Biz: Outer Banks rentals drop so far this year; Swank Chapel Hill home sells for $6M

After vacationers swarmed the Outer Banks during the pandemic, occupancy numbers have trended downward this year as more normal patterns begin to return.

For 2022, the area had more than $814 million in what the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau calls collections, which is gross sales for lodgings. That would include staples such as the Sanderling Resort as well as Airbnbs and other rental properties.

By comparison, the market had $518 million in collections from 2019, said Lee Nettles, executive director of the Bureau.

Through May, those numbers this year were $177.7 million, meaning the market is pacing well below 2022 but is still ahead of 2019 ($80.3 million) when it comes to year-to-date comparison. “Occupancy is down somewhat but it’s been kind of masked by higher rates,” Nettles said. “So the collections have been hanging in there.”

The pandemic limited vacation options, making the Outer Banks even more appealing. A KeyData presentation for local officials in April noted that the region was pacing at 70 percent occupancy for 2023, compared to 81 percent in 2022. But the average daily rate was $697, up from $617 a year ago.

“There are fewer rentals this summer, and I really see this as normalization as urban and overseas destinations have fully opened this year,” said Tameron Kugler, the director of travel and tourism for Currituck County. “This was expected. However, there has been less loss of revenue as the rental rates remain high and there is little discounting that I can see.”

In many ways, the Outer Banks are returning to a normal pattern. Nettles said collections generally grew about 4 percent until the pandemic. And, of course, that rise in interest came at a time when many businesses — especially seasonal ones — struggled with staffing.

“To be busy was a good thing,” Nettles said. “To be as busy as we were, coinciding with a national workforce shortage, was not sustainable.”

Unscripted hotel once again has a new leader

Unscripted Hotel

Unscripted Durham opened on Corcoran Street in the downtown area in 2017.

Andrew Cebulka

A popular boutique hotel in downtown Durham is under new leadership – again.

The Unscripted Durham, known for its mid-century modern style and rooftop patio, has tapped Michelle Logel as its new general manager. She’s the sixth person in the role since the hotel opened in 2017.

“I am thrilled to embark on this journey as the new general manager of our esteemed hotel,” Logel said. “With a passionate team and a commitment to exceptional guest experiences, we aim to make every stay a memorable and delightful one.”

Logel, originally from San Diego, had been the general manager for a Hyatt Place hotel in Orlando, Florida.

The Durham hotel marked the launch of the Unscripted brand by the Dream Hotel Group, which was acquired by Hyatt in February.

The building, located at 202 N. Corcoran St., operated as the Jack Tar Motor Lodge in the 1960s. It now features 74 guest rooms and six food and beverage spots.

Unscripted general manager timeline:

  • July 2017: Brian Hansen
  • December 2017: Hans Luther
  • August 2019: Matthew Whiteheart
  • July 2021: Weylan Rhame
  • October 2021: Paul Mensi
  • July 2023: Michelle Logel

Buc-ee’s could produce revenue boom


Buc-ee’s in Tennessee east of Knoxville

TBJ file photo

Plenty of chatter continues to swirl around the potential for a Buc-ee’s to open along Interstate 85 between the Triangle and the Triad.

The Texas company has shifted plans and now wants to put one of its massive convenience stores in Alamance County after plans for one in Orange County caused an uproar.

But the new site – in Mebane just across the county line – could end up being a boon for tax revenue in Alamance if the plans come to fruition. Buc-ee’s has a cult-like following, and the stores, which are open 24/7, are typically packed day and night.

After a Buc-ee’s opened off Interstate 40 in Cumberland County, Tennessee, last summer, that county saw a surge in sales tax revenue – more than $100,000 than what was anticipated for July 2022, the first month the store was open.

So, Orange County’s loss could be Alamance’s gain.

Industrial space comes online as vacancy rises

The vacancy rate for industrial space in Raleigh and Durham rose to 4.4 percent for the second quarter, according to a report by Colliers.

The increase could be due to 1.5 million square feet of new industrial space delivered during the second quarter. The largest delivery of the quarter was Buckhorn Industrial Park I – Building 1 at 375,000 square feet. The building is fully occupied by Thermo Fisher Scientific.

There is still 5.3 million square feet under construction, most of which is speculative projects in order to remain attractive to a variety of tenants.

Average asking rates for the second quarter were $9.60 per square foot.

Swank Chapel Hill home draws big price

740 Gimghoul Road

The home at 740 Gimghoul Road in Chapel Hill.

Orange County

A residential property that once housed the original St. Thomas More Catholic Church sold with a $6.6 million price tag recently.

The home, located at 740 Gimghoul Road adjacent to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, was built in 2009 on almost four acres of land.

Christine Knapp, the Compass realtor who represented the buyer, said that although the house was built more recently, the owner preserved elements of the old church in the home.

“The dining room of this particular house, the original owner repurposed old church doors,” she said. “There are literally, in the doors, old holes from gunshots from back in the day.”

Knapp said the size and privacy of the land makes it unique.

“The size, there’s just nothing like that in this area – nothing like this house,” she said.

More homes come available in Wilmington

East & Mason in Wilmington

A site plan for the new East & Mason home community in Wilmington.

screenshot of East & Mason website

Homes in a master-planned community led by a Raleigh group have hit the market in Wilmington.

East & Mason, a community of approximately 170 homes, offers four different home collections that range from roughly $500,000 to $1 million. Home prices vary based on size and amenities of each property.

“We are continuing to receive overwhelming interest from those who wish to make East & Mason their new home, whether they are looking for the convenience of a villa, a single-family home or prefer to work with a custom builder to build their dream home on the historic Masonboro Sound side of the community,” said Claire Reddick of Fonville Morisey Barefoot.

The firm, led by Raleigh native Audie Barefoot, has expanded its reach to a number of locations along the North Carolina coast.


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