Monday, December 31, 2007

Over the Top Award for December

The Over The Top award for December goes to Balderdash in Hayes-Barton. This historic design is of the eurofabulous influence, not historic old Raleigh. This section of upper Cowper is becoming castlefied one estate at a time.

Price: $ 3,695,000 / Bedrooms: 4 / Total Full Baths: 4 / Total Half Baths: 2 / Garage: 2-Car / Acres: .46 / R-4
Estimated Sq.Ft.: 1300 (?!) perhaps 7500... or 75,000.
House and lot purchased 7/20/2006 for $1.125M.


The history of the neighborhood, as taken from the Raleigh Architectural Survey, notes:
By contrast, the grandest of the second wave of suburbs is Hayes Barton, Raleigh's first twentieth century upper-class neighborhood. Bordered by Glenwood Avenue, Fairview Road, Williamson Drive, and St. Mary's Street, Hayes Barton is an exclusive residential district where pecan and willow oak trees shade Georgian and Colonial Revival houses along streets that bear the names of former North Carolina governors such as Jarvis, Reid, Stone, and Vance. The earliest house here dates back to June, 1920, when the suburb developed by the Allen Brothers and the Fairview Realty Company began its transformation from the cotton fields of B. Grimes Cowper. Marketed specifically towards the high end of the economic scale, Hayes Barton was named for Sir Walter Raleigh's birthplace in Devon, England.

Hayes Barton is one of several upper and middle-income suburbs in North Carolina designed by Earle Sumner Draper, a distinguished landscape architect. His layout of Hayes Barton was similar in overall character to Myers Park in Charlotte; in 1911, John Nolen, a pioneering city planner, had created the Myers Park design which was a highly influential diagram for spatial and social organization throughout the south. There, Nolen formulated components for a successful suburban enclave such as curving streets, greenway parks, streetcar transportation, and a restricted number of entrances. [35] Hayes Barton appealed to the well-to-do with its promise of privacy, large wooded lots, and commuting distance to downtown Raleigh.

Soon after utility linkages and paved roads were installed, there was a rush to build on the 175 acres. The design of the 1920s housing stock followed traditional and popular tastes, mainly large Colonial Revival houses. The majority of dwellings are two stories tall, built of masonry, with gable roofs and handsome restrained classical details. A substantial proportion of the houses are custom designs by local architects such as Thomas W. Cooper, William H. Deitrick, Charles Atwood, Arthur C. Nash, and James A. Salter. The most prolific builders in Hayes Barton were James A. Davidson, C. V. York, Howard Satterfield, John W. Coffey, and Roland Danielson. In some cases these men built from architects' designs, but some, such as Satterfield, designed as well as built houses. Nearly half of all the dwellings in Hayes Barton were erected during the 1920s; they were inhabited by insurance agents and bankers, physicians and attorneys, salesmen and administrators, many of whom were employed in downtown Raleigh. Hayes Barton was and is an area of impeccably manicured landscapes, and pristinely maintained residences which still house some of the capital city's political and social leaders.

A drive through the neighborhood reveals a diminishing mix of housing styles. Some of the later homes were built during earlier waves of infill. These houses are meeting with the wrecking ball and houses surpassing the current median value are taking their place. Watch out for the day when the older fine homes are deemed insufficient.

Raleigh Envy?

From The Charlotte Observer | Opinion | December 30, 2007

Reining in teardowns
Charlotte loses more than bungalows when neighborhoods flip

Here's an item of interest: Raleigh's City Council will start the new year by examining ways to rein in a troubling trend: teardowns that replace homes in established neighborhoods with behemoths that are out of scale and out of keeping .

Funny, we aren't hearing anything about that from Charlotte's City Council. We ought to be. It's rampant in valuable, close-in neighborhoods. Unchecked, the practice will undermine one of Charlotte's primary assets -- thriving older neighborhoods, mostly near the city center -- by changing the character, history and mix of incomes that make them appealing.

Take a drive through almost any of Charlotte's older neighborhoods -- Myers Park, Freedom Park, Plaza-Midwood, Sedgefield -- and you'll see the issue. Huge houses that sometimes dwarf neighboring residences are supplanting the sturdy bungalows and brick post-war homes that define those areas.

Teardowns aren't necessarily bad. But when you cram a three-story 6,000-square-foot home on a narrow urban lot designed to hold a story-and-a-half, 1,500-square-footer, you wind up with something that towers over existing homes and changes the streetscape. Do it enough and you also alter the diversity of those neighborhoods, which thrive, in part, because they offer housing affordable to a wide mix of income levels.

In Charlotte, there's not much to keep that from happening. The exception: In local historic districts new construction has to maintain the scale, proportion and context of the existing neighborhood. But such districts are small, and getting a neighborhood designated isn't easy.

