It's Speaking to Us
~Wednesday, April 19 to Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Day 1,040 thru Day 1,047
Hope you have a comfy chair and a nice cup of tea or coffee as you sit down to read today’s LONG post. That’s what happens when I’m giving a synopsis of our first week’s visit to the Asheville area and the background as to why it's a contender to set new roots. I promise the posts to follow won't be quite as long. The temps have been in the mid-60’s range with partly sunny skies. We're in for a few rainy days during our month-long visit to Asheville, but it’s a welcome relief after the humid, buggy weather of Florida. In fact on one of our night’s, we experienced quite a storm with a load of rumbling thunder and pouring rain. Definitely did not sleep too well that night.
Our stay in Pisgah Forest (near Brevard, NC) is posing to be a good, central location to many of the towns that we’re curious about; towns like Brevard, Asheville, Waynesville, Weaverville, Hendersonville, Black Mountain, Lake Lure, and Mills River to name many. Think of Asheville as the beating heart or the center of a compass where you have all these towns to the north, west, south and east of you in a 40-mile radius. Trying to efficiently strategize our plan to see them all, why not enjoy a little brewsky in the process? Just outside our campground is the Hub and Pisgah Tavern….a legendary bike shop mixed in with a great variety of beer and a sunny patio to boot. They don’t produce their own but offer 12 beers on tap. The only downside is their early closing hours of 6:00 p.m., even on weekends; must be some zoning rule.
After we came up with our route to tour the surrounding areas of Asheville, we also came up with our must haves and wishes in a home before our first meeting with Randall. Randall was referred to us by my best friend Michelle who also happens to work for the same real estate company, but in Napa, CA. Randall suggested we meet at a wonderful breakfast place in Brevard called Morning Social which turned out some pretty delicious food with a warm, homey atmosphere. Born and raised in the area, Randall seems very receptive to our needs with a high energy and eager approach. He also has a broad sense of the industry as a whole, even at a legislative level, which to us was also important being that North Carolina is a unique state in terms of how they handle real estate transactions; way different than what we’re used to. It was a very good first meeting as we learned a lot. On our way back to the car, we stumbled on an old reclaimed/salvage/antique shop that really intrigued us….Underground Salvage Co. From beautiful reclaimed stained glass windows to hardwood lumber for fireplace surrounds and tables, we will most definitely be back when the time comes to look for a few unique items for our next home.
Later that afternoon, we met realtor Ed whom I’ve been in touch with now for about 2 years. He was referred to us by one of his former colleagues, and now only works on the buyer side of things. It was so nice putting a face to the many email conversations we’ve had all this time. He too showed a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Having lived and worked in the area for many years, we loved his honest recommendation of the areas that would suit our needs, and the ones to avoid. It appears that our timing in looking for a home is in our favor as the home buying frenzy is past us for the time being. I can’t imagine being in a market paying for over asking and waiving inspections. The current climate is exactly what we were banking on. And with interest rates topping out at 7%, that’s forced more people to wait on the sidelines, taking them temporarily out of the competition until rates begin to drop. We have time on our side but told both agents that we hoped to find a home no later than October. With it being a very tough decision, we ultimately went with Randall. Honestly, we could have gone with either of them. But with the recommendation we had from Michelle, that’s what tipped the scale for us.
Stemming from both meetings, here is what we learned about North Carolina real estate buying…….
It is a buyer beware state where the onus is on the buyer. The seller doesn’t have to disclose anything.
Since we’re more interested in rural property, a survey inspection will be critical. Evidently, North Carolina has a lot of “old information” out there so you want to make sure to have a survey inspection done that establishes the exact location of the property lines and determines if there are any easements on the property that you otherwise wouldn’t know about.
We fall into the 40% category of buyers paying cash.
There is something called “Honey Money”. This is in addition to the “good faith” money that you put down. But the difference is, the good faith money is refundable, the “honey money” is not. Think of it like a non-refundable deposit. Even if you’ve spent the money on inspections and decide the property is too costly to repair or renovate, you lose not only the inspection $ but also the “honey money”. Randall has seen “:honey money” range from $500 to $30,000 depending on the price of the home and how confident the potential buyer and agent feel about the property. Inspections range anywhere from $500 to $5,000.
An attorney from the state, recommended by the buying agent, handles the title.
So what is it that makes us love North Carolina so much? Well, for starters…….
THE BEAUTY. In this part of North Carolina, nestled into a very narrow part of the state, you are surrounded by the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. There are trees and mountains as far as the eye can see.
THE OUTDOOR SCENE. Not only does it boast a robust music, art, restaurant and brewery scene, the amount of hiking trails, biking trails and kayaking opportunities are endless, all while seeming to maintain a small-town, easy-going vibe. All of these things were must haves, especially being surrounded by like-minded people who enjoy the great outdoors. It’s nice to see so many people genuinely interested in how your day’s going, and a “neighbors have your back” mentality.
MILD CLIMATE. As we all know, the south is known for their mild winters, inferno heat and humidity. Asheville, however, is in a sweet spot making playing outside doable every season of the year. Just to give you an idea, the average winter temperatures are around 50 degrees. The summers are about 85 degrees. They have 206 sunny days a year on average as opposed to Napa’s 260; not surprising with all the rain they get.
