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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Location: Mars Hill, NC, United States

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Asheville: Christmas Tree Disposal

Yep, 2007 is set to become driest on record in Asheville. "The 2007 cumulative rainfall amount of 20.77 inches will handily undercut the previous record, set in 1925. Normal rainfall is 37.32 inches, a deficit of 44%.

We have covered the drought all year in terms of home gardening, recreation and water related topics. A statewide burning ban remains in effect, so burning trees is NOT an option. For more go to ncdrought.org.

How to Deal With Christmas Trees After the Season
Recycling the tree is an easy option. Use the link to find a recycling location near you by zip or town, or one can use this finder from The National Christmas Tree Association.

From Asheville's Mountain Express, here is information for those who live in the city proper.

Dealing with Christmas tree waste, with a little do it yourself flavor, finding a few uses for that tree around the home.

Finally, the web portal mahalo.com offers an extensive page about reusing, disposing, and recycling trees.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

No White Christmas in Asheville?

This blog will be on vacation until 12/26/07, our warmest regards for the holiday.

Well, the Winter Solstice occurs today, 12/22/07, the shortest day of the year. Fittingly, The Citizen Times reported on predictions and some historical data about snow during the holidays in our region. The weather for the next few days will be too warm, and too dry for snow, in fact:
Since Bing Crosby first crooned the Irving Berlin song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” in 1941, downtown Asheville has seen a measurable snowfall on the holiday only nine times in the past 66 seasons, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Asheville sits at 2,288 feet above sea level, and whether a person in Western North Carolina experiences snow has a great deal to do with elevation. The altitude in this part of the world can change by 3,000 feet in a matter of miles, so it is possible that the white stuff will make an appearance for some.

Given the ongoing drought, we could use some water from the sky, in any form.

The local paper was also kind enough to post the Holiday Closings in the area from now through January 1, 2008.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

2007 Housing Recap: The Forest Through the Trees

Below is a short, unusually concise video from Bloomberg on the national housing markets. Seemed like a good posting as 2007 draws to a close.

So many statistics to process, it is often difficult to see the forest through the trees. The truisms remain; too much supply, declining demand, inventories must fall by way of lower production and prices. Booming foreclosures will not allow the bottom to arrive very quickly.

In order, the fundamentals examined here are:
1-2008, not so hot either, with 2007 total home sales down 14.5%, and 2008, maybe down 12%. Adjustable rate mortgage resets are key here as Jonathan Miller has pointed out. It will be August, 2008 before the dollar value of those resets return to Spring, 2007 levels. Then the market has a chance.

2-Median home prices will decline in 2007 and in 2008. We have repeatedly looked at national numbers, (our local ones are essentially no different, depending how one slices them), from a law of supply and demand point of view. Housing Intelligence sums it up nicely, as we noted regarding the October numbers. A drastic decline in inventory of both new and existing homes is badly needed, the path to that stability is paved with less building and lower prices.

3-Foreclosures remain a heavy burden for many months and will contribute to rising inventory problems. The influence wielded by these mortgage defaults appears to transcend the maxim that all real estate is local.


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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Baby Boomer Fun: Vintage Holiday Links

Thursdays are baby boomer fun days here, nothing else, so here goes...

Yep, Santa smoked Lucky Strikes: From Bedazzled.

From Classic Television Showbiz: Apparently these links are from their holiday series.
The Honeymooners Christmas Episode

The Addams Family at Christmas

The Howdy Doody Christmas Epsiode

The Beverly Hillbillies Celebrate as well

A few years later, The Bunkers celebrate on All in the Family

The Munsters make it to The Macy's Parade

Hot Dr Pepper Commercial: "The holiday treat for the proud crowd".

The Twilight Zone: Episode, "The Night of the Meek" with Art Carney as a down and out department store Santa. Aired, December 23, 1960.

Finally, Santa may have switched in later years to Kent Cigarettes as this 30 second spot from The Dick Van Dyke Show suggests:

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tech Gifts, and Holiday Travel Tips

Just a couple of items today from the tech and travel departments.

