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Posted by Tim Burrell - It is true that housing has problems, banking has problems and there are more foreclosures.  But, did you know that most of the prices of homes in the United States are going up? Did you know that these prices have been going up consistently since February?  Do you think that information would help prevent a recession?

Here are the facts.  According to National Association of Realtor statistics, the median home price has fallen from a high of $230,200 in July 2006 to a low in February 2008 at $195,600, a drop of 15%. That is the bad news, and that is what you hear in the media.  Since February, however, the median home price has risen steadily every month. By May the index had risen to $208,600, up $13,000 and a full 6.6%. It will be interesting to see what the next index shows when it comes out the end of July.  Another indicator, the mean home price (most of us would call it the average home price),  has risen from a low of $242,000 in February of this year to $253,100, a rise of $11,100 or 4.5%. It, too, has risen every month since February of this year.  That is the good news.   Have you heard any good news about real estate in the media?

In the Triangle, we did not have the orginal bad news, our market has always been better than the national average.   Instead of going down by 15% in the last year like the rest of the nation, our average sales price went up, from $270,065 in June of 2007 to $278,506 in June of 2008.  If you like median numbers, they went up over the last year also, from 218,000 to $221,900.  Our supply of homes for sale has increased, and it is taking longer to sell the average house, but our average days on the market is a respectable 82.  The Triangle market is not as good as it has been as there is a nine months supply of homes to sell, but I cannot find anything that supports the media "doom and gloom".

We really appreciate our clients who listen to us instead of the media, because they are making a killing in the market.  The media is making everyone think it is a buyers market when, in fact, the prices are increasing.  So, our smart clients are picking up great deals.  We are having a wonderful time negotiating with people who listen to the media instead of knowing the true facts.

So, our Team wants to have a little contest.  We are stumped by the media. Why would they give the image that prices are going down when they are going up?  Why would they want to create problems for all of us who own homes, when I cannot find support for their stories?   Whoever has the best explanation, or possibly the most humorous explanation, will win a $25 American Express Gift Card.  Just send your answer to tim@TimBurrell.com and watch our blog at www.TeamForYOUrDreams.com/blog for the winner. 

Want to plant some trees? Are you sure?

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Submitted by: Bob Rodwell

When I bought my Raleigh home on 4/10 of an acre it had one tree, and it was shorter than the house. I knew that needed to change. I read that I should plant shade trees to the South and West, and evergreens to shield the home from cool breezes on the North. Sounded simple to me. And that’s where things started to go wrong, horribly wrong. I’ve been in that home a long time now, and if I had it to do all over again – I’d buy a townhouse. 
Are you thinking about planting some trees on your lot? If so, maybe you can learn from my mistakes. I’ll hit just the big ones here.
 
Bradford Pears – beautiful trees, all year long – in your neighbor’s yard. I like symmetry. So it made sense to me to plant one near both of the west-facing corners of my house. They were small sticks to begin with, so 15 feet away looked right. Wrong. The flowers stink. I’ve been told they are propagated by flies, not bees, so that’s why they smell like rotted meat. But that’s ok, because they grow so fast that they are weak, and break or fall down in a bad storm. Or one did, ruining that symmetry. The good news is they do make good firewood. The bad news is if you do not grind the stumps well, they sprout bushes.
 
Leyland Cypress – beautiful, and birds love to nest in them, and they make great screens when you plant a row of them. I still liked symmetry then (I'm a slow learner). Like Bradford Pears, they grow fast and weak, and when one of our fun ice storms hit, some bent over to touch the ground, and they didn’t spring back.  When one or two in that row disappear, it’s like having a big gap in your teeth – not your best feature. The good news is you can make mulch from them. The bad news is it is expensive to fill that gap or tear down the row.
 
Red Maples – don’t we all love those bright red leaves in the Fall? I do, except all my Red Maples have yellow leaves. Turns out the “Red” in their name means their flowers, not their leaves. Who knew?  You need to pick them out in the Fall while they can show you their true colors. And be sure to buy Red Maples, not Silver. Silver Maples break in our fun ice storms, and mine cost me more to get rid of than the Leyland Cypresses did. They generated some decent firewood, but mostly just a lot of whip-skinny branches.
 
As bad as those mistakes were, those were not my worst. Oh no. The worst were the pines. My Northeast corner looked like a good place to plant a bunch of pines so I could generate my own pine straw. I planted some White Pines and some Loblolly. White Pines die here.  All of them. Don’t know why. Mine waited until they were big enough to be costly to remove. That gave the Loblollies more room and light and they took off, or rather up. Remember those ice storms? I don’t think you can plant a Loblolly on a 4/10 acre lot and not have it be within striking distance of your roof, or your neighbor’s, or at least their fence. And not only were they real expensive to remove, but they did not even yield firewood or mulch!
 
