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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Week

This blog is essentially on vacation for Thanksgiving week.

We have some wild weather in the forecast, (again), with snow beginning today, and becoming heavy tomorrow.

Given the weather and snowfall so far this season, here is some ironic news. Buncombe County Schools will be forced to open later in 2009 because not enough snow days have occurred recently. Schools in NC cannot open prior to August 25, unless a waiver is granted based on previous snow cancellations.

Best wishes for a special time for you and yours this holiday.

The Folks at Black Bear

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baby Boomers: Joni Mitchell Turns 65

A belated birthday wish to Joni Mitchell who turned 65 on November 7.

For more than four decades now, this native of Canada, a self described painter who was sidetracked by circumstance to a career in music has been with us as a singer, songwriter, musician, innovator, and poet.

Long categorized as a folk singer, this characterization, if we think about it, overlooks nearly all of her work since 1974. Sixteen Grammy Nominations, nine times a winner, with seven of those wins since 1995.

It is as a musician grounded in folk music though that we remember her best, but oh my, that woman could have played rhythm with anyone, and in fact she did.

This week's video clip is from The Dick Cavett Show, August 19, 1969, the Tuesday after Woodstock.

2 minutes and 54 seconds, a naked and flawless performance of Chelsea Morning.
ENJOY !

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Asheville, Anywhere: Costs of Heat and Utilities

We write a fair amount about energy, it's an ever increasing factor whether owning or buying a home. We've had some recent snows, and this morning the blog Ashevegas informs us that Progress Energy is raising electric rates by 10% in December.

Seems like it is time to take a look at the cost of heat and utilities, and hopefully provide home owners, buyers, and sellers with some basic tools.

Opening Items
One of the most basic items to look at, whether buying a house or considering a retrofit, is to determine how efficient are the fuels that we have available. The basic fossil fuels, whether measured as therms of natural gas, or kWh of electricity have one thing in common, they turn out heat, with a single measurement, the BTU.

When we know the $/BTU for each fuel, we can ignore the differences in measurement units, (what is a therm anyhow?), and make easy monetary comparisons. We developed this little tool some time ago, which tells us the $/million BTU's for the five most popular fossil fuels.

By plugging in the local costs of different heat sources, we can then make choices, and see which is most efficient, (at least at that time). We can also see which offers the best payback for a retrofit, or makes sense in the purchase and cost of running a home at all.

Unit Cost of Local Fuels
You can plug in the local costs from anywhere. In greater Asheville, the cost of #2 oil, kerosene, or propane can be approximated at this location.

Natural gas on the other hand requires infrastructure. Availability is therefore hyperlocal. To determine such things for your neighborhood visit the PSNC website. The current cost of a therm in Asheville is $1.43.

For electricity, 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. For Madison County, the current rate is $0.089/kWh.

An Asheville Snapshot
Using today's unit costs for #2 oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas and electricity and following the formula in our comparison tool, this is what Asheville looks like today, $/million BTU's, using typical burner efficiencies.

# 2 Heating Oil: $30.83/million BTU's, assumes 85% burner efficiency.
Kerosene: $29.22/million BTU's, assumes 90% burner efficiency.
Propane: $32.64/million BTU's, assumes 85% burner efficiency.
Natural Gas: $16.82/million BTU's, assumes 85% burner efficiency.
Electricity: $26.08/million BTU's, assumes 100% efficiency.

Burner Efficiency?
Not every burner converts its fuel into heat at the same rate, some are better, usually meaning newer than others. Every home should have its burner serviced annually.

When this is done, the technician will normally place a sticker somewhere on the unit. The efficiency for your burner will be noted there. That number will have an impact on the calculations above, and will alert you to issues about upgrades, upkeep, or retrofits.

That sticker with the date, is also a big clue to buyers, not only about the unit they might be purchasing with a home, but also about the representations and past diligence of sellers.

Old Utility Bills
Here is another resource from our archives for buyers. It is a list of items to bear in mind if and when you get a chance to examine past utility bills for a prospective home.

Not To Be Left Out
Fireplaces, so popular here in the mountains, whether gas log or wood carry certain responsibilities of upkeep.

Summary
Costs of energy are fluctuating wildly in the past 24 months, currently they are down, but still 20% to 40% higher than last year. The type of heat used becomes an ever growing part of the real estate equation, and the cost of operating that home deserves consideration like no time in the past.