Christmas Tech Gifts?
Thinking of giving a PC as gift this holiday season? ZDNet offers us this report on 2007 security loopholes for Mac OS X VS. Windows XP and Vista. Surprisingly, to us, the Windows products fared significantly better.

Want to give a really impressive gift, at least financially? Ars Technica reports on a court case, and some arithmetic that indicates name brand replacement ink for printers may cost as much as $8,000/gallon!. Impressive by most any standards.

Traveling for the Holidays?
Google announced a new service for air passengers on 12/18/07:
For the latest information on a flight's status, simply search for an airline and flight number, and the first result will tell you whether your flight is on time or delayed as well as the estimated departure and arrival times. (Emphasis Added).
Orbitz now offers user generted advice and tips on air travel. This would seem to indicate that passengers can acquire current information "on delays, cancellations, weather and other issues way before official announcements are made." (Emphasis Added).

The power of the web in action...

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Asheville Vacation Homes: Closing Up For Winter?

The NY Times last week ran an article about how to winterize vacation homes. This is quite topical as Thanksgiving has passed, the first snowfall has arrived, and and the Winter Solstice is upon us.

That piece of writing concerns itself with a fairly basic question, as to shutting a vacation home down partially or completely. It's a decent primer, but in our opinion scratches the surface only, so we decided to provide some added resources below.

From Do It Yourself dot com, is a handy checklist that deals with water, appliances, heat sources, and rodents.

The Friendly Plumber provides some added depth, about, what else, plumbing.

The House Doctor from Newsday, has a decent article that looks at programmable thermostats and other forms of technology.

Speaking of technology, we ran an article about a year ago on the various 21st century methods to monitor one's home away from home via the Internet. This seems obvious in the era of high speed connections, and the eligibility for insurance discounts afforded by such systems is often overlooked.

The NY Times Travel Section offers a kind of reverse point of view, with this article on how to handle one's primary home before taking that winter vacation. Ski season is with us after all.

And lastly, the ubiquitous Elizabeth Weintraub offers this analysis for winterizing homes.

The payback here, with any of these measures are, possible insurance savings, not to mention energy dollars, and most importantly, peace of mind.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Cost of Asheville Utilities and Heat: A Comparison

It's been in the low 70's for a few days now, but the shortest day of the year, and hence the dead of winter is nearly upon us. Back in September we compiled this handy tool to compare the costs of different fuels in the home using basic arithmetic.

The formula in that link allows buyers or sellers to determine the costs involved for #2 heating oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas, and electricity. The multiplication and division will not change, all that changes over time is the current retail cost of each fuel.

We thought it would be wise to provide links for our readers to look up current fuel costs. To wit:
Current Oil, Propane, and Kerosene retail prices can all be found at this link.

Natural Gas of course is limited outside of Asheville proper because this commodity must be delivered via underground infrastructure. Current retail prices can best be found here.

Electricity of course is also delivered by way of infrastructure. French Broad Electric is the major supplier for our county, website here. Progress Energy and Duke Power also serve the western part of the state.

And as long as we are on the subject of energy and utilities in general, here is a handy place to find current Asheville gasoline prices/gallon. Rates for city water in Asheville are here.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baby Boomer Fun: Christmas Toys-1962

Thursday is baby boomer fun day here...scroll down or peruse the archives for real estate items.

Toy commercials are always an interesting window to the past. Below is a 1 min ad for Lionel Trains, Christmas 1962. Recall that this was the age of nuclear angst, and that the Cuban Missile crisis had just passed the previous October.

Watch as we are told how it is equipped with an IRBM missle, "so you can blow your target up again and again". It is prescient, though probably not intentionally so, when it proclaims that Lionel's trains will increase in value over time. Check these 2007 prices out for vintage Lionel items.

ENJOY ! ! Minute

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Geminids: "Best Meteor Shower" December 13-14

From Space.com:
Here is what astronomers David Levy and Stephen Edberg have written of the annual Geminid Meteor Shower: "If you have not seen a mighty Geminid fireball arcing gracefully across an expanse of sky, then you have not seen a meteor."
The Geminids are special, apparently because they travel more slowly as they contact our atmosphere. This they have been called, "slow, bright, graceful meteors".

