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David DiGioia


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These local ZIP codes offer best opportunity for housing investment

by Jenna Martin Digital Producer Charlotte Business J

These local ZIP codes

offer best opportunity for

housing investment

Jul 20, 2017, 6:53am EDT


Investing in real estate in a "good" neighborhood can still reap high returns.

That's the conclusion from Attom Data Solutions, which earlier this month released results from one of its latest studies: the 2017 Neighborhood Housing Index.

Attom found that for more than 1,000 ZIP codes with an "A" rating, the median home sales price in the first quarter was $410,684. The median price for 382 ZIP codes came in below $250,000 and for another 27 ZIP codes, the price was below $100,000.

For the analysis, Attom looked at 5,185 ZIP codes in the U.S., evaluating several factors it says impacts neighborhood quality. Those include home price appreciation, affordability (calculated as price-to-income ratio), school scores, crime rate, unemployment rate, environmental hazard risk and property tax rate. Attom, which gave double weight to school scores, crime rate and affordability, then assigned grades of A through F for the ZIP codes.

Of 62 ZIP codes analyzed in the Charlotte metropolitan statistical area, 11 received an A. Here's the remaining breakdown: B: 26; C: 18; D: 4; and F: 3. A heat map can be found at the bottom of this article that allows readers to interact with the data.

The Iredell County ZIP code of 28166 in Troutman received the top grade locally and had a median sales price in the first quarter of $159,900.

These are the other Charlotte-area ZIP codes that received an A, along with their Q1 median sales prices:

  • 28173: Waxhaw in Union County ($345,000)
  • 28078: Huntersville in Mecklenburg County ($265,000)
  • 28037: Denver in Lincoln County ($246,500)
  • 28079: Indian Trail in Union County ($220,500)
  • 28110: Monroe in Union County ($177,250)
  • 28138: Rockwell in Rowan County ($144,250)
  • 29067: Kershaw in Lancaster County ($82,500)
  • 28677: Statesville in Iredell County ($110,000)
  • 28277: Ballantyne area of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County ($286,000)
  • 28031: Cornelius in Mecklenburg County ($239,500)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 28147 ZIP code in Salisbury received the lowest grade. Its median sales price in the first quarter was $158,000.

Here are the other local ZIP codes to receive an F:

  • 28146: Salisbury in Rowan County ($158,000)
  • 28054: Gastonia in Gaston County ($110,000)

Attom also assessed ZIP codes for average home-flipping returns in 2016 and potential annual gross rental yields on single-family rentals, though it did not add that information into its neighborhood-ranking index. That data was gleaned to provide insight for real estate investors of a given neighborhood's potential.

One Charlotte-area ZIP code in particular stood out in that assessment.

Located near Lake Norman, the ZIP code of 28037 in Denver landed at the top of Attom's list of top five solid neighborhoods with best flipping returns. According to Attom's data, the gross flipping return on investment soared 436.1% last year. Its median sales price in the first quarter was $246,500.

The parent of RealtyTrac, Attom Data Solutions is a California-based firm that provides real estate and property data. It routinely puts out reports on housing topics such as foreclosure activity, affordability and home flipping.


You Could Be Wrecking Your Home — And Not Know It (Yet)

Homeowners often make these 9 common, and avoidable,

mistakes.  Don’t be one of them.

You haven’t felt like this since you were a teenager. You have

a crush on your new house. (You’re officially a home buyer 

— wait — owner!)

It’s soooooo great. You love its quirks. It’s your very first home,

and you want to do everything right.

The feeling is fun, but also scary: You remember too well how

badly you screwed up that first crush as a teenager (so embarrassing.

Don’t ask).

Could you screw this up too? 

No need to freak out. You can make this love a lasting one.

For now, keep an eye out for these common no-nos that can

result from good intentions.

#1 Using Bleach as a Cure-All

If bleach is your chicken soup for whatever ails your home,

proceed with caution.

Bleach can:

  • Eat through the sealant on stone surfaces like granite
  • Discolor laminate and colored grout
  • Fade enamel and acrylic tubs
  • Dissolve vinyl and linseed-based flooring like linoleum
  • Corrode seals within the disposal

In addition, bleach kills mold on non-porous surfaces, but

can feed future mold growth on absorbent and porous materials,

like grout. Yep, whitening grout with bleach creates a mold

feeding ground. Whoops.

Better options? Water and vinegar are all you need for most

cleaning jobs. If you’ve got a heftier mold or mildew issue, apply

a commercial anti-fungal product.

