Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pending Home Sales Continue Recovery, Gradual Improvement Seen in 2011

Pending home sales rose again in November, with the broad trend over the past five months indicating a gradual recovery into 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator, rose 3.5 percent to 92.2 based on contracts signed in November from a downwardly revised 89.1 in October. The index is 5.0 percent below a reading of 97.0 in November 2009. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said historically high housing affordability is boosting sales activity. “In addition to exceptional affordability conditions, steady improvements in the economy are helping bring buyers into the market,” he said. “But further gains are needed to reach normal levels of sales activity.”

The PHSI in the Northeast increased 1.8 percent to 72.6 in November but is 6.2 percent below November 2009. In the Midwest the index declined 4.2 percent in November to 78.3 and is 7.7 percent below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South slipped 1.8 percent to an index of 91.4 and are 7.2 percent below November 2009. In the West the index jumped 18.2 percent to 123.3 and is 0.4 percent above a year ago.

“If we add 2 million jobs as expected in 2011, and mortgage rates rise only moderately, we should see existing-home sales rise to a higher, sustainable volume,” Yun said. “Credit remains tight, but if lenders return to more normal, safe underwriting standards for creditworthy buyers, there would be a bigger boost to the housing market and spillover benefits for the broader economy.”

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is forecast to rise gradually to 5.3 percent around the end of 2011; at the same time, unemployment should drop to 9.2 percent.

For perspective, Yun said that the U.S. has added 27 million people over the past 10 years. “However, the number of jobs is roughly the same as it was in 2000 when existing-home sales totaled 5.2 million, which appears to be a sustainable figure given the current level of employment,” he explained.

“All the indicator trends are pointing to a gradual housing recovery,” Yun said. “Home price prospects will vary depending largely upon local job market conditions. The national median home price, however, is expected to remain stable even with a continuing flow of distressed properties coming onto the market, as long as there is a steady demand of financially healthy home buyers.”

Existing-home sales are projected to rise about 8 percent to 5.2 million in 2011 from 4.8 million in 2010, with an additional gain of 4 percent in 2012. The median existing-home price could rise 0.6 percent to $173,700 in 2011 from $172,700 in 2010, which was essentially unchanged from 2009.

“As we gradually work off the excess housing inventory, supply levels will eventually come more in-line with historic averages, and could allow home prices to rise modestly in the range of 2 to 3 percent in 2012,” Yun said.

New-home sales are estimated to rise 24 percent to 392,000 in 2011, but would remain well below historic averages, while housing starts are forecast to rise 21 percent to 716,000.

Yun sees Gross Domestic Product growing 2.5 percent in 2011, and the Consumer Price Index rising 2.3 percent.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010 Features New Lifestyle-Focused Home Search Tool

The Coldwell Banker Real Estate website now features a new home buying search tool focused on lifestyle. The tool allows consumers to rate preferences and hone in on the most important factors in their home search.

Building on this year’s re-launch of its industry leading website and a tradition of innovation and leadership within the real estate industry, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC today unveiled a tool that will once again change the way consumers look for homes online. With the new lifestyle search option on, people who are researching or actively searching for a home can use a simple, sliding scale to rate elements of a home and community that matter most to them. Coldwell Banker Real Estate is the first national real estate brand to offer this capability and new experience.

“We recognize that a home’s value is more than its bedrooms and bathrooms,” said Helen Galasso, vice president of platform development and eBusiness, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “For some homebuyers, school districts are crucial. For others, the neighborhood’s location can make or break their decision. Our new lifestyle search option on allows people to intuitively narrow in on communities that fit their needs and then pinpoint the perfect home.”

The new lifestyle search option is just one of several choices home buyers have for finding listings. They can also simply enter their location and home requirements, such as number of bedrooms or price, and see immediate results. Others may prefer to look beyond the typical factors and peruse Coldwell Banker BlueScapeSM, where they can search for homes by selecting from an array of varied images (accompanied by customizable background music).

How It Works

When visiting, home buyers will see a small toolbar on the right side of the screen, where they can rate factors. These include:


Fun, Hip and Trendy Places alive with restaurants, nightlife and activity

Art and Music Neighborhoods rich in galleries, museums and theaters

Amenities Aplenty Regions with shops and services nearby and ready to serve

Fresh Air / Times Sq. Areas that are urban, rural or something in between

Mass Transit Locations with easy access to public transit

A+ Schools Homes near highly-rated schools

Fairway Living Communities with golf courses nearby

Median Price Range Tool to select the search’s price parameters

Buyers will then see neighborhoods that meet their criteria, and can search for homes within these areas. The functionality is powered by Onboard Informatics, which provides real estate information and technology solutions.

First-time homebuyers will also find the new Affordability Radar extremely helpful. After any search, a consumer can set their budget parameters through the radar on the properties that are shown. Based on the person’s current monthly expenses, the radar will display the estimated monthly cost of each property, and how it fits into that person’s current expenses each month.

To experience the new lifestyle search, please visit
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Existing-Home Sales Resume Uptrend with Stable Prices

Existing-home sales got back on an upward path in November, resuming a growth trend since bottoming in July, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 5.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in November from 4.43 million in October, but are 27.9 percent below the cyclical peak of 6.49 million in November 2009, which was the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, is hopeful for 2011. “Continuing gains in home sales are encouraging, and the positive impact of steady job creation will more than trump some negative impact from a modest rise in mortgage interest rates, which remain historically favorable,” he said.

Yun added that home buyers are responding to improved affordability conditions. “The relationship recently between mortgage interest rates, home prices and family income has been the most favorable on record for buying a home since we started measuring in 1970,” he said. “Therefore, the market is recovering and we should trend up to a healthy, sustainable level in 2011.”

The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $170,600 in November, up 0.4 percent from November 2009. Distressed homes3 have been a fairly stable market share, accounting for 33 percent of sales in November; they were 34 percent in October and 33 percent in November 2009.

Foreclosures, which accounted for two-thirds of the distressed sales share, sold at a median discount of 15 percent in November, while short sales were discounted 10 percent in comparison with traditional home sales.

Total housing inventory at the end of November fell 4.0 percent to 3.71 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.5-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from a 10.5-month supply in October.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said good buying opportunities will continue. “Traditionally there are far fewer buyers competing for properties at this time of the year, so serious buyers have a lot of opportunities during the winter months,” he said. “Buyers will enjoy favorable affordability conditions into the new year, although mortgage rates are expected to gradually rise as 2011 progresses.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.30 percent in November from a record low 4.23 percent in October; the rate was 4.88 percent in November 2009.

“In the short term, mortgage interest rates should hover just above recent record lows, while home prices have generally stabilized following declines from 2007 through 2009,” Yun said. “Although mortgage interest rates have ticked up in recent weeks, overall conditions remain extremely favorable for buyers who can obtain credit.”

