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.

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.

Fourth of July in the High Country

BOOM!There are a lot of events planned. Here are a few.

The annual parade is Friday morning at 11. Cake and watermelon will be served at noon, followed by a free concert at 1 on the lawn of the Jones House Cultural and Community Center. A fireworks show will take place that evening at Clawson Brunley Park.

Blowing Rock
The annual Fourth parade is Saturday at 9 a.m. Other activities include horeshoes, water balloon toss, and face painting. Fireworks are Saturday evening from the Blowing Rock Country Club. There will be live music throughout the day.

The annual Bethel Blast at Bethel Elementary School begins at 5 and features free food, live music and fireworks.

The Liberty Parade begins at 11 a.m. , Refreshments, festivities and live music afterwards at Walter and Annie Cook Park.

Tweetsie Railroad
Tweetsie Railroad’s parking lot will remain open until 9 p.m. for its annual fireworks show.

Sugar Mountain
Watch the area’s fireworks from Sugar’s 5,300-foot peak. The Summit No. 1 chairlift will run Friday from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Beech Mountain
The roasting of the hog and fireworks display over the Fourth of July weekend has become a Beech Mountain NC tradition that no one wants to break.

Parade at 4 p.m. with hamburgers and hot dogs for sell by the fire department. There is free watermelon for everyone and other goodies are sold for fundraising by the local churches, boy scouts and community groups. Children enjoy games in inflatable play places and an old fashion frog-jumping contest. Live music fills the air and finishes with a street dance at 7:00. At nightfall the firemen put on a fireworks display

Fireworks begin Friday at dusk.

West Jefferson
The annual Christmas in July festival features music, a puppet parade, Civil War reenactments, arts, crafts, children’s games, and festival food Friday and Saturday.

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.

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 Highcountryrealtors.org nor with regard to their use of any information they may collect.

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