Well, to everyone’s delight, we did get a little snow on Christmas Eve. Where I live, on My Mountain, the elevation is about 2000 feet, and we probably had about a quarter of an inch by Christmas Day. It was also about 20 degrees with a 20 mile an hour wind up there, so it was a good day for building a fire and staying close to the cabin. It remained very cold for the next two days, but the weekend was beautiful, with clear skies and warmer temperatures. There are still a few patches of snow in areas that don’t get any sunlight, but it’s been warm enough to hike and work some in the yard.
We’ve been very busy in the office since Christmas Day, with people up for the holidays looking for property. I’ve got some good recommendations for buyers in various price ranges, and because we weren’t as busy as usual in the fall due to the rain, we still have a very good inventory of properties as we enter the new year.
Several people have asked me about the public hearing on the issue of pouring licenses in Fannin County, which have been requested by an attorney for three of our local restaurants. The first of two public comment meetings was held at the courthouse last week, and it provided an excellent opportunity to hear some of the county’s better preachers on a subject very near to their heart. Unfortunately, those in the audience who were opposed were unwilling to let those in favor speak, so it could not truly be termed an exchange of views. However, seasoned political observers believe it is all over but the shouting, because while Randy Collins is opposed, Steve Morris is known to be in favor, and Richard Vollrath is expected to vote in favor.
People who are looking for a little country fun for New Year’s Eve should consider the 8th Annual Possum Drop at Clay’s Corner, Brasstown, North Carolina (828.837.3797). There is also a New Year’s Party in Helen (706.878.2181) and Hiawassee is having the 1st Annual Mountain Midnight Coon Dog Howl (706.896.0598).
Best wishes to everyone for a safe and fun New Year’s celebration.
As the holidays approach, the real estate business slows down a bit, and we have a chance to catch up with friends. The office has been awash with holiday cards, gift giving, cookies, cakes, and ham. Those of us who aren’t traveling are spending a bit more time with our families, and there’s a lot of talk about holiday plans. I think we’re all grateful to have an office where people genuinely enjoy each other’s company and work well together, because that doesn’t always happen in this business.
The holidays seem to mean more in the mountains, or at least they seem easier to enjoy, because we don’t have mall traffic. In the old rhythm of country life, this was the time when most of the outside work was done for the year, a time for feasting and for fellowship. It’s still a very big deal for the kids, of course, and the focus in our little community is definitely on the kids, especially the less fortunate. With the closing of the Levi Strauss factory in Blue Ridge, it’s been a tough year for our working people, and many folks are in need. Special thanks are due to the many people who supported the Empty Stocking Fund, which provides toys and other items to needy children.
We’ve had a warming trend this past week, which has allowed for a little porch sitting,
always a nice thing in the winter. It doesn’t seem we’ll get a holiday snowfall this year, so we’ll have to console ourselves with holiday cheer by the fireplace.
In real estate news, I now have three great lots listed in My Mountain, two in Meadowoods and one up on top. Kingfisher Lodge, a fantastic lodge on the lake, is also still available at this time.
To continue the discussion on second home prices, the New York Times (12/13) carried an article that concluded, mostly on anecdotal evidence (phone calls to brokers), that second home sales over $1 million were weakening in Boca, the Hamptons, Palm Springs, Park City, and Aspen. Prices below $1 million seem to be holding steady, in part “because investors continue to see real estate as a safer haven than the stock market.” The article also points out something I am always trying to explain to my buyers: “The second home market is a curious animal. It is not a matter of buyers having to have a roof over their heads, and sellers are seldom highly motivated. Sometimes they are just testing the waters. For the most part, sellers can afford to wait until the market picks up again.”
As we get ready to enter the New Year, I wish you all peace, prosperity, and a little quiet time in the mountains with family and friends.
As most of you probably know, the big ice storm that was menacing us Tuesday night/Wednesday morning never reached us. It petered out a bit to the east of us, although at 11:00 Wednesday morning, I would have bet that it was going to slam us. It was sleeting and the temperature was dropping, and I actually went home to build a fire and ride it out. It didn’t come to anything, and I’m not aware of any damage.
It has remained fairly cold all week. I was in Atlanta on Tuesday, stocking up on groceries, and I dumped three bags of ice in the yard after I unloaded the cooler. It still hasn’t melted. On the other hand, Sunday was a beautiful, clear day.
The talk of Fannin County continues to be the threatened lawsuit against the county if on-premises beer and wine permits aren’t issued to the three restaurants that have requested them, Forge Mill, Mama Rosa’s, and the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant. According to their attorney, the county is obligated by state law to do so because there is no county ordinance against it. He also stated that if one were passed now, it would open the county to a lawsuit. By tradition, the county has been dry, although beer and wine sales for off-premises consumption have been allowed in the city of Blue Ridge. Brown bagging, on the other hand, has been allowed. One of the arguments for on-premises consumption is that Fannin is losing tax revenues to surrounding areas – especially Copperhill, Tennessee and Ellijay, Georgia – that do issue permits. In my mind, an equally compelling argument is that we aren’t apt to attract many talented Atlanta chefs to the county until we have beer and wine, because the economics of the restaurant business dictate that a good chunk of the profits come from the bar.
In real estate news, we have just listed “Kingfisher Lodge,” a fantastic lodge on the lake that has a commanding view of its cove and actually owns half of Shady Falls, perhaps the most beautiful spot on the lake. The asking price is $2.3 million, and suffice it to say that with its beautiful great room, many levels, and detached guesthouse, Kingfisher Lodge may be the premier property on the lake. If you know anyone who may be interested, I certainly would appreciate the referral. See MLS 81363 or this week’s featured listing on the opening page.
Also, the National Association of Realtors has issued what they describe as the first major stand-alone study of the second home market, which they expect will become the benchmark for future studies. Among their findings was that the second home market accounts for roughly six percent of all homes sold annually and that the median age of the typical second home buyer is 61. This is a marked difference with our market, because our typical demographic is 35-55. The study also found that recent buyers were motivated by a desire to diversify portfolio assets, which is in accord to what we’re seeing with our buyers. The real shocker, however, is that the median price of a second property rose nearly 27 percent between 1999 and 2001, vs. 7-8 percent in the primary home market. This goes a long way toward explaining the kind of appreciation we’ve been seeing in our area, and it’s interesting to us to know that it’s been a nationwide phenomenon.