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.

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.

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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