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in November, the same as in October, but are below a 51 percent share in November 2009 from the surge to beat the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit.

Investors accounted for 19 percent of transactions in November, also unchanged from October, but are up from 12 percent in November 2009; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 31 percent in November, up from 29 percent in October and 19 percent a year ago. “The elevated level of all-cash transactions continues to reflect tight credit market conditions,” Yun said.

Single-family home sales rose 6.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.15 million in November from 3.89 million in October, but are 27.3 percent below a surge to a 5.71 million cyclical peak in November 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $171,300 in November, which is 1.2 percent above a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 in November from 540,000 in October, and are 32.2 percent below the 782,000-unit tax credit rush one year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $165,300 in November, down 5.5 percent from November 2009. “At the current stage of the housing cycle, condos are offering better deals for bargain hunters,” Yun said.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 2.7 percent to an annual pace of 770,000 in November but are 33.0 percent below the cyclical peak in November 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $242,500, which is 9.2 percent higher than a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 6.4 percent in November to a level of 1.00 million but are 35.1 percent below the year-ago surge. The median price in the Midwest was $138,900, down 1.1 percent from November 2009.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 2.9 percent to an annual pace of 1.76 million in November but are 26.1 percent below the tax credit surge in November 2009. The median price in the South was $148,000, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 11.7 percent to an annual level of 1.15 million in November but are 19.0 percent below the sales peak in November 2009. The median price in the West was $212,500, up 0.4 percent from a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Commentary: Mortgage Interest and Real Estate Tax Deduction Facts

In recent weeks, many proposals, suggesting a variety of changes to the tax system, have been discussed. The estimates below are for the complete elimination of these two tax benefits at current marginal tax rates, one of the most extreme possible changes.

Mortgage Interest Deduction Facts:

• 51 million—or 68 percent—of the approximately 75 million owner-occupied houses in the United States in 2009 had a mortgage.

• 38.5 million taxpayers claimed a deduction for mortgage interest, deducting a total of $470 billion, in 2008.

• The average taxpayer claiming the MID deducted $12,200 from taxable income in 2008.

• Therefore, the average taxpayer saved $3,050 in taxes by claiming the mortgage interest deduction1 .

• The total tax savings from the MID in the United States in 2008 was $117 billion.

Real Estate Tax Deductions Facts:

• 42 million taxpayers in the United States claimed a deduction for real estate taxes in 2008, deducting a total of $172 billion.

• The average taxpayer claiming the real estate tax deduction subtracted $4,090 from taxable income in 2008.

• Therefore the average taxpayer saved $1,020 in taxes as a result of the real estate tax deduction2 .

• The total savings from the real estate tax deduction in the United States in 2008 was $43 billion.

Eliminating Deductions: Losses for Home Owners and the Nation

If the mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions were eliminated, the loss would not be a one-year event; homeowners lose out on these potential savings each and every year. The present value3 of these lost savings could total $3.2 trillion. The value of all owner-occupied real estate in the United States in 2009 was $19.3 trillion4 . If the lost tax savings are fully capitalized into the price of houses, the average decline in value in the United States would be 17 percent. From the individual perspective, the median priced home in the United States in the third quarter 2010 was $177,800. A decline in value of 17 percent, as projected, would mean a loss in home value of $29,500 for the typical home owner.

These estimates, because they are based on a complete elimination of these deductions, can be viewed as a high-end estimate. Other changes will result in smaller losses to home owners. Additionally, national results are computed by looking at national averages. A very different picture can result when looking at the state level depending on the characteristics of the housing market, tax payers, and homeowners.
Originally Posted At:
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting Your House Ready to Sell: Part II

Kitchen Clutter

The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter, because it is an easy starting point. First, take everything off the counters. Everything. Even the toaster. Put the toaster in a cabinet and only take it out when you use it. Clean out unused items from your cabinets and put them in storage until you move into your new home.

Most likely, potential homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their “stuff.” If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers are jammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer.

If you have a large amount of food and snacks crammed onto shelves or in the pantry, begin using them – especially canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and you don’t want to be lugging them to your Jacksonville NC real estate - or paying a mover to do so. Let what you have on the shelves determine your menus and use up as much as you can.

Closet Clutter

Closets are notorious for accumulating mounds of clutter and sometimes it happens without you even being aware of it. Extra clothes, shoes, coats, hats and gloves - things you rarely wear but couldn’t bear to part with. Store these items away while you are trying to sell, potential buyers will be distracted from the true beauty of your home.

Furniture Clutter

People sometimes tend to have too much furniture in certain rooms. While it may not be too much for your own needs, it may be too much to give the illusion of an open and inviting space a homebuyer hopes to see. You may want to tour some builders’ models to see how they place furniture in the model homes.

Storage Area Clutter

Basements, garages, attics, and sheds accumulate not only clutter, but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that a potential buyer can imagine what they could do with the space. Remove anything that is not essential and take it to storage or have a garage sale.

Once you remove the clutter from your house, you are free to focus on fixing up the interior of your home. Subscribe to our Sea Coast Realty blog so you can be the first to read “Getting Your House Ready to Sell: Part III.”
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting Your House Ready to Sell: Part I

Getting ready to sell your house? It can be an overwhelming and stressful process, but knowing there are adventures waiting for you in places like St. James, NC can make the selling process much more enjoyable. Put a picture of your St. James, NC new home where you can see it during the selling process to keep your spirits looking to the future, rather than dwelling on the past.

Emotion v. Reason

When working with real estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real estate, they refer to your new purchase as a “home.” Yet if you are selling property, they will often refer to it as a “house.” Real estate agents understand that purchasing real estate is an emotional decision, but when selling, it is pivotal to remove emotional attachments.

You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see your house as their potential home. The first step in getting your house ready to sell is to “de-personalize” it.

De-personalize Your “Home”

The reason you want to “de-personalize” your home is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it can actually shatter their illusions about owning the house. They want to imagine their new life in the home, rather than see the life you’re leaving behind. Put away family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks and souvenirs.

Remove Clutter, Whether You Think it’s Clutter or Not

This is the hardest thing for most people to do because of the emotional attachment to everything in their house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in ways a homeowner may not even realize. This clutter can greatly affect the way buyers see your house.

Take a step back and pretend you are a potential buyer or invite a friend over to help point out areas of clutter. Your real estate agent should also be a helpful resource.

Take on the challenge of selling your home in steps and remember your dream Jacksonville NC real estate is waiting for you at the end. Subscribe to our Sea Coast Realty blog so you can be the first to read “Getting Your House Ready to Sell: Part II.”
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

9 interior fixes to sell a home fast

Real estate experts call it “staging,” or presenting the home in the best light so that potential buyers can envision themselves moving right in. Just a few changes here and there can position a home to sell faster than the competition.
1. The nose knows. A house can be perfect inside and out, but if it smells bad, buyers will likely be put off. Make sure there is no noticeable odor, such as pet smells, garbage, stale smoke, etc., to turn off others.

