Thursday, December 22, 2011

Housing Affordability

"Houses haven't been this affordable since appliances came in Harvest Gold or Avacado Green" states an article in the Kiplinger Housing Forecast, read the full article here.  There is evidence of this all over Charlotte as well.

Two projects in Charlotte that are making significant waves are 28th Ro in NoDa, and Seigle Point just outside the I-277 loop on Tenth Street.  28th Ro has closed on 32 units in the past month and only has a few left, and a similar history is available at Seigle Point.  In both cases it was a situation where adjusting the price point found an available willing market.

Soon to return to the market will be The Garrison located on North Graham Street inside the I-277 loop.  this building was designed to reflect the industrial past of Charlotte, and has huge "warehouse windows" with unparalleled views of the city.  My belief is that once they come on the market in early January, they will quickly disappear.

This leads me back to the Kiplinger article.  We have all had to reset our financial vision of the future.  Many who gambled on the seemingly neverending increase on property values have learned a valuable lesson; if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

As we clean out our financial obligations and reset our goals, we will once again begin to grow.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Construction Activity Increases

This article In US News cites 10 cities where construction activity is returning to normal, and Charlotte is # 8 on that list.  It shows that we are up 23% in the area of multifamily (rental) housing.  Rentals remain very strong.  Here is a sampling of trailing 12 months at a few downtown condominiums:
    • Avenue       33 leased average days on market 52
    • Courtside    19 leased average days on market 36
    • 5th&Poplar 26 leased average days on market 41
    • Gateway      29 leased average days on market 51
    • TradeMark  24 leased average days on market 31
This popularity in rentals is fueling developers to build more rentals.  Centro City Works is in the process of finalizing plans to begin construction in February on a rental building near the East/West LYNX Light Rail Station in the South End. 

Two other developments that have either finalized or received their building permits will place new apartment developments in downtown Charlotte, one on the corner of MLK Jr. Blvd and South Graham Streets across from the proposed construction site of the Charlotte Knights baseball stadium, and another at the intersection of West Fourth and Johnson & Wales Way in the Third Ward near the Doubletree Hotel.

Another potential site will occur when the former State Office Building on the corner of Graham and Trade Streets is torn down.  The building has been crumbling for the past 10 years at least, and an apartment/condo development was originally announced for that space.

Throw in the relocation of the Amtrak Station and MultiModal Terminal on South Graham and a picture of intense construction will change the character of the near Third Ward forever.

All this activity will help raise property values in the entire downtown area.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Renters Can Solve The Housing Crisis

Really, renters can start the home ownership recovery!  In this article, a case is made that people who would most likely be buying a home are waiting for unemployment to come down, and the government to act responsibly before buying.

It also points to the fact that investors are sitting on a lot of cash, and purchasing financially distressed properties at a highly discounted price can lead to a stable cash flow for a protracted period of time. 

The catch is that current FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require huge downpayments and a substantial waiting period for purchases.

I have written several articles in this blog that point to the increase in renters in the downtown Charlotte market during 2011.  The thrust of my blog is to focus on the trend to embrace the urban lifestyle, and renters can embrace that as much as owners can, and embrace it they are.

Getting back to the article linked above, the implication is that if investors are allowed to help clear out the foreclosure and shadow inventory issues in the private market, the government (you and me) will not be stuck with carrying that burden.

I have been more active over the past 90 days than I have since 2007!  A large portion of that activity is coming from people seeking to rent.  As we search for properties, I am finding that rental rates are increasing, time on market is decreasing, and landlords are not negotiating on their rates.

Supply and Demand reigns again.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Death Of The Fringe Suburbs

The New York Times Opinion Page published this article on Saturday, November 25, 2011 discussing the move towards density.  It builds a case that cites the car dependent fringe suburbs as the primary cause for the mortgage meltdown leading to the recession.  Perhaps an over simplification, but I believe that it does address the root of the problem.

More space, bigger houses, more opportunity to buy products to put in all those rooms all went hand in hand with easy money and low downpayments to encourage people to take on more than what was prudent.

But my point is not to look to the past to uncover issues, but to look forward and try to find trends to be on the front side of them.  Most all of my posts deal with things that will affect property values in my market, downtown Charlotte.  Energy prices, downsizing, walkability, new companies relocating, strong infrastructure, easy transportation, all these trends contribute to wanting to relocate to the central core of the city, and that is the downtown area and it's Four Wards.

Please follow the link and read the entire article.  I toyed with the idea of just reprinting it here, but thought that the link would accomplish the same thing, and it would be easier for me to add my $0.02 to the debate.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Further Signs Of Downtown Demand

The Demand for living in downtown Charlotte has never been higher than it is now.  An article in the MultiHousingNews points to Charlotte's urban core as the key growth area, read the full article here.

"Of course, the hottest submarkets continue to be downtown, inside the 277 loop. “Much of the critical mass of Charlotte’s employment is driven by banking and energy,” notes Llewellyn. “The employment centers never really decentralized from downtown, so the central business district is going to be the number-one submarket.”

This is substantiating what I have been seeing over the past 18 months.  In my business, I find that I am getting more calls for rentals than in the past.  The reasons are largely the same; not sure of the economy; don't have a down payment; wish to see what living downtown is like; etc.

The developer market is turning towards producing more rental units to try to stay up with the demand, again the article cites absorbsion rates as being out of skew.  David Furman is reportedly ready to break ground for an apartment development along the LYNX Blue Line in the South End.

The other trend I see is that rents are rising as interest rates and condo prices are falling, in some cases to be more attractive than rentals. This cycle of condos/rentals/condos/rentals continues to go on.  As things stabilize, indications are that a return to purchasing will drive up prices in a condo market that is adding little to the inventory mix.  As this happens, property values in the downtown market will rise again.

The law of Supply and Demand lives on!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Public Meeting On The StreetCar Project

The Charlotte StreetCar Project has completed 65%  of the design work, and expects to have 100% completion within the next 3 - 4 weeks.  This will allow the project to move forward, though the actual start date for most of the in street construction will not begin until after the DNC in September of 2012.

