Real Estate Report: Late winter weather doesn’t hamper sales

Sales in MarchLocal Realtors® sold more than 100 homes last month, the second time since 2008 they’ve surpassed that mark that early in the year.

The sales came despite a month of heavy winter weather. They could have been aided by a growing demand nationally for vacation homes, which is hitting an eight-year high.

There were 105 local homes worth $24.97 million sold in March, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which records Realtor® sales within Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That’s a four-month high, and a 9.4 percent increase over sales in March of last year.

The median sold price also increased for the fourth straight month, to $190,000. That’s an 18 percent increase since December, when it was $161,000.

Since 2008, local Realtors® have sold an average of 83 homes in March. That span includes a high of 115 in March 2012, and a low of 59 sold in March 2009.

For the year so far, 269 homes have been sold. That’s an 11 percent increase from this time last year, and up 14.5 percent from the first three months of 2012.

“We are optimistic that sales will continue to increase as our weather improves and more buyers come into our area,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®.  “We have a very large inventory to choose from and look forward to helping people achieve the dream of owning a home in our beautiful mountains.”

At the start of April there were just over 2,500 listings in the three-county area, up from 2,328 in early February.

The monthly READ Report, which tracks all real estate transactions in the High Country, is showing slight sales growth through the first three months of the year. It reported 563 units sold this year, up 3 percent from the 547 sold in that span in 2013. The total value is also up, $102.34 million to $92.42 million (11 percent).

This was despite a soft March, when sales for the month were down 9 percent (206 from 226 last year).

One of the driving forces behind the demand for High Country homes could be the vacation home market. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) recently released its 2014 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, which reported vacation-home sales increased 29.7 percent last year. Vacation-home sales accounted for 13 percent of all transactions, their highest market share since 2006.

Forty-one percent of all vacation homes purchased were in the South

Growth in the equity markets has greatly benefited high net-worth households, thereby providing the wherewithal and confidence to purchase recreational property,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “However, vacation-home sales are still about one-third below the peak activity seen in 2006.”

According to the survey, the typical vacation-home buyer in 2013 was 43 years old, had a median household income of $85,600 and purchased a property that was a median distance of 180 miles from his or her primary residence; 46 percent of vacation homes were within 100 miles and 34 percent were more than 500 miles.

Low interest rates continue to spur sales. The 30-year fixed rate fell in early April, from 4.41 percent to 4.34 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That rate was 3.43 percent one year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average also edged down, to 3.38 percent.

Springtime in the High Country

A few recent photos from around the High Country, found on social media.

Real Estate Report: 2014 Realtor sales start at a six-year high

Realtors sales to start year, 2007-2014

BOONE – The start of the new year continues to be busy for local Realtors®, with home sales hitting a six-year high.

There were 163 Realtor®-assisted sales recorded in the first two months of 2014, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2013, and up 36 percent compared to 2012. That’s according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks all Realtor® transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

To give the numbers perspective, from 2008 (the start of the Great Recession) to 2013, local Realtors® sold an average of 126 homes during the first two months of the year.  The highwater mark was set in 2008, when 183 homes sold. There were only 82 homes sold in 2010.

Local sales continue to be fueled by buyers’ market conditions. The median sold price so far this year is $171,000. That is 12 percent less than the first two months of 2013 ($195,000), and 25 percent less than the start of 2012 ($227,500).

January and February have historically been the slowest months for local Realtor® sales, primarily due to weather. The sales numbers so far suggest local Realtors® should continue seeing more buyers surveying the market.

“With the weather conditions being what they were the past few months, we are greatly encouraged by the uptick in the Real Estate Market,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®. “Our Realtors® are working hard to assist those that want to buy or sell.”

Realtors® sold 83 homes for a combined $18.5 million in February, which is consistent with the 81 homes worth $19.46 million sold in January.  The median sold price increased 6 percent month to month, from $165,000 to $174,500.

There were 202 new homes added to the MLS in February. As of early March, there were 2,376 active listings in the High Country area.

Trends reported by the MLS are also seen in the READReport, which tracks all real estate transactions in the High Country, including commercial, lots and land. According to the READReport, there were 182 units sold for a combined $28.5 million last month. That’s an increase over sales recorded in February 2013, when 162 units were sold for $24.72 million.

