Chamberlain named Realtor of the Year

chamberlainEarly in his career, Joe Chamberlain learned how to react to the unexpected.

More than once the Ashe County Realtor® would be busy taking potential buyers to a property for sale when the hazards of mountain driving called for quick action.

“I can recall on a few occasions having to yell for clients to get out of my vehicle as I found myself sliding back down an icy road towards a steep cliff,” he said, adding no one was injured in the scares. “You just never know what you might encounter when traveling through the rural mountain countryside.”

He also didn’t know what he would encounter when he attended the recent annual membership meeting of the High Country Association of Realtors®. With more than 200 of his peers present, Chamberlain was surprised with the 2015 Realtor® of the Year award March 5. The honor is given annually to a Realtor® who embodies the professionalism and spirit of Realtors®, is involved in leadership positions within the industry and remains active within local community organizations.

“As a Realtor®, I spend most of my days talking to people so it is not often that I am left speechless,” said Chamberlain. “However, I was truly surprised and humbled when they announced my name. It was a moment I will not forget.”

Chamberlain opened Mountainscape Realty in Jefferson in 2005. He serves on the Board of Directors for the High Country Multiple Listing Service, chaired various task forces, and served on the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce. He’s also active with the Rotary Club in Ashe County, both as a member and past president, and has chaired a long list of committees.

chamberlain_with_award“It is evident that he embraces this little corner of the world and has become as engrained in it as it has become engrained in him,” said past Realtor of the Year Marc White, introducing Chamberlain as the award winner during the recent membership meeting. “His unwavering dedication to this community, his family, and friends resonates in his strength of character.”

Originally from Massachusetts, Chamberlain completed a four-year stint in the United States Air Force before he attended Florida State University. After a brief career in law enforcement, he went back to school and earned an MBA. He then moved to the High Country and started his own real estate business.

“I chose real estate because of the opportunity it provides me to work with a wide range of people,” he said. “However, unlike my past career, now my clients are happy to see me.”

“While buying a home can certainly be stressful, it is most often a happy event for my clients,” he said.

Chamberlain describes his role as a Realtor® as being crucial in aiding buyers and sellers through that “stressful” experience of buying a home. Buyers need an advisor who knows the local market and can identify properties to fit their needs. Sellers need someone who can advise on an appropriate listing price, and ensure the property is well marketed.

Realtors® can also manage the sale process through closing and assist with any challenges that arise.

“The High Country is such a great place to call home,” he said. “Buying and selling a home here should be an exciting and rewarding process which is why I always recommend finding a great Realtor® to work with.”

West Jefferson a “Great Place” in NC

West Jefferson is a Great Main StreetOne of the many wonderful towns within the High Country was recently honored as a Great Place in North Carolina, as chosen by the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association.

In describing how West Jefferson was chosen, the APA-NC mentioned both the history and small-town character of the community.

West Jefferson plays host to visitors all year long and hospitality is the town’s business. During the holidays, the town is alive with shoppers and every car in town is donned with a Christmas tree. Ashe County is the top producer of trees in the country and people come to get one fresh. In fall, people come to enjoy the changing colors of the trees. You can experience the color on any number of hiking trails but the same view can be found on Jefferson Ave. The Centennial Celebration this year also hopes to draw the community in and those that have called West Jefferson home. Jefferson Ave was made a great place because of the work ethic and community spirit that went into the town. Planning played a key role in laying out the town’s vision of a safe and attractive downtown. These well laid plans became a reality as the town worked with NCDOT and other stakeholders to slow traffic and improve pedestrian access in town.

West Jefferson indeed has a great downtown, one very friendly to browsing on foot.

The warming glow of a High Country sunset

The first day of Spring is still a few days away, but March 16 sure felt like the season arrived early. Temperatures were in the mid-60s and there was plenty of sunshine, highlighted by a stunning High County sunset. The closing seconds of daylight went viral on social media.

Banner Elk sunset.

A photo posted by Craig Mcphail (@ohmymcphly) on

Tonight's sunset was truly a work of art. // #vsco #sunset #goodfirstdayback

A photo posted by Garrett Ross (@gertross) on

No place like Boone

A photo posted by @sumner_jones on

Beautiful evening sky over Blowing Rock tonight! #sunset #booneview #blueridgemoments

A photo posted by Christine Lindsay (@cclinds) on

I guess mountain sunsets are cool too #boone #nc #ncmountains #sunset #mountainsunset

A photo posted by Caleb Forbes (@calebforbes) on

Brisk sales in February

A month heavy with snow proved to be among the busiest for local Realtors®, with February sales hitting an eight-year high for the month.

