Asheville Mountain Real Estate Blog

Asheville, NC real estate for sale. Information for buyers, sellers and mountain homeowners, without pressure. Rich content for those who are far away about what it is like to live here through the generous use of media. And some nostalgia with our, "Baby Boomers' Fun Stuff", Thanks for stopping by.

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A small, highly personalized real estate firm specializing in mountain homes and land in greater Asheville.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Asheville on the Weekend

09/29/07

David Crosby and Graham Nash, who are legendary in the lives of almost any baby boomer, will play The Thomas Wolf Auditorium at the Asheville Civic Center this Sunday, 09/30/07.

Readers can find parking and directions off the Civic center website , and tickets at ticketmaster.com. Here is a more complete preview by way of the Take 5 section of the Asheville Citizen Times.

The video below looks to be from the late 1980's, and features David and Graham, with Stephen Stills, doing the arguably real estate related tune, "Our House".

If this video should disappear, then please find many more CSN & Y related performances here.

ENJOY ! 3 mins 14 seconds


Other Asheville Stuff for the Weekend
21 st Annual Greek Festival at Martin Luther King Park, runs through Sunday September 30, features dance, food,, and music. The link contains resources to multi media galleries from past festivals via The Asheville Citizen Times.

33rd Annual Mountain Heritage Day at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee runs Saturday 09/29/07, attended by as many as 25,000 people and, as The Citizen Times notes provides a....
dizzying array of demonstrations, (that), ranges from Indian stickball to chair making. Come hungry for foods historically found in the region. The music includes old-time to modern bluegrass.
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Back to the Eighth Grade for August Housing Statistics

Monthly housing statistics dribble out at different times. We collect and summarize them in terms of that major economic concept from grammar school, the law of supply and demand. So let's go back to the eighth grade and see what's up.

The Quick Summary
Inventories must decline in a large way, meaning that builders must slow down, prices will have to drop, and lending will have to stabilize before anything approaching a normal supply/demand relationship returns. There is evidence that this will take....some time.

**On The Supply Side**
Inventories: The number of homes on the market continues to rise, and now stands at a 10.0 month supply. This is excessive when we consider that a 6 month supply is widely cited as a market in equilibrium.

The bull markets of 2004 and 2005 carried supply of only around 4.5 months. We are 122% above those heady times, and 67% above a "normal" market supply.

Inventories have risen 20% since March of 2007 alone. We have not seen a worse reading since February 1988 when housing held a supply of 10.3 months. Sure sounds like a really soft market from here.

In terms of the law of supply and demand, the inventory picture is persuasive for both buyers and sellers. The blog Housing Intelligence has a graphic representation of the relationship between inventory and sales from 1999 to the present, with a supply/demand based analysis.

New Permits, Starts and Completions, (census.gov): The most recent data, (PDF), illustrates once more, the degree to which the market is trying to adjust by putting the brakes on production. New permits were 24.5% less than August, 2006, starts came in at 19.1% under last August, while completions registered a 19.0% decline.

These percentages have been similar for a number of months now, to the point of being repetitive. Nevertheless, inventories have risen for 9 straight months to lofty levels.

With the money and lending news, most would suggest that only a drastic decline in supply, spurred by lower prices will bring those buyers back onto the scene. Market parity looms as a phenomenon of the future in this light.

**Demand Factors**
The numbers for both new and exiting home sales continue to decline. As in past months, the rate of sales has done nothing to bring the supply side of the market back to earth. Here is the rundown:

New Residential Sales, (PDF), clocked in at 21.2% less than last year. This represents a seven year low according to Builder Online, by way of AP, which added this tidbit on prices:
The median sales price in August fell by 7.5 percent from a year earlier to $225,700. That was the biggest drop in percentage terms in nearly 37 years. The median price is the middle point at which half sell for more and half for less. The average sales price dropped by 8 percent in August from a year earlier to $292,000. That was the biggest decline in 17 years.
Existing Home Sales, (PDF), showed a 12.8% decline from a year ago, and CNN Money has reported this as the lowest level in five years.

For mortgage applications, the most recent report from 09/26/07 shows a decline. To our minds, refinance activity always needs to be tossed aside in this report in order to accurately measure the magnitude of new buyers. Not surprisingly, new purchase applications are down, while refinance represents something on the order of 45% of all mortgage applications.

For August, (the first month that ARM resets topped $50billion, and foreclosures boomed), it was reported that 21% of prime borrowers and one third of sub primes failed to close. The cancellation rate during 2004 was 4%.

