Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Home Buyer Tax Credit?

Just when I thought the housing market was finally being left to correct on its own, I'm starting to hear talk regarding yet another home buyer tax credit. From HUD to the hedge funds, it sounds as if it is gaining steam yet again. This one could involve not just first time/move-up buyers, but a credit for buyers purchasing foreclosed properties or short sales (when the bank allows you to buy a home for less than the value of the outstanding mortgage).

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, appearing on CNN's State of the Union this weekend, didn't rule out another tax credit. He did say it's "too early to say," but then added that "we're going to be focused like a laser on where the housing market is moving going forward, and we are going to go everywhere we can to make sure this market stabilizes and recovers."

After that several Congressional candidates in Florida threw their voices behind the possibility, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist then chimed in on the same show, saying that another tax credit, "would stimulate the economy. It would increase home sales in Florida." He finished with: "I would absolutely encourage the president to support that because it would certainly help my fellow Floridians."

So of course then I went the official route and followed up with a HUD spokesperson who responded: "No news here...there are no discussions underway to revive the credit."

Is it all political? And is another tax credit the answer? "I don't think it's all political," says housing consultant Howard Glaser. "I think they are panicked that the economy/housing got away from them." Glaser doesn't sound convinced the tax credit is really on the table. "They can do a lot off budget with the GSE's and FHA with no Congress."

I know a lot of you out there would argue that a housing market correction, as painful as it is, is necessary for housing to truly find its footing again and recover for the long term. Another artificial stimulus could just prolong the agony and set us up for the same drop off in sales and prices that we're seeing right now.

But it could also move some inventory quickly. With inventories of new and existing homes dangerously high, and the shadow supply of foreclosures pushing that volume even higher, more stimulus could be a necessary evil. I liken it to what I'm doing with my lawn this week. All summer I fought the weeds, pulling them, using the organic sprays and repellents, spreading mulch to deprive them of any air. And then I gave up. I called the lawn service and told them to bring every chemical in their arsenal. Shock the overgrown mess into submission once and for all, so that I can start fresh again and reseed this fall.


Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Friday, August 27, 2010

Brunswick County towns seek their own ‘brand' to lure tourists

It's not that difficult to figure out how to persuade tourists to come to Brunswick County's beaches.

Nearby towns without oceanfront property have to try a little harder – but that's exactly what several of them are doing.

The city of Southport took a step toward increasing its occupancy tax and creating a tourism development authority with a vote earlier this week.

After a public hearing Sept. 9, aldermen will vote a final time on the 2-cent tax hike.

If it is approved, Southport will join two other inland Brunswick County towns boosting their efforts in promoting tourism.

It's harder for these areas to find their "brand" without the natural draw of the ocean.

But town leaders hope the extra marketing efforts will be successful in bringing in people looking for a different experience.

"We're not a beach town," said Southport Alderman Ed Boguskie. "If people are just coming to the beach, they're not going to come here unless there's a reason to come here."

Since 1998, Brunswick County has had its own tourism development authority – known as Brunswick Islands.

While it does work to promote the entire county, Executive Director Mitzi York said its brand is centered on the beaches.

The inland towns don't think that's the wrong thing to do, but the marketing strategy doesn't help them as much.

"The slogan on their brochures is ‘More beach for your blanket,'" Southport Alderman Ken Karn said. "That's great. It brings more people to the beach, but not necessarily to Southport."

The city hopes to bring in about $30,000 from the room tax increase, which Karn said will help advertise its relaxing, laid-back Southern atmosphere.

Southport is following in the footsteps of Leland, which formed its development authority late last year. The authority is now working on creating a tourism logo for the town and distilling its brand, said Chairman Barry Eagle, who is general manager of the Comfort Suites at Magnolia Greens.

Early thoughts are to focus on Leland's central location, close to both downtown Wilmington and the beaches.

It also plans to focus on outdoor sports like kayaking and emphasize the town's parks.

"We've got to figure out, ‘What do we have?'" said Dana Fisher, executive director of the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce and authority board member.

Shallotte also has a tourism development authority, which was launched in 1998.

It plans to bring in $60,000 this year.

That town has branded itself as a place to golf and enjoy the river.

"We're becoming a destination within ourselves," said Terri Durham, authority board chairwoman and director of the Southeastern Welcome Center. "We have a lot to offer."

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Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kitchen Remodeling Trends

If you're shopping for a new home, chances are, whether you cook or not, the kitchen is an area of great interest. The bathroom is also likely high on the list to inspect. That's because we spend a lot of time in both of these rooms, socializing and taking care of the, ahem, important stuff.