And to clean your disposal, just dump cold water and ice

cubes down the hatch.

#2 Training Ivy to Climb Your House

You’ve dreamed of living in an ivy-covered English cottage since

childhood. Well, sorry for this, then:“Anything that climbs

on the house will damage it,” says Marianne Binetti, a speaker

and author who leads garden tours around the world.

The horticulture expert made the mistake herself.

“It looked cool for a while, but it dug into the siding

so even when we pulled it off, it left damage. And it climbed

up the drain pipe and tore the gutter off the house,” she says.

By sending roots beneath siding and shingles, ivy enlarges

tiny cracks in brick and wood, introducing entrances for

moisture and insects, says Jay Markanich, a certified home

inspector based in Bristow, Va.

#3 Relying on Chemical Drain Cleaners

Clogged sink! Again! Pay a plumber more than $100, or

grab a $10 product at the store? You can totally handle

this one yourself, right?

Possibly. But the most common active ingredients in these

solutions, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid, can erode your pipes.

Even the old baking-soda-and-vinegar medley can result in

cracked pipes, as the reaction causes a build-up of pressure.

Old-fashioned “mechanical” methods — your plunger, a drain

snake, or a handy $2 gadget called the Zip-It — are safer and

more effective, according to “Consumer Reports.” 

And if that fails, that call to the plumber doesn’t sound so bad

compared to an eroded or busted pipe, no?

#4 Using Glass Cleaners on Mirrors

Your newfound house crush has you scrubbing and spritzing

everything. Look at you being so lovingly domestic!

But be cautious with your mirrors. Spraying can lead to what’s

ominously called “black edge” — created when a liquid seeps

beneath the reflective backing and lifts it.

Instead, clean mirrors with a lint-free microfiber cloth, dampened

with warm water — especially mirrors in expensive, installed

items like vanities and closet doors. 

Avoid the edges and dry immediately with a second cloth.

#5 Planting Trees ThisClose

to Anything

Kind of like adopting an adorable, tiny piglet on a whim,

you’ve got to remember how a baby tree is going to grow,

and what it’s going to require at maturity.

You probably don’t want a 70-pound pig digging up your

daisies, and you definitely don’t want a tree root pushing

through your driveway, sidewalk or — so much worse! —

your foundation.

And watch out for evergreens. If planted too close to the

house, they cast too much shade, encouraging mold

growth, Binetti says.

Position trees according to its maximum height, crown size,

and root spread. For perspective, even a small tree reaching

less than 30 feet tall needs at least 6 feet of clearance from

any exterior wall, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

#6 Using the Wrong Caulk

As a dutiful homeowner, when you see failing caulk, you fix it.

But the term “caulk” is as broad as the word “glue.”

There’s kitchen and bath caulk, concrete caulk, gutter caulk,

mortar caulk — and that’s just the tip of the caulk-berg. And just

like you’d never fix broken pottery with a glue stick, you don’t want

to pick the wrong caulk either.

Markanich sees plenty of damage done when the wrong caulk

is used. Such as using silicone caulk (totally great on non-porous

surfaces like bathtubs) on concrete or brick or other porous surfaces.

It won’t adhere, and moisture can seep in, compromising the bond

and the structure.

Before heading to the store, check an online buying guide to find

the right match for the project you’re doing. Odds are there’s a

specific caulk just for it.

#7 Over-Sealing Countertops

Take care of your countertop, but don’t smother the darn thing.

Applying sealant too frequently can create a cloudy or streaky

appearance on surfaces like natural stone, concrete, butcher block,

and glass, which typically only require occasional resealing to

resist stains. (Quartz, laminates, and solid surfaces like Corian

are best left sans-sealer.)

How to know it’s time to reseal? Drip some water on a high-use

area of the countertop. If the water doesn’t remain beaded after

15 minutes, consider resealing. 

But always defer to your manufacturer’s recommendations. Different

materials can have different needs.

#8 Over-Mulching

Nothing feels closer to giving your home a hug than being elbow

deep in a landscaping project. But when it comes to mulch

(which is so great, for so many reasons), it turns out elbow deep

is a little too much love.

A layer thicker than 3 inches can suffocate plants and prevent

water from reaching roots, so spread thoughtfully.

#9 Piling Firewood Next to Your Exterior Wall

Your fireplace is the highlight of your home. You love it. That’s

why you keep your firewood right outside the back door, for easy access.

