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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Being There...Antarctica 2003

I have heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand is my book on a most beloved and beautiful place...catch it while it still exists.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

August 16, 2007

Charlotte Condos As Investments. I’m Chicken Except…

Late last night after I checked my day’s work and tucked the big dogs in bed, I sat and surfed. It is amazing what sites come up at midnight and are hard to find the next day. But it’s interesting. Before surfing, I thought I would tackle M and M’s as my next subjects: Mortgages and Management Companies. Instead I cringed when I came across a website that spoke to Uptown.In essence, this person was hawkin’ “Come On Down”…referring to Uptown Charlotte.First, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission frowns on our using our crystal balls. And our own good sense might well do the same. The one thing I know for sure, the only thing I know for sure, is that I cannot predict appreciation. I can speak to my perception of the marketplace. Period.So when I read about the number of sales and the prices and the towers and on and on…and how this is the place for investors because of the promise of appreciation and substantial gain, I say “Whoa”. I talk with other brokers and some of us are being very cautious for our clients…some of us are suggesting condominiums outside the Uptown Loop…because some of us think the preponderance of small, most often one bedroom condominiums are headed for a definite unknown future. If there were a way we could parse the purchasers so we could know how many investors were involved with a project, we might have a more clear picture…and some might say, well, there is a cap on investors. Perhaps, but is there a cap on “second homes”?
In SouthPark, there is a handsome new project where today there are 40 units for sale. That conservatively is about 25% of the project. Certainly, that project will change as other retail and businesses come aboard, but what if that were your primary residence?
In some states, there are laws that prohibit rentals in some multi-family projects…rentals may occur only in dire circumstances. I can only hope that our legislature would take a look at that concept for North Carolina.Back to Uptown.
I have a friend who was asked to do a feasibility study for one of the towers. Their answer was, “No”. And then asked why, their answer was “ because I don’t think it is feasible”. Consider that in this market the same folks who often do the feasibility studies for the developers are also the spokesperson to the media. So who do you believe?
I am a cautious person. I believe you should be able to get out of whatever you get into…with relative ease and minimal heartache. The normal angst precludes not being able to get a mortgage on your place because there are too many investors. Not being able to get out financially because you are competing with not only new construction but also other, lots of others, in the same marketplace. How many one bedroom condominiums can our Uptown accommodate? Today? In the next 5-7 years.
Then let’s think logically…Charlotte is still growing. There is land close to uptown, close enough to build more towers, more mixed use and still have access to the city. Hmmm.Would I rather be able to walk my dog in the neighborhood park, actually have a grocery closer by, have more than 550-750 square feet, be able to hop to the Y as well as the night life and pay less than $300 a sq ft.? Hello!
Of course, there are folks who do use the Uptown condominiums as their city pad…some folks do use them as a second home. I am speaking to the general population for whom this is their primary residence, their biggest investment. Single folks just starting out, young marrieds enjoying the street scene, the night life and the glitz.
Charlotte is a great little city…growing, energetic, vibrant. The streets are sometimes paved with good intention, the air is less than pure, the people represent both the best and the worst and the mantra or at least, my mantra is always, “Caution, caution”. Even as a real estate broker specializing in condominiums.
Lynnsy Logue. The Real Estate Lady® and Condo CanDo®
Charlotte's Condominium Specialist since 1986

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Charlotte Condominium Conversions