2. Clear out. Make sure the interior looks as spacious as possible. This could mean taking out some furniture and temporarily putting it in storage. Be sure countertops in bathrooms and kitchens are free of clutter. And pack away knick-knacks that can collect dust.

3. Cater to the lazy person. Potential buyers generally want to move in and simply unpack. They don’t want to make major repairs. Therefore, homeowners should do whatever repairs are possible, within reason. If that means tearing down dated wallpaper or replacing carpeting with hardwood floors, it could mean a faster sale.

4. Do a deep cleaning. Whether a cleaning service is hired or the homeowner does it himself, tackling necessary cleaning projects could make the home shine. Now is the time to wash the windows, shampoo the carpets, regrout the bathrooms, and tackle all of those messes that could compromise a sale.

5. Add a fresh coat of paint. If walls are bright colors or eclectic, it could pay to paint rooms in more neutral shades to appeal to the masses. Just be aware that some buyers are suspicious of paint, especially freshly painted ceilings. They may think a homeowner is trying to hide something, usually water stains.

6. Keep the home updated. While one doesn’t have to follow every trend, ensuring the home is ageless can make for a better sell. So if the cabinets scream 1985 and the bathroom is circa 1967, it could be time to do some updating.

7. Create “happy” spaces. Buyers don’t want to purchase a dark home that seems full of doom and gloom. Open the windows, turn on the lights, add lights to dark rooms and use light colors as room accents. Generally buyers want a bright and light home.

8. Avoid provocation. One potential buyer could be an animal lover, another a political activist. No one can tell who will view the home. So don’t display personal items that might offend. Take down mounted deer heads and put away books that may seem offensive. It can be a good idea to store religious items as well.

9. Clean out closets and cabinets: Partially empty closets and cabinets give the suggestion that the home is large and has plenty of storage space -- so much so that it doesn’t even all need to be used. Buyers who see jam-packed closets could wonder what’s up with storage.

Selling a home in a tough market can be easier when homeowners take the steps needed to stage homes for a faster sale.
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Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty sponsors new Habitat project

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity brings lots of shovels to a ground-breaking, and also programs, nametags, clipboards and sign-up sheets. When it broke ground for its 116th house last week, it also brought along a box of tissues.
If it weren’t for all the shovels this would have looked like a block party or a family reunion. Neighbors looked out their doors and traffic slowed to check out the crowd and the commotion. At the center of it all was Carol Tyson, soon to own and occupy this newest Habitat home and clearly the most in need of that box of tissues.

“First I want to thank God for these blessings on me and my baby,” she said during the ceremony. “I want to thank Habitat, I want to thank the sponsors, and I want to thank the volunteers. I also want to thank Miss Jane for being so sweet and good to me.” She went around hugging everyone as she thanked them.

“I asked her one thing,” said Jane Roberson, Habitat’s Director of Family Services. “I said please don’t make Miss Jane cry.”
Dozens of volunteers grabbed shovels and dug into rock-solid ground that hadn’t been rained on in weeks. These people were family or friends of the family, Habitat supporters, or affiliates of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty, the sponsor of this particular project. This is the fourth house that real estate office has supported in collaboration with Habitat.

Esmond Anderson, Habitat’s construction manager, got involved long before the shovels and the tissues arrived. “We brought Carol out to this place and we didn’t know what she was going to think about it, so we sat out here one day and talked about it. She was real happy and it’s a beautiful lot.”

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

National Association of Realtors Fighting To Defend the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Following the release of the Deficit Reduction Commission’s report, which recommends scaling back the mortgage interest deduction, the National Association of Realtors® is warning Congress of the potentially devastating effects of such change on American families and the economy. As part of this effort, NAR placed an ad, which appears at right, in several prominent Capitol Hill publications, including: Politico, The Hill, and National Journal.

It reads:

The Facts:

Repealing the mortgage interest deduction (MID) is a form of tax increase. Families with children would bear more than half of the total increase.
IRS data show that taxpayers in the 35 - 45 age group take the largest MID on average compared to any other age group of taxpayers.
First time home buyers would be hurt the most if the MID is curtailed.
Current data from the IRS show that 65% of the taxpayers who have claimed the MID made less than $100,000.
The housing market has not emerged from the crisis that began in 2007.
Congress: The Facts Speak for Themselves

The 1.1 million members of the National Association of REALTORS® strongly oppose proposals to reduce the mortgage interest deduction (MID). Hard-working American families’ budgets are already stressed. Reducing or eliminating the mortgage interest deduction would pull even more money directly out of their wallets. If this crucial deduction is eliminated or reduced, home values will further erode. That’s something America simply can’t afford in this unstable housing market.

Click here to view the facts!

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Strong Rebound in Pending Home Sales

Pending home sales jumped in October, showing a positive uptrend since bottoming in June, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator, rose 10.4 percent to 89.3 based on contracts signed in October from 80.9 in September. The index remains 20.5 percent below a surge to a cyclical peak of 112.4 in October 2009, which was the highest level since May 2006 when it hit 112.6.

Last October, first-time buyers were motivated to make offers before the initial contract deadline for the tax credit last November. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said excellent housing affordability conditions are drawing home buyers. “It is welcoming to see a solid double-digit percentage gain, but activity needs to improve further to reach healthy, sustainable levels. The housing market clearly is in a recovery phase and will be uneven at times, but the improving job market and consequential boost to household formation will help the recovery process going into 2011,” he said.

“More importantly, a return to more normal loan underwriting standards and removal of unnecessary underwriting fees for very low risk borrowers is needed and could quickly help in the housing and economic recovery,” Yun said. Recent loan performance data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac clearly demonstrates very low default rates on recently originated mortgages, much lower that the vintages of 2002 and 2003 before the housing boom.

The PHSI in the Northeast jumped 19.6 percent to 71.3 in October but is 27.3 percent below the tax credit peak in October 2009. In the Midwest the index surged 27.3 percent in October to 81.7 but is 24.8 percent below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 7.1 percent to an index of 93.8 but are 18.4 percent below October 2009. In the West the index slipped 0.4 percent to 104.3 and is 15.6 percent below a year ago.

Near term, Yun expects home sales will continue to climb from their cyclical low this past summer. “Even so, we now have some consumer concerns regarding the mortgage interest deduction, an important component in housing affordability,” he said. “Preliminary results of a new survey show nearly three out of four home owners and two out of three renters consider the mortgage interest deduction to be extremely or very important to them. Home owners already pay between 80 and 90 percent of all federal income taxes and additional tax burden would hurt them and the economic recovery, so we have a reasonable hope that it will not be changed.”

