2008 Real Estate Roundup

BY Pat Bradford

It was a bad year in real estate. There’s no question it was a bad year at Wrightsville Beach or was it really?

As the quantity of sales nationally statewide and even countywide tanked Wrightsville with just 64 sales came in with 35 percent fewer sales than the previous year. Certainly nothing like 2006’s record high of 181 sales.

Real estate companies all over the community individual brokers anyone with access to the data are busy crunching numbers. One of the emerging rays of sunlight heard over and over from Realtor/Brokers is this: sure it was a bad year but compared to what?

Compared to the run up of 2005-2006 it stunk. But as Intracoastal Realty Corp. (IRC) Realtor /Broker Michelle Clark is quick to point out the average sale price at Wrightsville for 2008 was slightly higher than the average in 2005. WB statistics by year


Top 6 WB realtors by listing and selling volume

Real Estate Brokers began a number of years ago to work in teams. Most work with one lead Broker supported by a host of other Brokers and non-licensed personnel. Also common are teams or a pair of Brokers with a support team working under them. An anomaly in the marketplace Hardee Hunt & Williams added Broker Ace Cofer to its team in early 2008 becoming Team Hardee Hunt & Williams. And so it was working with the aid of just one part-time administration person this team captured the top ranking on sales for the year for properties located on Wrightsville Beach (only).

Team Hardee Hunt & Williams
Hardee Hunt & Williams
$14.5 million
11 listings sold/6 buyer sales

Vance B. Young
Intracoastal Realty
$13 million
5 listings sold/5 buyer sales

Michelle L. Clark
Intracoastal Realty
$8 million
2 listings sold/5 buyer sales

Tee D. Woodbury
Intracoastal Realty
$6.8 million
3 listings sold/4 buyer sales

Debbie R. Mitchell
Intracoastal Realty
$6.7 million
9 listings sold/4 buyer sales

Lee Crouch Jr.
Intracoastal Realty
$6 million
2 listings sold/1 buyer sale


Compared to 2004 yes there were substantially fewer sales just under 63 percent fewer and the total dollar volume of what was sold was down 50 percent but the values of those few sales are whats capturing attention and providing hope. Compared to 2004s numbers a surprising insight is revealed. Re/Maxs finance guy Danny McPherson takes us through the numbers this way: the average selling price back in 2004 of the 172 units that were sold on the beach was a modest $766 802. The average selling price of the 64 units sold in 2008 was $1 030 291. Thats better than a 34-percent increase in real estate values over just four years which is nothing to sneeze at.

“Youd be hard pressed to find another coastal community posting that kind of gains ” Danny McPherson says. “In 2004 people were happy. No one was complaining about a sales price of $767 000 in 2004. Fast forward four years when everyones panicking about the prices. In 2008 the average sales price was still over a million dollars. [2008 was] a bad real estate year. Ill tell just about anybody that ” Danny McPherson says but counters this with “The values have dropped in Wrightsville Beach but you cant go to another coastal community not even in Florida and find a community where the average sales price increased by 30-35 percent in four years. Thats good news.”

Hardee Hunt & Williams Realtor/Broker Randy Williams is positive too. “Theres still a demand for premium waterfront properties. There are still people at a point in their life who want a place at the beach and they are financially able to obtain it ” he says.

He mentions as all Brokers do the desirability of Wrightsville to the people coming here the beauty of living on an island surrounded by water all the amenities at our fingertips. The small beach town environment adjacent to an emerging metropolitan city but without the hassle of the large cities.

“I had a customer [aka buyer] tell me the other day Do not underestimate the I-40 Wilmington Raleigh-Durham-Triangle connection. Its still a big factor in people coming here ” Randy Williams says. This firm works mostly with buyers coming from the Triangle Triad and Charlotte areas. “Thats where our buyers have come from for years ” Williams teammate Realtor/Broker Ronnie Hunt finishes his thought.