I recommend Dogwoods and Crepe Myrtles. And if you have room and time, a Japanese Maple. All are short, pretty, smell good and make good firewood. Good luck!

Submitted by: Bob Rodwell

I hear that question a lot. Since home prices are often shown as a price per square foot, and property taxes seem to be based significantly on the home size, both sources should be accurate – so why do they disagree, and sometimes by a lot?  There are several reasons. 
In Wake County (see www.wakegov.com/tax/default.htm), tax records use measures in whole feet, so they show rounded rather than precise figures. Picture a two-story simple box-style house, for which the tax records show a “footprint” of 40 feet long by 30 feet deep, or 2400 square feet. If the true measure of the home is 40 feet long by 30 feet 3 inches deep, that’s really 2420 square feet. So tax record measures will rarely match an appraiser’s or real estate agent’s measure, even if both are right, as in this example. But that’s a relatively small difference, and does not explain some of the much larger ones seen. Here are the big difference makers I’ve seen recently.
 
  1. The home shrank! One example: a townhome for which the tax records had 2892 square feet. The MLS listing had 2300 square feet. What happened to 592 square feet? The home was a model home for the subdivision. At the time the tax records were defined, the home included the builder’s office. Later, when it was sold, that large office was converted to a garage, which does not count in the heated square feet. But the tax records have not been updated (I don’t know why).  
  2. The home grew! This is much more common: a home is recorded reasonably accurately in the tax records, and the owner finishes off an attic or basement area later. Perhaps the owner got the appropriate permits and inspections, perhaps not – but in either case the tax records were not updated to include the new square footage. If you are looking at a home where the MLS listing (or seller in a for sale by owner home) shows significantly more footage than the tax records do, find out why, as there are some risks and costs to consider if an unpermitted addition was made.
  3. Tax records show the wrong house! Not really, but sometimes builders provide standard floor plans for the tax records, but then deviate from those plans, perhaps finishing off an optional bonus room for example. All permits and inspections are ok, but for whatever reason the tax records still reflect the plan, not the finished product. I believe this to be the main cause of the difference in a home I showed recently where the tax records showed 2470 feet and MLS showed 2720 – almost 10% larger.
  4. Tax measures are guesses sometimes! Tax measures are taken outside, but not inside. So if they think the home has a 2-story foyer or a partial bonus room over a garage – they have to guess at how much to allow for those differences from the “footprint” measures. I’ve shown a home where the tax records showed a basic box 2-story house, in effect incorrectly counting the both 2-story foyer and the 2-story breakfast nook twice.
I recommend, first, that we don’t get too carried away with expecting precision in either tax or MLS measures. There are lots of other factors affecting the property tax value or list price. Expect reasonable accuracy. And if they differ by 1% or so, don’t worry. There is the rounding aspect and some homes are pretty tricky to measure.  If the measure is reasonably accurate, isn’t it more important if the home meets your needs or not? 
 
Second, if you just don’t think a home you are seriously considering is sized correctly, ask your agent or the home seller to explain the difference. It may fit one of the scenarios above. If your concern persists, ask your agent to measure the home. Recognize this takes time and effort, so please save those requests for where needed!  Know that if you will need a mortgage to buy a home, it will be measured by an appraiser, and that measure will be used to help determine the loan value. If the appraiser finds significantly fewer feet than advertised, the appraisal value may come in lower than your offer price and ruin the deal.  So if there is a real risk of that happening, re-measure before making your offer!

Jesse Helms Funeral in Raleigh

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Senator Jesse Helms died July 4th 2008 here in Raleigh.  His funeral was held in Raleigh at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Five Points.  Helms served the Senate for 30 years from 1973 to 2003 when he decided not to run for reelection. Prior to running for office, Helms was a student a Wake Forest University in 1941, but did not finish college. He was in the Navy during World War II. Helms entered the political arena in 1957 when he joined the Raleigh City Counsel and then went on to share his views as an editorialist for WRAL and through his column carried in nearly 200 newspapers and then on to Washington DC.
Regardless of how you feel about Jesse Helms, we all have to acknowledge he was a leading force in many political changes in North Carolina and throughout the nation.  Helms had many views that seemed "old fashion" to many, yet right on target to others, but the fact is almost all of us know his name and his views. Helms and his wife, Dorothy, had two daughters and a son.  Helms always had a heart for children and he and his wife adopted their son in 1962 after the child, 9 years old and suffering from cerebral palsy, said in a newspaper article that he “wanted parents.” 
It is very interesting that Helms would die on July 4th.  "It's just incredible that he would die on July 4, the same day of the Declaration of Independence and the same day that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died." said former North Carolina GOP Rep. Bill Cobey. 
Helms' funeral brought many big name politicians to the Raleigh area.  Elizabeth Dole, who took Helms' seat in the Senate in 2003 was in attendance.  Vice President Dick Cheney, and Cindy McCain, wife of presumed Republican candidate John McCain also came to visit the Triangle to pay their respects.

