Blog :: 03-2013

Home sales rise to 3-year high

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3/25/2013 - Home sales rise to 3-year high
by Julie Schmit - USA Today

Existing home sales continued to climb in February, further evidence of a continuing recovery in the housing market. 

Home sales rose 0.8 percent in February from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, 10.2 percent above last year's level, the National Association of Realtors saidThursday. The sales rate was the highest since November 2009, when a federal tax credit was propping up home sales. January's sales rate was also revised up to 4.94 million. Total inventory, which had been dropping for months, rose 9.6 percent at the end of the February to 1.94 million homes for sale, a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace. That's up from 4.3 months in January. 

Listed inventory was 19 percent below a year ago and the supply is especially tight in certain areas of the country, such as in the West. With limited supply, bidding wars have broken out as buyers have little to choose from and agents have little to sell. 

But last month's inventory expansion was a strong one, said Jed Kolko, economist for website Trulia. 

Inventory has been tightening because construction levels are still low, adding little new housing stock, and homeowners are waiting to sell until they have more positive equity, Kolko said. 

He said inventory is likely to rise now through the summer because of seasonality, bringing some relief to buyers and helping boost sales. The February jump "is an early hint that the inventory crunch may finally be easing for good," Kolko said. 

In a separate report Thursday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency -- the regulator for mortgage- finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- said home prices rose 0.6 percent from December to January. For the 12 months ending in January, prices rose 6.5 percent. 

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Asheville Adventure of the Week: Spring at Arboretum

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3/21/2013 - Asheville Adventure of the Week: Spring at Arboretum
by Karen Chavez - Asheville Citizen Times

What: Celebrate spring's arrival with a hike, garden stroll or the WNC Orchid Society Show at N.C. Arboretum.

When: Orchid show is 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Arboretum grounds and gardens are open 8 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, with entrance gates closing at 6 p.m.

Where: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, at Milepost 393 on Blue Ridge Ridge Parkway.

Cost: Shows and events are free for Arboretum Society members or with parking fee of $8 per personal vehicle.

Details: Spring -- in theory, anyway -- arrived Wednesday morning in Western North Carolina. Even if the actual events want to keep believing it's winter outside, celebrate in the best possible way with a visit to the N.C. Arboretum, where spring is definitely making an effort.

"Some of the things that people might see in bloom this weekend, besides the orchids, are a lot of our spring bulbs," said Allison Inman, arboretum marketing coordinator.

"Daffodils are in full bloom, the crocus and the dwarf iris are already blooming, our hyacinths are just starting to show some hints of purple and pink, and the blossoms on cherry trees in the Bonsai Exhibition Garden are beginning to open up. We're hoping the cold weather forecast for the weekend doesn't get to them."

The cultivated gardens are the best places to take a stroll in search of early spring color this weekend, including the Plants of Promise Garden, adjacent to the Visitor Education Center. There are also 10 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Try the Natural Garden Trail, a 3/4-mile loop from the Plants of Promise Garden to the north end of the Core Area Gardens on a gently graded, natural surface.

And, if the weather is just too unspringlike to be outdoors, you can still soak in flower power at the WNC Orchid Society show. The theme of the show is the "Lost World of Orchids" and will include world-class orchid growers from around the country providing growing advice, vendors selling plants and supplies, and educational programs.

There are other indoor opportunities, including the Ann Vasilik watercolor exhibit on display at the Baker Center and the Nancy G. Cook Textile Art exhibit at the Education Center Gallery.

Directions: From Asheville, take Interstate 26 East to Exit 33 (Blue Ridge Parkway/Brevard Road/N.C 191). Turn left onto N.C. 191 and go two miles. Turn right at the light and the entrance sign.

Information: Call 665-2492 or visit www.ncarboretum.org to register.

Karen Chávez

 

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Easter egg hunts start this weekend

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3/21/2013 - Easter egg hunts start this weekend
by Kate Wadington - Asheville Citizen Times

Kids, get your baskets ready. Less than a week after St. Patrick's Day and we've moved on to Easter. Asheville-area organizations host so many egg hunts and holiday festivities they can't be contained in one weekend.

There are two big events Saturday.

The city of Asheville's Bojangles Easter Eggstravaganza is one of the season's biggest celebrations, with egg hunts, inflatables, face painting, crafts, wildlife programs by WNC Nature Center, entertainment from the Mountain Thunder Cloggers, crafts by Easel Rider Mobile Art Lab, and free BoBerry biscuits. Egg hunts are for toddlers through children age 11 and go off at 4 p.m. The entire event runs 2-4:30 p.m. at Carrier Park, off Amboy Road, in West Asheville. Visit www.ashevillenc.gov/parks.

