Welcome to our blog, At Home With Topsail! Here we will discuss the history of Topsail Island, the real estate market and area happenings around Topsail Island. Please feel free to comment, we'd love to discuss Topsail with you!

July 21, 2014

Lewis Realty Acquires Bryson & Associates | Topsail Island Real Estate News

Lewis Realty Associates, Inc is pleased to announce that it has acquired Bryson & Associates, Inc, a local owned and very reputable real estate company.


The former Bryson and Associates, Inc was a family business started by the late Sterling Bryson over 31 years ago and soon on board was his sister, Sterleen Bryson. Bryson and Associates, Inc was and will always be known for professional service that helped the Bryson family to build a very loyal following and make many friends over the years. 


"When the opportunity to purchase Bryson & Associates, Inc was given, it excited me to combine two very similar companies into one. We Chris Rackley, President of Lewis Realty Associates, Inc.believe this acquisition will allow our clients access to even more technology and exposure. Vacationers should benefit as well as we will now have one of the larger inventories in the area. " said Lewis Realty President, Chris Rackley. Rackley also further added that "The Brysons have an impeccable reputation for honesty and that has always been one of Lewis Realty Assoc. Inc's core values."

Sterleen Bryson plans to associate her real estate license with Lewis Realty Associates, Inc but plans to enjoy her new found retirement with travel and some relaxation. Please congratulate Sterleen if you bump into her on the island . . she has reached the goal of us all!

Lewis Realty will be maintaining a presence at the former Bryson location for at least the next few years. Until the fall of 2014, the former Bryson inventory of vacation rentals will be handled from the Bryson office location at 809 Roland Ave, Surf City. After the fall, Lewis Realty will open a real estate sales office at the location and handle the companies vacation rental inventory from it's main office at 320 N. New River Dr in Surf City. 

For the loyal clients of Bryson and Associates, all phone number and web addresses will remain live and in full use. Bryson's clients can also expect equal service for all their real estate needs. Rackley said, "We made an
easy decision to retain the Bryson staff as it clearly was evident they have been providing their clients great service over the years. We are excited to have them on our team!".

Lewis Realty Associates, Inc., one of the oldest real estate firms on the island, currently manages vacation and long term rentals and offers real estate sales services. 

Lewis Realty believes that our core values of Honesty, Local Knowledge with Experience and Technology will always bring great service and success to our clients.

Lewis Realty now has a combined team experience of over 300 years; more than any other real estate company in the Greater Topsail Island Market (closest competitor was 114 years).  Lewis Realty Associates, Inc also held the top spot before the acquisition with 226 years.


We Know Topsail Island . . We Have Been Here Over Fifty Years.

May 15, 2014

I <3 Topsail & Selfie Contest Update

We just wanted to do a short update and offer some recommendations for our two Photo Contests (I <3 Topsail & the new Selfie Contest) for the summer of 2014 (both have prices of a free off season condo weekend).


The Selfie Contest is the first of this kind of photo contest that we have put on. We have noticed that some individuals may have clicked the wrong contest or did not understand the "trendy" term of a "selfie".


A "Selfie" is a photo in which the person in the photo or someone in their group that is in the photo holds the camera out and snaps a picture. It is not when someone stands away and snaps a photo unless they too are in the photo. Here are a couple famous "selfies":





Some of the photos in the selfies contest appear to not be actual selfies . . and we have had some contestants point this out to us.

In order to be fair to all, we are going to remove those photos from the selfie contest. We may or may not be able to notify everyone that they have been removed. So if you see that you photo has been removed from the contest, please add it to the 4th Annual I <3 Topsail Photo contest for the same kind of prize as it would fit better there.


We are also going to set up the Selfie Contest to allow us to approve all entries before they are officially submitted so we can ensure that we keep this contest fair as possible.


A helpful pointer for either contest, be sure to share your entry among friends so they vote for it. We don't judge the photo, it is whoever has the highest number of votes at the end of the contest.


Here is a helpful little screen shot showing which tab you should click to access the two different contests we are running right now.




Thanks to all that are playing in the contest past and present.