August 15, 2007

Conversions: Charlotte Condominiums

Something Old, Something NewSome Converted…aha…yet another twist for Charlotte Condominiums…
As I think about the various elements, the variety of processes in the world of real estate most specifically, Charlotte Condominiums…I consider “ conversions”.
A conversion would be a property which has been converted to a condominium. A property which had another use, for instance:
Apartments are the most likely candidate for conversions. Property that was initially built as an apartment and at some point in it’s life span was converted to a condominium.
Cotswold Homes, brick gardens, were built as apartments. At first glance, you might think they would qualify as town homes. Because of their construction, they had to fall into the legal category of condominiums.
Selwyn Village off Wakefield has a town home configuration as well as flats. Obviously they converted to condos from apartments. One clue on the earlier conversions is the tell-tale central laundry facility. And often a central heating system accompanied the apartment status.
Alson Court in Eastover is another conversion. Stately brick with hardwood floors and a handful of carports.
There are many conversions throughout the older sections. My favorites are the handsome old Myers Park mansions that were converted from single family to two or three condos. I applaud that innovative thinking and that was many, many years ago.We might see more of that down the road.
Favorite stories are the apartment/condo/apartment/condo status of Heathstead. One of the largest, if not the largest, condominium complexes in Charlotte. In the SouthPark area, it was one of the pioneer projects and was built by Crosland.
Another favorite in SouthPark is Trianon…and I almost see that being a tear down someday. Precious and pricey location. Still has central heating plant.
Uptown, the elegant Poplar was once apartments. New York flair, solid, classy it was converted long ago and is a coveted location.
Fifth and Poplar started off as Condos but the market was soft and they went to apartment status but I suspect the construction is more to the liking of condominiums. Unlike some apartments which have been converted.
Sometimes I get the feeling that an apartment building, complex, is being built with the eventual intention of conversion because the construction is less costly for the apartments in some cases.
Unique conversions:
Settler’s Place: on North Church St. Adjoins historic N.C. Medical. Five stories. Six units were prior to new building. These units receive tax credit because of historic designation. Newer units face the old cemetery.Exterior construction is EFIS.
2 parking spaces, deeded storage in basement. Older units (5) share rooftop terrace; 16 new units, each with private terrace.
St. Peter’s
Conversion 1996. Historic building. See Walking Tour. Renovated in early 80s. Parking is off W 6th St Complex is at Poplar St and 6th St. Some 2 story units, some three. Exposed brick walls/wood floors. Flats as well as townhouse styles. Basement storage.
Alexander House, Elizabeth-Colonial Heights Pictured above
Conversion. Built in 1917 and converted to condominium in 1993. 509 Clement Ave. Clement Ave was originally constructed to accommodate the trolley so it is wider than most streets and has a boulevard effect. Total of five units at Alexander House.
One of my favorites is in Elizabeth. Built as a condominium for residential use, it has zoning for Office.
Business and warehouse converted to condominiums? You bet. There’s Factory South and Atherton Mills.
The cautionary flag I would throw on a conversion is the construction. And not just the new hardwood floors, the updated kitchens with granite and snazzy new bathrooms…hire an inspector to go over the unit with a fine tooth comb. Both structural and mechanical.Of course, that goes for any property. Yes, even brand new…especially brand new.
That is for another day.
Meanwhile, I suggest “Googling” convert apartment to condominiums. Fascinating and good information.
Thanks for tuning in, Lynnsy Logue, The Real Estate Lady and Condo CanDo, Charlotte, NC, Charlotte’s Condominium Specialist

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Charlotte's Many Voices

August 14, 2007

The Planning Commission, the Zoning Department, Home Owners and Neighborhood Associations.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg has a large and capable staff of good folks at The Planning Commission. They have an excellent map-making department, a superb graphics department, they have numbers and statistics folks with lots of experience and they have visionaries, too. It amazes me how we sometimes do not listen and take into account their recommendations. Doesn’t that make you wonder? Recently, zoning was passed by the governing body for a project in Dilworth that both the Planning Commission and the Neighborhood Association opposed.I read an article recently from Seattle…it spoke to the longing many years ago for the community to be involved in the planning of their city. Community formed, community spoke and with little avail. Money speaks louder make no mistake about it…if it’s in the form of the possibility of increased tax revenues or another source of income…we see it happen time and time again. And if community wins once…wait…for the developers can often outwait the community. It has happened before and it will happen again. Axiom.
Zoning. How do they keep it straight? We have to have smaller home sites so we can have more homes. We court density thinking it is the only saving grace, the only answer to an energetic, burgeoning town. Smaller home sites, more vertical homes priced higher and higher each year. And just for fun, do you think there is a limit on the number of one bedroom condominiums in uptown Charlotte? Okay, here is a puzzle. There was an article about the Light Rail and how there are building permits for 7300 residential units along the rail. Now there is also a report that informs us that in the last quarter of 2006 there were 7300 building permits for condos. There is probably some overlap, but when asked, I was told they are not the same.
The very neighborhoods with their charm and ambiance that brought folks here are changing. Maybe it is inevitable. We are a people who fancy “more”. I keep wondering if other cities go through this…where neighborhoods change and streets change and the Mom and Pop shops and restaurants can’t compete and pretty soon, Charlotte as we know it, knew it, is gone.
In my sleepy, country neighborhood, we have a strong neighborhood association because builders have found us and try to build more houses than our covenants and restrictions call for. We want to maintain the integrity of our neighborhood, we stand close, chip in, hire an attorney, speak out, fight back. Part of this process has been fun…we have a website, an email newsletter and we get together more often. Look for the good, cherish the positive.

