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.

Monthly homes sales remain at six-year high

Year to date sales through November

Sales remain up as prices continue to attract buyers, according to the latest real estate report by the High Country Association of Realtors®.

November marked the third consecutive month Realtor®-assisted home sales hit a six-year high, both in units sold and total value.

Conversely, for the second straight month the median sold price remained at a six-year low.

There were 105 homes worth $26.7 million sold in November, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks Realtor-assisted sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

That’s a 22 percent and 30 percent increase, respectively, from November last year. It’s also a 52 percent and 46 percent increase, respectively, from November 2010, the year when the local real estate market bottomed out.

Sales continue to be driven by buyers’ market conditions. The median sold price in November was $197,500. That’s above the average for the year so far – $194,888 – but a 6 percent decrease from November of last year.

“We are encouraged that more buyers are coming to the High Country,” said Jerry Starnes, President of High Country Association of Realtors®. “Of course, the houses that are in great condition and priced correctly will sell first.  Inspections and repairs, before listing your home, are highly recommended and will make your sell much more trouble free.”

Year to date, Realtor®-assisted home sales are their highest in six years. They have sold 1,198 homes, one more than the 1,197 sold in the first 11 months of 2008.

While sales continue to recover, prices remain low. The media sold price for the first 11 months of 2008 was $229,000; it was $199,506 in that span last year.

Through November, the median sold price was $193,000.

With regard to all High Country Realtor® transactions – including homes, commercial property and land – sales through the first 11 months are at a five-year high. Local Relators® have sold 1,583 units worth $351.3 million; up 4.1 percent from the 1,521 units worth $326.2 million in the first 11 months of 2012.

Total sales in 2008 were 1,805 worth $434.7 million.

Nationally, Realtor®-assisted home sales have declined slightly. They were down for the second straight month in October. That’s in contrast to the High Country, where Realtor-assisted home sales were the highest in six years. There were 147 homes sold worth $40.7 million in October. The median sold price was $180,000.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types in October was $199,500, up 12.8 percent from October 2012.

“The erosion in buying power is dampening home sales,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the  National Association of Realtors®.  “Moreover, low inventory is holding back sales while at the same time pushing up home prices in most of the country.”

Economists are also reporting a steady increase in interest rates. The 30-year, fixed-rate loan rose to 4.46% in the first week of December. Rates have ranged from a low of 3.34% in the first week of January to a high of 4.58% in August.

Real Estate Report: Sales strong, median sold price increases slightly

Local real estate sales surpassed 120 for the second straight month in July, with median sale prices increasing slightly, according to the latest report by the High Country Association of Realtors®.

July 2013 SalesThere were 124 homes worth $29.6 million sold last month, as recorded by the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks Realtor® assisted sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga County.

The median sale price was $195,500, a small increase over the media price in June ($195,000). It’s also 3 percent higher than the median sold price through the first six months of the year ($189,950).

Sales for the year are roughly even compared to last year at this time, with 680 sold in first seven months of 2013; 676 sold in 2012.

Homes sold in July were on the market an average of 245 days. Another 437 homes were newly listed, the lowest such number in four months.

“We are expecting home sales to continue to rise in the third quarter of 2013, since the busiest months of the buying season are now upon us,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®.

As the housing market continues its slow improvement, state Realtors® are concerned with the impact of legislation recently signed by NC Governor Pat McCrory which limits deductions used by many homeowners.

Part of a comprehensive report of state tax laws, the legislation caps at $20,000 itemized deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes. According to the Charlotte Business Journal, “Some legislators wanted to eliminate the deduction all together. The state Realtors® group worries that next year the cap may be lowered to $15,000 or $10,000 – or be cut completely.”

Mark Zimmerman, legislative chairman for the North Carolina Association of Realtors®, told WRAL-TV that a variety of factors – including home value, mortgage interest rate and property tax rate – could impact how much this will cost homeowners.

In general, those who owe about $300,000 or less on their mortgage will be able to take their full deductions, while those with more expensive homes and mortgages would start losing out on the tax break.

“You can buy a little more home because you can deduct this,” Zimmerman said, referring to mortgage interest. “Once you take that away, you’re going to see pressure – downward pressure – on home values.”

In other real estate news, average rates on fixes mortgage have changed little in the past few weeks. As of August 8, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.4 percent, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. That is a full percentage point higher than in early May, when rates neared record lows.

The average 15-year rate held steady at 3.43 percent.

Healthy living in the High Country

Ashe County recreationThe latest national County Health Rankings & Roadmaps rankings have been released. Tracking various measures of health, the report shows residents of the High Country among the healthiest in North Carolina.

Watauga County is ranked 3rd among the state’s 100 counties. Avery County is listed 22nd, and Ashe County is 42nd.

The report includes the counties’ ranking in a variety of categories, including morality, morbidity, health behaviors, clinical care, physical environment, and social and economic factors.

The County Health Rankings show the rank of the health of nearly every county in the nation and illustrate that much of what affects health occurs outside of the doctor’s office. The Rankings help counties understand what influences how healthy residents are and how long they will live. The Rankings look at a variety of measures that affect health such as the rate of people dying before age 75, high school graduation rates, unemployment, limited access to healthy foods, air and water quality, income, and rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.

