House Hunting Tips

House hunting can be an exhausting task. Touring all of the available properties can be an overwhelming experience, especially for first time home buyers. Let us offer some suggestions on your home search.

1. Write a list of the must haves. These are features in the new home that you consider non-negotiable and you can’t live without.

2. Make a wish list of the things that would be nice. For example, a garage or hardwood floors. Realize that these are the items that you want, not need and these may be things that could be added after you move in.

3. Deal-breakers. These are the things you really don’t want. Examples include a neighborhood without sidewalks, a longer commute to work, or busy streets. These are often things that can’t be changed.

By giving your agent these ideas, you can work together to narrow down the search. Realize that your ideas may change as time goes by, but knowing what you can and can’t live without in a home will increase your chances of buying property that’s just right for YOU.

Which brings up another point- when touring homes for sale, outside opinions could muddy the waters. If your mom, uncle, or friend decides to join you on the search, make sure they don’t sway you in another direction. This is when your list will come in handy to remind you of what YOU want, not what your mom, uncle, or friend may want.

Last but not least, choose a good agent. Before looking at that first home, your agent should go over the complete process, how they operate, and what they charge. They should also get a good understanding of your “needs, wants, and wishes.” It’s also necessary that your agent is licensed by the state and have the transaction experience and confidence to negotiate effectively in a competitive market. A good agent also acts as a “guardian angel,” protecting you in the transaction and welcoming questions about the area or the process. A good agent shouldn’t push anything on you. Your agent is an important part of the searching process; Intracoastal agents make sure your experience is nothing less than exceptional.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

2010-10-GhostsSince we are nearing the spooky time of year we thought it would be a fun time to share the scariest houses around. recently shared an article, “America’s Most Haunted Homes” that showcased the 10 scariest homes in the US and an estimate on what each house is worth. But what can a haunting do to the value of a home? According to Stan Humphries, Chief Economist at, it’s a toss up. “Whether it helps or hurts a home’s appeal is largely a function of the nature of the haunting,” he says, noting that there is very little empirical data on this question. “Of course,” he says, “for a particularly macabre buyer, a house that is haunted might fetch a higher price. In real estate as in all things, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.”

Our area has been known for its own haunted spaces as well. Wilmington is an old port city, incorporated centuries ago, with a rich paranormal history. Tourists and locals alike keep the downtown Ghost Walk Tours busy year round. A guided tour of downtown Wilmington exposes several buildings and graveyards where sightings, tapping on the walls, phantom footsteps, and ghastly screams are all very common. If you aren’t scared investigate these haunted tales from the Cape Fear!! Or better yet, take a tour and see these ghosts for yourself……..

Ghost at Thalian Hall – Dead actors haunt the stage

Ghosts of the Prairie- Haunted Wilmington

Haunted Wilmington

The Haunting of Battleship North Carolina

The Maco Light

Interesting HOA Rules

Did you know that Homeowners Associations first emerged in the United States in the mid 1800’s? In North Carolina there are over 17,935 homeowner associations. Collectively, this represents over 2,025,000 households or 53% of the owner occupied households in the state. It also represents tens of thousands of volunteers that serve on association boards and committees.

It’s very important to know the laws of your land and your neighborhood. Both governments and homeowners associations can impose powerful—and sometimes incredibly strange—restrictions and requirements. Some of these fines can be pretty costly.

Luckily none of these seven crazy examples of laws and HOA rules are local:

1. Can’t park your car in your own driveway In Odessa, Fla., a resident was fined by his board for parking his pickup truck in his own driveway because it wouldn’t fit in his garage. Not our problem, the HOA basically told him before slapping him with a lawsuit. After a protracted legal battle, he has since won the right to park his car, but only after two years and $200,000 in legal fees.

2. Don’t plant too many roses While foreclosure is an increasingly real threat to homeowners, few expect to lose their house based on gardening infractions. But that’s exactly what happened to a Rancho Santa Fe, California, resident who planted too many roses on his property. After $70,000 in fees, he lost his legal battle against the HOA and ultimately lost his home to the flower debacle.

3. Indoor drying only As seen in a Colbert Report expose, a Bend, Oregon, resident was shocked by her HOA’s rejection of her outdoor clothesline. Her natural drying method was dubbed a hazard, and they began levying fines that totaled nearly $1,000. She eventually took down the offending line, even after the Right 2 Dry movement got behind her.