I have a friend who is a personal trainer…she says we “tear” the muscle apart to build the muscle stronger. Maybe it is that way with cities. I have lived in Charlotte for over 50 years. I love this place like no other. I can recall another time…and I am grateful that we live in this vortex of growth and change. I wish only for old-fashion kindness.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Beginnings ARE Difficult, Especially When Defining Charlotte's Condo Market

Podcast August 13, 2007

Beginnings ARE Difficult…Especially When Defining Charlotte’s Condo Market

Many of us in the real estate profession are shaking our heads in wonder, amazement and amusement about the Condo landscape in and around Charlotte, NC. So what must the general public be thinking? Or how about the developers and builders? And the mortgage folks? Then there’s the planning commission, the zoning department, the water and sewer department, Light Rail. Oh, and let’s remember, the management companies. Oops, then there’s current events-the mortgage debacle. And past events, the cycle of overbuilding-the lure to investors in an energetic, glitzy market. Oh, my-where do I start?

With the basics.
I believe that there are many levels available for scrutiny and I have learned that old axioms age well because of their simple truths.
Many years ago in Uptown Charlotte NC, condominiums in Center City Charlotte were built in Fourth Ward and in Third Ward. They were, by and large, smaller complexes, except Springfield Square and by the sheer nature of Condominiums then, pretty avante-guard. Locale lenders encouraged this residential concept and granted loans to encourage buyers…many of the loans, however, were adjustable or balloons of 5 to 7 years. And as time rolled forward and folks were moving up and out, re-financing became tough and selling became tougher. Enter rental property. Then, of course, any buyers who would come would have a tougher time getting a loan because of the higher investor ratios. Condominiums got a bad name. Not because of the concept but because of the variables in the marketplace. Cycles happen. (to be continued)
Less is More.
Charlotte, NC used to be a sleepy southern town. For many years Charlotte ranked in the top markets, the ADI…Charlotte was a great test market for the likes of Proctor and Gamble…but no one else except the natives could differentiate between Charleston, Charlotte, Charlottesville or Chapel Hill. We were safe. You couldn’t find us easily. So we had condominiums and townhomes in the inner circle around downtown/uptown Charlotte, condominiums out a little…Raintree, Quail Hollow, SouthPark (before it was SouthPark), on the East side off Central, off Kilborne, off Hickory Grove (now W.T. Harris), out Mint Hill way, off Lawyer’s Road…and then an accelerated spurt in the late 70’s, early 80’s off Carmel. But you get my drift. We had condos and townhomes…and once again, the tick of the cycle. The builders in my opinion overbuilt. (to be continued).
Buyer Beware.
I have a friend who says of the world, how can you do anything well when you are trying to do everything? I see that now in new construction: poor building materials, poor construction. Lack of attention to detail. Re-direction of responsibility. And on the buyer’s side: lack of knowledge, lack of qualified representation, lack of patience. (to be continued.)
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Free furniture, free closing costs, free home owner’s dues, free mortgage, free moving…
Hang-on to your hat because there is almost always an underlying reason. Builders are rarely going to give anything away unless they need to…and if they need to, the buyer needs to be able to read the signs…and make the situation work for them. We live in a capitalistic society and it is driven by profit. Money. (to be continued.)

Thanks for tuning questions? I am listening.Lynnsy Logue, The Real Estate Lady/ Condo CanDo, Charlotte, NCCharlotte's Condominium Specialist

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Charlotte NC Condo CanDo®...Condominium Specialist

Charlotte, NC July 5, 2007

What do we know about the condominium market in Charlotte, NC?
All that glitters is not gold.
How do resales compare with new construction?
Depending on location, resales are enjoying some snap and my feel is the consumer still preferes new construction over older units in many cases. Something about the lure of granite and stainless.
What about all those high rise towers in the Uptown area?
I frankly think it's scary. Just for fun, look at building permits for the 4th quarter of 06 for condominiums and then ask that question.
What about condos as investments in Charlotte?
Snobbery is not my forte, but a high concentration of investors in any project on any street be it attached housing or single family homes is less than desireable. No kidding, folks.
What would you look for in a condominium?
I have a basic belief that a person should be able to exit with all reasonableness...price, time, etc.
I tend to look to 3 to four years from now.
How long have you been specializing in condominiums in Charlotte, NC?
More than 20 years.
Got a question? We'd be delighted to hear from you!
Condo CanDo® aka Lynnsy Logue, The Real Estate Lady®
Both Condo CanDo® and The Real Estate Lady® are Servicemarks of Lynnsy Logue and due all Servicemark Protections from USPTO.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Condominium Assessments...A Wake Up Call!

