Blog :: 05-2008

Henderson County To Break Ground On New Park

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5/29/2008 - Henderson County To Break Ground On New Park
by http://www.pisgahmountainnews.com

EDNEYVILLE - The Henderson County Board of Commissioners and the Edneyville Community Center Association will celebrate the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Edneyville Park and Community Center at 11 a.m. on Friday on the center property at the intersection of U.S. 64 East and Ida Rogers Drive in Edneyville.

The ceremony will include recognition of special guests, a groundbreaking, and light refreshments.

The Edneyville Community Center will be a 5,335 square-foot center with meeting rooms, restrooms and a kitchen. The 15.12 acres of land around the center will include multi-purpose fields, a walking trail and playground equipment.

Future plans call for a baseball field, an enclosed gym and pool.

The $1 million project is being paid for by a $500,000 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and a $500,000 matching grant from the Board of Commissioners.

The Edneyville Community Center Association purchased and donated the land for the park and center.

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Perfect Time to Purchase Real Estate

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5/29/2008 - Perfect Time to Purchase Real Estate
by http://www.realestatejournal.com

Finally, it's a buyer's market out there.

For years rapidly rising prices kept many first-time home buyers out of the housing market. But as home values slide further downward and interest rates hover at relatively low levels, it may be time to start looking to buy that first house.

That is, if you have a secure job, can afford higher down payments than were required a few years ago and can meet lenders' much stricter income and credit requirements.

"Lenders aren't cutting everyone off. They're reverting to sanity after years of making bad loans," says Dick Lepre, senior loan officer at Residential Pacific Mortgage, in San Francisco.

The U.S. median home price was $201,000 in January, down 4.6% from January 2007. The S&P/Case-Shiller national home-price index for the fourth quarter was down 8.9% from a year earlier, the biggest drop in its 20 years. Prices have plunged 10% to 12% in troubled markets like Florida and California, and many economists predict an overall slide of 20% or more before the housing market bottoms.

There was a 10-month supply of existing homes for sale in January, up from just under five months during boom times.

If you are about to get into the housing market, this is all good news. But before you begin visiting open houses, recognize that the old home-buying rules no longer apply. You want to approach buying your first house with a financially realistic point of view.

Remember: You're investing in a place to live, not speculating in the stock market or even putting money into a savings account. So keep it simple. Buy smarter. Buy cheaper.

Determine what you can afford. "The days of easy money are over," says Jeff Bogue, a financial planner in Wells, Maine. Mortgage lenders have tightened their standards and are requiring larger down payments. Typically, they want buyers to spend no more than 28% of their gross monthly income on mortgage payments, real-estate taxes and home insurance.

To figure out how much you can afford, use online calculators at realestatejournal.com, dinkytown.com or bankrate.com and "get preapproved or preauthorized for a loan," Mr. Bogue says.

Be sure you also have cash for closing costs like legal fees and title charges. The total typically reaches 2% to 3% of the house price, but differs by state and mortgage product, says Ilona Bray, co-author of "Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home." Also be prepared to pay for moving expenses and ongoing maintenance.

Know your market. Gone are the days of "sure thing" home purchases when buyers would bid up prices and then watch the values of their houses soar like tech stocks in 1999. Today, if buyers are bidding at all, they're far more likely to insist on lower prices and to walk away if they don't get what they want.

Now more than ever, location is crucial, down to the neighborhood and street level. Focus on good school districts, crime statistics and any impending construction or public works that could increase or decrease the value of a home. Conduct preliminary research online at Web sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com and greatschools.net.

"Eighty percent to 90% of housing prices can be explained by what's happening in local economies. Take a hard look at job growth and neighborhood conditions," says Patrick Newport, an economist at Global Insight in Waltham, Mass.

Make your dollars count. Although conditions vary by market, look for a home that is significantly lower than its 2004 price. (You can ask real-estate agents for information and check estimated historical values at Zillow.) "From the peak to trough, home prices in some markets will drop 35% to 40%," says Christopher Thornberg, a principal at Beacon Economics, a consulting and research firm in Los Angeles.

Haggle. Don't assume the seller is even in the right ballpark with his asking price. Most real-estate agents and sellers only look at comparable sales prices, or "comps," of similar homes in similar neighborhoods. Take a lesson from property investors and appraisers instead and check out prices from other angles as well.

Consider what it would cost to buy land and build a comparable structure. Insurance companies can provide general cost estimates, but for a thorough assessment consider hiring an appraiser (search online by zip code at AppraisalInstitute.org).

Also compare your estimated monthly costs for the mortgage, taxes and other expenses with the cost of renting a similar place nearby. If you can rent virtually the same house for a much lower cost, the seller is asking too much.

