Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are some cities bust-proof?

You may be surprised to find out that there are some cities, Manhattan, Austin Texas and our own Charlotte North Carolina that have been weathering and even growing in the current market.

The real estate downturn has spread across the country ever since the credit crisis first began eight months ago. But there are some areas where that seem to be immune to the crunch or at least resilient—places like Charlotte, NC.

This is a natural cycle and right now we have a healthy buyer’s market as well as positive property value growth. This area has done really well, because it never got over-inflated, the economy here is strong and there are many great places to live.

While there have been changes, less new builds and increased sale sell times, Charlotte continues to show promise as a city which can not only survive but grow in the coming months.

So what if you aren’t looking to move? Smart investors can get in on some great opportunities right now. Since Charlotte remains a hot-spot people are still moving here at a record-pace. That said, many are coming from areas of the country where they are having problems selling their homes. This causes an increase in time a house here will be on the market and will lower the sale price. As the market strengthens around the country, there will likely be an influx of newcomers in the coming years. An investor who can sit on or rent out a home may stand to make a tidy profit.

Charlotte is one of the best cities to live in the US. The economy is good, the weather is near perfect and the people are welcoming—and it is still a great place to buy (and sell!) real estate!

Read more about bust-proof real estate markets.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

What to do in Mint Hill?

Dear Rich -

I am looking at moving to a beautiful home in Mint Hill NC and would like to know what there is to do in the area. My wife and I like to hike and walk, and spend time outdoors. I know you are familiar with this area and any advice on where to go, or places to visit would be appreciated!

Mint Hill, NC

Hi Mel -

You are right--I am very familiar with the Mint Hill area! I have been fortunate to assist many buyers and sellers in Mint Hill in the last few years and I am always happy to recommend this area. Mint Hill is one of the hidden gems in the Charlotte area and I am glad you have found a great new home to make your own.

There are many great parks and greenways in and around Charlotte. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Parks and Rec website is a great resource. In Mint Hill itself there are two parks, Fairview Park and Wilgrove Park.

Fairgrove is located at 8850 Fairview Road in Mint Hill. This park is over 55 acres in size with amenities for all ages. There are two soccer fields surrounded by an asphalt bike/roller blade path. There are racquetball and tennis courts, beach volleyball courts, and a nine-hole disc golf course that winds its way through the park. My favorite park it the nature trail with plants and trees native to this part of the North Carolina. Fargrove Park in Mint Hill also has a concession stand, and restrooms.

Wilgrove Park is located at 7750 Jim Harper Lane off Wilgrove-Mint Hill Road. Wilgrove Park has a softball field, four tennis courts, and natural walking trail that circles the perimeter of the park.

I also definitely recommend doing the Movies on the Lawn too. It is a nice evening out--for a couple or a family.

Enjoy living in Mint Hill--and please let me know if you need any more information on living in Mint Hill or the Charlotte area.

Rich Ferretti
Mint Hill & Charlotte Buyer's Agent

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Landscaping for a Quick Sell and Move to Charlotte

Dear Rich,

I like your recent blog about updates to that house in Mint Hill and I wanted to ask your opinion on landscaping. We are not looking at selling our house right away…maybe a year from now. We bought a new house in Fort Mill (SC) and now are looking at moving closer or in the city of Charlotte, (maybe Mint Hill?)—potentially next spring. Since our current house is brand new, (two years in October) there isn’t much in the way of landscaping. I would like to do a little work on the yard over the next year that might increase the value of the home or our ability to sell it when the market is right.

Do you have any advice on what I can or should do that will be more attractive to potential buyers?

Also, thank you for this blog—I am finding it very helpful as I navigate property ownership now for the first time, and plan to move and/or buy an investment property in 2009.

Bill D.– Fort Mill

Dear Bill ,

Never underestimate the power of curb appeal! Almost every time a client dismisses a house before even walking in, I think: “It would have been so easy to add a few flowers and shrubs and this house could work!”

Too many people don’t see the outside of their home as a prospective buyer would. I recommend taking a look at your property with a fresh perspective. Try looking at your yard as you drive up to it—What is it missing? What have your neighbors done that you like?

