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kmclennan1 Sep 15th, 2017 12:10 PM

Planning our Move

My husband, 2 kids and I are planning on making the big jump. Moving from the suburbs of Boston ( 20 mins outside of it) to Surf City/Holly Ridge NC. Right now we are finishing up getting our house ready to sell, which should go quick. Our town is a hot spot right now and nothing lasts more than a day or two if priced correctly. So I am not worried about that,. but what I am worried about is how I can get acquainted with the area to really know what I am buying when it comes to the next house. I have googled the heck out of all that addresses of houses we are interested in, but does anyone from the surf city area have any suggestions on how to find out things like, flooding, traffic patterns, school districts and school sports. My children are 7 & 9 and we will finish out the school year here and live with family after the house sells until about June. Then its off to the races to come down and find our next home. I was thinking a good idea would be to line up a summer rental, and then transition to purchase while we are down there. Does this sound insane? How easy is it to book a rental? Are these houses usually prebooked months in advance?

thanks for any input in advance. I have never not lived in the town we are moving from.... so it will be a big change. but the ocean is where I am meant to be, and I am sick of cold new england winters!

thursdaysd Sep 15th, 2017 12:57 PM

I would certainly rent first, but realize you will be competing with summer visitors.

Personally, I would not move so close to the ocean, especially in a hurricane area. And good luck with the summers. (Hot humid, mosquitoes.)

Gretchen Sep 15th, 2017 04:13 PM

PLEASE, rent first, no matter what you have to put up with. Obviously you are already into the move, but it is hard to understand that you are just asking this question now.
Good luck/
By the way, no one can adequately answer the questions you are asking "for your family". Your impression of schools may be entirely different from another person's--and for a small town, you don't have a whole lot of choices.
Have you been to this town previously that you don't know what rentals are like? Rentals in the fall/winter should be fairly easy, but it would certainly behoove you to shop--and not rent near the ocean where the price will still be higher. Really?

Ackislander Sep 16th, 2017 02:22 AM

Parts of the NC coast actually are overbuilt and houses sit empty in summer. Maybe not your part of the NC coast.

But everything else everyone worries about is worth worrying about.

Where will you work? Who provides Internet and cable services at what speeds and at what cost? Where will your children go to school? Where will you worship? Where will you buy groceries? Gasoline? Where will you find a doctor and a dentist? Where is the nearest hospital in an emergency? Where will your water come from? Where will your sewage go? What is the storm history of the area where you want to settle? Will your house be up on stilts? Where is the nearest airport if you have to get back to New England in a hurry? Are you prepared for summer traffic getting in and out (think Cape traffic)?

You have a whole winter to think about this, maybe summer too. Don't put your house on the market until next spring so the transactions can be completed in time for the beginning of school in 2018. Spend all your vacations getting answers to these questions and visiting the areas where you are thinking of living. See what it's like in the winter; see what it's like in the summer. Fall is gorgeous everywhere except for hurricanes.

Above all, rent, rent, rent. Don't make a commitment to a house or a community until you fully understand the trade offs. There is a lot of building in this area, and it can be a lot harder to sell a house than to buy one.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but you shouldn't go into it starry-eyed.

thursdaysd Sep 16th, 2017 07:00 AM

Surf City is on Topsail Island, which is a major tourist destination. Holly Ridge is a (very) small town just inland, current pop. two thousand odd, not far from the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune. The population and median income of Holly Ridge have both increased recently although it's not clear why since the only industry seems to be real estate.

The area is not quite as subject to hurricanes as some other parts of the NC coast, but can be devastated by one.

"in 1954 the storm surge from Hurricane Hazel completely flooded the Topsail Island washing away most structures" - houses are now built on pilings.

I would imagine that moving to rural NC from Boston would induce significant culture shock. I would be very interested in an answer to the employment question.

If I insisted on moving to the NC coast I would be looking at Wilmington or New Bern. And paying very close attention to previous hurricane damage, bearing in mind that future hurricanes are likely to be stronger. The higher the ground the better.

thursdaysd Sep 16th, 2017 07:53 AM


Before planning a move to low lying coastal areas in SE US I recommend reading this:

Before planning a move to Topsail Island I recommend reading this:

Don't skip the video. Note, I live in NC, I do NOT think it is my responsibility to pay to "protect" the beaches - i.e. fight nature. I am already paying more than I should to insure my house because those living inland are subsidizing rates for those who choose to live at the beach.