Buncombe County also hosts an egg hunt, combined with a splash party. The hunt at the Zeugner Center starts at 1 p.m. After your kids get a stash of eggs, they can stay for games, a visit with the Easter Bunny and swim in the indoor pool from 2-4 p.m. The hunt and party are free; swimming is $2 per person plus a can of food for MANNA FoodBank. The Zeugner Center is behind Roberson High School at 50 Springside Drive. Call 684-5072 or visitwww.buncombecounty.org.

On Sunday, Smith-McDowell House Museum hosts an egg hunt with a sing-along program and games, too. Younger kids wll have their own hunt. From 2-4 p.m. on the grounds of the house, at 283 Victoria Road, Asheville. Cost is $5 per child. Reservations are recommended by calling 253-9231. Visit www.wnchistory.org.

If Easter egg hunts aren't your thing, there are a couple of opportunities to get your dancing shoes on instead.

Rainbow Mountain Children's School hosts a Creative Peace Celebration 2-3 p.m. Saturday with dances, games, stories, songs and refreshments for all ages. Love offering is requested; no one will be turned away. Contact Damira at damira51@gmail.com or 246-4485.

Or maybe contra dancing is more your style. In that case, head to the Old Farmer's Ball on Saturday night at the Asheville YMCA. Try square dancing and similar kinds of traditional folk dance, rooted in old-time Appalachian music and other styles of traditional fiddle music. The family dance, best for ages 5-11, is 6-7:30 p.m. The contra dance for teens and adults is 8-10 p.m. with a beginner lesson at 7:30. For details, visit www.oldfarmersball.com/ymca/index.php.

 

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Asheville council talks tourism, housing

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3/12/2013 - Asheville council talks tourism, housing
by Mark Barrett - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- City Council discussed getting a dedicated share of the local room tax, concentrating efforts to improve economic development and retooling affordable housing efforts during its annual retreat Monday.

Council supported adding more emphasis on food security and related issues to its strategic plan but did not change the plan's basic structure or goals.

There were worries about how the city can pay for services during a period of slow growth in its largest revenue source, property taxes.

The cost of things the city must pay for, like gasoline and electricity, has been going up faster than the city's revenue, said Lauren Bradley, head of finance and management services.

The city has cut some spending, but "There's only so much of that you can do before you start talking about these core services like public safety or development review," she said.

She suggested eliminating programs "with low returns or limited usage" and focusing some city spending on programs likely to grow the city's tax base and thus return revenue to city government.

Much of the opportunity for focused spending to spur development is in the River Arts District, Bradley said, where there is some city-owned property and some vacant private property.

The city could also look at ways to facilitate growth in downtown's South Slope area, which runs from about Aston Street downhill to Southside Avenue, she said.

Council members said they were interested in trying to see a share of the 4 percent tax on hotel and motel rooms levied in Buncombe County dedicated to flow into city coffers, although they acknowledged that selling tourism interests on the idea might be difficult.

Most of the tax goes to advertising and similar efforts to draw tourists here, but part is spent on bricks-and-mortar projects expected to attract visitors or keep them in the area longer.

A decision by the county Tourism Development Authority last year to award money to a zipline business in competition with other private companies in the same field spurred some criticism at the time.

The city has received room tax proceeds for several projects, including re venues to U.S. Cellular Center, but competes annually with other proposals.

Mayor Terry Bellamy said she would like Asheville to be able to count on a regular appropriation from room tax proceeds.

Councilman Cecil Bothwell said Asheville does not get the same benefits from the tax as some cities: "Other tourist towns have higher room taxes and maybe get some for their general funds."

Councilman Jan Davis said the issue must be approached carefully if the city hopes to get support from the tourism industry.

"That's a fragile thing," he said.

With the city's ability to annex areas outside its current limits significantly curtailed by the General Assembly, councilmen said the city will probably see denser development in its limits over the years as a way to provide affordable housing and grow its tax base.

"With increased density come increased livability challenges" the city will have to be sensitive to, Councilman Gordon Smith said.

Private companies have not used some incentives the city has set up to promote affordable housing construction, however, prompting suggestions from council members that they be reconsidered.

There was also support for looking at ways to break up large public housing projects around the city in favor of mixed-use developments that would incorporate housing at various price points.

