Outer Banks Commercial Real Estate Newsletter October 2020

by Larry Lombardi, on Oct 5, 2020 5:00:52 PM



It’s a scary time for commercial real estate.

Although “scary” might not be the right word.

Uncertain? Unprecedented? Unpredictable?

Whatever you want to call it, the CRE industry is definitely in uncharted territory these days.

The good news? Sometimes those uncharted territories are full of huge opportunities. Opportunities you'll miss if you scare too easily.

Take the Bates Motel for instance... 

I rewatched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho recently. After 60 years, it still holds up as a horror classic. But I never realized how much of the movie's plot hinges on commercial property issues.

The Bates Motel is a perfectly charming roadside stop. But after the city redirected the main highway, all of the motel's drive-by traffic and customer flow dried up. Without customers, Norman Bates just got bored and crazy until that one day when he... snapped.

What would have happened if an ambitious and creative CRE agent showed up INSTEAD of Marion Crane? What if someone could have looked past the creepy stares and the stuffed owls to see real potential in the Bates Motel? 

An experienced CRE professional could have explained to Norman how he could get customers back, expand the motel or develop the rest of the property. Maybe they could have even convinced him to retire early and sell out to a large hospitality chain.

The right CRE agent at the right time could have saved so many innocent lives!

Of course, that twist would have made Psycho a much less terrifying movie. It likely wouldn't have become a classic and it definitely wouldn't rank as one of the scariest movies of all time.  

On the bright side though, millions of people would have enjoyed a lifetime of more peaceful showers. 

My point? Things may LOOK scary, but there are hidden opportunities if you're willing to face your fear and go after them.

Deborah Stearns JLL

CRE Spotlight:

Deborah Stearns

Senior Vice President,


  • Grew up in Norfolk
  • Graduated from Granby High School and Old Dominion University
  • Met her husband Dave at church at age 12 and the couple celebrated their 47th anniversary this year
  • Lives in Norfolk on the Lafayette River in the home they bought in 1982
  • Her and her husband became college football fans in 2009 when ODU fielded their first team (they have missed the tailgates and games this year)
How long have you been working in commercial real estate?

45 years

How did you first get into real estate?

I started as Executive Secretary to Robert Stanton, shortly after he became President of Goodman Segar Hogan, Inc. I wanted to pursue a career in sales and Bob promised an opportunity when I finished my degree. I moved into Office Leasing in 1979.

What was your first CRE transaction?
A 1000 sf lease in the Wainwright Building in Downtown Norfolk, now an apartment property.
What was your most memorable CRE transaction?
Identifying an opportunity to secure a location with a parking ratio of 9:1000 that resulted in the redevelopment of the JC Penney retail box on Military Highway in Norfolk to an office building. The tenant I represented leased 100,000 sf and we then secured a tenant, representing the landlord this time, for the second floor to bring the property to 100% leased.
What's your favorite part of working in CRE?
Identifying solutions for clients that meet their objectives. Every deal is something of a puzzle, and the solution is a combination of available data, personal experience, and creative thinking.
What’s the biggest misconception about CRE?
Commercial real estate is often 'under the radar' and people are often unaware of the array of career avenues outside of brokerage.
How would you describe the commercial real estate market in northeastern NC and the Outer Banks?
Emerging. As more year round residents populate the region, commercial real estate will expand. The Chesapeake Expressway and the improvements to Route 17/Dominion Boulevard have made it very accessible and reduced the driving time from Hampton Roads.
Can you share one great piece of advice for someone looking to buy/lease commercial property or land?
Do your homework and use conservative projections. Markets change and owners/lessees need to manage through economic cycles. It is usually a long term commitment.
What is your favorite thing about the Outer Banks?
The beaches, of course... the food and the casual, relaxed life style.
What's your favorite way to spend your free time?
Sitting on the beach, playing golf, reading and being with Dave and our friends.
 (757) 961-3245

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Currituck County Featured Property

Commercial Land Directly Across from H2OBX Waterpark

3 MINUTES FROM WRIGHT MEMORIAL BRIDGE. This large commercial tract's location lends itself to many usages due the location and high visibility. With the high traffic count of Highway 158/168, plus proximity to the beaches, there are many options for the discerning buyer or investor. Owner has changed plans to develop and is retiring.

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Topics:Commercial Real EstateEconomic DevelopmentCurrituck CountyOuter Banks