Leonard H. Craver

Leonard H. Craver
Leonard H. "Tony" Craver

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

REAL ESTATE STUFF

· 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.


GENERAL STUFF

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.

DID YOU KNOW

          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.


THINGS TO BE PROUD OF

I know you get tired of hearing about my grandchildren but I never get tired of talking about them. They are literally scattered across the globe this summer. I just hope the world behaves itself - I know they will.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

DID YOU KNOW

Mayor Bill Bell is stepping down after 16 years as mayor. A lot is being
made about that fact that he won the office 8 times. I think folks who
push that thought are missing the point. If you do a good job in Durham,
you can be re-elected forever. Mayor Bell has done a lot for minorities
and the poor. Yes, Durham has some of the highest taxes and most expansive
social programs. But, Mayor Bell is also on the side of business. I can
think of no other city in North Carolina that has expanded its business
base, revitalized its down town and has made itself more inviting to folks
all over the Triangle than Durham has over the last 16 years.
In a nutshell, Mayor Bell has successfully walked a political tight rope
during his sixteen years as Mayor of Durham. He has reached the other
side with a high degree of professionalism. A job well done, Mayor Bell.
Enjoy your retirement.

HAPPY DAYS

Are you happy? According to the Associated Press Science Department
you are not. They have been collecting data since 2012 from countries
all over the world to determine which countries have the happiest
citizens. The winner is Norway followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland
and Finland. Obviously climate was not a criteria. Canada was 7th and the
U S was 14th. The bottom five were the Central African Republic (last
place), Burundi, Tanzania, Syria and Rwanda.
The article went on to say that the degree of happiness in the U S had
dropped 5 % in the last decade, proving that money does not bring happiness.
If money were a major critiria than why are the five most unhappy
nations among the poorest? I agree with their premise that wealth alone
cannot make you happy except that as the saying goes, rich or poor it is
good to have money. Another interesting observation is that the happy
five have very high taxes that cover health care and education. However I
wonder how happy they would be if that tax burden was raised enough
to include supporting a military strong enough to keep them free. We,
the United States, do that for them and don’t charge a thing. One last
thought: why does it seem that folks from all over the world want to get
to America by any means possible and we are not among the happy five?

SHORTAGE

This is not about a gas shortage or food shortage. This is about a housing
shortage. Ten years ago when I was showing houses to new arrivals, I
told them they would not have trouble finding what they wanted but
would have trouble choosing from the gracious selection being offered. I
really miss those days. Now it is not only hard to find what they want but
they usually have to bid against others to get it. We have described over
the last few years all of the reasons for the current housing shortage. It
all started with the bursting of the housing bubble. After that folks could
not sell their house because financing options dried up. Others did not want
to sell because their value was too low due to the nearly 30% drop in prices.
A third major reason was no confidence in job security. These
and other reasons sparked a cycle of tying up a lot of houses with long
term leases. As this problem has slowly resolved itself, those few houses
that were left on the market have been gobbled up almost as soon as
they appear for sale. As a company, Craver Real Estate is eagerly
wanting new listings since in this active market we have just about sold
everything in the inventory.
Let’s focus on the new construction shortage. The Wall Street Journal
recently had an interesting article where they quoted the National
Home Builders Assoc. The NHBA knows their industry just like National
Assoc. of Realtors knows the brokerage market. NHBA blames lender
restraints and regulations on the shortage of new homes being produced.
Home ownership is at a 50 year low, down from 69% a decade
ago to just 63.7% now. To realize how significant this is, if the home
building side of the housing market had produced at their normal rate
last year it would have added over $300 billion to the U S economy.
That would have increase our GDP by 1.8%. That doesn’t sound like
much unless you understand that our annual GDP has not reached 3%
in eight years.
Personally I blame the Dodd-Frank bill that was passed as a title only
and then written over the last number of years. No one wants to go
back to the “loan to anybody” days just before the housing crisis, but, as
usual, the government swung the pendulum too far in the other direction.
In normal conditions 12% of mortgages are at risk of default. Last
year that dropped to 5.1% meaning that lenders, due in large part to
restrictions built into Dodd-Frank, were not making loans to thousands
of people who pose very little risk. The article says that these folks have
been kept away from riding the recent growth in housing prices, forcing
them to rent instead of buy.