In Raleigh the City Council is looking for other solutions. A year-long in-depth study will be completed this spring. Next month the council will consider requiring Planning Commission approval for additions or new construction 25 percent bigger than the original structure.

That's an idea with merit. It won't keep anybody from developing their property or adding on to their house. But it will provide oversight until more permanent measures are in place.

Charlotte's City Council should be seeking solutions, too -- now. The pace of change is astounding.

Why should cities care if big, new houses are altering the character of urban neighborhoods? Because those neighborhoods' value is tied to their character, their mix of people and the quality of life they sustain. Lose that, and you've lost more than bungalows and streetscapes.

Yep, so why is this a public policy issue and not a "no-brainer" about property rights? Repeating, "Why should cities care if big, new houses are altering the character of urban neighborhoods? Because those neighborhoods' value is tied to their character, their mix of people and the quality of life they sustain. Lose that, and you've lost more than bungalows and streetscapes." Fallonia would add, you lose the heart of the city itself.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Status of Things

From the N&O ...

Raleigh City Council to weigh control of teardown replacements

RALEIGH - Some say a proposal aimed at reining in teardowns could be the death knell for the city's housing market. Others say it's a good temporary fix to preserving the character of established neighborhoods.

The proposal before the City Council next month would require Planning Commission approval for home additions or new construction that is 25 percent bigger than the original structure.

"We have an issue here that needs to be dealt with in a fair way," said council member Thomas Crowder, who says the proposal -- with some fixes to simplify it -- has merit. ...

From the Independent:

Taming Raleigh's teardown trend
Raleigh city leaders, neighborhood activists and builders are considering two options to address teardowns and infill development. The number of teardowns in Raleigh has exceeded 600 since 2002.

The old council majority wouldn't touch it. The new majority, elected in October, is wrestling with it, and it's causing the first fissure in their ranks. The issue is the rash of teardowns in Raleigh, mostly in older, inside-the-Beltline neighborhoods, and whether new McMansions should be allowed to proliferate alongside—and perhaps muscle out—the ranches and bungalows of yesteryear. ...

These two articles will give you some idea of the public policy side of this debate. The address of your city councilors can be found at the end of this blog. I encourage anyone whose neighborhood is impacted by this trend to contact the city before the Jan. 8 meeting, and encourage your neighbors to be involved as well.

If not, this will become the prevailing wind in your neighborhood:
"The reasons these tax values are up is due to the teardown lot values," [Wes] Minton said. "A half acre lot is worth $500,000, $600,000, $700,000 ... If this proposal gets approved, your lot is no longer worth that."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

But Wait, There's More ...

My holiday gift to you, Over The Top Holiday Lights.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holidays

The Christmas Castle

BOSTON -- A homeowner in Jamaica Plain is drawing a lot of attention for his Christmas display.

NewsCenter 5's Mary Saladna reported that Dominic Luberto bought the single-family castle along the Arborway about one year ago. He said that Christmas lights have always been a life-long passion. "There are about 130,00 lights (on the house)," Luberto said. "Half done."

This blog details the progress on the display, and some dismay.

The informal friendly competition for house lighting at the holidays is now referred to as creating a "Dominic Luberto."

I have my own predictions as to which Raleigh castle would be mostly likely to install Luberto lighting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Revisiting Rothgeb

Several houses in the area of this rebuilders' classic have traded hands recently. Expectations for their speculations may depend on the answer to this question ... how did the house do on the market?

Still asking $1,399,000 in June 2007, the retail market price, without going over is:
HMMM ... no sale listed.

But wait, there are lights on and people living there now. It must have its Certificate of Occupancy because it has a tax value now, listed to a builder. Current standings are--

Zoning R-4 Acreage .41

Pkg Sale Date 8/17/2005
Pkg Sale Price $335,000

NEW Heated Area 5,436
Land Value Assessed $399,600
Bldg. Value Assessed $705,533
Total Value Assessed $1,105,133

Recent speculative sales on Rothgeb (based on corporate names for the purchaser) include:

Zoning R-4 Acreage .37
Permit Date 11/14/2007 (could be a demolith by now)
Deed Date 10/10/2007
Pkg Sale Price $425,000
Heated Area 1,778

Zoning R-4 Acreage .46
Permit Date (none at this time)
Deed Date 8/23/2007
Pkg Sale Date 5/17/2007
Pkg Sale Price $365,000
Heated Area 1,270

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Breaking News

After all the speculation about Garage Majal on Glenwood ... the story on the street was that Mr X was building it for his own use, well, it is for sale.

Got a $2,300,000 windfall -- this one is for you. If you need to make payments, then a $500,000 down-payment will get you to the $11,000 a month range, 30 years. I think the SECU still requires 25% down and a 25 year loan, so if you are a state employee, those numbers will be higher.

