begin your search for the perfect home.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a home of your own for some time now, you’ve probably come up with a list of things that you’d LOVE to have in your new home. Many new homebuyers fantasize about the amenities that they see on television or Pinterest, and start looking at the countless homes listed for sale with rose-colored glasses.

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen in order to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the man cave of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make or break now? These questions will help you figure out the difference between wants vs. needs.

The first step in your home buying process should be to get pre-approved for your mortgage. This allows you to know your budget before you fall in love with a home that is way outside of it.

The next step is to list all the features of a home that you would like, and to qualify them as follows:

    • ‘Must Haves’ – if this property does not have these items, then it shouldn’t even be considered. (ex: distance from work or family, number of bedrooms/bathrooms)
    • ‘Should Haves’ – if the property hits all of the must haves and some of the should haves, it stays in contention, but does not need to have all of these features.
    • ‘Absolute Wish List’ – if we find a property in our budget that has all of the ‘must haves,’ most of the ‘should haves,’ and ANY of these, it’s the winner!

Bottom Line

Having this list flushed out before starting your search will save you time and frustration, while also letting your agent know what features are most important to you before starting to show you houses in your desired area. In other words, an experienced real estate agent should absolutely be on your ‘must have’ list. Luckily, finding one is easy – simply contact Coastal Realty Connections to get started!

Consider Cost, Not Just Price

Sellers are most concerned about ‘short term price’ – where home values are headed over the next six months. As a buyer, however, you must not be concerned about price, but instead about the ‘long term cost’ of the home.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Freddie Mac all project that mortgage interest rates will increase by this time next year. According to CoreLogic’s most recent Home Price Index Report, home prices will appreciate by 5.2% over the next 12 months.

What Does This Mean as a Buyer?

Here is a simple demonstration of the impact an interest rate increase would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today if home prices appreciate by the 5.2% predicted by CoreLogic over the next twelve months:

The Bottom Line

Buy now – you can’t afford not to. The first step to getting your dream home is to get the ball rolling by contacting Coastal Realty Connections today. Your future is waiting!

Buying vs. Renting: Which Is Cheaper?

Good news for potential homebuyers!

Working with a real estate professional who keeps an eye on what the experts are saying about the housing market is a key factor to staying informed and making the best possible decisions for your family. If you’re renting, this is more important than ever. As noted in the National Rent Report, “National average Y/Y rent growth is a modest 1.7%.” This year-over-year increase may not sound like much, but it can add up – fast. The math on how much extra it will cost you over time surely doesn’t lie.

Here’s an example:
On a $1,500 rental payment, an increase of 1.7% adds a cost of approximately $25 per month. When multiplied by the 12 months in a year, that’s a $300 overall annual increase. The price continues to multiply when you rent year after year, as rental prices rise. While $25 per month may not sound substantial, for many households, this value is equivalent
to being able to afford a gym membership, a couple of streaming service subscriptions, or a family pet’s food budget.

History shows how average rental prices have been increasing each year, and even when they’ve leveled off for a month or two on occasion, the increase over time has proven to be quite significant.

The graph on the shows how rents have grown:


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You CAN Afford a Home

Many people put off buying a home because they think they’ll save money by renting, or that they don’t have enough saved up for a down payment. For many people, however, buying is actually cheaper, even in the short term. This chart shows the advantage of buying over renting quite nicely.

Bottom line?

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, let’s get together to find your dream home. Contact Coastal Realty Connection and let’s get started!


Most affordable NC housing markets


Coastal Realty Connections

According to Coldwell Banker’s annual Home Listing Report, Ocean Isle Beach costs the most, while Elizabeth City is the most affordable housing market.  The report uses average listing price of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home over 2,700 US markets. The report shows that an average home price for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in North Carolina is $232,748. Within our area the beach communities of Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach, Oak Island, Topsail Beach area, Wilmington and Winnabow all fall above the average.

When you are ready to start looking for a new home or property to buy, consider using us as your Buyer’s Agent. It is critically important that you know the current status of the market and what properties are coming on, going off and changing prices. Along with this information, it is equally important your interest as a buyer are being well represented. We work hard to ensure our buyers are well represented and the best deal possible is negotiated for the purchase. We represent buyers and sellers. Contact us at 910-279-9398 or by email for how we can go to work for you.

Check out the full list of NC rankings.

View homes for sale.


Selecting The Right Retirement Community

4b5f527d172ec62d74822ae28c2f35dfWhen thinking about retirement, choosing a location can be an overwhelming decision.  How do you narrow down the choices?  The very best place to retire for you might be on a beach…or in the mountains…or near family…or in the same house you’ve lived in for years. It’s a personal decision that no one else can make for you. However, if you haven’t already settled on a retirement destination, an objective analysis of your options can help narrow your search.