Posted in Company News
April 30, 2014

Lewis Realty & Topsail Home Tour - Topsail Island NC

The Topsail Island Association of Realtors are holding their 1st Annual Topsail Island home tour on May 3, 2014 between 10 and 4.


This tour is sure to be great whether you are in the market or just enjoy the beauty of homes! The home tour was originally projected to have 50 homes although the Association now reports that over 80 homes in the area have been added!

Best yet, visitors to at least 5 homes are registered for a drawing at the reception for several prizes including a $500 Carnival Cruise Certificate, 1 Week in Williamsburg, VA, a fishing charter among other items.

The reception will be held at the association office at 13775 Hwy 50, Suite 402 from 5 to 7 pm with refreshments and of course the prize drawing.


Lewis Realty entered 8 homes in the home tour to help support the first annual tour in hopes of many more to come in the future.


Lewis Realty will also be raffling off a free off season condo weekend to the visitors to the homes we have in the tour.


Here are the homes:

161 Old Village Lane, North Topsail Beach (Waterfront)

163 Old Village Lane, North Topsail Beach (Waterfront

108 S. Permuda Wynd, North Topsail Beach (Ocean View)

106 Sea Oaks Ct, North Topsail Beach (Water View)

3522 Island Drive, North Topsail Beach (Oceanfront)

1117 S. Topsail Drive, Surf City (2nd Row)

2007 N. Shore Drive, Surf City (Water View)

126 Big Hammock Point Road, Sneads Ferry (Waterfront)

105A Thrasher Ct, Hampstead (Town Home)



We look forward to seeing you on the tour!!!

Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc.- President/Broker in Charge


March 14, 2014

Senate Approves House Bill 3370 - Flood Insurance Bill

As an update to our original blog post concerning the flood insurance changes due to the Biggert-Waters Act, we are happy to report that the Senate has passed the house bill 3370 which amends the latter act. This not only affected Topsail Island but affected the nation, even inland areas!

The senate choose to accept the house bill with a 72 to 22 vote on Thursday March 13, 2014. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law soon.


So what does this mean for the law of the land when it comes to Flood Insurance and the NFIP?

  1. The original law had a premium increase trigger on the sale of the property. The new bill repeals this trigger on primary homes, second homes and businesses by allowing the new owner to assume the policy at the old rate (policy follows property not owner). It also allows for refunds to those who paid the increased premiums after the original law was passed.

  2. It also repeals Sec 207 by restoring grandfathering of properties in flood zones and restores a rate phase on new flood maps.

  3. The bill does have some rate increases to help the NFIP become sustainable though.  For homes built before 1975 (generally Pre-Firm)there will not be a 5% floor and 18% ceiling on increases (reduced from 25%). If built after 1975 (generally Post-Firm), an 18% ceiling will be in effect reduced from a 20% average.

  4. A $25 offset will be charged on all NFIP primary homes and $250 on businesses and second homes. 


Although rates will not be as they were before the summer of 2012 this a welcomed changed backed by the National Association of Realtors.

As we are not insurance agents, please speak with your insurance agent, we are only passing along what we understand.


Source -> http://www.realtor.org/articles/senate-passes-flood-insurance-with-house-amendments


Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc.- President/Broker in Charge


Feb. 25, 2014

Flood Insurance Affordability Bill Schedule For House Vote

If you have not heard of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, you can get up to speed here. This law has changed how business is done with flood insurance here on Topsail Island. However, there are more changes coming, most of them better news!


We are not insurance agents and do not mean for this post to give actual insurance advice but only pass along what information we have read and our opinions of such.


The Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 was meant to bring the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) back to sustainability.  That is not a bad idea, we really don't want to bankrupt the government with flood insurance claims. However, the changes to the NFIP in the act has caused huge increases on some properties flood insurance rates. Many homeowner's just simply could not afford the drastic changes.


Per Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, it changed:

->Buyers and some owners of Pre-Firm Properties (properties built before a certain date and varies from town to town) would immediately go to full risk rates.

-> Pre-Firm buildings already rated with elevation data are not subsidized.

-> Some Pre-Firm property owners will move directly to full risk rates at policy purchase/renewal on or after October 1, 2013. 

(source - Real Estate and Changing Flood Insurance Rates Provided By FEMA)


Without going into legal jargon and confusing all of us, the end result is simple most owners will see an increase in flood insurance from one year to the next and some will see rates double, triple or even worse from one year to the next. 