In the next year, ARM resets will double to more than $100 billion/month and will not go under $50 billion again until August of 2008. Many believe this is a potent feature.

Counting on lower rates? For a primer on the impact of interest rates, The Federal Reserve, and what it all means for the market, Interest Rate Roundup has an excellent review.

So What's The Forecast?
With a market so strikingly oversupplied, it might be said that the vast majority of buyers and sellers do not need to know anything about interest rates. They need only to sit back and wait for price tags to tumble, at least for a while. The fundamental facts here are that inventories are painfully high, they continue to rise, and sales are not robust enough to absorb supply.

Prices have a long way to go in order to remedy this. It has been suggested that the market will see double digit percentage declines in price in order to find stability. Who knows?

No matter what particular mechanism of supply/demand ultimately restores balance, the situation will persist for...some time yet.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Baby Boomer Fun: September 26, 1960

Thursday is baby boomer fun day here, no real estate so here goes...

It was 47 years ago yesterday that television entered the realm of American politics in its most substantive way to date. Campaign commercials date back to 1952, but this was different.

The first of the Kennedy - Nixon debates captured the largest TV audience in history on that night. Certain tidbits are often mentioned from the event, including, Nixon's recent illness, his refusal to use make-up, and the fact that radio listeners, (without the visual images), picked Nixon as the winner, while the TV audience chose Kennedy by a wide margin. The rest we know.

Below is a short video overview of the debates.

Find more Nixon - Kennedy videos at this location.

ENJOY ! 4 mins 48 seconds



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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Asheville Brewgrass Festival Sold Out, So Go For A Walk Downtown

Yeah, one of the things Asheville is known for is the variety of beers that are available, locally brewed or otherwise. If you are ever visiting our fair city, just park downtown some day, walkabout, and see for your self. Asheville is rated 95/100 according to walkscore.com. Walkability is the new hipness, and why not?

Let's combine that "beer meme" with the fact that we are in the Southern Appalachians where string based mountain music abounds, and what results is the 11th annual Great Smokies Craft Brewers Brewgrass festival, happening at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Bad news though, no tickets available.

So take us up on that walkability score and tour the rest of downtown instead. Here is a link to a walking tour of downtown Asheville previously posted here. In the meantime we will provide this 3 min video clip of a previous Brewgrass event. Plan ahead for next year!

If this video should disappear, find more Brewgrass/bluegrass and Asheville videos at this location.


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Baby Boomer Fun: Jim Croce and Billie Jean King

09/20/2007

Thursday is baby boomer fun day here, no real estate so here goes...

Flashback September 20, 1973
Singer/songwriter Jim Croce, who was only 30, died in a plane crash in Louisiana. My college roommate was crazy for Jim Croce, and this video is the gorgeous, but underplayed nugget, "New York's Not My Home". The performance is live.

If this video should disappear from the web, find plenty more Jim Croce at this location.




Flashback September 20, 1973
The entire 2nd floor of my dormitory, (about 40 guys), crowd into "BS's" room to watch Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs in The Astrodome.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Many Thanks From Here in Asheville

09/17/07

If you have arrived here by way of The 59th Edition of The Carnival of Real Estate, then by all means, thank you. We were quite honored to be mentioned, and offer hearty gratitude to those bloggers who serve as admins from week to week.

The task must be large indeed with the growth of the RE blogosphere, and was hosted this week at Ekday, click to find out the meaning of that acronym.

This is our humble place, enjoy your stay, and as we mature, we shall endeavor to return the favor by also serving as hosts for the CoRE in the future.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Asheville Weekend Stuff: September 15 and 16, 2007

09/15/07

Mountain Music
The Brevard Music Center will play host to the Second Annual Mountain Song Festival today, Saturday, September 15, 2007. The music center is nearing its 8th decade with Brevard as its home, and the focus is on classical music and training in a singular mountain setting.

Any musical lineup that includes Tony Rice and The Del Mc Coury Band has to be called fairly powerful. Certainly a wonderful thing to do on a fall day in the low to mid 70's. Maps and directions can be located here.

Here is a really nice video clip of Tony Rice from youtube, 2 minutes 12 seconds. More Tony Rice at this location.


A Mountain Drive and Arts Fest
A trip to Bakersville, NC is a marvelous drive, and this weekend, the small mountain town will play host to the Bakersville Creekwalk Arts Festival. Maps and directions for this great Western North Carolina auto tour can be found here.

