Abacus Says: Raleigh Housing Market Weakening?

AbacusWeakening perhaps but still healthy.
Periodically we should study statistics.  I’ll try to visit statistics on at least a monthly basis. More often takes the fun out of it.

Right or wrong, much of yesterday’s stock market sell-off was attributed to bad economic reports on the nation’s housing market.  Interestingly, stock market analysts can always find a reason for what the market just did.  They are less proficient at telling us what the market is going to do.

So, it seems a good time to take another look at Raleigh stats.

Here are updated graphs for 4 central Raleigh areas.
In the local real estate world, these are known as Area 1 – Inside the Beltline, Area 2 – North Raleigh, Area 3 – SE Raleigh, and Area 4 – NC State or SW Raleigh.  Effective next month these 4 areas have been renamed by TMLS.  They will all be referred to as simply “Raleigh”.

I’ve added a new graph this month – Number of Showings.

Raleigh Number of Homes Sold Jan - Sept 2007Number of Homes Sold:
A downward trend since mid year in all 4 Raleigh real estate areas.

Raleigh Average Home Prices January - September 2007Average Home Price:
Less of a downward trend than seen in the graph above.  SE and SW Raleigh seem to be holding their own.  Inside the Beltline and North Raleigh indicate a fall in average price.  It should be noted that there were a couple of abnormally expensive homes sold Inside the Beltline during May and July which skewed the stats a bit.

Raleigh Days on Market for Januany - September 2007Average Days on Market:
Mixed results, but overall it seems to be taking a little longer to sell a home.

Raleigh Number of Home Showings for Jan - Sept 2007Number of Showings:
This new graph is a good indicator of overall buyer activity.  A decrease in number of showings indicates less buyer activity.  As you can see, showing numbers are dropping.

Though these statistics may indicate a chink in the Raleigh armor, it’s important to remember that these are short term stats.  I still see plenty of activity.  Raleigh remains one of the healthiest markets in the country.

Replacement Windows: See Through Them

Historic WindowsThis post is focused on the environment for Blog Action Day.  Replacement Windows is a subject I planned to address at some point.  So, in support of Blog Action Day let’s touch on it today.

Folks are being given bad advice about their old wooden double-hung windows.  They are unfortunately encouraged to replace these historic windows with new energy efficient windows.  This advice is misguided for several reasons – most of them environmental.  Here are 10 quick reasons why replacement windows are a bad idea.

1. Green – ‘Green’ is being used as a marketing tool.  Be careful, Green is not always Green.  Historic windows are ‘Greener’ than any replacement windows.  Marketers of replacement windows typically compare energy efficiency with older windows that are not working properly.  They also base studies in areas with severe climates.

2. Embodied Energy – The energy and resources required to manufacture and install the original windows has already been absorbed.  If they are replaced, they will end up in the dump – very unfriendly to the environment.  Manufacturing and installing replacement windows expends huge amounts of energy and further depletes environmental resources.

3. Home Energy Loss – There are many sources of energy loss in a home.  Windows are way down on the list of culprits.  They just happen to be the most visible and therefore the most fragile.

4. Materials and Life Span – Most historic windows are made with irreplaceable old-growth wood – made to last.  Many 100+ year old windows are still functioning.  New replacement windows have a stated maximum life span of 20 years (or less).  It’s doubtful any of them will reach their stated life span.  Also, they are typically made of vinyl – a petroleum based product.  If constructed of wood, it is much lower grade than old-growth wood.

5. Repair – Replacement windows can’t be repaired.  When something goes wrong (such as a broken seal – you’ve seen those foggy double-paned windows), the whole window has to be replaced.  Very unfriendly to the environment.  Historic windows can, and should, be repaired.  It will cost less to repair them than replace them.  Your home and the environment will look and feel better.

6. Ambience – Replacement windows are a bad substitute for the original.  Windows are at the top of important aesthetic features and significant architectural details of a home.  And don’t you love that wavy glass.

7. Value – Original windows, adequately maintained, are worth more and will last longer than replacement windows.

8. Savings – The amount of money spent on buying and installing replacement windows will not be recouped before the windows need to be replaced again.  There is no payback.

9. Workmanship (Fit) – Historic windows were made to fit the opening they occupy.  Sizes of old windows vary and can be of several different sizes in one home.  Replacement windows come in standard sizes which do not easily fit the original window openings.  The poor fit leads to further energy loss and typically results in a window that does not operate properly.  Poor fit also reduces useful life.  If extra care is taken to properly fit a replacement window, the window opening will be smaller.  Your home will get less light.

10. Storm Windows – Along with proper maintenance, the addition of storm windows can be more energy efficient (and again cheaper) than replacement windows.  The energy efficiency of replacement windows is due to double-pane glass.  Storm windows provide exactly the same energy barrier with more operational flexibility.

Historic WindowsRemember, they are called replacement windows because they will have to be replaced in a few years.

Few, if any, of our fine old irreplaceable double-hung windows are beyond repair.  In most cases, they are just suffering from lack of maintenance.  Repair them – the environment, your home and your pocketbook will thank you.

What a Loss: Latta House

Latta House in Raleigh North CarolinaToday a group of civic minded folks are planting azaleas and having a cookout at the site of the lost Latta House.  Azaleas were donated by WRAL and NC Beautiful.  Hopefully the azaleas are tough enough to survive the drought.

Loss of Latta House occurred earlier this year when it mysteriously burned to the ground after a 100+ year fight for survival.  I have yet to hear the cause of the fire.

In the 1990’s it gained status as a Raleigh historic landmark and was listed on the National Register of historic places.  Subsequently, this important landmark suffered missed opportunities to secure assistance and perhaps restoration.

Back of Latta House in Raleigh North CarolinaLatta House was built in the late 1800’s by a former slave (Reverend Morgan Latta) to provide education for African Americans.  Latta University was located in Oberlin Village, a freedmans community founded after the Civil War.

In the summer of 2004, I visited Latta House and took a few pictures (2 of them shown here).  Though it had deteriorated significantly, I could see it had once been a handsome place.  Especially handsome when you consider the circumstances under which it was built.

East Meets West: The Twin Cities

St. Paul art near Rice ParkI just returned from the National Trust for Historic Preservation Annual Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Learned a bit about the history and rivalry shared by St. Paul and Minneapolis.  Heard both Mayors speak.  Enjoyed a somewhat dour but humorous keynote address delivered by Garrison Keillor.  Listened to some great music by Peter Ostroushko, the best mandolin player on ‘neither’ side of the Mississippi.  Toured 11 magnificent homes in the Ramsey Hill neighborhood (including Mr. Keillor’s).  Explored downtown on foot but did not find a way to get close to the Mississippi.  And, of course, attended plenty of educational sessions.  This year there was a focus on how the ‘Green Building’ movement and Historic Preservation can cohabitate.  More to follow.

Landmark Center in St. PaulI also enjoyed meeting a fellow real estate agent who lives and works in St. Paul.  Teresa Boardman took time out of her busy day to chat with me over breakfast at the Downtowner restaurant.  Teresa had just been named one of the 25 most influential real estate bloggers of 2007 by Inman News.  Thanks and Congratulations Teresa.