December 10, 2010

Christmas in Bethlehem Drive Thru - Bethlehem, NC

Christmas in Bethlehem Drive Thru - Bethlehem, NC

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday (December 10, 11 and 12) from 6:30p until 9:00p, the 2010 Christmas in Bethlehem Drive Thru is open for your viewing or participating pleasure!

This is a live-action Christmas production event and features over 30 live scenes and over 100 characters in a reenactment of  the town of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth.

You can drive through the streets of "old Bethlehem" while listening to the provided CD of the story behind the scenes.  Or if you'd like to really have an experience, you can choose to dress up in some period clothing (provided) and walk through the streets and interact with the characters.

Admission, refreshments and costumes are provided free of charge (donations welcome), so come out this weekend and support a great community event.

Christmas in Bethlehem Drive Thru 2010 is brought to us by the entire community of Bethlehem.  The Bethlehem community is part of Alexander County, NC.

Christmas in Bethlehem is being staged beside Fellowship Advent Christian Church, located at the intersection of Fellowship Church Rd and Icard Ridge Road

Check out the slideshow of Christmas in Bethlehem

map to Christmas in bethlehem

December 02, 2010

The Green Room Presentation of Annie Opens Dec 3, 2010 - Newton NC Event

The Green Room Presentation of Annie Opens Dec 3, 2010 - Newton NC Event

The Green Room Community Theatre will open its family Christmas Musical, Annie, this Friday, December 3, 2010 at the Old Post Office Playhouse (the OPOP) in downtown Newton, NC.

The complete show dates are Dec 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18 at 8:00 pm and Dec 5, 12, 19 at 3:00 pm.

Box office hours have been extended and are from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the run of the show.  The box office phone number is 828-464-6128

Annie is produced by McCreary Modern and is directed by John David Brown III and David Townsend with musical direction by Cathy Banner.

If you have any questions, you can call the Green Room Community Theatre at 828-464-6583 or visit the GreenRoom

Old Post Office Playhouse

10 South Main Ave
Newton, NC

November 29, 2010

NC Foreclosure Help - NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund

NC Foreclosure Help - NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund
If you're a resident of North Carolina and are unemployed or facing a financial hardship and are at risk of falling behind on your mortgage payment or have already fell behind on it, you may qualify for help from the NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund.

If you qualify for these zero interest loans, you may be able to receive up to $36,000 for up to 36 months to help you pay your mortgage.  These loans are available in our area, which includes Alexander, Catawba, Caldwell and Burke counties.

This is being offered by N.C. Housing Finance Agency in partnership with HUD-certified counseling agencies statewide.  The contact for this area is the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.
You may be eligible for help if you:
  • are unemployed or are earning less than you have in the past, or
  • are facing a temporary financial hardship (for example, a divorce, serious illness, or death of a co-signor). To be eligible, you must also:
  • need assistance with payments for your principal residence, which must be located in North Carolina,
  • have satisfactory mortgage payment history prior to your job loss or financial hardship, and
  • be a legal resident of the United States.
If you need help, it's best to contact the counseling agency as soon as possible to determine if you qualify.

Western Piedmont Counsel of Governments
736 4th Street SW
Hickory, NC 28602
(828) 322-9191
Below are a couple of videos to help explain how the process works and what to expect when speaking with a counselor

November 25, 2010

One Family Can Make a Difference - Happy Thanksgiving!

Way back in 1990, Al and Debbie Bandy, of Newton, NC, started cooking a Thanksgiving day meal for the community.  They served about 125 people that first year.  Today, with the help of volunteers, they expect to serve over 500 people.  And they deliver, too!

The dinner is held every other year (and this is the year!) at First United Methodist Church, located at 300 North Main Ave, Newton, NC.

Takeout is from 11:00 am to 12:00pm today and dine in is from 11:30am to 12:30pm today.

So, who do they serve?  Anyone!  "It's for people who don't want to cook, can't afford it financially or don't have someone to eat with."  says Debbie.

If you ever think that you can't make a difference, think about what this one family has done for their community on Thanksgiving.  You can make a difference!

November 15, 2010

Need A Quickie? Quick Tips to Staging Your House to Sell

Need A Quickie?  Quick Tips to Staging Your House to Sell

If you've even considered selling your house in today's market, you've probably already heard about staging.  Want a great example of a perfectly staged home?  Visit a few builder open houses, or better yet, take a tour through a few model homes on a manufactured home lot!  Those mobile home people can really stage a house!

Still, many people who or trying to sell, or considering selling, don't know a good staging professional or simply don't want to, or feel they can't,  afford to hire a stager to make their house the best that it can be.  Now, in my opinion, a good stager is worth their weight in gold, but if you're watching every dollar in your selling price, there are a few things that you can do yourself to get your property in better selling shape.

Get a Truthful Friend or Neighbor to help:  By that, I mean you really need a neutral set of eyes looking at your house the way a buyer may, and the person with those eyes needs to be able to tell you exactly what they see (No being "nice" here).

Clean up the Outside:  Curb appeal is the big numero Uno for staging a home.  Cut the grass, edge it, trim it, trim up the bushes and shrubs.  Clean up any debris (and dog poo).  Add some color if it's lacking.  Do the shutters need painting (the house?)?  Consider painting the front door a bold color (red and emerald green work well with alot of homes).

De-clutter:  I know you've heard this one a lot, but it's one of the hardest to do.  I'm not talking about cleaning, but actually removing stuff from the home.  Your doll collection bookshelf, your trophies, your animal heads, personal photos, and various other nick-knacks need to be put up.  You're moving anyway, so go ahead and box these things up and get them OUT!  These things distract a buyer from the house.  That's never a good thing.

Clean:  Once you de-clutter, then it's time to CLEAN!  And I mean really clean, not just tidy up.  Clean everything you can see and even those spots you can't (like under the sink) because it's likely that the buyer may look there.