Driving Permit For All

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A new law goes into effect in July where a driver’s license is no longer issued on site at a DMV office. Instead, a driver who passes all DMV tests will be issued a temporary driving permit good for 20 days, though can keep his old license for use as a photo ID. The extra wait time allows for more sophisticated background checks in an effort to thwart identity theft and fraud. Most drivers should receive their new driver’s license by mail within five days.

Anthony Williams

For Whom The Road Tolls

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For years, Raleigh residents have enjoyed the convenience of its I-440 beltline and I-540 partial beltline, all traveled freely without tolls. But soon North Carolina will join the league of states who effectively tax drivers for the convenience of highway expediency. Say goodbye to the I-540 beltline and hello to the Triangle Expressway.

The Triangle Expressway is composed of three sections — the Triangle Parkway, the Northern Wake Expressway, and the Western Wake Freeway. Of these, the Northern Wake Expressway was recently opened as an extension of I-540. Ultimately it will function to join the other two segments as a contiguous toll road of 18.8 miles managed by the NC Turnpike Authority.

The toll is projected to be about 12 cents per mile, but only for vehicles equipped with an infrared transponder costing between $8 to $20 that will allow a computer to deduct fees from a prepaid account. Drivers not having a transponder will not have to slow for a toll booth, however, as cameras record the license plates of vehicles which travel on the expressway. Drivers can register their plates to pay a rate of about 28 cents per mile, while those who don’t register will pay about 42 cents per mile.

The cost of the Triangle Expressway is an estimated $1 billion. The additional funding from the tolls should take about 40 years for the project debt to be paid off, at which time the tolls will be eliminated as required by state law.

Anthony Williams

A Fungus Among Us

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Franklin Garland has a brand new bag, of truffles that is. In 1978, he came across an article in the Wall Street Journal about truffle growers in France, and soon decided to venture to Europe to learn more about the clumps of fungus that are prized among gourmet chefs. A year later, Garland became one of the first people in the United States to try growing tuffles when he planted 750 innoculated trees on his farm in Hillsborough. A mere twelve years later, he harvested his first truffles.

Truffles are an epicurean’s delight, having a nutty, earthy aroma much like a mushroom. They have a dense, almost crunchy texture. Their flavor is delicate yet pervasive — less than one half ounce can flavor a pound of butter.

Known scientifically as tuber melanosporum, truffles grow on the roots of trees such as oaks, hazlenut, and filberts. They were traditionally collected in Southern Europe using pigs to sniff them out, but since the 19th century they have been successfully domesticated. Today most people use specially trained dogs which have no appetite for truffles.

Conditions in North Carolina are perfect for raising truffles; and today the state is home to more than 60 truffle farms. A pound of black Perigord truffles goes for about $800, so it can be quite lucrative should a farmer master the art of growing truffles. But it’s not a quick venture — it takes at least five years before a tree yields a single truffle, if at all.

Anthony Williams

The Patton Collection

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A gift of more than 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs by some of the 20th century's most important artists is headed to the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh. Scheduled to open in April 2010, a new gallery building will house much of the Patton collection of seminal artists including Milton Avery, Richard Diebenkorn, Jackie Ferrara, Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Motherwell, Sean Scully, Frank Stella and Donald Sultan.

The gift is being made by Jim and Mary Patton. Both having grown up in Durham, they traveled widely and began collecting art in the 1960s. Their love of art brought them together with Charles Millard III who became curator of the UNC Ackland Art Museum in 1986. Though Millard has since retired, the Patton’s long ties to UNC and the Ackland played a part in their decision to make the endowment; and the new NCMA gallery fits their timeline well.

Anthony Williams

Number 2 Nationally

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There’s no doubt that real estate prices have risen in the Triangle in recent years, in no small part due to the national attention it receives. It seems that each year ushers in more accolades, and 2008 is no exception — check out the June issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine and you’ll see that it rates Raleigh as the second best city to live, work and play in the United States. But don’t run and tell everyone just yet, because this area remains a deal as the cost-of-living index is but 99 (100 being the national average).

Long regarded as a hotbed for high technology fueled primarily by the research centers of the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University and Duke University, many companies have relocated to the area; bringing with them a great influx of people in creative fields such as scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists and entertainers. This healthy mix of professionals acts as a catalyst to the vitality and livability of the Triangle.

Raleigh remains a work in progress, but 2008 should be a turning point in more urban-style growth. A new convention center will open this year, as will an adjoining Marriott hotel and RBC Plaza. Thus the Triangle is well on its way to offering a little something for everyone.

Anthony Williams

Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

Contact Information

Photo of Team For Your Dreams, Inc. Real Estate
Team For Your Dreams, Inc.
REMAX United
7721 Six Forks Road, Suite 110, Raleigh, NC 27615
Raleigh NC 27615
919-846-3272
919-812-5111
Fax: 310-347-4041