Oops. Storing firewood against your home’s exterior walls is akin

to opening a B&B for termites.

In fact, “anything that creates a dark, climate-controlled area

near the house will invite termites” and other pests into your

home, Markanich says.

In one of the worst termite cases he’s seen, he found an enormous

termite colony on an exterior wall in a bathroom, which got its

foothold in a pile of bricks outside.

Twenty feet is a safe distance from home for firewood — and

still not too far to go to fuel your awesome fireplace.


What Really Makes a Home Appreciate


What Really Makes a Property Appreciate

A home’s value generally appreciates 3 percent to 4 percent every year, which is attributed mostly to population growth and inflation. However in 2016, homeowners saw appreciation jump to an average of 6.3 percent.

Here are some of the clear winners in housing appreciation:®’s research team sought to find out what would boost a home’s value even more and what home features buyers may be willing to pay more for. Researchers analyzed millions of listings on® from 2011 to 2016 to calculate the annual price growth rate of homes with certain features.

Small homes: Homes smaller than 1,200 square feet appreciated by an average rate of 7.5 percent a year for the past five years. On the other hand, larger homes of 2,400 square feet or more rose by 3.8 percent a year. The smaller-home demand is being driven by millennials wanting to enter the market with a more affordable starter home and baby boomers who are looking to downsize,® notes. Further, smaller homes are in shorter supply, which is prompting prices to increase more due to the high demand, says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal firm.

Two-bedroom homes: Homes with two bedrooms appreciate at a rate of 6.6 percent a year, compared to homes with five bedrooms that appreciate at 4.3 percent a year,®’s research team found.

The Hottest Home Features

(Noted below with the annual appreciation rate from 2011-2016.)

  • Open floor plan: 7.4%
  • Patio: 6.8%
  • Hardwood floors: 5.7%
  • Fireplace: 5.3%
  • Finished basement: 4.6%
  • Hot tub: 3.9%
  • Stainless steel appliances: 3%
  • Granite countertop: 2.5%


Open floor plans: Homes with open floor plans appreciate 7.4 percent a year. It’s the hottest appreciating home feature that® studied (see side for full list). As for features like stainless steel and granite, Miller says those amenities don’t really add any value to a home. "Those are what I call 'have-to-have' features,” Miller says. “A home needs to have them in a competitive market. But they don't add long-term value. … Ten years from now, when you update your kitchen, they'll be replaced."

Modern and contemporary homes: Modern and contemporary architectural styles have the highest potential for appreciation, increasing at about 7.7 percent annually. This style of home is known for simple, geometric shapes, and large windows. Newly constructed modern homes also tend to be energy efficient. Bungalows and Traditional are the next highest appreciating styles at 6.5 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, niche styles like Craftsman bungalows and Victorians are among the lowest appreciating architectural styles, at 3.7 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. Researchers speculate that may be due to some of the maintenance responsibilities in staying true to the home’s historical architecture that is often connected to these styles of homes.

Green space views: Homes with a park view appreciate at 7.9 percent a year,®’s research team found. "[They] hold value over a longer period of time, and they recover quickly from a downturn," says Michael Minson, a real estate pro in San Francisco at Keller Williams. "Buyers appreciate the tranquility and outdoor activities. They like being close to nature." Indeed, homes with mountain views appreciated on average by 5.1 percent, and homes with a lake view at 4.9 percent. Ocean views appreciated the least of the “home views” studied, at just 3.6 percent a year. Recent storms may have spooked buyers from oceanfront properties as well as the fact that the highest-cost homes tend to be along the ocean,®’s research team notes.

Source: “Appreciation Sensation: The Real Factors That Boost Your Home’s Bottom Line,”® (April 17, 2017)

HGTV’s House Hunters Looking For Home Buyers in Charlotte!

by Nancy DiGioia-Orig. reported from Scott Jensen

As reported in, HGTV has announced they’re now looking for home buyers in Charlotte to apply for an upcoming episode of their hit show ‘House Hunters‘.

The realty show takes viewers behind the scenes as buyers tour a variety of different homes, and then decide which house will become their new home.

They’re specifically looking for fun personalities and interesting stories. Ideal candidates should have children between the ages of 7 and 16. In their press release they noted, “If your kids are excited and opinionated about your move, we want to meet you!”

If you’re interested in appearing on the show or know
someone who fits the above description, you can apply here.

Dreaming of stainless this and marble that, with a dash of hip color? Sloooow down. See what your wallet has to say first. Some projects will protect your dollars more than others, especially if you’re planning to sell in a few years.