Go Here to their site for more information as to the facts and overview of the project.  But in a nutshell, this phase of the project will run from the Transportation Mall down East Trade / Elizabeth Street to Presbyterian Hospital, turn left to East Fifth Street, and then return.  This overall segment will be 1.5 miles.   A 1/2 mile segment of this has already been completed through the CCCP Campus and up to the Hospital.

The overall cost for this project is around $35 million, and many complain that it is a waste! 

My belief is that it is forward thinking.  We have seen fluctuations in the price of gas, and every time it reaches $4 a gallon, ridership increases on all forms of public transportation.  Switching to electric powered vehicles or hybrids will help, but not enough.  When we reach the breaking point for gasoline prices, it will be too late to start an intelligent transit system.

Additionally, the hard rail system that the StreetCar will be part of will be permanent.   It will spur development along its route.  Myers Park was created as a street car suburb as was Dilworth.  No homes were more than 3 blocks to a transit stop.  Those communities became, and still remain, important.  Look also at the development created along the LYNX Blue Line running through the South End.

This important connection for West Charlotte to meet with East Charlotte will take riders to the Government Center, the central business community, transportation links, Presbyterian Hospital, Central Piedmont Community College, Johnson & Wales University, Johnson C. Smith University and the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.  It will be a huge connector.

This will be a great addition to a growning city.

Finally, The Courtyard Is Back!

It seemed like forever, the noise, the dust the workers all scurrying around removing tiles, dirt, trees, shrubs and the green as well.  It started because the parking garage in under the TransAmerica building, which is also under the 400 North Church Condominiums, was leaking! 

The original seal was allowing water to enter into the garage, and in addition to causing some damage to the finish of cars, could cause significant damage to the structure itself.  Water is one of those non stoppable forces that can have a significant impact.

All areas over the parking garage had to be empties and resealed, including all the planters.  It seems unlikely that this year will feature the trees being strung with lights for the holidays.

The repair work took about 10 months, and cost the buildings owner several million dollars to repair.  Watching some of the work be done, I will be surprised if any moisture will ever penetrate the barriers that were laid down.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Living Without A Car

How can someone live without a car in the city?  MSNBC has pulled this article from 24/7 Wall Street that ranks the 10 best cities to live car free.  Check this article, but don't be surprised to not find Charlotte on the list, at least not yet.

I am car-less and I live in downtown Charlotte.  This is a lifestyle that I choose to live, and will tell you that many of the points made in the article are valid.  As a realtor, it always draws interesting looks from people when they find I do not have a car.  Being a realtor generally means that you drive a big shiny black car if you are successful.

My experience in showing property in downtown Charlotte is that it is easier to walk to listings than it is to try to find a place to park.   Additionally, walking through a neighborhood like the Fourth Ward in downtown Charlotte allows you to explain more about the neighborhood, and to actually get a feel for what life is like there.

The point of the article is that to live car-less, you need to have the items and services that you need close at hand, I have that in downtown.  It talks about having a strong public transportation system, and Charlotte does have a strong system, though sporatic at times.  As a frequent user of the LYNX Light Rail Line, I can tell you that it is well used all hours. I eagerly await the extension to UNCC. 

Charlotte Area Transit System, CATS, has an app for either iPhone or Android which will allow you to find out when a bus or train will be at a particular stop.  Generally, schedules are kept.  This allows you to further plan your time.

Being car-less also encourages you to batch together errands.  From time to time I will rent a car, and when I do I accomplish a number of tasks that would be more difficult on public transportation, going to Costco's, multiple appointments in different areas of the city in a short period of time, etc.

Eliminating a car from your overhead can reduce your expenses significantly.  Think maintenance, gas, insurance, parking, carpayments or depreciation, replacement, etc.  Add those things up.  It saved me over $10,000 annually.

Put your own numbers in and see how it compares!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Continued Demand For Downtown Property

The accompanying chart illustrates the breakdown
of condo's that have, or are in the process of, changing hands, and the total number is 471 through the end of October.  To be sure, the majority of the units are being  rented by individual owners who choose not to sell due to market conditions.

While that fact exists, the fact that the demand to live downtown is stronger than it has ever been.  Financially distressed properties in downtown are hovering around 16 units.  Many of them are still on the market, or have returned to the market because of lender underwriting issues.  One of the main considerations of underwriters is the number of owner occupants in a development, another is the amount of homeowners delinquent on their HOA dues.

Investors who can buy with cash, or mostly cash are getting the best deals in this market.  Investor activity has increased significantly.  The ability to look at a property as an investment and not have an emotional attachment to it clarifies their ability to act firmly on what they consider a fair price. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Signs Of A Rebound In Housing

Actually, not so much signs of an Upturn as signs that we have passed bottom.  This link in a real estate publication cites several cities that have seen an increase in property values, and many more that have seen a lessening of property value declines.

Several things contribute to this, all related to supply and demand.  I have chronicled here that sellers are either shelving plans to sell, or turning to the rental market to put people in their properties.  Charlotte will have its best year for downtown property changing hands this year through either sale or rental.

Interest rates are incredibly low, have been for a while, and show no serious signs of creeping up.  Lenders are being penalized for their past actions of loose credit, and chastised in today's market for being too tight!

I have seen many instances where multiple offers are being submitted on available properties.  This usually is the start of a bidding, war at least on those properties. 

Conventional wisdom states that the most important thing in real estate is Locatoin, Location, Location.  A friend of mine in the industry has a different perspective, and that is Motivation, Motivation, Motivation!

I believe in the latter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Disappearing Seller

A publication called the Real Estate Economy Watch has just posted this article which refers to the disappearance of property for sale.  It sights reports indicating that nationally there has been a 20% reduction of available homes compared to the same time last year.

These statistics reflect a growing trend that is also evident in Charlotte.  I have reported in this blog that the number of individual condos that will be rented this year will exceed 400 in the downtown market.  Compare that to a little over 200 projected sales for this calendar year.  That is an incredible swing. 

When you include the fact that in MLS there is a small number (12) of properties in the downtown market that are categorized as financially distressed, and that over 70 are either sold or under contract, you are seeing a market that is retracting.

