A low cost of living and pleasant natural surroundings in North Carolina’s Onslow County contribute to a quality of life not often found in larger metropolitan areas. In 2015, an estimated 186,311 people called the county home, and the population density was 233 people per square mile, the U.S. Census Bureau says.
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is more than 36,000 people strong, and nearly 17,500 veterans live in the area, according to the Marine Corps Installations East 2015 Economic Impact analysis.
Housing is available on base, but the county’s communities also give newcomers plenty of additional choices for places to live. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help sort through the home options. The North Carolina Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and services. Visit www.ncrealtors.org to find expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home.
Onslow County stretches over about 906 square miles of North Carolina with 16 percent of that covered by water; the county’s southern margin lies along the Intracoastal Waterway, Onslow Bay, and to the east, the Atlantic Ocean. The county offers rich outdoor coastal recreation and sports with more than 30 miles of beautiful beaches, rivers and saltwater teeming with marine life, and forests filled with wildlife. The scenic New River is the only large river in the continental United States with its headwaters and mouth in the same county. Onslow County also remains a force in terms of agriculture, thanks to its rich soil. Today the beauty of the scenic terrain, shoreline and seascape continue to define Onslow County, attracting industries, tourists and families alike. For more information, check out the Jacksonville • Onslow Chamber of Commercewebsite.
Communities in Onslow County near MCB Camp Lejeune include Holly Ridge, Jacksonville, North Topsail Beach, Richlands and Swansboro.
212 N. Dyson St.
Holly Ridge, NC 28445
Holly Ridge is the gateway to Topsail Island beaches, offering abundant sporting and recreational opportunities in a natural coastal area. The town has strong military ties and is the home of historic Camp Davis. Holly Ridge residents enjoy a peaceful, friendly environment for living, working, playing and visiting.
The median household income in the town of 2,096 was slightly higher than that of North Carolina as a whole, $49,219 compared to $46,693, according to the U.S. Census’ most recent figures. Median rent was $1,051 in 2014, and the median value of a home in Holly Ridge, according to the census, was a little under $168,000. Commutes are slightly longer with mean travel time to work for those living in Holly Ridge being about 30 minutes.
815 New Bridge St
Jacksonville, NC 28540
Jacksonville is the county seat of Onslow County and home of MCB Camp Lejeune. In 2014, Forbes magazine ranked Jacksonville as the fifth fastest-growing small city in the United States. Demographically, Jacksonville is one of the younger cities in the United States with an average age of around 23 years old, thanks to the large military presence.
This residential community is 46.51 square miles with a population of 67,357. Mean travel time to work for those who live in Jacksonville is 20 minutes. Median rent in the city is $1,025 and the median value of a home in Jacksonville is $155,400, the census says.
North Topsail Beach
2008 Loggerhead Court
North Topsail Beach, NC 28460
North Topsail Beach is a beautiful, natural environment with plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities. Award-winning ocean beaches, fishing and fun-filled boating make North Topsail Beach a great place to raise a family, enjoy retirement or escape for a long weekend or vacation.
The census counts 738 residents of the community, and their mean travel time to work is a little over 27 minutes. Rents are higher in this coastal spot with median rent coming in at $1,109. The median value of a house was $270,600.
302 S. Wilmington St.
Richlands, NC 28574
The highest point of the county, Richlands was named for its rich soil, which is celebrated every year on Farmer’s Day, an annual festival that has been held on the first Saturday after Labor Day for more than 40 years. Richlands was the first town in Onslow County to have its own library and museum, and its historic district includes many turn-of-the-century homes.
At just 1.2 square miles, Richlands had 1,689 residents in 2015, the U.S. Census estimates, showing steady growth over the last two decades. Median rent is $795 and the median value of a house in the area is $169,200, the census found. Mean travel time to work is 29 minutes.
601 W. Corbett Ave.
Swansboro, NC 28584
The home of Hammocks Beach State Park and its unspoiled beaches, Swansboro boasts a small harbor adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway and is only 3 miles from coastal recreational facilities in the Croatan National Forest. The village atmosphere in Swansboro’s historic downtown combines the community’s heritage with an area alive with restaurants, boutiques, gift shops and waterside parks. About 3,150 people live in Swansboro’s 1.3 square miles.