In order to get started, we suggest that you start by thinking about the lifestyle you are looking for.  Remember to take into account that you may not need to be close to “work” anymore.  The time you used to spend commuting and working will be “free time” now.  So if you don’t have to be close to work, what services and recreation do you really need to be close to?  The beach, golf courses, nature, marina access and grand kids are some of the responses we hear when talking to clients ready to retire.  Some of the other topics that may be of equal importance are climate (4 seasons), proximity to an airport, healthcare, cost of living and tax benefits.  All of these points of interest are reasons that so many “Baby Boomers” are choosing to move to North Carolina.

Once you have selected the area of the country, trying to find the perfect spot that offers everything you want may still prove to be difficult.  Geared towards retirees, many developers have opted to design planned communities which offer location, amenities and an active lifestyle.  Define “active”, it means something different to almost everyone which is why you will find planned neighborhoods with equestrian centers, marinas, golf courses, spas, airplane runways, racquet clubs, golf cart only islands, dog parks, community gardens, dining and shopping.  With all of these options, no wonder people can be overwhelmed.  From my experience the most common question when discussing retirement location is “how will I meet new friends”? Leaving an area where you have worked and raised a family, the relationships and ties to that area can be hard to relinquish.  One thing is certain though, moving into a planned community will give you so many opportunities to make new life-long friends.  Social clubs and events are the best part of planned communities and the best way to find people with similar interests.  Retirement is called the “golden years” for a reason!  It should be the best time, totally dedicated to you and what you love to do, even if it is sitting on your porch reading a book.

Now you have decided on the area and type of lifestyle you want, it is time to visit that area and explore the possibilities.  Be flexible and adventurous!  Get out and meet the locals.  Ask them what they enjoy most about living there.  If you golf, schedule a tee time and request to play with members so that you have another opportunity to get information from someone that has been in your shoes.  It is also important to talk to a local REALTOR.  This is where you will get the best area info, tax rates, home values and the “ins and outs” of the area.   REALTORS can also represent your interests as the buyer, when visiting planned communities.  What most buyers don’t realize is that when you walk into an onsite sales office, those sales agents represent the seller, not you.  Protecting your interests and personal information is the best and main reason that people elect to use REALTORS for buying homes.  Don’t we all want our own personal advocate?  A REALTOR has a duty to the client they are representing and that relationship can greatly benefit a buyer.  Be open and honest about your goals for your new home and listen to suggestions and comments from your REALTOR.  Once you have brought your REALTOR up to speed, jump in the car and visit some of the communities that meet your criteria.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions or say no to something that doesn’t interest you.  As you visit these neighborhoods, walk through model homes and share your thoughts on design, lay out, size and location.  Sometimes seeing what you don’t want will solidify in your mind what you do want.  Visit the amenities in the community, ask about the Home Owners Association Bylaws and Dues so you have an idea of your financial commitment above and beyond the price of your home. When you think you have found the perfect community learn about the proximity to the services that are most important to you.  If you still have the warm and fuzzies then start looking more specifically at homes or house plans that you can customize.  This is really where all the fun begins!southport-03


Finding Perfect Coastal Neighborhood

Find Your Perfect Coastal Neighborhood

Driving into a neighborhood on a beautiful blue-sky day with the windows down you may smell freshly cut grass, feel the gentle breeze, and see attractive, well-maintained homes as well as friendly neighbors waving “hello.” This may be your expectation of the perfect neighborhood. But even if you experience what you hope for on the day you visit a real estate listing for sale, it is wise to understand, research and follow up on additional variables that make the neighborhood either a good fit or bad match for your overall happiness and long-term best interests.

With the purchase of a new home, you are buying more than a house. You are buying the lifestyle that comes with the neighborhood you choose. Multiple neighborhood factors deserve attention before you select a specific home. Do your homework and you increase your odds of making smart choices. Cut corners and you are setting yourself up for costly mistakes.

Balance and Prioritize Your Expectations

Finding your perfect neighborhood is actually a key piece of a larger puzzle. Without the rest of the puzzle pieces clearly defined, finding your perfect neighborhood, and ultimately your perfect home, becomes a random series of property searches that likely wastes both your time and money.