By the Numbers

One vacant lot with broken water views 303 N. Channel Drive sold on April 18 for $635 000. Two fractional one-tenth shares of vacation houses sold: 19 Sea Oats Lane for $205 000 and 18 East Columbia Street Unit A for $205 000.


Three north end oceanfront Wrightsville Dunes units sold within a few days or weeks of each other in late summer. The top sale there was $1 150 000 for 2500 N. Lumina Avenue 1D.

One oceanfront Dune Ridge unit sold during the year a bigger condo with a legitimate garage and views both ways; 2400 N. Lumina Avenue Unit #3304 which sold for $1.5 million and closed on December 31.

Across the way Cordgrass Bay facing into the sunsets saw just one sale: 2305 Unit 5 N. Lumina Avenue waterfront sold for $800 000 in October.

The oceanfront Islander highrise saw one sale; Unit 8E which sold for $525 000 on November 10.

At the northernmost tip of the island oceanfront Shell Island Resort long the volume leader in condo unit sales saw five units change hands through Brokers all before the summer rental season began. Top price getter in this resort rental building was Unit 617 which sold for $250 000. The most economical sale in the building was Unit 505 which went for thirty thousand less on March 7.

In the center of town Station One saw one sale in the oceanfront tower and one townhouse Unit 11 which sold for $1 050 000 in March. This oceanfront unit was purchased by what IRC Realtor/Broker Vance Young describes as a very shrewd buyer who has lived all over the country worked in real estate and ended up at Wrightsville Beach as a full-time resident. The tower unit sold in November Unit 3F for $752 000; the buyers purchased this unit over others for sale because of the amenities the building has to offer.

Next door 1 S. Lumina had one sale which was oceanview Unit 204 which sold in May for $380 000.

Continuing in the summer rental category Summer Place and Summer Sands saw one sale each. Summer Sands Unit 405 went for $365 000 in March before the season got under way while at Summer Place Unit D-1 garnered $239 000 just in time for hot weather vacationing.

Located on Banks Channel Look Out Harbor townhouses saw one sale as well water view Unit 22 (with a boat slip available to lease) which sold for $712 500 in February.

Also on Harbor Island on Motts Channel with spectacular water views Seapath Tower saw two sales: the first two eighth-floor units 803 and 804 combined into one with fabulous marina-facing views plus a done-up interior sold for $1 262 500 on November 14. The second Unit 508 sold a few days later for $712 500.

The near-drawbridge townhouse developments of Lees Cut and Channel Walk saw five sales as well although all but one of these closed in the last quarter of the year. The top sale was 121 Lees Cut Lane which had a boat slip and garage but no view and sold for $613 000 in August; 106 Captains Court was the best price in that development and it sold in December for $315 000.


Duplex units can either be vacation rental or part-time and year-round homes and are randomly placed all over the beach but the common element in what sold was proximity to the water; 2008 saw 17 sales of duplex units. Of these three were located on Harbor Island; the remainder were scattered over the island of Wrightsville.

On Harbor Island the top two duplex sales were on the Causeway waterfront with 30-foot-and-under boat slips. The top price in this category was a bank-owned sale due to foreclosure at 428 B Causeway Drive which sold for $1 150 000 on July 22. The second selling for $1 038 900 was at 434 A Causeway Drive in October.

WB Listings & Sales Leaders

Intracoastal Realty Corp.
$72 516 400

Hardee Hunt & Williams LLC $14 464 000

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty $10 787 000

RE/MAX Coastal Properties
$ 6 235 000

Prudential Burroughs & Chapin
$ 5 428 000

Century 21 Sweyer & Associates
$ 3 658 000

Wilmington Real Estate 4U
$ 3 500 000

Commonwealth Commercial
$ 2 550 000

Realty World-Cape Fear
$ 1 950 000

The final sale in this category was 411 A N. Channel Drive an up-and-down unit with a water view which sold for $649 000.

Another common denominator that emerges in studying what sold is location; those properties that were on the oceanfront or sound with deep water are still in demand. Randy Williams puts it succinctly “The stuff in the middle of the island just did not move.”