These two areas of homes are so vital that there's even an association to educate, certify industry professionals, and promote ideas for these rooms. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), founded in 1963 as The American Institute of Kitchen Dealers, has nearly 40,000 members. Earlier this year it released its top trends for kitchens and bathrooms for 2010.

Finding what you like in a home is most important but if you're considering a resale in the future, understanding what appeals to the masses can help. Here, then, is a look at some of the top trends from NKBA.

Concealed Kitchens. This doesn't mean that you walk into a home and can't find the kitchen. Instead, the kitchen area blends with other areas of the home. Formal dining spaces often aren't used much. But when a home has a kitchen that opens to a great room, it allows far more flexibility for people's lives. What may be concealed are items such as commonly used appliances. Ultimately, the harmonious blending of color, design, and functionality make kitchens aesthetically pleasing and useful. NKBA writes in a press release that, "Clean structural lines coupled with sleek color palettes enable the space to establish a distinctive identity, without overpowering the surrounding rooms."

Thirst-Quenching Stations. NKBA writes that beverage stations, complete with under-counter refrigerators that hold beverages and wine, are a new element in many kitchens. Exemplifying our attachment to our morning ritual, many of these beverage stations include a coffee station ("simple single-pot coffeemakers to larger units capable of espresso, latte, and cappuccino"), states NKBA. The design typically includes space for stemware, beverage mugs and glasses, and condiments. This setup allows people to gather to quench their thirst while being out of the way of the chefs.

Rounding Out the Edges. Think soft geometry. Countertops, islands, archways, and even light fixtures, are being designed with soft, round edges. According to NKBA, "The introduction of rounded islands and countertops carves a smooth-flowing traffic pattern throughout the room, while an appropriately placed arch will bring an overall softening to the more angular fixed features that are typical in kitchens and baths."

Varied Heights. No more monotony. Kitchen countertops, islands, and even walls are being designed for specific purposes and that means their heights are varied. The various heights create "a beautiful counterbalance."

Asian influence. There has long been a fascination with Asian countries and now it seems that the impact of Japanese design is showing up in subtle ways such as "clean lines, open spaces, and neutral color palettes with bold splashes of color in select areas," according to NKBA. The association says oftentimes there will be "one strong anchor piece of Japanese origin" that designs are built around.

Whether you're shopping for a new home or thinking of remodeling your current home, remember that trends do change. However, those that tend to stick are the ones that combine pleasing looks with highly functional features.


Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

10 Things Every Remodeling Contract Should Include

The contract is a critical step in any remodeling project; it holds the job together and ensures that all parties agree to the same vision and scope.
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry spells out the following key elements that every remodeling contract should have:
1. The contractor's name, address, phone number, and license number.
2. Details on what the contractor will and will not do.
3. A list of materials for the project in your contract. This includes information about the size, color, model, brand name, and product.
4. The approximate start date and completion date.
5. All required plans. Study them carefully for accuracy. Insist that you approve them and that they are identified in your written contract before any work begins.
6. Written notice of your right to, without penalty, cancel a contract within three business days of signing it.
7. Financial terms, spelled out in a way that you understand. This includes the total price, payment schedule, and any cancellation penalty.
8. A binding arbitration clause, which you'll need in the event a disagreement occurs. Arbitration may enable you to resolve disputes without costly litigation.
9. Everything you've requested. Consider the scope of the project and make sure all items you've requested are included. If you do not see a specific item in the contract, consider it not included. Never sign an incomplete contract.
10. A warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year. The warranty must be identified as either "full" or "limited." The name and address of the party who will honor the warranty (contractor, distributor, or manufacturer) must be identified. Make sure the time period for the warranty is specified.
Published: April 2009 REALTOR magazine
Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Artists of Southport host new show

Claire Martin of Supply and Rebecca Pierre of Oak Island will showcase their newest original creations until Sept. 25 at the Franklin Square Gallery in Southport

Martin uses water media, especially acrylics in her paintings. Pierre is a potter who is also a writer and poet.

The works of more than 100 regional potters and painters will also be on display.

Franklin Square Gallery is located at 130 E. West St. behind Franklin Square Park. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For details, call 457-5450 or go to

Full Article
Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Baby leatherbacks crawl toward ocean

Last Wednesday, without audience, the first known group of leatherback hatchlings in Bald Head Island's history boiled out of their nest and crawled toward the ocean. The one-of-a-kind flipper tracks were the only evidence.

Maureen Dewire, senior naturalist at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, was a little let down. It was a first for Bald Head Island, and she was thrilled it happened. But she wanted to witness it. So did the interns who had gritted their teeth during the nest's two-month development.