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker

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Rules protect right whales from speeding ships

The federal government has again enacted go-slow zones for vessels traveling along the mid-Atlantic coast to help protect one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world.

But this year, the speed-limit rules meant to prevent large ships from colliding with the North Atlantic right whales come with some muscle behind them.

For the first time since the seasonal management areas were established in December 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has cited seven vessels for allegedly going too fast.

The notice of violations issued earlier this month was for ships that allegedly traveled multiple times through the zones last year at speeds well in excess of the 10 knots allowed.

The rule requires all ships over 65 feet to slow down to 10 knots, or 11.5 mph, when within 20 nautical miles of mid-Atlantic ports, including North Carolina's two deepwater ports in Wilmington and Morehead City.

The go-slow zones run from Nov. 1 through April 30, the times at which North Atlantic right whales are known to migrate along the near-shore waters extending from Rhode Island to Georgia.

The animal's calving grounds are off Georgia and Florida, although the whales have been known to give birth farther north also.

Right whales were once a relatively common sight along the U.S. coastline.

But the large, slow-moving whale received its name because it was the easiest – and hence the "right" – whale for 19th-century whalers to hunt, which they did with reckless abandon.

That's left a population today estimated at only 400 animals, with every whale considered critical for the species survival.

But Ann Pabst, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said that for the first time in a long time she's feeling optimistic about the animal's chances to avoid extinction.

Ship strikes and getting tangled in old fishing gear are among the leading killers of the animals.

But since the new speed-limit rules for ships were introduced, Pabst said, there hasn't been a known ship-strike death of a right whale in the Southeast.

Coupled with that, the slow-breeding right whale has been on a bit of a birthing boom.

Pabst said that since 2001, an estimated 200 calves have been born – including two believed to have been born off Wrighstville Beach by "Calvin," who was originally identified as a male before scientists discovered otherwise.

"So the right whales are doing their part," she said. "And with these continued conservation and management steps we've taken in recent years, I'm hopeful we're on the right path."

But, Pabst cautioned, there's still a long way to go.

To that end she said mariners should immediately notify the Coast Guard if they see a right whale, or any whale for that matter, off the coast.

Pabst said the annual migration south takes place in the fall and early winter, with the whales returning to their summer grounds off New England and the Canadian maritime provinces in late spring.

"And they're here now," she said, adding that boaters should also stay a safe distance away from the animals if they happen to come across one. "There's no doubt about that."

Pabst said there were several sightings just before Thanksgiving, with the Coast Guard issuing an alert to mariners Nov. 22.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Video of Ken talking about St. James Plantation

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License plate law enforcement starts this week

Starting Wednesday, make sure your license plate is unobstructed or you may be pulled over and fined.
The N.C. General Assembly passed a law last year that requires the state's name on the bottom of the plate and the year and month stickers on the top to be completely clear. That means that any license plate frames that cover any of that information is illegal, and you could be forced to pay a $100 fine. 

While the law went into effect in December 2009, it wasn't enforced, and any drivers pulled over for breaking the rules were only issued a warning.

That changes Wednesday, when law enforcement officials will begin enforcing the rules and issuing citations.

Sgt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the N.C. Highway Patrol, said drivers should make sure they are not obstructing the key information on their plates.

“If they are covering them, by law they can be cited for a violation,” he said.

The purpose of the law, which was supported by law enforcement agencies, is that it increases the readability of the registration information on the plates and helps better identify vehicles, especially in the event of an accident.

Other new driving laws will also go into effect Wednesday. They are:

Commercial driver licenses will expire five years after issuance because of requirements for meeting hazardous materials regulations.

The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles will no longer charge car owners a $1 postage and handling fee for renewing registrations by mail.
The number of dealer license plates issued to dealers will increase based on previous sales volume and the number of qualified sales representatives working for the dealer.
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Christmas by the Sea

Events the first week of December.

Friday, December 3

  • Secret Santa Workshop: At Oak Island Teen Center, Middleton Park, from 4 to 8 p.m. Come let your kids shop for mom and dad secretly. Gifts range from $1 to $5 and are wrapped before they leave. Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department event.
  • Tree Lighting at the Cabana: At 46th Street and Beach Drive, Oak Island, at 6 p.m. Entertainment prior to the free event. Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department event.
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Saturday, December 4

  • Festival Parade on Oak Island: From 4601 E. Oak Island Drive to McGlammery Street starting at 2 p.m. Free event sponsored by Southport-Oak Island Area Chamber of Commerce.
  • Secret Santa Workshop: At Oak Island Teen Center, Middleton Park, from 4 to 8 p.m. Come let your kids shop for mom and dad secretly. Gifts range from $1 to $5 and are wrapped before they leave. Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department event.
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Sunday, December 5

  • Oak Island Tour of Homes: 23rd annual Oak Island Tour of Homes from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of tour from Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce, Blue Crab Blue, Oak Island Recreation Center, Oak Island Senior Center, Seaside with Coffee and Grape and Ale. Sponsored by Oak Island Beautification Club, 278-7752.

Tuesday, December 7
  • Kids Fire Truck Ride and Dosher Memorial Hospital Tree Lighting: Annual tree lighting at Dosher Memorial Hospital with the Southport Fire Department. Kids meet at the new fire station on N. Howe Street for a ride aboard the fire trucks at 6 p.m., then help Santa light Dosher’s tree. Free event with refreshments; children can take photos with Santa. Call 457-3900 for more information.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whole lot of shaking

“Seneca guns” was the answer St. James resident Matt Pugliese got when he called the newspaper office Thursday, inquiring about strange rumblings he had heard earlier that day. There were other calls to the newspaper last week, and the week before, and the answer was always the same:

“Seneca guns.”

That was the explanation we’d always heard, and we were just passing it along.

Mr. Pugliese was grateful — more for the quick response than for the admittedly vague answer — but remained puzzled by the phenomenon that seems to have come upon us more frequently this fall than anytime in memory.
So, we searched for “Seneca guns” — a term locals have heard forever but is quite new to newcomers — and chose to rely most heavily on the website of the U.S. Geological Survey. A logical start, it seemed.

First, the term “Seneca guns.”

The term, according to the website, is “just a name, not an explanation. It does not tell us anything about what causes these noises and shakings.”

The name originated in a short story that James Fennimore Cooper wrote during the 1800s. The name refers to booms that have been heard on the shores of Lake Seneca in New York State. The name has been applied to similar noises along the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Similar booms are called “Barisol guns” in coastal India.

What’s the cause?

“The thing that comes closest to matching all of the observations is sonic booms from military aircraft,” the writer noted. One article reported on one loud boom that was heard in Myrtle Beach, the sound so loud that it shook a window and the sofa that the person was sitting on, and she felt the shock from the sound.