4. No mothers-in-laws allowed If you’re a married man in Iowa, the government grants you a special privilege: you’re allowed to bar your mother-in-law from your home. While certainly useful to men trying to ditch their spouse’s mom, this law does not extend to women.

5. Only use sanctioned paint What appears to be an inoffensive pale blue house has caused a stir recently in one Georgia neighborhood. Unaware of his HOA’s rules, a homeowner painted his house before having the color officially approved by his board. And with a $25 per day fee levied every day his house bares the offending hue, he’s already racked up $6,800 in fines on top of legal fees.

6. No service dog for the hearing impaired Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, a Fort Collins, Colorado, HOA fined a hearing-impaired resident for keeping Pookee, her Pomeranian service dog. The HOA even threatened to put a lien on the property.

7. Don’t use ‘inconsistent’ shingles  As if it wasn’t tragedy enough when a plane fell out of the sky destroying a Sanford, Florida, man’s home, his HOA then challenged his rebuilding efforts. It threatened litigation because the shingles and elevation in his new house’s plans didn’t match his neighbors’.

Our suggestion: Make sure you understand the HOA or condo association rules before you purchase the property. Your real estate agent will have access to searches and neighborhood covenants if you need help. Another source is HOA-NC. HOA-NC is dedicated to providing resources that promote a better understanding of townhome, condominium, and single family homeowner associations in North Carolina.


October and Halloween Fun!

2010-10-pumpkinOctober ‘scares up’ nearly two dozen Halloween-theme events in Wilmington & North Carolina’s Cape Fear Coast (Carolina Beach,Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach). Visitors can experience this spooky time of year ‘Cape Fear-style’ with ghoulish festivals, ghostly tours, murder-mystery cruises, costume parties, scary stories, and organized trick-or-treat events. Following is a sampling of mysterious, haunted and historic festivities:

Ongoing (year-round)—Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington. Costumed guides lead visitors through alleyways with tales of haunted Wilmington. Nightly Halloween-theme tours at 6:30pm and 8:30pm. Admission charge. Meets at Water & Market streets. Reservations required: 910-794-1866;  (not recommended for very young children)

Ongoing (year-round)—Haunted Pub Crawl. Guided tour to 5 haunted pubs. Ages 21 and up; admission charge. Meets Tues.-Sat. in October & Sunday, Oct. 31 at 7:30pm at Fat Tony’s (131 N. Front St.). Reservations required.

Each Tuesday in OctoberMurder Mystery Dinner Cruises. Solve an exciting who-dunnit during a 2- hour dinner cruise along the Cape Fear River. Audience participation; prizes. Boards at 6pm; departs 6:30pm at dock (Water & Dock sts).Admission charge. Reservations: 910-343-1611; 800-676-0162

Each Tuesday and Thursday in October—Pirate Cruise/Tour. 3pm-5pm. Arrrr! Join a costumed pirate storyteller on an exploration of Money Island on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Kids will learn about the history of famous North Carolina pirates, such as Captain Kidd and Black Beard. Admission charge. Wrightsville Beach Water Taxi & Cruises, 275 Waynick Blvd. Wrightsville Beach. Advance reservations required: 910-200-4002

Oct. 1—Fabulous Fantail Film Festival Double Feature: “Dracula” and “Frankenstein.” 7pm. Get into the Halloween mood by watching these original 1931 monster movies on the fantail of the Battleship North Carolina. Make it even more fun by wearing your best Halloween costume. Admission is $5 & tickets go on sale at 6pm. Chairs provided. Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington. 910-251-5797;

 Oct. 8-9; 15-16; 22-23; 29-30—Ghost Ship Tour. 7pm-10pm. You’ve seen the Battleship NC on paranormal programs, now come see for yourself! Come and experience Ghost Ship, a haunted house with ghouls, ghosts, and zombies set on the Battleship for some great and scary Halloween fun. Admission is $10 per person at door. Line forms at 6:30pm. You must be in the ticket line by 9:30pm to ensure a ticket. Note: Not recommended for young children.