Update:  Let's face it, some homes need some updating.  A fresh coat of paint works wonders for any home.  If you have light fixtures that are dated, update them.  Paneled walls?  There are various ways to make them look like sheet-rock when it's done.  Consider it.  Those little "fix-it" jobs you never got around to doing...well, now it's time to get them done.  The less work a potential buyer sees that the home needs, the higher they are willing to pay for it.  A little money spent now means more in your pocket at the closing.

Stage the Rooms:  Yes, stage it.  You may not be able to get 'showroom' quality like a pro could, but you can make each room show it's best.  A dining room needs to look like a dining room.  Likewise with the bedrooms.  You may need to tone down the living area a bit by having less furniture than you're used to having.  You can find several TV shows that focus on staging to get some ideas.  The main point is to get the buyer to picture themselves in this "dream home"

Now, I'm no professional stager, just a REALTOR® with years of selling experience.  These staging tips will make a difference, both in the amount of time it takes for your property to sell, and the selling price.

November 08, 2010

The True Costs of FSBO vs Hiring a REALTOR®

The True Costs of FSBO vs Hiring a REALTOR®

Most FSBOs (For Sale By Owners) begin marketing their homes themselves in an attempt to "save the commission."  Unfortunately, very few of them ever really compare the true costs of selling FSBO to the costs of hiring a REALTOR®.

Assuming that you've correctly priced your property for the current market (let's say $200,000 is the 'right' price) what is the true cost of selling one vs. the other.

Century 21 SignIf sold at full price, and the REALTOR® and you agreed to a six percent commission, the cost of selling would be $12,000.

By going FSBO, to be truly equal, you have to be able to market your property comparably to the average agent.  So what does that take?

Data shows that up to 90% of buyers start their searches online, so you have to be on the Internet, and not just a single listing on one or two small websites.  You have to be where the buyers are looking.  Estimates may vary, but to get the online exposure that an average agent has built up over the years, you'd probably have to spend around $2-3000.  BUT, you still wouldn't be at the number one spot on the Internet that buyers look, which is  To get there and still maintain your FSBO, you'll have to find a flat-fee company to the tune of $500-1000.00.  Want to get your property featured on or some other top real estate website?  That's another $1000 or so.

It's all cool!  You're still at $5k tops, so that means you're still way to the good, right?  But wait! Research also shows that some 80-90% of buyers also use the services of agent For Sale by Owner Signwhen buying a property.  You don't really want to exclude any buyers that are using an agent (and if you're doing a side-by-side comparison, you can't).  Using the commission fee from above, usually a buyer's agent is entitled to half or 3% of that fee.  So that's $6000 that has to be allowed for a buyer's agent.

Hmm,  now we're only at $1000 or so in savings.  Hey, you're still saving, right?  Well, have you figured in your time, yet?  Someone has to field the calls, show the house, handle the paperwork, schedule the inspections and all the other things that an agent would normally do.

Put side-by-side, are you really saving the commission when marketing FSBO?

It gets worse, my friend.  The majority of buyers that specifically look for FSBO properties are looking at them for one reason and one reason only...they want to save the commission! 

That's right, they're looking to save the very same commission that you intended to save on selling.  If you want to sell, can you guess which one of you gets to actually save the commission in order to get a deal?  HINT:  It's most likely the one with the $$$$ and that's the buyer!

So, after all your hard work and effort to get your property sold yourself, it's very likely that you'll actually sell for LESS than what you would have if you had used the services of a REALTOR®.  That's a tough pill to swallow there.

Folks, if you can truly sell your property yourself faster and for more money, then I say, GO FOR IT!  That just makes sense.  However, if you're considering it, be sure that you're actually doing a true comparison of the costs instead of just looking at the number that happens to be the agent's fee.  It may actually save you a lot of time, trouble and dollars in the long run!

for sale by owner photo courtesy of Casey Serin

October 30, 2010

Real Haunts and Ghosts of Catawba County and the Greater Hickory NC

Real Haunts and Ghosts of Catawba County and the Greater Hickory NC Area
Real Haunts and Ghosts of Catawba County

Just in time for Halloween!

Here's a starter list of possible real haunted places and ghostly tales from in and around Catawba County and Hickory NC.  If you decide you'd like to visit some of these places, please remember to first ask permission from the legal owners...No Trespassing!

Catawba County

1859 Cafe - Hickory NC: This restaurant was originally built in 1859 by Henry Link.  It is reported haunted by a 'gentle blond woman.'  She has appeared in the dining room and in the womens' bathroom.  A ghostly image of a woman has been seen in photographs of the Cafe, as well.  Stop in for a bite and see if you can catch a glimpse! 1859CafeOnline

Alice M. Raeford Memorial Center - Hickory NC: Reports are that doorways seem to disappear after you pass through them and there have been several sightings of shadows and 'misty figures.'  Some people have heard faint whispering sounds and a few have even said that they were touched or pushed by an invisible hand.

Catawba Memorial Park - Hickory NC: There have been several reports of ghostly images and shadows around this cemetery.  Some have claimed to have captured 'ghost orbs' in their photos, as well.

Crown Cinema VI - Hickory NC: Though this movie theater is now closed, while open, there were several sightings of shadows and apparitions.

Hickory Community Theatre - Hickory NC: Supposedly, a ghost has a "special" seat in the balcony of this grand old theatre.  The sit is always in the down position. If it is ever put up, when you return, it will be down again.  Other apparitions have also been seen around the place.  One appeared onstage and seemed to be dancing about.  See some great LIVE performances at the Hickory Theatre.