Low-maintenanceHow do we know? Since 2002, a trade magazine for contractors and builders called “Remodeling” has been tracking common home improvement projects and how much of the cost of each project is recouped when the home sells.

We sifted through years of past results and aggregated the numbers to get an idea of what projects made the most of your dollars year after year. Then we overlayed that background with the data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” to determine current project costs and the cost recovery percentage, and to get some other fun facts, such as how satisfied homeowners are with the projects when finished.

They also have a few things in common. The projects are:

  • Good — but not necessarily the highest — quality
  • Energy-efficient
  • Not too costly

These projects are the best long-term remodeling investments you can make:

1.  Replacing Your Front Door

Your faithful front door works tirelessly — day in and day out — to usher in you and your guests, and to seal your house up tight. But when Old Faithful gets tired and worn out, don’t hesitate to call in a replacement. Year in and year out, replacing your old front door with a new steel door is a project that kicks up curb appeal and yields the best payback.

“It gives you the best bang for your buck in terms of transforming the look and feel of your home,” says Brandon Erdmann, president of the remodeling firm HomeSealed Exteriors in Milwaukee. “Plus, old exterior doors can be a huge source of energy loss. So you’re improving the look of your house, improving energy efficiency, and you’re able to do it without breaking the bank.”

It’s also a relatively low-cost project. According to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report,” a new steel front entry door has a national median cost of $2,000 installed, and can recover 75% of that cost at resale.

2.  New Siding

Old, worn siding, along with generally sad curb appeal, can contribute to a loss of up to 10% of your home’s value, according to some appraisers. New siding, on the other hand, practically screams “my owner takes care of me.” 

What to choose? Both vinyl and fiber-cement siding are good replacement options.

Vinyl siding is low-cost, durable, and easy to install, and it hits all the right notes when it comes to getting a return on your home improvement dollars. Best of all: It’s a low-maintenance feature that frees up your time. 

Today’s vinyl siding includes fade-resistant finishes and transferrable lifetime warranties that are much better than the 10-year guarantees of just two decades ago. There’s good payback, too. According to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report,” the $12,000 national median cost of a vinyl siding replacement job returns a solid 83% if you should decide to sell your home.

Fiber-cement siding also shows a strong payback of 79% in the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report.” Although its national median cost of $19,100 makes it the pricier option, it has one thing vinyl still lacks — the perception of quality.

And quality matters. In a survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “quality” was the one of the most important traits that home buyers focused on when shopping for a house. A final word: 100% of homeowners responding to the “Report” said they were happy or satisfied with the result of their fiber-cement siding replacement project.

3.  Kitchen Upgrade

We’re not talking about the dream kitchen remodels that are plastered on Pinterest and Houzz. But a minor kitchen remodel — one that keeps a lid on costs by refacing instead of replacing cabinets, and includes new flooring, countertops, and modestly priced appliances — is an ever-popular project. 

“People are always willing to update their kitchens,” says Dale Contant, 2016 president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and owner of Atlanta Build and Design. “It’s the hub of the home.”

Although the ROI on a kitchen update is relatively modest — the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” says you can expect a return of 67% on the $30,000 national median cost of a kitchen upgrade — you’ll get lasting satisfaction. Eighty-two percent of homeowners said their updated kitchen gave them a greater desire to be at home, and 95% were happy or satisfied with the result.

4.  Deck and Patio Additions

Like alfresco living? You’re in good company. According to a 2014 Home Trends Survey from the American Institute of Architects, our love of outdoor living spaces — especially decks and patios — is on the rise.

One big reason is that decks and patios are a sweet way to expand living space at a low cost of $8 to $35 per square foot — a bargain compared to the $150-and-up per-square-foot cost of a new addition.

5.  Turning an Attic into a Bedroom

When it comes to romantic rooms, a bedroom retreat is hard to beat. But a treetop boudoir is much more than a daydream — it’s a good investment. You’ll gain living space without having to add on to your home’s footprint — the walls, floor, and ceiling already exist. That helps keep remodeling costs under control.

There are code restrictions you’ll have to navigate when converting an attic to a bedroom, but if your house qualifies and you can cover the cost (about $65,000 says the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report”), chances are you won’t regret your decision. Some 94% of homeowners responding to the “Report” said they were happy or satisfied with their new attic space.

