Leonard H. Craver

Leonard H. Craver
Leonard H. "Tony" Craver

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


The Triangle Business Journal  has always been an excellent publication that promotes the Triangle. A recent study by Fit Small Business  declared that “North Carolina is the Best Place to Work”. They cited our recently improved business tax structure, our quality of life and the low cost of starting a business.
All of this is despite our low ranking in access to new business capital.
      Then along comes the Triangle Business Journal with an article titled “The Tale of Two Regions” in which it glorifies the growth rate of the Raleigh/Cary side of the Triangle while slamming the Durham/Chapel Hill side. When the federal  government split the Triangle into two economic regions a decade or so ago, in what I have always suspected was an effort to prevent us from getting a bigger piece of the federal dole,  it definitely hurt the Durham/Chapel Hill side more. In spite of the artificial separation the two sides not only complement each other but are totally dependent economically on one another to sustain that “quality of life”  we all enjoy. The Raleigh side is many times larger in size and population and able to grow much faster.  Despite the “you don’t want to live in Durham” whispers I hear  in my profession, the two or three days a month I work in Raleigh are constant reminders that less traffic and slower growth are probably a good thing.


          In this article I want  to share with you some of the best experiences I have ever had.  We recently returned from two weeks in Hawaii. After my son took me to the Masters Golf tournament in Augusta five or six years ago, going to Hawaii had made its way to the top of my bucket list. The closest I had ever come was watching every episode of Hawaii Five O, both the old series and the new one. I wanted to be the one standing on that balcony of the high-rise over-looking Waikiki beach just like Steve McGarrett. 
        My chance finally came when  I got to attend a national Real Estate Commissioner’s meeting at the Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu. Waikiki was everything I had imagined. I spent a lot of time watching the beach-goers below from our 29th floor balcony that over-looked Diamondhead. It was sunny every day we were there and the temperature was either 88 or 89 degrees with a breeze. Being a weatherman there must be a piece of cake. You were surrounded by water but there was almost no humidity. I do not know how they pulled that off.  The only negative about Hawaii was the price of food. There were wonderful restaurants but they had wonderfully high prices. Luckily there were some local eateries included in the food court at the mall across the street.
      After the conference, Cathy and I spent five days on the north shore of O ’ahu at the Turtle Bay Resort. Before we drove up there we took a tour of Honolulu and learned some interesting things. The tour guide said the eight Hawaiian Islands had no mosquitoes, no snakes and no gambling. He said that is why they consider Las Vegas the ninth island. We went to Pearl Harbor and rode the shuttle ferry out to the USS Arizona Memorial which is a very moving and memorable experience. It ranks up there with the Vietnam Memorial in Washington and the American Cemetery in Normandy.
       Did you know that Hawaii is the most Isolated parcel of land in the world. The nearest piece of land is Los Angeles, some 2,500 miles away. Did I mention it was a long flight.
Some of our friends from the conference went to Maui and the big island of Hawaii to see active volcanos.  On O’ahu we  liked seeing the dormant ones. Our trip to the north shore of O’ahu was spectacular. They built  Interstate H-3 (think about the term “interstate” for a moment) from Pearl City to Kailua on the eastern shore. This highway is a four-lane, 12 mile version of the Grandfather  Mountain viaduct in N C . It takes you from sea level through a tunnel at 1,800 feet elevation where all of a sudden you are looking east at the Pacific Ocean. They claim it is the most beautiful highway in the country. They will get no argument from me.   
   If you are a surfer, you have heard of  Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline.  These are probably the most famous surfing locales in the world and they are less than ten miles from Turtle Bay. Being a weatherman at Turtle Bay is just as easy as being one in Honolulu, just subtract about two degrees.  The waves were running about six feet in September. They say in January and February they can be 40 to 50 feet high. Winter weather is an issue though, it is only 81 or 82 degrees each day.  
    Every day at lunch we drove out of the resort and up the beach a few miles to where there are endless shrimp farms. Scattered along the highway are shrimp trucks with picnic tables under different types of shade shelters. Here you can eat many styles of shrimp at very reasonable prices. The food back at Turtle Bay was pricey but fabulous.  Having designed houses a great part of my life, as well as planning new subdivision communities, I must tell you that I thought the folks who designed Turtle Bay did the best job I had ever seen at adapting the structure to the land and its environment.  Speaking of the environment, Hawaiians make protecting the environment their top priority, as they should. I have never seen a prettier place. Every tree, bush and shrub blooms. The State of Hawaii has an admirable goal to become energy independent.  The only problem is they are putting up these awful looking wind farms all over the islands.  Also going up are signs from the local citizens saying “No More Wind Farms”.  Even Paradise has its little problems.  
         Perhaps the most unique thing about Hawaii is the makeup of its people. There are no majority ethnic groups on the islands. To my surprise native Hawaiians make up only five % of the population. They are the friendliest five % you will ever meet.  The largest ethnic population is the Japanese followed by people from the Philippines.  In a way it is like visiting a foreign country without the need of a  passport. There is no geography like Hawaii on the U S mainland and the people are from all over the world. However, every one seems to know English as well as you do.  The architecture is new, modern and quite grand. You have the comfort of knowing that the laws and services, ie water, food, health, etc, are the same as back home. It is truly  the best of both worlds.
      All of my life I had wanted to go to Hawaii. Now that it is off my bucket list, I just want to go back. Save your vacation days and your money folks, and take the journey.


