|June 9, 2008
Ocracoke Island Real Estate: A wealth of resources
By B.J. OELSCHLEGEL
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
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
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
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
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
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