Lenoir-Rhyne University - Hickory NC: The whole campus is haunted!  The main points of 'interest' are Mauney Music Building, where ghostly footsteps are heard, and several have reported a phantom orchestra playing.  Highland Hall, where more ghostly footsteps, as well as slamming doors are heard.  Apparitions have been reported here, and several motorists have seen a strange light coming from a third floor room.  Carl A. Rudisill Library, where many have heard the the ghost of the 'crying boy.'  And Schaeffer Hall, where the ghost of an elderly lady sometimes decides to make "bed checks" on the 2nd floor. University Website

Old St. Paul's Church - Newton NC: The ghost of a runaway slave that was shot by his owner while hiding out here is said to haunt this old church, built in the 1750's.  The organ has been heard playing when no one is near it.  Their website.

Alexander County

The Old Jail - Taylorsville, NC: Now, the Old Jail is a museum and the offices of the Alexander County Ancestry Association and their Genealogical Research Library.  The second floor is where the old lock up was, and it's reported that sometimes, you can hear footsteps coming from that floor and the sound of the metal doors closing.  The Old Jail Website.

The Lucas Mansion - Hiddenite NC: James Paul "Diamond Jim" Lucas built this mansion in the some community, famous for it's one of a kind emerald, about 1920.  He died in 1952 and the place was abandoned.  Now, it's been fully restored and is the offices of the Hiddenite Center Cultural Arts Center.  Several ghostly sightings have been reported over the years, as well as ghostly sounds and music and other 'bumps in the night.'  Take a tour of the place and see if you can feel an unearthly presence.  NOTE: although beautiful to see today, when I was a kid, this house was an overgrown wreck that I had to walk by on my home from school.  It was creepy in the daylight and plain scary at night!

Iredell County

The Bostian Bridge - Statesville NC: On August 27, 1891, a passenger train from Salisbury bound for Asheville derailed and plunged off the bridge, killing some 30 people and injuring many more.  If you go to the site on the anniversary of the wreck about about 3am, you can reportedly here the sounds of the wreck again.  Many people have reported hearing the phantom human screams, the crashing metal, and the moans of injured and dying.  Some have even seen an apparition of a conductor on the tracks holding a pocket watch just before the ghostly recreation begins.

Old Davis Hospital - Statesville NC: Now vacant, Davis hospital is home to several ghosts.  Many who have entered have seen apparitions of former patients, heard the sounds of babies crying on the pediatrics ward and have felt an overbearing feeling of dread while in the building.  Reportedly, the building is always cold, even in the summer months.

The Warren Bridge - Statesville, NC: Named for Claude Warren, who was shot and killed by his brother-in-law, in 1916.  Every afternoon, you can hear a bloodcurdling scream, reportedly that of Claude's sister, who witnessed the shooting.  Several apparitions have been seen in the area as well.  Many claim that at least one of them is the ghost of Claude himself, searching for his missing head, which was removed by the shotgun blast from his brother-in-law.

Caldwell County

Chapel of Rest - Happy Valley NC: In the 1920's, the preacher of the church caught his wife cheating, and overcome with despair, hung himself from the rafter above the front pew that Saturday night.  The congregation found him hanging there the next morning.  Supposedly, you can still see the his blood stains on the floor, and indention on rafter from the rope, as well as the scuffs on the front pews from his shoes.  At night, you can see his ghostly image swinging from the rafter and at the podium is a Bible that can apparently predict the exact date and how you will die.

South Caldwell High School - Lenoir NC: There are two ghosts in the school.  One is of a young man that died while building the elevator.  He 'operates' the elevator several times a night, causing it to go up and down unattended.  Another is reportedly of a girl who died while rehearsing a play.  Now, she is said to cause blackouts and to play around with the lights and set and props during productions.

Other Areas

Brown Mountain Lights - Linville NC: Probably the most famous North Carolina 'haunt,' the Brown Mountain Lights have been appearing since around 1200AD.  Seen from various vantage points, the lights appear to be small, dancing orbs that appear and disappear.  Many say that these lights are the spirits of dead Cherokee and Catawba braves.  Others say that they are the spirits of Indian maidens lighting a torch for their dead warriors.  No one really knows what they are, but many, many people have seen them.

Do you know of any ghostly haunts in the area?  Let me know.  Comment here or send me an email with the details and I'll post it.  Thanks.

UPDATE: Due to the incredibly high number of attempted spam comments on this post, I have had to unfortunately, lock comments.  If you enjoyed reading this and have other areas not mentioned, please drop me an email.  Thank you

October 23, 2010

Trunk or Treat Celebration at Valley Hills Mall - Hickory NC Event

Trunk or Treat Celebration at Valley Hills Mall - Hickory NC Event

You can double the Halloween Fun this year in the Greater Hickory NC Area!

On October 30, you can trunk or treat, with games and prizes at
Newton NC Spooktacular Event

And the next day, you can trunk or treat again at Valley Hills Mall!

On Sunday, October 31, 2010 from 3:00pm to 6:00pm, children from the area are invited to the Trunk or Treat Celebration at Valley Hills Mall.

Sponsors participating in the event will be handing out goodies from the trunks of their cars, all from the comfort of inside the mall.  The event is mall-wide and there will be plenty of activities to keep the ghouls and ghosts happy!

For more info, you can visit or call 828.328.2436

Valley Hills Mall
Valley Hills Mall
1960 Highway 70SE, #244
Hickory, NC 28602

Newton NC SPOOKTACULAR This October 30, 2010 - Newton NC Event

Newton NC SPOOKTACULAR This October 30, 2010 - Newton NC Event

Looking for some good, clean fun for you and your little ghosts and goblins this Halloween?  Come on down to downtown Newton, NC for this year's
Looking for the newest event?  CLICK HERE
Spooktacular Halloween Event!