One of the many reasons Realtors promote home ownership is that homeowners pay 83 % of all Federal income taxes.


        Here I go bragging about Duke again but this is some pretty cool stuff.  The Wall Street Journal recently ranked the top universities in the land and came up with Harvard at number one and Duke at number five. However, in a follow up survey called “The Colleges Whose Graduates Do Best Financially”, Duke and Harvard were tied for number one.  I do not think they took into consideration the salary of all of Duke’s NBA alumnae or we might have been number one by ourselves.
      Let me also point out that  Times Higher Education ranked the world’s top ten law schools.  They were #1 Duke, #2 Stanford, #3 Yale, #4 U of Chicago, #5 Cambridge, #6 Oxford, #7 U of Melbourne, #8 Col. Of London, #9 Harvard, #10 U of Toronto.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


· All of you local homeowners will like this. Realtor.com says Durham is the third most stable growing real estate market in the country.
· Inman Headlines says that although the majority of home searchers now use the internet for their search, there has been a 10% rise in the use of real estate agents over the last 20 years.
· I hate to quote Zillow because they have become an increasing threat to the real estate industry as we know it. Perhaps I will tell you more in a future newsletter. They did attempt an interesting study of renting verses buying. According to Zillow the median rent in the US is $1,416 per month. That is enough to cover principal, interest, taxes and insurance on a home worth $289,500, well over the national average price of $196,500. Even though the average loan closes now in 43 days, they could not understand why everyone, especially millennials, are not interested in buying instead of renting. They failed to mention no down payment, bad credit, high student loans and fear of job security. The younger folks who are buying are buying townhouses while the older buyers are buying single family homes. Older buyers are trying to pay off their loans while younger buyers are trying to qualify. There is nothing new here. It has always been this way to some extent.
· What is today’s home buyer looking for? Realtor.com says the most searched items are #1, a large back yard, #2, a garage and #3 is an updated kitchen. The least searched items are a guest house, a mother-in-law suite and a “man cave”. The most searched for style is a ranch (42%) followed by a contemporary (28%). And here we are in two-story heaven. What is the favorite room in the house? The kitchen was favored by 80%. No wonder the whole country is over weight. Second favorite was the master bedroom followed by the living room. It should be noted that the over 55 crowd preferred a garage over the living room.  In spite of all of these stats the number one goal of home searches is privacy.
· Inman once again gives us an idea of what today’s home buyers are looking for in the way of smart technology. Number one on their list are leak detection devices. This category covers a lot of things like fire, smoke, carbon dioxide, radon and moisture detectors. Second on their list was an energy saving thermostat. Third was smart garage doors that you can close from anywhere. Did you see the commercial of the couple lying on the beach that forgot to close their windows? Next was automated watering systems followed by security cameras.
· That last item brings up an interesting new problem. Technology first gave us the nanny cam. They have worked well for years, but now home owners are using them to spy on agents as they show their property. Unfortunately this has turned up an occasional indiscretion by an agent. Photographing folks in your home is perfectly legal, but it is advised that you notify prospective agents that the customers are being photographed. Now, several of the major tech companies are advertising and selling little computer towers with cute names. You can ask them to turn off the lights or order a pizza. That is all well and good but they are also recording what is being said in the house. When someone outside of your household is in your house, we are told that it is not legal to record them without their written permission. What is happening in the real estate industry, unfortunately, is that showings are being secretly recorded, and that gives the seller an unfair advantage in future negotiations. Do you want to see a house with your agent with someone recording the entire event?
· As you see there are a lot of changes going on in the real estate industry. One of the biggest influences on the home buyer now is TV. Commercials once controlled what fashions were “in” and which were “out”. Now we buy what Chip and Joanna say we like. Open space is the big craving now. I remember when it was called a kitchen-den combination. And the tiny house reminds me of a home-made house trailer. They did not sell too well back then, but with new packaging, they are going like hot cakes.