“What was selling was waterfront; oceanfront or soundfront with boat slip or the lower priced. The middle of the road has been sitting longer than wed like ” says Michelle Clark. And the numbers bear witness to this.

Thirteen duplex units on Wrightsville proper sold in 2008. Of these two different waterview duplex locations saw both sides sell at the same time: 9 Heron Street and 712 S. Lumina Avenue Pelican Watch. Vance Young says the Heron Street duplex sold to Charlotte buyers who intend to use the top half for personal use and the bottom for rental. Heron Street went for $1 750 000 and Pelican Watch for $1 675 000.

Included in the 13 sales two were oceanfront. Top sale here was for a new oceanfront duplex 205 S. Lumina Avenue Unit B which sold for $3 050 000 and had views both ways selling June 13. This was the top selling price for a duplex unit and the overall No. 5 sale in the county. Ronnie Hunt who represented the buyers hailing from the Triangle area says “It was a big one with 4 000 square feet every whistle and bell imaginable espresso machine warming drawers refrigerator drawers.”

The second waterfront duplex sold on Wrightsville itself was soundfront 618 Waynick Boulevard Unit A which had a 60-foot deep-water boat slip and sold for $1 414 000. Michelle Clark who handled this sale for the Raleigh buyer says all three of her duplex buyers were from Raleigh.

Of the remainder of Wrightsville duplex sales 12 were water view one was not.

Single family Homes

Single-family homes can also be vacation rental and second homes or year-round residences but the margin of properties used for second third and vacation homes grows each year continuing to edge out year-round residential homes.

Twenty-one single-family homes sold on Wrightsville and Harbor Island last year. The most expensive to sell was oceanfront on the north end 2622 N. Lumina Avenue. This 1990 home also the No. 2 sale in the county included an additional non-waterfront buildable lot. It sold for $3.5 million in late February to a California-based buyer with family including grandchildren living in Wilmington.

Top 12 Most Expensive Homes Sold in New Hanover County in 2008

1. 6 Beach Road S. F8
$3 665 000

2. 2622 N. Lumina Ave. WB
$3 500 000

3. 63 Beach Road S. F8
$ 3 400 000

4. 132 Beach Road S. F8
$3 100 000

5. 205 S. Lumina #B WB
$3 050 000 (duplex)

6. 286 Beach Road N. F8
$3 000 000

7. 18 E. Oxford Street WB
$2 900 000

8. 305 S. Lumina Avenue WB
$2 888 000

9. 14 N. Channel Drive WB
$2 700 000

10. 321 S. Lumina Avenue WB
$2 550 000

11. 8206 Bald Eagle Lane
$2 250 000

12. 14 Channel Avenue WB
$2 100 000

WB = Wrightsville Beach F8 = Figure Eight Island

By comparison the top sale of 2007 was 122 Parmele Boulevard waterfront on the Lollipop with an 80-foot deep-water boat dock which sold for $4.5 million and was the top sale for the county last year. That was also the top sale in the history of Wrightsville Beach.

The least expensive single-family home sale was again on South Harbor Island 18 Myrtle Court a modest one-story structure set up as two grandfathered apartments with side-by-side two-bedroom/two-bath units which sold in November for $550 000. The home is near water but has no view. Last year this distinction fell to nearby 106 Live Oak Drive which sold for $487 500.

Of the next three houses to sell in order of price 203 N. Channel Avenue built in 1950 and selling for $740 000 was notable in that buyers agent Michelle Clark says “The buyers had lived on the beach before and wanted to be back. They are thrilled to be back and in that house. They thanked me for making their dreams come true.”

Water water everywhere

Three additional oceanfront single-family homes sold that warrant special mention. Two were built in the 1950s and were purchased by Realtor/Brokers from within the community for personal use. First selling just before summer was the Heyward Cottage at 321 S. Lumina Avenue which was purchased by Commercial Properties Realtor/Broker Harry Stovall III for $2 550 000 for his familys use. In addition to the classic main cottage the property boasts a 570-square-foot detached guest quarters.

