Community offers convenience of lock-and-leave living

CorrespondentApril 4, 2014 

Bob Eberhardt and his wife, Lori, raised their family in Northern Durham’s Willowhaven Golf Course community. They loved their large home overlooking the golf course, even though they didn’t play the game. They also enjoyed being close to family who lived nearby.

But when the term “empty nesters” started applying to them, they decided they didn’t want to spend their retirement years remodeling their 1970’s house to meet today’s Energy Star standards. And they wanted a place where yard maintenance was part of the Homeowners Association Dues.

The couple’s Durham house was situated on a beautifully landscaped acre of land.

“Every time we wanted to go on vacation, I had to take care of the outside and do it again first thing when I came home,” Bob said. “I wanted a place where I could just lock and go and not worry about scheduling lawn care.”

And both Bob and Lori wanted an energy-efficient brick house, which would be low-maintenance and have low utility bills. They said they didn’t so much want a small house, but did want one where everything they needed would be on the main floor and have extra storage, overflow entertainment space and guest bedrooms on other floors.

They found it all two years ago in Mebane at The Highlands in Mill Creek, a neighborhood in the Mill Creek golf course community conveniently located between Greensboro and Chapel Hill.

Mill Creek is located off Highway 119 North in Mebane near I-85 and I-40. Homeowners in any of its six neighborhoods can easily enjoy an 18-hole golf course that is also open to public memberships, fully-lighted tennis courts, a junior Olympic-sized outdoor pool, sports fields and a community clubhouse.

Cimarron Homes is the builder at The Highlands and offers large patio homes on small lots on streets whose names honor golfing greats such as Sam Sneed, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.

Cimarron builds certified green homes following National Home Builders Association guidelines in framing and insulating techniques, building products and finishes. Along with the keys to their new Cimarron Home, each home owner is also given an operations manual to help them live in their Energy Star Home in an environmentally friendly manner. Go to to learn more about Cimarron’s green building techniques.

“One big item we enjoy about our home is the low utility bills,” Bob said. “Last winter our highest monthly natural gas heating bill was $129. This year it has been colder, so our highest monthly gas heating bill was $149. That is incredible for our home, which is 4,733 heated square feet. Cooling bills are also very low. Last summer our highest monthly electric bill was $115.”

“The home is so well insulated that during our recent ice storm power failure, where we were without electricity for three-and-a-half days, the main level was heated only by the direct-vent, gas fireplace on the lowest possible flame setting and the main floor still maintained a temperature of 70 degrees,” Bob said. “The lower level and second level maintained a temperature of 62 degrees those three days with no additional heating means provided.”

The Eberhardts chose Cimarron Home’s Sunbury floor plan which has 3,178 square feet with four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a bonus room and a two-car attached garage. The house is situated on a steep lot overlooking the first fairway of Mill Creek Golf Course. This allowed the Sunbury to be built on top of a full, daylight basement. The finished basement brings the Eberhardt’s total square footage to a little more than 4,700 heated square feet.

The concrete basement floor was stained and sealed to look like marble. The large space has a complete, finished kitchen and great room that opens to a patio overlooking the golf course. There is also a bedroom, full bath and storage room.

“We like the Sunbury because it is an open plan with the rooms we use the most overlooking the golf course,” Bob said. “Our old house in Durham backed up to a golf course, but the rooms we used —kitchen and great room — overlooked the front, so we didn’t get to enjoy the golf course view like we do here.”

“We also like that even on the main floor, there is room for each of us to be doing something different and not be disturbed by the other one,” Lori said.

Another plus the Eberhardts say is the friendliness of the neighborhood. There is a neighborhood phone directory with information in the back on who can offer rides to the airport or loan a ladder. They also have a list of companies that neighbors have used and had a good experience with — from plumbers to painters.

“All of the people in the Highlands look out after each other,” Lori said. “The people here are very friendly.”

“When the Highlands first got started it was mostly retirees buying the homes,” Bob said. “But now some families with children are moving here because with both parents working and the kids in sports and dance, the parents don’t have time to care for their yards, either.”

Several of the women living in The Highlands participate in water aerobics at Mill Creek’s outdoor pool in the summer. Lori has been active in water aerobics for years, so she shares in teaching those classes.

“We’ve made so many friends at the Highlands,” Lori said. “We know everybody in here. We have neighborhood gatherings once every one-to-two months. The last gathering we co hosted with two other neighbors and had 47 people attend.

The couple still keeps in touch with their friends and family in Durham. They still get the Durham newspaper and have season tickets to the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Durham is an easy commute from Mebane, Bob said. It doesn’t seem to take any longer to get to restaurants and doctors at Southpoint from our home in Mebane than it did from our home north of the Eno River, he said.

The couple attends Durham Bulls baseball games occasionally, Duke Chapel and “take I-85 to the Durham Express way and we’re at St Paul’s Lutheran Church off Cornwallis Road in Durham in no time,” Bob said.

There are 22 lots still available in The Highlands. Five of those lots are suitable for the house to have a basement. None of the remaining lots have golf course views, but all have beautiful streetscapes and some have views of the rolling Piedmont.

There are two brick homes available now in The Highlands. The Chelsey at 204 Bryon Nelson Drive has 3,517 square feet, three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a game room and an attached two-car garage priced at $351,545. The Kinston at 304 Ben Hogan Drive has 1,978 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, a bonus room and a two-car attached garage for $353,835.

The houses can be previewed at or a private showing arranged by calling 919-880-4183.

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