6.  New Garage Door

No surprise that a garage door replacement project made it onto our list of all-time winners — a new garage door provides a big boost for your home’s curb appeal at a relatively modest cost. That’s especially good news if you’re thinking about selling your house.

A project that replaces an older, two-car, embossed steel door has a current cost of about $2,300, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report.” If you sell, you can expect a healthy ROI of 87% on your investment.

There are options galore, too. A host of factory-finish colors, wood-look embossed steel, and glass window insets are just some of the possibilities that’ll give your doors bankable personality.


Touring prospective houses can feel like wandering through an infinite, imaginary desert: You’re tired, you’re cranky, and you’re not sure if the experience is EVER. GOING. TO. END. 

So when you’ve finally found “The One,” it’s an amazing feeling. You can already see your family celebrating holidays by your dream home’s stately fireplace and savoring countless brunches in its adorable breakfast nook.

But wait. Before you summon the moving truck, your dream home’s seller has to pick you, too. Luckily, the key to locking down your ideal abode doesn’t always mean offering the most cash. Here are five ways to tip the odds in your favor.

1.  Negotiate with a Smile

Unlike most commercial real estate transactions, the buying and selling of a home is complicated by all kinds of emotions, explains Sara Benson of Benson Stanley Realty in Chicago. Often, how the seller feels about you can be more important than your money.

“People tend to do business with those they like and trust,” she says.

One of Benson’s favorite examples of this phenomenon occurred when one of her clients was second in line for a home. While the first-place bidders were negotiating their contract, they whipped out a long list of unreasonable demands for the seller.

“This infuriated the homeowner, who finally told them, ‘My property isn’t for sale to you at any price!’” Benson recalls. The seller ended up offering Benson’s clients the house, even though their bid was $10,000 below that of the first buyers.

Lesson learned? “Don’t nitpick over items that are insubstantial, like a torn window screen or a $50 valve on a hot water heater,” says Benson. “This will anger a seller more than anything.” And that, she says, could be a deal breaker.

2.  Get Personal

Bruce Ailion, an agent with RE/MAX in Woodstock, Ga., agrees that profit isn’t always the seller’s primary motivation. He recalls a recent deal in which he was representing an older couple selling their long-time family home.

“We had two offers: one from an investor paying cash, the second from financed first-time buyers.”

Despite Ailion’s recommendations, the sellers chose the first-time buyers, even though the cash offer was higher and would have been a much simpler transaction. Ultimately, what mattered most for Ailion’s clients was to pass their beloved home on to a deserving young family.

3.  Figure Out the Seller’s Unique Motivation

Understanding why the sellers have put their home on the market is yet another powerful tool a buyer can bring to the negotiating table, says Ailion.

“Some sellers want a quick sale; others need time to find a home. Some are focused on price, others on certainty,” he says. “There are so many intangibles. It takes a deep understanding to make a good deal for everyone.”

See what information you can glean about the seller — from your agent or even from the seller’s neighbors — to arm yourself with as much information as possible.

“The more flexible a buyer can be on closing and possession, the more likely they’ll be able to negotiate a lower price,” agrees Benson. “They’re giving the seller peace of mind and the comfort of not having to rush out.”

4.  Write a Love Letter

Sometimes, a heartfelt note from a potential buyer can make all the difference, even when the chances seem pretty slim.

Darcey Regan, a Chicago-based HR executive, had already bid on another home when she and her husband stumbled upon a gorgeous old Victorian. Instantly, they were smitten. “I grew up in an old house, and the sellers had done a really great job of maintaining and renovating this one,” she says.

Unfortunately, multiple people had already placed offers on the house, including several developers who were planning to demolish the property. Regan felt her only hope was to write the sellers a letter. In it, she talked about growing up in a similar house, and how much she respected the owners’ efforts to preserve their home.

Within 24 hours, the sellers told her the house was hers. “It turns out they really wanted someone who would keep the house rather than tear it down,” she says.

Though it felt like a long shot, Regan believes her note was successful because it was genuine. Her advice? “Write a letter only if you’re really in love with the house, not because someone told you to.”

5.  Work With a Pro

It also helps to have a knowledgeable, well-respected pro on your side — someone who understands market realities and who will work well with the seller’s agent.

How do you find that seasoned pro with the sterling reputation? “Ask for referrals from your personal and professional network, and interview at least three different [agents] before you choose the one you feel most comfortable working with,” advises Benson. 

Residential real estate is a game of both head and heart. Smart buyers who employ both are the ones most likely to win the home of their dreams.