Many reasons exist for this, mostly the economy.  Sellers are increasingly reluctant to sell their property at prices below what they either paid or are willing to accept.  Many are staying in their property, delaying a move, or renting their property, sometimes even at a loss, as opposed to taking a big financial hit.

Some additional properties are in the process of navigating through the financially distressed stages, be it the foreclosure process or loan modification.

Whatever the cause, it is bringing back the laws of supply and demand.  You can see by the increased numbers of people coming into the downtown area through either ownership or renting that the demand exists.  What you are seeing is that the supply is dwindling!

My belief is that the bottom of the market has been reached, and the laws of supply and demand will begin to raise prices. 

For those interested in getting a value, the faucet may be turned off.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Movement at 7venth Market

It is good to see activity taking place inside the site of 7venth Market.  I have talked with several vendors who are excited to become part of this market, and have spent some time with Christy Shi, the General Manager of the market.  She is energetic and will be a great person to nurture this new venture into a successful venture.

Gone are the wine racks, and the food shelves that are standard in most grocery stores.  Workers are rearranging the remaining usable fixtures into what will be the new configuration. 

The Market is scheculed to be active by the end of November since all the regulatory requirements have finally been met.  I am looking forward to becoming a regular customer once the doors open!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Change Moving Forward

As I like to say, there is nothing as sure as change (except from a vending machine).  Everything changes, the weather, the economy, relationships, etc.  So it is with the knowledge that change is constant that I decided to open my own Agency.

Please welcome Church Street Realty!

Center City Realty was the only agency I have worked for, and met a lot of nice people and great clients.  I enjoyed working with the name that embodied my "primary market", downtown Charlotte, so the change for me was difficult, but I felt I needed to really narrow my focus to the 4.5 square miles that is downtown Charlotte.

I selected the name Church Street Realty to reflect one of the grand residental streets in the city.  Certainly there are other streets, and other areas of the downtown that I will be with, but none with the strength of Church Street.

My mission statement is simple, "To engage with people who seek to find an urban lifestyle that will allow them to spend less time commuting and more time with their friends."

Being downtown is being in the center of the city.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I look for information and trends that affect the property values in the city, and even when things have looked bleak, this city did not experience the same depths of other cities.

We are emerging from the worst part of the recession and businesses are starting to hire, and there is evidence that property values have stopped dropping.  Now is the right time for me to do this journey. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is Florida Leading The Way Back?

Go here to read an incredible story about a significant change in the real estate market in Florida

"August median prices in Fort Myers are up 33 percent from 2010. Miami is up 24 percent, Punta Gorda 20 percent, Sarasota-Bradenton 10 percent, Daytona 9.3 percent and Lakeland-Winter Haven 8.8 percent. Compare those increases to the national average increase for median list prices from all 146 metros tracked by .46 percent."

Wow, who saw that coming?

I am sure that we are all aware that Florida lead the decline with all the overbuilding of condo's and spec houses when the market was peaking in the mid 2005 - 2006 era, and that despite the lofty increases noted above, they are still selling for below pre-2005 pricing, but the direction is positive.

It is one more sign that buyers, or perhaps investors, are evaluating the market and snapping up value where it exists.  This trend, though not with the same percentage of increase, has come to Charlotte as well.  The media keeps reflecting on the ups and downs of the market and average price of Charlotte, but they look at the entire metro area.  My focus is on downtown.

Prices have stabilized to a large degree here.  There have been several instances of multiple bids on a property, forcing all respondents to submit a best and final offer to secure the property.  It is this type of activity that will allow prices to rise.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kanvas, An Urban Nightspot

A friend of mine told me he was going to hear some live jazz last night at Kanvas.  I have known about Kanvas since it's opening about a year ago.  A blend of Art Gallery and Lounge, I could not find when it was open, and never took the time to find out.  That changed last night.

First, Kanvas is located in the Court 6 Condominium building located on the corner of East Sixth and Davidson Streets.  It's tall ceilings give the feeling of a much bigger space.  There is a well stocked bar, and soon will have a kitchen to prepare snacks.  Currently, they have an arrangement with Kalu, and a special menu.  Open Wednesday through Saturday from 6 pm to 2:30 am.

Live Jazz is featured every other Friday and the next live Jazz will be September 30th.

The music, art, and friends were great, but the best part is it is a 5 block walk from home!  It is venues like this that make urban living more attractive,and the more attractive that lifestyle becomes, the more it affects property values.

Friday, September 9, 2011

New Yorkers Move To Charlotte

While some of the numbers in an article in the New York Post seem a bit unbelieveable, the thrust of this article remains pretty accurate, go here to read the full article.

People in this article point to incredibly high property taxes, as well as car insurance, something that people seldom think about when talking about where they live.  In this instance, a persons car insurance has been cut from nearly $3,000 to $850 a year. 

As I repeatedly suggest, trends are something that happen slowely but consistantly.  Look at the Colorado River's trend started some millions of years ago along a plateau which has developed into the Grand Canyon.  The New York Post is responding to a trend that they can detect at their end that will benefit us.  And they are not the only location, other cities are experiencing the same trend.

The cost of living here remains extremely attractive and that will be the driving force that will fuel the continued growth of our region.  With these people come energy and excitement.  With these people will come new companies both big and small. 

Couple this with the planned structured growth of the five Transit Corridors and infill density.  Existing properties will increase in value with the increased density.

The future looks bright for Charlotte.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Downtown Rental vs Sale Ownership Trend

This economy is creating some interesting statistics.  Available condo units for sale in downtown Charlotte are lower than they have been in over 5 years, and available condo units for rent are higher than they have been, ever!  I have applied the information reported below from a national level and applied it to a local graph of downtown Charlotte activity.