“Thus, a loud enough boom can be felt,” the USGS report concluded.

In that case, the U.S. Air Force claimed responsibility and said it had been conducting training exercises at the time. In a Virginia case in the 1970s, the Navy admitted that one of its planes had caused a sonic boom. The problem with sonic booms is that they cannot explain “Seneca guns” that occurred before supersonic jets.

Naval ships firing their guns offshore might have produced some of the booms, the USGS report continued. Under certain atmospheric conditions, sounds can travel farther than usual so that they might be heard onshore as loud booms. Naval firing might explain some of the “Seneca guns” that occurred before jet planes were invented. Naval gunfire might have caused some of the booms that were heard during the 1800s and early 1900s, when it might have been more common for ships to fire within a few miles of shore. However, naval gunfire cannot explain the “Seneca guns” around Seneca Lake.

Earthquakes are also a possible cause. In southeastern North Carolina, earthquake lists show only seven events between 1871 and 1968. The problem with the earthquake explanation is that something that is felt or heard as strongly as “Seneca guns” should have been recorded on nearby seismographs.

What’s not the cause?

A list of non-answers provided by the U.S. Geological Service includes:

Landslides off the Continental Shelf — These have happened in the geologic past, but there are no reports that they happened during recorded history.

Industrial disasters, like the Chernobyl explosion — Anything that large would be reported. There would be no way to hide the news because too many people nearby would have seen, heard and felt the blast.

Global warming — The articles that suggest this don’t offer any explanation of how a gradual warming of the atmosphere would produce something as sudden as a loud boom. Also, global warming would affect the whole globe, whereas “Seneca guns” have only been reported from a few areas.

A hole in the ozone layer — Holes in the ozone layer form over the north and south poles, not over the U.S. or India.
Shifts of tectonic plates — There are no tectonic plate boundaries near the East Coast. The nearest plate boundaries are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea.

Methane released from the ocean floor and exploding when it rises to the surface and contacts the air — There is methane buried under the ocean floor. Sometimes the methane can seep upward; however, it does not come up suddenly enough or in large enough amounts to cause explosions.

Cold air meeting warm Gulf Stream air — Two results might be thunder and lightning, but “Seneca guns” have been reported in clear weather — like we had Thursday — as well as stormy.

Meteor exploding in the atmosphere — Any meteorite large enough to cause something as strong as a “Seneca gun” would be much rarer than the phenomenon itself .

Top secret military activity — The problem with this explanation is that it’s too easy. There’s no way to disprove the idea as a cause of “Seneca guns” because if it’s top secret we won’t know about it. The military has lots of secrets, but something big enough to cause “Seneca guns” in so many regions, including India, would be really hard to keep secret.

And so...

There is no agreement on what causes the “Seneca guns” phenomenon. They have been occurring around the eastern U.S. — and in India — for centuries at least. They have worried people, but they have never caused damage or injury.

So when Mr. Pugliese reads this, he can tell the next neighbor who asks that the rumbling they heard and felt was “Seneca guns,” and have the satisfaction of knowing his answer is as good as anybody’s.

Original Article
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Monday, November 22, 2010

St. James expects Town Hall to open in December, community center by January

After several delays, St. James expects its new Town Hall will be open by December and the adjoining community center on N.C. 211 to be hosting events by January.
Town officials are holding off on proclaiming official opening dates for both buildings, at least for the time being. 

Certificates of occupancy issued by Brunswick County are needed to open both buildings to the public, Town Administrator Josann Campanello said.

Robin Schuster, community center manager, said officials hope to open the 8,200 square-foot town hall by December. Activities are already scheduled for January at the 13,650 square-foot community center.

“I'd say it's 95 percent complete. It's close,” Schuster said.

St. James residents are looking forward to the opening of the versatile community center, Schuster said Monday.

“They're excited. They've been anticipating the opening of it all this fall,” she said.

Councilman Jim Donnelly, who oversees town finances, said the project's total cost should be about $5.1 million once audio/visual and information technology equipment is installed, architect and inspection fees are paid and other incidental expenses are covered.

“Right now we're on budget,” Donnelly said.

The town had money saved and took out a $1.5 million construction loan through First Federal Bank to get work under way on the town hall and community center. When the buildings are finished, St. James will receive a 30-year, $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Loan.

After years of contentious debate in town about whether the community center was needed, work on the town hall and community center began in October 2009.
Town officials had projected both buildings would be complete by September or October.

Project manager Walt Madsen told the Town Council in September the project was about six weeks behind schedule because the installation of exterior panels on both buildings is taking more time than anticipated

“Many things are uncontrollable, such as delivery of materials, sub-contractors not showing up as well as bankruptcies,” Madsen also told the council, according to meeting minutes.

The town bought the 13-acre tract of land from Brunswick County in 2007. The single-story buildings will be joined by a pavilion designed for outdoor events.

The community center includes a large ballroom that can be used by different groups and be available for events like wedding receptions, business gatherings and birthday parties, Schuster said.

“It's a multi-purpose, multi-use building,” she said.

The Town Hall will include council chambers with a seating capacity of 70 people, along with town offices and office space that will be leased to the St. James Property Owners' Association.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Local Realtors Raise Funds for Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity

Real estate professionals with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty hosted a rummage sale fundraiser for Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity on Saturday, October 30, 2010. The sale raised $1,052 that will go toward Sea Coast Realty’s sponsorship of a Habitat home in Wilmington, NC.

The rummage sale was held at the Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty office located at 8821 E. Oak Island Drive in Oak Island, NC. Realtors from Sea Coast Realty’s offices in Oak Island and Southport, NC donated items for the sale. Their friends and family pitched in by donating more items for the sale. “We also had several local businesses donate different items that we sold raffle tickets for,” said Chloe Grant, Broker in Charge of Sea Coast Realty’s Southport office.

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty would like to thank everyone who attended or made donations to the sale for their support. The sale was originally scheduled to take from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM, but Realtors had so many items that they stayed until 4:00 PM to sell the wealth of items.

By sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity home, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty is committed to providing $60,000 in financial support and volunteer labor each week of the home build. This marks the fourth Habitat for Humanity home that Sea Coast Realty has been involved with. “It is an experience our agents and staff really enjoy,” said Sea Coast Realty president Tim Milam. “It involves great fellowship and really builds camaraderie, while helping a homeowner to get a leg up.”

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity is one of 76 Habitat for Humanity affiliates in North Carolina and is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. To date, it has completed 116 homes in our area. For more information about Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, please visit

For more than a decade, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty has been southeastern North Carolina’s largest and best-selling real estate company. It operates ten offices with more than 325 sales associates and staff in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, & Onslow counties. For more information, please visit
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Gravely docked at State Port; tours sold out

Sailors have worked overtime for weeks to prepare the Navy's newest destroyer for its trip to Wilmington and its commissioning ceremony. Fun is on the horizon, though, because the PCU Gravely left Jacksonville, Fla. Monday and began sailing up theCape Fear River Friday morning at about 10 a.m. It docked at the State Port shortly before noon.