February 2015 graphicMeanwhile interest rates remain below where they were a year ago.

There were plenty of local buyers in February, with 92 homes sold worth $20.41 million, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which records all Realtor® transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The median sold price for the month was $210,950.

The brisk business came in a month of wintry weather. Grandfather Mountain’s weather station recorded five records for low daily temperatures, and area schools missed for more than nine days due to wintry weather.

“The wintry weather may have delayed a few closings but not the slow and steady pace of housing recovery in the High Country,” said High Country Association of Realtors® President Pam Vines. “Although prices have not recovered to their all-time highs of several years ago, the higher volume of sales means that more buyers and sellers are finding that middle ground that reflects today’s prices.”

The sales for February were well behind the norm prior to the real estate crash of 2008. In February 2007, local Realtors® sold 124 homes worth $33.3 million. One year later, those numbers dropped to 90 homes sold worth $24.46 million.

After dipping to just 34 homes sold worth $7.69 million in February 2010, activity for the month has gradually increased. Overall, from 2008 to 2014, Realtors®’ average activity for the month of February was 68 homes sold worth $16 million.

With regard to local inventory, there were 2,249 homes listed with Realtors® as of March 7. That’s slightly more than the 2,244 homes listed in early January.

The READReport, which records all real estate transactions in the three-county area, reported 214 sales worth $38.04 million during the month, a 33 percent increase from February 2014.

Interest rates continue to be attractive for home buyers. According to loan giant Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed interest rate as of March 5 was 3.75 percent, well below the 4.28 percent rate recorded a year prior on March 6, 2014.

The rate for a 15-year loan as of March 5 was 3.03 percent, well below the 3.32 percent rate of March 6, 2014.

Perhaps thanks in great part to interest rates, pending homes sales nationally are at their highest point since August 2013. According to the Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors®, home buyers in January signed contracts at a pace that highlights underlying demand in today’s housing market.

“Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” he said. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs and slower price growth.”

Local Realtor accepted into state leadership academy

Bill Aceto, who’s been active selling High Country real estate for more than seven years, was recently accepted into the North Carolina Association of Realtors® Leadership Academy.

Bill AcetoThe Academy seeks to identify and train local Realtor® leaders for positions in their community, workplace and association.

Aceto, co-owner and manager of Blue Ridge Realty & Investments, has served on several area boards, including as a member the High Country Realtor® Association MLS committee, treasurer of the MLS and High Country Associations of Realtors®, member of the town of Boone Board of Adjustment and secretary of the Watauga County Board of Elections.

“The opportunity to work with buyers and sellers with the single biggest investment most individuals will make in their lifetime is very rewarding and something I have a passion for,” said Aceto, who is licensed to sell real estate in both North Carolina and Tennessee.

Aceto intends to use his opportunity with the Academy to build an intrastate network of referrals and contacts to better serve the local real estate community, as well as stay up-to-date on potential legislation that could impact the industry.

“Realtors® provide a conduit for buyers and sellers to engage each other and provide assistance with the buying /selling process from start to finish,” said Aceto, a 2007 graduate of Appalachian State University. “As Realtors® we have knowledge and experience that is invaluable to buyers and sellers as they work towards a contract to close on a home.”

Aceto co-owns and manages with Todd Rice Blue Ridge Realty & Investments, Blue Ridge Professional Property Services and Boone High Country Rentals. While still a student at Appalachian, Aceto started High Country Spa and Maintenance, which he continues to own and manage.

From 2009-2011, Aceto served as the Resident Site Manager for Sunalei Preserve, a 1000-acre development on the Tennessee/North Carolina Line. He coordinated grounds maintenance, oversaw property owner rentals for the Main Camp Lodge, and addressed individual property owner’s needs.

A proud Eagle Scout, Aceto is actively involved with the Young Professionals of Boone, Boone Chamber of Commerce, Appalachian alumni and boosters clubs.

Aceto is one of more than 500 Realtors® who comprise the High Country Association of Realtors®, which represents Realtors® in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

Snow surprise to wake up to

It’s been a very wintry winter so far this season in the High Country. Seems nary a week has gone by this month without a snow event. The latest was an unexpected surprise, with more than three inches of snow falling overnight.