You might also spend some time reading the local papers:

kmclennan1 Sep 19th, 2017 12:23 PM

Hi Everyone,

Well I was a little disappointed in the responses- but it may have been my fault- I didn't really express what i was looking for correctly. I was more concerned with getting a feel for the town, the community- volunteerism opportunities,etc. Also, iS there a lot of traffic in these beach towns ( actual time estimates from people who have visited in the summer months, not from people who don't venture to the same coastal area) advice on best routes, and how bad is the tourism. Right now we have to leave to go the beach by 6:45 am- for an arrival time around 7:15 am to beat the traffic in New Hampshire. You'll never find a parking spot after 8 am at the beaches up here. I was also looking for advice on planning such a large move- can you get car insurance quotes ahead of time, and health insurance?. I dont know, maybe thats a bit confusing, but thats what I was looking for really.

I have answers to most of the questions above:

Yes we will be renting before hand- a few weeks in April at a home close to where we are interested in purchasing.

I do not have to work, as my husband's income will suffice. He will not be losing his income, by relocating, rather it will be staying the same.

I have researched the utility companies, trash removal, recycling, water, sewer, schools the kids will attend, even football and cheerleading teams as well as some surfing lessons and board rentals. Also, the nearest airport is an hour away, and if we ever do face an evacuation, we will drive northwest for a few hours and rent a hotel and hope we come back to a not too damaged home. I've read many articles, and even though the articles may not have shown up on the last two links you provided thursdaysd- it was a nice resource to the local papers- thank you.

I did research the FEMA maps, and it looks like North Topsail Beach is in trouble, but I am looking further south. I found our flood zone for a few properties we like, and after speaking with a realty company, have gained some further insight into what that means insurance wise, and regarding the dunes and the additional sand the town brings in. Right now Hurricanes are threatening Nantucket, and the other areas of the cape, so I am aware of beach erosion, where homes are literally swept into the ocean.

We are still planning on moving forward with this location, and do have the rental booked. Hopefully I can compile a list of questions to ask, and make our rental time effective, and enjoy the beaches of course.

marvelousmouse Sep 19th, 2017 12:54 PM

Have you tried TripAdvisor or citydata? If you try trip advisor, phrase it like you're an actual tourist thinking about spending a month there or something. So trickier, but there tends to be a lot more people on TA, especially locals.

I definitely wouldn't sell before moving. Unless, for some reason, this is a permanent move for reasons other than lifestyle change. That sounds like a big culture shock to me, and hopefully you're going down to visit this winter too. Towns like that can be totally different places off season.

I got sick of winter too, but sometimes weather isn't the most important thing. You may find that you would be happier in a larger beach town, one with a larger and more stable year round population.

thursdaysd Sep 19th, 2017 02:07 PM

You may find you hate the summers in the south as much as the winters in the north. Renting for more than a month and including July or August would be prudent.

thursdaysd Sep 19th, 2017 02:12 PM

Some info on traffic:

I never go to the beach in the summer, so have no first hand experience. Should be pretty quiet in the winter.

Sassafrass Sep 19th, 2017 07:52 PM

This is from someone who has moved many, many times, 9 times as a child and over 21 times as an adult. You absolutely cannot become familiar enough with a new town to make the best decision until you live there or have made many, many visits. Rent for at least a year in your new area before making it permanent. That will give you time to become knowledgeable. I have never regretted delaying purchasing, but have wished a couple of times that we had waited a little longer to buy. Wait for a house you love!

Seriously, is the house you now own, one you would want to live in again if you had, for some reason, to return to the Boston area? If so, keep it. Rent it out if necessary, not to make money on it, but to have the option to return if you change your mind, and house prices have gone up to the point you could not buy back your own house. Twice, I have earnestly wished we had kept a house. If we had kept our last house, I know I would have moved back after a year if it had been an option. It was too late, and I have regretted that decision for 15 years. We could have returned to the area, but not the house, so it would not have been the same.

You may love your new place, but unless you really do hate where you live, it is best to have some experience living in your new place before cutting ties to Boston. We moved once to a place we had done tons of research on, and visited for two months. Turned out to be a big mistake, and it took several years to be able to move again.

Deciding on schools is really hard. There are blue ribbon schools that have issues and poor schools that have much to offer. Little schools, big schools, private schools? Take your kids down for a few days and let them trail in the schools they might attend.