Newton NC SPOOKTACULAR This October 30, 2010 - Newton NC Event
The goal of the event is to provide an old-fashioned fall festival that
is family-friendly, featuring storefront decorations, Halloween-themed
inflatables, and spooky music and lots of candy and treats via 'Trunk or Treat'

Spooktacular will begin Saturday, October 30, 2010 and will run from 5:00pm to 8:00pm.  Activities will center around the Courthouse Square of Newton.

Don't miss the costume contests that begin at at 6:00pm.  There will be winners from several different age groups, including 18 years old and up, so it's okay for you to dress up, too!

Groups or individuals that are interested in participating in the “trunk
or treat” should call Festival & Events Committee Chairperson
Catherine LeFevers at 828-234-5986

For more information on this event, you can visit


Warm up at Zander's Coffee House!  Anyone that brings in a copy of this article will get a FREE small gourmet coffee with a dessert purchase.

October 21, 2010

Newton NC ArtFEST - October 23, 2010 - Newton NC Event

Newton NC ArtFEST - October 23, 2010 - Newton NC Event
This Saturday, October 23, the Newton Merchants Group is hosting the 4th annual Newton ArtFEST from 10am until 5pm.

This one day multi-media event has lots to see and do: There will be local
artists and craftsmen, food vendors, sidewalk sales and entertainment
for everyone.

The day starts off at 10:00am with the Chalk it Up!  event.  Anyone can participate and show off their artistic talent within a 6 x 6 sidewalk space.  The entry fee for this event is $5.00, but area students that pre-register for the event will have their entry fee paid courtesy of Jackie Weaver State Farm Insurance.  The top three Winners will receive $50.00 gift certificates from area stores.

Arts and crafts will be on display, and for sale, that are  
There will be local wineries offering samples and bottle sales,
and plenty of entertainment throughout the day.

You don't want to miss this!  And don't forget to bring your lawn chairs!
For more information, visit or call Ana Christina Godoy at 828-466-9881 or 828-465-9745

October 13, 2010

A Seller's Guide to Lease Options

A Seller's Guide to Lease Options
In the first part of this series, I gave a brief overview of what a lease option is and is not.  If you need details on the terms, check there.

Many people think that only desperate sellers and real estate investors are the only types of sellers that try to sell via a lease option.  Hopefully, this guide will help to change your mind if you happen to be one of those people.

Why Offer A Lease Option When Selling?

Even if you are wanting to sell outright (normal sale), it may be wise to offer a potential lease option.  Why?  More potential buyers, that's why!  Anytime you offer something other than "get a loan and come talk to us" you property will get more attention.  And contrary to popular opinion, most buyers looking at lease options are not "the bottom of the barrel."  In fact, many may be in a position to buy now, if the price is right.  A lease option gives them a choice and that's appealing to today's generation.

Moreover, it's not getting any easier to get a loan these days.  Even if a buyer is qualified to buy today, the process may take longer than they, or you, may want.  A lease option is a viable "in between" solution.

Are There Benefits to a Lease Option for the Seller?

Yes.  Of course, the benefits may vary depending on your situation.

One major benefit
of a lease option is that price is rarely negotiated in a lease option deal.  The terms and conditions are usually the primary factors.  That's not to say that you can over-price the property and have no problems getting it.  The home still has to be priced right, but you'll usually sell at the top of your value range rather than the bottom.

It's a delayed sale.  Again, this may or may not be a benefit depending on your position, but many sellers view this as a positive.

You'll get more money You get top dollar on the purchase price, but you'll also get to collect lease payments for the term as well.  If you're profiting $200/month, that's an extra $2400 per year in income.  Plus, the option fee is yours the minute you cash the check, as well.

You may get tax benefits.  There are taxable benefits to owning rental property, so check with your accountant.

What About the Bad Stuff?

Like anything, there are pros and cons, and a lease option is no different.

You are a landlord.  Being a landlord isn't for everybody.  Lease options often have conditions that make the landlording job a bit easier, but you are still a landlord.  You may have to evict the tenant/buyer at some point.  If you think that you won't make a good landlord (or if you're going to be an out of state landlord), you need to consider hiring a good property manager

You may get your property back.  And it may not be in as good a shape as you left it.  Most tenants in a lease option treat do not trash the house.  They are intending on it being fully their house someday, after all.  However, not everybody has the same standards, and sometimes, if you get the house back, it may require some fix-up to get it back into sale shape.  The counter to this is to get enough option fee to help cover this cost.

You may lose some tax benefits.  What?  One of the pluses is getting a tax benefit, how can you do both?  Well, as it stands, today, if you've owned the property long enough and it's your primary dwelling, you can sell and the profits (up to a certain amount) aren't taxable.  Check with your accountant to see if selling via lease option would affect you on this.

So, if you're selling, you may want to consider offering a lease option.  And if you've got any questions, you can always call me.

Guide to Lease Option Series
The Quick Guide to Lease-Options  
A Seller's Guide to Lease Options

    Why You Can Go Terribly Wrong using Price Per Square Footage to Determine a House Value

    Why You Can Go Terribly Wrong using Price Per Square Footage to DetermWhy You Can Go Terribly Wrong using Price Per Square Footage to determine a House Valueine a House Value
    Recently, I've gotten several people ask me what I thought their home w
    as worth.  Usually I here something like this, "Bob just sold his home for X and he only has 2000 square feet.  I've got 2500, so mine should sell for Y, right?"

    Sorry, but home values don't work quite that way.  If you're trying to determine your house's value by comparing the square footage of others that have sold in your area, then you could be off by a lot!

    First thing about square footage values is that it is location-based.  That is, home values per a footage price will only remain similar if they are in the same neighborhood or very close to the subject property.  If you get out of the area, the per footage value may change.  We can all agree that a property in a crime-ridden neighborhood would have a lower per footage value than a house in an upscale, gated community, right?