Then think of a plan. Budget out what you would like to spend. Definitely don’t go to the garden store not having a plan! The worst thing you can do is show up at Home Depot or Lowes without knowing what you want to do. It can get very expensive, and you might buy plants that won’t work in your yard or where you think they would look nice.

Since you have a year, you may want to consider doing a bit of serious research first. You can even get a landscaping company to put together a plan for you (at a cost) and you can either do this yourself, or have them do it. A professional, (or carefully planned and researched) landscaping of your yard will definitely attract potential buyers—especially if you have a year or so to get the plants, shrubs and trees established.

Here are a couple suggestions:

1) Get drought-resistant shrubs when possible. They require less water, and given our recent drought situation, this is a smart investment.

2) Buy perennials. This will keep your upkeep costs down as you won’t need to buy more in a year right before you sell.

3) Mulch. mulch, mulch. Keep your flower beds and under your trees fresh looking and weed-free with mulch. Also mulch helps maintain moisture for the trees—another must when the dry-season starts.

If you do nothing else…keep the lawn in good shape with fertilizer and regular watering (when possible). Nothing turns a buyer off more than weeds and tall grass. It says that you don’t take care of your property, and they may not even walk through the front door when you put that “for sale” sign up.

Best of luck in the next year, and I look forward to hearing from you when you are ready to buy that home in Charlotte.

Rich Ferretti
Buyer's Agent - Charlotte, NC

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Want more information about the Charlotte area real estate market? Check out

Charlotte named best place to ranks top 100 cities in its annual listBy Amy Hoak, MarketWatchCHICAGO (MarketWatch) --

Apparently, there's just something about North Carolina. For the second year in a row, America's best city in which to live lies within its borders, according to's annual list.This year, Charlotte, N.C., is in the top spot, the site announced this week. Last year's winner was Asheville, N.C., which slipped to No. 7 on this year's list. "North Carolina is very active on our radar," said Steve Nickerson, president and CEO of HomeRoute. "It continues to get a flood of interest from all over." HomeRoute is the real estate firm that operates, a source of community information and real-estate resources for those who are relocating. Each year, the site ranks the top 100 places to live in the country. Areas need to be nominated on the site in order to be eligible for the list; more than 2,000 were nominated this year, Nickerson said. Special efforts are made to prevent spamming campaigns from influencing the results, he added. But the site's editorial team also takes into account an area's growth, its educational and employment opportunities, crime rates and housing options before granting it a spot in the top 100. Environmental highlights also play a role, with a city gaining points for good air and water quality or the strength of its recycling efforts, Nickerson said. Home-price appreciation does get some consideration, however it's only one piece of the analysis, Nickerson said -- explaining why some struggling real estate markets in California and Florida, for example, still made the top 100. Areas that offer a comfortable climate and economic opportunity tend to be the most sought-after communities on the site, he said. Charlotte's diversity of housing options and home affordability were two of the reasons users nominated the city, Nickerson said. The city's strong economy, boosted largely by the banking industry, was another selling point. Second on this year's list was San Antonio, Texas, which people praised for its cost of living, recreational opportunities and diversity, he said. Chattanooga, Tenn., came in third place, noted for its vibrant downtown and affordable home prices in the nominations. Below are the top 10 cities in's 2008 list:
Charlotte, N.C.
San Antonio, Texas
Chattanooga, Tenn.
Greenville, S.C.
Tulsa, Okla.
Stevens Point, Wis.
Asheville, N.C.
Albuquerque, N.M.
Huntsville, Ala.
Seattle, Wash. Read the full list at The firm also plans on releasing a coffee table book on the top 100 in the near future, Nickerson said. Proceeds will benefit American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, he added. The view from the topCertainly, being ranked as the top city to live in has its benefits, mainly as a marketing tool for the area to use, said Tony Crumbley, vice president of research for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. An email blast sent news of this list to thousands of residents, and the chamber actively keeps track of where Charlotte falls in many of the lists that are published. "They are important," Crumbley said of the good rankings the city receives. But he also knows that these rankings come and go and that they're somewhat subjective; the city's appeal can change from one day to the next, depending on who is writing the list. There weren't any significant changes in Charlotte during the past year that would account for boosting the city to the top of this particular list, he said. But the city definitely gets recognized a lot more today than it did 25 years ago, he added. Bank of America and Wachovia have their headquarters in Charlotte, and it's also a hub for US Airways -- all of which seem to have increased the visibility of the city outside its boundaries, Crumbley said. The addition of professional sports teams since the 1980s has also helped. In recent years, Charlotte has been successful in attracting young, educated workers to relocate there, he said. Asheville, on the other hand, has become a popular choice with retirees, he added. But cities can easily make it to the top of one list and rank poorly on another, he said. Case in point: One recent list ranked Charlotte as one of the country's most miserable cities, a ranking, not surprisingly, that Crumbley and others disagree with. Forbes also ranked it as one of the best places to invest in foreclosures, in part because the real estate market there is relatively stable. "If they're good, you use them. If they're bad, I won't tell you you should ignore them -- you look at them," he said of the lists on which Charlotte appears. But negative rankings aren't likely to end up getting used as a marketing piece for the city. Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch reporter based in Chicago