Second was 305 S. Lumina Avenue purchased by IRC Realtor/Broker Tee Woodbury and her husband Gene after the summer rental season wound down for $2 888 000. It was Genes familys beach cottage. This five-bedroom-plus has slept many family members over the years. In an age when so many classic cottages are torn down for two such treasures to remain within the community is compelling. “Were going to try to preserve it and keep making memories ” Tee Woodbury says.

The remaining oceanfront sale was the 2006 new construction at 18 E. Oxford Street which sold for $2.9 million and boasts five bedrooms five and one half baths a granite-and-stainless kitchen an elevator plus all the amenities to make a desirable second-home retreat for Wilmington buyers who saw Vance Youngs advertisement for the home and bought it. Young said most of his buyers last year were local people. “People already invested here who already believe in it.”

Soundfront single-family homes that sold numbered four on Wrightsville Beach and two on Harbor Island.

One 604 N. Channel Drive on North Harbor Island is a 1983 mansard-roof property with a bulkheaded east-facing lot and four under-24-foot boat slips which sold for $1 740 000 the first of August. Still in the soundfront category the top seller was 14 N. Channel Drive which sold for $2.7 million to buyers from Charlotte. This five-bedroom new construction cottage-style home boasted an open floorplan and beautiful kitchen as well as two 25-foot boat slips.

Three additional soundfront homes sold these located on Wrightsville. The top price there went to 14 Channel Avenue located right behind the downtown business district. It sold for just under $2.4 million to buyers from Raleigh. This unique new construction featured exposed beam ceilings five bedrooms five and one half baths separated into main quarters plus guest accommodations. Included on the bulk-headed lot is a dock for several smaller boat slips.

The remainder of the single-family home sales seven were water view. Of these two were on Harbor Island; five were on Wrightsville.

Whats left were spread over the island from the Caribbean-style 11 Water Street on the south end which sold in early May for $1 150 000 to mid island 15 E. Asheville the 1947 cottage which sold for $1 356 000 in January. Finally the contemporary hipped roof 1980s home at 1 N. Ridge Lane sold in November for $1.2 million.

Last but certainly not least two soundview homes sold on South Harbor Island and were sold within $55 000 of each other. Built in 2003 21 Shore Drive boasting four bedrooms four and one half baths sold in late July for $1 175 000. In very late December 200 Lindy Lane sold for $1 120 000. Using the existing foundation and pilings this house totally rebuilt in 2005 also had four bedrooms with four baths and snuggled onto the well landscaped lot is an in-ground pool and hot tub.

Bottom Line

IRC Realtor/Broker Debbie Mitchell says that while most of the sales she handled were price driven “everybody at Wrightsville Beach is not going to give their property away. There have been a few dumps but a majority are just not going to sell if they have to sell for a rock bottom price.”

Randy Williams agrees “The values may be bent but they didnt break. Its not entirely a buyers market. Sellers are in control by saying no thank you well not sell our property for that.”

“It was great for a really long time. We knew we were going to hit a bump in the road. This was a pretty big bump but it wont last forever ” Debbie Mitchell says. Then she echoes the sentiments of just about everyone in business these days “Weve just got to hang on.”

Surprisingly not all agents had a bad year. IRC Realtor/Broker Lee Crouch reports “Overall my sales were up 20 percent from the year before. I will say I had to work a lot more hours though particularly on the weekends.”

So much of the economy here is tied to the real estate market mortgage and construction industry in some way. Besides the obvious theres also household goods shoes and clothing meals eaten in restaurants new cars bicycles stationery school tuition dance lessons every aspect of area business. And without money in play from this vital industry the entire community holds its breath.

“After the Internet stock bust of 2001-2002 sales bottomed out ” Landfall Realtys Allison Bernhart says “but once people got over their fear once they got their confidence back people moved back into the market with confidence. Because so many put their lives on hold during that time they came back into the market with a much stronger confidence than ever before.”