    Even if you're comparing homes within the same neighborhood, there are lot's of other factors to consider other than square footage.  For instance, not all square footage is valued the same.

    Unheated square footage isn't the same as heated square space.  Then their is finished vs. unfinished.  A basement's square footage isn't given the same value, whether it's heated/finished or not, as the main level.  The square footage of the second story of two story home isn't valued the same as the main level.

    Finally, you have to compare the age of the homes.  Not only the actual physical ages, but also the 'perceived' age of the property as well.  For example, is one home fully upgraded with new appliances, flooring, etc where the other is not?  Was one not as well cared for and has a few dings and needed repairs?  It makes a difference.

    There are several factors that determine a home's value and the price per square foot is only a small factor in the process.

    Location, acreage, age, style, amenities...these are just a few that also must be considered when you're trying to place a value on a home.

    photo courtesy of wwarby flickr photostream

    October 08, 2010

    More Renting Myths BUSTED

    Man, the media seems to really be pushing renting over buying these days.  It seems that there is an article out there daily about the "benefits" of renting over owning.  I'm sure that the landlords of the nation are loving it.  Nevermind that the "data" supporting the articles usually come from places like or the National Landlords Association (which, btw, is Why it's Important to know WHERE the Data from a Survey Came)

    Awhile back, a posted, It's Better to Rent than Buy: Busting the MYTH! when one of these articles was pushing truly false information.  Now, Yahoo publishes this article and it's time for a new post as well.  The article was originally published by Steve Thompson on Associated Content, but it seems that it's no longer there, so I linked to the Yahoo post instead.Popping Balloon

    Basically, Mr. Thompson lays out 10 reasons why he thinks renting is better than buying.  He goes into details for each, but for those that don't like to click on links his ten reasons are as follows:

    1. No Property Taxes
    2. No Association Fees
    3. No Maintenance Expenses
    4. No Roots
    5. Free Utilities                          Photo courtesy of AMagill Flickr Photostream
    6. Lower Utilities
    7. Free Perks
    8. Less Risk
    9. Lower Insurance Rates
    10. Opportunities for Investments
    As a former landlord, I can say this with absolute certainty; landlords LOVE people who think like this.  They are the reason landlords become landlords.  Why?

    Mr. Thompson has items 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 as "perks" because they're "free."  I hate to break it to you, but they're not free.  He even mentions sometimes that they're "included" in the rent.  They are ALWAYS included in the rent.  Always.

    He mentions lower utilities because apartments and condos are usually smaller than a single family house.  In a word, DUH!  A smaller house would have lower utilities than a larger one.  This is plain common sense.

    Renting to him is less risky because you don't have to worry about foreclosure.  Has he read a paper lately?  If the landlord gets foreclosed on, trust me, you, as the renter are going to be worried about it.

    Finally, he mentions 'Opportunities for Investments'  By not having his money 'tied up in the equity' of a house, he could invest it somewhere else.  First, you never have money 'tied up' in equity.  You either have equity, which gives you a means to possibly get money, or you don't have equity.  Second, a house payment is usually fixed and has a set number of payments.  A rental payment usually goes up annually and is until death.

    The only real, honest perk to renting in all of his 10 reasons is "No Roots."  It is fairly easy to quickly pack up and move if you're a renter.  If moving around alot is your lifestyle, either through choice or through work, then renting is definitely the best choice for you.

    Some people prefer to rent over buying and I'm not knocking that choice.  But, please don't use these reasons to try to convince yourself or others that it's 'better' than buying.  Nothing is ever free.

    This Weekend, Oktoberfest in Hickory NC and Car, Truck & Bike Show in Newton, NC

    Lot's of entertainment in Catawba County this weekend!

    Oktoberfest is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Oct 9, 10, 11) in downtown Hickory, NC
    Oktoberfest is full of fun with several stages featuring non-stop live shows, 2 beer gardens, lots of rides and games, arts and crafts and more food than you can shake a stick at!

    for more info Oktoberfest, you can click here.  Make sure to check out the map.

    Also the weekend, The Knights of Colombus is sponsoring their Christmas for Kids Car, Truck & Bike Show
    The Car show is being held in downtown Newton, NC this Saturday, October 9, 2010 and besides lots of great vehicles, there will be some good family entertainment, music, food and door prizes.  Don't miss it!

    For more info on the Car show, you download the flyer, or call 704-462-4005 or 828-234-0896

    In the Hickory, NC area (including the Newton-Conover area) and need a real estate professional with honest answers to your questions?  Contact Roger A Johnson, today.  828-381-9245

    October 07, 2010

    NC Attorney General Calls for Lenders to Suspend Foreclosures in North Carolina

    NC Attorney General Calls for Lenders to Suspend Foreclosures in North Carolina.  Yes, Sir, NC AG Roy Cooper has already been investigating "questionable foreclosure tactics" in NC.  Now, with this whole mess going on with suspended foreclosures by most of the big banks (if you're not aware of this, Google "suspended foreclosures"), Cooper has called on 14 mortgage lenders to also suspend foreclosures in North Carolina until they can prove that there were no issues with the foreclosures done here.

    North Carolina is a non-judicial foreclosure state.  Up to this point, all the moratoriums on foreclosures by the big lenders have been in judicial foreclosure states.  However, that may be changing pretty soon, as AG Cooper is not the only State Attorney General requesting that foreclosures in their states also stop until more investigating is done.  In fact, several congressmen have taken up the fight to ensure that foreclosures are being done legally and validly.

    The fourteen lenders that North Carolina's AG is requesting to halt foreclosures in the state are:

    Bank of America
    Wells Fargo
    JP Morgan-Chase
    Citi Mortgage
    SunTrust Mortgage
    PHH Mortgage
    OneWest Bank
    PNC Mortgage
    Aurora Bank
    US Bank Home Mortgage
    MetLife Home Loans
    BB&T Mortgage
    American Home Mortgage Servicing

    UPDATED TO 15:  GMAC has also been requested to halt foreclosures by AG Cooper.