A Country Fair
Lastly, this is the final weekend for The North Carolina Mountain State Fair. Full details and video can be found from our previous posting about the fair.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Apples, Oranges, and The Cost of Different Heating Fuels

Looking for a home? Trying to compare heating costs in Asheville, or anywhere for different fuels? ..Gallons, cubic feet, and therms? How on earth?

A Smoother Transaction
Taking the time to calculate the costs for different heating fuels can be invaluable, for both sides of a real estate transaction. Maybe that electric home is not so bad when compared to the gas one.

Understanding such costs can assist in determining a home's true value, and hopefully, can make offers and counteroffers seem more realistic in the eyes of each beholder. Facts are always better than emotion in these affairs.

But it's like comparing apples to oranges....Or is it?
Different fuels are sold in various units of volume. This divergence is baffling, until we remember that all fuels ultimately do the same thing, they produce heat, and heat is a universal measure.

Heat is measured in British Thermal Units, (BTU's). It is NOT important for us to know what exactly a BTU is, but only to understand what is the cost per BTU, or a million BTUs, for the different fuel choices involved.

On these terms, a gallon of heating oil, a therm of natural gas, or a kWh of electricity are viewed not as diverse units of volume that defy financial comparison, but rather, in terms of $/BTU. So the comparison of two or three different heating sources, or homes for sale, now becomes an easy process using grammar school arithmetic.

Step One: How Much Heat Does Each Fuel Make?
There is wide agreement, (and why not actually?), on the BTU value of the major heating fuels in the US. The outbound links go into detail, but we have listed the BTU values below:
#2 Fuel Oil: 1 Gallon = 140,000 BTUs
Electricity: 1 kWh = 3,413 BTUs
Natural Gas: 1 Therm = 100,000 BTUs
Propane: 1 Gallon = 95,500 BTUs
Kerosene: 1 Gallon = 135,000 BTUs

Step Two: I'm Confused
Using the BTU values above, we can easily determine how many units of each fuel will be required to generate 1 million BTUs. Simply divide 1,000,000 by the number of BTUs for each fuel as follows:
#2 Fuel Oil: 1,000,000 divided by 140,000 BTUs = 7.14 gallons
Electricity: 1,000,000 divided by 3,413 BTUs = 293.00 kWh
Natural Gas: 1,000,000 divided by 100,000 BTUs = 10 Therms
Propane: 1,000,000 divided by 95,500 BTUs = 10.47 gallons
Kerosene: 1,000,000 divided by 135,000 BTUs = 7.41 gallons

Step Three: What's The Cost Already?
Your agent should have a good handle on the costs of each fuel in your area. For our exercise, we simply multiply the local price/unit by the number of units needed to make 1 million BTUs.

Here is an Asheville based snapshot to illustrate dollars per million BTUs.

#2 Fuel Oil: 7.14 gallons times $2.649 = $18.91
Electricity: 293.00 kWh times $0.089 = $26.08
Natural Gas: 10 Therms times $1.38 = $13.80
Propane: 10.47 gallons times $2.509 = $26.27
Kerosene: 7.41 gallons times $2.849 = $21.11

Step Four: You Forgot the Furnace
Those dollar values assume that the furnace in the house is 100% efficient, which it is surely not. EVERY home should have its heating hardware serviced on an annual basis, and when this is done, the efficiency is checked.

As such, there will be a sticker on the furnace which indicates clearly when it was last serviced, and what % efficiency the burner was rated at that time.

Therefore, to get the REAL $/million BTUs, the efficiency of the burner must be considered. This is done by taking the dollars/million BTUs above, and dividing by the efficiency rating. We have done this below, using typical ratings for modern burner units in Asheville.
#2 Fuel Oil: $18.91 divided by 85% efficiency = $22.25
Electricity: $26.08 divided by 100% efficiency = $26.08
Natural Gas: $13.80 divided by 85% efficiency = $16.24
Propane: $26.27 divided by 85% efficiency = $30.91
Kerosene: $21.11 divided by 90% efficiency = $23.46

So Natural Gas Wins?
Prices and availability of fuels are intensely local, and the "winners" will vary as such. In Asheville, the main natural gas supplier is PSNC, and their delivery infrastructure simply does not extend into every neighborhood. Best bet is to use a local human being for information.

The Wrap Up
So how much will it cost to heat the home we like?
Use this link to determine the average BTUs/sq ft for different climates. You can then use your own $/BTU calculations to more truly evaluate a prospective home based on its size.