According to Cmdr. Douglas Kunzman, the 508.5-foot-long guided missile destroyer Gravely will sail up the river aided by a river pilot and tug, just to be safe. It will turn around and then dock.

While in port, the sailors and officers will visit with their families and participate in several community events. The invitation-only commissioning is scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 20.

Public tours of the Gravely, which officially becomes the USS Gravely once its commissioned, are sold out.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Flapjack Fundraiser to Benefit Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity

Saturday, December 4, 2010, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty is holding a Flapjack Fundraiser at the Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill on 1113 New Pointe Blvd. in Leland, NC. From 7:30am to 10:00am, Applebee's will be serving up short stacks of pancakes for a TALL cause.

All proceeds from this event will go to build a Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity home sponsored by Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty. The home is already well underway in Wilmington, NC, but we still need your support!

Tickets are just $7 each, so round up your friends and family and fill your bellies with flapjacks for a good cause.

To purchase tickets or for more information, call Sea Coast Realty's Leland, NC office at (910) 371-1181 or toll free 1-866-508-1181.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wilmington's 2010 Turkey Trot

Join Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity for the 2010 Turkey Trot.

Thanksgiving Morning
November 25, 2010
The Loop at Wrightsville Beach Park

You can take part in the Turkey Trot around the Loop (2.4 miles) or Gobbler Family Fun Walk (1 mile).

Registration/Check-in begins 7:30 am and the Run/Walk begins 8:30 am.

The entry fee for Walkers is $15. Runners can register in advace for $20 or register on-site the day of the Turkey Trot for $25. Children 10 & under walk/run free.

Proceeds from this event benefit Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity. Visit the event website at

Need more information? Call 910-762-4744 ext. 100 or email

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Home Ownership Matters: Home Ownership and Parenting

The impact of home ownership on children has been documented in numerous academic studies, many of which have found that home ownership has a wide range of positive effects. The positive outcomes include: better health; fewer behavioral problems; greater achievement in math and reading; lower high school dropout rates; fewer teen births; more years of schooling by age 25; and higher high school graduation rates1. Although it is has been debated whether home ownership itself, or the residential stability and positive neighborhood characteristics that accompany it are the main underlying factors contributing to better outcomes; some research has shown that home ownership has a significant effect on children’s success2. Those studies argue that it is the positive behavioral characteristics required of home owners that get passed onto their children which contribute to their success. Since a home purchase is one of the largest financial commitments most households will undertake, home owners are invested in minimizing bad behavior by their children and those of their neighbors that might negatively impact the value of homes in their neighborhood. Second, homeowners are required to take on a greater responsibility, including the duties associated with home maintenance and acquiring the necessary financial skills to handle mortgage payments. The life management skills they acquire through these responsibilities may get transferred to their children and may contribute to their success.

Others though argue that home ownership brings residential stability3, and it is the stability that impacts children positively. And, some suggest that it is neighborhood quality which enhances the positive outcomes. They show that access to economic and educational opportunities are more prevalent in neighborhoods with high rates of home ownership and community involvement4.

But in the last several years, with availability of better data and methods, researchers have begun questioning the existence of a home ownership effect. In other words, when they compared home owners and renters who had similar characteristics—income, education, length of time in the same residence, assets—they didn’t find a significant difference in the effects on children5. These researchers concluded that home ownership did not have an independent effect on improved life of children, but rather that the impact is made through other factors such as home environment and neighborhood quality6. The difficulty in analyzing this question is derived from the fact that home ownership is accompanied by a collection of characteristics, in addition to neighborhood characteristics and residential stability, that are difficult to disentangle. Additional characteristics that impact children are related to the home itself, including housing quality, crowding, the presence of subsidized assistance, and equity. It also includes characteristics of parents and/or caregivers, such as saving behavior, nurturing abilities, propensity to invest, and goal attainment7. Yet, these personality traits of home owner characteristics are most often not captured in the available data. As a result, it may be that the positive impact on children is not directly related to home ownership, but is influenced by parents who are more involved with their children and are also more inclined to purchase a home8.

A recent study by a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan approached this question from a different perspective. Instead of trying to account for unobserved characteristics of homeowners, they examined whether there is a relationship between home ownership and engaged parenting behaviors in the home, school, and wider community for low to moderate income households. The authors used survey data on families who purchased homes through the Community Advantage Program (CAP). CAP is a secondary mortgage market program developed though a partnership between the Ford Foundation, Fannie Mae, and Self-Help, a community development financial institution in North Carolina. The goal of this program was to underwrite 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for families who would have otherwise received a sub-prime mortgage or been unable to purchase a home at all.

Researchers focused on four variables: parental school involvement, frequency of reading to child, child's participation in organized activities, and child's screen time (television viewing and playing videogames). Altogether, these measures reveal parenting behaviors broadly believed to be associated with positive child outcomes. The authors propose that home ownership provides for engaged parenting practices in two ways: economic and psycho-social. The economic impact of home ownership refers to the positive impact of nurturing neighborhoods. While both home owners and renters may aspire to be engaged parents, home owners likely live in neighborhoods with more opportunities for school involvement or participation in neighborhood activities. The psycho-social component refers to the idea that being a home owner may limit the severity of economic hardships and the degree to which financial hardships result in psycho-social stress and disengaged parenting. This idea works through two channels. First, low- to moderate-income households that are able to buy a home have already found ways to manage their limited finances in order to become eligible for a mortgage. If such effective strategies are sustained, it could help reduce economic pressure. Second, they have greater access to formal credit to sustain the household during times of economic hardship, putting less strain on familial relationships and parenting. Home owners in this study have higher adjusted net worth and liquid assets than renters. The authors, therefore, assume that home ownership promotes parental engagement by giving parents more options for managing financial hardships and reducing the severity of financial hardships when they do occur, thereby reducing stress and disengagement from children. It is important to emphasize, especially considering the housing crisis, that all of the homeowners studied received prime fixed-rate 30-year mortgages with a 38% debt-to-income criteria. Therefore, these home owners have not experienced the financial shocks of interest rate adjustments or the stress of excessively high interest rates associated with many sub-prime mortgages.

The results of the study suggest that children of selected home owners are more likely to participate in organized activities and have less screen time when compared with renters. However, home owners were found less likely to read to their children than renters. There was no effect of home ownership on parental school involvement. On the whole, their findings suggest that home ownership and financial stability may create opportunities for parents to engage in some positive parenting behavior. As noted, the group of home owners surveyed in this study was less likely than renters to report financial hardships. The authors suspected that these financial stressors may reduce the ability of renters to afford organized activities for their child. Screen time, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive for most families.