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828 689 2055
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Filed Under: Tips For Homeowners, Tips For Buyers

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Notable Event

Our friends at Carolina Mornings will be hosting a worthy event for the holidays on December 6 and 7 to benefit MANNA Food Bank.

Full details are here, on their blog for any readers who have the resources to assist some of the 115,000 Western North Carolina residents who will seek food assistance this year.

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Black Bear Realty Website
828 689 2055
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Filed Under: Slices of Mountain Life

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Local Launches: REI in Asheville, WYQS in Mars Hill

REI Opens
Given the waves of bad news in the retail sector, the travails of such brands as Circuit City, or the closings of 600 Starbucks, (Asheville kept its 10 Starbucks), it is nice to see a new anchor business in Asheville.

Outside Magazine calls Asheville one of America's Best Outdoor Towns, and this had to be a factor for national outfitter REI, who recently opened a new store here.

True to form, the outdoor enthusiasts of Western North Carolina came out in force for the mid October event. Map, directions, hours and so forth are here.

WYQS Launches in Madison County
It's been some weeks now that radio reception while driving in Mars Hill and Madison County has improved. Our local NPR affiliate, WCQS out of Asheville, (which faded in and out in some of the deeper valleys here), now has a local transmission at 90.5FM on the dial.

The new station is known as WYQS, and is our new preferred setting on that car radio dial. The station is fully automated, with a focus on NPR programming, as well as the BBC News World Service and other news based programming for all information junkies out there.

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Black Bear Realty Website
828 689 2055
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Filed Under: Slices of Mountain Life

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Asheville and the Weekend

Let's run down some news and a few things for the weekend in greater Asheville.

Department of Hmmm..
Bridge repairs on US 19/23, future I-26 West for the next 3 weekends. This is for folks traveling from Asheville to Weaverville. Might want to plan some extra time if this effects you.

Department of Elections
Yesterday we recapped how Asheville and the mountain counties voted. At that time, the outcome for the state was unofficial. Today, The Citizen Times reports that NC went to the Obama/Biden ticket, presumably by a very narrow margin.

Return of The Dual Film Festivals
With testimonials from no less than Ron Howard, the 6th annual Asheville Film Festival is in full swing. Schedule, accommodations and such can be found here.

And something that is classically Asheville in nature, it's the 3rd annual Asheville Rejects Film Fest. That would be for films rejected by another festival. Here is their website, with screen times, and full information. Enjoy.

Studio Stroll
How about strolling, or riding the trolley and finding some good food this weekend in Asheville's River Arts District? Haven't heard of it? Then check out the video tour here. Why not use November 8 and 9 to see why we call Asheville hip, artsy and eclectic? Map and directions here.

Department of Green Shopping
Needing an appliance? Starting today, the state has a holiday
...from state and local taxes on big-ticket items such as clothes washers, freezers, refrigerators and other appliances that carry the “Energy Star” label.
The holiday runs from today, through midnight Sunday. Visit: energystar.gov for more depth and information as to what the label energy star means.

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828 689 2055
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Filed Under: Slices of Mountain Life

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Asheville and The Mountain Counties: How Did We Vote?

Most real estate websites, especially those in vacation markets like greater Asheville, will offer a section of links about living here. Often, this will include demographics. We have just such a page for ourselves.

Let's expand this idea, and examine how our three mountain counties voted on Tuesday.

As we write this, the final tally for NC remains unofficial, pending around 40,000 provisional ballots. The count for our state as a whole has been frozen with Obama/Biden holding a 12,000 vote lead, but neither ticket is over 50% of the popular vote. That's close, but how about locally?

Buncombe County
Buncombe, (pronounced bunk-come), is the most populous in the region. The county seat is Asheville, The Paris of the South, or as we like to call it, the hip, artsy, and eclectic hub of the area.

Election results for Buncombe show Obama/Biden by a margin of 56% to 42%. The electoral map, shows the areas closest to the city to be blue. For a real micro examination, here is the breakdown by polling station in Buncombe.

Madison County
Madison is our home county. The county line with Buncombe begins around 15 miles north of Asheville. Known as The Jewel of the Blue Ridge, we are more rural and less populous.

Election results for Madison show a very close race, with the McCain/Palin ticket coming out on top by 50% to 48.4%, but a sweep for Democratic candidates in all the the partisan races.