Though many analysts have been predicting for months a spike in interest rates, they continue to remain at near historic lows. As of March 13, the rate on a 30-year loan was 4.37 percent, a slight increase from 4.28 percent the week prior. The average 15-year rate rose to 3.38 percent from 3.32 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

Those rates are lower than they were in December 2013 (30-year was 4.46 percent; 15-year was 3.48).

Nationally, Realtor®-assisted home sales dropped in January to the lowest level in a year-and-a-half, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). The median existing-home price was $188,900, up 10.7 percent from January 2013.

“Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Some housing activity will be delayed until spring.”

The snowy view from on high in the High Country

viaduct covered in snow

The High Country of North Carolina is well known for its snow. There’s been plenty of it this season, with weather systems periodically blanketing the area in powder. That was especially true in February.

February was the snowiest month of the winter so far at Grandfather Mountain, which recorded more than 13 inches during the mid-month storms.

Staff at the Entrance Gate in Linville measured 10 inches of snow Feb. 13, coupled with another two inches on Feb. 15 and yet another inch the following day. Snow totals were similar at the Nature Museum halfway up the Mountain, where 13.6 inches of snow were recorded throughout the month.

The white stuff sets a tranquil scene, one generally enjoyed only at eye level. That recently changed.

During one snow event in February, a local business called Nelson Aerials let loose a camera-laden drone to show off winter weather from a perspective few have ever encountered. That includes scenes from the campus of Appalachian State and the Blue Ridge Parkway Viaduct.

Real Estate Report: New year starts with continued sales growth

January 2014 sales graphic

The local real estate market started the new year much as it ended the old – home sales continued to increase as prices remained flat.

Realtor®-assisted home sales in January hit a six-year high for the month, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks Realtor® sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The median sold price, meanwhile, was the lowest recorded for any month in almost five years.

There were 74 homes sold worth $18.5 million last month, the busiest January since the first month of 2008 when 93 homes sold worth $30.32 million. Sales for the month were up 16 percent compared to January 2013, and 35 percent compared to January 2012.

Prices continued to be held down. The median sold price for January was $173,500, a 20 percent decline from January 2013 ($220,000). It was also the lowest median sold price for any month since March 2009 ($164,000).

There were 214 new listings added during the month, the second fewest since the end of 2012. At the start of February more than 2,300 homes were on the market in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

In recent years January has become the traditional low watermark for the year’s Realtor® sales. The strong start to 2014 could indicate an especially busy year ahead.

“This is a great time to buy a home in the High Country,” said Sam Taylor, 2014 President of the High Country Association of Realtors®. “Continued low interest rates, along with a high inventory of homes in the local market, have us optimistic that 2014 is going to be an even better year than 2013.”

Local Realtors® are coming off their fourth straight year of growing sales.

They sold 1,299 homes in 2013, a 3 percent increase from 2012, and a 28 percent increase from 2011. In that same time span the annual median sold price declined 10 percent, from $212,000 in 2011 to $190,000 in 2013.

Nationally, existing-home sales were up 9.1 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). That was the strongest performance since 2006. The national median price for the year was $197,100, which was 11.5 percent above the 2012 median of $176,800.

“Existing-home sales have risen nearly 20 percent since 2011, with job growth, record low mortgage interest rates and a large pent-up demand driving the market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Mortgage rates remain steady. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.23 percent during the first week of February, down from 4.32 percent the week before, according to Freddie Mac. It was the fifth consecutive week rates declined.

The High Country lives the Winter Olympics

When producers at a NBC affiliate in Charlotte thought Winter Olympics, they naturally thought High Country. They decided an effective way to showoff the fun and excitement of the international games was to simply let their cameras roll alongside everyday activities in our snowy neighborhood.

The beauty of a big High Country snow

A foot of snow fell on the High Country last night, with the possibility a bit more may accumulate today. Here are a few scenes around the area, as found on social media.

Local Realtors® Supported More Than Dozen Local Agencies In 2013

More than $12,000 was distributed to more than a dozen area organizations in 2013 by the High Country Association of Realtors®, continuing a tradition of local philanthropy by the group. The High Country Association of Realtors® unites real estate professionals within Watauga, Ashe and Avery counties for the benefit of Realtors® and their clients.

