Friday, May 30, 2008

New Raleigh Condos at Palladium Plaza

Progress Energy's newest tower shot up from Davie Street with all the hoopla one might expect for a city that was starving for new life back in 2004. You couldn't miss it.

But its prominence obscures a building that quietly slipped in behind it: Palladium Plaza. The condominium project's little-noticed arrival at the southwest corner of Davie and Blount streets reflects how comfortably its design fits into the city's landscape.

Even six months after construction finished, Progress employees -- who work in the tower next door -- ask how long Palladium has been there, according to project managers working onsite. Other observers ask what the building was before it was condos, only to be surprised by the answer: a few small buildings, which were demolished. If you are considering a new home, condo, or townhome in the greater Raleigh market; it pays to work with an expert buyers agent and Raleigh realtor.

But behind the new building's quiet presence are several distinguishing characteristics that speak volumes about the direction of downtown.

WHAT IT IS: Palladium Plaza stands five stories on a narrow acre. It includes 66 loft-style condominiums, three street-level retail spaces and outdoor common areas. It has a small parking deck and shares additional parking with Progress Energy in another deck. Units range from 690 to 2,100 square feet in several layouts. Prices have ranged from $150,000 to the high $400,000s.

WHO LIVES THERE: There are many first-time homeowners. Single men and women and young couples make up the majority.

HOW IT FITS: White Oak President Roland Gammon calls the project "edgy," which is an apt description on a couple of levels: Palladium is on the southeastern edge of the center-city's renewal, and its interior -- with exposed pipes and concrete walls, high ceilings, big windows and stainless steel fixtures -- offers a fresh, urban feel.

The narrow tract upon which Palladium was built didn't allow for much definition in the face of the building. But hunter-green trim, concrete-and-iron balconies, exterior light fixtures and shadows cast from trees that line the walkway add visual depth.

The project is among several recent changes on a six-block cluster southeast of the intersection of Fayetteville and Martin streets. Other great real estate markets include Williamsburg Real Estate, Williamsburg Realtor, Realtor Williamsburg, Realtor in Williamsburg, Realtor Williamsburg VA, and buyers agent in Williamsburg.

Palladium is on the lot east of the new Progress Energy tower.

On the block across Davie Street, Cary developer Hamilton Merritt and Cherokee Investment Partners of Raleigh want to build a pair of towers including an eco-friendly mix of shops, offices, hotel rooms and residences. The project, called Edison, would surround a 1,250-space parking deck being built on the block.

To the northwest, Highwoods Properties is finishing RBC Plaza, the Triangle's tallest tower.

To the northeast, 96-year-old City Market is poised for upgrades.

WHAT IT ADDS: Palladium includes several live-work spaces on the street level. The building's homeowner agreement allows for such units that can double as public business space and residences.

HOW IT IS DOING: Despite slowing home sales across the region, Palladium has fared well. At least 16 units have yet to sell. And prices are holding up. The last 10 Raleigh Condo units sold went for $224 per square foot, up 2.3 percent from the first 10 units sold. Three townhome and condo units have been re-sold at an average increase of 9.5 percent. In other North Carolina markets, such as Charlotte, Willimington, and Wake Forest Condominiums have been moving at above market prices. Glenmore Garden Villas has Charlotte condos and new townhomes that are priced from the low 400's.

Palladium's closest new-condo rival, The Hudson at 319 Fayetteville St., started closing sales in early 2006. The last 10 units to sell there sold for an average of $223 per square foot, which is 7.9 percent less than the first 10 units. There are still at least 10 unsold Hudson units.

Palladium has benefited from timing: It was finished long enough after competitors such as the Dawson on Morgan were mostly sold out, but long before competitors such as 222 Glenwood, Hue and West on North are scheduled to be complete.

But sales have slowed since closings began a year ago. Only three Palladium condo units have sold this year, property records show. Condos in Raleigh typically move slower than homes. Home sales in the Triangle are hotter than nearly any other market in America. Raleigh is not being hit with foreclosures and home walk-aways as much as markets like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orange County, Calif., Detroit, and most of America. Real estate and home sales across the state of North Carolina including Winston Salem homes and Cary homes, Apex homes, Clayton homes, and Durham homes are all pacing ahead of last year.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Local home prices rise 5%

Housing prices in the Raleigh area rose by nearly 5 percent in the last 12 months, according to new federal data.