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mint Hill home needs updates

Dear Rich,
Our house in Mint Hill has been on the market about 30 days. We are confident that it will sell soon, but we are getting feedback that the house looks “dated.”

Do you have any ideas on how to modernize the house without going overboard? We don’t mind making a few purchases to stage the house or give it that more contemporary look, but we also don’t want to spend our down-payment money on trying to get this house sold.

We are just looking at some first-line ideas to give the house a fresh, (and inexpensive) face-lift.

Marianne M.
Mint Hill
Charlotte, NC

Dear Marianne -

Finding an easy and inexpensive way to giving a room a more modern look is not hard. For less than $100, you can completely transform the look of a room—all you need is a weekend and a screwdriver!

Prospective buyers may make a judgment on your house if you haven’t taken the time to modernize—and that is to your detriment. While it may be just as easy for the new owner to do this things, it is always a good idea to do the work yourself if you can. I have seen buyers walk away from a perfectly good house, just because of decor or the fixtures--it just makes the house look "old" - and no one likes "old".

So here is what I recommend: If you have already put a fresh coat of paint up, and decluttered then consider some new fixtures.

New drawer handles or knobs can cost little as $2 each—less even if you buy them in packs. So check your bathrooms, kitchen, built-ins, etc. for places you can update. Remember to keep it simple. Clean lines, and simplicity sell.

And while you are at it, check the sink and bathroom faucets, sinks and toilets. These may be another easy update that will keep buyers interested. In my experience, you will always make your money back (and sometimes then some…) on updates to kitchen and bathrooms! So think of it as an investment. Feeling especially handy? You might also try updating any ceiling-mount light fixtures or doorknobs—but again, keep it simple!

Rich Ferretti
Buyer's Agent - Charlotte

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Staging a home to sell!

Dear Rich,

My husband and I are going to sell our house in Charlotte and we of course want it to sell quickly and at a good price.

Since you see hundreds of homes with dozens of buyers each year, can you tell us what we can do to make the house more attractive and inviting to prospective buyers? Are there things that you hear over and over--things that are obvious or not that we can do before the house goes on the market?

We understand that the market has slowed, but we also know we are in a great city for real estate right now. We are lucky to be in Charlotte---but we also want to move as quickly as possible.


Eleanore R . Charlotte, NC

Dear Eleanore:

It is true...I have walked in to literally hundreds of homes in the Charlotte area - all shapes, sizes and conditions and while I try not to give away my own personal feelings on a house--it is always obvious as we walk in, what the buyer thinks about it--usually before we get past the front entrance.

Sometimes it is the little things that turn a prospective buyer off... the smell, the paint color, clutter... So I certainly have some advice to share with you:

1) Make all repairs now. If the doorknob is loose, the sink is leaky, or the step on the front porch is broken...fix it now. If your home is in need of obvious minor repairs, a buyer may start to wonder 1) what else is wrong? 2) that the price is too high, 3) that the house needs more work than they want to put into it. I often also recommend that the seller invest in a home inspection as well. This will help you pin-point trouble-spots as well as be more attractive to the prospective buyers.