Housing affordability continued to be near record highs in the second quarter, hovering near its highest level in the 20-plus years it has been recorded, according to the NAHB/WF Housing Opportunity Index.  'At a time when home ownership is within reach of more households than it has been for more than two decades and (interest) rates are at historically low levels, the sluggish economy and tight credit conditions confronting home buyers and builders remain significant obstacles to many potential home sales,' says Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. 'That said, however, some housing markets across the country have stabilized and are beginning to show signs of a budding recovery.' Source: NAHB

The conversion of owner-occupied single-family homes into renter-occupied homes has played an important role in stabilizing housing markets that have been wracked by foreclosures, according to a report on rental housing. The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University report shows that 1.4 million single-family homes became occupied by tenants during the 2008-2009 period, up from 700,000 in the 2006-2007 period. 'That is a tremendous surge in rental housing supply,' JCHS research director Christopher Herbert said during a Washington presentation of the report’s findings.

The conversion from owner-occupied to renter-occupied data comes from the American Housing Survey that is published every two years. JCHS managing director Eric Belsky told National Mortgage News that he expects the next AHS report will show a continuing surge in conversions in 2010. Source: National Mortgage News

Friday, September 2, 2011

Romare Bearden Park Is Underway

I am not sure that I expected so many political personalities be on the agenda for this groundbreaking, but they were there in full force!  The festivities started with the All Angels Church Choir from St. Michael Episcopal performing 4 songs.  That was nice.

As the politicians began thanking all the people who made the park a possibility, my mind couldn't help but project to the completion of the park and how it will change Charlotte.  The arbor and trellis entrance from the corner of MLK, Jr. Blvd and South Church Street will be a short walk from the Levine Cultural Center and turn that bland intersection into one full of life and activity.  The particular topographics of the site drops around 30 feet from that point.

Charlotte, known for it's trees, will now bring hundreds more into this park and surrounding approaches.  The lot opposite from 230 South Tryon will be reconfigured for a 25 foot wide promenade leading from Tryon Street to the park, giving it the impression that it is much bigger. 

The park will force Poplar Street to terminate at West Third Street, eventually leading to both Poplar and Mint Streets to become a two way street.  Currently, they are sometimes one way, sometimes two way streets.  The intent of a one way street is to speed up traffic, a two way street has the opposite effect.

As the economy improves, adjacent parcels will cease to be just parking lots and instead continue to bring life into these approximately 25 acres of under utilized space.  Across from the park going towards the railroad is where the new Knights Stadium is currently planned to go.  This stadium will bring in somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people about 100 times a year.  All that foot traffic will surely catch the eye of retailers and restaurants, and like spiders and their webs, those folk live off traffic.

The event ended with County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts operating a piece of construction equipment and knocking down the wall of one of the buildings being cleared for this park.  She did so well that she may have a future after politics in the construction business!

What all this means for downtown residential property values is that as land disappears to projects, all land becomes more valuable.  The rise may be slow, but it will be steady.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Clearing Up Terms About Distressed Properties


Foreclosure is the legal and professional proceeding in which a lender, obtains a court ordered termination of a mortgagor's equitible right of redemption. As long as this equitable right exists, the lender cannot be sure that it can successfully repossess the property, thus the lender seeks to foreclose the equitable right of redemption.

The foreclosure process as applied to residential mortgage loans is a lender selling or repossessing a parcel after the owner has failed to comply with an agreement between the lender and borrower. When the process is complete, the lender can sell the property and keep the proceeds to pay off its mortgage and any legal costs.


A short sale is a sale of real estate in which the proceeds from the sale fall short of the balance owed on a loan secured by the property sold. In a short sale, lender agrees to discount a balance due to an economic or financial hardship. This negotiation is all done through communication with a bank’s loss mitigation or workout department.

The home owner/debtor sells the mortgaged property for less than the outstanding balance of the loan, and turns over the proceeds of the sale to the lender, sometimes (but not always) in full satisfaction of the debt. In such instances, the lender would have the right to approve or disapprove of a proposed sale. A deficiency balance will remain as a potential liability for the Mortgagor / Borrower.


Real estate owned or REO is a class of property owned by a lender after an unsuccessful sale at a foreclosure sale As soon as the bank repossesses the property, it is listed on their books as REO – Real Estate Owned – and is categorized as an asset (non-performing).

After repossession and the property becomes classified as REO, the bank will go through the process of trying to sell the property on its own. It will remove some of the liens and other expenses on the home and try to resell it to the public. Generally speaking, bank REO properties are in poor shape in terms of repairs and maintenance, however, purchasers will often go after these properties as banks are not in the business of owning homes and so, in some cases, the low price can more than compensate for the condition of the property.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another Call For Action

As if to endorse my previous post concerning taking action on our own and not waiting for someone else to "save" us, the CEO of Starbucks is calling for corporations to stop making campaign contributions to any of the elected officials of our country!  Go here to read the editorial in the Seattle Times last Friday.

It is refreshing to hear this coming from a CEO of a company that regularly contributes millions to gain some political influence.  It is not right and we all know it.

His call for action does two things, first, it cuts off the life blood of campaigning that seems to be all politicians care about, and second, it calls for hiring and investing, taking matters into our own hands and not waiting for someone else to make things better.

In this real estate market we are faced with similar decisions, or indecisions as the case may be.  We are sitting in a perfect time to invest in real estate.  Prices are incredibly low, interest rates are incredibly low, values abound. 

If you are thinking of purchasing real estate, or have a friend who is interested in purchasing real estate in downtown Charlotte, please call me today, 704-236-7119.

Take that first step.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time To Reboot

I spent some time with a friend of mine, and a former Charlottean, over the weekend.  As we walked around the city, looking at its strength, a diverse population, good weather, new construction, continued growth, moderate taxes, etc.  My friend is an artist, and she "sees" things.  She said it must be amazing to be here now.

I thought a lot about what she said.  The times are difficult as a large part of my business has shifted from sales to rentals.  At times, things can seem overwhelming.  Her comments made me look back to what I have written in previous articles in this blog.  Many articles concern new industries moving to this region.  I have written about how a major complex, Fifth & Poplar, has seemingly turned the corner, and is now becoming a highly sought address.  I have written of how the increased demand for downtown living, a combination of rentals and sales, is higher than it has EVER been.