The numbers come from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, the group that oversees the government-backed mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Across the country, OFHEO says, prices were flat over the past 12 months.

OFHEO's numbers put Raleigh 30th among the hundreds of metropolitan statistical areas in the country for home price increases.

But the increases come at a time when sales themselves are flat, with buyers waiting for the market to hit bottom. Triangle home sales dropped by 24 percent in April, the Triangle Multiple Listing Service recently reported.

MLS also said that the sale price of an existing home fell 1.5 percent in April from a year earlier. MLS' data include nearly all home sales in the region, however, while OFHEO's figures only include mortgages that qualify to get bought by Fannie or Freddie. That excludes most "subprime" mortgages to borrowers with poor credit - by far the worst part of the market.

OFHEO's numbers also include refinancings and home appraisals.

Home prices in the Durham area rose by 3.92 percent in the past 12 months, OFHEO says.

Across the state, prices in Charlotte increased by 6.16 percent. Asheville's home prices were up by 4.52 percent, Durham's by 3.92 percent, Winston-Salem's by 3.82 percent, Greensboro's by 2.76 percent and Wilmington's by 1.30 percent.

Triangle Business Journal; May 22, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Newsweek Names Local High Schools Among The Best

Raleigh Charter School and Enloe High School again rank among the top 75 on Newsweek magazine's list of the top public high schools in the country.

Raleigh Charter School ranks No. 27 and Enloe is at No. 72 on the list, which appears online at and features in the May 26 issue of the news magazine. A year ago, Raleigh Charter was No. 20, while Enloe was No. 56.

Newsweek's list ranks schools based on the number of college-level exams taken at a school in a given year. Specifically, the magazine looks at the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge exams taken by all students and divides that figure by the number of graduating seniors.

There were 5.238 college-level exams taken for every graduating student at Raleigh Charter in 2007, the list says. The figure was 3.979 at Enloe.

Newsweek's list is controversial. Parents and school administrations who don't like the list say that measuring college-level exams gives an incomplete picture of school quality.

Jay Mathews, the Washington Post staff writer who puts together the report, agrees that it's not perfect. But, he said in a recent Post article, the list "captures, in a way other school statistics do not, a different attitude about students in the schools that make the list. Those schools turn out to have principals and teachers who are trying hardest to raise the achievement of each child, with college as a useful goal for all until students are old enough to decide what they want to do."

This year's Newsweek list, which features data from 2007, ranks the more than 1,300 public high schools across the country with an exam-to-student ratio of more than 1.

Other Triangle schools to make the list were:

* East Chapel Hill High, No. 145;
* Chapel Hill High, No. 237;
* Pinecrest High in Southern Pines, No. 292;
* Jordan High in Durham, No. 299;
* Durham School of the Arts, No. 305;
* Needham Broughton High in Raleigh, No. 443;
* Green Hope High in Morrisville, No. 594;
* and Wakefield High in Raleigh, No. 1163.

Triangle Business Journal; May 19, 2008

SAS forming subsidiary to help with homeland security

SAS is launching a subsidiary that will focus on providing data analysis tools to the federal government, especially the homeland security and intelligence agencies, the Cary software maker announced Monday.

The subsidiary, which is yet to be named, will be based in Cary and will be organized over the next several months, says SAS spokesman Trent Smith. More than 50 SAS employees will be allocated to the subsidiary, which will hire an -as-yet-to-be-determined number of additional employees with the security requirements needed to assist intelligence and homeland security efforts.