Council members said changing public housing is a complicated issue that will require research and discussion with other stakeholders before the city could move forward.

The significant presence of tourism and attracting retirees in the local economy is likely to create challenges in making housing affordable for some time to come, Bothwell said.

People retiring here from places where housing is more expensive "tend to bid up the cost (of housing). At the same time, tourism tends to be a low-dollar employment industry," he said.

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Asheville's Greenlife raises funds for RiverLink Wednesday

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3/12/2013 - Asheville's Greenlife raises funds for RiverLink Wednesday
by Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- For its quarterly Community Giving Day on Wednesday, Greenlife Grocery will donate 5 percent of sales to the Asheville nonprofit RiverLink.

Each quarter, Greenlife donates 5 percent of one day's sales to a local community organization in the Community Giving event. This quarter, RiverLink is the beneficiary.

The grocery store, at 70 Merrimon Ave., will donate the portion of proceeds 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday.

RiverLink is dedicated to the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River and its tributaries as a place to work, live and play. The nonprofit's staff and volunteers will be at Greenlife all day Wednesday to answer questions and bag groceries.

To learn more, contact Dave Russell at 252-8474, ext. 11, or dave@riverlink.org.

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sheville's Biltmore toppled as top tourism site

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3/5/2013 - Asheville's Biltmore toppled as top tourism site
by Mark Barrett - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Science beat opulence last year as the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences moved to the top of a list of the state's most visited museums and historic sites, displacing the Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore finished first in each of the previous nine years for which Matthews-based Carolina Publishing Associates surveyed attendance at museums and historic sites, but the state-owned museum in Raleigh bested Biltmore by nearly 98,000 visitors in 2012.

The opening of the museum's Nature Research Center last April boosted its attendance numbers -- so much so that the head of the company that conducts the survey predicted that Biltmore will reclaim the top spot next year as the newness of the research center wears off.

"Biltmore continues to grow and extend its brand. They'll be right there at the top of the rankings," said Sam Rogers, president of Carolina Publishing.

The survey says the museum had 1.22 million visitors last year while Biltmore had 1.12 million.

Kathleen Mosher, director of communications at Biltmore, said the shift in the rankings does not indicate any loss of popularity there.

The estate saw more visitors over the 12 months that ended Thursday than it did over any 12-month-period, Mosher said. That figure was up 4 percent over the previous 12 months.

"We always feel fortunate to be included on any list of top attractions in the state," she said.

The Museum of Natural Sciences typically draws about 700,000 people a year, but the new 80,000-square-foot Nature Research Center helped change that, museum spokesman Jonathan Pishney said.

The center allows visitors to watch scientists at work in their laboratories in fields like genomics and paleontology, and scientists sometimes come out and explain their work to those watching, Pishney said. It has exhibits that allow visitors to do some hands-on experiments or explain how science is done.

"It's really a chance to sort of demystify and really encourage the new age of scientists," he said.

Another museum official said at a news conference Monday that the higher figures reflect growing curiosity about science, not just the new facility.

"Clearly, across North Carolina, there's a widespread interest to understand what science can tell us about what's changing in our society and in the environment around us," said Alvin Braswell, a deputy director of the museum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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sheville area real estate people

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3/4/2013 - Asheville area real estate people
by Asheville Citizen Times

Town and Mountain announces top producers

ASHEVILLE - Town and Mountain Realty, 261 Asheland Ave., announced its top producers for December and January.

o December: Top sales team: Town and Mountain RE-Source Team (Kenny Potts, leader); top sales individual: Jody Whitehurst; top producing team: Town and Mountain RE-Source Team (Kenny Potts, leader); and top producing individual: Katie Beane.

o January: Top producing team: Town and Mountain RE-Source Team (Kenny Potts, leader); individual: Jody Whitehurst; sales team: Eva Hartman and Amy Giles; and sales individual: Jody Whitehurst.

Bagby joins Town and Mountain

ASHEVILLE - Stephanie Bagby joined Town and Mountain Realty in December as the new broker-in-charge. She has been a Realtor since 1995. In addition to being broker-in-charge, Bagby will initiate a training and coaching program catered to new and experienced associates.

Fundraiser benefits local charities

ASHEVILLE - On Dec. 21, Town and Mountain Realty held its Home For The Holidays fundraiser at The Orange Peel. Agents, clients and guests contributed money to nine local charities, raising about $8,900. Owners Mike Miller and Joy Lovoy hope to make the fundraiser an annual event. For more information, call 232-2879.

 

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