Leonard H. Craver

Leonard H. Craver
Leonard H. "Tony" Craver

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

IRRESPONSIBLE

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.


ALOHA

          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.



DID YOU KNOW

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


THINGS TO BE PROUD OF

        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

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.

STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW

Bob Baranick, a former Disney “imagineer” who helped design Epcot
and Disneyland Paris has announced his intention to develop a
theme park in…….wait for it…..Saxapahaw. I love Saxapahaw and
there is definitely not another theme park there to compete. They
are going to feature a train ride so I will be there.
 There are a lot of professional and not so professional house flippers
out there, all inspired by their favorite flipping show on TV.
ATTOM Data Solutions recently studied this art form and listed the
top 25 zip codes in the Triangle for profitable flipping. There is such
a thing as unprofitable flipping. Not too surprisingly, six of the top
ten zip codes are in Durham. Here they are: #9 27705, #7 27712, #5
27704, #3 27703, #2 27707 and #1 is 27701.
 There is a list out of the most expensive listing in each state. North
Carolina’s contribution is a house in Asheville on top of the mountain
overlooking the city. It can be yours for just $10.95 million.
That’s cheap compared to the California entry overlooking the Pacific
for a measly $250 million.
 The top tourist attraction in North Carolina last year was the NC
Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh with 937,341 visitors.
Durham’s Museum of Life and Science came in 7th. The Duke Chapel,
usually high on this list, was closed last year for restoration.
 Even though almost every TV show takes place in the city there is a
movement once again to the suburbs. So naturally someone has
made a list of the hottest suburbs in the U S. Checking in at # 10 is
the Apex area followed closely at # 12 by the Wildwood/Allen/Mint
Hill area near Charlotte. Who’s number one? That belongs to a suburb
of Denver. It is growing like a weed. I couldn’t resist!
 U S News and World Report comes up with a best places to live in
America list every year. I do not understand how you can be # 2 one
year and # 6 the next year. Yes I do. They sell more magazines if
they mix it up a little. Former number one a few years ago, Raleigh-
Durham came in at # 7 this time. Charlotte was #14, Winston-Salem
# 37 and Greensboro #51. One and two were Austin and Denver.
 If you are painting your front porch this weekend, don’t complain.
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI is repainting the world’s
longest and most beautiful porch along with you. I try to make it a
point to visit this 660 foot long porch every summer. You should
too.

THINGS TO BE PROUD OF


This is Newsletter No. 63. That’s a lot of verbal B S. But I have enjoyed
writing every one. I do hear from a lot of you after every issue with comments
and compliments and they are all greatly appreciated. In the future
I hope to write the Newsletter more often as we continue to pursue
our real estate business full tilt, as they say. We are glad you are along for
the ride.