That's a lot of money, how can we do better than that?
Use this link, courtesy of the FTC and the US DOE for various energy efficiencies related to the home and its purchase.

What's the deal with wood?
Use this link from Clemson University for various wood BTU equivalents.


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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Baby Boomer Fun: Rick Nelson 1963

Thursday is Baby Boomer Fun Day here, no real estate, so here goes...

Rick Nelson, of course was the son of Ozzie and Harriet. The Nelson's, as the archetypal American family, graced our media in three decades. Rick first appeared on the radio show radio in 1949, and was in the the TV series from 1952 - 1966. But his music........
From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had 30 top 40 hits, more than any other artist at the time, except Elvis Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (who had 38). Many of Nelson's early records were double hits with both the A side and the B side hitting the Billboard charts. When Billboard introduced the Hot 100 chart on August 4, 1958, Nelson's single "Poor Little Fool" became the first song ever in the #1 position on that chart.
Rick Nelson died Dec 31, 1985 in a plane crash in Texas while on tour. He was 45 years old.

Ricky's website

Complete Discography, with dates, singles and albums.

This week's tune is Fools Rush In, which entered the Top 40 on October 5 1963, got as high as #12 in the charts, and remained in the Top 40 for 9 weeks.

PLEASE NOTE: Videos do disappear from the web from time to time. If this video should become unavailable, then please find much more Rick Nelson at this location.

ENJOY ! 2 minutes 15 seconds



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Monday, September 10, 2007

Asheville - The Fall Color Forecast

09/10/07

"Cautiously optimistic" seems to be the words for a fall foliage forecast as the Asheville region approaches mid September. Most recently, The Asheville Citizen Times informs us that:
History has shown that in years when we’ve had drought in the spring and early summer, we had better fall color,” Mathews said. “That’s what I based my prediction on - we will have a vibrant fall, because of historic trends
Keep tabs on color throughout the Southeast via the Foliage Network.

Everything you ever wanted to know about foliage and foliage guides from about.com.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Uh Oh, It's September: Part 2 - Log Home Maintenance for Fall

09/08/07

We recently looked at Autumn home maintenance tips for houses of any construction type. Today, with their great popularity in Asheville, we will examine and present a series of resources, specifically for log homes.

It is actually somewhat difficult to find online resources for log homes that are not simply shallow articles, embedded in a commercial, want to sell you something kind of website. We have endeavored here to find good depth from non commercial sources whenever possible.

Our previous posting on log homes can be found here. This was a more basic primer which covered everything from the myths and pitfalls design, to ideas for decorating and even living "off the grid".

So what about maintaining that log home?
Log homes should follow the same kinds of checklists as normal homes, but with some added thoughts.

Jim Cooper on general log home maintenance. The article covers the all important design phase, where many subsequent maintenance problems can be avoided. His closing statement is illustrative:
If perfection is your goal, doors that never stick, floors that remain perfectly level, follow maintenance recommendations to the letter. But if you are a casual kind of person who is not offended by a slight swell in a floor or a doorjamb out of square, be comforted that a log home can often absorb more maintenance neglect without showing it than can a conventional house. (Emphasis Added).
Jim Cooper's complete archives from easyloghome.com.

This fall checklist from loghomelinks.com is quite basic, but pays particular attention to corners and chinking, with tips you may not have realized.

Next, from The Log Homes Council: This page is a series of links to publications in PDF format. The articles provided cover everything from appraisal to the prevention of air or water infiltration. The resource on the performance of log walls in the event of fire, a genuine winter time concern, is somewhat rare to see online, and worth a look.

Energy Efficiency Tips for Log Homes: This timely cold weather resource is courtesy of our tax dollars and the US Department of Energy. With the recent behavior of energy markets, it might well be time to incorporate some of the items here into any fall log home maintenance program.

Along the same lines, from Easy Log Home.com, we have "17 Tips for Energy Efficiency". This is a great list that actually encompasses the design process as well long term, ongoing maintenance. Something not often mentioned is the idea of using trees and shrubs as wind breaks. So before building that log home and going for the big view, consider the prevailing winds as well as your energy dollar.

From Sashco, a builder in Brighton, CO, this is a handy chart format of problems and solutions for log home infrastructure issues.

Lastly, all that you ever wanted to know, and more, about chinking. So many joints and interfaces in these kinds of structures, better pay attention.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

North Carolina Mountain State Fair: Sept 7 - 16

09/07/07

Yup, it's post Labor Day, and though the days around Asheville linger in the mid-80's, the nights give a hint of Autumn. In many parts of the country, fall means an aggregation of county and state fairs. Our region is no different.