    The Quick Guide to Lease-Options

    Lease-Options, also referred to as rent to own, rent2own,
    lease-purchase, as well as a few other names, is a very misunderstood
    concept in the real estate market, even with many real estate agents. 
    Hopefully, this new series will help people learn what a lease-option is
    (and maybe isn't), and when it may be a good idea to offer it.

    As stated, the term lease-option is often used interchangeably with those above, but strictly speaking there are differences between them.

    A Lease-Option is an agreement between the owner of the property (usually called the landlord/seller) and a person(s) interested in owning the property (usually called the tenant/buyer).  As the name implies, there are two basic parts of Lease-Option

    The Lease:  The lease in most lease-options is like a "normal" lease in any rental situation.  The length can vary from 6 months up to 3 years (depending on state laws) and is usually negotiated at the time of contract between the landlord/seller and tenant/buyer.

    The Option:  This is where many get confused with a lease-option.  The option is an agreement between buyer and seller giving the buyer the option, but not the requirement, to buy the property within a set time frame.  When an option is put together with a lease, the time frame is most often the same length as the lease (for example, a one year lease with a one year option).  To make an option valid, the buyer has to pay to the seller an Option Fee.  Most options used in conjunction with a lease also have clauses that make them voidable by the seller if the lease is violated in any way.

    The Option Fee:  This, too, is often misunderstand.  The option fee is paid to the seller by the buyer for the right to hold the seller to a specific price AND to prevent the seller from selling to another for a set amount of time (ie, 1 year option).  The option fee is NOT a down payment on the property, though in many lease-options, the seller does agree to count it towards the purchase price IF the option is exercised (the buyer decides to buy).
    The option fee is NOT a security deposit.  A security deposit may be required as part of the lease, though.
    In most cases, the option fee is NON-REFUNDABLE. Again, this may vary with your state laws and can be negotiated upfront, but, generally speaking, the option fee is the seller's money as soon as it is given by the buyer.  Why?  This is the fee the seller has agreed to accept for taking the property 'off the market' for time specified.

    Finally, lease-options may not be legal and valid in all states.  Please review your state laws before considering a lease-option transaction.

    October 02, 2010

    Low Ball Offers are a Part of Selling in Today's Market

    If you're selling a home in today's market, then you know that it is taking longer to get your property sold.  Pricing your property correctly from the start is probably one of the most important factors in making sure that your home doesn't sit on the market longer than it should.

    Even when you are priced correctly and marketed well, another factor in today's real estate market, even here in the Greater Hickory, NC area, is the low-ball offer.

    Yes, even homes that are priced well, or even a little under market value, many times will get the low-ball offer thrown out at them.  When sellers get these type offers, especially if it happens to be the first offer, many get frustrated or discouraged in the selling process.  I'm here to tell you...don't.

    Unfortunately, low-balls offers are a part of selling in today's market.  The news media has pushed into most buyers minds that everything up for sale can be had "at rock bottom prices," and that most sellers are "desperate" to sell for any price.  With some buyers, it may be nothing more than a ploy to see how far you'll actually be willing to come down from your initial price.

    Do not get mad or discouraged at low-ball offers on your home.  In almost all cases, the best thing to do is discuss the offer with your real estate professional.  If the buyer is really a qualified buyer, then counter the offer with a reasonable price for you.  If the buyer is only 'out for the deal' then you've not lost anything.  The two of you would have never comes to terms anyway.

    Most likely, it's a buyer 'testing' the price.  Once they see that you aren't the 'sell at any price' seller, they'll be much more willing to negotiate at the true market value of your home.

    In the Hickory, NC area (including the Newton-Conover area) and need a real estate professional with honest answers to your questions?  Contact Roger A Johnson, today.  828-381-9245

    September 24, 2010

    Newton NC Event - The Green Room's 'The King and I' opens October 8, 2010

    The Green Room Community Theatre's The King and I, will be the first show at the company's new location in the Old Post Office Playhouse, in downtown Newton, NC.
    The first showing of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I  is on October 8th 2010 (this is a week later than originally planned, due to construction delays on the new building)
    Show Dates for The King and I
    October 8, 9, 15, 16, & 22 at 8:00 pm, October 10, 17, & 24 at 3:00 pm, and October 21 & 24 at 7:00 pm
    The Box Office opens September 29, 2010 and will be open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 12:30-5:00pm.  Tickets for the show are $14 for adults, $12 for Seniors and Students, $8 for Youth under 12
    For more info, you can call the box office at 828-464-6128 or the Green Room's main line at 828-464-6583
    You can also visit the Green Room Community Theatre Website for more info on this show, as well as others in the 2010-2011 season, volunteer to help or find out when the next auditions start if you've got the acting bug.
    The Green Room

    The Old Post Office Playhouse is Located at:
          10 South Main Avenue, Newton, NC
             Directions via: Google Maps

    September 22, 2010

    This is Your House. This is Your House After Foreclosure. Any Questions?

    Okay, so a bad pun on an old (showing my age, old) commercial, I know.  I was recently contracted by a major lender to photograph their area foreclosures so they might know "what they have."  The pics below just show why lenders should be more proactive in their attempts to do short sales and to get their REO's up to par a lot quicker.
    Beware! Not for the faint of heart!

    photo 1photo 2photo 3photo 5photo 4photo 6
    Of course, this house also came with the following standard items for a REO that has sat for too long:
    Chest High Grass - Check!
    Heat Pump Gone - Check!
    Furnace Gone - Check!
    Copper Pipes Gone - Check!