2) Remove clutter. Removing clutter will make your home appear larger, cleaner and will allow prospective buyers to picture the house as their own.

3) Paint and clean. A fresh coat of paint in a neutral or popular color will make the house look clean and well maintained. Have the carpets cleaned, (replace old and worn ones), in addition to a thorough cleaning of the whole house.

4) Smell. Smell is one of the things that can produce strong feelings about a house -- good or bad. Having your house clean will make it smell good, but generally you want your home not to have a smell that is memorable. Pet odors, mold, mildew and cooking grease all are offensive when you walk in. The smell of cookies or vanilla is very pleasant, but you should never use a smell to cover another. If your house has pet odors or mold...any bad small...then definitely get it cleaned before you put the house on the market.

5) Turn on the lights. Make sure that the lights are on, especially in rooms with few windows. Lighting will produce a feeling of a bigger and brighter space.

I wrote to another seller recently -- I recommend reading my response to this letter as well. It has several other suggestions. Good luck selling your home in Charlotte and best of luck with your move.

Rich Ferretti
Buyer's Agent

Want more information about the Charlotte area real estate market? Check out

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wall Street Journal: The Housing Crisis is Over

In today's Wall Street Journal, Cyril Moulle-Berteaux writes that he believes that we may be coming out of the housing crisis soon. Heend out of the housing crisis. He makes case that the argument that prices may well have fallen enough and new home inventories are starting to fall indicating that the worst is over.
It is encouraging to see conservative business media like the Wall Street Journal start to provide analysis that is somewhat positive.
I would hasten to add that the op-ed piece is a) opinion (albeit opinion from a respected financial guru) and b) all real estate is local and Mr. Mouille-Berteaux's analysis has a National bias. Still, if this is a sign of things to come, I'm encouraged.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Charlotte Home Values

The housing market is on everyones minds these days, and not a day goes by that we don't read or hear something in the news about housing values, foreclosures, or mortgages. Allen Norwood of The Charlotte Observer did an opinion article recently about home values in Mecklenburg Country. And while there is a silver lining here in Charlotte in that overall our market is holding or growing--something no other city in the country can say--we of course have areas that are doing better than others. In Norwood's article he compares the Mecklenburg areas and also says:

Average home prices are down across the country, according to the respected Case-Shiller report – but up slightly in Charlotte.

The statistics are available online at

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Understanding Charlotte's Buyer's Market

Understanding a Buyer’s Market: Six things you need to know.

Today we are in a buyer’s market in Charlotte. While currently the Charlotte market doing well for sales and values (it is the only one in the country still showing gains of more than 2%), we are definitely in a situation where a buyer can get a great house at a good price. As a home buyer, you may read or hear some numbers and phrases thrown about, so here are the translations and some things you should know if you are buying your new home in the Charlotte area:

1) The average home in the Charlotte area (metro and suburbs) is selling for 95% of the list price (down from a peak of 98%). Meaning: The buyer can get more for less.

2) Homes in the Charlotte are for sale about a month longer – up to 90-120 days on average, than they were at this time last year.
Meaning: The seller is more eager to buy and the there isn’t as much competition for houses.

3) The price per square foot is low. Meaning: The buyer can get a bigger house for less money than they could a year ago on average.

4) Interest rates across the country are low. Meaning: If you have good credit, now is the time to consider buying or refinancing.

5) Lots of inventory. Meaning: The amount of houses on the market in the Charlotte area is high. A buyer will not have to settle, since there are a variety of homes in many styles, sizes, areas, neighborhoods and price ranges.

6) Property in Charlotte is a “safe investment”. Meaning: The Charlotte area has head steadily increasing property values, and continues a conservative growth. Other cities in the US in the last few years saw record-breaking and excessive growth and now their bubble has burst. Charlotte’s property values have, and continue to rise without being over-valued. If you buy in the Charlotte area today, generally you can expect a rise in value over time with little risk.

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