Real Estate Roundup 2016

BY Pat Bradford

New Hanover County

The 2016 real estate market did not top 2015’s 18 percent gain in New Hanover County and was described by brokers as a more normal market but it was still a big year for the 1 421-member Cape Fear Realtors. The overall sold volume in transactions these 281 companies handled was up more than $181 million to $1.5 billion a gain of 14 percent. The number of sales increased just shy of 12 percent.

“It was obviously a very strong year; there were more units sold fewer days on market overall it’s showing the market just continues to strengthen ” says Jessica Edwards of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast who ranked No. 10 in sales in New Hanover County with 57 closed transactions totaling $21.5 million.

The growth continued the upward trend of the last few years.

“This market is finally in a good rhythm after an eight-year recovery from recession ” says Vance Young the No. 2 ranked broker in New Hanover County and No. 2 in Wrightsville Beach with a combined sold and list county total of 92 sales totaling $61.7 million in property sold.

The top sale in New Hanover County was 7 Skimmer Road Figure Eight Island a sound-front house built in 2010 offering 6 190sf in three stories 5 bedrooms and 6 baths. The home closed for $4.54 million in September.

The sale represented an increase in top sold for the county of 24 percent. Broker Buzzy Northen of Intracoastal Realty who was ranked No. 6 in New Hanover County sales No. 1 at Figure Eight Island and No. 15 at Wrightsville Beach represented the buyer and seller. The buyers were lifetime Figure Eight people. The sellers moved from the sound to the ocean building a new Figure Eight Island home at 4 Beach Road.

Kirra Sutton of Figure Eight Island Realty represented the buyers who purchased the No. 2 sale in the county: No. 1 Banks Road a 5 bedroom 7 bath 6 000sf sound front home that sold for $3 537 500 on Oct. 10. Sutton is ranked No. 2 at Figure Eight Island and No. 19 in New Hanover County sales. The buyer a Midwestern business executive will use the house as a secondary home and a vacation rental. The seller was a long-time Figure Eight family Northen says.

Top sales jumped 32 percent at Figure Eight and crept up at Porters Neck but declined at Wrightsville and Pleasure Island.

Still high-dollar home sales are commonplace.

“We have seen a return of the high-end buyer not so much the super-high-end buyer but certainly I would say the million-dollar buyer — that part of the market is much healthier than it has been in eight years ” Vance Young says.

In New Hanover County alone Realtor sales of houses condos and lots selling for more than $1 million totaled 83. Of these 21 were $2 million and up.

“At Figure Eight we had three properties over $3 million (one was over $4 million) this year sold; last year we only had one property to sell over $3 million ” says Sutton.

“Regionally our recovery in the high end has probably been a little behind some other places but we’re starting to see that resurgence in those types of buyers ” say Landmark Sotheby’s International Realty’s Nick Phillips. “There’s a lot of optimism right now on the part of folks who have the ability to buy those properties.”

Young agrees that the area lags behind some of the other localities and shares Phillips’ optimism.

“The closest metro markets — Raleigh Charlotte and Charleston — are all roughly 20 percent above their 2006 peak. We are still about 10 percent off our ’06 peak so that differential in pricing is what we are seeing ” he says. “A buyer that’s looking at Wrightsville Beach or Figure Eight is going to pay substantially more probably 30 percent more to get the same house down in the Charleston market. Someone that is coming out of Charlotte or Raleigh can sell their house for $1.5 to $2 million and get a house down here on the water for that.”

Days on Market and Active Listings Down

Days on market — the amount of time it takes to list a home for sale photograph and market it attract a qualified buyer and close the transaction — decreased ranging from 36 percent fewer days at Wrightsville Beach to a drop of 59 percent at Figure Eight Island bringing the New Hanover County decrease in days on market down 62.69 percent. More good news: the number of active listings dropped overall ranging from 28.98 fewer homes for sale at Landfall to 11 percent less at Wrightsville.

“Days on market has definitely come down ” says Michelle Clark of Intracoastal Realty the No. 7-ranked Realtor in New Hanover County and No. 11 at Wrightsville Beach. “The inventory is shrinking too. That is a big reason for the decrease in the days on market and multiple offers because there’s not as many great properties for buyers to choose from.”

“With less inventory overall paired with more things selling — when there is less to choose from what comes on the market it is not going to sit as long. When there is less that you are competing with you’re obviously going to have fewer days on market “ Jessica Edwards says.