Major issues like the Democratic Convention, the potential of downtown baseball, two new parks coming into the city, the expansion of light rail, UNCC opening a downtown classroom building, Northeastern University putting a location in downtown, Wake Forest Masters program moving to downtown are all filling the public debate, and all will add to property values

There is much to be excited about.

So when we read of housing prices being down or up from month to month, how do we reconcile those seemingly different stories.  The data seems to have somehow gotten truncated or corrupt, it just doesn't seem to make sense.

The analogy here is that when our computers sometimes become crammed with remnants of programs, we need to "Reboot" the system to clear out the cobwebs.  The government is not going to fix our economy.  Multinational corporations are not going to fix our economy.  We are! 

We have all heard "Buy low, Sell high" well we are at the Low time.  Valuation on available property is hovering around the 2003 levels, very affordable.  Interest rates are at historic lows.  Over 80% of the available financially distressed properties in downtown Charlotte have sold this calendar year, only 14 remain listed in MLS.  Someone is getting the message.

We need to "Reboot" our thinking.  As sellers we need to determine which is most important, the amount of profit from the sale of property, or moving on with life.  As buyers we need to stop trying to figure where the bottom of the market is, and select a unit and a price that allows us to buy low.  We control those things!

Things are different, and may never be the same.  That does not mean that opportunities don't exist.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Move Towards Urbanization

Here is part of an article from Inman News:

" The U.S. population is projected to grow by 150 million within the next 40 years and 'more compact, mixed-use development' is needed to handle the growth and changing demands, Patrick Phillips, CEO for the Urban Land Institute, told an audience at the National Association of Real Estate Editors annual conference this week. 'The design and development of urban areas will be radically different in the decades ahead,” he said. “We are seeing a push to make our cities more livable and sustainable.” One-person households are the fastest-growing type of household, he noted. Also, younger generations, in buyer preference surveys, are placing a higher value on the sense of community and are willing to swap extra space for convenience. An urban renaissance has been taking place with neighborhoods that are near urban centers becoming more desirable, Phillips said. Source: Inman News"

This trend bodes well for those who own property in the urban core.  As more development starts to infill existing property will also rise in value.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Northeastern University Picks The Independence Building

In my July newsletter I pointed out activity taking place at the former site of  TheVUE 's sale center on the corner of Trade and Tryon.  At that time, the occupant was "unnamed", but there sure was a lot of work taking place.  This was in the August 5th edition of the Charlotte Observer, go here for the full article.

"After an 18-month study, the school announced in May it had chosen uptown Charlotte to make its first physical expansion outside of Massachusetts.  It declined then to release information about the nine graduate programs, but disclosed details this week after a request by the Charlotte Observer.

In addition to the doctorate program, the offerings would include an MBA degree and master of science degrees in finance, taxation, project management, sports leadership, leadership, education and health informatics.

The doctorate will be among the few in the country delivered online and in the classroom by a "nationally recognized, top-ranked university," said Cheryl Richards, Northeastern's dean and chief executive in Charlotte.  The school, Richards said, hopes to hear in October about the licensing from the UNC Board of Governors, the state's higher education licensing authority. If successful, it would start graduate programs in January.

The school must be optimistic: It has hired Richards away from Central Piedmont Community College and renovations are underway for its new uptown campus.

Northeastern couldn't have picked a more central site in Charlotte: 14,000 square feet on two floors in the 20-story 101 Independence Center at Trade and Tryon streets.  It will have street-level presence, taking some of the first floor.

The school would depend heavily on drawing uptown working professionals.

"The campus in Boston is urban, right in the heart of the city where it can stay in touch with the growing needs of the business community," Richards said. "For us, it's really important to be at the center of Charlotte's growth."

This continued expansion of non-financial service industries in Charlotte will make the entire community stronger.  Welcome NEU!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Signs Of Live At The Proposed Knight Stadium

It appears that the Charlotte Knights have installed a "Home Plate" on the proposed location for their stadium.  This coming on the heels of the announcement of Romare Bearden Park groundbreaking on September 2nd, and the county commissioners giving the Knights 10 more months to line up financing for a planned baseball stadium in Third Ward.

This is mostly a publicity ploy in my estimation but it is exciting to see some activity taking place at the site.

During the height of the condo building boom, a local developer had an option (maybe still does?) on the parcel on the southwest corner of MLK, Jr. Blvd. and South Graham Street nestled against the Duke Energy parking garage.  Interestingly the project has the code name "Home Plate"!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Groundbreaking For Romare Bearden Park

Please join us as we celebrate world renowned artist Romare Bearden’s 100th birthday with the ground breaking of uptowns newest park named in his honor.

Romare Bearden Park Groundbreaking Ceremony
September 02, 2011 9:00-10:30am
Corner of 3rd and Church St.

Be prepared for a unique experience unlike any groundbreaking ceremony you’ve ever attended.
Refreshments will be provided.
What great news this is!  Several things to look for as the park develops.  Poplar and Mint Streets will both become 2 way streets.  The curved part of Poplar that currently goes to meet Mint Street by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will disappear.  Poplar will now dead end into Third Street.  Fourth Street Will also become 2 way up to Mint Street.  The curved portion of Fourth Street to meet Third Street will go away, making a larger parcel for the proposed Knights Baseball Stadium.

Go Here for the Parks and Recreation website for the Romare Bearden Park.  The construction of the park will certainly be a difficult thing for the Panthers home games as three different parking lots / tailgate areas will no longer exist!  Should be exciting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Charlotte Is A Best Value City

The Kiplinger Newsletter has proclaimed Charlotte to be the 2nd "Best Value" city in the country.  Go Here to see the article.

This again points toward trends that are developing Charlotte.  Great weather; great business climate; low cost of living; low taxes; and an educated labor market. 

Much has been written about the Epicentre over the years, some good some bad.  Some complain that Gahzi took advantage of the city and contractors with some lawsuits still waiting to be settled.  Without getting into the legal ramifications of that, the accompanying picture of the Epicentre shows the impact that it is having on the city.  There has been a significant move off of Tryon Street to College Street, and the Epicentre is a big part of that.

Most weekend nights finds the restaurants and bars packed.  It is a true destination, and the location by the LYNX and the proximity to the Time Warner Cable Arena provide a steady stream of people.