Here is a bunch of “stuff”, for lack of a better word, but I think you will find it interesting.
· Cushman Wakefield’s global chief economist says to “expect the largest economic expansion since WWII. That should get this newsletter off to a good start.
· Despite all of the negative press over NC’s HB2, tourism in the state last year set a record volume of $22.9 billion. That is up 4% over the record set in 2015. It’s too bad the ACC and the NBA did not enjoy our beautiful state as well.
· USA Today has an interesting list of America’s most “literate” cities. Washington DC was #1. Other notables included #13 Raleigh, #15 Durham, #38 Greensboro and #44 Charlotte. I hope I spelled that right.
· Here is one you will like. Vogue declared Durham as North Carolina’s “Hippest” city. They said it was thanks to (their order) Duke men’s basketball, the restaurant scene, DPAC, American Tobacco and Brightleaf Square, the Durham Bulls, and the old Durham Athletic Park where the Bull Durham movie was filmed.
· If you have nothing to do next Saturday afternoon I suggest you take a ride to downtown Durham. The city is riding a wave of expansion you just will not believe. The wave is also rolling into east central Durham with amazing new homes and offices. Don’t limit yourself to just one street—explore a little, then take advantage of the “restaurant scene” that impressed Vogue so much.
· Some lists automatically make you question their validity. “Niche”, whoever that is, published a list of the “Best Places to live in North Carolina”. I think the researcher lived in Raleigh and his /her parents lived in Charlotte. Of the 25 cities, 10 were in and around Raleigh and Chapel Hill and 10 were in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte). The other five were in the mountains and the Triad, including one of my favorites, #18 Clemmons.
· Not everything is rosy. Travel and Leisure listed the “Rudest” cities. In the US. Miami was #1 and the usual suspects, New York and L A were high on the list. The bad news is that Charlotte was #14.

 · Finally the same group listed the top ten places for Millennials to settle. Salt Lake City was # 1 and Miami was #2- both made the “Rude” list also. Maybe some fresh new life is what they need.


          You also know that I love rankings. It seems that the Milken Institute has ranked the “Best Cities for Successful Aging” . In other words they are good places to get old. I have no idea why this article intrigued me so. Number one among their large city list was Provo, Utah. I have been there and it looks like a great place. Following were # 2, Madison, Wisconsin and # 3 was Durham/Chapel Hill. The article said that if a city was a good place for the aging then it would also be a “good place for all to live”. They had a lot of different categories for ranking purposes, but Durham/Chapel Hill ranked number one in health care. There was a small city category and it was headed by Iowa City, Iowa. Number four on that list was Columbia, MO where my son Jeff lives. Maybe we will move in with him some day. Don’t tell him.