7 Reasons to Work With a REALTOR®


7 Reasons to Work With a REALTOR®

REALTORS® aren’t just agents. They’re professional members of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict code of ethics. This is the REALTOR® difference for home buyers:

  1. Ethical treatment. Every REALTOR® must adhere to a strict code of ethics, which is based on professionalism and protection of the public. As a REALTOR®’s client, you can expect honest and ethical treatment in all transaction-related matters. The first obligation is to you, the client.

  2. An expert guide. Buying a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes. Also, there’s a lot of jargon involved, so you want to work with a professional who can speak the language.

  3. Objective information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They also have objective information about each property. REALTORs® can use that data to help you determine if the property has what you need. By understanding both your needs and search area, they can also point out neighborhoods you don’t know much about but that might suit your needs better than you’d thought.

  4. Expanded search power. Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A REALTOR® can help you find opportunities not listed on home search sites and can help you avoid out-of-date listings that might be showing up as available online but are no longer on the market.

  5. Negotiation knowledge. There are many factors up for discussion in a deal. A REALTOR® will look at every angle from your perspective, including crafting a purchase agreement that allows enough time for you to complete inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase.

  6. Up-to-date experience. Most people buy only a few homes in their lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. Even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS® handle hundreds of transactions over the course of their career.

  7. Your rock during emotional moments. A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. And for most people, property represents the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on the issues most important to you.

How to Improve Your Credit


How to Improve Your Credit

Credit scores play a big role in determining whether you’ll qualify for a loan and what your loan terms will be. So, keep your credit score high by doing the following:

Check for errors in your credit report.

Thanks to an act of Congress, you can download one free credit report each year at If you find any errors, correct them immediately.

Pay down credit card bills.

If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. Transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.

Don’t charge your credit cards to the max.

Pay down as much as you can every month.

Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage.

You’re penalized less severely for problems after a year.

Don’t order items for your new home on credit.

Wait until after your home loan is approved to charge appliances and furniture, as that will add to your debt.

Don’t open new credit card accounts.

If you’re applying for a mortgage, having too much available credit can lower your score.

Shop for mortgage rates all at once.

Having too many credit applications can lower your score. However, multiple inquiries about your credit score from the same type of lender are counted as one if submitted over a short period of time.

Avoid finance companies.

Even if you pay off their loan on time, the interest is high and it may be considered a sign of poor credit management.

The History of Lake Norman

by Donna Campbell

Many people often wonder how Lake Norman got it's start.  This is a wonderful article written by Donna Campbell, founder of Lake Norman Magazine.

The History of Lake Norman

Lake Norman’s original purpose was to provide fresh water and flood control for the region. Fifty years later, the lake has transformed into a statewide destination, and the story of what lies beneath its waters continues to fascinate.

Today Cowans Ford Dam looks about like it did one Sunday afternoon in 1963 when our daddy piled my three younger sisters, my brother, and me into our white Rambler station wagon. We were just out of church and we drove north from Charlotte past Derita and Huntersville, down a country road — N.C. Highway 73 — to a vast and hot construction site. Steel trestles. Train cars. Miles of white. We all piled out and climbed to a concrete viewing stand. Daddy waved his arms and explained hydroelectric dams and how everything would be forever changed. He said the dam was 130 feet high, and he told us all about the water below, more than 32,000 acres of it covering houses and trees.

We got back in the car and drove north again to a wooded area way off the main road. We walked through the briars to look out. “When we get the road built, this will be our lot,” Daddy said. All we could see was a red clay field with tree trunks sticking up. But Daddy was waving his arms again. And there it was. The water from the Catawba River backing up to become Lake Norman. It had been inching its way up the 33 miles from that giant dam for months.


Duke Power had been damming the Catawba River since the early part of the century to create hydroelectric power. Lake Norman was the final and largest of the seven lakes on the river, from just above Morganton down to where the Catawba joins the Santee-Cooper in South Carolina. Duke had been buying the land since the 1920s, and by the 1950s the company had almost all it needed for the project.

Duke bought land from Wib Overcash, who is now 86 and remembers well when the waters began to rise. Overcash sold 72 acres, land that had been in his wife’s family since the 1700s. Duke paid Overcash about $200 an acre, and in July 1963, Overcash brought his kids to camp on their new lakeshore. They had a 50-gallon drum for water, and no electricity.