The findings of this research present more support for the idea that there are intangible benefits fostered through home ownership. And while these findings strengthen the policy case for encouraging sustainable and responsible home ownership, ultimately the question is how to arrive at sustainable and responsible home ownership. As the study reviewed here suggested, homeowners performed better financially because they were able to manage their limited resources. It appears that educating would-be homeowners in ways to effectively manage their resources may also help provide a positive environment for their children.

Original Article

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Monday, November 8, 2010

Arts by the Shore

Arts by the Shore, the 16th annual judged art show co-sponsored by Oak Island Parks and Recreation and the Oak Island Art Guild, will be held Nov. 19 and 20. Artist Justine Ferreri will judge the show.

Participants ages 19 and up are eligible. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional works will be accepted. Work must have been created within the past two years and must be original.

Entry forms may be obtained from Oak Island Recreation Center, 3003 E. Oak Island Drive, Oak Island. For more information or to obtain an application form call 278-5518. Pre-registration is recommended.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sea Coast President Hits Auction Block for Girls, Inc.

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty president Tim Milam will be just one of the local celebrities auctioned off at Hot Dress, Hot Date!, a holiday fashion show and auction to benefit Girls, Inc.

The event will be held Thursday, November 4, 2010, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Coastline Conference & Expo Center in Wilmington, NC. Tickets are still available for the event. Tickets are $30 for an individual ticket or $250 for a group of 10 tickets. Ticket prices include food and drink tickets. Tickets are not available at the door. To pre-register for your tickets, call 910-343-8600 ext. 201 or click here.

The fashion show portion of the event will feature eight female local celebrities, including Livian Jones, Mary Margaret Latham, Catherine Lea, Saundrea Lee, Ashley Miller, Margaret Robison, Heather Setzler, and Barbara Weetman.

The auction portion of the event will give attendees the chance to bid on lunch on the town with three married male local celebrities and five of Wilmington’s hottest bachelors. Milam is among the three married men up for auction. His wife can rest easy though. WILMA Nights, the organizer of the event, is quick to note that the highest bidders aren’t entitled to anything more than lively conversation over lunch. Other married men up for auction include Shann Coleman and Bo Dean. Bachelors on the auction block include Adam Freeman, Dutch Hawk, Craig Melville, Bryan Metzger, and Chris Wilkerson.

Girls, Inc. offers programs designed to help New Hanover County girls reach their full potential by becoming educated, responsible, community-minded leaders.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Appliance Buying Guide: Dishwashers

Article From

By: Douglas Trattner

Published: September 01, 2009

When you buy a dishwasher, hone in on the model that's right for you by considering your needs: size, fit, features, and performance.

"Almost every dishwasher on the market will wash dishes better, do so more quietly, and use a fraction of the water and energy than the one being replaced," says Don Cochran of Babin Building Solutions in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Because 80% of a dishwasher's energy consumption goes to heating the water, any reduction in the amount of water used saves money. Replace a pre-1994 dishwasher with an Energy Star model and you'll save $40 per year on your utility bills, says Energy Star.

Cost range: $250-$1,000 and up

Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, and haul away

Average life span: 10-13 years

Size and fit: Because there are so many dishwashers on the market, pare down choices according to specific criteria. Size and fit is a great place to start. Common dishwasher widths include 18" and 24", so measure your current appliance to see what size to shop for. Also, dishwasher heights can range from 32 to 34.5 inches, so make sure the new one doesn't exceed the height of the cabinet opening. Kitchen floors that have been updated with tile, laminate wood, and even vinyl can affect the fit of the new machine.

Most dishwashers are mounted to the underside of countertops, making those models a poor choice for solid surfaces like granite, quartz, and concrete. In those cases, choose an appliance that gets anchored to side cabinets.

Noise: New dishwashers are considerably less noisy than those made just five years ago, thanks to improved insulation. But for the quietest appliances on the market, expect to pay a premium of $500 and up. A far less expensive alternative is the delay wash setting, which can start the machine after your family has gone to bed. This feature is on all but the most inexpensive models.

Appearance: Will you be matching existing appliances or making a change to something new? It's easy enough to match "appliance white," a standard color, but few stainless steel finishes are identical, says Cochran. To do so may require sticking with a particular brand. You can expect to pay a premium of $150 for a stainless dishwasher.

You'll also pay about $150 more for a stainless tub, the interior liner of the machine. The upgrade is a purely cosmetic one, notes Cochran, as a plastic tub may discolor over time but it will rarely fail.

Completely hidden controls are another popular aesthetic upgrade. The control panels sit on a portion of the door that's invisible when closed. Expect to pay at least $600 for models with this design.


Energy efficiency: Energy Star-qualified models use 31% less energy and 33% less water than conventional machines. Energy Star-qualified dishwashers today are required to use 5.8 gallons of water per cycle or fewer, down from the 6 to 10 gallons per cycle in 2000. The good news is that most dishwashers on the market now bear the Energy Star stamp of approval, and you need not pay a premium to purchase one.

Racks: Although unnecessary, adjustable racks, tines, and silverware storage can be useful when washing oversize or unusually shaped items. Adjustable racks are on all but the most basic models, but for truly customizable interiors, you'll have to spring for pricier machines.

Cycles: Even the most basic dishwashers come with multiple wash cycles. Shorter cycles can save water and energy when washing average loads, while longer settings can be reserved for more heavily soiled ones. Beyond that, there seems to be no end to available cycle options. Sanitary wash cycles raise the heat, killing more than 99% of bacteria. Glass cycles can speedily clean a rack of dirty glasses. Some models even have a variable-speed motor that increases pressure for pots and pans and decreases it for delicate china. Consider your need; these additional features raise the price and are rarely used.

Sensors: Soil, or "turbidity," sensors are becoming more common on midrange dishwashers. They measure the clarity of the water and then shorten or lengthen all cycles accordingly. Models boasting this technology are available for as little as $350 to $400 (though the folks at Consumer Reports ( say you'll need to go higher to get units that also offer better noise reduction and other features.)

Drying: Almost every dishwasher comes with a heated dry option, which speeds along the dish-drying process. If you're energy conscious, look for machines that allow you to disable (or simply not activate) that feature. Doing so can reduce the machine's electricity consumption by 15% to 50%, according to the California Energy Commission (

Expected maintenance: In some models, filters need to be cleaned periodically. A hose may leak and door hinges can loosen or fail, all of which require tightening or replacement. A broken door latch will cause the machine to stop working. The part may need to be replaced.
Where and when to shop: Babin Building Solution's Cochran says to only shop at a retail appliance store where the staff understands the product. A conscientious salesperson will guide you to a model that doesn't exceed your needs and thus saves money. Also opt for a store that offers delivery, installation, and haul away-you may be able to negotiate transport and install into the cost of the appliance.