Besides writing about resales in the Charlotte Condominium market, I will share from time to time the priceless jewels that come across my path...and this one is a classic! From the Tar Heel Realtor Newsletter, February 2005...A Question to the Forms Guy from an agent in NC.

Dear Forms Guy,
I have a listing on a condo. It's under contract and was supposed to close yesterday, but there's a problem. When I took the listing, the seller told me he had read in his association newsletter that bids on repainting the exterior of all the units in the complex had come in considerably higher than anticipated, and that there might be a special assessment to cover the increased costs. I called the treasurer of the association and he told me that the association's board had discussed the possibility of an assessment at its last meeting but hadn't voted on it yet. Even though the assessment hadn't been approved, to be on the safe side the seller checked "Yes" to question No, 19 on the Residential Property Disclosure Statement and wrote in "ASSESSMENT TO PAINT ALL UNITS BEING CON- SIDERED BY OWNERS' ASSOCIATION" in the blank at the end of the Disclosure Statement. We got a good offer on the condo, and I wrote the exact same wording in the first blank in the "Special Assessments" section (paragraph 6) of the Offer to Purchase and Contract. I wrote "N/ A " in the second blank in paragraph 6 since the assessment had already been disclosed on the Disclosure Statement and in the first blank in paragraph 6 of the Offer.
The board voted to approve the assessment a week before the closing date. It will be paid in 12 monthly installments beginning in two months. When the closing attorney's paralegal faxed me a copy of the HUD-I settlement statement the day before closing, it showed the assessment as the seller's obligation. I called the attorney and told her in the nicest way I knew how that her paralegal had screwed up the HUD-I. She told me the contract clearly stated that the seller was obligated to pay the assessment. What I want to know is, how can that be? Number one, the seller disclosed the assessment on both the Disclosure Statement and the Offer. Number two, it's not even payable until after the closing date anyway.
Would you do me a little favor and call the closing attorney and set her straight? Signed, Mighty Miffed
Dear Mighty Miffed, I'm mighty sorry, but I think the closing attorney is right. There are two blanks in the Special Assessments paragraph of the Offer to Purchase
and Contract form (standard form 2-T), and they serve very different purposes. In the first sentence of paragraph 6, the seller warrants that there aren't any pending or confirmed special assessments. If there are any pending or confirmed special assessments, the blank at the end of that first sentence is where the seller must describe them.
The second sentence of paragraph 6 is an agreement between the buyer and seller about who will be responsible for any pending or confirmed special assessments that may exist. The way the pre-printed wording reads, the seller is responsible for any special assessments that may be "con- finned" through the time of closing, and the buyer is responsible for any special assessments that may be "pend- ing." According to the Guidelines for Completing the Offer to Purchase and Contract (standard form 2G), "[a] ' Confirmed ' assessment is defined as an assessment that has been imposed by a governing body. A 'Pending' assessment is defined as an assessment that is under consideration by a governing body." If the parties agree to
vary the pre-printed wording about who is responsible for the payment of any assessments, that agreement needs to be set forth in the blank at the end of the second sentence. In your situation, the seller properly disclosed the existence of the "pending" assessment in the first blank in paragraph 6. However, just because the seller disclosed it doesn't make the buyer responsible for paying for it. Since the condo association board approved the assessment prior to closing, the second sentence of paragraph 6 states that the seller is responsible for it unless otherwise agreed in the blank at the end of the sentence. Since "N/ A " was inserted in the second blank, the parties did not agree other- wise, and therefore, the assessment is your client's obligation. Also, it is immaterial that the owners won't actually begin paying for the assessment until after the closing date. The assessment was "confirmed " when it was
imposed by the board, not when it becomes payable by the owners.
Sincerely, Forms Guy.
NCAR, 4511 Weybridge
Lane, Greensboro, NC 27407.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Charlotte's First Condominium built by Kathryn Smetana