Overcash’s is just one example of a family whose land now lies beneath the waters of the lake, which turns 50 this year. In 1963, when the lake first began to fill, it swallowed farms, buildings, churches. The shoreline stretches 520 miles and the surface area is about 32,000 acres — the size of about 25,000 football fields. Its waters are in four counties. The lake is so massive, people call it the “inland sea.”

‘Prosperity gained’

The planning for Lake Norman began long before 1963. A Duke Power Company forester named Carl Blades walked every inch of those bottomlands, talking to the reluctant farmers who didn’t understand what was coming. The project meant moving cemeteries and homes. In 1957 plans were announced for building the dam at the historic Cowans Ford where Revolutionary War Gen. William Lee Davidson was killed. Gov. Luther Hodges visited in September 1959 to blast the first dynamite for the dam. Bishop Nolan Harmon of the Methodist Church was there to pray, “May the land lost prove prosperity gained.”

But the idea was first introduced in 1895, after the world’s first hydroelectric plant was built at Niagara Falls. William States Lee, a young engineer from South Carolina, was there working on the project and reportedly said, “Why can’t we do this back home on the Catawba River?”

In 1905, Lee and his friend Dr. Walker Gill Wiley met with James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, North Carolina’s tobacco and textile giant. When Lee and Wiley explained the idea of damming the Catawba River for power, Duke gave them a check for $50,000 to begin the Catawba Power Company (later Southern Power, finally named Duke Power).

Lee’s great-grandson, States Lee, stands on a lake pier and recalls adventures with his father, Bill, who served as chief engineer for the lake and later as president and CEO of Duke. States and Bill surveyed the area, climbing through a hollow with pokeberries and briars. When Bill took out a 16-penny nail and hammered it into the base of a pine tree, he told States, then 6, what would happen. “When this lake fills up, it will be two feet below this tree. Now we know where to build our pier.”

By the summer of 1963, the water came right up to Bill’s pier. The new lake, named for Duke’s president, Norman Cocke, was the last link in a mighty power chain on the Catawba River. Lake Norman would provide electricity via the hydroelectric dam on the south end and by another coal-fired station, Marshall Steam Station, on the north, with plans for nuclear stations in the years to come. (McGuire remains the single nuclear power plant on the shore.) Lake Norman would provide flood control and fresh water for the four-county region. And in the years to come, it would become a recreational destination for thousands of people in the Carolinas.

Critters and caviar

Duke had predicted that the lake would reach full pond — 760 feet above sea level — in 1964, but heavy spring rains surprised everyone, and by the middle of July, the lake was full and open for business.

Families like ours could lease one-acre waterfront lots for $120 a year. Suddenly, people from all over Charlotte were coming to the lake to clear brush and build piers. The massive shoreline touched four counties — Mecklenburg, Iredell, Catawba, and Lincoln. Duke reserved much of the waterfront for future power sites. And there were restrictions on the lots that were leased. (Duke did not sell lots until 1977.) Private developers, some of them former farmers, established subdivisions with names like “Island Forest” and “Isle of Pines.”

Our family was part of that first pilgrimage of station wagons loaded with children and camping gear who drove up N.C. Highway 115 and U.S. Highway 21. Our lot was at the end of Brawley School Road peninsula in a place called Meck Neck. There was only one road in and it didn’t have more than 20 permanent families in the first three miles. In the middle of the peninsula was Morrow’s Chapel AME church, somehow untouched by the flood. Around another curve, we saw the abandoned cemetery for Williamson’s Methodist Church that had been moved to higher ground. After that it was one long, lonely seven-mile stretch of two-lane blacktop that ended in the water.

Enterprising Charlotteans opened businesses on the lake to serve the coming wave of people. Buck Teague and his family created Outrigger Harbor, complete with the Kon Tiki dinner boat. There was a paddle-wheel tour boat called the Robert E. Lee. Soon came Oni’s Landing, Country Corner Marine, Commodore, and Wher-Rena Marina. Our parents opened John’s Landing and John’s Trading Post, advertised as “Dealer in Most Everything.” This meant we sold both night crawlers and caviar. People brought their fish in to be weighed, and we took photos with a brand new Polaroid camera.

On a recent June morning I visited Lake Norman again. I drove to the Cowans Ford Dam, still imposing and white, and then headed to Brawley School Road, looking for anything familiar. The road is five lanes now, with flowering trees and sidewalks and a bike path all the way down the peninsula. I passed golf courses and mansions on streets named Andover, Southwick, Yarmouth.

Much has changed here. More than 17,000 people now call this peninsula home. Thousands more visit the lake every summer, and I know when they see that shoreline, they surely feel the same excitement I did when I first saw those waters rise.