Gotta warn you about the neighborhood, though. Some houses on that block are for sale in the $800,000 range.

For all you budding entrepreneurs, here are how the numbers add up:

Purchased price, 2005: $385,500
Newly appraised values:
Land Value Assessed $453,600
Bldg. Value Assessed $99,000

If you do the 3x flip, then $1.15 million would have been the expected price range. If you take $2.3M and divide by 3, you get $766,667, but the land was half that, so my guess is that the build cost plus the land equals half of the asking price.

Nice flip, sir. Those 7500 square foot houses have been a shortage in town.

And in this corner...

From the News & Observer

Pam Woodyard:
Oct 12, 2007
Like fine wine, homes should age well

Never before have I lived in an expanding area like North Raleigh. Even after six years here I am still thrilled and almost overwhelmed by all the development -- especially the residential development. ...

As I looked out the windows of a million-dollar home, it occurred to me that the homes of my childhood were older homes even for 30 years ago. Parade of Homes properties are new homes that are built to look like older homes on the outside.

I began to wonder, with all the new construction in Raleigh, what happens to our existing neighborhoods. In North Hills and other sections of the city, homes are being razed and replaced by new, larger properties featuring open floor plans. Sometimes this is tastefully done and in other instances taste is not part of the equation.

This columnist writes for the North Raleigh News, making it hard for Fallonia to be a regular reader. Written during the Parade of Homes, the columnist ponders the teardown and buildup trend, and offers some commentary on the issue. As a fan of "high-end" homes, she recently found herself looking out the window at the neighborhood beyond the house. "[T]o raze and replace changes the character of a neighborhood," notes Woodyard.

Her newcomer status shows in this quote: "Did you ever wonder how some neighborhoods become historic like Oakwood? Who allows them to age gracefully while other neighborhoods become worn down or torn down? " Could it be because of the craftsmanship of that era, she wonders. "According to [Sarah] Susanka's book, '...when a well crafted object ages, no matter what it is, society almost always helps it to age well.'"

Oakwood was pretty far down on its luck when it was plucked from the bulldozer jaws. The rest is history, as they say. As I watch the new wave of neighborhood teardowns, solid nicely-sized homes being bought to get a good address for huge 5-star resort-style homes, I think it is more than that. In Oakwood, there was potential and opportunity. In the parts of town that are at a similar age-span to Oakwood at that time, the prices are exorbitant, and the opportunity is for catching the wave while it is high. This puts the value of the home purely into the economic equation.

To a person, the new neighbor will speak of loving the the character of the old neighborhood. That does not change for them, as their windows still yield the same view, for now. The older residents don't see it quite like that anymore.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is That What It Is Called?

From Memphis:

Real Estate & Development
Grace Development Couples Preservation With Infill
ERIC SMITH | The Daily News
A local company is putting a different twist on infill development by building new homes on a 1.3-acre East Memphis parcel while keeping the property's existing 1928 home in place.

Cluster of jewels
Infill developments typically involve the razing of homes, but the developers of this project were so enamored with the look and feel of the existing home that they chose to keep it, albeit with some minor upgrades, including an updated kitchen.

They figure a modernized home with "good bones" will be easy to market, especially one charming enough to be featured in Decorating Magazine 10 years ago for its interior designs.

"It should be a good opportunity for us and somebody else," Bagley said. "I think someone's going to get a jewel if they get that house. It's not very often you find an older house like that that's got those really nice features."

Add in a trio of large new homes on small lots - i.e., no lawn to worry about - and the developers and Realtor believe they have a winning formula.

There's a term for this:

"I don't know if it's going to be as simple as putting a sign up, but I do think there's a market in that area for zero-lot-line living," ...

Coming soon, to a neighborhood near you.

Monday, December 17, 2007


It takes a certain eye to see your home this way.

In general terms, here’s what ... custom-home developers are looking for when they drive by your home, if you live in the area from ... Park up through ... Hollow:

• Older homes, often ranch-style built from the 1940s to the 1960s.
• Houses 1,200 to 2,400 square feet.
• Deep lots that can accommodate new construction and leave space for a yard.
• Mature trees on the lot.
• The character of the block, i.e., the condition of the homes near the property, the setback requirements, etc.
• Other teardowns. “It takes a real gutsy builder to be the first one in an area."

Once you get a feeling for whether a property is a teardown—meaning its primary value is in the lot—then you run the numbers and see if you (or the potential developers to whom you sell) can make a tidy profit. In general, you want to be able to sell a new home for three times the lot (or teardown) value. If new homes are going for $750,000 in the neighborhood, you won’t want to pay much more than $250,000 for the lot. (When you get into multimillion-dollar homes, you can get away with 2.5 times lot price.) Then you talk to real estate agents, look at what houses have gone for in the neighborhood, check how many days they’re sitting on market, and talk to potential buyers.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

From the NY Times today

The Heart of Teardown Country
Published: December 16, 2007
HAVE you ever lived near a teardown in progress? Has it ever been your daily fate to deal with noise, smells, dirt and construction crews right next door — only to behold, after endless months, a space-hogging “mansionization” in place of the petite Cape Cod you used to find so sweet?

