Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Review of Roku XD Player

Originally submitted at Roku

The new XD steps it up with 1080p HD video quality and extended-range wireless.

Good Bye Time Warner

By Uncle Dennis from Charlotte, North Carolina on 4/30/2011


4out of 5

Pros: Compact, Easy to use, High quality picture, Built in Wi-Fi, Easy to set up, Great value

Cons: The remote can be finicky

Best Uses: Living room, Primary TV

Describe Yourself: Technophile, Netflix fan

I was getting tired of over spending for cable tv that never had anything good to watch. I found out about Roku and made the plunge easily. I have cut my cable bill by a lot. It was interesting that when I dropped the Cable TV from Time Warner, they contacted me and offered me the entire package I had for less than I was paying!!!!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

National Trend For Living Downtown

Here is a part of an USA Today article on Urban Living:

Living downtown is becoming increasingly appealing to college-educated 20- and 30-somethings. In two-thirds of the country’s 51 largest cities, the college-educated population in the past decade has grown twice as fast within 3 miles of urban centers when compared to the rest of the metro area, the USA Today reports. That is a jump of 26 percent, on average, compared with 13 percent in other parts. Young adults with higher education, in particular, seem to be showing a preference for urban living. Young adults with a four-year degree are about 94 percent more likely to live near urban neighborhoods than less-educated young professionals. (In 2000, that number was about 61 percent.) Even floundering downtowns are attracting more young people. For example, Detroit, which has faced a 25 percent drop in its population since 2000, has added 59 percent (or 2,000) young and educated residents during that time, according to Impresa Inc., an economic consulting firm. Looking to keep the young vibe going strong, Detroit even has recently launched a campaign — ”15 by 15” — to bring 15,000 young, educated professionals to live in the downtown by 2015. To do that, they are offering cash incentives: A $25,000 forgivable loan to buy a home in downtown and stay there for at least five years or $3,500 on a two-year lease. Source: USA Today

This story reminds me of a client (and friend) who moved to downtown Charlotte in 2005 from Boston.  As part of our tour of properties, I touted the growing number of options downtown for young professionals.  His comment recently to me was that when he moved here, it was Fox and Hound and Rock Bottom and that was really all the night life.  Now with Epicentre in full swing, the options are significant.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

March 2011 Shows Significant Movement Downtown

I was doing some analysis work and a client of mine sent me an eMail asking about March sales downtown.  I did a recap of sales and properties that have gone under conract in March, and the summary is here.
The numbers show that 25 units sold in March, and 22 units went under contract.  That is a pretty significant number as things continue to improve.  Of that total of 47 units, 32 were under some form of Distressed Financial Condition. The average $ per Square Foot for the 25 sold units was slightly under $199.
The keys here are that there is a significant increase in activity.  Property re-evaluations have come out, and many properties have had their taxes reduced, most noticibly at Fifth and Poplar.  Interest rates remain low, though rising slowly, and the low hanging fruit of short sales and foreclosures are being grabbed.
Look for this trend to continue.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Continuing Saga Of The VUE

No newsletter would be complete without some information about The VUE.  I look at The VUE everyday from my condo, and see pockets of lights in the building.  The official tally is that as of this date, April 1, 2011, 16 units have closed.

The developer has been willing to be creative with some buyers to allow them to buy down to other units less expensive, and to move their deposits with them.  This may not be an ideal solution for buyers, but it can be helpful.

MCL, the developer claims to have approximately 200 contracts.  Today, it was announced that a buyer cannot be forced to purchase a unit they have contracted for, or pay damages as claimed by the developer.  They will still lose their initial deposit though.

This ruling should clear the way for closings to begin to take place.  Some buyers were waiting to see what the ruling would be in hopes that they would be able to secure their initial deposit back, but that appears not to be the case.  The big part of the ruling is that the developer is not entitled to any monetary consideration outside of the deposit itself.

The building itself is really quite marvelous.  The amenities are well thought out, and the location is great.  The views from the building are pretty incomparable.  What the building desperately needs is occupants. 

If you wish to take a tour of the building, please contact me to arrange one, I never get tired of going in to The VUE.

In the mean time, what does that mean for current property owners?  Currently in MLS, The VUE has 3 properties listed, and they average around $526 per square foot.  In 2010, the average price per square foot in the Fourth Ward for a closed transaction was $230.  That 2010 price included financially distressed properties, which deflated the value of the sale.  So, lets make some assumptions.