Builders, sellers and banks are eager to unload unoccupied houses, giving the buyer more leverage to ask for lower prices or incentives. And don't overlook REOs ("real estate owned" properties) held by lenders, says Patrick Carey, executive vice president of default and retention operations for Wells Fargo.

Buy for the long haul. "Most first-time home buyers don't buy the house they're going to end up in," says Ilyce Glink, author of "100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask." But experts suggest that in a downward market, people should purchase a home only if they intend to live there for seven to 10 years.

"Historically, housing bubbles have taken several years to deflate, but it's hard to tell if we'll see prices drop a lot in the next two or three years or see moderate drops over the next 10 years," says Mr. Newport, the economist.

If you're not planning to stay in the house for long, he notes, "it may be wise to watch from the sidelines."

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Now Is A Great Time To Buy Asheville Real Estate

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5/29/2008 - Now Is A Great Time To Buy Asheville Real Estate
by http://www.leadernewspapers.net

 If youre ready to buy a home and can afford it, now is a great time to buy. Mortgage interest rates remain very low. In many areas, buyers have a lot of inventory from which to choose and long-term homeownership continues to be one of the best ways for the typical American to build wealth.

Dont let all of the negative media attention about the mortgage meltdown keep you from pursuing your homeownership dream. Mortgage industry woes are primarily limited to subprime loans and other types of creative and comparatively risky financing products. While the mortgage industry stalled briefly to reconsider its more exotic loans, there is plenty of conventional financing available for qualified homebuyers. Interest rates remain at historically low levels still less than 7 percent for the typical, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Indeed, the market has changed. Its gone from a frenzied sellers market to calmer buyers market. In fact, buyers havent seen a market this strong in years. When the national median home price dropped for the first time on record, the decline made huge albeit misleading headlines. For starters, there is no such thing as a national real estate market. All real estate markets are local and driven by local factors that include the local economy, housing supply and demand factors and other attributes like geography.

The slight decline followed years of unprecedented steep home price appreciation, and the reality is that only a handful of markets experienced price declines. Corrections in markets that experienced exorbitant home price appreciation were expected and signal good news for buyers. According to 2007 third-quarter National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) statistics, the vast majority of the nations metropolitan areas showed rising or stable home prices with most areas experiencing modest gains.

Right now, there are many homes from which to choose, and in most areas, buyers dont have to deal with the harried and hurried competition of multiple bids. The changing market has also changed the inventory landscape to include fewer speculative sellers and a larger share of serious and motivated sellers.

Prospective homebuyers have some time to shop inventory and thoroughly compare home types and prices, amenities, neighborhoods, commutes and other important real estate-related features. And buyers have stronger price negotiation power as sellers compete for their attention by offering concessions or other incentives.

While all real estate markets have ups and downs, Americans continue to consistently build wealth through homeownership. According to the NAR:

On average, the value of a home doubles every 10 years. During the past three decades, home values have increased an average of 6.6 percent per year.

The average homeowner today has 36 times the wealth of the average renter. Homeowners are essentially paying themselves when they pay their mortgages, and this means theyre building equity. Homeowners also benefit from some real estate-related tax write-offs like mortgage interest.

Sixty percent of the average homeowners wealth is their homes equity. For homeowners whore in their homes for the long term, home equity typically is their single largest source of wealth.

Because every market is different, its a good idea for potential homebuyers to contact a local real estate specialist to learn more about whats happening in his or her community and real estate market. The bottom line in real estate doesnt change if youre ready to buy and can afford to make a long-term homeownership commitment, its always a good time to buy!

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"Green" Homes Soften A Tough Real Estate Market

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5/27/2008 - "Green" Homes Soften A Tough Real Estate Market
by http://www.nbnnews.com

Home builders attending the May 11-13 NAHB National Green Building Show in New Orleans were told by market analysts that they have a long way to go to sell the benefits of sustainable construction technologies to their prospective customers.

But at a time when housing demand remains largely sluggish around the country, advances in green building are providing a notable shot in the arm for builders, and as the housing industry moves out of its cyclical downturn green business appears headed for a galloping rate of growth.

Builders polled in the latest survey by McGraw Hill Construction on the evolving trends and opportunities in the green residential marketplace cited demand from this quarter of the industry for keeping their businesses alive during hard times.

We have hit the tipping point for builders going green, said Harvey M. Bernstein, McGraw Hills vice president of industry analytics, alliance and strategic initiatives.

This year, the number of builders who are moderately green those with 30% green projects has surpassed those with a low share of green those who are green in less than 15% of their projects, Bernstein said.

Next year, he predicted, we will see even greater growth, with highly green builders those with 60% green projects surpassing those with a low share of green. This year has seen an 8% jump over last year, and we expect another 10% increase next year.

Its official. Green has gone mainstream, said Ray Tonjes, chair of the NAHB Green Building Subcommittee. And now, the NAHB National Green Building Program is making it easier for home builders to provide sustainable, environmentally friendly homes for their customers. Were ready for the market transformation that McGraw-Hill Construction estimates.