Major fun events include the Arts by the Sea Festival, the Mullet Festival, Candlelight Shopping and the Christmas Flotilla. Popular everyday activities in Swansboro and the surrounding area include beach-going, fishing, boating, camping, kayaking, golf, shopping, the arts and amusement parks.
Known for its high-quality ambiance, Swansboro offers many different residential settings — many of them on or near the White Oak River, the Intracoastal Waterway or the numerous coastal creeks that border the town — and an attractive array of business services.
Median rent in Swansboro is $929 and the median value of a house in the area, the census calculates, is $215,700. Mean travel time to work is less than 25 minutes.
Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or across the nation, preparation and organization can make all the difference. First, decide whether to use a professional moving company or make it a do-it-yourself (DIY) operation.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs to rent the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes as possible from professional movers, as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs for each type of move, factoring in the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.
Regardless of which method you choose, the first step should be to inventory your personal belongings. The list, with photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.
Plan for one full day to pack each room — though the kitchen and garage may take longer. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more time. It always takes longer than predicted to pack. Toss or donate unused items to lighten your load. Visit www.goodwill.org, www.salvationarmy.org or www.clothingdonations.org for locations near you or to arrange a pickup.
Pack for success:
- Consider what you’re packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.
- Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or air bubble wrapping.
- Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.
- Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.
- Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term emotional and financial commitment with various pluses and minuses. Advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages include upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property values.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.
Before determining your best option, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Finding an Apartment
Find local apartments listed in chamber of commerce membership directories, local newspaper classifieds, online or through referrals from family or friends. The North Carolina Department of Justice’s Landlord-Tenant Booklet can be downloaded at www.ncdoj.com.
Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting like a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.
Before you decide to rent, inspect the apartment with the landlord. Look for the following problems:
- Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling.
- Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage.
- Any signs of mold or pests.
- Lack of hot water.
- Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.
Buying a Home
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. Overall, loan rules changed in 2015, but according to Government National Mortgage Associationand the Homebuying Instituteloan programs continue to vary on the percentage of your income that can be used for housing-related expenses. Lenders balance debt against income to decide if an applicant will be able to repay a loan. Most conventional loans require borrowers to have no more than 43 percent total monthly debt versus their total monthly income, though there are exceptions, such as for those with significant savings. The Federal Housing Administration has a two-tier qualifying system: FAA sets its top thresholds at 31 percent front-end debt (housing expenses as a percentage of income) and 43 percent back-end debt (all debt as a percentage of income) for a 31/43 qualifying ratio. Like commercial lenders, Veterans Affairs combines front-end and back-end debt for a 41 percent limit against income.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all homebuyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an internet lender, a mortgage broker, a homebuilder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.
A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan. For any home loan application, the mortgage company will order a credit report, so it may be good to get a free report in advance to determine your credit status and make sure the report contains no erroneous information.
To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call toll free 877-322-8228, or download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Central Source LLC, P.O. Box 105283, Atlanta, GA 30348-5283. For more information, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan are invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.
First, determine your home preferences. Does a single-family house, condo, town house or duplex best fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or in the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. Interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your homebuying and neighborhood preferences, and are readily accessible.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Jacksonville City Programs
Jacksonville Community Development works to help provide affordable housing in the area. Local and county resources are available for home ownership and housing repair. For more information, visit https://jacksonvillenc.gov/index.aspx?NID=140 or contact Jacksonville Community Development at 910-938-5286.
North Carolina provides housing programs and incentives to help residents with home ownership. For more information, visit http://portal.hud.gov and select North Carolina from the “State Info” drop-down menu.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Department offers programs to help rural Americans with essential services such as housing, economic development and health care. As part of USDA Rural Development, the Rural Housing Service offers a variety of programs to build or improve housing and essential community facilities in rural areas. Rural Housing Service does this with loans, grants and loan guarantees for single- and multi-family housing, child care centers, fire and police stations, hospitals, libraries, nursing homes, schools and more. Visit www.rd.usda.gov/nc for more information.