Interest rates continue encouraging home sales

listingssoldoct14 BOONE – October was a great time to be involved in the real estate market. Mortgage rates continued declining, and overall local Realtor® activity remained on pace to increase for the fifth consecutive year.

Since spiking in March, interest rates have been dropping steadily. The average 30-year, fixed-rate was 3.97 percent the week of October 16, the low for the year. In the month since it’s nudged up slightly, to 4.02 percent as of November 16.

The average for a 15-year mortgage was 3.20 percent, down from 3.21 percent.

“Lower rates have fueled more calls requesting rates, closing turnaround time and closing fees,” said Susan Norris with Piedmont Federal in Boone. “Also, we’ve seen an increase in inquiries regarding refinancing from a variable rate to a fixed rate mortgage based on expectations that rates will increase.“

Many analysts are now expecting rates to eventually climb through the next 12 months. According to the Washington Post recently, the Mortgage Bankers Association expects the average rate on a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage to rise to 5.1 percent by the end of 2015.

For now, the rates have been welcome in the High Country.

During October local Realtors® sold 140 homes worth $35.7 million, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service.

Median sold price past three yearsThe median sale price – the price point at which half of all properties sold above and below – was $204,000, the highest since last November.

The average sale price – total value divided by units sold – was $255,030, the highest since last October.

Current inventory is at the lowest point since April. There were 2,865 active MLS listings in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties as of November 15, down from a peak of 3,278 in August.

For the year Realtor® sales have slightly outpaced 2013 sales, with 1,121 listings sold through the first 10 months. That’s an increase of 2 percent over the 1,099 sold in that span last year. Yet total value is down 7 percent, from $283 million to $263 million, and the median sold price is down 1.6 percent, from $190,000 to $187,000.

Those trends are mirrored somewhat in the latest READReport, which records all local land transactions including lots and commercial properties. It finds sales and total value year to date both down around 1 percent compared to 2013, from 2,344 units sold to 2,461, and sales down from $447.03 million to $440.97 million.

Nationally, sales are declining year over year. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), existing-home sales this year are expected to fall to 4.9 million from 5.1 million in 2013. They are forecast to increase to 5.3 million next year and 5.4 million in 2016.

Some of that increase is attributed to pent-up demand. According to a BAR survey released November 3, the share of homes bought by first-time buyers has dropped to the lowest point in almost 20 years. The survey found 33 percent of homes purchased this year were by first-time buyers, the lowest proportion reported since 1987 (30 percent).

The long-term average in the survey is 40 percent.

NAR Call For Action: Don’t tax “Phantom Income” on short sales


Congress has begun its “Lame Duck” session with a big list of unfinished business items. Number one on that list for REALTORS® is an extension of “The Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act.”

takeactionnowThis bipartisan legislation would extend an expired provision that has helped millions of distressed American families by allowing tax relief for homeowners when lenders forgive some portion of the mortgage debt they owe. Today’s housing market is finally recovering. However, there are still too many homeowners unable to meet their mortgage obligations. Estimates show that about 5.3 million homes are still under water. In addition, there are still more than 1 million homes in the process of foreclosure.

If “The Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act” is not enacted, hundreds of thousands of American families who did the right thing by short-selling their home or received a much needed loan reduction from their lender will have to pay income tax on “phantom income.”

Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to act on “The Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act” before the end of 2014 and help provide certainty for struggling homeowners and stability for our nation’s housing markets.


High Country welcomes Snowvember

The first day of November did its best impression of the first day of January, with several inches of snow blanketing parts of the area. Here are a few photos shared on social media.

The colors of Fall 2014

The High Country’s changing of the season, as shared online.

The clouds are gorgeous on campus today. #appstate #booneview #nofilter

A photo posted by @therealsundance on

Real Estate Report: Sale pace slightly ahead of last year

Sales graph

Mortgage rates are at lows for the year

BOONE – The strong summer of real estate sales continued in September, and slightly outpaced last year’s rate.

Since May, local Realtors® have sold an average of 125 listings a month, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks activity in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That’s just ahead of the same span from last year, when an average of 123 were sold.

Year to date, Realtors® have sold 973 homes in the region. That’s a 2.5 percent increase compared to last year through September, when 949 were sold.

Sales are likely being driven by long standing buyer’s market conditions. The median sale price this year – the point at which half of all homes sold above or below – is $184,000. That’s well below last year’s median sale price through nine months, $195,000.