Seems as though North America is not in the peak path, but that the shower packs enough punch that 60-120/hour can be observable after 10PM EST on the night of the 13th.

Light pollution plays a big role, but of course, in our rural mountain environment is not a big deal, and the moon will cooperate:
This year, the waxing crescent Moon will set by mid-evening across the globe on December 14 (the actual moonset timing is progressively later the further south you are), giving mostly dark skies for all observers, especially those in the northern hemisphere.
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Off The Beaten Path: Strategies for Sellers

In a market such as this, with a multitude of sellers and low demand, prices must decline. That's what we learned as far back as grammar school, right?

Yes, the housing market is difficult. For a year now, inventories have grown as sales have declined. On this blog we have analyzed those items each month in a straightforward supply/demand methodology, check out our archives.

What follows is a small collection of alternative stories that might border on the fallacy of anecdotal evidence as proof, rather than logical analysis. Nevertheless, let's take a look, at least for some entertainment if not some thoughts to ponder.

Accentuate the Negative
The NY Times, examines selling a home with the philosophy of being frank about what is wrong with the dwelling:
Instead of highlighting a home’s attractive features, some sellers are going straight to the bad news, advertising houses as being ugly, having sinkholes or even smelling bad, with the thought that sellers who are forthcoming about a property’s flaws may find buyers eager for a deal.
There may be some intuitive sense in this tactic. Advertisements and listings for homes and land are normally filled with superlatives, to the point where the mind becomes saturated, and the adjectives become meaningless. Not every home can be the best.

Speaking personally, a seller of anything who is honest about the flaws would carry some credibility, though empirical proof as a viable selling strategy would be difficult to come by. Seller's beware. By all means check out one of the websites mentioned in that article, The Worst House in Edina.

Find Some History, Name Your Home?
We are probably all familiar with the notion of naming one's vacation home. This is a practice that has been around for decades indeed, but what is the value of this in a slow housing market? Steve Bailey at The New York Times addresses this notion:
Real estate agents seem to agree that having a name can make a property stand out in a multiple listing, but that it doesn’t add value unless it’s part of an interesting history.
Further Oddities
Go here, to read about in the home showers for pets, and other off the beaten path items about selling in a tough market, some amusing stuff.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

October 2007 Housing Statistics

Keeping track of monthly national statistics can be difficult. They are released over the course of any succeeding month. Our roundup for October is here, a bit late, but contains all the numbers that matter, collected in one place.

The Quick Summary
The story is repetitive at this point. Each month new construction is dismally low, prices fall, yet inventories remain bloated for both new and existing homes. In any market, let alone housing, this spells many months of downward pressure on prices, and production cutbacks to reach anything remotely resembling a normal supply/demand balance. One is hard pressed to find any expert analysis out there that talks about recovery before Q4 2008.

The Details
Supply Factors:
Low Production & Bloated Inventories Remain
**New Home Inventory, (PDF): The shred of good news would be that after months of repeated, drastic cutbacks in production, that new home inventories, (pending the inevitable revisions), may have declined, a small bit. The October inventory of new homes now stands at an 8.5 months' supply.

This measures in at 37% more new homes for sale than the FYE 2006 level of 6.2 months' supply.There is still a long road ahead for bringing inventory levels down, which can only mean continued low levels of production, and heavy downward pressure on prices. Maybe we look for builders/developers to continue some of the fire sale tactics seen previously.

**Permits, Starts and Completions, (PDF): showed the same pattern that has persisted for many months. Permits were 24.5% less than last year, new housing starts were 16.4% under last year, while completions were 25.2% less than a year ago.

The Wall Street Journal provides context on new construction numbers and the builders' plight with excessive inventory and low demand:
...(new) permits have tumbled to their lowest level since 1993.
Housing Intelligence echoes our own sentiment in a simple supply/demand format:
The only way for new home inventories to fall to a healthy months’ supply is for new starts to slow down dramatically while builders sell current inventories aggressively.
**Existing Home Inventories, (PDF): In October 2007, this index rose again, and shows a 10.8 months' supply of existing homes for sale. Readers need only to consider that a 6 months' supply is widely considered to be a market in equilibrium. During 2004 and 2005, the market held only a 4.5 months' supply.