The United States Senate (Senate Bill 1926) took up a bill that would basically alter the current Biggert-Waters Act as follows:

-> Primary Residences Will Remain Unaffected

-> Purchasers Will Continue Subsidized Rates

-> 25% Annual Increase Still in Place.

-> Grandfathering Elimination Suspended

->Up to A Four Year Delay

-> Primary, Secondary and Business Eligible


Sometime during the week of February 24, 2014, the House is expected to vote on a similar bill. If it passes a committee will be formed to combine the bills and send to the President for his signature.


The Senate and possibly House Bills do lessen the blow to flood insurance and the CBO reports that the new bills will not add to the deficits. To us this looks to be a better solution.


Many people have identified this as just a "Coastal Issue". This is entirely incorrect, there are many places inland from the coast that are in a flood zone. This is a "National Issue".


Here in Surf City, we have a great source of information. SFI Insurance is staying up to speed on the bills and changes. They can be reached at 910.329.4443.



Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc.- President/Broker in Charge


Feb. 11, 2014

Why Professional Photos Make A Diffence.

Remember the old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words"? Well today it may should be changed to "A picture is worth thousands more"! Here at Lewis Realty we believe it, that's why we focus on high quality images on many of our properties.

98% of home buyers start on the internet. A good broker ensures that their listings or rental properties are on as many "channels" as possible (real estate websites) to reach exposure. A good broker will run out to get new pictures with that nice little point and click camera as soon as the listing agreement or the property management agreement is signed and marvel at how easy and quick it was to to get the photos.

Lucky for us this is not enough!!

Think about it . . . you are shopping for a home and mindlessly pressing the scroll down key through all the thumbnails looking for something that strikes your attention. Most brokers use point and click cameras so it gets a bit monotonous. But then . . . you see that perfect living room with that perfect marlin hanging on the wall overlooking that perfect ocean view out the windows . . yeah . .you click on it.



Courtesy of Redfin


So what is a professional home photograph? Here are a few points that we focus on here at Lewis Realty Associates, Inc

-Wide Angle - We use the widest angle lens possible that does not distort the sides of the photo. This allows us to capture most of the room if not all.

-DSLR Camera - Basically a fancy camera that allows us to change lens according to the shot and manually control items like exposure, aperture and ISO. We also use a tripod on most shots as we can better place the shot.

-Post Processing - Several computer programs that allow us to shoot the same scene in different exposures and then blend the photos into one photo to capture more of what the eye sees (camera lenses do not see as well as our eyes). What this allows us to do is capture the living room in a well lit manner as well as the ocean view out the windows instead of the typical broker photo where the windows are nothing more than a bright white light. Remember . . . Location, Location, Location? Yeah that ocean view is just as important as the living room.

-Shot Placement - Of course, you can't just walk into a room and snap a photo to expect good results. We find that the corners of the room many time offers unique views of the entire room or framing a particularly unique selling point of the home. 

To put all this in perspective, here is an example of a home we shot the "Old Way" and "The New Way".


This is the same home and same room. The left hand shot was with your typical point and click camera (notice the small view and the bright windows) while the right hand shot was with a DSLR Wide Angle along with several shots blended together in post processing. The end result is that we have much of the large room captured and even the sound views out the back. The internet and marketing is simple . . .Tell a Story . . which photo tells a story for you? (note: this image has been down sampled for this blog for load speeds.)


Our market share has steadily increase since we begin using technology to better market homes with our photography, videos and even aerial photos. It simply puts your homes best foot forward!!

  • Aerial Photography & Aerial Property Videos - showing your property off in a unique and attention grabbing manner . . . "From Where the Seagulls Fly, The Air!!!!"

    aerial shot- topsail island nc

Read More About Our Marketing Plan For Sale Properties or Rental Properties.

Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc.- President/Broker in Charge

Jan. 29, 2014

Christina Asbury, Broker at Lewis Realty, Receives Several Rewards

Christina Asbury, one of our experienced real estate brokers, has received several rewards recently for exceptional drive and knowledge.

