Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Living Smarter - Design that Sells

Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House book was published in 1998, but the concept of living smarter and more efficiently wasn't really new.  I think people just forgot how to do it.  Or maybe I think that b/c I grew up in a smaller house where we didn't have a choice but to make it work.  It was that simple. You made do with the space that you had. But something happened in the 80's and houses became bigger and bigger. Now I think we're starting to come full circle because all that space didn't necessarily make life easier or better.

Having said that, the Not So Big principle actually has nothing to do with size, meaning that the author doesn't expect everyone to live in 1000 square feet.  But the idea is to live in a home that is well designed such that every space is used. I am sure there are many people who use every inch of their 4000 sq ft home, so this is not a rant about large homes.  I am guilty of falling in love with a kitchen once and ending up with a 3100 square foot home where at least 4 rooms were never used. I've learned my lesson.  I recently updated a 1500 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with the same types of features you'd only find in a luxury home. I wanted quality without the added space.  Will someone pay a luxury price when I go to sell? Will I get my money back? It's a risk I was willing to take to get what I wanted, because at the time it did not exist.

So, with all that as background, it was nice to see several homes sell lately that were small, but well designed.  Yes - Raleigh has shown that you don't have to have square footage to get a quality home with style. And if you're worried about fixing up that tiny home and not getting your money out of it, here are some examples of small homes that brought great prices:

Historic Oakwood - East St
This 1076 sq ft home has 3 bedrooms and 1 bath and just sold for $315,000 in 3 days.

Oakwood - Elm St - This 1262 sq ft home has 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, and just sold for $335,000 in 5 days.
Glenwood Brooklyn
This 1420 sq ft home has 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and just sold for $362,800

Historic Oakwood
The Rose Cottage.  This 1489 sq ft home with 2 beds, 2 baths, sold for $370,000 in just 2 weeks. 

Location is clearly a factor, as all of these homes are within walking distance to something. The most important point here is not to get caught up in the price per square foot. So many people get lost in numbers and forget the value of what they are looking at in front of them. A well designed home lets you live the way you want in a more compact and BEAUTIFUL home. But having the numbers to back it up is also important, because it will encourage others to renovate smarter, not larger. And it's not just home owners that want to live this way.  Check out my friend Nicole's new blog, Intentionally Small.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What to expect with condo living

I've never lived anywhere longer than 3 years. It's amazing considering I lived my whole life in the same town until going away to college. I've mostly lived in houses, but for the last 2 years it was condos. After living in both I'd thought I'd share my experience for those who may be considering moving to a more urban environment.

First, I lived in a 50's building in a third floor walk-up one block away from a busy street in an urban area in a major US city. The bedroom was on the street side - not the best floorplan. You could hear a woman in high heels coming from a block away. Granted, it was the thin windows that caused so much noise to get through, but I was surprised at how much. The good news, though, is that it had to be fairly close to the building to hear it. A one block radius was all you could really hear, and that goes for fire trucks, too.

But the noise was worth it to be able to walk to the myriad of restaurants, shops, and grocers that were within 3 blocks of where I lived. There was only parking for one car, so the other had to fight for space on the street. Yet it was worth it to be in that part of town.

In real estate, I've learned that there are 3 things that most people want. In reality, you can really only have 2 at a time. Typically one of them will have to be sacrificed. They are:
- Price
- Location
- Quality
If you want the convenience of living close to town, you have to pay the price. If you can't pay the price then you lose quality to be in a good location. If you want quality combined with the location, you'll have to pay the price.

The next condo I lived in was in a high rise building in the heart of downtown Raleigh. After being so close to the street, I thought for sure that being so high would stop all the noise. Not so. Being higher was even louder. How? You could hear noises for more than a block away. Try at least 10 blocks! There is nothing to block the sound waves. No other building in the way. Noise bounces of walls of buildings and climbs high. I'm sure an engineer could explain it better, but I lived it, so I don't need to get technical. It happens.