Green is driving a lot of what really is happening in this marketplace, said Bernstein.

Green home building is poised to generate between $12 billion and $20 billion in sales this year, accounting for a 6% to 10% share of the housing market, according to the McGraw Hill report, up from $7 billion in home sales and a 2% share in 2005.

This years green building is projected to double over the next five years, reaching a 12% to 20% share of the U.S. housing market with $40 billion to $70 billion in sales in 2012.

Green homes are defined by McGraw Hill as those containing energy-efficient, indoor air quality, water-efficient, resource-efficient and site management features.

Forty percent of those surveyed by McGraw Hill said that the down market has made it easier to market green homes, and 16% said that the housing slump has made it much easier.

The higher quality associated with green building appears to be the key factor driving demand going forward at a time when homes need to stand out in a market with a glut of inventory, Bernstein said. Acknowledging that current adverse economic conditions are imposing an obstacle, he said that rising energy costs are influencing customers and increasing their willingness to pay a premium for green housing.

Experiencing the strongest growth in green building this year are the Pacific, South Atlantic and Mountain regions, in that order, the survey showed. From consumer surveying, the states with the highest percent of green home purchases from 2004 to 2006 were Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Florida. Texas was the one state where builders seemed to be less bullish on prospects for green building than their customers, he said.

Among other survey findings:

  • Eighty-five percent of those polled said that homes have become more energy-efficient over the past two years. Other features making homes more environmentally friendly include: tighter insulation (55%), more recycled content (41%), better indoor air quality (39%) and more water conservation (28%).
  • To learn more about green building, builders are most often using print sources (90%), followed by home building Web sites (71%); home building product manufacturers (64%); and NAHB trade shows, conferences and workshops (58%).
  • Seventy-six percent reported no difference in the time it takes to gain project approval for green homes versus those that are non-green.
  • Ninety-five percent said that creating a better quality product that would retain its value longer was a very or somewhat important motive for building green. Next down on the list of motives was its the right thing to do (91%), which was the top motivating factor in a similar 2006 survey. That was followed by expanding business with customers interested in green building (90%), lowering recycling costs (90%) and staying ahead of the compet ition (80%).
  • Triggers impacting expansion of green building include: energy costs and utility rebates (84%), emphasis on efficiency (77%), superior performance (76%) and gaining a competitive advantage (74%).
  • Among obstacles with the greatest impact on future green home building: consumer willingness to pay (82%); higher first cost (82%); overall economic conditions (81%); lack of education about green building (72%); lack of awareness about green products (72%); and codes, ordinances and regulations (67%).
  • Builders who are heavily involved in green building said there was an average 7.5% higher incremental cost to build green over an average project; moderately involved builders reported an average 10% cost premium; and builders who are only minimally involved perceived a 10.8% higher cost on average.
  • Only 24% agreed that environmental regulations hinder green building.
  • The most highly used green building features were: air sealing/tight construction; increased insulation; water-reducing plumbing fixtures; Energy Star windows, appliances, HVAC, exterior doors and lighting; and instant tankless water heaters.
  • The most requested green building features were: increased insulation, instant tankless water heaters, Energy Star appliances, air sealing/tight construction and insulation foundation walls and floors.
  • The top five most important energy efficiency options were: high-efficiency HVAC equipment (94%), Low E glass windows (92%), reduced air infiltration (90%), more energy-efficient appliances (90%) and above-code energy programs such as Energy Star certification (84%).
  • The most important water conservation options were: water-efficient fixtures and faucets (81%), water-efficient appliances (80%), storm water mitigation (65%), water filtering systems (42%) and gray water recycling (33%).
  • The most important green material options: hi-performance, engineered wood products (78%); allergen-free, chemical-free building materials (66%); recycled building materials, such as those used in decks and sheds (63%); alternatives to wood products (61%); and certified sustainably harvested lumber (53%).
  • The most highly rated green materials: OSB (78%), alternatives to dimensional lumber (72%), construction waste reduction (55%), easily available products and materials (54%) and recycled/recyclable products (52%).
  • The most important indoor air quality options were: HVAC (90%), formaldehyde-free finishes (73%), low VOC paint (66%) and minimum off-gassing (65%).
  • Seventy percent of those surveyed recognized green brands in house wrap, doors and windows, insulation, water conservation and HVAC. No product category had less than 25% recognition, Bernstein said, and anything over 5% is considered significant.
  • Without prompting, green product brands cited by builders included: GE (34%) and Whirlpool (13%) appliances; Tyvek house wrap (63%); Andersen (17%), Pella (12%) and Marvin (8%) windows; Trane (17%), Carrier (14%) and Lennox (13%) HVAC; Trex exterior framing (27%); Owens Corning insulation (26%); Kohler (21%) and Delta (14%) water conservation; Sherwin Williams (32%) and Benjamin Moore (8%) paint and wall finishes; TJI wood framing (8%); and James Hardie cladding (19%).


