Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mid-Century Neighborhood Inside the Beltline - Is it on your radar?

The beginning of the 2013 spring housing market was pretty hectic for just about every Realtor that I know. Multiple offers. Cash deals. Appraisal issues. I wrote at least 5 or 6 offers for several clients before they finally got a house. The news is finally catching on to what those of us close to the ground already know - the market is back.  The problem is - little inventory.  Those looking to live "inside the beltline" are having to duke it out with several other buyers.  Many buyers are disappointed at what their money can buy ITB.  $300k will get you a great location, but a fixer upper that needs at least another $100k.  Many people just can't do that. Options are to consider a smaller house, perhaps? But if you're looking to start a family, that may not be an option either. 

It's with this background that I'd like to introduce you to Longview Gardens.  If you're in that
$200k to $400k range and aren't finding what you want, you may want to expand your search.  ITB to many agents means "area 1" in the MLS system.  The problem with only looking in area 1 is that you miss half of downtown.  The eastern border of Area 1 is Raleigh Blvd, and the southern border is New Bern Ave.  There's a whole section to the east that is STILL inside the beltline that you miss if you only look in area 1. This other area is area 3, and that is where we find Longview Gardens.

Built in the 40's and 50's, you'll find all sorts of mid-century architecture here on HUGE lots.  

In 2011 it was awarded status on the National Register of Historic Places. This is different than what you may know of Oakwood and Boylan Heights - those are local historic districts, that have restrictions on what you can do to the exterior.  The National Register does not carry such restrictions, but it does mean that a home can potentially be eligible for tax credits

Right now there are 4 houses on the market in Longview Gardens, from $125k to $399k, including one listed by Peter Rumsey and Debra Smith.  Their listing on Lord Ashley is 4422 sq ft, making this house $90/sq ft.  And 3592sf of that is above grade, with 830 in the basement. This house in area 1 would be at least $150/ft and would probably be torn down to build a mcmansion since it sits on over half an acre. If you need space, you gotta see this one. 

There are also some great starter houses like the one on King Charles for $125k.  

So, who lives in Longview Gardens?  Well, Matt Griffith of In Situ Studio, that's who.  And lots of other great folks.  Matt recently wrote about his house for their newsletter, but you can find the article here

Hopefully you've learned about a great neighborhood that may have been off your radar. Tell your buyer's agent to expand your search or shoot me a note if you don't have an agent and would like to take a look at some of these homes in Longview.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Missing Middle: Housing Opportunity for Raleigh

I recently stumbled across this article about the Missing Middle housing type in cities across America.  It was incredibly refreshing to me to find this article because until finding it, I was pretty sure that I was the only person who recognized this missing piece in the housing market (in Raleigh anyway). We have big condo buildings and houses, with not much in between. 

Those who know me know that I have been involved in the Blount Street Commons project, along with Peter Rumsey, for the past two years.  Blount Street Commons was originally envisioned as a neighborhood that would recreate the past and bring the wealthy families back to Blount Street.  (For a little history, check out this old article).  In addition to the wealthy families in the historic homes along Blount Street, there would be a mix of row homes, and condos to complete the mix.  Needless to say, the downturn in 2008 had a huge impact on the neighborhood and a few things had to be adjusted.  Things are picking up now and the neighborhood is making a comeback, which brings us back to the Missing Middle. 

There are five empty lots along Blount Street that were originally planned for single family homes.  Given the character of the street, these homes would need to be quite large, at least 3500-4000 sf, and plans would have to be approved by RHDC.  The market has simply not been there for single family homes, so we've been brainstorming on other uses of the space while still bringing residents to the neighborhood.  

In thinking about the demographics of downtown and how the residents are largely either young professionals or empty nesters/retirees, and being someone who hates stairs myself, it occurred to me that if you wanted to live in a flat (one level condo), you had no choice but to live in a large condo building with 200+ other people.  

Other cities have 2 and 3 story walk ups with 3 one-level units.  Some buildings have six or eight apartments in one building, essentially a low to mid-rise building in a more residential neighborhood.  Raleigh does not have this kind of product. 

We do have a few small scale condo buildings:  Martin Place has 12 units (and stairs), the BSC row houses are new and clustered in small rows of 4 (also have stairs), and Hillsborough Street has a few buildings with less than 25 units, but they lack the quality that can be found in today's condo homes. A few of the condos built along Cabarrus Street in Boylan Heights are one level, but that's all we have. There aren't many options for low-rise, one-level living with high quality features in an elevator building.  The developers of Fairview Row have recognized this, but they are targeting the luxury market with $800k plus units. 

I believe that Blount Street Commons *is* the Missing Middle for Raleigh and it provides the ultimate mixed use space only blocks from downtown.  The neighborhood has grand historic homes, row homes, carriage homes, and town homes with rooftop decks (coming soon). The mix of businesses from the AIA building to Gallery C to the Seaboard shops only a block away and the Person St shops around the corner put you right in the middle of everything.  The ability to stroll through Oakwood on a morning walk, walk a few blocks to museums and the Capital, and jump on the R-Line for anything else gives this location a unique and intimate feel while being in the heart of everything.

So - back to the Missing Middle.  I strongly believe that there is demand for one-level living in a neighborhood like Blount Street Commons.  Picture what looks like a large historic home (but newly constructed), with 4-6 condos inside with an elevator, nice shared common space, and well designed floor plans.  If that sounds interesting to you, shoot me a note

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.