But that was the only negative to the high rise. The views were outstanding. The people who lived there were friendly and outgoing. The security was top notch. Location could not be beat.

Then I moved again. During the transition I ended up staying with a friend in a new, low-rise, condo building only two blocks from where I had lived in the high rise. The building combined the low-rise of the 3rd floor I had previously lived in with the new construction amenities of the high-rise to form the ultimate in urban living. It was quiet, yet in the same part of town as the high-rise. I could only hear things a block away, but even that was muffled because of the newer construction. I could hear neighbors, but not nearly as much as before.

Where is this building I speak of that blends the best of both worlds? It's Palladium Plaza. I think it's one of the best buildings in Downtown Raleigh. I spent a week there with my friend and am convinced of its value even more. For me, well, I'm a hippie at heart and really need a yard, so I'm back to a house that's 2 blocks from everything I need. But I'm so glad that I was able to experience condo life, even if just for a few years.

For both buildings, a few things were true:
- Neighbors - You're going to hear your immediate neighbors come home. You will hear the door shut. You may hear the elevator. You will hear talking in the hallway as people walk past your door. In newer construction buildings, it should end there. I never heard my neighbors watching TV, talking etc. Most buildings are not loud - it's usually bad neighbors that are problems.
- Parking - Parking decks are common in almost all condo buildings. You will probably not be able to park at your front door.
- Electrical components - Almost all condos have some type of security device or other electronics, even elevators, that may break from time to time. This is part of condo life.

So that's it.  What did I miss?  Share your story in the comments below.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Downtown Raleigh's North End is Booming

A Summary of Recent Activity

The north end of downtown is primed for growth, with land previously used as parking lots for the State and a few large empty buildings just waiting for something to happen. The first half of 2012 produced an abundance of progress, most notably in the Blount Street Commons neighborhood.  The vision of Blount Street Commons has always been to bring people back to the historic neighborhood, and the area surrounding it is expanding as well. 

Lewis Smith House SOLD
Hobby Properties has purchased the historic landmark and will begin renovations prior to taking occupancy as their headquarters. As you may know, Hobby owns the retail parcel along Franklin Street, only blocks away, which is slated for the Person St Plaza project featuring Market Restaurant, Escazu Chocolates and Yellow Dog Bakery.  Raleigh City Farm, on the same land, has already had their first harvest.

Peace Street Townhomes
Looking for a home with a view? These rooftop patio townhomes are proposed for the corner of Person and Peace Streets. Eighteen total units are available for reservation. Contact me for information and buyer representation (this is not my listing).

Holy Trinity Moves In

The renovations on the Jordan House are complete and Holy Trinity church received their Certificate of Occupany this month. Congratulations on a beautiful restoration! The Jordan house is located on the corner of Peace and Blount streets, and the home will be used as administrative offices.


Only ONE House Left!
The Merrimon-Wynne. This home has such a rich history, tied to Peace College as a dormitory in the 1920's, then home to the College President and then Chaplain. Moved in 2008, this home sits on one of the larger lots on the street. 


Row Homes

Live Oak homes is taking reservations for the remaining 8 row homes (2 under contract already!).  These townhome-like floorplans feature private garages, something hard to find in Downtown Raleigh.
Contact me for information and buyer representation (this is not my listing).

 Seaboard Retail Shops
The single story building at 111 Seaboard Ave is getting a new look and will be home to new retail tenants, including a burger bar and a coffee shop.  The new Tylers Tap Room has really brought more activity to this area, and these new shops will add even more value to this shopping center.