Christina Asbury - NCAR Leadership Academy 2014The North Carolina Association of Realtor's Leadership Academy is a hand selected group of students that have showed leadership qualities in the real estate business world. The competition is very strong and only a hand full are selected each year.

Christina Asbury was selected for the 2014 NCAR Leadership academy and has just gotten back from Greensboro for the first session. 

Chris Rackley, Broker in Charge at Lewis Realty said "I am very proud of Christina and equally proud that she has been selected into the leadership academy. This program develops the leaders of the association for a stronger and more productive industry."


Christina has also recently earned the National Association of Realtor's Military Relocation Specialist designation after attending NAR educational classes. 

The designation trained Christina to be better able to assist military personnel including veterans with their housing needs (selling or buying) and maximize any available military benefits to them.NAR Military Relocation Specialist Designation

Chris Rackley also said "The designation is crucial for the market in this area taking in account Camp Lejuene which borders the Topsail Island area. Christina may very well be the first broker in our area to earn this designation!"


Christina has also be selected by the members of the Topsail Island Association of Realtors to serve as their President in 2015. Currently Christina is serving as the President Elect.

A press release prepared by the NAR Military Relocation Professionals can be downloaded here.



Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley, President 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc. - Surf City North Carolina



Posted in Company News
Jan. 29, 2014

Snow At Topsail Island - January 29, 2014

On Monday, the temperature was 60 degrees at Topsail Island. On Tuesday, the temperature steadily feel until it was in the low 20s and we got a taste of old man winter with around 1-2 inches of ice and another 1-2 inches of snow. Very rare but still a beautiful site!


The white stuff is expected to stick around until at least Thursday afternoon when we finally get above freezing!


Here are some photos we took today with a hexacopter of Surf City.




































Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley, President 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc. - Surf City North Carolina


Jan. 20, 2014

A "Great Real Estate Broker's" Knowledge

In North Carolina, real estate broker's have broker's licenses. These licenses only allow the broker to "broker" a sale representing one or both of the parties to the transaction. The law is explicit in saying that this license does not cover practicing law, performing appraisals or completing home inspections . . .you get the drift, it only covers practicing real estate. The laws however expect the broker to be knowledgeable on all these aspects of the transaction; many times holding the broker LIABLE.

But this is where brokers, brokers and great brokers are separated. I tend to count myself as a great broker . . . humbly of course :).

The law requires this knowledge and the law actually has your best interest in mind. Just because we are not licensed in these fields do not mean that we should not have an overview concept of the different aspects of the real estate transaction. If we did not, how are we able to close the deal? Best yet, Why did they hire us!!!!


Great brokers must have knowledge of the following and of course know competent individuals with the property licenses or credentials to take it a bit further for the transaction.


I came up with a list in about 5 minutes of the areas where I have been forced to be educated in after practicing real estate for the past 14 years:


1. Local Codes and Ordinances - Brokers are asked questions all the time concerning can I do this or can I not do this? A broker must be able to readily refer to the local ordinances (many times posted on the web) to help the consumer answer these questions.



2. State & National Laws - Take for example, the now in effect Dodd-Frank Act. It actually has some reforms to a common financing option - owner financing. If a broker had no knowledge of this, the borker would mislead many clients from the beginning and even worse possibly break US Law. 

3. Real Estate Law in General - Remember the old saying "one to buy, two to sell"? Yeah, that is basic martial law concerning real estate. Another example, in North Carolina, even though the attorney prepares the closing statement, the broker is liable for it. How can a broker be liable safely if they have no knowledge??? Exactly, better have some knowledge!

4. Contract Law - We are taught the five essential elements of a contract, we are taught due diligence, we are taught options and rights of first refusal . . . all contract law. Now again, a broker can't practice law or draft an agreement from scratch, but a great broker must have knowledge of it!!



5. Home Inspections - We all recommend home inspections, it's just the smart thing to do. But could you imagine a broker not having a clue of what the home inspector was looking for, how to read the report or ask for clarity from the inspector?? Yeah, a great broker has to know a little about this too.

6. Appraisal Standards - Most if not all transactions involve an appraisal.  A great broker must stay current on appraisal laws, standards and practices to aid in the overall transaction. If I have no knowledge of how appraisals work how can I ask the buyer to purchase one (when there is no bank involved)?


