Blog :: 06-2014

Asheville Out of Recession Faster than Most Cities

Road to Recovery

This month marks the fifth anniversary since the Great Recession supposedly ended.

It may or may not feel like a recovery, depending on whether you got laid off or saw any raise, found a new job or didn't, or if anything else happened to you or your loved ones in the tough labor market. The economist John Maynard Keynes said animal spirits, those energies and enthusiasms, drive markets and consumers more so than mathematical formulas.

But looking at the figures, Asheville has fared far better than most cities, coming out of the worst economic downturn of our lifetimes.

Would you believe we're just shy of the top 10 in the whole country for the fastest recovery?

Researchers at NerdWallet, an online financial tools site, crunched the numbers and pinpointed Asheville as the 11th best among 510 big and small cities for a drop in unemployment, rise in income and change in median home values.

Texas communities claimed eight of the 10 top spots, sparked by the Lone Star State's heated economy with more energy jobs. Fargo, N.D., and Chattanooga, Tenn., saved the list from total Texas domination.

"What we noticed among the 510 cities we studied, the most improved were largely suburb communities or mid-sized cities at most," said analyst Sreekar Jasthi, who looked at data from the official end of the Great Recession in 2009 through 2012.

The largest city to crack the top 50 was Washington. Detroit, now in bankruptcy, was the worst performing major city, ranking 509 out of 510 cities.

"Asheville saw unemployment fall by nearly 23 percent since 2009 and income rose by 26 percent. Those are pretty significant changes," Jasthi said. The snapshot showed Asheville median home values fell by only less than half a percent during that same period. Since then, Asheville home values have been on the increase.

The Asheville metro area, which includes Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties, posted its highest unemployment rate at 10.1 percent in February 2010. In April, the jobless rate was at 4.5 percent.

Once considered almost recession-proof by business leaders, Asheville lost some 10,000 jobs after the 2008 economic meltdown which saw the local housing market suffer and many companies lay off workers.

But a spike in tourism jobs, healthy growth in the area health care industry and new announcements in advanced manufacturing have brought Asheville back up to speed.

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'Walkability' Drives Real Estate Values


Car shares, bike shares, improved rapid transit and teleworking. All are the product of a new generation that is more environmentally conscious than any before it and more willing to use its own energy to get around town, rather than tapping expensive energy sources.


Millennials prefer urban cores, even ones outside of major metropolitan areas, because they want to be able to walk or bike to work and stores. In turn, areas that offer so-called walkability should see more home buyers and renters than those that don't.


"Cities that want to thrive in our new economic and demographic realities will need to find ways to create and support more of these dynamic, productive walkable districts that are in high demand," said Geoff Anderson, CEO of Smart Growth America, which, in conjunction with George Washington University School of Business, released a new report ranking the walkability of the nation's 30 largest metropolitan areas.


There is, in fact, already a distinct correlation between walkability and real estate values, both commercial and residential.


"Walkable, urban for-sale housing is by far the most expensive housing in the country. The range depends on the market, between 40 percent and 200 percent greater than drivable, suburban housing," said GWU's Chris Leinberger, author of the report. "Twenty-five years ago that relationship didn't exist because walkable (cities back then) was not valued."


Home values have bounced back higher and faster in walkable neighborhoods than in the so-called exurbs.


Washington, D.C., wins as the nation's most walkable city, according to the survey, which looked at the share of office and retail space located in a city's "WalkUPs" -- walkable urban places -- through the first quarter of 2014. A city can have several different WalkUPs within its limits; metro New York contains 66, while San Antonio has just two.


WalkUPs still occupy a relatively small portion of the 30 cities' land, just 1 percent on average. Still, these areas offer outsized economic benefit, according to the survey.


Commercial office space in walkable areas has an average 74 percent price-per-square-foot premium over suburban business parks, according to Leinberger. For apartments, there is a 70 percent rental premium on walkability. That is likely why, in the current real estate cycle, 85 percent of all rental apartments have been built in walkable urban places.


In Washington, researchers identified 45 WalkUPs that occupy just 1 percent of the metro's acreage but account for 48 percent of its new office, hotel and rental apartment square footage. D.C. is also the only metropolitan region that has more than half of its WalkUPs in its close-in suburbs (which are classified as part of the metro market). Suburbs like Bethesda, Md., and Crystal City, Va., are seeing huge commercial development and rising real estate values, thanks to their focus on the new urban, walkable core.