Think back to the monolith that the old convention center was, and the hole that it put in the fabric of downtown.  We have come a long way, and Epicentre has been a big part.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Possible Re-Birth Of The Encore On Tryon

Go to this link to see the revised plan for the Carolina Theatre renovation and development.  Originally, this was going to be a 20 story high end condo project with the quirky feature of having car elevators deposit your vehicle just outside your door, regardless of the floor you were living on!  Quite a concept. 

The recession and financial considerations by the developer has scrapped the original project in favor of a smaller building, but one that will assist in restoring the Carolina Theatre.  This is a welcome bit of news as it will accomplish several things.  It will remove an unsightly empty corner on Tryon across from The Historic Dunhill Hotel; It will renovate the Carolina Theatre into a functioning venue again; It will help to shift some entertainment back to the north end of Tryon Street, and signal a renewed interest in redevelopment in the First and Fourth Wards.

While the project is not a sure thing at this point, the concept and timing are great.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dropping Foreclosures Across The Country

Go Here for an article in the Real Estate Economy Watch which talks about the significant rate at which foreclosures are falling.  The article is not a month over month knee jerk reaction to what is happening, but shows a developing trend in real estate.

Why foreclosures are falling could have many causes; loan modifications; short sales; recovery; and owners turning to renting to get through this economic recession.

I have been focusing on rentals over the past several articles and have activly encouraged many owners I talk with to rent instead of listing in this market.  In fact, I am doing that with the properties I own.  I would rather sell them, but renting is a viable option.

The fact remains that a property is an asset like any other asset you may own.  While many people are reluctant to sell a stock that has taken a significant hit, think Bank of America or any bank stock, they appear more willing to sell their propety at a loss than continue to hold it.

Feeding a financially distressed property market more property will have the effect of extending the downturn and slowing the recovery.

Monday, July 11, 2011

More Rental Information

The Rental Market continues to be hot. Previous articles have documented the increased activity both from a traditional rental building as well as condo owners looking to generate some revenue from their properties.

I have a friend who was looking for a short term furnished property to rent.  My advice to him was to try the Catalyst.  That building was born as a condo development by Novare.  As they also built The Avenue, they did not want to interfere with the closing of The Avenue, they did not do presales.  Unfortunately for Novare, the recession had hit when they finally started marketing. 

Too late!

After frantically trying to sell the building, they hoped to convert it to half rental half condo, an interesting plan, but it failed to materialize.  They finally decided to turn the entire building into rentals.

As of this writing, they are 98% leased!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Charlotte Regional Indicators Project

Go to this site created by UNCC Urban Institute to get a wealth of data, charts, and speculation about the 14 county Charlotte Region.  Normally I would limit my focus to just downtown Charlotte information, but found this to be extremely valuable.  Listed below is information directly from the "About The Project" from the website.

The quality of life or well-being of a community is measured by many social, economic, and environmental factors. In the Charlotte region, it has become increasingly evident that these factors can only be effectively measured and addressed by crossing political boundaries and looking at the entire geographic area or region. Successful regional approaches to maintaining and enhancing the quality of life require tracking and assessing trends over time.

The Charlotte Regional Indicators Project does just that. It provides critical benchmarks measured over time and compared to state and/or national data for the 14-county, 2-state region, which includes Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties in North Carolina and Chester, Lancaster, and York counties in South Carolina. The Indicators Project provides objective, reliable, and relevant data that measure the region’s annual progress on a wide range of indicators that impact the region’s quality of life.

The Indicators Project focuses on ten theme areas: Arts, Recreation, and Cultural Life; the Economy; Education; the Environment; Government and Citizen Participation; Health; Housing; Public Safety; Social Well-Being; and Transportation, plus Demographics. Individually, the ten theme areas represent critical components of the region’s quality of life. Collectively, the ten theme areas provide a holistic framework that allows the region to better understand the inter-relationships among them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wealthy People Are Trading Up

Here is an interesting article from a publication called the Real Estate Economy Watch.  It alludes to the fact that wealthy people are using the current market conditions to trade up primary residences.  I have not found this to be the case with high end condos in downtown Charlotte, but that trend may be changing.

While a third of homeowners struggle to stay above water on their mortgages, nearly a quarter of those in the upper income tiers have been trading up to take advantage of deals in the luxury home market.

Lured by lower prices, one in four U.S. consumers with annual income of $150,000 or more have bought a residential property since 2008 at a median purchase price of $509,000, up 3.2 percent from the 2005 to 2007 period. Most new residences (83 percent) are single-family homes and two-thirds of these are in suburban settings. Seventeen percent plan to purchase additional property this year, while 23 percent of those younger than 50 plan to buy in 2011.

According a new survey by the Luxury Institute and the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, high net-worth homeowners are taking advantage of the downturn to trade up into higher-priced new primary residences. More than one-third (37 percent) of the wealthy value their homes at $1 million or higher, while 32% assess their primary residence to be worth $500,000 or less.

 “Luxury homebuyers recognize that many premium homes are available at relative bargains,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. “Similar to the luxury retail landscape, luxury home sales provide more evidence of durability at the high end of the market.”

“Luxury is the good news story in real estate,” said Laurie Moore-Moore, CEO of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. “The number of wealthy households has jumped back to pre-recession levels and affluent home buyers are actively purchasing. The National Association of Realtors’ statistics show that national home sales at $1 million and above were up more than 18 percent year-over-year in 2010. Strong activity continues this year as well.”

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Supply And Demand: Declining Listings

The chart below comes from MLS history.  It clearly shows the year over year decline of listings, whether traditional or financially distressed.  It is reflective of several things, but they all relate to supply and demand. 

Clearly, during the height (or depth) of the recession, property  was not selling, many properties stayed on the market a long time with no results.  Some of those properties slipped into short sale or foreclosure situations, some of those properties were made available as rentals by their owners, and some of the owners simply took their properties off the market delaying making a change in their lives.