Not as much inventory also meant fewer foreclosures. Even houses that once would have sat on the market without an offer tended to attract buyers.

“The market has really cleaned itself up in that most all of the distressed inventory is a thing of the past ” Vance Young says.

Values / Multiple Offers

The days of brokers sitting beside the phone waiting for it to ring are past.

“Our firm had several instances of multiple offers on our listings. We view this as a positive indicator of potential appreciation ” says Randall J. Williams broker in charge at Team Hunt & Williams ranked No. 8 in New Hanover County and No. 1 at Wrightsville Beach.

“I did see an increase in multiple offers in 2016 which was great for sellers ” Clark agrees. “The multiple offers in these cases were not necessarily as high above list price or in some cases they weren’t above list price as they would have been in the glory days but they were still very good and strong offers that sellers had to consider.”


Of the nearly $85 million in sales in Wrightsville Beach 82 percent of the properties were waterfront or water view. Every lot in New Hanover County 100 percent that sold at $1 million and over was waterfront.

“That is surprising but not surprising ” Jessica Edwards says. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how many properties at that price point have some sort of waterfrontage.”

Two of the top sales — $2 million and over — were waterfront lots on Figure Eight Island No. 17 and No. 19 both selling for $2.15 million in nonrelated sales at 31 Pipers Neck Point and 260 Beach Road North.

“It’s the most important factor ” Nick Phillips says. “The reason that people are drawn here is the water. Whether it is the beach or the Intracoastal Waterway they want to be on the water or have immediate access to it. That’s what’s going to drive top sales. The buyers that want to spend over $1 million want to be on the water unequivocally.”

A notable sale in this big-ticket category waterfront was Phillips’ sale at 2340 Ocean Point Drive which sold for $3.5 million No. 3 in the county and the top sale at Landfall. This spectacular 7 440sf home built in 2010 offered 5 bedrooms 8 baths and expansive ICWW and Wrightsville views across its infinity pool. The inside of the West Indies architecture was used for the interior of Grayson Manor in the pilot of the television series “Revenge.”

Phillips says the transaction included the house and adjacent lot. The two were negotiated together with one offer for $4.85 million in a cash transaction. He says the sellers live in Manhattan and the house was not getting much use. The buyer is a tech mogul from the Triangle area who purchased the house to be a second home.

“It was a lifestyle decision for them; it fit their lifestyle perfectly ” Phillips says. “Being able to buy the adjacent lot so they had plenty of room for their little boy to run and play over the next couple of years was just the perfect scenario.”


The gated community of Landfall closed out 2016 with $83.5 million in sales a gain of $6.9 million in 136 lot home and condo sales. The Cape Fear Realtors reports a 2.26 percent in gain over 2015.

“It was most remarkable; we sold 15 houses over $1 million. We did nine the year before in 2015 which is a huge increase in million-dollar sales ” says Allison Bernhart of Landfall Realty which ranked No. 10 in sales. “We sold three lots on the Intracoastal Waterway; there has not been a waterfront lot sold in quite some time.”

Nick Phillips agrees buyer confidence continues in Landfall.

“This is the second year in a row that we were able to represent the highest sale in Landfall. In both cases the buyers were very confident about spending the money that they did on those properties ” he says.

Landfall showed a 28.79 percent decrease in the active number listings with prices holding steady. The top active listing climbed just $50 000.

“At Landfall we’ve got 94 houses on the market and we sold 105 or 106 last year. That’s the first time I can remember in a long time where the inventory is less than the previous 12 months ” Vance Young says.

Figure Eight Island

A lack of houses on the market figured into the type of sales at the exclusive enclave.

“A lot of what has factored into the market on Figure Eight is the supply of inventory. We have had a lack of available inventory at certain locations and price points. So you have people looking that can’t really find what it is that they’re looking for ” Kirra Sutton says.

Tear downs and renovations became more common.

“What we are experiencing out here is you buy a $2 million house that you are tearing down. Or you buy a $1.1 million marsh-front home that you are doing a $500 000 to $800 000 renovation to ” Sutton says. “Most people want to walk right into something and they are willing to pay a premium to do so but when that inventory doesn’t exist then it forces people to buy and build. Sometimes that includes buying a structure that is existing and tearing it down or doing a major renovation.”