Rapid Fitness
A hop, skip, and a jump from the Commons is a new fitness center at the corner of Franklin and Person Streets. Residents can get in a morning work out and (once open) grab something from the market or bakery on their way home.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Online Resources for Raleigh Residents

Raleigh continues to win awards for the quality of life and the best place to do just about anything, but one thing that gets overlooked is how savvy the City of Raleigh and Wake County are with online resources. As a Realtor, I'm constantly online looking for property information, and when I go to other counties I am always disappointed at how little they offer online. So I thought it was necessary to point out all the fabulous resources available to you, the Raleigh resident.  I already wrote about the Top 5 Apps for Raleigh, but many of these services are web-based and are just as helpful.

Citizen Advisory Council - Everyone in the City is assigned to a CAC. This group is your link to the city.  Do you know how often yours meets? Who your CAC leader is?  Look it up.

My Raleigh Subscriptions - Be notified when your CAC newsletter is available, when news alerts are sent, when roads will be closed, or select to be notified of multiple activities using MyRaleigh subscriptions.

TriangleWiki - Launched in March 2012, the TriangleWiki gives residents the real flavor of Raleigh's subculture, neighborhoods, restaurants, and more.

TransLoc - This app lets you see the CAT buses, Wolfline, and Triangle buses, in addition to Chapel Hill and Durham bus routes. Know when the bus is coming! Download here.

Crime Stats - Look up an area where you live now or where you're thinking of living to see the various reports. The legend on the right side of the page lets you filter the types of crime to view.

RTN - Maybe this is for the more serious municipal geeks in us, but if you can't make it to a City Council or Planning Commission meeting in person, you can watch it online! Also Channel 11 on your TV, but online you can watch a replay anytime and skip to the agenda item you are interested in hearing.

Real Estate Records - Wake county provides a lot of information on property.  Photos, sales, tax bill, deed history, and more. Look yourself up!

What did I miss? I'm sure there's even more out there. Share your favorite resources in the comment section.

Related to apps and online resources, if you think there are more ways that the City and County should be using technology to help citizens, attend CityCamp Raleigh 2012.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Infill Compatibility Standards

One of the great benefits of the DLA is being kept up to date on all the development activity. With so much going on all the time, and each project requiring so much reading and and in-depth review, one person simply can't do it all.  

Big thanks to Phil Poe who has spearheaded the UDO project. Specifically related to downtown and the immediate surrounding downtown neighborhoods, there is a section of the UDO that talks about infill and how it should be handled.  I recently received this email from Phil with a link to a petition. Take some time to read through this, as it will impact how our neighborhoods will look in the future. 
Before the economic downturn in 2008, many neighborhoods saw an extraordinary number of teardowns replaced with homes that were out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. Some additions to existing homes produced similar results.

The intent of the proposed UDO residential infill compatibility standards is to put rules in place that “accommodate and encourage compatible development in existing residential neighborhoods, while reinforcing the established character of the neighborhood and mitigating adverse impacts on adjacent homes.” The UDO draft document includes specific rules for street setbacks and the height and length of the sides of buildings. The details are available in Chapter 2: Residential Districts, pages 10 – 11.

To receive comparable protection today, neighborhoods are required to go through the laborious process of creating a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD) or, if the neighborhood qualifies, a Historic Overlay District (HOD).

If you are concerned about preserving the character of your neighborhood and support more predictability in the City’s development regulations, it’s important that you engage yourself in this conversation. You can do this by attending Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting May 15 or by sending an e-mail to the Planning Commission. If it’s easier for you, you can send your comments to Christine Darges, She will ensure your comments get delivered to the Planning Commission.
There is also an online petition that you can sign.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Digs - My Move to Allen Tate

I am thrilled to announce that I have joined Allen Tate along with co-workers Peter Rumsey and Debra Smith. Working together, we see continued opportunities for focusing on downtown neighborhoods, where we live, and unique historic, modernist and sustainable housing and communities throughout the Triangle.

A veteran in the real estate arena, Peter is well known for his experience with historic homes, selling many of the Historic Oakwood homes over the years. Debra Smith established the Modern Home Network and Raleigh Condo and Loft in addition to selling her fair share of homes in the Oakwood area and other areas of Downtown.  Together, I think we each bring a unique perspective to real estate but also have a shared vision of urban living in Raleigh.

