If you are moving to an area like the Crystal Coast which offers something of everything, what geographic area should you choose?
You could live on the beach at Emerald Isle, around Bogue Sound, or on the White Oak River? All would give you good access to water.
The answer depends on many things including budget, personal taste, and availability.
While there are many homes on the market, most people quickly narrow it down to a few that they like. If they are lucky, they have found one which they love in their price range and with features that meet all their needs.
It all sounds so simple, but of course it isn't.
However, if you want to walk out your door and go for a beach walk every morning without getting in a car, that narrows your search. By the same token, if you want to drop your boat in water and go for a quick boat ride before breakfast like I do, that also limits your choices.
So what are some of the considerations when deciding where to locate on the Crystal Coast?
The first thing that I typically ask people is what size home do they want. Next is the price range that they need to hit. Generally I send people off to talk to a bank before we have the price discussion. These days you cannot get serious about looking for property until you have talked to a bank. Unless you have cash in hand, it is a waste of your time and my time to look at homes unless a bank has told you how much they are willing to lend you.
Price and size typically help narrow the geography a little. Homes typically cost more per square foot over on the beach. Also beach homes are typically smaller with some very expensive exceptions to the rule. Maintenance, taxes, and insurance are also more expensive on the beach. Taxes and insurance are important when it comes to thinking about a mortgage.
One other consideration is boating. You can only have a boat lift on the sound side of the beach. Often over on the island having a lift with a boat on the soundside requires a long dock. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general the docks are fairly long over the beach side of the sound. That makes them susceptible to storms and surges.
You certainly do not need a boat lift to enjoy the water with a boat. However, it you like to boat frequently and typically your trips are short, a lift is a great choice.
Facilities for launching boats continue to improve along the Crystal Coast with two new or improved ramp facilities in Beaufort and a huge new access area with ramps on Emerald Isle. The Wildlife Resources ramp in Cedar Point has increased its parking and is in line for a major reworking. Cape Carteret has a very nice ramp which is available to Cape Carteret residents for a minimal yearly fee.
What you want to do with your boat might also influence where you want to locate.
Currently getting out Bogue Inlet to the ocean is more of a challenge than it has been in recent years. If fishing offshore is important to you, you should carefully evaluate where to locate. Beaufort Inlet is in much better shape than Bogue Inlet. Having said that, there are lots of people who go in and out of Bogue Inlet with few problems.
One of things often mentioned by people who live in Emerald Isle by the beaches is summer tourist traffic. We have about six weeks of a strong tourist season. That means if you live over by the beach, you have to be willing to put up with a little inconvenience at times. The bridge from Cape Carteret to Emerald Isle is two lanes, and it can plug up for a time on Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the summer. Some island residents just hole up during especially busy holidays like the Fourth of July.
In addition to traffic on the bridge, grocery stores in the area get very busy on holiday weekends and a few other weekends during the summer. Most locals do their grocery shopping from Monday to Thursday. However, it you live on Emerald Isle by the beaches, you can expect the Food Lion, which is only grocery store on the west end of the Island, to be relatively busy most of July and part of August. The same thing holds for island restaurants and other services.
Living on the mainland lets you get around the traffic a little easier, and there are other options for grocery shopping on the weekend. The same goes for restaurants, but good ones even on the mainland are still busy most evenings during July and early August.
As to weather, the mainland warms up before the beaches and cools down before the beach areas. There is typically more wind on the beach areas, and in early spring the damp cool of the beach area begs for some real warmth which can often be found on the mainland just across Bogue Sound. The beach stays a tad warmer during the winter, but that is often offset by stronger winds.
Living along the sound on the mainland is a great compromise if you can afford it as soundfront property on the mainland is typically very expensive. However, if you can swing it, it is a great way to watch life on the water along the coast. There is always traffic on the Intracoastal, and it is fun to watch.
If you cannot swing living directly on the sound, there are a number of water access communities along the Crystal Coast. All of the ones in the western end of Carteret County are either on the White Oak River or along Bogue Sound. The amenities in the communities vary widely, and any claims of boat ramps and access to deep water should be carefully evaluated. Some communities as they have aged have neglected their boat ramps to the point that the ramps are unusable except for very small boats.
While there are neighborhoods with year around residents over on the beach, you will likely more easily find a neighborhood with permanent residents over on the mainland. This is also true for children.
Living on a coastal river is different than living either on the sound or by the beaches. It is actually worth a discussion on its own. It is where we chose to live. I have my boat on a lift not much more than 25 feet behind our house. It takes me just ten minutes by boat to Swansboro and the Intracoastal. Also when the sound and ICW are full of boats, I have the option of hiding out in the White Oak River by our house. I love to walk on the beaches, but that requires a ten to fifteen minute drive. I also am passionate about being a Southern gardener. For me growing tomatoes is very important so I tend to think our location on the mainland by the river is a little better for getting early ripe tomatoes. If my location sounds great, my neighbor's waterfront home with a boat slip is for sale.
There are lots of different ways to determine where you want to live. A good place to start is talking to a Realtor® who knows the area well. At a minimum you should visit an area website with real estate information. Working with a a Realtor® can be quicker. Showing you a few places is the best way to get the lay of the land and understand the neighborhoods. You see things driving around in a car that you often don't have the opportunity to see on the Internet.
Reading about the area also helps you make an informed decision on where to live. You can find links to my articles on the area both on this site and at this webpage.
The more work you do up front before starting to look at homes (including talking to a banker), the easier it will be to find your dream home.