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.

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

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.

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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