Dare County ROW Project: An Appraisal on North Carolina’s Outer Banks

Dare County Row Project

Google Map of North Carolina's Collington Road highlighted for an appraisal with Wright Brothers National Memorial
Map courtesy of Google Maps 2020

This is our follow up post on one of North by Northwest Consultancy’s most ambitious appraisal projects: Dare County’s Collington Road. Read our first installment here: Dare County ROW Project, Part 1. Collington Road is one of North Carolina’s most traveled secondary roads. In this blog installment, we review the more technical challenges we faced appraising approximately 106 parcels along this historic area. 

Collington island has been a highly sought after place to live since the 1600s. When Sir John Colleton, Baronet of England, was granted much of the Carolinas by Charles II. Sir John then claimed ownership of the island and it still carries his name. Sir John moved a group of settlers from Barbados to the island who were the first to settle and plant rice and grains. Since that time, countless others have wanted to call Collington island their home. Unfortunately, the dream of living in North Carolina’s glorious Outer Banks poses its own problems and one of those includes the shortage of buildable land. A problem North by Northwest Consultancy’s appraisal team experienced firsthand when they worked on the job between March 2018 and May 2019.   

Though the project had unique challenges, it also had unforgettable moments. One such moment occurred, when our appraiser met the property owner of the project. It turned out the property owner was also the grandson of an eye witness to the first flight of the Wright Brothers. There is even a statue of the property owner’s grandfather at the memorial site of the first flight. We rated this as a high-up moment.

Because of its rich history, and breathtaking scenery, the land has unsurprisingly attracted many who wanted to live here. However, the island is entirely in a flood zone. There is a large percentage of land in marshes. This made undeniable challenges for the appraisers in the project.

Three statues at Wright Brothers Memorial the site of the appraisal on collington island
Boy raising his hand: grandfather of a property owner whose parcel was affected by the project. Courtesy of OuterBanks.com

Scope of the Project

Colington Rd runs through the Wright Brothers’ Memorial property, although none of the property owned by the Wright Brothers Memorial site was assigned for appraisal. This project ran the length of Colington Rd, and required appraisals on approximately 106 parcels.  

Before beginning this project, we joined the Outer Banks Association of Realtors and began researching sales in the area. So, by the time we began we had over fifty verified sales of land and improved sales along and near the project. We oriented ourselves on the particular issues impacting real estate values in this market by interviewing numerous brokers and contractors.

We were ready to begin our appraisal in March 2018, and managed to finish the majority of our work by July.  In late 2018, he held our second round of appraisals. And since then have done a number of updates. To date, we have appraised over one hundred parcels on this project with an appraised value in excess of $4MM.  

The purpose of the project was to improve drainage. The storm surge and high winds push water from the ocean toward land which routinely floods the island. Colington Road becomes impassable because of the flooding. Which has lead to loss of property and even death. Emergency vehicles need to be able to get to residents. We also focused on improving safety and recreation, by adding bike lanes.

Most homes in the appraisal area were on raised pile foundations, also called pier system foundations, elevated homes, or stilt houses. One property owner, speaking with the appraiser, showed him the watermarks on the piles where various storms had flooded the area. 

Challenges to the Appraisers

Deciding how to deal with the large percentage of subject parcels on marshland was a great challenge. And finding comparable sales was difficult. Most of the subject parcels had a small amount of buildable land, with the remainder being marshland. Comparable sales for marshland were slim to none. We allocated subject properties into an amount of buildable land, and marshland. We then got a comparable sale from only the buildable land. 

The addition of marshland wasn’t the only challenging feature to the parcels. We also dealt with a variety of water frontages and water views, both of which affect market value. The various subject parcels had varying types of canal and bay frontage, some with water views, some without. Appraisers had to find many sets of comparable sales for the various types of water frontage and views.

In addition, most of the subject parcels were along Colington Rd, with a larger distance between houses, and were older properties for the most part.  However, most of the sales in the area were in, or near, Colington Harbour. This development had land packed down to be buildable, so houses there were close together, taking advantage of the buildable land area. Indeed, the growth of Colington Harbour, located at the terminus of Colington Road, and the ‘end’ of Colington Island, was a major factor warranting the project.

Another challenge was dealing with the subject properties along Colington Rd, where the improvements were close to the roadway. The right of way easements were so close to some of the properties that it was difficult to determine whether the property could be spared damages. One notable example of this was a house that sat in a curve in Colington Rd. The right of way was very close to the home. So that, the homeowner would need to step into the road to exit the home. This home was, eventually, treated as a total take.

The townhome development had a community septic pump station and drain field. These could not be relocated since they were both located in the proposed right of way. We last visited the area in December 2019, but had not then found a solution. This septic pump station is located at a section of Colington Rd that holds one of the newest developments. The developer is building several new homes and planning others.

There is no public sewer on Colington Island, only septic systems. If the project had taken the area where the pump was located, it would significantly impact the development. There was not another suitable location for the pump station. Indeed, the one area that could possibly be used for relocation is an historic cemetery. And needless to say, that location would complicate the situation more. Ultimately, the proposed right of way impacting the property was converted to an easement. 

Overall, this was a wonderful project for the North by Northwest Team. It was fun solving the new appraisal challenges, and working in a unique and historical environment. We got to spend more time on the Outer Banks than expected and learned a lot about the drivers of value in a unique market.