But Saturday night, while Dewire and her interns excavated the nest, a surprise surfaced.

"All of our disappointment from missing the hatching was washed away when we found one live baby in the nest last night," she said Sunday morning. The group watched and took pictures as the hatchling pushed its way toward the ocean.

Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Friday, August 20, 2010

New park opens Saturday

Brunswick County’s newest park, located on Old Georgetown Road in Ocean Isle Beach, opens Saturday, Aug. 21.

The new park offers tennis courts, an amphitheater, two playgrounds, a restroom facility and a multipurpose field that can be used for football, soccer and much more. The amphitheater may be rented to citizens interested in hosting an event. The amphitheater is designed to seat 300, but there is plenty of space in and around the theater for lawn chairs and blankets.

For information about renting the amphitheater call 253-2670. For information about any Brunswick County Parks and Recreation programs, facilities or parks go to

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Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Monday, August 16, 2010

Letter From Coldwell Banker CEO

Dear Coldwell Banker Professional:
We wanted to share some great news about the Coldwell Banker brand.
The Wall Street Journal/Real Trends Top 400 Real Estate Professionals list has been released. As you may know, this is the annual ranking that showcases the nation’s top real estate agents and teams in terms of both sales volume and transactions, based on year-end 2009 sales figures.
And once again, the Coldwell Banker brand has dominated the list! The Coldwell Banker brand has more agents represented on the list than any other brand and an amazing twice as many as our nearest competitor in the categories of agent sides and agent volume.
All we can say is wow!
Below are some of the key highlights of how well we fared:
• In overall Agent Sides, the Coldwell Banker brand earned 48 of the spots, with two Coldwell Banker agents in the Top 10.
• In overall Agent Volume, the Coldwell Banker brand earned 34 of the Top 100 spots, including two in the Top 10.
• In overall Team Volume, the Coldwell Banker brand earned 19 of the Top 100 spots with two teams in the Top 10, including the number one ranking overall!
Click HERE to see the overall rankings on Coldwell Banker Works.
Congratulations to all those Coldwell Banker professionals who were included in this prestigious list! It's a true testament to your commitment to providing consumers with the best service in the industry through hard work, dedication and passion for real estate.
We could not be prouder of all the incredible professionals that represent Coldwell Banker. And each of you should take pride in knowing that you are a part of the greatest brand in real estate!

Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Conservancy approves center

The Bald Head Island Conservancy hopes to break ground this October for a long-planned facility set to lead the nation in barrier island research.

All 22 members of the nonprofit’s board of directors this past weekend voted to approve construction of the Barrier Island Study Center (BISC), which would occupy land on the conservancy’s campus, near the eastern tip of Bald Head Island’s South Beach.

According to conservancy executive director Suzanne Dorsey, the $2.4-million project is a grand show of community support, as no state or federal dollars have touched it.

As for momentum, BISC has generated $900,000 in the last ten months, “totally from the community,” Dorsey said.

But the community itself is the result of development on the fragile island. With so much demand for island living, the conservancy hopes BISC will highlight realistic practices or policies for sustainable development.

BISC’s business plan, released in 2007, stated that barrier islands, such as Bald Head Island, protect approximately 85 percent of the United States coast. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than half the nation’s population lives within 50 miles of the coast.

By 2015, BISC’s plan states, another 25 million will call it home.

When hurricanes spin toward the coast, barrier islands and their lush forests act as shields for the mainland, but consequently they sustain much of the damage and are thus one of the fastest disappearing habitats on the planet.

According to a release about the groundbreaking, the conservancy “has successfully carried out its mission of conservation, preservation and education for the past 27 years and met environmental challenges head on with triumph. However, the impact of environmental and human-made challenges is increasing and so is the need for solutions. The Barrier Island Study Center will provide this and other coastal communities the means to continue to live sustainably. The center will facilitate stewardship of our barrier island home and community-based conservation.”

Conservancy president Jay Copan, who has owned property on Bald Head Island since 1998, said the studies and findings generated at BISC would, ideally, offer other barrier islands better understanding about themselves. It would also offer tools and know-how for addressing specific coastal or island problems.

A small example, he said, is the conservancy’s efforts to eradicate an invasive plant called beach vitex, which can crowd out native dune-building vegetation.

The conservancy’s successful methods of ousting the plant have been repeated on other beaches with similar success. So the research benefited its home base of Bald Head Island, but the implications were wide, Copan explained.