Seven Years

No. 21 Bahama Drive sold for $2.7 million on July 18 the No. 3 sale on Wrightsville Beach and No. 13 in New Hanover County.

“I sold the house to the sellers years ago ” says Bobby Brandon of Intracoastal Realty and ranked No. 5 at Wrightsville Beach. “They are an older couple who moved to Landfall. This year they downsized and moved off the beach.”

The buyers lived in the same neighborhood on Parmele on the water.

“They stayed local they loved the neighborhood just wanted a bigger house better views better water better dock the whole shebang ” Brandon says.

That was a trend for 2016: Sellers became buyers moved around shifted upsized or downsized to get what they wanted.

“They love the area and want something a little different than what they’ve had ” says Lee Crouch of Intracoastal Realty the No. 3 ranked broker at Wrightsville Beach. “If they’ve been on the ocean maybe they want a dock and a boat. Or if they had a condo now they want more space because they have a bigger family. In real estate seven years is the average of when people move.”

Another example is the sale of 311 Summer Rest Road which sold for $2.2 million on July 10 the No. 15 sale in New Hanover County. The sellers built a new home a mile or so inland.

“They built a new house in Autumn Hall with less to take care of the yard the dock the pool ” Bobby Brandon says.

The buyer moved across the drawbridge from Wrightsville to higher ground.

“He wanted to have a little more yard. He loves Wrightsville Beach wanted to stay in the neighborhood and Summer Rest is about as close as you can get. He was a little concerned about where the flood [insurance] thing was going and liked the idea of going to higher ground ” Vance Young says. “The flood insurance is the elephant in the room. It’s the unknown that is so scary. Some of the numbers that are being bandied about and some actual flood premiums are just shocking.”

Brunswick County

Brunswick County to the west and south logged $1 billion in sold volume with 1 645 units sold. The top three sales were on Bald Head Island. For these homes all furnishings and two golf carts conveyed at no value.

The top two sales were large oceanfront rental homes offering uninterrupted ocean views and private beach access each selling for $2.4 million.

Selling in mid-May was “A Place to Wade ” 6 Coquina Trail which was built in 2011 and offered 5 bedrooms 6 baths in over 3 100sf.

Selling in mid-August was 4 Coquina Trail. The house known as ‘Summer Island’ was built in 2004 with 5 bedrooms and 3.5 baths in a 3 376sf main house and a sixth bedroom and full bath in the detached crofter with 260sf.

The top sale at Oak Island was 6801 E. Beach Drive which sold for $1.49 million. The top sale at Holden Beach was $1.395 million at 1325 Ocean Blvd. W.

The top Brunswick lot sales were also on Bald Head Island: 1003 S. Bald Head Wynd and No. 228 Station House Way on East Beach which sold for $1.7 million and $1.55 million respectively. Both offer magnificent ocean views.

Pender County

Pender County to the north had $371.6 million in sold volume with 1 645 properties selling. The top sale was 106 Great Oak Drive in Hampstead an ICWW home with boat dock which sold for $1.44 million on Nov. 16.

The top sale on Topsail Island and the No. 2 sale in Pender was 621 Nixon Ave. also ICWW front with boat dock selling for $1.35 million on May 20. The No. 3 sale in Pender was also the top sale at Surf City. This oceanfront furnished rental at 502 N. Shore Drive sold on Nov. 15 for $1.275 million.

The top lot sale at Surf City was 502 S. Shore Drive an oceanfront property that sold on Feb. 18 for $500 000. The top lot sale in Hampstead was on the ICWW with a dock and boat lift at No. 5 Washington Acres. It sold on Nov. 21 for $495 000 also the No. 3 lot sale in Pender County. Topsail Beach’s top lot sale was 206 N. Anderson Blvd. sound front and ocean view. It sold Sept. 27 for $387 500.

Wrightsville Beach

At Wrightsville there were between 101 and 103 sales depending on if one chooses to count two condo/hotel sales on the mainland side at the Waterway Lodge on Wrightsville Avenue by the drawbridge. Sold volume was just under $84.6 million a modest 5 percent increase over 2015.

Thirty of these sales were single family homes.

“Sellers received about 94 percent of their asking price in 2016 and properties sold on average for close to 118 percent of tax value ” Randall J. Williams says.

Six sales were more than $2 million capturing the Nos. 5 6 7 9 and 13 and 16 top New Hanover County sales positions.