That would mean an inventory decline of 80% is in order. It has been widely noted that this is a distinct disadvantage for individual sellers vis a vis, the greater financial muscle of the builders to slash prices.

Demand Factors & Prices
More Than 20% Sales Declines Despite Large Price Decreases
**New Home Sales, (PDF): Sales may, (before the revisions), have shown a rise with respect to September, 2007. Nevertheless, new home sales remain 23.5% below October, 2006. Not sure that the average person needs to know any more than that. This is territory that is all too familiar for 2007 vs. 2006 comparisons.

The Big Picture explains the nuances, and unspins the "rise in new home sales", for those interested in greater depth.

**Existing Home Sales, (PDF): Sales were down 20.7% from the same month in 2006. Paper Economy offers a detailed analysis which demonstrates that no region of the US was spared:
*Sales are down significantly in EVERY region and for BOTH single family and condo.
*Prices for single family homes declined for EVERY region.
*ALL Inventory and Months Supply show significant increases on a year-over-year basis.
Money CNN looks at new and existing homes collectively, under the headline "Home prices see biggest drop in 25 years" for Q3 2007. Some see press releases from the national trade group as overly slanted optimism, The Big Picture provides perspective as does Jonathan Miller from Matrix.

The Future?
Paper Economy examines the pending home sales index, often seen as a predictor in these words:
...showing truly stark and horrendous continuation of the historic decline to residential housing on a year-over-year basis, both nationally and in every region.
The Big Picture makes an observation, notable for the relationship between foreclosures and the year long problem of burgeoning inventories:
Here's the really bad news: The projected supply of foreclosed homes is about ~45% of existing home sales -- adding four months to the supply of existing homes.
Bloomberg reminds us that foreclosures remain around 100% higher than one year ago at present. However, many have noted that the dollar value of ARM resets, (a pretty big cause of foreclosures), will double by the time March, 2008 arrives.

If buyers or sellers have latitude in their positions, things will be slow for a while yet.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Baby Boomer Fun: The De Soto

Thursdays, (mostly), are baby boomer fun days here, no real estate, so here goes...

This week, in the category of long and forgotten automobiles, we have the De Soto, manufactured by Chrysler in the US from 1928 until 1961. We have a DeSoto Firedome in our family history.

During its tenure, De Soto was notable for a number of features in the manufacture of automobiles, including, pop up headlamps and fluid drive, (a precursor of the automatic transmission).

The most curious innovation appeared in 1935 as The De Soto Airstream or Airflow. Pictured at right, this radical, aerodynamic, and futuristic car is described as follows:
Airflow design propelled DeSoto to 32 stock car records. Airflow scorched the flying mile at 86.2 miles per hour, averaged 80.9 miles per hour for 100 miles, 76.2 miles per hour for 500 miles, and 74.7 miles per hour for 2,000 miles. For gravy, Harry Hartz drove a DeSoto Airflow 3,114 miles from New York to San Francisco. The DeSoto averaged 21.4mpg
Interesting that The Airflow was not a success, and equally interesting that the US fleet average in 2007 is only 24 mpg!

Without further ado, here is a 1 minute commercial from television, introducing the 1958 De Soto. Who recalls the use of Cole Porter's It's De Lovely as the De Soto theme song?

If this video should disappear from the web, please find many more De Soto commercials at this location.
Enjoy!

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

North Carolina Christmas Trees: The Real Thing

Christmas trees love the climate around greater Asheville. According to the NC Department of Agriculture, almost 20% of natural Christmas trees are grown here in The Tarheel State. Much of this production takes place in our western mountains.

The industry is well established and is not a stranger to publicity. In November of this year, a Fraser Fir, from Laurel Springs, NC, was chosen as the 2007 White House Tree.

The NC Christmas Tree Association provides information on everything from cultivation and environmental issues to proper care of real trees in the home. Readers can search for "cut your own" locations, or find retail lots on that site as well. Not a bad idea for a weekend drive.

There is also a National Christmas Tree Association, which provides a good amount of information, including the ability to search for trees by state.

In the end, be safe, use the links on proper care of natural trees, and visit the National Safety Council's tree page, for a Christmas Tree Checklist.

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