    September 20, 2010

    Could You Send Me More Information on This Listing, Please

    Have you seen this in an email lately?  If you're a real estate agent with any listings at all, I'm sure you have.  It means someone has found your listing and is inquiring about.

    I have a good love/hate relationship going with that phrase right now.  Love it because it means that some buyer was interested enough in my listing to contact me about it.  Yay! A potential buyer.  Hate it because it doesn't help me in any way to provide you with the more information that you're asking.

    Let me explain.  When we get this email, we know that you, as the buyer, have already seen the property somewhere on the Internet, looked a various photos, and have some information already.  Things like the number of beds, baths, price, etc are usually out there on all the websites.

    BUT, we don't know exactly what information you have and most importantly, what information, exactly you are wanting with a simple "we need more info" email.

    My usual reply to these emails is to give (re-give?) the standard info, a direct link to my site or link to the property, and a quick, "if you could let me know exactly what additional information you need, I'll be happy to help you.  Thanks"

    Since I rarely get a response back, I'm never quite sure if I've just offended you for stating the obvious or if I gave you exactly what you wanted and you didn't like it.

    Please understand, I'm not trying to be cute or smart if I've only given you the information that you've already gotten from the Internet.  In fact, I'll be happy to answer all your questions to the best of my ability.  I just need to know exactly what information that you are needing in order for me to give you the specific answers you are wanting.

    September 17, 2010

    Why It's Important to Know WHERE the Data for a Survey Came

    I opened my news reader up this evening to find the headline, 70 Percent Say Buying Now is Good.

    Great News, Right?  Agents will be working, people owning new property, the economy rebounding...


    Another headline reads, New Survey Finds 76 Percent of Consumers Now Believe Renting to be a Better Option over Homeownership.


    Didn't we just read that 70% of the people said now was a good time to buy?  Now, I admit that I don't fully grasp the whole "new math" concept, but 70 + 76 does still equal 146, right?


    The first headline is from a survey conducted by Fannie Mae.  The second headline is from a survey conducted by the National Apartment Association.

    Do you think either of these might have a vested interest in the opposing outcomes that they got?  The other important factor in deciphering the survey data is finding out how they arrived at their conclusions (btw, that is usually hidden somewhere in the fine print, if at all).

    2010 Brett's Ride for Pediatric Cancer Research - Hickory NC Event

    The 7th annual Brett's Ride for pediatric cancer research is on October 3th, 2010 and you still have time to register for the event.

    The ride begins and ends at the Hickory Foundation YMCA, located at 701 1st St. NW, Hickory, NC

    There will be four ride options of 10, 32, 52 and 75 miles plus the Tot Ride held behind the Y.

    You can register for the event by visiting Rock n' Road Bicycles (at 2435 N. Center St, Hickory, NC) or by going to the Brett's Ride website

    Grab a bike and ride for charity.

    September 14, 2010

    NC State Photo Exhibit on Display at Newton NC Library

    A touring photography exhibition, Celebrate North Carolina: Faces and Places, will be on display at the main branch of the Catawba County Library, located in Newton, NC.

    The exhibit is divided between the Eastern and Western parts of the state and each has 30 images of that particular region.

    The Western portion of the exhibit will be on display at the Main Library in Newton, NC, starting October 23rd and running through November 13th.

    The cost is free and open to the public. The library is open from 9am to 8pm, Monday through Thursday, and 9am to 6pm Friday and Saturday.

    The Main Library is located at 115 W C St, Newton, NC 28658

    View Larger Map

    September 13, 2010

    Catawba County 2011 Property Revaluation is Coming

    Catawba County, North Carolina has already started the property revaluation process for changes to your home's tax value for the 2011 tax year.  Currently, the county is running on a four year cycle for property revaluations.

    Home owners should start receiving notices of their property's new tax value as soon as November of 2010.  Others may not get new values sent to them until early 2011.

    As outlined, tax value is determined (supposedly) by the current market value of the property.  It will be interesting to see how the new tax values play out, as the average drop in house values from 4 years ago is about %20 overall.

    Deeded doublewides (doublewides on real property and deeded vs. titled) have been hit particularly hard in within the county.  A conservative estimate on those is that they've lost 50% of their value from 4 years ago.

    Will the county actually reduce tax values?  If so, will they hike tax rates to cover the short fall that will create?  As property owners we'll have to wait and see.

    You can get a copy of the 2011 Catawba County Real Property Revaluation pamphlet (click the link) or for further information, you can visit the 2011 property revaluation
    page of the Catawba County Tax Office website.

    September 02, 2010

    Banks to Allow Local Governments 1st Shot to Buy Foreclosures

    A recent MSNBC article (read the article here) states that several major banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, have decided to give local government and nonprofit groups the ability to buy their foreclosures before they are sold to private investors.

    One can only assume that they intend to give these entities a first right of refusal on the property even before they are listed to the public, as it's the only way that they can prevent an investor from getting it first.

    I can see a whole slew of problems with this idea.  BUT WAIT! IT GETS BETTER!

    Congress has already provided the above entities $7 Billion to buy foreclosures in their area, but they are "struggling to spend the federal money because they are often outbid by speculators who are snapping up foreclosures."

    Lovely.  The market is moving forward, investors are buying, but since our governments can spend our money fast enough by low-bidding on houses THAT ARE SELLING, the banks are going to help them out by giving the first shot buying.

    So why is an investor buying a house such a bad thing, according to our governments?  Well, apparently it's because they "fear" that the investor won't improve the property enough, or might rent it, or might decide to wait until the market improves to sell it.

    Forget any facts to support these claims.  Forget the fact that most real estate investors spend alot of $$$ improving foreclosures from the previous condition because they actually intend to make a profit.  Or that rentals aren't necessarily a bad thing or even if an owner does "wait on the market to improve" that the property will still be kept up/maintained, something that clearly doesn't happen with a foreclosure.