The North Carolina Mountain State Fair kicks off this week, and runs through Sunday, September 16. The web page for entertainment can be found here. Courtesy of Google, maps and directions can be located here.

From "Mountain Highlights", edited by Jacob Curtis,, here is a 3 minute video from past fairs.
ENJOY !



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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Baby Boomer Fun: Miles Nervine

09/06/07

Thursday is baby boomer fun day here, no real estate, so here goes..

A Curious 1960's Ad Campaign
Never thought about it when these ads were on TV, but what exactly was in those Miles Nervine tablets? Specially formulated to ease nervous tension and all that. The car pulling into the parking lot looks like a 1960 Ford Fairlane to help place the date of this commercial gem

ENJOY ! 30 seconds



Apparently Nervine's active ingredient was in the antihistamine class, so you got drowsy, and one would assume, more relaxed. This was obviously before we thought about the risks in such behavior. It was ok to do then.

Nervine remained on the market until the latter part of the 1960's. Here is a more comprehensive piece from Consumer Reports.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Building a Second Home: Thoughts and Links

09/05/07

Just a brief post for today...

Amy Gunderson, second home specialist at The NY Times has lately addressed the topic for the day, building a second home, at this location. (Registration perhaps required). Her article entitled "Building From The Ground Up", delves into the basics of looking for land and knowing your covenants, restrictions, and protections in advance.

Zoning and covenants may have special applicability with respect to terrain and setbacks, which will obviously lessen the amount of usable land, as she states:
That said, a seemingly grand one-and-a-half acre lot can seem cramped.

(and later in the article)......

Both a landscape designer and an architect can help not only to craft a vision of what can be built on the property and how views can be captured but also to estimate the cost of preparing the site for building, from the actual home construction costs to the price tag for a gravel driveway.
Elementary Ideas
These are fairly elementary ideas that are part and parcel of the search process. We thought it would be appropriate to provide some added resources and thoughts on a more or less step by step basis.

Breaking Ground: Choosing the Builder and Lot: From the DIY Network, covers the baiscs from looking for a lot, to permits, surveyors and choosing a builder.

Review the entire series on building from the DIY Network at this location: Numerous links to items such as, the footprint of the home, plumbing, wiring, lighting, decorating, and troubleshooting.

Do You Need an Architect?: From the Zillow Wiki, a set of thoughts to determine the necessity of an architect, and suggested criteria for choosing the best ones.

Once the question of land and the home's design are settled, attention must go to choosing a builder, with suggested tip located here, and here.

Lastly, one must understand the types of contractors in the world, and absorb ideas about working with contractors.

Double lastly, some humor, a list of 10 movies to watch before remodeling, (or building), your home.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Home Inspections: Introduction

09/04/07

EDITOR'S NOTE:
This article has been guest posted by:
Don Miller, Owner of:
WNC, (That's Western North Carolina), Inspections
wncinspections.com

Your Largest Purchase
A large purchase can be exciting, but can be difficult work indeed. One must sift through large amounts of information, be willing to compromise, perhaps deal with unreasonable people, and finally, at some point, you put your money on the line.

You've narrowed it down to one home and have come to an agreement with the seller. Chances are the price is at your upper limit of your resources. The last thing you need is a big financial surprise after you take ownership. A home inspection can reveal current problems that may not be obvious.

What Do Inspections Cover?
Did you know, that aside from looking at "the house" that inspections can reveal potential problems by identifying such things as aged equipment, average life expectancy, and factory recalls? Hopefully, your Realtor or agent, has protected you with a contingency clause that not only allows an inspection, but also offers the chance to "bail" if the hidden defects are too costly to repair.

Protect yourself have a quality home inspection and purchase the insurance that protects appliances and structure. It is usually available at this stage of home buying, (if not already provided by the seller), and in my opinion, well worth it.

Is an Inspection Always Needed?
So, when not to inspect? Never! Previous owners may have done repairs that aren't safe, amateurish, or were not done with the proper permit thereby avoiding municipal inspection.

Even new construction can be imperfect; have hidden flaws, or functional failure. Be advised, neither municipal building inspectors nor mortgage appraisers do the work that a home inspector does.

Guest Posted By:
Don Miller
NC Inspector #2620
WNC Inspections Inc
828-380-9024
828-689-5929
http://wncinspections.com
don@wncinspections.com

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