If you’re in the market to buy a home, where do you get the most bang for your buck?
In 2015, the average closing price for a home sold in Orange County was $342,172, according to Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson. “This is a new high since (before) the recession,” he says.
2007, right before the housing crisis, was the only year in history that Orange County saw higher home prices – and if current trends continue, the county will break that record in 2016.
But what are the numbers underneath those numbers? How does the price of housing in Orange County compare with other counties in the area? If there’s a difference, what’s driving the difference? And is that difference growing, or shrinking?
Start with the average cost of a home. $342,000 is a lot to pay for a house – compare that to Durham County, where the average closing price was just over $200,000 in 2015. But Orange County is not number one, not anymore: closing prices are actually higher in Chatham.
“Chatham County peaked above Orange County for the first time last year,” Nelson says, “and (it) remains in that slot.”
In 2015, the average home buyer in Chatham County paid $359,000 for their house, $17,000 more than they did in Orange.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Orange County is offering a better value: Nelson says Chatham County houses are more expensive partly because they’re bigger. In terms of the cost of housing per square foot, Orange County is still the priciest: $142 per square foot, versus $138 in Chatham.
And if you want a home in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, you’re going to pay even more. Last year, the average home in Chapel Hill-Carrboro sold for more than $382,000, or $157 per square foot.
(Compare that to $107 per square foot in Durham.)
“Housing in Chapel Hill is 30 percent more per square foot in the district than it is in Durham,” Nelson says. “So that 3,000-square foot home – the same home – costs 30 percent more.”
So if you’re in the market for a new house, you can get a much better value in Durham – and a slightly better value in Chatham – than you can get in Orange County or Chapel Hill.
But there are signs that this may be changing. In Chatham County, the cost per square foot has gone up dramatically – nearly 10 percent in the last two years. In Durham it’s gone up about 6 percent.
In Orange County, though, exactly the opposite has occurred. “For the first time,” Nelson says, “last year we saw a slight decline.”
For the average home sold in Orange County, the cost per square foot actually dropped by 4.7 percent from 2013 to 2015.
So the value gap may be narrowing between Orange County and its neighbors.
But is that necessarily good?
“If you’re an affordable housing advocate, you are heartened by this information,” Nelson says, “(but) if you’re worried about the erosion of home value, you are concerned.”
The cost of housing in Chatham County is on the rise partly because it’s bigger – and partly because it’s newer. The same is true for Wake and Durham. The housing stock in Orange County, by contrast, tends to be significantly older – and that may be contributing to the decline in cost per square foot.
And the cost of the home itself is not the only factor when it comes to housing value. Don’t forget about taxes, Nelson says: “A $300,000 house in Orange County has a $150-a-month higher tax bill than the same house in Wake County.”
If you’re looking to get a mortgage, Nelson says that translates into about $28,000. “You can buy a slightly more expensive home in other markets,” he says, “so the taxes do impact our cost of housing.”
All of those numbers, Nelson says, are things that homebuyers do consider when it comes to making the decision to live – or not to live – in Orange County.
Nelson made those comments and delivered those statistics at his annual State of the Community Report, last week at the Friday Center.
This Monday and Tuesday, April 11 and 12, the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center is holding its 40th annual Scientific Symposium at the Friday Center, featuring more than a dozen speakers from around the country.
The free symposium is designed for graduate students, fellows, and researchers, but everyone’s invited – and organizers say there will be a lot of useful information even for members of the general public.
This year’s symposium is entitled “Molecularly Targeted Cancer Therapies from Bench to Bedside.” The discussion will center on RAS genes, a primary focus of current research: symposium co-organizer Dr. Al Baldwin says mutated RAS genes are a leading cause of many cancers, particularly pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Baldwin spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL last week.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/fighting-cancer-on-the-molecular-level
With the new year now upon us, lots of folks are making big plans for big trips and exotic experiences in 2016. But this year, you might also resolve to stay in Orange County – and take advantage of the experiences available right in your back yard.
Laurie Paolicelli of the Orange County Community Relations Department came up with a list of 10 things you can do in our community this year. How many can you check off in 2016?
Listen to Laurie’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
1. Take in a show at Memorial Hall. Carolina Performing Arts has a full calendar of shows, including Lil Buck @ Chapel Hill, A Jookin’ Jam Session in mid-April. Visit CarolinaPerformingArts.org for a list of shows, showtimes and tickets.
5. Check out Riverwalk in Hillsborough. Afterwards, head to Hillsborough Wine company, sit and window watch and have a glass of wine. Or enjoy hot tea at Weaver Street Market. (Inside tip: Bandido’s has the best guacamole around.)
6. Honeysuckle Tea House is a must-do for 2016, especially if you’ve never been. One of Orange County’s greatest hidden treasures.
7. Ice cream at Maple View. ‘Nuff said.
8. Take a class. We all get busy, but learning something new expands the brain and is a depression buster. The ArtsCenter in Carrboro offers courses in ceramics, dance, healing arts, jewelry making, photography, theater, improv, writing, and youth arts. Or take in a lecture at the Friday Center or on campus. (The GAA’s popular Civil War series is a good bet.)
10. Take in a show! Head downtown and check out the DSI Comedy Theater on West Franklin Street, one of the best improv theaters in the entire country…or if it’s a movie you’re after, head to Silverspot in University Place.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/resolve-to-experience-orange-county-in-2016
With the help of the state, UNC is expanding their certificate program for military personnel.
The UNC Core program offers online courses, which can be taken at the convenience of the service member and are meant to prepare them for entry into a UNC system school.
“The requirement is 27 hours of credit over the course of two or three years,” said Rob Bruce, director of the Friday Center. “You might have literature courses or physics or math or chemistry and you build the certificate by completing these courses.”
