Tuesday, February 17, 2009

North Carolina

We're back. Note the new masthead photo. No, it doesn't mean we bought something. This beautiful lot is what we have our eye on, though, and once we dot an "i" and cross a "t," we hope we can make an offer. We went to North Carolina hoping that both land and construction costs would be cheaper than what we found in Delaware. Land certainly fulfills that hope. To remind you: we paid $325,000 for the quarter-acre we had in Delaware. This 2.5-acre lot, waterfront, with a dock, and cleared and ready to build on, is priced in the low 100s. We are now in the process of contacting local builders to get a ballpark figure of what it would cost to build the house we designed in Delaware. If the price is low enough, we will bid on the land. (And if it isn't, we could well decide to "transition" right back here to Arlington, bag the idea of moving at all, and create another version of a new life.) So things are in process now and excitement is not yet called for, but the picture above is the fruit of our weekend search. We looked at many properties and nothing else combines price, size, and readiness to build like this one.

The picture places you in about the middle of the lot, between the road and the water. Behind the camera is a perfectly, selectively, cleared screen of tall young pines with no underbrush. It borders the road and would provide a tantalizing view of a house further in. A natural sort of threshold between the two trees in the picture ushers you to the house site itself. The dock is just beyond, a bit to the right. If you'd like to see just a few pictures (only 10) to get a better feel for the place, go here. The weedy trees and underbrush obliterating the waterview, while it is on protected wetland, can be removed as long as nothing is uprooted. If we buy, that will be one of the first things we do.

Folks, North Carolina is huge. Everything there seems to be bigger, the spaces more wide open, than anything I've known before. The rivers of northeastern North Carolina dwarf my Potomac; they are yawning courses whose opposing shores are barely visible. Suddenly I know why cars are an absolute necessity for so many Americans, and I may end up being one of them. We have lived most of our lives in places of highly concentrated populations: Arlington is simultaneously the smallest county in the U.S. and the most densely populated. (My commute to work in downtown DC was 10 minutes.) The entire state of Delaware is tiny to the point of oblivion, and our world there was concentrated in only one of its three counties. Since it takes me literally 5 minutes to get to the grocery store here in Arlington, I thought it was a big deal that the same trip took 20 minutes in Delaware. Well. This North Carolina lot is 12 miles off the main north-south highway, and the nearest grocery is another 7 or 8 on that road. So no more last-minute jogs to the store for that jar of mayonnaise. Shopping will require much more planning than I've been used to. The development this lot is part of is not yet fully populated, so I think some sense of isolation may be possible for us until we get used to the longer distances and more people move in. The more we did the trip from the main town of Edenton to the lot, the shorter it seemed, but still, it's out there.

The real estate agent we are working with gives a good name to all Realtors. She is incredibly industrious. She covered vast distances in preparation for our visit and collected several places for us to look at. She's made it clear that we are in this search together and understands all of our questions and hesitations, and she is enthusiastic and cheery. We could not have had a better introduction to the area and can see her and her family becoming good friends if we should end up living there.

So all in all it was a good trip and we learned a tremendous amount. There is some disappointment that we didn't resolve our future then and there, but we've been around a few blocks by now in this real estate game and have learned to temper enthusiasm with a dose of hard-won common sense. The market is molasses-slow there. If we bought a plot of land, for no matter how little money, and it turned out we couldn't use it, we would be saddled with the debt for a very long time. Better safe than sorry. We'll see what construction costs are like and take it from there.

Once again, stay tuned.

17 comments:

Nan said...

Wonderful! Looks like a beautiful spot.

Cuidado said...

What a great spot! I like it a lot. I love rural life and hopefully you will too. Hustle and bustle are great for a visit but I couldn't live it.

Where's the music today?

Linda - SE PA said...

Ralph,

This is wonderful! I am keeping my enthusiasm on an even keel as you await estimates.

I grew up in area where everything was in walking distance or a bus ride away and for a good part of my life thought this was "the norm". Mmph! when I learned otherwise. Yes, you will shop differently and learn to stockpile - especially when sales occur.

Edenton is a gorgeous area - especially nice for houseguests to visit as well as for you & Steve!

How was the restaurant? Waiting for menu and review...

Ralph said...

Linda, the restaurant was nice. Comfortable, good jazz music in the background that almost sounded like it was from my own playlist--Jobim, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan--by a buy playing and singing live at a Mac set. He also played a very muted trumped. The food was good.

