Springtime in the High Country

A collection of photos recently shared on social media, spotlighting some of the beauty of the High Country area.

The Blowing Rock

A photo posted by Wayfarer99 (@wayfarer99) on

Downtown Boone, NC

A photo posted by Wayfarer99 (@wayfarer99) on

🙌🏽

A photo posted by Swaraj Sharma (@stuckintheaiir) on

Hiking on Beech Mtn! #beechmtn #allofmylove @beechmtn

A photo posted by Anne Neilson Fine Art Gallery (@anneneilsonfineart) on

The Blowing Rock

A photo posted by Wayfarer99 (@wayfarer99) on

Busy selling season starting early

Local Realtors® have enjoyed a brisk start to 2015, the busiest in eight years.

Buyers’ market conditions and low interest rates continue to fuel activity, convincing many sellers to get an early start on the busy summer season. New listings surged in April.

april sales graphicSo far this year Realtors® have sold 390 listings, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That was an increase of 11.7 percent compared to the same span in 2014, when 349 listings sold.

It’s also the most listings sold to start a year since 2008, when 381 transactions were recorded.

Prices, though, remain well below where they were then. In the first four months of 2008, the median sale price was $226,000. This year, in that same span, the price was $200,000.

As buyer activity has picked up, so has seller interest. There were 571 listings added or renewed within the MLS in April, which represents one of the earliest starts to the busy selling season in recent memory. An average of only 471 listings have been added the past five Aprils, and never more than 500 in the month.

“We are excited to see that our selling season has started off so strong,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer with the High Country Association of Realtors®. “With inventory high and interest rates still low we are looking forward to an even stronger market increase as we get into the summer months.”

With regard to April, Realtors® reported selling 110 homes worth $26.24 million. That was up slightly from March, when 106 sales occurred, but was a huge increase from a year ago, April 2014, when only 77 homes sold.

The median sale price for last month was $187,500, down 6.3 percent compared to April of last year ($200,000).

Interest rates climbed slightly in April. The average rate for a 30-year mortgage was 3.66 on April 9, and creeped up to 3.8 percent by May 7, according to loan giant Freddie Mac. The 15-year rate also climbed in that span, from 2.93 percent to 3.02 percent.

Those low rates, along with other economic conditions, are expected to boost the housing market this year, according to one analyst.

“This should be a good year for housing, buoyed by sustained job growth, rising consumer confidence that is back to pre-recession levels, and a gradual uptick in household formations,” said David Crowe, National Association of Home Builders chief economist. “We expect 2016 to be even better, due to a significant amount of pent-up demand and an economy that will be entering a period of reasonable strength and consistency.”

Realtors give back with Green Valley playground

The High Country Association of Realtors, working with Homes4NC and Habitat for Humanity, coordinated a two-day project building a new playground in the Greenwood Community near Green Valley School. More than two dozen volunteers worked together Thursday and Friday, May 7 and 8, to install new equipment and a picnic shelter.

Thank you to all who volunteered!

Realtors to build new Green Valley playground

Next week the High Country Association of Realtors will be working with Habitat for Humanity to build a new playground in Green Valley community. The goal is to complete the project by May 8.

Pam Vines, president of the HCAR, and Laurie Phillips, executive director of the HCAR, both discussed the project recently on the Mountain Television Network. Other topics included the mission of the HCAR and its commitment to the High Country area.

HCAR directors in Raleigh

Several members of the High Country Association of Realtors Board of Directors were in Raleigh the week of April 20, visiting several legislators. Once a year the North Carolina Association of Realtors meets for legislative meetings, and joins other Realtors from all over the state to converge on the capital and walk the halls to both thank representatives and let them know concerns.

Legislative office visit in April 2015

Legislative office visit in April 2015

Legislative office visit in April 2015

Legislative office visit in April 2015

Interest rates spur March real estate activity

Interest rates continued falling in March, spurring a busy month of real estate activity in the High Country. Local inventory grew, while nationally the sale of vacation homes hit a 12-year high.

There were 106 homes worth $28.8 million purchased in March, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks Realtor®-assisted sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

March 2015 sales graphicThe total sales were two fewer than March 2014, but the median sold price for the month – the midpoint at which half of all homes sold – was $200,000. That’s a 5.7 percent increase from the median price recorded last March, $189,250.

That marked the fourth month in the past six the median sold price has been $200,000 or greater, a streak last recorded in Spring 2012.

Inventory also grew in March, with Realtors® adding more than 200 listings. As of April 12 there were 2,458 homes on the market.

Interest rates continued attracting buyers. The 30-year fixed rate fell a half-percent from early March to April, from 4.38 percent to 3.66 percent as of April 9, according to lending giant Freddie Mac.

In that same time span the 15-year fixed rate declined from 3.03 percent to 2.93 percent.

The low rates combined with a long-standing buyers’ market in the local area are hopeful signs for increased real estate activity as the traditional busy season begins.

“It’s hard to believe that 3 to 4 percent mortgage rates are still with us,” said Pam Vines, president of the High Country Association of Realtors®. “It’s really quite remarkable.”

The READReport, which tracks all real estate transactions in the three-county area, reported 234 properties sold in March well above the 206 sold in March 2014. Yet the cumulative sale price was down slightly, from $40.3 million to $40.06 million.

The average sale price for all property transactions in March was $171,179 according to the READReport, a 13 percent decrease from the average in March 2014, when it was $195,667.

Year to date, property sales are up 12 percent, from 563 in the first three months of 2014 to 628 this year.

With regard to national trends, the High Country market could be impacted by a spike in demand for vacation homes.

According to the 2015 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), there were 1.13 million vacation-home sold last year, the most since the statistic began being tracked in 2003.

It was a 57 percent increase compared to 2013, when 717,000 vacation homes were sold.

The survey also reported decreases in investment-home sales (down 7.4 percent) and owner-occupied purchases (down 12.8 percent) in that same time span.

“Affluent households have greatly benefited from strong growth in the stock market in recent years, and the steady rise in home prices has likely given them reassurance that real estate remains an attractive long-term investment,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Furthermore, last year’s impressive increase also reflects long-term growth in the numbers of baby boomers moving closer to retirement and buying second homes to convert into their primary home in a few years.”

The median sales price of both vacation and investment homes declined in 2014. The median vacation home price was $150,000, down 11.1 percent from $168,700 in 2013. The median investment-home sales price was $125,000, down 3.8 percent from $130,000 a year ago.