Here are some of the scenes shared on social media.

Buyers’ market conditions continue in the High Country

BOONE – Local real estate sales started the new year as they traditionally do – slowly. Meanwhile interest rates continue to fall.

Realtors® sold 75 residences worth $15.86 million in January, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which records Realtor®-transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

January sales graphicIt was the quietest month of sales recorded since January 2013, when just 64 listings were sold. January also broke a streak of six straight months of plus-100 sales, and recorded a year-to-year decline of 8.5 percent compared to sales last year at this time (82 listings sold).

The early months of the year are traditionally soft in sales. Since 2008, Realtors® have sold an average of 64.8 homes in January. The biggest change in that span, though, was the price at which those homes have sold.

From January 2008 to January 2013, the median sale price for the month was well over $200,000, peaking at $250,000 in 2010. Last January the median sale price recorded was $168,500, a decline of 23.4 percent from the prior January.

Last month the midpoint of all sale prices was $165,000, down 2 percent from a year ago.

These market conditions appear to remain strong in the High Country, which should encourage more potential buyers to explore the area’s real estate opportunities.

“With our local median sale price continuing to decline and interest rates attractively low, we believe all of our communities and mountains will attract new buyers to the area,” said Pam Vines, president of the High Country Association of Realtors.

Local inventory is at its lowest level in more than a year, with 2,227 residential listings as of February 8.

The READReport, which tracks all real estate transactions in the three-county area, reported 180 sales in January, a slight increase from the 174 sold in January 2014. Total value was $50.09 million, with 41 percent coming from commercial sales.

Along with prices, prospective buyers should be encouraged thanks to interest rates continuing to decline. As of February 5, the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped from 3.66 percent to 3.59 percent. The rate for the 15-year loan went from 2.98 to 2.92

Rates are now at their lowest levels since May 2013, and well below where they were this time last year. In January 2014 the average 30-year mortgage rate was 4.23 percent and the 15-year rate was 3.33 percent.

“With interest rates at lows not seen since early 2013, the strength in existing sales in upcoming months will largely depend on the willingness of current homeowners to realize their equity gains from the past couple years and trade up,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors®.

Nationally, home sales declined in 2014, down 3.1 percent compared to 2013. The High Country saw a slight increase, with sales up 4.5 percent. Prices were flat though, with the median sale price down just under one percent.


Real estate activity in 2014 hits six-year high

Comparing 2013 to 2014 sales

2014 was a great year to buy into the High Country real estate market. Interest rates were low, inventory was strong, and prices attracted attention.

For the fourth consecutive year, Realtor®-assisted home sales increased in the three-county area. The 1,363 homes sold were a 4.5 percent increase over 2013, and 7.7 percent better than 2012.

It was also the most listings sold in a year since 2008, when 1,291 transactions were recorded by the High Country Multiple Listings Service, which tracks Realtor® transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The activity was driven by long-standing buyers’ market conditions. The median sold price for the year – the midpoint at which all homes sold, with half selling for more and half selling for less – was $188,500, the lowest such price in at least eight years, and the third straight year it’s declined.

The median sold price was down just under a percent from 2013 ($189,500), and down 5.3 percent from 2012 ($199,000).

To further define the state of the local market today, look to 2011. In that year Realtors® sold 1,019 homes for a median price of $212,000. Fast forward to 2014, and sales have increased 34 percent while the median sale price has fallen 11 percent.

Total value for homes sold in 2014 was $320.55 million, down $13 million from 2013.

As the calendar year ended interest rates remained low and inventory was steady. There were 2,244 listings active in the MLS as of January 10.

High Country Association of Realtors® President Pam Vines is encouraging first time home buyers to take note of the lower median price of homes in the High Country as well as the historically low mortgage interest rates.

“This may be the right time to start looking for that first home,” she said.

nar_graphic_dec_-2014In December local Realtors® sold 106 homes for $24.76 million. The median price was $190,000. It was the busiest December since 2012, when 109 homes sold for $26.01 million. The median price then was $200,250.

The year-end READReport, which tracks all real estate sells in the three-county area, also recorded an increase in sales and decrease in prices. There were 2,954 transactions worth $532.89 million in 2014. There were 2,918 such sales the year prior, for $531.27 million.