Under Lake Norman

A lot lies under the water. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the lake’s creation, Davidson College archivists created a website to document the land and structures that were covered in 1963.

Davidson archivist Jan Blodgett asked lake residents to share their images and stories, and listed the historical sites and structures online. The list includes a textile mill and housing community that once stood on the north end of the lake, and Elm Wood, a 200-year-old estate.

Other properties were razed because the lake was not planned to be deep, and Duke Power thought bigger buildings would endanger boats, Blodgett says.

But some properties and roads remained. Part of the old U.S. Highway 21, which connected Charlotte and Statesville, is still there, under the water.

Lake Norman State Park
159 Inland Sea Lane
Troutman, NC 28166
(704) 528-6350

Mortgage Rates Will Likely Remain Low, but Who Knows Where They’ll Go?

by Jonathan Smoke is the chief economist of realtor.c

Mortgage Rates Will Likely Remain Low, but Who Knows Where They’ll Go?

It’s here! Forgive our excitement, but we’re finally entering the thrilling, peak months of the home-buying season, which is probably our favorite time of the year. But there’s something a bit different this time around. Oddly enough, while prices continue their steady march upward, many home buyers are getting an unexpected bonus: Mortgage rates are lingering at their lowest level in three years.

As of Tuesday, the average rate for a 30-year conforming mortgage nationally was 3.6%, giving consumers almost 6% more buying power than they had at the end of 2015.

But there’s a catch, of course: Only the most highly qualified buyers are getting these loans. With little margin for profit, lenders have become even more risk-averse, so indicators of credit tightness such as the average FICO score have ticked up this year as rates have gone down.

Given weaker economic growth in the first quarter and lingering global economic concerns, the Federal Reserve already seemed unlikely to push aggressive increases in short-term rates this year. (While the Fed’s short-term rate policy doesn’t directly affect longer-term rates like for mortgages, an aggressive policy aimed at driving up short-term rates would increase the chances for higher long-term rates.) After last Friday’s report on April’s weaker level of job creation, the odds of the Fed raising rates in June diminished even further.

And that’s why mortgage rates fell last week and have remained flat since then.

Mortgage rates vary by market around the country. Average 30-year conforming rates are currently lowest—2 basis points below the national average—in Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. (A basis point is 0.01%.) They’re highest in New Jersey, Florida, and Connecticut—5 to 7 basis points above the national average.

The direction for rates for the rest of the summer and into the future remains murky. I’ve surveyed a range of recent forecasts from the Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and highly respected macro economists, and I found quite a bit of divergence.

As a general rule, I believe it’s best to go with the average of multiple forecasts. That view would say that the average 30-year rate is likely to remain under 4% throughout the spring and summer and into the early fall. The average forecast sees the 30-year conforming rate ending the year at 4.21%, which would be 12 basis points higher than we ended 2015.

Given how wrong forecasts have been for several years running, I’m more inclined to believe the low end of the range, which is the view best represented by Fannie Mae. Fannie Mae’s most recent forecast pegs the 30-year conforming rate as staying flat just about where we are today through the remaining three quarters of the year.

The most aggressive forecasts see rates gradually increasing from here for an average increase of over 20 basis points per quarter through the end of the year. Those views would mean we’d end 2016 with the average 30-year conforming rate between 4.3% and 4.4%.

One additional aspect of this rate environment that is likely to continue for the rest of the year is the day-to-day volatility in rates. So far this year, rates have moved more than 2 basis points a day on average. Over a single week we’ve seen rates increase by as much as 11 basis points and decline by as much as 15 basis points.

In this type of environment, it will be crucial for would-be buyers or refinancers to stay on top of rates, work closely with mortgage brokers or lenders, and learn about options like locks and float-downs.

We’re likely to see rates remain very attractive throughout the spring and summer, but negotiating for a lock will ensure today’s three-year-low rates don’t get away. Add a lockand a float-down, and you can lock in a specific rate but then float it down if rates move lower before you close.

Given how volatile rates have been this year, there is a good chance that any borrower will see both lower and higher rates from time of application to time of closing—and that’s what makes these options attractive. However, like most good things in life, they come at a price. So weigh the potential gains against the costs with your lender. And get ready to enjoy the summer.

Jonathan Smoke is the chief economist of, where he analyzes real estate data and trends to develop market insights for the consumer.

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David DiGioia
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Cornelius NC 28031
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