Home sales rise in area’s mountain counties

Published 1:40 pm Friday, July 23, 2010

Home sales jumped in Buncombe County in June by 20.6 percent compared to the same time a year ago, and sales increased in three adjoining counties, indicating a continued rebound in the housing market.

Realtors attributed the latest increase, in part, to the federal tax credits and lower home prices. Although the median home price for homes sold in June in Buncombe County rose about 10 percent to $217,000, the price per square foot for homes sold in the first half of this year is down compared to the same period last year.

Realtors said the strength of the markets rebound will be clearer after the tax credits expire. Buyers who contracted to buy a home by April 30 have until Sept. 30 to close on the deal.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In Spartanburg County, home sales were up 26 percent in May compared to the prior year as buyers rushed to qualify for the tax credits. For the year, sales are up just 1.8 percent in the county.&bsp; The median price for homes sold in Spartanburg County was up 4.5 percent in May to $115,000 and its up 1.8 percent for the first five months of the year.

In Greenville County, year-to-date home sales were up 14.6 percent and the median home price was up 3.3 percent.

Realtors said prices remain well below the highs of 2005, 2006 and 2007, and they hope historically low interest rates may continue to draw buyers.


Asheville will welcome visitors from across the region this weekend as it hosts the 2010 Bele Chere street festival Friday through Sunday. The festival, featuring three days of music, food, crafts and more in the downtown area, includes headline acts the Fabulous Thunderbirds on Friday and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on Saturday. Music is performed on four stages: Coxe Avenue, Biltmore Avenue, Battery Park and Haywood Street. Numerous other acts will be performing at clubs and other venues in the city. The Cowboy Junkies are at The Orange Peel and the Clay Aiken-Ruben Studdard show will be at the Biltmore Estate on Friday. For more information, visit www.belecherefestival.com.


Henderson County is considering following Polk Countys example and hiring an agricultural economic development director. A recent study completed by Henderson County shows the countys agricultural industry employed 1,645 with a payroll of $18.5 million and total revenue of $141.6 million in 2007.

County officials recently adopted an agriculture preservation plan and are now looking at ways to further support the industry.&bsp; Henderson County officials have heard about the success Polk has had since Lynn Sprague began work as the countys agricultural economic development director a couple years ago. Sprague has used the $140,000 budgeted annual for his department to staff a department that has supported many new agricultural initiatives in the county and acquired conservation easements.

Henderson County officials say a director in their county would have to balance the needs of many small, family farms in the county with the needs of large commercial growers in the apple and nursery industries. Officials say they plan to talk with more people in the farming community before making a decision about a director.


Rutherford County is moving forward with a project to help farmers obtain the water they need with a low-cost technology. Jock Brandis with the Full Belly Project in Wilmington has come to the county to lead the project. The Full Belly Project has focused on helping people in foreign countries who do not have access to clean water. Brandis agreed to come help farmers in Rutherford County after being urged by Time Will, executive director of Foothills Connect Business & Technology.&bsp; Both Brandis and Will received Purpose Prize awards, which provide $100,000 to people older than 60 who are making great contributions.

The low-cost technology allows farmers to pump water from their streams by simply using the kinetic energy of water moving downhill. The system using PVC pipe and five-gallon plastic buckets can pump 1,5000 gallons of water in a 24-hour period without using a pump that requires fuel.

The system allows farmers to provide water to their crops and animals while still keeping fences around the streams to avoid water contamination. Water can be moved from streams to a tank and then used for drip irrigation. This is a way to use alternative energy for moving water all day long, said Will.


A program in North Carolina to turn pig waste into power is not producing enough to meet state&bsp; requirements, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Electric power companies must product 0.1 percent of the states retail electricity from swine waste by 2012, but no farms have produced electricity since the voluntary, pilot program was launched three years ago.

North Carolina pig farms generate each day about three million pounds of waste, which is used to spray on fields as fertilizer.&bsp; In 2007, North Carolina created the program to have power companies pay for electricity generated by methane from the waste.

State officials said the economy has discouraged farms from making the investment, and most pig farms are served by a membership corporation rather than a public utility participating in the program. Progress Energy and Duke Energy Carolinas petitioned last year to delay the requirement a year, but have since been soliciting proposals for swine waste projects.


The City of Charlotte says a landscaping contractor used a herbicide that killed two large oak trees in front of the historic federal courthouse in the city. The two willow oaks and a magnolia tree will be cut down, says the city. &bsp;

The city arborist says the herbicide Imazapyr, used often to clear utility rights of way, should not have been used near the trees. He adds that it appears the contractor violated state law by dousing the trees with the chemical.

The trees were estimated to be more than 60 years old. The federal building, constructed in 1915, is on the National Register of Historic Places.


North Carolina has about 40 troubled banks, an increase of 74 percent since October, according to regulators. North Carolina trails only Georgia at 41 for the number of troubled banks. South Carolina has three in trouble.

The total in North Carolina represents nearly half of the states 86 state-chartered banks. The banks have been hit by delinquent loans and declining real estate values, say officials, who are working to avoid bank failures. Officials said they expect few failures, and noted that mergers will be an option used to help troubled banks. The list of state-chartered banks includes community and regional banks, not national firms.


Lowes has donated $250,000 to help develop the Iredell County section of the Carolina Thread Trail, a network of trails, greenways, blueways and conservation corridors linking 15 counties in the Carolinas. The Lowes Charitable and Education Foundation provided the grant, which will be used to buy land and build trail segments.


The North Carolina Zoo has not suffered during the recession.&bsp; The wildlife park in Asheboro set a 13-year attendance high in June. The zoo, which recently added new exhibits and increased marketing efforts, opened in 1974 with giraffes, zebras and ostriches. The zoo is now home to more than 1,100 animals and 40,000 plants. Earlier this year the zoo expanded by 600 acres, making it the largest zoo in the nation by land area at more than 2,000 acres. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia also has seen an increase in attendance, while many other zoos across the nation have seen decreases this year.


The North Carolina Lottery has set a record for sales after seeing a 10 percent increase in sales this year compared to last year. State officials said new jackpot drawings and more retail locations contributed to the increase. The lottery reported sales of $1.4 billion in the 12 months ending June 30. The record sales are expected to contribute $419 million to education programs in&bsp; the state, the largest annual transfer since sales began in 2006.


A huge grapevine that may have been on North Carolinas coast since the 1500s was nearly killed by a powerful weedkiller. The grapevine, known as the Mother Vine, is reportedly recovering on Roanoke Island.&bsp; The family that owns the property where the vine is located has been caring for the vine for more than 50 years and says it will not harvest grapes from the vine this year due to the spraying. The contractor sprayed the vine after finding part of it climbing up a nearby power pole. However, the herbicide warns against using it on grape vines. The contractor company is working to help the vine recover. The vine is estimated to have been alive when the first Englishmen explored Roanoke Island in the late 1500s.