Kathryn Krause Smetana
Built the first condominium in Charlotte in 1970. With great care she built Gaynor Arms in Randolph Park at Cotswold. This is her story.
She was born September 15, 1910 in Philadelphia, Pa. Her parents were Michael and Catherine Krause.
She went to school in Philadelphia until she was fourteen years old. Then she went to work with Apex Hosiery Company in Philadelphia. She went to Continuation School to complete her high school education while she worked. At sixteen years of age she left Philadelphia and came south. She worked several years in the Greensboro area and became quite proficient in all of the production jobs associated with the manufacturing of women’s hosiery. Soon she became an instructor, and it was not long before she was quite in demand to teach her skills. Whenever a new mill opened, Kathryn was hired to train the women in production. And her jobs took her to the Concord area and to Gastonia. As soon as the manufacturing plant was up and running smoothly, she would go to another start-up mill.
In the late thirties, Otto Smetana opened a new mill in Monroe, NC and hired Kathryn to train the staff in production. This time she stayed and married Otto.
After World War II the hosiery business changed drastically. The stocking that had the seam up the back was called full fashion. Rather than convert the plant to make hosiery as it is today, Otto Smetana sold the mill and retired from the hosiery business. He and Kathryn traveled extensively throughout the USA.
Otto and Kathryn built a bowling alley, Park Lanes, near Park Road Shopping Center. They later sold it, but Kathryn and her brother in law ran The Wash Bowl Laundry in the basement of the bowling alley. Otto and Kathryn lived in a home on Ferncliffe Drive during this time. Otto passed away in the early sixties.
Kathryn got the building bug and decided to build a condo. The plans and specs were started in the late sixties and Gaynor Arms was started in 1970. Kathryn gave thought to every detail including security, storage, elevator, central laundry, clubroom and covered parking.
After completing Gaynor Arms, she moved to Florida and built four houses there. She stayed on in Florida for seventeen years, but in 1986, returned to her condo at Gaynor Arms.
Kathryn passed away January 23, 1998.
A long and cherished friend of Kathryn’s, Al Busedu, was kind to write this story in memory of his friend.
Thanks, Al…another Angel.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Journey of a 1000 miles begins...

Okay, now that I have written a little about who I am and where I am from, let's begin with what my intention is for this blog. I enjoy this Charlotte is interesting to observe the changes in the last several years. Charlotte is growing, the marketplace tries to accommodate the change, people come for jobs, people come to be with their children, people come because the climate is pleasant, people come because Charlotte is a good place to raise a family. Our real estate changes...patio homes and condos to suit the beginners and the empty nesters, condos and townhomes to suit the single professionals, million dollar+ homes for those coming from the larger markets. People invest, to live, to start their lives.
Real estate technology changes...from a big, thick weekly book with all the listings to terminals to the Internet. We grow. Many focus on the new condos. The hip, all glass, uptown spaces within walking distance of arenas and stadiums and pubs...the towers dot our futures. There is a lot of speculation. There is a lot of buzz. There are many people jumping in the game.
All that glitters is not gold.
Our name is CC...Condo CanDo...and that might also stand for cautious, curious, careful, conservative. Me and the kid in the red cape, Condo CanDo, will leave the new to the new...I will begin with older condominiums and townhomes because there are some interesting stories and charming condos and townhomes throughout our city, Charlotte.
This is my plan.
Lynnsy Logue, The Real Estate Lady and Condo CanDo

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hello! and Welcome! It's A Wearin' of The Green!

The wearing of the green...seems like a good day to begin a blog...spring is truly in the air here in Charlotte, NC...the pear trees are almost in full bloom running almost the whole length of Wendover Road...and the town itself is blooming. In many ways. Okay, especially in real estate.
Charlotte used to be a sleepy Southern town. We had Mom and Pop shops, small towns as our neighbors. Cows and horses nearby. Charlotte was a peaceful town with a couple of good restaurants, a couple of movie theatres, a nearby river...and a vibrant energy.
That was in the 50's...and times have changed. I sometimes smile when I tell the folks who are relocating that everything they are coming here really gone. And Charlotte is still vibrant and good and fun and growing like all get out!
And that is what I love and that is what I will be writing about...real estate from my point of view.
Charlotte, NC has been my home for well over 50 years and real estate has been my life support for over 20 years. I specialize in Condominiums. Condo CanDo, our registered servicemark along with The Real Estate Lady, also registered back in the late 80's...both saved my neck as a new agent in a highly competitive market.
Now, I blend technology with intuition and experience with listening...observing the market for both buyers and sellers.
I have three websites built over the last ten years. They are in the throes of being updated...the research has changed, the stats have changed, and our editor will change as we migrate to a new one.
And I am one of the few remaining "Mom" shops...I open doors for folks, pour them a cup of coffee or green tea...sit on the floor and play with the children...and sometimes I give advice like, "Now is not the time to sell"... or "Wait a while".
Let the green begin...and thanks for tuning in.
The Real Estate Lady/ Condo CanDo
Lynnsy Logue