7. Land Use Approvals - A great broker understands at least an overview of the process of gaining building permits, septic permits, etc. Brokers are the first person asked by the buyer what do I have to do to build? Not to mention, listing a home and exploring if there were any non permitted additions added to the property that a broker must disclose. 



8. Insurance Principles for Area - Brokers can not write insurance nor should brokers answer technical insurance questions.  Although a great broker must understand the overview of flood insurance for example. A great broker also has an insurance agent readily available to answer those questions that require a license.



9. Surveying - Properties ideally should be surveyed before list and of course before closing. A real estate broker must be able to read surveys effectively enough to find issues and problems with the property . . .I must disclose anything that should have been reasonably known!! 


10.  Pest Control/WDIR - Many types of loans require a WDIR (wood destroying insect report). A great broker knows this, knows where the pest company will be looking and some knowledge of what to do when the termites are found. A great broker should also know about the area's native pests (water bugs, spiders, etc.) to assist their clients.


11. Neighborhood Historian - A great broker is like a storyteller when it comes to his area. Could you imagine a great broker selling a home that historically floods?? No, a great broker would remember this and advise the buyers of such!! Plus many people are history junkies (I know I am) and just love to hear stories of yesterday!


12. Technology - Could you imagine a great broker not being able to navigate the internet in their daily work, not being able to communicate via email, text or skype, not being able to search their  MLS looking for a property? No, a great broker could never work in that way, a great broker should be comfortable and confident with technology!




13. Photography - Many brokers take their own photos for their listings and that is fine! Some hire photographers and that is okay too! The point is a great broker whether pressing the shutter button or writing the check understands what makes a good real estate photo & how to show the essence of the property being sold.



14. Local Vendors/Professionals - Many buyers are out of town, can you imagine a great broker not being able to introduce their client to several local attorneys or mortgage bankers? A good broker must know the area service providers that offer extraordinary service.




15. Negotiating - Last but not least . .A great broker has to be able to understand BOTH sides of the deal and how to fulfill each person's desires in the deal . . to actually get a deal!!! More importantly, a good broker understands that negotiations can be FRIENDLY while still doing a superb job for your client. 



Again, I came up with this list in about 5 minutes (finding the icons took longer). Can you think of any to add to the list? Feel free to comment or share!

This knowledge is what separates great brokers from the other brokers!



Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley, President 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc. - Surf City North Carolina


Jan. 16, 2014

Private Placement & IRAs With Real Estate Rental Property

Private Placement & IRAs with Real Estate Rentals


Here at Lewis Realty Associates, Inc on Topsail Island, we handle both real estate sales and rentals (both vacation & long term rentals). We recently signed up a new property here in Surf City and learned a new concept!!


Most people understand that various types of IRAs are tax-free until you withdraw funds but here is where it gets really interesting!!


This particular vacation rental home owner had contracted with a company in La Jolla, CA called IRA Resources that handles IRA accounts. With their guidance, under IRS Code, they setup a way for the net rental proceeds from the vacation rental to be deposited in the owner's IRA account, tax free until time they withdraw it!!


There were several parameters that had to be meet to remain in compliance with the IRS:

  1. The property was placed in the name of IRA Resources.

  2. The net funds are to be sent directly to IRA Resources for deposit in the IRA account.

  3. The owner of the property cannot handle any monies therefore the management company must pay utility bills such as cable and electric from the rental proceeds.


This concept is called "Private Placement" and can be used for funds coming from many different sources even IRAs investing in other peoples ventures.

In years to come when the owner decided to retire or retrieve money from the IRA account, he will be taxed at the IRA levels which we understand is more advantageous. 

IRA Resources of course charge fees to administer the account however on inspection of the fees they seem to be nominal when calculated in the tax savings.

This concept looks to be a viable solution for vacation home or even long term rental owners to help build their retirement a bit more and shelter themselves from some tax burden today.

This is our first year handling a property that is involved in an IRA and we will be sure to report back any new findings we come across. Please note . . we are not accountants, please call your accountant or attorney for questions.

You can browse IRA Resources' website for more information.


Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley, President 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc. - Surf City North Carolina