Seeking Realtor comments on a very cold Saturday in January it was surprising to find all without exception out with buyers or sellers.

“Were busier today than weve been in six months ” Lee Crouch says. “People are looking for deals but they are still looking. I think something good will come of it.”

” 08 got progressively worse until the point the fourth quarter was a big fat goose egg for most people ” Vance Young says candidly. “I suspect this year will be a mirror image of last year where it will slowly progressively get better from the first quarter to the last of 09.”

Theres an old adage in the business that an agent cant sell a house unless hes in front of a buyer. The 2005 and 2006 markets proved that wasnt always the case but in the times we find ourselves today to find the areas best Brokers out showing property is a sign of the glass filling up.

The Wider Region

See Regional Comparisons Here

Of the top 12 sales in New Hanover County seven were on Wrightsville four on Figure Eight and one on Bald Eagle Lane in Porters Neck. All were priced above $2 million. All were waterfront.

None reached the top prices of 2007 which saw the top five sales going for $3.8 million and up. “If you look at any of the high end numbers in any of those three markets ” says Realtor/Broker Vance Young “Wrightsville Figure Eight and Landfall they are off substantially for 08.”

And though the number of units sold was down an astonishing 53.5 percent New Hanover County still saw $866 957 818 in houses sold. This created an overall combined list and sold volume for the county through the MLS system of more than $1.73 billion down slightly less than $31 million from the previous year. The average selling price in the county was $283 882 the median $216 950. The average days on market was 119.

Figure Eight Island was an anomaly this year with just five sales but they were top-dollar sales; four ranking in the six top priced homes sold in the county (although there were reportedly two additional sales at Figure Eight outside of the MLS).

The fact that Figure Eight had so few sales as compared to the previous year can be attributed to the price point on the island Vance Young says. “You cant get on Figure Eight for less than a million dollars so the threshold is a lot higher. I dont think there was anything that sold for more than $2 million in Landfall in 08 and I think in 07 there were seven or eight that sold for more than $2 million.”

Landfall had 85 properties sell through the MLS system with an additional seven pending in January. “We track sales here at Landfall and 109 properties sold; 44 lots and 65 homes in calendar year 2008 ” Landfall Realty Broker-in-charge Realtor Allison Bernhart says of the number of sales. “Some of these were outside the MLS system. Unfortunately those numbers cant compare with 182 in 2007.”

As of January 15 2009 there was an additional $65.9 million in property under contract in the county waiting to close of which $2.4 million were REOs.

The Foreclosure Factor

Pam Wooddell of Live Oak Realty works REOs or real estate owned by banks also known as bank-owned properties more commonly known as foreclosures and business in New Hanover County was brisk enough for her to enter the elite ranks for the top ten Realtor/Brokers posting the most sales volume.

Wooddell captured the fifth spot on the board positioned between such well known Realtor/Brokers as Cynthia Strickland (fourth) and Lee Crouch (sixth). With $25.7 million in sales in the MLS system Wooddell has become a powerhouse in the real estate community estimating that she represents about 75 percent of the foreclosure properties in the area. “My clients are banks. I have about 40 banks whose properties I market and sell ” Wooddell says.

She doesnt just work this county either; Wooddell works foreclosures in 31 counties posting an impressive 175 sales in 2008 and says the lions share of those in the last six months were in New Hanover County. In fact she says she closed 38 in November alone and all but two of those were New Hanover. She says of the foreclosure market in the county “Theres quite a few we have in process about 50 properties right now in some stage of getting sold.”

She handled one sale of a foreclosed property last year at Wrightsville Beach on the Causeway in late July but says she has one right now in process and four to five others preparing for foreclosure or waiting on pricing from the bank. “I think that Wrightsville has been isolated a little bit against the slowdown in the market but there are certainly foreclosures ” she comments. She mentions Landfall and Figure Eight as not being immune to foreclosures either.

Wooddell predicts no slow down in these foreclosures in fact she says “Were going to see a lot of them through 2011 maybe even into 2012.”

All data is as of 1/12/2009