Clearly, smart home buying decisions start with a smart home buying plan. Start your smart home buying plan by defining the four following factors, which can then be balanced and prioritized into finding your perfect neighborhood:

  • Lifestyle goals –Do you prefer close and convenient proximity to work, recreation, shopping, schools and dining or are you are willing to drive a little further? Do you prefer an active urban lifestyle or suburban lifestyle that offers more privacy and wide-open spaces? Do you want low maintenance or do you enjoy completing projects around the house?
  • Home features – Think about the kitchen, flooring, stairs, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Is a spectacular view or fenced yard important to you? Do you prefer new construction or are you okay with a property someone else has lived in? Make a list of the important features of a home and prioritize into “Must Have,” “Nice to Have,” and “Unacceptable” categories.
  • Financial goals and resources – Buying a home is a big purchase and a big decision. More than just the price of the home, the cost of mortgage interest as well as various responsibilities of homeownership such as taxes, maintenance and repairs, must all be carefully considered. In turn, the investment potential for value appreciation should also weighed into your analysis.
  • Buying timeframe – How soon do you plan to buy? Do you need to sell first? Are there other variables that must be in place before you can even start looking? Also, try to project how long you will live in your new home. Although it is impossible to predict the future, an awareness of your plans will help you in finalizing your priorities and making smart choices

Twelve Criteria for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

Below are 12 criteria to include in your home buying priority list. Reviewing each and determining which have the greatest significance to you will allow you to narrow your search, and gain the peace of mind in knowing that when you come across the “perfect home,” it will be a neighborhood that meets your lifestyle goals as well.

1.       Choose a Neighborhood Personality that Matches your Preferences

We are often drawn to particular people by their looks – but developing a deep, mutually beneficial relationship usually goes well beyond appearances. A good match is often more about personality, the way someone acts and reacts, what they do with their time and how they do it, the things they enjoy and dislike, as well as their priorities, goals and aspirations.

In the same way, a neighborhood has a personality, and once you transition from being a home buyer to a homeowner, the neighborhood’s personality directly impacts your lifestyle. Experiencing that personality means going to the neighborhood park, golf course, pool or community center to view or participate in the activities and evaluate the resources and amenities. Eat in the restaurants, shop in the stores, drive and walk through the streets. When you visit, you will notice the friendly wave of residents walking their dogs or working in a nicely maintained yard.  Understanding a neighborhood’s personality is a critical step in making a smart home buying decision.

2.      Matching your Expectations to the Neighborhood’s Physical Characteristics

Is the terrain hilly or flat – for walking, running or cycling?  Are there sidewalks and street lights? Is the architecture and home designs to your liking? Is the property on city water and sewer or well water and septic? In addition, the upkeep of the neighborhood will significantly impact your home’s resale value, as well as how you feel about your surroundings. If you are looking in a particular price range, be sure to draw comparisons from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Some neighborhoods with a homeowners association (HOA) have firm building codes as to the size, architectural attributes and yard upkeep, making the homes more similar in style and appearance. Communities without an HOA may be more charming in the variety of homes and architecture, yet may have more risk in terms of how your neighbors maintain their property. Other HOA factors may include regulations for storage of additional vehicles such as boats and RV’s, as well various onsite improvements to your property. Annual HOA fees and special assessments must also be carefully reviewed. Our knowledable agents can help you evaluate the pros and cons of your short-list.

3.      Grading the Educational System

Children, if you have them, or plan on starting a family, obviously play a big part in your home buying decision. Some public schools can be highly rated and others can fall short of what you expect. If you prefer to send your children to a private school, access to that school may be a determining factor in where you live.

Whether public or private, the proximity and quality of a neighborhood’s schools can make a difference in your lifestyle, as well as the resale value of the home.

4.      Beach, Parks and Recreational Opportunities

Most people enjoy some form of recreation, whether at a gym, participating in outdoor sports or exploring a hike-and-bike trail. When recreation is a key priority for you, observe what amenities are readily available in a particular neighborhood. Walking, running, biking, golf, swimming and tennis are a few activities in which many people participate. If these amenities are noted in the neighborhood description and you intend to pursue them, be sure to evaluate whether or not the facilities are in good condition. Is there more than one tennis court if you play regularly? How close are you to the beach? Does the nearest beach have public access and ample parking? Is parking at the local beach complimentary or is there a fee?

In addition to your needs, consider your children as well. Are the streets flat enough or is there an area where your child can learn to ride a bike or engage in biking if it is a favorite pastime? Is there a community park where they can enjoy outdoor activity while meeting other neighborhood children? Does the park have shade for you? Obviously, you may have your own pool or backyard playscape for your children so you may not need these, but be sure to include it on your priority list if it’s important.

5.      Menu of Dining Options

Eating out can be fun, and is often necessary with today’s busy lifestyles. When you choose your new home, your need for nearby restaurants will depend on your routine. Picking up food near the office on the way home from work can be a viable option, but it’s also nice to take your spouse, family or visitors for a good meal at a local eatery.