In terms of numbers for President, this translates to a margin of 164 votes. The electoral map with its red and blue shows the even distribution.

For a closer look, here is the breakdown by voting station. Knowing all the townships, this is a fun exercise, but it would also give visitors an idea as to the relative size of the parts of our county.

Yancey County
Yancey County, being the gateway to Mount Mitchell, is gorgeous terrain. In the presidential race for Yancey, McCain/Palin came out on top, by approximately 52% to 46%, a reverse of the national numbers. In terms of votes, that is a margin of around 550 votes.

The electoral map shows the red/blue distribution, and here are the results by polling station for those interested.

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828 689 2055
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Filed Under: Slices of Mountain Life

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election: What's It Mean For Real Estate?

We offered some graphic snapshots for a new President yesterday about where we have been and where we are. We will leave the future to analysts more expert than ourselves. It's bigger than just real estate.

Business Week: Offers a three paragraph thumbnail of philosophies.

The Wall Street Journal: In their Real Time Economics section lists the key issues, and emphasizes the rapidity with which decisions will need to be made in the aptly titled "Next President Faces Uphill Battle".

Money CNN: Has one of the more expansive articles, and examines 5 key areas and issues faced by the new President, and what might occur. Senior writer at that publication , Jeanne Sahadi, zeroes in quite well on the policies and choices.

The Washington Post: Pretty much captures the theme in its title, "Hard Choices and Challenges Follow Triumph".

Money CNN: Defines the first job as picking a new Treasury Secretary, and mentions several possibilities. For real news junkies, find tons of cabinet speculation via Google News.

The Bottom Line?
Some say real estate blogs should be happy places. We do our best to present material, positive or negative, without emotion. So, realistically, the campaign will prove to be a cakewalk compared to the transition period, the next 75 days or so.

Last evening Tom Brokaw ran the litany of issues, from the credit crisis, to recession, rising unemployment, energy needs, failing banks, the big 3 automakers on the brink, and the two wars. He somberly went on to compare the present to 1941 in terms of the combined effort and immediacy that will be required here.

There has been a sense of pausing in the nation as the election drew near, to see what would happen. It is now time to move forward, and do what must be done.

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Filed Under: National Items

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Graphically Speaking: Snapshots for the Next President

In this century, housing was first an engine, but is now a drag on the economy. The story is well known.

So, here are a set of snapshots for the next President, and for ourselves, lest we lose sight of where we have been, and where we would like to be.

Basic Supply and Demand
Supply and demand generally advises that markets with rising inventories will experience lower production and eventually, lower prices. This is an an indirect correlation.

Instead, real estate markets during the boom exhibited a direct correlation of rising inventories AND rising prices. As many have noted, this is the illogic of an economic or asset bubble. It is likely a place we would not wish to go again.

Existing home inventories looked like this from Jan, 2001 through Sept 30, 2008:
(Chart Source)
Click here for full size.
New home inventories looked like this from Jan, 1963, through Sept 30, 2008.
(Chart Source)
Click for large view.
Yet, home prices 1890 through 2006 looked like this.
(Chart Source)
Click for large view.

Eventually, the affordability of homes dissipated. (1977-2008)
(Chart Source)
Click Here for large view.

And Sales Plummeted...
Existing home sales look like the bars on this graph: (2004-2008)
(Chart Source)
Click here for large view.

And new home sales look like the bars on this graph. (2004-2008)
(Chart Source)
Click Here for large view.

The Impact on Prices
And no surprise that prices would have to eventually do this. (1988-2008)
(Chart Source)
Click Here for large view.

The Impact of Falling Prices
Prices had to fall, but the magnitude of the correction has begotten all kinds of negative results. Not the least of these is the dramatic rise in foreclosures and the number of US households said to be underwater. But what other effects might be correlated with falling home values?

The NY Times recently noted a milestone for Q3 consumer spending. Correlation does not imply causality, but home values have a curious and direct relationship to consumer spending. (1988-2008)
(Chart Source)
Click here for full size.

And With Job Creation (2000-2008)
(Chart Source)
Click for full size.

And with the DJIA..(Past 12 months)
(Chart Source)
Click here for large view.

Bringing us to a silver lining. It is offered here in jest, but does have a basis in reality. It is something we prefer not to see.
(Chart Source)
Click here for large view.

No matter who you support, be sure to vote today.

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Black Bear Realty Website
828 689 2055
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Filed Under: National Items

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