The competitive prices are attracting buyers. Last month there were 139 Realtor®-assisted sales worth $33.33 million, and a median sale price of $195,000. It was the best September for sales since 2007, before the national housing collapse, when 161 homes worth $54.2 sold for a media price of $255,000.

There were also 310 new listings last month, the fewest since March. As of October 19 there were 3,167 listings within the MLS, a near high for the year.

“We are thankful for the slight increase in our market, which is directly related to a vast inventory and decrease in the median sales price,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®. “The national home sales report reflects a decrease in sales, however, our area is unique and we are cautiously optimistic that the market will continue to stabilize.”

With regard to all property sold in the three-county area, including commercial lots and land, total sales are up 1 percent compared to this time last year. There have been 2,182 properties sold worth $389.36 in 2014, according to the monthly READReport. It also found inventory levels remain at a near all-time high.

Meanwhile, mortgage rates are at lows for the year. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.97 percent as of October 19, well below the average 4.53 percent back in January. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage, which is one of the most opted methods for people who are looking for refinancing, dipped to 3.18 percent from 3.30 percent.

The High Country hasn’t followed the latest national trends. According to the National Association of Realtors®, existing home sales slowed in August, the last month in which data is available. Sales decreased 1.8 percent from July. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales activity remains stronger than earlier in the year, but remains below this time last year.

Locally, Realtor®-assisted sales hit a seven-year high in August, with 170 listings sold. That was a 35 percent increase compared to July. The median sold price remained nearly unchanged though, growing from $187,400 to $187,500.

Fall colors beginning to bloom

It’s that time of year again. The changing of the seasons from fall slowly into winter comes highlighted with a spectacular explosion of color. The peak time for leaf watching in the High Country is now through October 15.

An updated Fall Color Report is expected soon. Until then, here are a few photos of our fall color so far.

Realtor sales in August hit seven-year high


BOONE – It’s been almost seven years since local Realtors® sold as many homes as they did in August.

Sell prices were not what they were in 2007. But last month’s sales in the High Country were easily the busiest for the three-county area since the national housing market collapsed in 2008.

There were 168 homes sold by Realtors® last month, according to the Multiple Listing Service, which records sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That’s the most activity since October 2007, when 178 homes were sold. Only one other month in that seven-year span surpassed 150 – October 2013 (147 sold).

The two high selling months – October 2007 and August 2014 – exemplify how the local market has changed with regard to housing value. In the former month, total sales were $55.99 million with a median sales price of $230,000.

Last month, total Realtor® sales were $39.02 million, with a median price of $188,500, a decrease of 17 percent compared to October 2007.

For the year, Realtors® have reported a median sales price of $182,500, a 6 percent decline from last year’s $194,500 sales mark through the same eight-month span.

The prices are attracting buyers. Realtors® have sold 836 homes so far this year, slightly outpacing the 818 sold through August of 2013.

There is also plenty of variety. As of September 14, there were 3,255 listings in the High Country MLS, the most at any point this year.

“That’s where a local Realtor® can really help,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®. “Their knowledge of the local market, experience, and negotiating skills can be a huge benefit to both buyers and sellers.”

The High Country is again mirroring some national trends. After a soft June, sales spiked in July, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Its Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, to 105.9 in July, and is at its highest level since August 2013 (107.1).

“Interest rates are lower than they were a year ago, price growth continues to moderate and total housing inventory is at its highest level since August 20121,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist . “The increase in the number of new and existing homes for sale is creating less competition and is giving prospective buyers more time to review their options before submitting an offer.”

The 30-year mortgage rate averaged 4.12 percent as of September 12. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rate is similarly low, averaging 3.24 percent. According to the Washington Post, Freddie Mac expected the average 30-year rate would rise to 5.1 percent by year’s end.  It has pulled back its projection to 4.3 percent.

Real Estate Report: Sales bounce back in July

After a soft June, local Realtors® were kept busy in July with sales hitting their best mark in nine months. At the same time the number of homes for sale hit a high for the year, while mortgage rates hit a low.

July 2014 sales graphicThere were 125 homes sold worth $30.54 million last month, a 37 percent increase over the 91 homes sold in June and the most sold since 147 sold last October. That’s according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks Realtor®-assisted sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The 125 homes sold are on par with July sales the previous two years – 127 homes sold in July 2013 and 125 in July 2012. Prior to then, the best July for sales was in 2008 with 124.

