During a research trip to Wilmington, NC earlier this month, I stayed in a warm and inviting bed and breakfast inn, The Taylor House.  Located in the city’s historic district, Taylor House is about a 10-minute walk to the gas lit Front Street and some of the city’s best restaurants and shops.  As I pulled up to the house at sundown, I could not help but notice the for-sale sign out front.
    After about a dozen years, proprietors Scott and Karen Clark have decided to “move on,” in Scott’s words.  But they aren’t moving away, content to continue to raise their 13-year old daughter in a town they have come to love after domiciles in New York City, upstate New York and the west coast.  The Victorian was built in 1905 and features six bedrooms, a full bath in each one.  A dramatic wooden staircase, stained glass windows, original tile are just a few of the house’s architectural details.  The Clarks have accessorized nicely, especially with the early-20th Century table lamps that are attractive beacons in the windows at night.
    My two-night stay at the inn was everything the promoters of bed and breakfast places say it should be – warm, friendly, personal, comfortable and relaxing.  All the rooms at Taylor House have cute names.  I stayed in the one at the back of the house, Serenity, the smallest of them all but plenty for me.  Its two windows each looked out on a garden.  The bed was comfortable and fit for a queen, both in terms of its size and the style of its headboard, which would have made Queen Victoria feel at home.  The gas fireplace on the cold nights I stayed came in handy; the rush of gas provided quick warmth to the room, although Scott was right to warn me to be careful not to singe my eyebrows when I lit the thing.  The only picky little criticism I have is that the shower was too small, maneuverability affected by a faucet handle that protruded from the wall.  I kept bumping into it, sending a burst of ice cold water my way (at least I didn’t push it in the direction of scalding hot).
    Breakfast was a hoot, especially the second morning.  At my first breakfast, which included a soothing plate of scrambled eggs and cheese, fruit and a muffin, Scott leaned against the antique sideboard as he filled me in on local history, the specifics of the house and his take on the local restaurants.  He warned me that a honeymoon couple would be arriving that evening.  The next morning I sat down with the happy couple, both well into their 70s.  I think the proud groom had practiced his line when he smiled at me and said, “I hope we didn’t keep you up last night.”  His wife, way past the blushing stage, laughed contentedly at the joke.  I was all too happy to be the butt of it, and resisted the temptation to ask if they stayed in the Joy or Love room.
    The house is on the market for $795,000 and does seem most suited to a B&B business (unless you need four mothers in law suites!)..  Rates at Taylor House begin at $125 a night, breakfast included, but discounts are available.  My initial email was greeted with a quick response and the offer of a rate of $90.  The inn’s web site is www.TaylorHouseBB.com.  I’ll post some comments in the coming weeks about the golf communities in the area, as well as some notes on the two restaurants I sampled for dinner.




�lbemarle Plantation season shot  
North Carolina communities like Albemarle Plantation in Hertford are a magnet for Florida residents who miss a little change of seasons. 

   
    Wherever we go in the southeast, we hear the same thing from real estate agents:  Floridians are "bouncing back" to the Carolinas.  In the early years of this decade, the reasons seemed to be storm related; those with expensive homes on the Florida coasts were intimidated by the threat and, in some cases, reality of hurricanes.  They were already leaving before Katrina.  Others were fed up with New York metro-area-type traffic as local road infrastructures could not keep up with the population explosions in places like Dade County and Naples.  What’s the point of trying to save money by eating dinner at 4:30 p.m. at the local Smorgie Board if you are going to sit in traffic and waste gas?  Lately, though, Florida residents are moving to Wilmington, Charlottesville, Asheville and other cities in the southeast for another reason:  They miss winter.
    Ironic, isn't it.  The reasons our parents and grandparents left New York and other northern cities decades ago was that they were sick and tired of cold and snow, and that on a fixed income, they felt a wardrobe of a few tee and golf shirts and three pairs of shorts would save money.  They never imagined they would miss winter, or a reasonable facsimile of it (winters in the Carolinas are wussy winters).  Today, many are trading in their lanais for fireplaces.  
    Of course, it is never just about the weather as much as it is about economics, loathe as some of us are to admit it.  Just as they did decades ago when they cashed in the wild appreciations on their homes in Skokie and Scarsdale for brand new houses in Boca and Boynton Beach, the new refugees, also known as “halfbacks” for how far they’ve come since leaving north for Florida, are doing the same thing, playing the real estate game for all it is worth, pocketing the difference between their wildly appreciated houses in Florida for plenty enough house in the Carolinas.  (Of course, if they waited until now in places like Miami and Naples, they won't get the prices they could have gotten a year ago, if they can sell at all.)
    Call it creative financing on a fixed income.  They no longer need worry quite as much about income tax rates – Florida has none – because their taxable income is no longer a huge factor as they've spent some of their net worth over time.  What they make on the sell and buy transaction pays for a lot of firewood and all the sweaters they need for the Carolinas’ mild winters.  And North Carolina has no estate tax, so what they don’t spend in their lifetimes the halfbacks can leave substantially to their heirs.  
    From the macro economic view, this new phenomenon is good news for real estate price stability in the Carolinas; on the other side of the coin, we have to wonder if Floridians who wait too long to follow suit may suffer more winters of discontent.