Friday, March 3, 2017

STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW

     I hope stuff I find to be interesting reasonably resembles stuff you find interesting as well. This is a collection of true facts I have dug up about the area, in no particular order.
· According to “Nerd Wallet”, whoever that is, the top two months for getting a bargain when buying a home are January and February. I should have sent this Newsletter  out sooner. Homes average being sold  at a price that is 8.45% lower than the norm.
· In related news, Realty Trac says that the worst day to buy a house is January 19th when the average buyer pays 9.6% above the market value. They claim the best day to buy is October 8th. I detect some conflict in this January concept. I am glad it is almost February. You know what they say about statistics anyway.
· Home sales in 2016 were at 5.45 million units. That is the most since 2006 when  6.48 million units were sold.  Remember all of the warnings I have given you about being too excited about home sale growth rates in recent years. It is easy to make a number look good when comparing it to a lower number. Whereas I applaud the steady recovery rate of the past few years, please note that we are approximately one million home sales below 2006. We still have a lot of catching up to do.
· Many times when  I  go to make a listing presentation, one of the first things I hear from the seller is a list of things they have done to the house. They tend  to add the full cost of these improvements to their purchase price in hopes of recovering every penny. According to Remodeling Magazine, here is a list of the six most  popular renovation projects and their ROI (Return on Investment}. Hint: 100% means you can get all of your money back.  1) attic insulation… ROI 107%  2) Steel entry doors...ROI  90%   3) manufactured stone veneer...ROI  89%  4) minor kitchen redo...ROI  80%  5) new garage door...ROI  76%   6) window replacements...ROI  73 %.  I found this list amazing. What the average homeowners do not understand about spending money to keep their home nice is that some of it has to be written off to enjoyment.  This is why  I am amazed that a lot of folks wait until they are ready to sell to fix up their home.  Do that work gradually and enjoy the rewards it gives.
· Here is another interesting list from Daily Real Estate News. They have listed the top 10 design trends popular today.   1) open layouts (I can see Chip and Joanna knocking down walls)  2) neutral colors ( a little spice can be good for living but bland and blah may be good for selling )  3) multigenerational floor plans (sounds like something to confuse grandpa)  4) first floor masters    5) no dining rooms  (where do we put  grandma’s furniture)  6)  white kitchens  7) extra large garages  (finally a cracker jack idea)  8) big closets  9) finished basements with 9 foot ceilings (obviously they do not live in the Triangle)  10) barn-style sliding doors ( visions of Chip and Joanna again).
· Forbes says the top cities for investors are #1 Dallas, #2 Jacksonville #3 Orlando.  Charlotte came in at # 12 and Raleigh at #13. I am always a little suspect about list that include Raleigh or Durham. Out side of North Carolina a lot of survey-type folks tend not to  know the difference. Sometimes the two cities are lumped together, along with the whole Triangle and sometimes not. At least Durham folks were glad they included Raleigh in the bedbug list.
· The Triangle Business Journal had an interesting article on the scope of real estate investments by the three major universities in the Triangle.  The value of real estate owned by N C State is $2.16 billion dollars. They also own 2,955 acres of land in Wake County.  UNC has real estate valued at  $2.94 billion and maintains 20 million square feet of floor space. Duke’s real estate is valued at  $2.95 billion which just proves that stone cost more than brick. They maintain 15 million square feet of floor space but that does not include the hundreds of thousands of square feet they lease throughout Durham. Duke also owns over 9,000 acres of land, most of which is known as the Duke Forest. One side note: Duke just completed a new hotel as part of the Thomas Conference Center.  The 198 room, 7 story hotel cost $62 million. Oh yes, it is fully booked for the February 9th basketball game with UNC.



CITY OF CRANES

          As an amateur economist, I am going to share with you one of my secret ways to determine which way the economy is headed.  From the mid eighties until 2008 I would gauge the health of the economy by driving to Myrtle Beach and counting the number of cranes you could spot up and down the beach. Some years they were as far as the eye could see while in other years they were hard to find.
     Over the last year or more Durham has become the City of Cranes. Duke has done an extraordinary amount of building, over $2 billion  worth in the last ten years. It seems like it all happened in the past year or two. They have built research buildings, medical buildings, parking garages, hotels and athletic facilities including the fabulous new press tower with luxury boxes at Wallace Wade Stadium.
      Every where you have looked over the past year or two there have been cranes building five and six story apartment complexes housing thousands of units. Then there is the big crane downtown that is set up to carry building materials to the top of the 27 story Durham Center. Thanks to all of these cranes, Durham’s skyline is changing dramatically. Using my expert economic theory, Durham’s present and future is literally looking up.


DID YOU KNOW

           Not all news is good news. So in an effort to bring you the mostly good news and the occasional bad news, I must report that Orkin Pest Control publishes the Orkin Bed Bug List. Sadly, I report that Raleigh/Durham  is ranked # 12 nationally. Aren’t we proud. If you want to know where else you need to travel with a spray can, avoid Baltimore, Washington DC, Chicago and New York.


THINGS TO BE PROUD OF

         I try not to brag about my grandchildren in this newsletter (except once in a while). I can honestly say that I love all ten of them equally so when I brag about one, I am not slighting another. A few of them have done noteworthy things recently so I am going to brag. My grandson Alex Nagy who lives in Clemmons, NC  recently earned his Eagle Scout a couple of weeks before his 16th birthday. This is quite an achievement. Did you know that between 10 and 12 percent of students at West Point, The Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy are Eagle Scouts. Four of the current cabinet nominees in Washington are also Eagle Scouts. Then there is my grandson Noah Mofield here in Durham who is quite a musician. He has been named to the National High School Honors Chorus which performs later this spring in Minneapolis—-pretty good for just a freshman in high school. Then, bringing up the rear (only because she is the youngest) is my granddaughter Effie Craver who lives in Columbia , MO. She recently brought home the gold medal in all four of her gymnastic events in her last meet. They must get all of this talent from their grandmother.