But BISC’s eyes — in an effort called “Project 20/20” — would focus on much more complex and foreboding issues as well. Studying the impacts of sea-level rise, shipping channel dredging and other factors facing barrier islands’ futures is part of the plan.

There’s also the educational component, to which the conservancy has long been dedicated. BISC would be a goldmine for students of all kinds, from the laboratory-minded to those who just want to get a little closer to “the beauty of nature,” Dorsey said.

And that’s how it fits in with the conservancy’s roots, said Copan. “In a way, this really is a project that began 27 years ago,” when the conservancy was founded, he said. “It really ties in with the mission and vision.”

Copan said the conservancy is wrapping up its fundraising campaign after generating 90 percent of what the construction’s end cost could be.

The construction would include green building practices and materials.

The job may take a year or two to complete, Copan predicted.

For more information, persons may visit

Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New map shows land along route for Skyway

Potentially, 100 properties in New Hanover County and 36 in Brunswick County will have to be purchased for construction of the Cape Fear Skyway.

Owners of those parcels may soon be prohibited from developing them, but it may be years before the state has the money to buy the land.

Transportation officials released a map this week showing properties that fall in the route of the proposed 9.5-mile toll road, which includes a high-rise bridge over the Cape Fear River south of the Port of Wilmington.

"It's not the final route," cautioned Mike Kozlosky, executive director of the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, a transportation planning agency. "It is a map demonstrating a potential corridor for the Cape Fear Skyway."

Transportation officials soon will decide whether to encourage elected leaders in both counties to prohibit development of properties along the route, which could change as planning progresses. A resolution in support of that is expected to be considered at the Aug. 18 meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee, which sets transportation priorities for the region.

Protecting the corridor would give the state time to finalize Skyway plans and eventually purchase the parcels before further development – new homes or shopping centers, for example – makes them too costly for the state to buy.

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Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Friday, August 6, 2010

Job opportunities coming with new convention center

Wilmington's new convention center will need contractors for a wide range of tourism and technical jobs, and businesses that are local or certified as small or minority-owned could stand out among others seeking those positions.

At a forum hosted Thursday night by the city of Wilmington and an urban planning contractor, local business representatives learned about opportunities for contract jobs and criteria required of them to be selected as a contractor with the Wilmington Convention Center.

The city has a policy to encourage the inclusion of women, minorities and small businesses in doing business with the city, said Ken Weeden of Ken Weeden & Associates, a consulting firm contracted by the city to plan Thursday night's forum.

Weeden told the forum's attendees that the city will require small or minority-owned businesses seeking contractor positions to have a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certification, which means the state has recognized the business as being small and independent with at least 51 percent of the business owned by one or more socially or economically disadvantaged individuals. Certifications are issued by the N.C. Department of Transportation or the N.C. Department of Administration.

The convention center, managed by the company SMG, has a no-bid process and will select vendors based on criteria such as quality of services and price, said Susan Eaton, an employee of SMG and general manager of the convention center.

"We have to select the best company based on the best price," she said. "My heart is to go local. Not only is it a good thing to do, it's the right thing to do."

Workers needed by the center will include florists, specialty food caterers, temporary work staff, parking attendants, security guards and janitors, Eaton said.

Mayor Bill Saffo said as completion of the center nears, now is the time to focus on the economic impact it center can have on the community.

"We want to be an economic engine for our community, and this is definitely the catalyst I hope will continue to move economic development and tourism in our community," he said.

More information about opportunities at the center is available on the convention center's website at

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Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stores gear up for tax-free rush

Local stores spent much of this week preparing for the kickoff of North Carolina's sales tax holiday.

The relief for consumers, intended to help ease the financial burden of back-to-school shopping, begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Before Friday, retail employees stocked merchandise, put up signs and rearranged inventory to place popular items where shoppers could find them easily.

On Wednesday, John Stevens, manager of Omega Sports in Hanover Center, and his staff were sorting through more than 60 boxes, mostly of shoes. They were also moving backpacks to the front of the store.

"There's gonna be a lot of traffic through here in the next few days, and we want our store to look its best," Stevens said. "It's a lot of work getting ready for it. It's stressful, but it's also fun. We're glad to see it come, and we're glad to see it go."

To make it easier for the store's cashier system, everything at Omega Sports is included in the sales tax holiday, even a few things that don't qualify due to their purchase price. The company just picks up the tax for the items not covered by the state's savings holiday, he said.

North Carolina's first sales tax holiday was in 2002. Currently, the first weekend in August provides a 7.75 percent break in most counties, including New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender. Twelve counties, including Sampson and Cumberland, have sales tax rates of 8 percent, while Mecklenburg's is 8.25 percent.

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