Real Estate - Residential

Growth Boosts Area Welcome Services

By Cece Nunn, posted Jun 30, 2017
Nancy Wilcox has owned her firm for 21 years. (Photo courtsey of Nancy Wilcox)
The Wilmington area’s booming real estate market is benefiting more companies than just those that deal in buying and selling property.

Firms that welcome newcomers are also seeing a surge.

Typically, Nancy Wilcox, owner of Welcome Service LLC, and her team of eight part-time employees personally welcome more than 300 people every month in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties, a 50 percent increase over about 19 years ago.

“For instance, May was our biggest month that we’ve ever had, and we welcomed” 380 newcomers and 50 new businesses, said Wilcox, who has been in the business for 40 years and owned Welcome Service LLC for 21 years.

Frank Bernardini, local franchisee for national company Welcomemat Services for six years, said he’s also noticed a marked increase in certain areas in New Hanover County.

“Certain zip codes have bumped up a bit. 28412, the Monkey Junction area, is seeing some heavier growth than it’s seen before,” he said. “

It was the busiest zip code in Wilmington for new residents since I bought the business, but now it’s going up even more,” he said.

One reason for that, he said, could be RiverLights, a master planned community that’s taking shape on the Cape Fear River.

RiverLights is adding housing to the area and is expected to hold 2,300 homes, along with businesses, on 1,400 acres along River Road.

The 28412 zip code’s proximity to both Carolina Beach and downtown Wilmington could be another factor, Bernardini said.

Welcomemat Services is a national new mover marketing and technology company.
In 2015, the firm crossed the 50-franchise mark across 22 states, according to a 2016 news release. The release said that while traditional marketing strategies such as print and mail are the basis of the company’s approach, social and digital tactics have also led to growth for Welcomemat Services.

Both Welcomemat Services and Welcome Service have Facebook pages.

While Bernardini’s Welcomemat franchise greets newcomers through mass mailings, Welcome Service employees bring packages that include coupons and local publications to homes, businesses and freshmen at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

“We spend 10 or 15 minutes with everyone, and we go through each and every business in the package,” Wilcox said.

“The great thing about us is we go in there, and it’s the first thing a lot of these people see,” Wilcox continued. “We’ll offer them information about doctors and urgent care facilities and financial advisors and free haircuts and free car washes and auto stuff, and we’re explaining where they’re located, what their specialties are, what they do.”

She said that overall each year, Welcome Service welcomes an average of 300 newcomers each month and about 50 new businesses.

Welcome businesses can help connect new residents to local goods and services, Bernardini and Wilcox said.

“What we do is we help businesses find a new client base, which is the new resident, which is a great base for them as far as economics are concerned. New people are very interested in becoming acclimated to the area. They have set funds aside to help them get acclimated so they’re looking for places for social events, food, dental, medical, veterinarian, child care, auto repairs,” Bernardini said of Welcomemat Services.

Welcomemat designs gift certificates with local businesses to introduce newcomers to them. Bernardini said that he has about 15 business clients he works with, mainly in Wilmington.

Welcome Service employees have assigned areas, Wilcox said.

After the employees pick up packages from Wilcox, “they go out and deliver on weekends and nights, when people are home, and we have special bags for people with kids, special bags for people with pets. Just exactly what you want, we can do,” she said.

Bernardini and Wilcox expect the market to continue to thrive. Local home sales statistics broke records again in May, reaching an all-time high in the number of units sold for the month, according to the latest statistics from Cape Fear Realtors.

A Cape Fear Realtors news release in June said home sales in the CFR market, which involves CFR members mainly in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, were up nearly 19 percent, from 814 homes in May 2016 to 968 in May this year. The May 2017 total was the highest recorded for the month since CFR began keeping track in 1998, according to the CFR database.

The average sale price in May hit a nine-year high of $274,150 last month, 5.6 percent higher than May last year, the CFR release said.

Year to date for May, the number of units sold increased by 19.7 percent compared to the same period last year, the average sales price was up 4.4 percent, the total sales volume was up 25.21 percent, and average days on the market dropped 13 percent to 89 days.

The rise in sales also means record-breaking numbers for some local residential real estate firms.

“Right now contracts and sales are way up. We did $49 million in contracts last week,” said Tim Milam, president of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, on June 12.

He said that contract total was a record high for a single week for the company, which in addition to the tri-county region also operates in Onslow County.

“We typically this time of year would be doing $30 million a week” in contracts, Milam said.

Keeping up with the demand remains an issue, he said.

“Inventory is becoming a challenge,” Milam said. “We need some more inventory. That’s been our biggest challenge.”

Brunswick County’s residential real estate market continued to show exceptional growth during May 2017, according to a report June 21 from Brunswick County Association of Realtors.

The number of residential listings in Brunswick County rose from 558 in May 2016 to 592 in May this year, said a BCAR news release on June 21. BCAR officials pull numbers for Brunswick from the N.C. Regional Multiple Listing Service after the 10th of each month.

The number of units sold jumped 24.6 percent during that time, going from 341 to 425, BCAR reported. The average sale price increased 13.1 percent, from $253,845 to $287,212, while total sales rose 41 percent, from about $86.6 million in May last year to $122 million last month.

“Brunswick County’s real estate market is still red hot, to the point of breaking records,” BCAR CEO Cynthia Walsh said. “We have not seen sales like this in one month since before 2010.”

Walsh said 16 homes sold for $750,000 or more during the month.

Across the country, home sales typically trend upward during the summer as homebuyers who are parents of schoolchildren scramble to purchase their homes before traditional August start dates. But the Wilmington area’s market often doesn’t follow national trends exactly.

Wilcox said 10 years ago, she would have said summer was a busier time for her Welcome Service, “but now it’s year-round.”
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