“I think a confidence is building in the beach markets ” Lee Crouch says. “It’s really tough in a down market to have people come in and they look at beach houses and they go ‘We don’t know where this economy is going.’ I think the fact that the election’s over with whether you like who got elected or not it is a known now.”

Jessica Edwards agrees.

“I do think the election came into play especially in the luxury market in the second half of the year. I think in 2016 there was a little bit of a lull due to people waiting to see what was going to happen with the election.”

Wrightsville’s sales comprised 94 residential properties and six lot sales and two boat slips which sold for $77 000 and $86 000.

The top sale was $2.9 million for the oceanfront with pool vacation rental at 213 South Lumina Ave. built in 2005. It sold Aug. 12.

Marcello Caliva of Intracoastal Realty who ranked No.10 at Wrightsville Beach represented the buyers a local couple with a waterfront home on Bald Eagle Lane. They bought this house as an investment property and for family gatherings.

“I worked with them 10-plus years. We looked as so many properties ” Caliva says. “That property sold itself. It is almost 260 feet deep you have a beautiful dune line in front of it it is protected with good vegetation excellent views the pool. The house itself is 5 000 square feet it sleeps 30 people.”

The property is also zoned R-2 which would allow for future construction of a duplex.

“The house is the highest-grossing house for weekly vacation rentals on Wrightsville Beach ” Caliva says.

This sale was closely followed by 827 S. Lumina Ave. an oceanfront home built in 1964 and renovated by Nick Garrett which sold for $2 712 500 Feb. 2.

“That was a Wrightsville Beach classic cottage that had been redone. It had really really good views. South of the Oceanic Restaurant on Wrightsville Beach is the preferred location ” Buzzy Northen says.

The sellers of the 3700sf second house were a North Carolina couple who will use it as their primary residence Lee Crouch says.

The oldest home sold was 113 S. Channel Drive the former year-round home of Mark and Debbie Mitchell who built a larger home next door. The 3 995sf completely renovated 1929 cottage sound front on Banks Channel with a boat dock sold for $2.18 million on Sept. 17. The sale was No. 1 on Harbor Island No. 16 at Wrightsville Beach.

A non-Realtor sale of significance was 17 E. Asheville owned by the widow of Dino De Laurentiis which sold in a private transaction Jan. 27 2016 for $3.750 million. Then Dec. 22 De Laurentiis also sold the vacant oceanfront lot at 19 E. Fayetteville Street to a buyer represented by Hardee Hunt & Williams for $1.2 million.

Eighty-three of the town’s approximately 100 sales offered a natural water feature; 31 were located oceanfront 32 were sound front and 15 additional had a water view. Thirteen of the sound-front properties offered boat docks.

A great example was the seventh top sale in the county and No. 3 at Wrightsville new construction at No. 17 Bahama Drive that sold for $2.7 million. It offered between 3 500 and 4 000sf 5 bedrooms 5 baths sound front a bulk-headed waterfront location on a residential dead-end street with deep water and permitting for up to four boats.

“A local couple bought it as a second home. It shows the need for new construction on Wrightsville Beach — the fact that it sold before it was completed “ Vance Young says. “The same again is true virtually in any market. You’re seeing a huge premium for new construction. If you look in Landfall new construction is bringing anywhere from $200 to $250 a square foot. Whereas a comparable house that is just five to 10 years old might be selling between $180 to $200 a foot. The buyer definitely wants to drive a shiny new car off the lot.”

The demand for houses that needed nothing and new construction properties has perhaps never been higher.

“There is preponderance for new construction. Autumn Hall and Parkside have really strong sales numbers and that’s people who might buy $700 000 to $800 000 in Landfall or wherever the beach but they want new construction and they are paying a premium for it “ Young says. “This is my 30th year in the business. I have never seen the buyer demanding everything turnkey. They do not want anything that requires updating even painting and removing wall paper much less a kitchen renovation or removing walls to open the floorplan.”

Cash Sales

Randall J. Williams notes almost 46 percent of the sales in Wrightsville Beach were cash transactions versus buyers seeking financing for the purchase.

This percentage mirrors that of New Hanover County for its million-and-over sales which closed 47 percent of residential and land sales with cash in 2016.

“Half of the million-plus properties that sold in New Hanover County in 2016 were cash ” says Jessica Edwards.