Oct. 15-17; 22-24— “Little Shop of Horrors” Fri. & Sat. 8pm; Sun. 3pm. The Thalian Association Children’s Theater opens its 2010-2011 season with the outrageous musical starring a singing carnivorous plant! Tickets are $10.  Hannah Block 2nd Street Stage, 120 S. Second St., Wilmington. 910-251-1788

Oct. 22-24 & 29-31—29th Annual Halloween Festival at Poplar Grove Plantation. “Haunted” hayrides, carnival rides and games, “haunted” barn, non-scary Fun House with fortune tellers, games, stories, pony rides, food, costume contests, and more. Fun for all ages, including small children. Fri. (6-11pm); Sat. (2-11pm); Sun. (2-9pm). Costume contest (all ages) is Sat. the 30th. Free admission; activity fees vary. Poplar Grove Plantation

Oct. 21; 28Clue! Mystery Dinner Theatre Halloween Special. 6:30pm. Porch Theatre Company presents this fast paced family friendly whodunit that will leave you “dying” with laughter. Audiences (if they come in costume) are invited to participate in the costume contest held after the performance. Reservations required. Adults $20; kids $20 (includes dinner, tax, gratuity and performance). Front Street Brewery, 910-232-6611

Oct. 22-24 & 28-31—Halloween Ghost Trolley. 6pm-9pm. 30-minute horse-drawn trolley ride through historic district and a visit to the “haunted barn.” Horses and tour guides are dressed in costume. Halloween-theme stories, songs & treats. $12 Adults; $5 Children under 12. Departs at Market & Water Streets.; 910-251-8889

Oct. 24—Horse Drawn Wagon Rides at Oakdale Cemetery. 3pm-5:30pm. On this afternoon visitors can view and learn the history with interesting commentaries about the cemetery.  $10 Adults; children 12 and under $8. 910-762-5682

Oct. 8-9; 15; 23-24—Ghost Hike. 8pm. Join a park ranger down the trails of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area to explore the unexplained phenomena that surrounds Fort Fisher. Bring a flashlight and meet at 8pm at the visitor center to explore trails that are normally closed at night. Space is limited; reservations are required. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. 910-458-5798;

Oct. 26—Batty Battleship’s Halloween Bash. 5:30pm-8pm. A lot of fun & no scares, it is time for families to have fun & raise their hairs. But don’t be frightened & don’t you fret, we promise we’ll provide a zoo with animals to pet. With candy & sweets, there’s plenty of treats you’ll be asking yourself: what more should I eat? As everyone comes dressed in their Halloween best, there will be carnival festivities, games & much more. Did we mention also candy galore! Admission is $5 per person. Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington. 910-251-5797

 Oct. 27 & 28—Trick-or-Treat Under the Sea. 5pm-8:30pm. Families can enjoy thrills & gills in the same day. Indoor trick-or-treating, face painting, story-telling, magic shows and haunted gardens are some of the highlights at this family oriented fun Halloween party at the Aquarium. Note: only umbrella strollers permitted. Admission is $6; children 2 and under FREE.  NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. 910-458-8257;

Oct. 30—Kooky Spooky Jam-Boo-Read! 5-7pm. A kids’ festival featuring scary stories and non-scary fall-theme activities. Kids are invited to arrive dressed in costume or as a favorite book character. Admission charge. Children’s Museum of Wilmington. 910-254-3534

Oct. 30—Pumpkin Party at Fit for Fun. 9am-12noon. Arrive in costume and enjoy pumpkin painting, pumpkin games, temporary tattoos, and more. $5 per child. Fit for Fun Center. 910-341-4630.

Oct. 29—HAUNT 2010. 8:00pm-midnight. Adult Halloween party with food, drinks, karaoke, and costume contest. Admission charge. Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington. 910-395-5999

Oct. 30—Trick or Treat Trot 5K/10K Run & 1 mile Fun Run/Walk. 9am.Registration fee for adult 5K/10K race. Halloween costumes encouraged. 20 N. 4thSt., Wilmington  

Oct. 31—Scary Creepy Critters. 1:30pm-3pm. Educational program, nature trail hike, and creepy crafts that revolve around bats, spiders, and other scary, creepy creatures. Ages 6-10 yrs. Pre-registration required. Admission charge. Halyburton Park, Wilmington. 910-341-0075;

Oct. 31—Trick-or-Treat at the Mall. 3-5pm. Kids arrive in costume and retailers provide candy. Independence Mall. 910-392-1776;

For more information about Fall featured events, experiences and seasonal specials. For a FREE Official Visitors Guide to Wilmington & NC’s Cape Fear Coast (Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach), stop by the Visitor Information Center located at 24 N. 3rd St., Wilmington, or visit website .  

Before traveling any distance, please call the event venue in advance to confirm date, time, prices.