Whatever the cause, the effect will lead to stabilization of prices, and a rise in property values, such is the law of Supply and Demand!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Five Trends To Watch

Please follow this link to an article written to encourage realtors that the market is changing.  If you read my blog, you know how I believe that trends will help us to map our way into the future.  This article points to 5 trends:
  1. Short-Term Pain
  2. Over Development
  3. Jobs
  4. Lifestyle
  5. Responsible Government
Attached is a bar graph showing the average dollars per square foot since 2000, including 2011 through June, and it suggests that we have fallen below 2003 levels.  According to the Short-Term Pain trend, we have overcorrected.  I think that will change moving forward, as 45% of this years sales have been financially distressed properties, and as of this writing, there are only 11 distressed properties available downtown.

The other 4 trends all bode well for Charlotte.  We have not had speculation development, nor have we had broadbased job erosion. 

Jobs in many varied sectors continue to be announced, almost on a weekly basis.  Rumors floating around about Sears looking to relocate their headquarters looks attractive, but it is remote.

The Carolina lifestyle is certainly preferrable to most northern tier cities, and finally, we have a pretty responsive and pro-business government in the city and state that promote growth. 

Follow the trends, and I will meet you in the future.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Changes In The Downtown Streetscape

There are several changes that are taking place at the street level in downtown Charlotte that mark the return of investments in the city, most are restaurants.  But first, a mystery guest is showing up in the Independence Building located on the Square.  This former sale center site for The VUE is currently undergoing an upfitting, the actual tenant has not been named, but it should be a great addition at this location.

Nearing completion on South Tryon is Vapiano is putting some of the final touches to their location across from McCormick and Schmicks.  After some permit delays, the Carolina Ale House is beginning their renovations of the ground floor of the Charlotte Plaza Building across from EpiCentre.

Activity will also be returning at 525 North Tryon Street in the site formerly occupied by Palomino's and then GWFin's.  Delta's has papered the windows, and put up a sign indicating that they have begun their renovations.

Finally, I hear that Rooster's, the popular eatery on Morrison Boulevard across from South Park Mall will be opening a location in Founders Hall, or more correctly, on the College Street level side across from BLT Steakhouse.  The College Street corridor is shaping up nicely.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fifth & Poplar Set To Rebound

One of the best locations for a residential building in downtown Charlotte has always been Fifth & Poplar.  Originally announced as a condo development, the project initially got sidetracked by the terror attacks on 9/11.  Interest in buying downtown immediately stopped, and the project was changed to a rental building.  Around 2003/2004 the developer announced that they would convert the now successful rental complex back to its original plan, condos.

The market was hot again, the banks were hiring, and bonuses were flowing.  It was a heady time.  The downtown skyline was full of constrcution cranes, and announcements for new projects were popping up all over.  In 2005/2006 there were 218 recorded sales in MLS for Fifth & Poplar with an average price per square foot of $345!

Mortgages were easy to come by, and a popular tool was the 85/15 mortgage, with the 85% being the first mortgage and the 15% being a ballooning second mortgage.  Guess what, they have come due.

Not having anything else to go by, the county set the tax rates in line with the sale prices, so taxes were generally in the $400 - $600 per month range.  All the amenities in the building also insured that the HOA dues would be high, $300 - $400 per month range. 

Then came the crash!  Jobs were lost, some people had to move, investors were having difficulties with finding renters, things had stopped working there.  To further complicate the problem, problems with the building began to surface and fingers were pointed between the developer and everyone else.  The HOA determined that an assessment needed to be levied and they took the form of a monthly assessment.  This raised the HOA by another $100 or so per unit!

Last year there were 18 recorded financially distressed properties sold in Fifth & Poplar at an average price per square foot of $197, a drop of over 40% from the high water mark.


There is a light at the end of the tunnel however.  The current market has only 6 active properties listed for sale, and only 2 of them are financially distressed.  The recent tax re-evaluation has cut the taxes for most units by almost 50%, and there appears to be a settlement with the developer and the monthly assessment should be ending within 6 months.  The repair work is nearing completion, and  a more normal time seems to be looming.  The general economy is showing signs of life as well.

The location and amenities remain as good as anything in the city.  The values in this building have never been better, and the coming years should move the property values to approach their pre-recession levels.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Movement From The VUE's Developer?

The VUE has been moving slowly on trying to close out contracts in place.  Some of the contract owners sought to have prices reduced in order to close due to current economic conditions and were willing to walk from their investment. The VUE contracts indicate the developer can sue for damages over and above the initial down payment, and those issues are being decided in an appeal to the courts.

In the mean time, many of the contract owners are getting the following letter:

Dear X,

We have not heard from you in some time. We hope you are doing well. Initial unit sales at the VUE Charlotte have now passed the $15 million mark and we are writing to provide you with some information that may make it easier for you to close on your unit at the VUE.

If you require lender financing in order to purchase your contract unit, you should be aware of the following:

1. As an accomodation to buyers who close through our preferred lenders, we continue (without an obligation under contract to do so) to give those buyers $2,000 credits against settlement costs at closing.

2. One of our preferred lenders, Guaranteed Rate, is now offering up to 90% financing (at what we believe are very favorable and competitive rates) to qualified borrowers. Such terms aer of course subject to change without notice, and not all loan applicants will qualify. The contact information for Guaranteed Rate is as follows:

Matthew Coogan SRVP, Branch Manager

You should also know that our sales team may have some flexibility to get creative in these tough economic times in order to facilitate unit closings and/or alternative resolutions for existing contract buyers. As always, contract and buyer situations are considered on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, and without committing to any action or agreement on our part, one or more of the following may apply in your case:

- We may in some cases consider waiving applicable late closing fees for buyers who close expeditiously

- In the event we have sold or are currently listing aq unit that we feel is comparable to your unit under contract, for a price that is significantly less than your contract price, we may in some cases consider reducing the price of your unit to make your price more in line with current sale prices and asking prices at the VUE Charlotte. You should know, however, that in many instances, units are in fact selling today and being listed today at prices that are higher than the prices in place under longstanding contracts.