1.) The economy is getting stronger, people are feeling better about their jobs, current companies have resumed hiring, and other businesses are relocating here.

2.)  With the first lawsuit settled (though it will be appealed) other buyers will need to make hard decisions as to whether they can walk from a significant deposit.  For this purpose, lets assume that the majority of the buyers do not walk away.

3.)  As more units close (based on assumption #2) there will be renewed interest in new sales in the building.
I cannot make any assumptions as to the developer restructuring the pricing for the building.

My belief is that a renewed interest in the downtown condo market will lead to an increase in the sale of units in other buildings that offer perhaps larger space as well as other amenities.  Couple this with the number of financially distressed properties diminishing will lead to the recovery of the market. 

Trends Of Financially Distressed Properties

There appears to have been a slight dip in the sale of Financially Distressed Properties over the last few months.  This could be good news, or it could signal that banks are taking more time to put property on the market. 

In the past, banks have put REO property on the market with little or no repairs or improvements, leaving that entirely to the buyer.  The thought behind this was to price the property so low as to make it move and let the buyer do the repairs.  That was in a normal market!

Today's market is acting much differently.  Any buyers in a position to purchase are being much more selective, and banks are finding that they are sitting on property longer, and settling for less for the sale.  They have seen the wisdom of making necessary repairs, and even making improvements to increase the value of the property.  This is more a reflection of the laws of supply and demand than anything else.

Another interesting trend is that buyers are having a much more difficult time in obtaining a loan for a property.  Not necessarily because of their financial condition, but more reflective of the property itself. 

I hate to pick on Fifth & Poplar, but the combination of rentals in the building, along with delinquency in paying the HOA dues are causing underwriters refuse to give a loan for that property in some cases.  The good news for Fifth & Poplar is that the current property re-evaluations have significantly reduced the tax value and therefore cutting the taxes in half in some cases.

In the current downtown Charlotte market, 84 units have either sold or are under contract, 33 of which are Financially Distressed. In 2010, 33 units sold and 5 were financially distressed.  Clearly the market is picking up steam.

As The Economy Recovers More Jobs Coming

The above articles talk about some of the trends that are leading to a recovery, but the main issue will remain JOBS.  Sometimes it is hard to tell because most media outlets like to lead with doom and gloom, but hardly a month goes by without an announcement that another company is moving its operations to Charlotte.

Most recently is HVM Corporation, the parent company for Extended Stay Hotels.  They will be bringing about 170 jobs from Spartanburg to Ballantyne.  The Veterans Administration is planning a major hospital facility in Charlotte.  The banks are changing their mix of departments but in general are hiring.

Mark Vitner, a senior economist for Wells Fargo & Co. is optimistic for Charlotte because he believes the U.S. is fundamentally shifting toward a more capital-intensive economy versus a labor-intensive one.  A capital-intensive economy requires a highly educated workforce, which Charlotte has.

As these jobs continue to come to Charlotte, other trends will also come into play to intensify the desirability of downtown as a residential environment.  Gas prices will be a key factor; lifestyle changes will encourage people to live closer to where they work and where they play.  Charlotte's downtown is poised to take advantage of that, and property values will reflect that as well.

A Word From The New Reid's

It's funny, I still carry around my Reid's Rewards Card on my key chain even after 9 months!  It is still sad that the Seventh Street Station location closed.  I had lunch recently with Chuck and Pam Richards, and while Chuck is out of the day to day operation, Pam remains fully engaged in the Gift Business. 

I asked Pam to write a few words for me as Reid's prepares to reopen on Selwyn Avenue by the end of April.

Its always tough when you hand a huge chunk of your life over to someone else. It was with great trepidation that Chuck and I sold Reid’s and turned the wheel over to new ownership.  This change is proving to be one of the most positive and fulfilling moves that we have ever made. 

Reid’s does indeed now have a dynamic new leader, Tom Coker  Chuck and I both feel that Tom has the best interest of the store in mind and the means to make it work as it used to at the old Myers Park location.  The new Selwyn and Colony store is going to be a great palette for the expression of all the special things that Reid’s has stood for throughout the years. 

I am very proud to be a member of the team that will be a part of the new Reid’s at opening in late April.  Tom has hired many of the key staff from the 7th Street Store to make sure the same feel and level of service will continue.  We hope that each of you will find you way to the new store, visit Bucky in the meat market, have a glass of wine at the wine bar and maybe a sandwich or salad at lunch time. 

The best is yet to come.

Pam Richards