June 9, 2008

Ocracoke Island Real Estate: A wealth of resources


I had an e-mail inquiry recently that caused me to think more about the idea of the resources available to our community. I have written in the past about the fact that so many of our visitors have a serious love affair with the island. I view this as a resource. This passion feeds the weekly cottage rentals, the gift shops and tourist services, and the real estate sales market.

With the depth of the questions posed in this gentleman’s e-mails, my wheels started rolling. I was contacted by a Canadian couple looking to spend their winters in a warmer climate, and their friend had mentioned Ocracoke. I have probably spent 3 or 4 hours answering this gentlemen’s daily barrage of questions. Initially, the questions were about the weather and prices of rental property. Now we’re into questions about heat sources and medical facilities. Safety issues, organic groceries, and exercise facilities were also big concerns.

But I thought that I was being tested, much like a “Candid Camera” experience, when he picked up on a comment that I had made about the sense of community within the village. He wanted to know if I had experienced any acts of kindness. He wanted to know if there was a sense of social solidarity on the island. He asked for an example of the level of fellowship within the village.

I was in the thick of what was now beginning to feel like a dissertation, and I wanted to see it through to the end. I sat staring out the window, mentally flipping through the Rolodex of memories, looking for the perfect example, to respond to this very involved question. I settled on a nameless story of the way this community can rally around a person who is sick and in need of our support. I witnessed this community reacting to a neighbor as though they were a family member. I loved telling the story of the way the village functions.

This Canadian couple will be making purchasing choices or long-term rental decisions based on the answers to these kinds of questions. The level of fellowship, which is so vital and comforting to the villagers, begins to look like a resource for this community.

I think that the island has a wealth of assets on which to capitalize. Ocracoke has organizations whose mission is to preserve the resource of our historic heritage, both architecturally and culturally.  We live adjacent to a national seashore. We are all acutely aware of the government entities that work to restrict development on our waterfront and in related marsh ecosystems, therefore maintaining our pristine environment. Our natural setting, lifestyle and the culture in this quaint fishing village are resources for attracting the supply of people who fund our livelihood.

 I have been so impressed with another attribute of this community. When it comes to working together to solve a problem, this island has the skills and the will power. The North Carolina Department of Transportation was generous enough to provide the village with a choice on how to replace the bridges on Highway 12. The choice was to close the highway for two months to replace all of the bridges at one time. The community, along with various government agencies, brainstormed every possible service and aspect of everyday life that would be affected and worked out contingency plans.  

I believe the bridge replacement project was as painless as possible, not perfect but painless. I don’t think that our level of discomfort was any more than what we experience with any of the other inconveniences of island life. Our relatively painless experience was in part due to phenomenal brainpower and planning.

Another common example of the community working together occurs with each hurricane. After every storm, this community streamlines the emergency management plans, the re-entry process, and the public notification of “business as usual.” We have shown incredible power to organize, join forces, and affect our lives. The creativity, intelligence, organizational skill, and drive of self-preservation within this community, are more examples of our wealth of resources.

Let’s look at the current real estate market on Ocracoke. We do have more properties listed than ever before. There appears to be no pattern with properties listed because of the economy or rising taxes. I witness people shifting -- a couple needing to relocate to an assisted living situation, someone retiring and wanting to travel before it becomes impossible, folks needing to downsize, or a grandmother wanting to foot the bill for college for the grandchildren.

Sellers are at a disadvantage, with buyers having so many properties to choose from. They are accepting lower contract prices so they don’t have to sit out on the market forever. Sellers are choosing to move on with their lives instead of waiting. The word in the media causes some to believe that the sky is falling. Prices are falling, not the sky.

More people, who have always loved the island, are now more able to afford this dream.  Returning visitors show a passion for village life that is bottomless. It drives many to “Google” Ocracoke and longingly click through whatever pictures they can find of the island, instead of working at their daily grind.

We will continue to see fluctuations in property values on Ocracoke. The kicker in a market such as this is not at what price you sell, but the fact that you have the ability to actually move a piece of property, if you so choose. The best resource we have for moving property on the island is this absolute undying love for our way of life.

This community has a wealth of assets. We can be grateful for our level of fellowship, our population of creative, industrious, and self-determined individuals, a lifestyle rich in culture and a setting which reflects our appreciation for the land. My intention is not to reduce the characteristics of this community to the status of a commodity. My point is to shine the light on the fact that we have so much going for us and our visitors feel it. In this crazy, fast-paced world we should foster and preserve these phenomena that enhance the quality of life, particularly in the area of historic and cultural preservation.   For some, these gifts are a birthright. For others, they are the reasons why we continue to call Ocracoke home.

(B.J. Oelschlegel has lived on Ocracoke Island for 30 years and has worked in the real estate business for 26 years.  She is a broker with Ocracoke’s Lightship Realty. You can reach her e-mail at [email protected])


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