The Core program is not a degree program, but once the courses are completed, participants will earn a certificate. All of the credits earned will transfer to UNC system schools.
“It really gives military students a strong foundation in general education courses,” he said. “It really sets them up for the ultimate goal, which is for them to be admitted into a degree program and for them to complete their degree.”
The program has been in existence for a few years, but it has remained small. Bruce said this is because many don’t realize the program exists, but he expects it to grow as more people learn about it.
Last year the program had 10 enrollments. That number jumped to 50 this year.
“I will say percentage wise it’s a big jump,” he said. “But it’s still not good enough, no doubt about it. We’re expecting, once UNC Core gets up and running, we will have hundreds of enrollments in these programs.”
Bruce said the Friday Center will work to give students the resources they need, including an academic adviser with military education training.
“The next steps for the program is lots of course development,” he said. “We’re hiring additional instructional designers to help develop courses we see a need for.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-core-helps-military-personnel-earn-degrees
Cancer rates tend to increase as people get older, and cancer poses special challenges for older patients as well as caregivers. In addition, while doctors once fought cancer much the same way in every patient, researchers now are discovering that every individual requires a unique treatment strategy.
With those concerns and more in mind, the UNC Lineberger Center is inviting residents, older adults, cancer patients, caregivers – and anyone else with interest – to a symposium on “Cancer and Older Adults” Thursday, November 19, from noon to 5 pm at the Friday Center.
It’s a free public forum, featuring some of the Lineberger Center’s leading doctors and researchers, with talks and workshops highlighting the latest research and offering tools and tips for caregivers and patients fighting cancer. UNC women’s basketball head coach Sylvia Hatchell – herself a cancer survivor – is scheduled to be among the speakers.
Dr. Trevor Jolly is a geriatric oncologist at the Lineberger Center and one of the forum’s featured speakers. He stopped by WCHL this week and discussed the event with Aaron Keck.
Interest rates are likely to go up, oil prices are likely to increase a bit and then stabilize, and the overall U.S. economy is fairly strong – provided the federal government stops being dysfunctional.
That was the word from Gregory Miller, the chief economist at SunTrust Bank, at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Outlook Briefing Thursday morning.
The big concern right now: will the Fed raise interest rates? This month officials dropped the word “patience” in their report, which signals a possible increase around June. Some economists worry that could slow economic growth, but Miller says it’s important to remember that interest rates are historically low right now.
“Rising rates are not the same as high rates,” he says. “We have a long, long way to go to get to high interest rates.”
And he says a hike in interest rates could actually boost the economy in the short term – since it’ll lead investors to borrow money quickly, to avoid higher rates in the future.
Generally speaking, Miller says the overall U.S. economy is doing well – especially relative to the rest of the world. That means a strong dollar, which means lower prices for Americans at the stores.
Miller says the American economy is growing at a rate of about 2.4 percent. Economists say a 3-percent growth rate is needed to keep up with increasing job demands – but Miller says the private sector is actually already doing that well. What’s holding the economy back? He says the federal government is simply failing to pull its weight.
“The government’s started to come back,” he says. “State and local governments are already back – the federal government is the only one that’s (still) moving in the wrong direction.
“We suspect that through this year, the (federal) government should start to make a positive contribution to growth. If they do that, then the whole economy (will be) doing 3 percent – and everybody’s happy.”
Miller delivered his economic outlook briefing to a group of about 200 local business leaders and elected officials Thursday at the Friday Center. It was an optimistic outlook, in general – but he did say the positive trends could be jeopardized by increasing instability.
That could come globally if there is conflict or if other national economies collapse – or it could come domestically, when election season rolls around next year.
“When we are headed toward elections, the markets and the economy tend to turn uncertain,” Miller says.
So expect a possible slowdown next year – but until then, Miller says the overall picture is good.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/outlook-good-expert-says-u-s-economy-doing-well-despite-uncertainties
CHAPEL HILL – About 400 political and business leaders gathered at the Friday Center on Thursday for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, to honor outstanding local businesses, nonprofits, and individuals.
Meg McGurk of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership set the tone in her keynote address. “Downtown has reached a tipping point,” she told the attendees. “The private sector is investing in downtown on unprecedented levels, the public sector has taken a new pride in engaging in our downtown…(and) you are the ones that are making that change happen.”
The highlight of the annual meeting was the awarding of the Chamber’s annual Business of the Year honors:
• The Micro-Enterprise Business of the Year award went to Sweeps, a company that matches UNC students with locals in need of moving, cleaning, tutoring, and other odd jobs.
• The Large Business of the Year honor went to ARCA, an international manufacturer and distributer with global headquarters in Mebane.
• The Orange County Rape Crisis Center won the Chamber’s Nonprofit of the Year award.
And the Chamber also recognized three individuals as well. Longtime volunteer Irene Briggaman won the Ambassador of the Year award; UNC Executive Director of Real Estate Gordon Merklein won the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service award for his work not only with UNC, but also with various local service organizations. And outgoing Chamber board chair Paige Zinn recognized former Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton with the Chamber’s award for Leadership in Public-Private Partnership.
“Mark has demonstrated that you can support economic and community development without forswearing your interest in the environment and social justice,” Zinn said of Chilton.
Attendees at the meeting included state government officials, the three mayors of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough, and all but one member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/local-leaders-businesses-honor-local-leaders-businesses
The Inter-Faith Counsel celebrated 50 years of service at the Friday Center Thursday, June 6 with smooth jazz, delicious food and drinks – catered by Carolina Catering and Top Of The Hill, respectively. Ron Stutts emceed the event and speakers included Reverend Robert Seymour and J. Freeman. The elegance of the event was impeccable and second to none, except to the illuminated hearts of those involved, apart, or a product of, the Inter-Faith Counsel.