We hope that you find the information in the letter helpful and informative. Candidly, we are really looking, during the next 60 days, to close units and to determine which contracts simply cannot close because financing is unavailable. As a result, we may be more willing to work with buyers (outside of the contract terms) now than we will be later.

In closing, and to be clear:





This is an indication that the developer is trying to work with existing contract owners to close out on their units.  As I have indicated previously, it is a great building and will not be duplicated in the near future in Charlotte.  It will be wonderful to see it sport more lights indicating more occupancy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Future Shock In Rentals?

As the downtown condo market bottoms out, many owners are choosing to rent their property instead of settling for less than they consider fair market value in a sale.  This trend is both local as well as national.  MSNBC features this ARTICLE indicating that rental rates are going up. 

I have indicated in previous articles that the demand for living downtown is greater than it has ever been.  This has been fueled by many things, not the least of which is lifestyle.  Over 600 units should change hands this year, and as that happens, most of those changes will be rentals.

Once again the laws of Supply and Demand take over.  I have been working with several renters who initially wanted to negotiate down the price for a rental.  What has been happening is that the rentals are being snapped up pretty quickly, creating a demand for the property, and pretty much eliminating any pressure on the owner to consider lowering the price.  In each of those instances, my clients have lost out by not committing.

A quick look at YTD rentals of non-traditional rental properties, ie individual owners renting their own property, shows that 174 units have been rented, and the owners received 100% of the asking rental price

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More News About The Rental Trend

Earlier this week I wrote of the increasing activity in the rental market in downtown Charlotte.  I have come across some supportive information concerning the national trend of increasing rentals.  Go here to read the entire article.  It outlines the 10 best markets for Real Estate Investors.  There are several interesting points in the article.  Here is a quote that I find is extremely relevent:

"The results of the analyusis mirror two major economic trends: population growth and improving employment.  In the past decade, the South has seen the biggest jump in population, up 14.3% to about 114 million people according to the U.S Census Bureau.  The second most populated region, the West, saw its population jump 13.8% to nearly 72 million."

While this article focuses on investors buying property at bargain prices and turning them into rent producing properties, it ties in with my findings that the rental market is doing very well, and that the desire to move into an urban environment is stronger than it has ever been.

As difficult as the times may seem for us, the trend holds great promise for Charlotte and the entire Southeast.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Is Refinancing The Right Decision For You?

With interest rates still remaining extremely low, the thought of refinancing may make some sense to you.  Determine what your motivation is and move forward from there.  The prospect of reducing your monthly payments in this market may seem attractive, but it is a risk that things will improve in the near future. 

Remember, refinancing will end up adding at least closing costs and probably more interest on the loan to save you some short term out of pocket expenses. 

MSNBC has a good set of questions to ask yourself as you consider refinancing.  Go here to see the article.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Hotel Coming To EpiCentre Replacing 210 Trade Condo's?

Back in February when Charlotte was named the host city for the Democratic National Convention, I made a number of predictions.  Here is one of them:

"It has already been announced that The Park will begin its reconstruction early this year. The new configuration of The Park will create over 100 hotel rooms in addition to over 80 condos. Its location between the convention center and the arena almost guarantees its success. I would also expect to see the Two Ten Trade site be reconfigured into a major hotel. Situated in the heart of the city and across from the arena, this site is begging to be completed. It will be a shame that the residential market will not be in a position to take it, but a hotel there makes sense."

Well, The Park, now called Skye, is a beehive of activity, and a number of rumors have surfaced that an announcement is forthcoming that the former site of 210 Trade Street will become the site of a major hotel, and that hotel chain appears to be a W brand.  The fact that the foundation is already there to support a 50 story building, an intensified construction campaign could have it built in time for the DNC in late August 2012. 

This bit of news will also cast a lot of attention on the cleaning up of the Transportation Mall, the site of a recent fracas following the closing of Speed Street.  There may even be renewed interest in relocation of the Transportation Mall, though that would be difficult.

Stay Tuned!

The Demand For Downtown Property Is Returning

There has been much talk lately about renting vs owning.  There are accompanying articles that talk more directly as to the nature of rentals, but this article is addressing more the demand side of what is taking place in the downtown Charlotte market.

I tried in vain to produce this information in a graphical format, but when I recognizing the difficulties of trying to size the graph correctly in this eZine, I decided to just include the table itself.  The graphs were all too busy and the data points would be too small to easily see.  The data is YTD 2011 for downtown Charlotte.

The nature of my study was to look at the downtown Charlotte condo market in three slices, Non-distressed, Distressed, and Rentals.  For the rental slice, I have taken out rentals that were in traditional rental buildings like the Tryon House on Tryon.  Also, all the data analyzed here comes from the MLS system.  It should be noted that there are sales and rentals that happen outside of that reporting structure.

All the data in this analysis is year to date.  So here comes my analysis!  The first five months of 2011 has delivered 258 properties either sold, leased, or under contract.  Projecting that out over a full year can be difficult because some months are stronger than others, but just using straight math it calculates to over 600 units in a years time!

Non-Financially Distressed properties are selling.  A large reason for that is that current owners are pricing their properties more in line with current market conditions.  It is difficult to sometimes look at our homes as an asset, but that is what needs to happen.  Proper pricing in a market like this one can, and sometimes does, lead to multiple offers.  I have seen evidence of units being sold for greater than the asking price, a sign of multiple offers.

Financially Distressed properties are selling at a rate of nearly 5 to 1 YTD downtown, and there are currently only 10 available.  The return to a healthier housing market will depend on the foreclosure problem being lessened. 

I will repeat that the rentals indicated here are not traditional Rental Properties, but individual units located in condominiums such as Fifth & Poplar, The Avenue, 400 North Church, ChapelWatch, etc.  They are the result of owners not being able to sell their property in this market, but finding a way to lessen the impact of the financial strain, or perhaps just waiting for a healthier real estate market to emerge before selling.

With respect to the laws of Supply and Demand, the most important considerations in real estate are motivation, motivation, and motivation!  How motivated is a property owner to reduce the financial burden of a property?  How motivated is a buyer to move into an urban market?  It appears clear that there is enough motivation to begin to bring us back to a stable market and a return to increasing property values.