One difference is this year’s longstanding buyers’ market conditions. The median sold price last month – the midway price point of all houses sold – was $189,800, the lowest such price for any July since at least 2007. It’s a 2.7 percent decline from July 2013 (195,000) and down 13.5 percent compared to July 2011 ($219,500).

Coincidentally, Realtor® sales for the first seven months of this year match the sales for the same span in 2013 – 688 listings. Yet the total sales value this year is $154.59 million, compared to $168.51 million the year prior.

Sellers continued to enter the market. There were 3,278 properties listed within the MLS as of August 17, the most for any month this year.

“Having just come back from the National Association of Realtors® Leadership Summit in Chicago, we found the real estate forecast for next year to be very encouraging,” said 2015 High Country Association of Realtors® president Pam Vines. “The High Country Association is looking forward to this uptick in our market.”

All local real estate sales were up for the month compared to last July, according to the READReport, which tracks Realtor® and non-Realtor® land sales in the three-county area. It reported 297 properties sold last month, up 8 percent from the 274 sold last July. The value increased 12 percent, from $45.58 million to $51.22 million.

Boosting buyers’ interest is the state of mortgage rates, which have recently declined. As of August 14 they were at a low for the year; 4.12 percent for a 30-year fixed, and 3.24 for a 15-year fixed. A year ago those rates were slowly increasing. The 30-year fixed rate was at 4.40 percent in July 2013, eventually peaking at 4.57 percent in mid-September.

To put those numbers in perspective, since 1971 the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 8.52 percent. The current rate is half that, at 4.14 percent.

Nationally there is a slowing of the housing market. The National Association of Realtors® reported earlier this month that total existing-home sales increased 5.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.87 million in the second quarter. That’s 4.5 percent below the 5.10 million pace during the second quarter of 2013.

Real estate market seeing declining activity

Realtor sales by month since June 2012

After four years of incremental sales growth, the High Country real estate market is showing signs of slowing.

Through the first six months of the year, Realtor®-assisted sales are down 3.3 percent compared to the year prior, and down 2 percent compared to the first half of 2012.

Median sold prices – the midway price point of all houses sold – are also declining. They are down 5 percent from the first half of 2013, and 10 percent from that span in 2012.

Those declines are occurring as supply is expanding. There are currently more than 3,240 homes for sale within the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which records Realtor® activity in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That’s a 26 percent increase compared to the 2,571 listings active last August.

These trends are reflected in the latest READReport, which tracks all real estate transactions in the High Country, including land and commercial lots. Total sales declined 4.6 percent year to date. The total value of those sales was down 4 percent.

Buyers are still looking, and there are a lot of opportunities to explore. Interest rates also continue to be favorable to buyers. Rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.15 percent as of July 10, according to Freddie Mac. A year ago, rates averaged 4.51 percent.

“With the current high inventory, our Realtor® association has teamed up with the High Country Host to reach potential buyers interested in coming to our area,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®. “This campaign will encourage residents from surrounding states to visit the High Country by highlighting our unique natural beauty.”

Realtors® sold 91 homes last month, making it one of the slowest Junes in recent history. Since 2009 an average of 107 homes have been sold in that month, with only the 89 sold in 2011 below this year’s mark. There were 128 homes sold in June 2013.

The median sold price last month was $190,000, the second highest recorded this year. That’s down slightly from last June, when the median sold price was $193,750.

The READReport also reported decreased activity for June. There were 261 sales for the month, compared to 297 a year ago. Total value was down 16 percent, $45.03 million from $53.88 million.

Nationally some analysts are expecting the housing market to slow. Well Fargo released a report July 10 which stated that, despite a strong May, home sales for the year are trailing the pace in 2013. “Even with the recent stronger data, the housing recovery remains well short of where it was expected to be,” the report said.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, speaking to the Senate Banking Committee July 15, said, “We see in the housing market where we had some progress but it now looks like it’s stalled.”

Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors®, made similar comments in late June. While noting a surge in Realtor® sales in May, he cautioned, “second-half sales growth won’t be enough to compensate for the sluggish first quarter and will likely fall below last year’s total.”

Scenes from Fourth of July 2014

There were lot of activities over the holiday weekend, including parades in Boone, Banner Elk and Blowing Rock; Christmas in July in West Jefferson; and fireworks everywhere!

Grandfather Golf and Country Club Fireworks from Nelson Aerials on Vimeo.

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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