When it comes to physical health, High Country residents have access to a variety of exercise resources. That includes not only trails for running, biking or hiking, but various workout facilities such as the Williams YMCA of Avery County.

Independence Day in the High Country

The High Country has a well established tradition of wonderful community events. Independence Day is one of the busiest, with several parades, fireworks shows and family events planned.

Here is a roundup of a few of the great opportunities for fun this weekend, via High Country Parent website.

Fireworks from Bethel BlastBeech Mountain Roasting of the Hog
This year, celebrate independence day with Beech Mountain. An annual event, the hog is roasted all day to perfection and cut up right in front of the crowd. With music, moon pies, games, and fireworks, this is a family affair that you won’t want to miss! The roasting will take place July 6th at 6pm.

Downtown Boone Fourth of July Parade
Starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Boone’s business district will become the site of the annual Downtown Boone Fourth of July Parade.

Downtown Banner Elk Parade and ‘Party in the Park’
Banner Elk’s traditional Fourth of July parade will kick off at 11 a.m.

Bethel Blast
Bethel Baptist Church will hold its annual Fourth of July celebration, Bethel Blast, Thursday, free, and welcomes everyone to take part in the festivities.

Christmas in July in West Jefferson
Christmas in July is a one full-day, and Friday night free-admission event
 featuring the very best in traditional mountain music and 
handmade crafts from throughout the Northwest Mountains
 of North Carolina!

Blowing Rock Fourth of July Celebration
Blowing Rock will be celebrating with all their activities on July 6th.

Real Estate Report: Activity is up, prices are soft

Local real estate market activity is showing small and steady growth in sales, but little movement in prices, according to the May Real Estate report by the High Country Association of Realtors.

The median price sold was less than $200,000 for the fourth consecutive month, as the busy summer selling season begins.

Sales in Month of May, 2008-2013“Activity levels at our offices have increased but with a lot inventory for sale, prices are soft,” said Jerry Starnes, President of the High Country Association of Realtors.

There were 96 homes worth $22.72 million sold in May, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which tracks all relator-assisted sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The median sold price was $186,500, which is slightly more than the median sold price recorded in May 2012 ($185,000).

Coincidentally, the median sold price for the year so far is $186,500. Sales through the first five months of 2013 are slightly behind last year’s pace, 425 to 430. But cumulative values are down 27 percent, from $139.75 million to $102.07 million.

The year has yet to see a decrease in sales. Properties sold have increased every month, from 64 sold in January to 96 last month.

May is the traditionally the busiest month of the year for new listings, as the summer selling season gets underway. There were 493 new listings last month, the most added since May of last year (496).

Properties sold last month were on the market for an average of 245 days.
Nationally, existing-home sales are at the highest pace since November 2009. Total sales have been above year-ago levels for 22 consecutive months, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Meanwhile, housing inventories are near a decade low.

“Buyer traffic is 31 percent stronger than a year ago, but sales are running only about 10 percent higher,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “It’s become quite clear that the only way to tame price growth to a manageable, healthy pace is higher levels of new home construction.”

Have you herd of the Three Cow Town?

Our State magazine recently ran a feature on a relatively new High Country landmark. Have you seen the cows?

The bovines in question are an artistic take on three tanks located outside Ashe County Cheese factory in West Jefferson. A group of welders and artists, including students from Ashe County High School, created something which now behooves people to see.

Three milk storage tanks, brought to life by the work of a few businessmen, a teacher, and a senior welding class, now look out at passersby as 23-foot-long steel Holsteins guarding their patch of ground fenced in by red petunias and sunflowers. People stop to take photos. As a result, West Jefferson’s Ashe County Cheese is drawing a few new eyes. … Ashe County Cheese Factory Cows

Apparently you can’t just mount three 250-pound, 8-foot, steel cow heads to 5,000-gallon milk tanks and not get noticed. During the installation on Memorial Day weekend, a videographer shot and posted to YouTube the movie, Three Cow Town.

“It’s kind of a landmark now for the town,” Rogers says.

Three Cow Town is a fun video, showing off just one of the many treasures of the High Country of North Carolina.

Real Estate Report: This may be a great time to buy

First Quarter Sales comparison
Buyers market conditions continue to strengthen in local real estate, with increasing sales but low prices through the first quarter of 2013.

Overall for the quarter there was $55.3 million worth of realtor-assisted real estate sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

The median sold price for the quarter was $185,000, a 12 percent decrease from last year and a six-year low.

The 765 new listings were the fewest since 2010.

Sales increased each month of the quarter, from 64 in January to 82 in February to 93 in March.

“With the spring weather finally arriving and the ‘summer season’ just around the corner we are looking for buyer interest to become even stronger resulting in a stabilization of home prices,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors.

The READReport, which records all real estate transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties, reported 544 sales worth $97.68 million in the first quarter. The sales number was slightly higher than the 2012 first quarter (530), but the total value was down 9 percent, from $107,741,400.

The average sold price was down 12%, from $203,286 in the first three months of 2012 to $179,563 this year, according to the READReport.

