Real Estate - Residential

Topsail-area Realtors Share Updates

By Cece Nunn, posted Mar 15, 2024
Teresa Batts (from left), mayor of Surf City and owner of Teresa Batts Real Estate; Amye Baker, broker in charge of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Treasure; and Jim Cornelison, of Carolina Real Estate in Surf City, participated in a discussion of the c
In Surf City, more sewer capacity is on the way.

Mayor Teresa Batts updated a real estate industry audience in Sneads Ferry in February on the critical development issue.

“Sewer has slowed down the building in our area,” Batts, who owns Teresa Batts Real Estate, told the group. 

But every lot in Surf City was accounted for, she said, before the town had to put a hold on any new taps. 

“We are by all means trying to keep up and produce building permits in the town of Surf City. By the fall of ’24, we should have 150 more gallons per day, which will give us another 416 homes that we’ll be able to serve,” Batts said. “There are a lot of people that are jumping on the list right now to obtain more sewer capacity when it does come available, and it’s going to happen.”

The effort has been boosted by $20 million in state funds and a rule change allowing for a lower flow, she said. 

Batts was one of three panelists during a Feb. 21 coastal state-of-the-market event hosted by the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association in conjunction with the Topsail Island Association of Realtors.

Panelist Amye Baker, broker in charge of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Treasure, said the residential real estate market in the Topsail Island area seems to be returning to its normal cycle after the disruption of COVID. The market usually sees a lull in late fall, ramping back up by the end of January and into February.

“For example, North Topsail Beach is doing better this year at the end of January than it did in 2023,” Baker said, with homes on the market 23.8 days in January of this year versus 128 days in January 2023. 

Baker’s company has offices in Sneads Ferry in Onslow County, Surf City in Pender County and Wilmington.

“We’re starting to see things pick up,” she told the audience Feb. 21. “I know in our own business, the last two weeks have been crazy. So, the fact that it was dying down in the fall suggests that we’re returning more to normal.”

Panelist Jim Cornelison, of Carolina Real Estate in Surf City, said inventory is a big problem.

“What I see is that the listings in Topsail Beach and Surf City are virtually nothing, and without those listings, you’re never gonna get your volume up in sales,” he said.

He said he doesn’t know what people are waiting for.

“You know, a lot of times, the average person is out there saying, ‘Well, whatever it’s worth today, it’ll be worth $100,000 more next year,’” Cornelison said. “We know that’s not always true, but the listings have got to be there before anything else happens, and we’re not getting the listings.”

TV crews have recently cast a spotlight on Topsail Island. HGTV series Beachfront Bargain Hunt, which follows homebuyers looking for oceanfront living on a budget, has drawn attention to Surf City and Topsail Island, panelists said.

“Since those shows have started airing, it’s brought people from all corners to seek a quiet, family-friendly beach,” Baker said.

The Realtors said prices seem to be holding steady. But Cornelison said some prices, particularly of higher-end homes, that are too high are being adjusted.

“I’ve actually got one I’ve been dropping the price for the last six months. I thought that I was pretty much on the money, and evidently, I’m not, but I think that if something stays on the market for a while, it either started out too high, and that needs to be adjusted,” he said. “But I think if you look at what is going on in the marketplace and what prices if you go back and look at sell properties, you’ll see that the consistency is still there. And so, I think the prices are holding themselves where they need to be or where they are. I don’t see them going up or down right now.”

Baker said in North Topsail, home sale prices are up 52% over the same time last year. “I think a lot of that’s new construction and some rehabs. If you look at Topsail Beach, it’s up 41%; if you look at Sneads Ferry, it’s up 7%. Holly Ridge is up 10%. The one exception is Surf City. They’re down about 12%. But that reflects the island and also the mainland and the boom that we’re having in housing markets on the mainland. Those prices are obviously going to be slightly less than on the beach.”

Eight to 10 years ago, Batts said, a homebuyer could build a nice, 2,000-square-foot custom home for $300,000.

“Yesterday, I went to a manufactured home, and they’re going to list for $320,000,” she said.“Now, they went in and gutted it and made it look very special inside, and it will sell. ... The market has changed here to where that price point is where a lot of people are just starting to buy their first home. That’s their price point, and that’s what they can afford.”

Turning back to infrastructure, sand on the beach is one of the most significant issues Topsail Island is facing.

In a massive Army Corps of Engineers project, Surf City will be getting five times the amount, 600 million cubic yards, of sand that Wrightsville Beach is receiving right now, Batts said.

“Our beach is going to be huge,” she said. “And it’s going to affect all of us when it does happen.” 

According to Batts, the timeline for the nourishment project set by the Army Corps has crews starting to pump sand in December 2025. 

“When they start, they will be here to finish,” she said, “and they are projecting that it’s going to be 13 months.”
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