Carova, NC: Is This Remote Beach Community the Location for Your Next Vacation Home?


Pros and Cons of living in or owning a vacation home in Carova NC

Carova, NC is the northern, most remote town or village in the Outer Banks at the Virginia and North Carolina border. Located in Currituck County, it is only accessible through the unpaved beach. To the North, the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach is not accessible from the Carova beach area due to an ocean to sound fence that was installed years ago. A few families do have the key. So, you must have a 4 wheel drive vehicle to own a home or vacation in Carova. Before driving on the beach, lower the air pressure in your tires to about 20lbs. You can re-inflate your tires back in Corolla.

Advantages of Carova

This beach area is one of the most pristine beaches on the east coast. If you are seeking a place to get away from it all, with few distractions, and lots of privacy – Carova is the place to be. This is the biggest advantage to the Carova area.

Some of the unincorporated areas or communities in Corova are known as Seagull, Penny’s Hill, Swan Beach, North Swan Beach, Carova Beach and Ocean Beach. Residents, visitors and any service providers can only reach the area using 4 wheel drive vehicles. Depending on the tide or area storms, the drive on the beach can be quite challenging!

What this area of OBX is most known for are the wild horses. The wild horses were relocated here from Corolla many years ago because this area was less populated and provided a safer spot for the horses to be able to roam freely without the threat of getting hit by vehicles. The horses are descendants of Spanish Mustangs believed to have been shipwrecked in the 1500s.

You will find over 11 miles of wide open beaches in Carova. There are a few interior dirt/sand roads and a scattering of homes leading to the sound side of the island. There are also some canals that lead to the Currituck Sound. Many of these homes are modest in size while nestling into the simple landscape of live oaks, cedars and native grasses.

What you won’t find here are retail stores, restaurants, gas stations or even a grocery store. There are no hotels or motels located here, but there are some really large rental homes (23+ Br), typically used as wedding or event homes, that some argue should be considered and regulated like a motel.

Carova also has smaller cottages available for rentals with 2 or 3 bedrooms. These smaller homes can be the perfect second home or retirement home to get away from it all.

There are several nature reserves- the Currituck Banks Reserve, the Currituck Banks North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The preserve status ensures the land will remain undeveloped in the future.

The area is still very secluded and is likely to remain so. There are only a few permanent residents that live year round (around 180 or so) and approximately 1,000 vacation homes (second homes and rental homes) in the area. Many of the vacation homes are available for weekly rentals. There is a fire/EMS station and a refuse station servicing the area.

The small population of the area allows the residents to know each other and socialize. In the event of adversity, folks tend to rally and support each other. Perhaps due to the rugged nature of the area, the residents are a close knit group of neighbors.

Some residents of Carova have vehicles positioned on Knotts Island to shorten the driving distance to Virginia. This way, they can take the boat from Carova and use the vehicle to go the rest of the way to Virginia.

Disadvantages of Carova

New home construction costs higher

Oceanfront lots in Carova are generally large and cost between $300k to $400k. However, the cost to construct a new home will be much higher compared to locations with a paved road. This applies across the board for all trades. Generally, fewer tradesmen will service the area since it requires 4 wheel drive vehicle and is at times not accessible due to high surf.

Keep in mind any heavy equipment used to construct the home also has to be 4 wheel drive or moved/ trailered on a 4 wheel drive. This can significantly impact the final cost of construction.

Maintenance cost higher

Similar to new construction costs being higher, maintenance costs for homes in Carova will tend to be higher. This would apply to emergency plumbing services (already expensive), to painting, appliance repair etc. There are fewer companies equipped and positioned to service the relatively small community.

Fewer Vacation Rental companies service the area

There are also fewer Property Management Companies that serve the area for vacation rental services. The ones that do service the area can add a premium to their fees due to their higher costs and less competition. Employees will need to use 4 wheel drive vehicles to reach the homes. This would apply to maintenance workers, cleaners and pool technicians.

Vacation Rental Services more costly

The homes located in Carova are spread out over a large area. Since there are no stores or even gas stations in the area, any parts needed for repairs can require a second trip to the area; further increasing the costs. Each service provider tends to use their own transportation.

Drinking Water Quality

There is no city water or sewer, so each property must have its own well dug and their own septic system. The quality of the water from individual wells can vary depending on the location and the depth. There is also a prevalence of iron in Outer Banks well water which can stain fabrics or even your car or home when used in landscaping.

Interior “roads” can disguise deep holes that fill with rain water after storms.

There are no real “engineered roads” in the area. They are dirt/sand paths that were established long ago. Some are at the lowest point and tend to fill with rainwater quickly.

As reported in the Virginia Pilot newspaper, “Sandfiddler Road and Sandpiper Road – two primary routes there – become nearly impassable after hard rains, when more than 50 large potholes fill deep enough to reach the door handles on a large truck”.

Storm surges can make it impossible to get in or out of communities

In the event of a nor’easter, tropical storm or hurricane, the only way out of the area is to drive on the beach which will typically be impassible for the duration of the storm. This could be quite dangerous should there be a medical emergency. While EMS services do have use of a helicopter, poor weather conditions can eliminate this alternative until the storm passes.

Vehicle maintenance higher

The conditions on the interior roads, wears out brakes and bearings and the constant driving on the sandy and salty beach corrodes the under-carriage of residents 4 wheel drive vehicles. This means higher cost to repair and maintain and more frequent replacement for vehicles.

Insurance Cost

The federal government designated much of the off-road area as a COBRA zone. This means federal flood insurance is not available and restricts certain infrastructure from being built.

Pay attention to the flood insurance maps when selecting your Carova property. If a property has been incorrectly mapped as being located in the floodplain, but is actually located on high ground above the base elevation, then you may be able to get a LOMA. A Letter of Map Amendment is an official document that amends the NFIP Map. Unless the property is located in a X flood zone or a LOMA, the cost to insure privately can be very expensive.

Commute can be challenging

Anyone who lives in Carova and expects to commute to a job in Corolla or further south or west will need to have a very understanding company or boss. There are times where the beach and driving conditions make it impassable. Having a position where you can work from home will go a long way toward a less stressful life – where commuting is not necessarily always an option.

The same logic also applies if you have children who need to attend school. While some families have used boats to shorten the commute, weather conditions may not allow you that choice. The Currituck County schools are located on the mainland and require over an hour bus ride each way for children.

The Outer Banks is a beautiful place to relocate, retire or invest in a vacation home. For some folks, Carova is the perfect location and exactly matches their dreams. Other folks may prefer modern conveniences and roads. The Outer Banks has a community to match all your lifestyle preferences.

For more information on the Outer Banks and on Outer Banks real estate contact Eillu, or call 252-491-9999. We are experts on the Outer Banks and are ready to help with your Outer Banks real estate needs. Let us help you find the perfect Outer Banks location and the perfect home of your dreams.

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Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
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