    Forget all that.  Remember only that our local governments have been given taxpayers money to spend and they MUST find a way to do it!  Free Market be damned!

    It's a whole other article on just how long it's going to take a government organization to rehab and resell a property and what it'll actually look like compared to what a real estate investor would do.

    September 01, 2010

    TIME Magazine Blames Homeownership for EVERYTHING!

    A recent article by Time magazine, written by Barbara Kiviat, The Case Against Homeownership, you can read the online version of it here.  basically makes the idea of homeownership the new boogie man of the 21st century.  Oh Yay!

    The summary of Ms. Kiviat's report is that the idea of homeownership is the primary cause of the current economic situation, our current housing market situation, the "hollowing out of cities", the forcing of renters into bad neighborhoods, America's overuse of oil/energy, and people's 'inability' to find a job.  After all that, I'm quite sure that she also blames homeownership for JFK's assassination, UFO sightings, and the upcoming 2012 "end of the world."  I'm sure her space was just too limited to include those.

    How far from the truth can the media get and still have any creditability?  Well, since this one is a Time cover story, apparently, just as far as the want. 

    The primary cause of the housing bust, the economic downturn and current housing market situation was brought on by a severe lack of responsible lending (and with that, a severe lack of responsible borrowing, as well) practices.  Practices which were brought on primarily by GREED from corporate entities, not homeowners.  There is no secret evil homeowners' society planning the social and economic destruction of America, Ms. Kiviat.  At least, I haven't been invited to it yet.

    The problem with this article isn't that it attacks homeownership.  Pro-renters, landlord groups, apartment associations, etc have been doing that forever.  The real problem is that it is a truly irresponsibly  written article by a major magazine taking every possible crisis America has faced in the last 100 years or so and blamed homeownership for it ALL.  If it were true, so be it, but truth doesn't seem to be a problem for the writer, as there's only enough of it woven into the fiction to at least try to appear like it's been a well-thought out post.

    I do hope that most who read The Case Against Homeownership will actually see it for the mindless drivel that it is, and reading some of the comments it has garnered, many do.

    Check it out yourself if you're in the mood for a good laugh or if you simply haven't got enough B.S. in your life already!

    August 18, 2010

    Soldiers Reunion Day - Newton NC - August 19, 2010

    That's that time again in Newton, NC!

    Tomorrow is the 121st Soldiers' Reunion Day held in Newton, NC.   Things kick off at 9am tomorrow with a whole day of events, shows and food!

    The main event is the Soldiers' Reunion Parade which begins at 5:00pm

    If you're new to the area, this is something that you truly don't want to miss!

    And when you get hungry, don't forget to come visit me at the First United Methodist Church Newton to grab an excellent hamburger or hotdog, along with all the fixin's and some tasty desserts, too.  I'll be cooking most of the day, so drop in for a visit.

    Hope to see you there.

    For more info you can call 828-464-3906

    You can also visit the City of Newton Facebook Page for additional details

    August 17, 2010

    I'm Gay. Will You Be My REALTOR®?

    Okay, so I get a phone call from a lady that has found some houses on the Internet that she'd like to take a look at and she was looking for an agent that could help in purchasing a home.

    "Well, I'd be glad to help," I said, "what properties have you got picked out?"

    Then she says that before we get to that, she's got some questions for me.  Sounds reasonable, right?  So, she begins by saying, "I've got a fiancee."  Okay, I said.  "and my fiancee is a woman."

    Okay, I said.  So she continues with "is that going to be a problem for you?", I'm married, I really don't need another one, so she's pretty safe! :)  (yeah, she didn't think it was that funny, either)

    She just wanted to be sure before she continued because two other REALTORS® had already hung up on her when they realized that she was gay.

    REALLY?  Okay, I've got some questions for you, Ms. Buyer.  Do you have a job?  Have you, or can you get pre-approved for a loan?  Do you intend to buy?  Yes, Yes and Yes.  I don't have a problem, then.

    Seriously, I was completely floored when she told me that two other agents had completely blew her off simply because of a sexual orientation.  Let's forget for a minute the possible legal ramifications from that for a moment.

    Did these agents have so much business in this down market that turning away a willing, ready and able buyer made sense?  Does that make sense in any market for that matter?

    Are there really still people out there in this day and age that are so homophobic that they really would not do business with a gay person?

    Well, for me, all I need to know are a) do you want to buy a home and b) are you financial able to buy a home.  Beyond that, you could be a one-eyed purple people eating democrat wearing golf shorts and a tye-dyed T-shirt, with a pony-tail down to your ankles!  You're okay to me.

    August 14, 2010

    Soldiers Reunion - Cruisin' & Car Show - Newton, NC

    It's time again for Newton, NC's Soldiers Reunion Crusin' & Car Show!

    The fun starts tomorrow, Sunday, August 15th, 2010 in downtown Newton, NC.

    The Car Show begins at 2:30pm and the crusin' starts at 6:30p

    Cars will start rollin' in a lot earlier though, and I'll be at First United Methodist Church Newton, serving up hamburgers, hotdogs and all the fixin's from lunch on, so come enjoy the day and get some great food, too!

    The Soldiers Reunion has been going on since 1889 and is actually a week long event, consisting of various activities throughout the week, mostly in the evening hours, with Thursday, August the 19th (Soldiers Reunion Day) being the main event with activities starting at 9:00am with the Soldiers Reunion Parade kicking off at 5:00pm

    For more information on the complete list of events, you can visit the City of Newtons Calender of Events website.

    For specific info on tomorrow's cruisin' car show, check out their facebook page Soldiers Reunion - Cruisin' & Car Show

    Come out and enjoy the fun!  See ya there!

    For additional information, please call City of Newton, 828-695-4300.

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