More information on green building from McGraw Hill construction can be found at: analyticsstore.construction.com and greensource.construction.com.

For information on green building resources from NAHB, click here; or e-mail Calli Schmidt, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.

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New Greenway Likely in Asheville Area

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5/27/2008 - New Greenway Likely in Asheville Area
by http://www.citizen-times.com

SWANNANOA A greenway meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. today at the Beacon Square Building, 204 Whitson Avenue (one block south of U.S. 70). The meeting, which is open to the public, will continue to explore options for a greenway corridor between Swannanoa and Black Mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Local School Ranks High

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5/22/2008 - Local School Ranks High
by www.buncombe.k12.nc.us

T.C. Roberson High School ranks in the top 5 percent academically of all high schools in the country, according to Newsweek Magazine.

Schools across the country were ranked based on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by students at a school in 2007. That total is divided by the number of graduating seniors. The schools in the top 5 percent have an index of at least 1.000. Roberson High's index score was 1.083 which ranks 1,281 in the country.

Receiving a place in this ranking is a compliment to the parents, teachers, and most of all the students of the Buncombe County Schools, stated Mr. Rob Weinkle, Principal.

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Asheville's Pack Square Park Nears Construction

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5/21/2008 - Asheville's Pack Square Park Nears Construction
by www.mountainx.com

The Pack Square Conservancy got some good news Wednesday: A long-awaited $7.5 million contract on construction of Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville will likely be signed this week.

Once the deal with Valley Crest Landscape Design Inc. is inked, construction should be in full gear by early to mid June, according to Mark Durbin, the owners representative for the Pack Square Conservancy. Durbin said the contract was in the process of being updated and then forwarded to Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson for his signature.

The start of construction will be a milestone in a project that has been marked by setbacks and rising costs, and theres been controversy over design elements in the park. The Pack Square Conservancy was formed in 2000 by an agreement with it, Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. The conservancy was given the authority for overseeing the planning, design, fundraising and construction of the 6.5-acre park.

The board of local leaders broke ground at the site in 2005. Last year, the conservancy said the project was expected to cost $17.5 million. At the conservancys meeting Wednesday, the board said the cost was expected to be $22 million.

At the meeting Wednesday, conservancy board members expressed concern about the constructions impact on local businesses in the area. The board is planning a meeting later this month to explain details of the construction to business owners.

Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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Asheville's Vacation Home Industry Makes Top Ten

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5/21/2008 - Asheville's Vacation Home Industry Makes Top Ten
by http://nuwireinvestor.com

5. Asheville, NC

The city of Asheville welcomed 2.76 million overnight leisure visitors in 2005, according to the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city is within easy driving distance of Lake Lure and Lake Powhattan as well as the French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers. Visitors who feel like trying their stamina on the Appalachian Trail can get there easily from Asheville. Asheville is also home to several thriving artistic neighborhoods, such as the River Arts District. In the spring, flowers coat Western North Carolina with a rainbow of blossoms. Estimations of when various flowers are likely to be in bloom can be found on the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau website. Frommers named the area a must-see destination in 2007, according to the Bureau.

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Asheville: Top 100 Places to Live and Launch

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5/21/2008 - Asheville: Top 100 Places to Live and Launch
by http://money.cnn.com

 41. Asheville, N.C.

It's no secret that Asheville, nestled in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains, is a site to see - so many entrepreneurs have tried to profit off of the city's tourism and hospitality industries that these sectors are now almost oversaturated.

What's less well known is that Asheville is actively recruiting to fill new markets, especially the tech industry. Home of the National Climatic Center, Asheville encourages its business community to leverage and support the weather facility. The city has seen a steady increase in the number of local firms innovating in the areas of communications, software, digital media, fiber optics and tech commercialization. The Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council offers education and networking; it also co-sponsors an annual venture-capital conference that has helped new regional companies raise more than $6 million over the past year. The Technology Commercialization Center managed by the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College is dedicated to helping tech startups bring their innovations to market.

Manufacturing and tech-based businesses can take advantage of state tax credits for job creation and research and development. New and expanding companies that invest a minimum of $1.5 million in construction, machinery and equipment in Asheville can apply for a local Economic Development Incentive grant. Asheville also has a thriving creative community. Local organizations such as HandMade in America and Asheville Hub help area artists market their creations.

Asheville's architecture is an eye-catching mix of Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles. For outdoor enthusiasts, the area offers scenic and challenging hiking and mountain biking trails and whitewater rafting on one of three regional rivers. Add in a diverse local music scene and premier golf courses and you've got a city that offers a little something for everyone in the way of entertainment. -Brandi Stewart

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