AMENITY HUB MIXED WITH RURALNESS. One of the things that’s important to us is to be out in the country but not too far from convenience. Not being too far from a grocery store, a concert venue, and restaurants for example is ideal.
RELAXED/QUIRKY VIBE. People are more relaxed and less hurried. And you can’t help but notice the many “Keep Asheville Weird” signs that punctuate the mix of unique people that Asheville attracts.
A-HA! WINE COUNTRY! Though it isn’t Napa Valley, there are a variety of wines to suit anyone’s palette; around 60 from family-owned outposts to large wineries like the Biltmore Estates Winery.
And another sign presented itself.......
Before launching into unfamiliar territory, we thought it would be good to do a revisit to a place we liked so much……Turgua Brewing. Of course beer had nothing to do with it. This was a place we visited and fell in love with a few years back. But today happened to be a Cajun music night mixed with an epicurious delight
of an East Indian food truck that got a 5 out of 5 in our book. Eclectic to say the least, but oh so good. It was so great to be back in an area that made us realize why we fell in love with this region in the first place. There you go…..a beautiful country setting with a down-home feel, brews, music and a great food scene all wrapped in one place.
The first unfamiliar area we toured was to the south of Asheville….Brevard, Mills River and Hendersonville. Brevard reminds us so much of the charm of St. Helena, CA but with a larger downtown and more recreational opportunities. In fact, Brevard is known as the “Land of Waterfalls” with over 250 of them. And to the point of music, we stumbled on the Brevard Music Center which couldn’t have been in a more gorgeous setting. It was as if we were led there. This campus happens to be the country’s premier summer training facility for orchestral studies. And their summer concert series runs the gamut from Classical and Jazz to modern. Hendersonville, located about 30 minutes outside of Asheville, has the largest downtown in the area, second to Asheville, with an urban/suburban mix. It’s actually refreshing to see so many rural properties without fencing, enhancing the openness of the land and forcing neighbors to mingle; definitely the community vibe. Plus, it’s one less costly thing to maintain. Mills River also offers a rural feel with a mountain history and growing modernity. It too, has a healthy dose of outdoor activity.
The next day, we drove west toward Waynesville and Canton. Waynesville was a little further into the mountains and a little too much remote for us. And Canton, an old milltown, didn’t speak to us at all.
The following day, we headed to Weaverville, north of Asheville. It reminded us a little of Calistoga, CA with its mix of funkiness and charm all rolled into one. We definitely loved the town, but it was the beautiful countryside that made an impression on us. Speaking of countryside, one thing that is always in the back of our mind is whether a county has nuisance ordinances in place, i.e. junked vehicles, outdoor storage of junk, etc. Before heading home, we thought we’d check out the beer scene, though we swear this was more of a stop for our Sadie girl.
The Wagbar combines an off-leash dog park with a modern walk-up brewery scene. What an awesome concept! Sadie had so much fun and mingled way better than we’ve seen her in the past. And she’s the eternal peacemaker or “mom” to other dogs that get a little unruly.
Next towns on the list were east of Asheville….Black Mountain, the cool village area of Montreat and then Candler. We actually discovered Montreat by accident. This town is known for its Christian Liberal Arts College and its private, non-profit conference center. Oozing charm and village appeal, it was a little too secluded for us but a wonderful place to visit. And honestly, I don’t think its streets would be all too user friendly for big Hank the Tank.
Black Mountain also had stunning countryside and a cute downtown. We were pleasantly surprised as we pictured it to be much more remote. Definitely a contender.
On Tuesday, the 25th, it was a big deal as it was the first time we actually went and saw a home. We met Randall at the house in Hendersonville and discovered it was a case where photos don’t reveal the true colors of the home. The images made it look like the property was more set back from the road. Even with the beautiful trees and shrubs doing a pretty good job of screening the property, the road noise was too loud (think of Silverado Trail in Napa Valley). The 1-acre, lawned setting was very nice but the house was too small, and needed way too much work. But it was a productive meeting for us and our agent. He got to hear what we liked and didn’t like about the property and we walked away knowing the desirable square footage and lot size we’d feel comfortable having. I think our sweet spot is 1,500+ sq. ft. with at least an acre.
After our meeting we took a detour east to the charming town of Tryon, home to an international equestrian center and a variety of notable wineries. The Tryon International Equestrian Center was developed by
real estate mogul and entrepreneur Mark Bellissimo with a vision of creating a world-class equine megaplex, attracting the best riders from all around the globe. So we had a look around, hoping to run into a few 4-legged creatures. But it was a quiet day at the facility. I guess Saturdays are the best days to come. Unfortunately, it was getting too late in the day to tour a few of the wineries. Maybe next time.
All in all, we’re having a great time getting to know the area way more than we did a few years ago. With all the driving, touring the towns, talking with the locals and rifling through 200+ listings a day (a very broad search), the process is exhausting. But each day brings us closer to knowing exactly what we want. Stay tuned for more…….