The one odd thing about the food scene is that there is NO PLACE to get a decent down-home sit-down breakfast on a Sunday morning! We had to go all the way to Elizabeth City, 17 miles away, and even that was a steam-table cafeteria. Edenton needs a good breakfast place!

Ralph said...

Cuidado, no music because I got a late start and didn't have time to choose any. I'll make it up tomorrow!

Linda - SE PA said...

Ralph,

There you go - inspiration for you & Steve to open a breakfast cafe in Edenton!

It is easy to raise chickens for eggs and thereby keeping costs to a minimum. Only thing is to be cautious with roosters - they are noisy and rise early. You can do free range and with a manly rooster, the flock will increase.

Just a thought!

Ralph said...

Oh, it crossed my mind, Linda! But I want to get out of one debt before I take on another, and I'm not sure what the home owners' association would make of a chicken farm...

If I get really inspired I may start serving brunch to the neighbors!

Jeff said...

Looks like a beautiful spot, Ralph. My in-laws have been down in Durham and Chapel hill for many years. We saw the area grown from flat farmland to residential development. They begged us to come down and join them but we resisted being dedicated New Yorkers.
Certainly could have gotten more "bang for the buck" considering the difference in the real estate values. I wonder about it all now... - J.

Ralph said...

There's sitll time, Jeff! Although my remarks on the wide-open spaces down there must resonate your NY self...

There's a lot of "southern" in me--DC is half southern already; I went to school in Kentucky and made friends from there and Tennessee and Georgia, and I lived (or at least did my laundry) in Durham for a season as a Peace Corps recruiter in the 70s--spent most of my time in the road throughout the south--so it's sort of "home" for me. Steve grew up in Florida but he and his family are literal New England transplants--they never adapted culturally as southerners. But Steve was advocating for NC long before I was interested....

Karen said...

It's a beautiful piece of property Ralph - a perfect combination of woodland and water. I know that you and Steve will be happy no matter where you land. This destination looks pretty enticing though. I'm with Linda - I think a breakfast cafe may be in your future. Talk to Kristen though before raising chickens. It's a lot of work...and eggs are cheap!

Ralph said...

Ladies, and gentlemen, please welcome my neice Karen to the e-family!

Not to worry about the chicken farm. (But wouldn't a down home breakfast with "real" eggs be a selling point...hmm...) You're right, a good conversation with Kristen would be in order before I dove into that. (Course she'd say "go ahead!")

Gee--I guess I could have occasional fried chicken specials.....

Mark said...

Hey Ralph and Steve - I've been hearing so many good things about NC for so long now, and everything you say would seem to confirm them all. I guess it's time for me to stop thinking of that state as the home of Mayberry and Mt. Pilot and get with the new groove.

You've got decisions to make,and plans. Good luck with everything.

Ralph said...

Definitely change your thinking about NC, Mark. Mayberry gives the state a bum rap. Thanks to the Outer Banks on oine side and the mountain resorts on teh other, not to mention the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill) it's got a good tax base and a well-educated and progressive population. It's just BIG!

Zoey and Me said...

Hello Karen! Well you certainly had a big weekend. Love the photos of the acreage. And the stream? Does it access the intercoastal? I would think if navigable you looking at a super price for that much land. Good Luck!

Ralph said...

Oh, yes, Z&M, the stream is connected to the sounds, and on. We wouldn't have it any other way. I was disappointed to learn that we'll have to travel fairly far to reach water brackish enough to support crabs, but heck, I guess I can deal with a boat ride!

auntympaugh said...

Hi, Ralph & Steve! Well, needless to say, this land looks amazingly beautiful and a house, like you planned (with all your original rooms, etc), would be dynamite in that spot! I see there are neighbors close by, too. Do you know anything about them? I'm sure you'll want to talk with them, before you decide, to get to know the area more.

Although I agree that you and Steve would be happy anywhere, your caution is wise. Take your time and do your homework - then you won't be disappointed.

We wish you and Steve happiness, no matter where you decide to settle, but I have to be honest- we, here in Delaware, will miss you two like crazy!

Hugs!!

Ralph said...

Hi, Marilyn. Thanks for the good wishes--we'll know something soon! And if we end up there, visits should be easy and fun, up and down the coast road via the harbor tunnel. Probably easier and shorter than from DC, actually. It's just across the VA line.