Because appliances don't adhere to a model year like automobiles, there's no "best time" to buy them. Always keep a look out for sales, specials, and tax rebates (especially for energy-efficient models). And use sites like BizRate, PriceGrabber,, and Shopzilla to compare prices.

Finally, some appraisers say new appliances are money well spent. In his market, Mike Neimeier, a residential appraiser in Cleveland, Ohio, says a homeowner is likely to recoup between 75%-90% of the cost of new appliances when reselling the home within a couple of years.

Douglas Trattner has covered household appliances and home improvement for, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he's upgraded almost every household appliance. After lengthy deliberation, he recently replaced an aging top-load washing machine with an energy-efficient front-load unit.

Reprinted from HouseLogic ( with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

Article From

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: February 10, 2010

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you'll zoom in on the home you want at the best price.

These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1. Know thyself
Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you're leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2. Research before you look
List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you'd like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you'd like to view.

3. Get your finances in order
Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you're comfortable spending each month on housing. Don't wait until you've found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you're eligible to borrow. The lender won't necessarily consider the extra fees you'll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you're comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4. Set a moving timeline
Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you'll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5. Think long term
Your future plans may dictate the type of home you'll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you'll still love years from now.

6. Work with a REALTOR®
Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you're interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent's style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers' reps work only for you even though they're typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they're members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7. Be realistic
It's OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don't be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don't be so swayed by a "wow" feature that you forget about other issues-like noise levels-that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there's no such thing as the perfect home.

8. Limit the opinions you solicit
It's natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you've identified as important.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Colonial Heritage Day scheduled at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site is holding its annual Colonial Heritage Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23.
Costumed spinners, weavers, blacksmiths and cooks will be on hand to depict aspects of life in a colonial port, while a few malcontents might take a turn in the stocks and pillory.

Interpretive stations with hands-on activities include stenciling, candle-dipping, doll making, militia drilling and Colonial toys and games. This year, local area artists will be on site to display, demonstrate and sell their wares. Brunswick Town is located off N.C. 133 near Orton Plantation. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information call 371-6613 or go to

Original Article

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Habitat House Photos

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Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Sponsors Habitat House

The Sea Coast family has been hard at work each weekend working on it's fourth Habitat for Humanity home, named the Barbara Birkenheuer House in honor of the retiring director of Habitat Cape Fear.

Ken Keegan (Left), Builder Ralph Apa (right)

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Realtors' Letters Add Special Touch to Honor Flight

Coldwell Banker Sea Realty associate Russ May just returned from accompanying World War II veterans to see the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC. The trip was made possible by Honor Flight Southeastern North Carolina.

Honor Flight is an amazing all-volunteer effort dedicated to demonstrating respect and admiration for surviving World War II veterans by flying them at no cost to Washington, DC to see the World War II Memorial. The Memorial was completed in 2004.

The majority of the veterans are in their 80's and some needed a little special help navigating the airport and finding their way around Washington's monuments. As a Guardian on the trip, Russ May helped veterans have a safe and comfortable journey.

"A very important and emotional part of the return trip is 'mail call' when the veterans are surprised to receive letters from their families and friends expressing their thanks and gratitude for the veterans' service," said May. A day and a half before the most recent Honor Flight trip, May found out that some of the veterans wouldn't be receiving letters and that it was too late to contact their families again.

"It would be a shame for these individuals to sit empty handed while their fellow veterans receive a package of mail," he wrote in an email to associates and staff in Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty's Wilmington, NC office. "If you have a moment to write a generic note to a WWII veteran, I'll make sure it gets in the right hands."

Overnight, Russ May's mailbox was filled with 54 letters expressing heartfelt gratitude. Even though the letters were addressed to perfect strangers, the writers shared personal stories of lost loved ones, family members who served during wartime, and respect for the military. "Having seen the emotion in the faces of veterans in past flights, I know your thoughts, prayers, and blessings will be warmly received, richly deserved, and much appreciated," May told his colleagues.

Russ May is one of several Realtors at Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty that have volunteered with Honor Flight Southeastern North Carolina. The October 13, 2010 trip was the third Honor Flight made possible by Honor Flight Southeastern North Carolina. Veterans had beautiful weather for their trip to Washington, DC. A crowd of several hundred well-wishers decked out in red, white, and blue greeted the veterans when they returned to Wilmington International Airport Wednesday evening.

For more information about Honor Flight of Southeastern North Carolina, please visit

To learn more about the national Honor Flight organization, log on to
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Get a private look at Orton Plantation

The N.C. Coastal Land Trust will host “A Private Look at Orton/A Taste of Carolina History” from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, in the gardens of Orton Plantation. Guests will stop at six stations for talks on the history of Orton Plantation and enjoy a special Southern dish.

Only 100 tickets will be sold for $100 each. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Nancy Preston at or call 790-4524.

Tickets may also be purchased on the Land Trust website,

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Groundbreaking to be held for Brunswick hospice

 A groundbreaking ceremony for the Lower Cape Fear Hospice and LifeCareCenter Brunswick County will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, at the 900 block of Old Ocean Highway in Bolivia.
The event, open to the public, will take place on 7.35 acres donated by Louie Lewis and will feature keynote speaker Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.

Lower Cape Fear Hospice and LifeCareCenter is a nonprofit agency that provides health care and comfort to people with life-limiting illness; support and counseling to families; and education to the community in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties. Since 1980, the organization has served more than 20,000 patients.

For more information, call 796-7961 or go to www.hospice Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me

Wilmington International Airport registers record month

Last month’s rainfall wasn’t the only record set in the Port City.

The economy might still be struggling, but it was the best September ever for the Wilmington International Airport – and even the record-setting monsoon couldn’t derail the momentum.

The airport saw 73,072 passengers use its terminal, which is more than even during the booming years of last decade.

The previous September high was 67,724 passengers set in 2007.

The highest one-month total this year was 81,445 in July, which is historically the airport’s busiest month.

Executive Director Jon Rosborough credits last month’s strong passenger showing to more business travelers, the airport’s bread-and-butter business, rediscovering their wings as the economy slowly rebounds.

Having Allegiant Air flying to Orlando for over a year now also has helped, along with US Airways and Delta adding bigger planes on some of their flights.

All together, Rosborough said, the airport now offers 8,000 more seats than it did in September 2009.

A new marketing campaign and competitive airfares, which might keep a few folks from driving up Interstate 40 or down U.S. 17 to the Raleigh-Durham or Myrtle Beach airports respectively, haven’t hurt either.

And the boom times might be continuing.

Rosborough said numbers for the first 11 days of October show passenger numbers up 10 percent over the same period last year.

For the year, Wilmington is just a hair behind the numbers for 2009 and 2008, although ahead of 2007’s passenger figures.

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