In Crystal City, developers are luring tech start-ups, selling them on the walkability of the area.

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A Rooftop Farm, Coming Soon to Your Supermarket

By: Jennifer Grayson




We Americans, living in the land of fast-food drive-throughs and cardboard tomatoes for some time now, are starting to gain an appreciation for high-quality food. The number of farmers markets in the U.S. has grown by more than 60 percent in the past five years alone. "Farm-to-table" restaurants are now de rigueur in nearly every U.S. city.

But we also still have a taste for cheap food. Americans spend less on food than in any other country in the world -- six percent of our total household expenditures. Local food may now be a $7 billion-a-year business, but it's still a very small slice of the pie. As EcoWatch reported this week, big box stores like Target and Walmart are fast becoming our major grocery-shopping destinations.

Not everyone lives near or has time to shop at the farmers market. It's too bad, because once you've gotten a taste of peppery just-picked arugula or those sugary little pear tomatoes that waft their earthy, viny scent right before you pop them in your mouth, it's hard to go back to the packaged stuff.

I've gotten spoiled living in Southern California, where even the garnish on a deli sandwich was grown at most a couple hundred miles away. It's only when I visit family in Chicago in the dead of winter and see the sad looking strawberries in the fridge that I suddenly remember what the rest of the country is dealing with: a centralized, industrialized food system that wastes 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget shipping our food thousands of miles from where it was grown.

So how to reconcile all this -- the growing desire for good, local food; the ability to do it at an affordable price; and the infrastructure to deliver it on a scale so that most Americans can access it? Enter urban farming innovator BrightFarms, which is skipping the whole shipping part of the food system equation and bringing the farm -- in the form of sustainable hydroponic greenhouse -- right near or even on the rooftop of the grocery store.

It was CEO Paul Lightfoot's love of locally grown produce and loathing of the aforementioned cardboard tomato (he grows the good kind with his young daughter at home) that first inspired him to do something to improve our food system, but it was his work background -- running a software company that improved the supply chains of retailers -- that allowed him to hone BrightFarms' revolutionary business model. The company designs, finances, builds and operates the greenhouses; the grocery store agrees to buy the produce that BrightFarms grows. (Borrowing from the solar industry's now ubiquitous power purchase agreement, the company also calls this a PPA -- produce purchase agreement.)

The growing process is ultra-efficient, too: a one-acre greenhouse is capable of growing up to 500,000 pounds of pesticide-free produce a year, with 10 times less land and seven times less water than conventional field agriculture. Water is recycled through a closed loop system and there is no agricultural runoff.

Although you may have already heard of BrightFarms (if you haven't yet watched Lightfoot's compelling TEDx talk, you should), what you may have missed is how rapidly the company is expanding. Its first greenhouse, in Bucks County, Pa., started delivering greens, herbs and tomatoes to regional grocery chain McCaffrey's just this past January. But the company already has an additional seven greenhouses in development and is now looking for a new 200,000-square-foot site in New York City, after recently terminating a lease it signed in 2012 for a rooftop site in Brooklyn's Sunset Park.


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Green Remodeling: Sustainable Innovations


Green remodeling your home can provide numerous financial, health and environmental benefits; from making your air healthier, to cutting down your energy bill, to lowering your carbon footprint. Most people like the idea of "greening" their home, but many are daunted by complex technical information and don't where to begin. Here are some steps towards your home's green remodel.

First off some simple steps like painting, but you want to make sure to choose the right paint.

Significant innovations in paint over the past 20 years have lead to fascinating interior and exterior applications. Today home owners can use paint to generate solar power, light up a hallway, waterproof a basement and even draw on the walls with no fear. If you're thinking about painting your home, knowing what's new in paint technology may be helpful in deciding how to move forward with your next project. Here are just a few new and innovative products to keep in mind while you plan:

Keep it Green with Low- or No-VOC Paint

low-voc-paint Today's biggest trend is the increased availability of low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint choices. Just about every major paint manufacturer has at least one line now. These paints protect consumers from a number of health issues associated with VOCs, and contributes to improved indoor environmental quality, which is one key goal of the green building and remodeling movement. Heat-Sensitive and Solar Power Paints Paint that detects and reacts to changes in temperature has been around for a while, but interest in its varied applications is growing. This paint may be used in color-changing interior wall designs, where one or more elements of the motif appear or disappear according to the temperature in the room, or applied on kitchen or bathroom surfaces as a temperature gauge. The paint is also being tested to determine whether it can be used to improve energy efficiency as well -- absorbing heat during winter and deflecting sunlight in warm weather. Other companies are researching new technology that harnesses nano particles that absorb light, which may one day enable consumers to very cheaply generate solar energy for their homes.