Gretchen Sep 20th, 2017 04:00 AM

I find this so interesting with the new post from the OP. I would offer to her she will know first hand about traffic patterns when she takes her rental. this part is set in stone apparently.

<how bad is the tourism> I would suggest that tourism is the life blood of beach towns but her husband apparently isn't a part of that so it will be a "problem" to them. Beach tourism in NC is not a summer "thang"--it is year round although of course, winter is a lot less. I'd say 8-9 months a year? "Going to the beach" is a God given pleasure year round for usn's down heah!! LOL

WhereAreWe Sep 20th, 2017 06:10 AM

>we will finish out the school year here and live with family after the house sells until about June. Then its off to the races to come down and find our next home. I was thinking a good idea would be to line up a summer rental, and then transition to purchase while we are down there. Does this sound insane?<

Yes. You asked, so there's your answer. The idea of selling your house and staying with family until June doesn't make sense - just hold onto your house and sell in the spring right before you move. 'Racing' to find your next home isn't a great idea either. Rent in the area for 6 months to a year before purchasing anything.

>So I am not worried about that,. but what I am worried about is how I can get acquainted with the area to really know what I am buying when it comes to the next house. <

Rent for a year. Or visit every month for a week or two between now and the move. There's really no way to get acquainted with an area sitting at a computer doing research. You can get some sense for it but nothing beats living there and buying a house after a few months of renting a summer home is setting yourself up for an expensive mistake.

>Yes we will be renting before hand- a few weeks in April at a home close to where we are interested in purchasing.<

That doesn't fit with your first plan to get a summer rental, nor will a few weeks in April give you a good idea of where you want to live long-term.

> I was also looking for advice on planning such a large move- can you get car insurance quotes ahead of time, and health insurance?<


NewbE Sep 20th, 2017 07:26 AM

Sassafrass has given really good advice, echoed by WhereAreWe. I, too, have moved many times as an adult, always with quite short notice and little time to choose a place to live. If you are moving to a small, isolated place, you can make a quick decision because there are so few options. When we moved to larger areas, we batted 50/50: once we made the wrong choice, once, the right one.

But keep in mind that we didn't have kids, and were moving for 1-3 years tops. Our stakes were relatively low.

So, try, to the best of your ability, to take your time. Rent for a year. A year FLIES by, while giving you so much more information to work with.

Other advice:
--yes, you can get insurance quotes in advance
--look into property insurance, too, even if you end up renting for a year. In coastal areas, these can be sobering.
--reduce your household goods as drastically as you can. Moving an entire household is a bear! The less stuff you have, the better.
--hire a reputable moving company. Don't cheap out on this! make sure your goods are well insured.

If I think of anything else, I'll add it.

NewbE Sep 20th, 2017 11:09 AM

I'm also curious how you settled on that particular town. You don't have to answer...but I was thinking that unless there is a strong connection to it (personal, professional, any), you might want to stay flexible and consider other coastal areas--it's a long coast, after all. It's another reason to rent for a year, is my point, as you could spend long weekends exploring other coastal states.

Gretchen Sep 20th, 2017 11:35 AM

And of course summer rentals are high season and very expensive (IF on the beach) or front rows.
I also find the concern about parking at the beach to be interesting. I don't know Topsail or that area well, but the beaches we know may have public access walkways to get to the beach but there are houses or hotels on the oceanfront. Parking lots aren't real common on the beaches except at the piers, IME.

OP, have you actually come to that area and looked in person? You say you've researched and googled.

From late spring to mid fall it is not unusually for 10,000 to 15,000 people to come to the island on a Saturday. Most of these people will check into their beach houses, condos or hotel rooms at 3 p.m.
Until you experience this at a beach you will not appreciate what this is.

thursdaysd Sep 20th, 2017 11:37 AM

Agree with Newbe, if you aren't in the tourist biz those are odd towns to pick. As I said upthread, I'd opt for Wilmington or New Bern if I wanted to move to the NC coast.

You can probably tell how long the tourist season lasts by looking at hotel prices. The all-suites hotel I like at Wrightsville beach is reasonable in October and March, and cheap Nov, Dec, Jan and Feb. Parking at Wrightsville is free from November to the beginning of March, so that's something else to look at.

Gretchen Sep 20th, 2017 12:42 PM

and actually if you're looking for a beach town, SC has 'em and there are fewer taxes there.

thursdaysd Sep 20th, 2017 01:42 PM

Surf City beach access and parking:

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