Head for the Hills-Cashiers/Highlands North Carolina

Head for the Hills
By Kathy Becker

Dry Falls, Highlands, NC

A change in climate with a change of pace -- the same thing that draws many people to Southwest Florida -- is proving to be an irresistible lure for some working Neapolitans, who find themselves heading for the high hills of Georgia and North Carolina.

In the jargon of the development real estate business, they are called half-backs or boomerangs, because many of them originally came to Florida from the north. Now they are landing about halfway back to their birthplaces, seeking getaways well above sea level.

"We moved down here from the north and find ourselves halfway," says Michael Vranek, vice president of sales at Lely Resort for Stock Development, who has a getaway place he visits nearly every other weekend in Blairsville, Ga., just south of the North Carolina border. "There are four seasons up there, but none of them are so harsh. It's so delightful in the summer. The golf courses are open 12 months of the year. There is some snow or ice, but it's gone in a few hours or a day. And there's unbelievable, true beauty. My wife's family is in Baltimore and Cleveland, and everyone can meet there. We had 13 people for Thanksgiving there last year."

June Mueller, former president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors in 1999, is semi-retired and selling real estate to Neapolitans in Cashiers, N.C. "It's the same issue that drove the baby boomers to Florida looking for a simple, safe place," she says. "They like that kind of lifestyle. It's so similar to Naples. I could see it blossoming in the same way as Naples."

Neapolitans are helping fuel North Carolina's boom. Mueller says about 25 percent of the members of the Country Club of Sapphire Valley near Cashiers are from Naples. "When I built my house three to five years ago, it was $140 a square foot to build," Mueller says. "Now it's between $200 and $450."

This is an article that was published Nov 2006 in the Naples Ilustrated Magazine.