You'll see more from us over the next several months, but like the cobbler who has no shoes, we've been too busy working with clients to prepare a bunch of marketing materials on ourselves.  The market is picking up! And it's nice to see the demand for walkable communities continue to rise.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You snooze, you lose. Homes selling in days.

The start of the new year brought an increase in real estate activity, at least anecdotally.  Open houses were busy, and many Realtors that I talk to and work with felt things picking up, but there wasn't really tangible evidence in January to prove anything.  Now that we've hit the selling season, things are looking promising!

A quick look at the homes listed since February in the MLS for Area 1, otherwise known as "inside the beltline" and downtown and you get the following:

  • RBC #2707 - 1 day on market before contract - Listed @ 469k 
  • RBC #2301 - 2 days on market before contract - Listed @ $439k
  • 1031 Wirewood - Reserve at Bishops Park #101 - 8 days on market - Listed @ 152k
  • Paramount #704 - 11 days on market before contract - Listed @ $449k
  • Glenwood Gardens #203 - 14 days on market before contract - Listed @ $850k
  • Governor's Square #108 - 18 days on market before contract - Listed @ 152k
Single Family Homes
  • 3028 Rothgeb Dr - White Oak - 0 days on market before contract - Listed @ $479k
  • 1517 Cherokee Drive - Roanoke Park - 1 day on the market before contract - Listed @ $235k
  • 213 Duncan St - Five Points - 1 day on market before contract - Listed @ $379k
  • 3306 Coleridge - Drewry Hills - 2 days on the market before contract - Listed @ $325k
  • 618 Mills St - High Mount - 4 days on the market before contract - Listed @ $136k (bank owned)
  • 518 Elm St - Oakwood - 5 days on the market before contract - Listed @ $344k 
  • 620 N East St - Oakwood - 6 days on the market before contract - Listed @ 369k
  • 519 W Aycock St - Five Points - 6 days on the market before contract - Listed @ $589k
  • 1824 Wilshire Ave - Hayes Barton - 7 days on market before contract - Listed @ $549k
  • 513 Florence St - Boylan Heights - 7 days on market before contract - Listed @ $245k
  • 2853 Rue Sans Famille - Glen Eden /Ridge Rd area - 8 days on market before contract - Listed $260k
  • 114 Byron Place - Drewry Hills - 10 days on market before contract - Listed @ 424k
  • 2031 Reaves Dr - Five Points - 11 days on market before contract - Listed @ $359k
  • 503 Harding St - Mordecai - 12 days on market before contract - Listed @ 214k
  • 2405 Tyson St - Glen Eden - 21 days on market before contract - Listed @ $309k
  • 1610 Sunrise - Five Points - 22 days on market before contract - Listed @ 715k
This doesn't mean that sellers have it easy.  Buyers still expect a lot and homes still need to be in tip top shape at time of listing to attract the best price. The first few days/weeks of being listed are critical. This is the time when you get the most showings and have the most interest.  Time is on your side as a seller in the beginning. If you are priced right, staged well, then you can leverage the interest in your home in negotiations. 

Having said that, the market does appear to be coming back.   Buyers, you may have some competition.

This is also a good time to introduce you to the term "contingent."  The homes above have a status of either Contingent or Pending.  Many people hear "contingent" and think that the buyer must have to sell their existing home before they can buy the new home, thus the contract is contingent on the sale of their existing home.  That can still be the case, but there is a new definition of contingent in the NC Offer to Purchase when referring to status. The new Contingent status means that a contract has been accepted, but the buyer is in their Due Diligence phase (inspections, loan approval, etc).  The contract does not become Pending until the Due Diligence date passes.  That's just a quick intro to the new terminology. Talk to your Realtor or contact me to discuss further.

Happy House Hunting!