“Our experience is that luxury home buyers are still much more likely to close with cash. Financing continues to be limited at the high end of the market and the buyers usually do not need a mortgage ” Nick Phillips says.

Harbor Island

Twenty-nine of Wrightsville’s sales were on Harbor Island; of these eight were single-family homes with nine sound front five with boat docks and two additional offering water views.

The No. 2 sale on Harbor Island and the No. 7 sale in the town was June’s $2.15 million new construction presale at No. 6 Island Drive. This 3 245sf home offered 4 bedrooms and 4 baths sound front on Motts Channel on deep water no wake zone with boat dock. The buyers have become year-round residents.

“What I look at is how many homes are available for sale on Wrightsville Beach and then segment it ” Vance Young says. “Right now there are a fair number of oceanfront condos. That market is a little bit top heavy but when you start to talk about single-family either water access on the ocean or on the sound they’re very few and far between. There are not that many single-family second row third row type houses. The inventory at Wrightsville — it won’t take much to move the meter a lot and the same is true at Landfall.”

Six sound front high-rise residential condos sold at Seapath Towers.

Eight Harbor Island condo/townhouses in a planned unit development were sold. Six were at Channel Walk Lees Cut and Shoreline; two were at Lookout Harbor.

“Despite the rancor of an acrimonious and distracting election year the mood of the buyers in 2016 suggested a level of optimism in the economy. In talking with our clients it becomes apparent that many of their businesses are profitable. Certainly this translates to more confidence in purchasing a second home ” Randall J. Williams says.

Five oceanfront high-rise condos sold at Station One and 11 oceanfront high-rise condo/hotel units at Shell Island Resort.

Four oceanfront units sold at Dune Ridge and four oceanfront units sold at Wrightsville Dunes.

One unit each sold at Sunset Lagoon Cordgrass Bay and Beach Haven.

Four additional Wrightsville Beach condo/hotel units with 700sf or less sold at Summer Sands Summer Place and Surf Suites.

One condo/hotel unit category is 701 Causeway Drive sound front at Harbor Inn.

Two waterfront condo/office Pier House units sold as well as one of the two neighboring waterfront 3 547sf Wrightsville Yacht Club townhomes on Marina Street at the ICWW.

A notable sale was the 6-bedroom Tarheelia Inn a 1910 two-story operating residential inn at 500 N. Lumina Ave. The approximately 2 900sf house with porches lining three sides on a 50- by 100-foot lot sold Sept. 9 for $837 000.

New Construction

Lots ranged in price from a high of $1.2 million for the oceanfront 50- by 100-foot lot at 19 E. Fayetteville that sold Dec. 30 to a low of $450 000 for 17 Myrtle Court on South Harbor Island.

A single-family house 204 Waynick across from Banks Channel was purchased July 1 for $1.425 million as a teardown.

“A curious phenomenon occurring across the island is the proliferation of exquisite and elaborate custom homes ” says Randall J. Williams. “These houses are not typically being built as speculative ventures but are custom design-build projects for clients who are raising the bar from an architectural and construction standpoint. I consider it evidence that many very wealthy individuals are entirely comfortable placing millions of their dollars into tangible assets in this case beach houses. Each one of these homes adds to the tax base creates jobs and influences real estate values in a positive direction.”

The Town of Wrightsville Beach issued 13 building permits for new single-family dwellings and duplexes in 2015 but in 2016 there were just eight permits issued for new single-family dwellings and one issued for a duplex. Construction cost for these nine new single-family dwellings was $7.6 million.

“There’s a pretty tight inventory. When I look at what’s available single-family Wrightsville Beach oceanfront homes you can count them on one hand ” Vance Young says. “The same is true for Figure Eight and Landfall. When you really start to look for specific houses it is a pretty tight inventory. What I think you’re going to see is at least the same demand from the buy side and that may even go up a notch going into ’17. With the inventory fairly tight it should push prices locally.”

Footnotes: Pat Bradford has been a licensed NC Real Estate Broker since the early 1980s and was actively engaged in real estate brokerage in the greater Wilmington area from 1993 to 2001. All numbers reported and used for analysis are from the Cape Fear Realtors as of Dec. 31 2016. Additional 2016 sales may have posted or even been corrected after the Jan. 10 2017 date drawn.

Cape Fear Realtors is the new name for the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors and encompasses New Hanover Duplin Pender Sampson and Scotland counties.