Interest rates continue to defy expectations. As of January 8, 2015 the average rate for a 30-year mortgage was 3.73 percent, its lowest mark since May 2013, according to Freddie Mac. The average for a 15-year mortgage was 3.05 percent.

A year ago, most analysts were predicting mortgage rates would surpass 5 percent in 2014. Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors®, expects those rates to finally begin to rise in 2015. He also foresees enough pent-up demand that existing home sales nationally should increase around seven percent this year.

Local Realtors support Habitat for Humanity

Check presentation to Habitat for Humanity
(from left) Incoming High Country Association of Realtors® president Pam Vines, former HCAR president Sam Taylor and HCAR Executive Officer Laurie A. Phillips present a $4,000 check to Watauga Country Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Alex Hooker.

Local Realtors® recently continued their tradition of support for the community by presenting a $4,000 check to Watauga County Habitat for Humanity.

Half of the donation was directly from the High Country Association of Realtors® (HCAR), which represents Realtors in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. The other originated from Homes4NC, a housing foundation created by the North Carolina Association of Realtors® (NCAR).

The check was presented by HCAR Executive Officer Laurie Phillips, incoming HCAR president Pam Vines and current HCAR President Sam Taylor. Alex Hooker Executive Director for the Watauga Country Habitat for Humanity received the check at the December general meeting of the Realtor association.

“Many people in the community are not aware of the fact that Realtors® don’t just sell houses,” said Phillips. “We are an integral part of the community with over 500 members in the three-county area. Each year we work to give back by donating our time and money to help make the American dream of owning a home achievable.”

HCAR is composed of Realtors® from the surrounding area who maintain a marketplace where buyers and sellers can safely transfer property under the guidance of a professional held to standards of excellence. It also seeks to support and grow various non-profits and community organizations.

Homes4NC provides grants to housing organizations that assist first-time homebuyers, the homeless, families in crisis, victims of natural disasters and more community projects. It is led by a volunteer board of directors made up of Realtors®, NCAR members, local executives and representatives from other housing-related organizations.

Realtors record busiest Fall selling season since 2007


The holiday season is bringing some joy to local Realtors®, with the rush of year-end sales the best in seven years.

With one month remaining in 2014, Realtors® are poised to surpass their sales total from last year. Low interest rates continue to attract buyers, and there’s plenty of inventory on the market.

“2014 has been an interesting year with both ups and downs in the real estate market,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®. “We are pleased that we will end this year on an uptick and are look forward to a good start in 2015.”

In November local Realtors® sold 135 homes for $31.71 million, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service which records all Realtor® transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That was a 25 percent increase over sales in November 2013, and 56 percent more than November 2012.

Since September 1, local Realtors® have sold 416 listings, making this the most active Fall selling season since 2007, when 478 homes sold. Yet the market conditions of both periods are very different.

The demand today continues to be driven by a buyers’ market. The median sold price – the price point at which half of all home sold for less and for more – from September through November this year was $200,000. In the same three-month span in 2007 the median price was $235,000.

Prices throughout the year have remained well below not just 2007 levels, but those of 2011. Through the first 11 months of the year the median sold price was $188,000, a decrease of 2 percent compared to this time last year ($191,750), and down 10.5 percent compared to 2011 ($210,000).

The recent trend line has been up. In November alone, the median sold price was $202,500, well above the price set in November 2013 ($197,500).

As of December 11, there were 2,671 active listings in the High Country MLS.

The lastest READReport, which tracks all land transactions in the three-county area, mirrors the Realtor®’s trend. There have been 2,703 land purchases worth $485.69 million so far this year. That’s an increase in activity from last year at this time (2,680) but a decrease in collective sales ($489.58 million).

It continues to be a great time to buy. On December 4, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 3.89 percent, the lowest in 18 months, according to mortgage lender Freddie Mac. The rate increased slightly the following week, to 3.93 percent. That rate was 4.53 percent at the start of the year.

The average for a 15-year fixed-rate home loan was 3.2 percent, as of December 11.

All information is subject to change and should be independently verified. Copyright© 2012, HIGH COUNTRY MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE®. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer: High Country Association of REALTORS® makes no representations or warranties of any nature with regard to the privacy and/or business practices of the websites linked from or to nor with regard to their use of any information they may collect.

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