Do your research on the types of restaurants that are close by. Do they suit your lifestyle? It may be that there are only chain restaurants and you prefer dining at a neighborhood treasure known for its signature dishes or uniquely fresh food. Alternatively, it could be the opposite and you enjoy a Starbucks coffee, a McDonald’s breakfast or an Italian feast at the Olive Garden on a regular basis.

6.      Quality and Proximity of Shopping and Local Businesses

Convenience and quality may be considered equal when you need an onion for your stew or an excellent bottle of wine. When setting your priorities for which neighborhood you choose, be sure to visit or at least make note of the grocery stores, the dry cleaners and other businesses that offer the products and services that you make use of on a regular basis. Observe whether your favorite chain of grocery, convenience store or gas station is in the vicinity, and if not, visit the existing store or service in the area.

The service industry, including hair and nail salons, attorneys, pet services and banking is another resource you can investigate. You may prefer a more intimate shopping experience with custom clothing and accessories, gift items and sporting equipment than a mall or other superstore may offer. A neighborhood bordered by shopping centers may be the perfect place for one home buyer, yet a negative aspect for another

7.      Entertaining Possibilities

Enjoying your lifestyle may mean venturing out for a movie or live music and possibly dancing. Austin, well known for its live music, offers venues all over town. Indoor and outdoor locations provide live entertainment ranging from country music to contemporary hip-hop. A neighborhood nearby to outdoor live music may not be as appealing to some, especially with the increased traffic concern, but others may enjoy the free concert. Explore this and other potential entertainment options, including movie theaters.

8.     Overall Proximity Preferences: How close do you want to be?

While location is touted as the most important aspect of choosing a home or neighborhood, individuals have their own perception of location and what is imperative. The school district will determine certain aspects of a location, but often there are several neighborhoods to decide on from within an Independent School District.

If school is not high on your priority list, other factors may be its proximity to downtown or the airport, work, family or medical facilities. Would you want to stay in that neighborhood if your job moved you farther out? Shopping and dining preferences may also play a factor in the location of the neighborhood.

9.      Getting there – Road Status and Drive Times

In our modern world of nearly every household possessing one, two or three cars, the condition of the roads and their capacity to handle the traffic make an impact. We can help answer your questions about traffic patterns during our time together.

Public transportation is available in some parts of  New Hanover and Brunswick Counties.  Biking in cities like Southport and downtown New Bern & Southport is an easy way to get around.

10.  Safety First

A low crime rate, low incidence of accidents, and how well neighbors watch out for each other defines a community as being safe. Neighborhood Watch plans, a crime prevention program that stresses education and common sense in crime prevention exist all over Austin. Even a community that does not have such a plan in place may employ other methods to stop crime. A gated community offers an additional assurance of safety and is an amenity to consider when choosing a neighborhood.

11.  Healthy Choices

Whether you or a household member needs frequent care, an occasional check-up or emergency care, it’s reaffirming to know that you can access quality care in the neighborhood. Knowing that there is a nearby dermatologist for your teenage daughter or an emergency clinic for your accident-prone son may help determine the neighborhood you choose. You may also desire a dentist, orthodontist, optometrist or chiropractor close enough for easy appointments.

For retirees if staying plugged into work is important find out if there are social needs that your expertise can be used to promote, such as tutoring, Habitat for Humanity programs, local food pantries or other things that will keep motivated and having fun.

12.  Cultural Pursuits

The cultural amenities of a neighborhood itself may be limited, but having venues and institutions nearby that educate, uplift and inspire is a valuable convenience. Whether you enjoy live performances of the symphony or an excellent play or musical at the local theater, can impact your list of options.  In the same vein of culture are science, history and art museums, as well as libraries and houses of worship. For your priority list, it’s important to note which specific cultural amenities you wish to pursue, and map them out as to where they are in relationship to the neighborhoods you are considering. Many community colleges offer year-around cultural events.


Find Your Perfect Neighborhood

When searching for the perfect neighborhood, keep track of your comparisons so you can evaluate the volume of material more clearly. It’s exhausting to view several areas and nearly impossible to remember the features of each at the end of the day. Also, priorities can change. If you initially established that a golf course community was what you wanted, yet the only location you found in your price range was unacceptable for other reasons, maybe another home with a golf club less than five miles away will be appealing. In other words, first defining, and then adjusting priorities as you search the market is the key to finding the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood.

Begin your search here and contact us for personalized support in finding the best neighborhood and price.

Image yourself in the home of your dreams