At Home With Topsail

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 love to discuss Topsail with you!!!!


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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.

But don't take my word for it there have been several studies done in recent years that show professional home photography properties get more attention and even bring MORE money.

Redfin Research Reoport    Wall Street Journal Report


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!!

Take a look at some of our other photos here:

Watch Our Video Below Highlighting the Beauty of Our Professional Photography


  • 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


Feb. 17, 2013

Topsail Island Gets Some Snow! Topsail Island, North Carolina

Hey Guys and Girls!!


We awoke to an island winter wonderland this morning at Topsail Island!!!!


Temps remain below freezing although the sun is melting the snow fast. Total accumulation is probably only about 1/2" at most, but still very cool to see our usually moderate and warm island blanketed with old man winter!!


Enjoy the photos!


Surf City NC Bridge With Snow


Surf City Boat with Snow


Lewis Realty Associates Topsail Island Snow Covered


Dunes on Topsail Island With Snow DustingCold Snow Covered Day at Beach Access topsail island


Surf City NC Palm Trees With Snow


Surf City Welcome Sign With Snow


Welcome to Snow Covered Surf City



July 2, 2012

North Topsail Beach Looking For Money For Beach Project

There is somewhat good news for residents, guests  and real estate investors of North Topsail Beach.


NC House Bill 1190 if passed will allow the town to create a Municipal Services District in North Topsail Beach which will allow the town to borrow money to fund a beach renourishment project without an increase in taxes and also to use the accomodation taxes to help pay back the debt.


So far the bill has passed its first reading and has been passed to the financing committee for further review.


Once this is settle, North Topsail Beach hopes to start dredging the New River Inlet at the north end and place the sand on the beach, much like the town's southern neighbor, Topsail Beach did this past spring. The project is slated to begin in November when beach traffic is at its least.


North Topsail Beach, Beach Renorishment, topsail island real estate news



Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc.- Topsail Island Real EstateTopsail  Island MLS and Topsail Island  Vacation Rentals – We Know Topsail Island .  . .We have Been Here Over Forty Five Years! Serving real estate needs in Topsail Island, Surf CityTopsail BeachSneads FerryHolly Ridge & Hampstead. Our assortment of Topsail  Island Vacation & Long Term Rental properties will fulfill your needs  whether staying on the coast for a week or a lifetime.

June 20, 2012

Topsail Island Real Estate Market Heating Up For 2012

Topsail Island Real Estate Market Heating Up For 2012


Although the national economy has shown only slight up ticks throughout the year, here in the Topsail real estate market, we seem to be doing much better than a few years ago. There are numerous indicators we can use to show the condition of our island real estate market although we will namely be looking at absorption rates.

An absorption rate is a term used to evaluate real estate markets.  The rate answers the question that if no new listings come on the market, how many months will it take to exhaust the current supply of listings? A balanced market’s rate should be typically between 5 to 7 months.

 In the current economy although, its very hard to find a market with such a “quick” rate.

Utilizing data from the Topsail Island MLS, we have found that the island real estate market comprised of Surf City, Topsail Beach and North Topsail Beach residential and multi-family units is approximetly  14.36 months. Again, this means if no new listings come on the market, it will take the market  just over 14 months to exhaust our supply of sales listings.

Yes, 14 months is a long time but we are EXCITED!

Just a couple of years ago,  the absorption rate was as much as 2 and half years.

So it is very easy to see that our market activity has increased exponentially.

Does this mean we are at the “bottom” of the market?

Possibly.  If this trend continues, the supply will decrease resulting in the demand  increasing  which of course, raises the price or value.

So how do we know this for sure we are at or near the bottom? 

There is no 100% way to tell until the price actually starts increasing but then we have missed an opportunity for some great deals at a fraction of the property’s potential value.

But the greatest indicator of when to buy is the popularity of the area itself. Coastal properties tend to remain popular even in downturns and typically bounce back before other areas.

The 2012 vacation rental season at Topsail appears to be one of the best in many years with families visiting from all over our country and even Canada & United Kingdom!

With its increasing popularity, unbelievably low interest rates, less stringent financing, Topsail can prove to be nothing but a great investment right now and tomorrow!


Chris Rackley

Chris Rackley 910.328.5211- Lewis Realty Associates, Inc.- Topsail Island Real EstateTopsail  Island MLS and Topsail Island  Vacation Rentals – We Know Topsail Island .  . .We have Been Here Over Forty Five Years! Serving real estate needs in Topsail Island, Surf CityTopsail BeachSneads FerryHolly Ridge & Hampstead. Our assortment of Topsail  Island Vacation & Long Term Rental properties will fulfill your needs  whether staying on the coast for a week or a lifetime.


May 29, 2012

Topsail Island Foreclosure Search, Real Estate For Sale

Search For Foreclosures Now

Lewis Realty Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that they have added a new search to our Topsail Island MLS to allow our users to search for Foreclosures, REOs, & Short Sale properties as a recent addition to their Topsail Island Real Estate & Topsail Island Vacation Rentals site.

Currently out of 1889 Topsail Island Real Estate for sale listings, 132 are considered in the Topsail Island MLS as foreclosures, REOS, or Short Sales.

A brief explanation of the terms used:

Foreclosures/REOs – Foreclosures and REOs are basically the same concept. A Bank has seized the property from the mortgage holder and now is marketing the property to sell, sometimes a huge discounts.

Short Sales – The owners of the property owe more than the property is worth and wish to sell the property. They have been allow by the mortgage holder (bank) to market the property at market value and the bank will consider forgiving the difference between market value and money owed when an offer is submitted.

Topsail Island MLS, Topsail Island Real Estate, Topsail Island