Tom Mazich, SAS' vice president of government operations, will head the new subsidiary, which will look to supply federal agencies involved in homeland defense with software that allows them to share information in real time, to analyze that information and to make better-informed decisions. Improved information sharing and analysis could have helped to prevent the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The events of 9/11 were a wake-up call: We need to do a better job of understanding potential threats to our country. There is so much data from so many different sources - human intelligence, 'open source', and even that gathered by technology - that is significant to safeguarding the United States," Mazich said in a news release. "The intelligence and homeland security communities must be able to make sense of all this data in a timely manner so they can make critical decisions. SAS technology will be a major contributor to helping the government fully understand its information."

While all 15 federal departments use SAS software, but the company believes a dedicated subsidiary will serve the market better.

SAS, which posted 2007 revenue of $2.15 billion, has 10,619 employees worldwide, 4,244 of them in Cary.

By: Jeff Drew
Triangle Business Journal; May 19, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Home-Price Decline Spreads

Number of Metro Areas Hit Reaches Three-Decade High; Toll Brothers Feels the Pinch
In the latest sign that the housing market is deflating at a record pace, the National Association of Realtors said prices declined in more metropolitan areas in the first quarter than at any time in the past three decades.

The trade group said median prices fell in about 100 metro areas -- the most since the trade group began keeping such records in 1979. It also said Tuesday that median home prices rose in 48 metro areas -- the lowest number on record. Nationally, the median home price fell to $196,300, down 7.7% from a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, the group's economist, said the sales-price data are being distorted by foreclosed homes and other distressed sales, which are fueling price drops in certain neighborhoods, while the lack of available so-called jumbo mortgages for high-priced homes has resulted in fewer sales in upscale neighborhoods. The upshot is that the median price for a metro area may be falling, but the prices may very sharply "neighborhood by neighborhood," Mr. Yun said.

Still, high-end homes are clearly under some price pressure. Luxury builder Toll Brothers Inc., which reported preliminary second-quarter results on Tuesday, said its average home price dropped 17% to $590,000 from a year earlier and was down 7% from the previous quarter, partly because of increased incentives. Toll says it is offering most incentives on homes that were built for buyers who ultimately backed out of their contracts. The builder also said its average price was lower because it sold fewer homes in high-price markets such as California and Manhattan.

Toll says one of the biggest problems is that many buyers are putting down deposits but end up canceling because they fear they won't be able to sell their existing home. "They go to their friends and neighbors and say, 'We just bought a new home,' and everybody says 'What? Are you crazy? Prices are dropping,'" Chief Executive Robert Toll told analysts during a conference call.

There were some glimpses of improvement. The median price of existing single-family homes rose 3.2% to $280,000 in the Northeast in the first quarter, the NAR said. Mr. Toll reported a mixed bag in the Northeast, calling Putnam and Duchess counties in New York state and the state of Connecticut "B-plus" markets, while Massachusetts was a "D-minus" market.

Home prices fell 12.3% to $296,300 in the West and dropped 7.5% to $164,200 in the South. Yet Toll recently raised prices in a development in Naples, Fla., which had been one of the worst housing markets in the nation. "It gave us some happy times, especially considering that Naples was one of the worse markets," Mr. Toll said during the conference call.

Across most markets, however, Toll described the spring selling season as "quite weak," as buyers remained on the sidelines, despite improving housing affordability.

Toll's home-building revenue in the quarter ended April 30 fell 30% from the year-earlier period to $817.9 million. Net contracts for new homes fell 44% to 929 homes.

Analyst Ivy Zelman says even if Toll dropped its prices as much as other builders have, that might not generate many more sales in this high- end sector.

"Price is not the issue," Ms. Zelman said. "The problem is that many of Toll's buyers can't sell their existing homes. People are in a situation where they think 'I need to sell my house for $1 million and the best bid is $800,000.' They have negative equity, and they can't afford a down payment on a Toll Brother's home."

As home prices and sales decline, home builders have been writing down billions of dollars of land and inventory values on their books. Joel Rassman, the builder's chief financial officer, estimated second-quarter impairments would be in the range of $225 million to $375 million.

On the bright side, Toll reported about $1.2 billion in cash, which is expected to help the builder weather the downturn while credit tightens to buy land and pay for construction. Toll will release final second-quarter results June 3.

By: Michael Corkery
Wall Street Journal; May 14, 2008