Paint that Lights Up a Room - Literally Researchers recently developed and patented a new type of paint that will one day enable home owners to paint lights onto walls and other parts of the home. This new electroluminescent coating technology turns commonly used metal, plastic and wood surfaces into lamps when the paint is energized with an electrical current. One future use of the product could come in handy for those interested in universal design: a painted white hand rail that illuminates at night, lighting your way in the dark.

Wrap Your Home in Insulation - "The More, The Better!" Proper insulation is probably the most important factor you can control in creating an energy-efficient home. I always say insulation is like chocolate, the more you have, the better! On average, ½ of your home's heating and cooling will escape through walls (35%), windows (25%), floor (15%) and roof (25%). Therefore, the first thing you should do to determine where insulation is needed is to scan your home with a thermal radiometer or infrared scanner in order to detect where your home is leaking heat. (You could hire a professional energy auditor to come out and do an infrared scan of your house and produce pretty rainbow color pictures, like the one above, or you could do it yourself with a cheap spot radiometer like this Black and Decker Thermal Leak Detector).

Manage Your Heating and Cooling Intelligently with a Thermostat All the insulation in the world won't make a difference in cutting energy costs if you aren't smart about how you heat and cool your house. This may sound blindingly obvious to some, but you can cut your heating bill in half if you are strategic about WHEN your heating and cooling is running. Without a thermostat to guide them, most heating/cooling systems are dumb and blind and will consume loads of energy keeping your bedroom nice and toasty during the day (when you are not home), or warming your living room at night (when you are asleep). If you connect your heating and cooling system to a programmable thermostat, you can heat/cool different rooms at specific times during the day when people will be in those rooms (such as between 6-8pm in the evening, after work). Many brands of thermostats (check out Honeywell) even have smart phone apps that allow you to program your heating and cooling on the fly, remotely.

Conserve Water Through Smart Technology

 AQUS grey water toilet, which recycles grey water from your sink to flush your toilet1

AQUS grey water toilet, which recycles grey water from your sink to flush your toilet!

Because water seems plentiful and is all-around us, most Americans have no idea about the coming water crisis. Our water infrastructure is crumbling in this country and potable water shortages are going to become commonplace within 10 years. You can get a jump on tackling this looming problem by installing some water-saving appliances in your house, such as low-flow shower-heads and water-saving toilets. I'm a big fan of the AQUS grey water toilet, which recycles grey water from your sink to flush your toilet! 60% of the average American's water use takes place outside the home (in irrigating water-sucking lawns), so ditch the 1950?s Cleaver-style lawn and consider "xeriscaping" - planting native foliage that doesn't need high maintenance watering and fertilizing.

Overhaul Your Roof To Cool Your House, Neighborhood & Your Carbon Footprint

64 Narbeth

If you really want to green your home, you need to green your roof! If your roof isn't white/reflective, green, or covered in photovoltaic tiles, you've got room for improvement!


Dark colored roofs soaks up the sun's energy and make your home and the surrounding area hotter. That's why tons of dark roofs clustered together in one spot can warm up an entire city to create the "urban heat island effect" - an effect which causes cities to be significantly warmer (sometimes up 10 degrees warmer) than surround natural landscapes. Do your neighbors and your electricity bill a favor and make your roof a 'white roof'. By reflecting the sun's rays, you can lower the temperature of your house and save on your cooling bills by up to 40%.



Installing a green roof on your home requires a bit more effort, but they have the same cooling effect as white roofs plus lots of added benefits such as producing oxygen, absorbing carbon and mitigating storm water runoff pollution. An easy way to get started with green roofs is to look for a turnkey, modular green roof system like GreenGrid. One thing to consider when deciding if a green roof is right for your home is that weight can be a concern, so make sure your home's structure is strong enough to withstand the added poundage on the roof. Green roofs are a great way to add insulation to your home while adding more greenery and oxygen to your local environment.