For the month of March, there were 93 realtor-assisted sales worth $23.56 million in the High Country area. Both amounts are increases over February, when 82 homes sold for $16.52 million.

Nationally, existing home sales continued to climb in February, according to the National Association of Realtors. The sales rate was the highest since November 2009 when a federal tax credit was propping up home sales.

The association said the national median price for existing homes rose 11.6% from a year ago to $173,600. The February gain was the strongest since November 2005 when the median was 12.9 percent above a year earlier.


Statistic Values Year-to-Year Month-to-Month
Total Sold Dollar Volume $23,557,240 -22.5% +42.58%
Closed Sales 93 -18.42% +13.41%
Median Sold Price $181,040 -8.77% -1.61%
Avg Sold Price $253,304 -4.98% +25.72%
Avg Days on Market 278 days +10.32% +21.93%
Total New Listings 303 -9.01% -38.99%

Real Estate Report: Sales increase as buyer’s market continues

YTD All Sales in High Country, Jan 1 through March 1, 2013

Local realtors are enjoying a busy start to 2013, with sales through the first two months of the year the highest in that span since 2008. Yet the demand has yet to result in increased prices.

There were 146 realtor-assisted sales in January and February, a 22 percent increase over the first two months of 2012, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS records realtor-assisted sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

Total sales value was up only 2.6 percent, from $30.86 million to $31.67 million. Yet the median sold price for that period decreased, from $227,500 last year to $197,500 so far in 2013.

“It’s great to see that the activity in our market is picking up a little,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors. “The median sale price has decreased again. This median price, added to the market activity, shows a true picture of our High Country real estate market.”

In February there were 82 realtor-assisted sales worth $16.5 million. It’s the best second month of sales since 2008, when 90 homes worth $24.5 million were sold.

The bottom of that span was February 2010, when just 34 listings worth $7.69 million sold.

Sales have gradually improved since then, but prices have yet to follow. February’s median sale price of $184,000 broke a string of three consecutive months of plus-$200,000 median prices.

“With both warmer weather and buyers continuing to come to the High Country we are hopeful that the market will continue to improve,” said Phillips.

According to the MLS, the average days on the market for a home sold in February was 228. That’s the fastest pace for sales since August last year, when homes sold in an average of 211 days.

The MLS added 218 new listings last month, down from the 244 added in January.

The READReport, which records all real estate transactions in the High Country, both private and realtor-assisted, reported sales of $48.2 million for February. That was a 12 percent decline from February 2012, when $55.02 million worth of real estate was sold.

Nationally, it appears a sellers market is developing. Existing-home sales were up January, with prices continuing to rise above year-ago levels. Sales rose in every region but the West, which is the region most constrained by limited inventory, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady,” he said, Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist . “In fact, buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly. We’ve transitioned into a seller’s market in much of the country.”

Real Estate Report: Best start to new year since 2008

January is traditionally a slow month for local real estate sales, and 2013 followed that trend, according to the latest monthly Real Estate Report by the High Country Association of Realtors

All 2012 sales in all counties of the High CountryThere were 62 realtor-assisted sales worth $14.98 million in January, as recorded by the High Country Multiple Listings Service. That’s the most home sales to start a new year since 2008.

The last month to record fewer home sales was January of last year, when just 55 sold for $14.2 million.

“This winter started off slow but the past month made up for the late start with snows that made the ski slopes very happy,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors. “January sales are really a reflection of November and December activity since it normally takes one to two months for a property to close after it goes under contract.”

The median sold price for the month was $222,500, an 11-month high. It was also higher than the median sold prices recorded in in January 2012 ($215,000) and 2011 ($220,000). But it was below the marks set the three previous Januarys (2009-10), during which the median sold price for the month never dropped below $230,000.

“It is exciting to see the sales numbers for January considering the weather challenges and showing conditions during that time,” said Phillips. “The High Country MLS is currently showing approximately 135 single-family homes under contract, so that’s very encouraging.”

Housing inventory also increased, with 247 new listings added to the MLS. That was a five-month high.

The National Association of Realtors recently released its 2012 real estate report. It mirrored what was recorded in the High Country, where sales hit a four-year high while the median sold price fell to 2010 levels.

Overall last year, there was $355.72 million worth of real estate sold in the three-county area. That includes all commercial, land and homes sold, according to the High Country MLS.

That was the highest total sold since 2008. It was also a 18.6 percent increase over 2011, but still 53 percent market totals from 2007 ($750.8 million).

Nationally, the preliminary annual total for existing-home sales in 2012 was 4.65 million, up 9.2 percent from 4.26 million in 2011. It was the highest volume since 2007. The median sold price was $176,600, which was only 2 percent higher than the 2010 mark.
NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun continues to see positive signs in national real estate sales.

“Record low mortgage interest rates clearly are helping many home buyers, but tight inventory and restrictive mortgage underwriting standards are limiting sales,” he said. “The number of potential buyers who stayed on the sidelines accumulated during the recession, but they started entering the market early last year as their financial ability and confidence steadily grew, along with home prices. Likely job creation and household formation will continue to fuel that growth. Both sales and prices will again be higher in 2013.”

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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