My husband Mike and I have been on the hunt — “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect retirement location. We want to live in a less-expensive, more relaxed area of the country near water. With better weather (no snow) than what we have here in Northern New Jersey. This is our story.
Our second stop during this portion of Operation ReloSouth was at Brunswick Forest in Leland, NC. It’s located close to Landfall, the planned community I wrote about here. Brunswick Forest is located less than 12 miles from Wilmington International Airport (ILM) and less than 8 miles from downtown Wilmington, a fun college (University of North Carolina at Wilmington) city with plenty of great restaurants, a walk-able waterfront (or drive your boat in and have dinner!) and a wonderful national historical district neighborhood of homes; take the carriage tour for a slow-mo peep!). Brunswick Forest is about 30 minutes away from Wrightsville Beach, the first in a string of pretty beaches; it’s a public beach (no beach fee, but you pay to park). Wrightsville Beach reminded me of the Jersey Shore – gray Atlantic Ocean with surf-able waves and yellow sand – without The Sitch and Snooky of Jersey Shore TV infamy (in other words, the people we saw/talked with looked and acted what we consider “regular.”). Note: You should know your required ”must have”/easily accessible amenities are before you start your ReloSouth adventures.
The community of Brunswick Forest is 5 years old; at last count, more than 850 families already live there and 1,000 families are anticipated by yearend; I wasn’t able to find out what the ultimate build-out will be from the developer, but one Internet source (realtor from 2007, reliable?) indicated 4,500. To Mike and me, this community is a pick your lot/pick your home endeavor; we didn’t see a major inventory of homes for resale. Each neighborhood in Brunswick Forest is distinct in architecture and approximate home size with a neighborhood that would fit most budgets. After walking through a few model homes and driving through existing neighborhoods (more will be opened as current lots are sold) we were attracted to a neighborhood called Evangeline; Brunswick Forest, via its latest client surveys, found out that homeowners want more eclectic looking neighborhoods and Evangeline is the first to offer a real variety of home styles within one neighborhood. Mike and I love an eclectic look so we liked this neighborhood concept. Note: You should know what you want (resale or build). And figure out if you’ll be happy with all the same architecture or whether you crave a variety of home styles within your neighborhood.
Brunswick Forest is not a gated community, which means that anyone can drive down/walk through your neighborhood. When your friends come to call, they will drive into Brunswick Forest and right up to your door. If you have children you’ll want to know that the school bus travels through the neighborhood. The town of Leland, where Brunswick Forest is located, worked closely with the developer on its streets/drainage/sidewalks/etc. and will maintain this planned community’s streets, sidewalks, streetlights and the like. I like that I, as a potential homeowner, wouldn’t have to foot the bill for as much infrastructure maintenance!
The community encompasses 4,500 acres and includes dedicated woodlands, creeks, forests and natural areas, many of which are planned buffer zones; Mike and I ran two different trails through the community then met up to exchange information. I ran a 4-mile loop of wide, well-maintained sidewalks, while Mike ran a more forested route on a raised boardwalk. We loved the trails, which are wide, smooth and easily runnable; on the way to Town Creek, where the community’s secluded boat (motor, canoe, kayak) launch and picnic area is located, Mike saw a bluebird and the peaceful woodland views were incredible. Note: You should know what amenities float your boat; for example, a great fitness/wellness center, pool, and running and walking trails and boating/fishing are “must haves” for us. And figure out how you feel about a gated versus non-gated community (and its implications) before you start your ReloSouth adventures.
With 1 golf course, 1 clubhouse with restaurant and pro shop, and a 21,000-square-foot Fitness & Wellness Center (reasonably priced massages!) that includes indoor and outdoor pools with wonderful locker rooms/showers/steam room, café, juice bar, tennis courts, basketball court and more. Fitness and wellness classes are offered frequently. Brunswick Forest has some very good amenities that align with our interests. And Brunswick Forest has more of the resort-like feel Mike and I are seeking. Note: Regarding amenities, you should know what you’re willing to pay for and approximately how much you’re willing to pay. Many communities have buy-in fees (some can run into the tens of thousands of dollars) for their golf clubs, then you pay an annual fee(s) to use the facilities.
The above suggestions are meant to help you get started thinking and dreaming about what you want/need in a new community prior to beginning your ReloSouth adventure.
The Good Things:
- Well-planned buffer zones and dedicated woodland spaces throughout the community with more than 100 miles of trails and sidewalks planned to ultimately connect the public spaces and neighborhoods; currently, our estimate is that more than 4 miles connect existing amenities and neighborhoods.
- A short drive to both city and shore (I gotta get better at calling it the beach if we’re moving South!).
- Easy access to the Intracoastal Waterway (drive/dock in Wilmington at one of the fab waterfront restaurants) if you launch your boat from the community’s secluded boat dock.
- No initiation fee/buy-in/minimum at the golf club. HOA varies some by neighborhood and includes yard care.
- Good mix of working versus retired folks and families.
- Relaxed feel to the folks we met; we think most folks would fit right into this community.
- Easy walk or bike ride to The Villages at Brunswick Forest, an ultimately 500,000-square-foot commercial center; currently about 100,000 square feet build-out, the center includes a lot of good retail, including a quality food store and a great pizzeria.
- Also nearby, a great selection of non-chain restaurants that are fairly priced and have yummy food (and all the chains you might secretly desire).
- Quality medical care and facilities very close by.
- Utilities we like (natural gas, water/sewer, ATT phone/cable/DSL)
The Not-So-Good Things:
- Most of the existing neighborhoods have matchy, matchy architecture.
- Less-mature landscaping, which for now means more sun on my head.
- Since the community is still being built out, will new pools and Fitness & Wellness Centers be added to accommodate the increased number of residents.
- Is the ultimate size (large) of the community the right size for us.
- Is a 30 minutes-or-so drive to reach a public beach acceptable.
Bottom line? Brunswick Forest felt more like a resort-style community to us, albeit one that is still growing. We can afford to live in Brunswick Forest and we would definitely enjoy the Fitness & Wellness Center amenities and outdoor amenities. The city of Wilmington and the proximity to the beach are also draws for us. Brunswick Forest stays on our ReloSouth List!