If you're feeling even more ambitious, putting photovoltaic panels up on your roof is a great way to generate your own energy and save an enormous amount of money on your monthly energy bill - in many areas you can even get money back each month from your local energy company! Installing solar panels is not an inexpensive or simple endeavor, but there are tax breaks in many states that make it an easier pill to swallow, and your investment will pay off eventually, through tax breaks and energy-bill savings, over many years. is a great resource to find the solar tax incentives in your local area. Getsolar is a great place to find solar installers and consultants in your area.

Upgrade Your Lighting To Improve Your Energy Bill and Your Outlook on Life

Most people don't realize that lighting is responsible for at least 1/3 of the energy used in the average home. There are several different ways you can transform your current situation to reduce the energy used by lighting and the cost of your electric bill by nearly 25%. Start by switching the types of bulbs you use to energy-efficient LEDs, and get creative with natural daylight - it will make a significant difference!


These days there's more than one type of bulb on the market that claims to be "eco-friendly," but not every "green" bulb is created equally. In recent years we've been encouraged to leave the archaic incandescent bulb behind and switch to newer technology such as fluorescents. Although CFLs are more energy-efficient than incandescents, LED bulbs don't have the nasty problem of mercury in their bulbs. Now, more than ever before, with the release of products like these square LED alternatives, LED lighting is quickly becoming the most efficient and convenient form of indoor lighting on the market. The cost of LED bulbs will continue to drop.


Even though the sun is 93 million miles away, the benefits it can provide to your well-being and your carbon footprint are innumerable. From strategically placed windows and new approaches to the concept of "skylights", such as solar tubes and fibe roptic sunlight transport devices, getting creative with natural daylight can reap big benefits for your health and your energy bill.


So by now you know that having strategically placed windows and/or skylights is great in terms of flooding your home with natural light - making you peppy and cutting your energy bill. The downside to this, of course, is that while additional solar radiation can be a boon in the winter when you are trying to keep warm, it can be a real problem in the summer when you are trying to cool your home, and the sun keeps heating it back up again! Fortunately there are many great tricks and tips to cut solar radiation in the summer and maximize it in the winter, such as positioning your windows correctly, placing overhangs over your windows, and placing trees in front of your windows (in summer leaves will shade the windows, while in the winter, bare branches will let sunlight into your windows). This collection of tried and true natural methods for heating and cooling your house using the sun is called 'Passive Solar Design' and it is a powerful and fascinating discipline that is worth studying.



Read More Green Remodeling

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Giving Back to Asheville

Giving Back to Asheville, North Carolina

The Highlands of Roan, the Black Balsams, the Seven Sisters, the Blue Ridge. The Appalachian Mountains have played an important role in shaping the person I am today as they helped me to see the bigger picture of the impact that my actions have on the planet. They are why I am a 1% for the Planet member and why I volunteer my time with and support the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), a nonprofit with a sterling track record of preserving the pristine places in and around the area I call home.

As a real estate broker in Asheville, N.C., I witness the vibrancy of my local economy, which is built upon small businesses, agriculture, artists, tourism and outdoor recreation, every day. In addition to helping to conserve the Appalachian Mountains, I became a 1% FTP member because I want to be part of the solution to preserve lands vital to my community for future generations.    

1% FTP allows me to publicly demonstrate my commitments to conservation and SAHC. I hope to help other people become aware of the opportunities to support local organizations by talking to them about 1% FTP's mission and including its logo in my email signature and on all of my marketing materials. This allows people to immediately recognize that I have a passion for conservation-minded work. I hope to inspire others, especially small business owners, to join this movement with me. It is one thing to say you're committed; it something else to be held accountable to that commitment.

Check out Robbie's Bio Here

Town and Mountain Realty Agents Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

Town and Mountain Realty Agents Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

All of our agents take time out of their schedules to get out of the office and make a difference in the community. Town and Mountain Realty groups participate in many Habitat for Humanity volunteer work days and have contributed upwards of 400 work hours building homes. In addition to working with their hands, they also give financially; the company has donated a portion of its closings to help Blue Ridge Forever safeguard land and water, and helped support Dining Out for Life, Girls on the Run, and more over the years.

"That's part of who we are and who we want to be," Mike said. Locally owned and operated, not part of a real estate franchise, Town and Mountain is independent and focused on the needs of its clients and those who want to buy or sell real estate. The concept is important to the company.

"I've lived here about all my life," Mike said. "All our agents are locally involved. That's who we want to be - an independent business, involved in our community and helping people achieve their real estate goals."

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