Underscoring its motto that “All Real Estate is Local and So Are We,” the Association seeks to annually support various non-profits and community organizations in the three-county area.

Recipients of 2013 donations include:

  • Hospitality House of Boone
  • 6 scholarships to high school seniors
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Shriners
  • WE Care
  • Ashe Really Cares
  • Avery County YO program
  • American Red Cross• Christmas Child program through elementary schools
  • Hunger and Health Coalition
  • The Crossnore School
  • Humane Society (all three counties)
  • Sponsored Easter and Christmas at an assisted living facility

Come on in, the water’s fine …. for a polar plunge!

It’s been crazy cold the past few weeks in the High Country. And all that crazy was on display this past weekend at the annual Winterfest in Blowing Rock. Among the many events of the weekend was the polar plunge, which attracted a record crowd crazy enough to immerse itself in the wintry waters of Chetola Lake.

polarplunge2014A record 112 people showed up to support people jumping into the freezing water of Chetola Lake in Blowing Rock on Saturday.

Community members braved the water as part of the 2014 Polar Plunge at the Winterfest Celebration.

Officials say the Plunge raised money for The Watauga Humane Society and the Western Youth Network.

A lot of work was needed to make the jumps possible, because there was a lot of ice to clear. A lot: “Last year it wasn’t as cold so it wasn’t as difficult, but this year with the weather we are having it has been harder. The ice this time is almost three inches thick!”

Plenty of photos of the record crowd – along with shots from ice sculpting, wine tasting, WinterPaws Dog Show and more – are on the Winterfest facebook page. Just one of the many annual local events which make Living the Dream in the High Country worthwhile!

Real Estate Report: 2014 may be the last year to find ‘bargains’

All Realtor sold properties in 2013

Local real estate sales were up and prices were down in 2013, as buyers’ market conditions continued in the High Country area. That’s according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks all Realtor®-assisted home sales within Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

Realtor® sales were up 2.6 percent compared to the year prior, and up 27 percent compared to 2011. Yet the median sold price dropped for the second consecutive year, down 10.4% from 2011, and stood at a seven-year low.

Interest in selling remained high. New listings increased by 13 percent year over year.

“We are elated that there are more buyers coming to our High Country region,” said Jerry Starnes, 2013 President of the High Country Association of Realtors. “The year 2014 may be the last year to find ‘bargains’ because of a two-year supply of unsold properties. It seems the market is seeking a balance as we end 2013.”

There were 1,294 Realtor®-assisted home sales in 2013, the busiest year for the region since 2007. The properties sold for $332.82 million, the highest amount since 2008. October was the strongest month, with the 147 homes sold a six-year high.

The median sold price for the year was $190,000 (Half of all homes sold were above that price, with the other half below). In 2012 the median sold price was $199,900. It had been $200,000 or greater every year prior since at least 2005.

Sellers were undaunted. There were 3,952 new listings with Realtors® during the year, the most since at least 2005.

Total Realtor® sales – which included homes, land and commercial property – also increased in 2013. There were 1,703 units sold for $376.72 million. That was a 1 percent increase in units sold compared to 2012, and a 5.8 percent increase in value.

The year ended with December sales of 93 home listings worth $22.55 million, the fewest since February. The median sold price was $168,000, the lowest for any month since March 2009 ($164,000).

December was the tenth consecutive month Realtors® sold more than 90 homes. That’s the longest such streak since October 2008, just prior to the collapse of the national housing market.

Nationally, median sold prices continued to climb in November 2013, the most recent month such stats were reported by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $196,300, up 9.4 percent from November 2012. Total sales for the year are expected to be released at the end of January, and should be “the best sales total in seven years,” according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Interest rates are slowly rising. As of January 2, the average 30-year mortgage loan rate was 4.53 percent, up from 4.48 percent, according to Freddie Mac. The average for the 15-year loan increased to 3.55 percent from 3.52 percent. A year ago, the 30-year fixed rate averaged 3.35 percent; the 15-year, 2.65 percent.

Many experts are predicting an increase in rates into 2014, reaching 5 percent by year’s end.

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