If not, your turn may come sooner than you think. Despite the overall problems troubling the nation’s real estate market, the New York metropolitan region has now surpassed Chicago, the former record holder, to become the teardown capital of the United States, according to a recent report by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has been tracking the phenomenon since 2002. ...

On Speculation:

It is the size of the profit margins required by speculators that has caused some to opt out, said Daniel McMillen, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has conducted a financial analysis of teardowns in the Chicago area. Builders like to sell for two or three times the original price, he said, so “the slowdown in the housing market will slow teardowns being done on speculation.”

But regardless of how quickly a teardown project goes or how much money the rebuild sells for, the neighbors always take notice. Some will probably be up in arms about a spate of demolitions destroying the character of their community; others will be delighted at the prospects that the new construction will increase their own property values.

Tensions and Solutions?
After watching the razing of several older houses in the hamlet of Oyster Bay, on Long Island, irate residents formed a group they called Save the Jewel by the Bay. It was instrumental in instituting an 18-month moratorium on both demolitions and new construction, which ended in June, said Kathryn Prinz, a founder. Now anyone planning to demolish a house built more than 50 years ago must appear before a review board to get permission.

Gordon F. Joseloff, the founder of a Connecticut online newspaper called, riled residents two years ago when he instituted a feature called Teardown of the Day. It includes a photograph of a property newly proposed for demolition, as well as the address, the listing details and the sale price.

Mr. Joseloff, who has since been elected Westport’s first selectman (the equivalent of mayor), believes that his site’s exposure of teardown properties was what persuaded the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to impose a 90-day waiting period on such projects. In addition, the town has hired a land-use consulting firm to help develop laws to regulate the size of new houses. . . .

But neighbors can be equally vociferous in their support of teardowns. Mr. Joseloff says that he has fielded angry calls from Westport residents who accuse him of “messing with their nest egg” by imposing size restrictions that will ultimately damage their ability to reap a substantial profit from the sale of their homes.

Frank J. Mottola Jr., the Building Department’s director and the zoning officer for the Borough of Tenafly, N.J., said, “Neighborhood groups spring up only when we attempt to curtail the use of land in their area.” He receives several teardown applications each month, he said, and almost every one is for a much larger home.

“Our Planning Board grappled with this, to put a limit on the new construction so it doesn’t appear out of scale for the neighborhood,” he explained. But, he added, “people look at their home as more of an investment than they used to, and they don’t want their development rights curtailed.”

A good article, well worth the reading -- with an open mind. It should help identify the tensions and trends.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Historical Highlights

Fallonia is a big fan of recycling -- and all things historic. So here is a link to an early post on neighborhood history, which has a link to the Raleigh City Museum Architectural Survey, for the new readers among us.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fallon Park Update

318 Avon

Zoning R-6
Acreage .18
Permit Date
Permit # 0000070471
Heated Area 1,207

Transfer Information
Deed Date 9/27/2007
Pkg Sale Date 9/27/2007
Pkg Sale Price $285,000

From Closing to Demo Permit: 2 weeks. As of today, using R-6 setback footprint, footings have been poured.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guest Comment

People that care about protecting existing neighborhoods need to speak up. We are out numbered 4 to one in public meetings right now. Contact the news media and council members and Planning Commission members.

There are also discussions at:

and to name a couple.

Those links are easily found in the Reader Feeder on the right -FP

Fallon Park Update

Reaves Street Teardown 12/07/2007
The ink dried on 10/15/2007. The trees were in the truck by 12/10.

Why is every body always picking on me ...
--Wooly Wooly

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Infill Debate and the Planning Commission

Does this say Bloomsbury to you?

For those of you following the game of dodge ball the city is playing on the teardown field, the ball was bounced out of bounds today.

The plays so far: the planning department made some strict recommendations, which were tossed to the city council, who sent the problem back to the planning staff, who came back to the Council with 3 more plays, who tossed the whole matter to the planning commission, who stopped play today, and then kicked it out into the netherlands. Last we saw, a City Councilor was trying to find the ball to get it back into play.

The WRAL report is here. They say the total is now 600 homes. Fallonia is within one mile of 2 dozen of these. Just this month the average teardown activity is one a week.

A exploratory drive on Runnymeade will show that there are 9 new houses in a row at the start of the street, then a scattered situation of new houses as the street continues. There is no doubt in my mind that once the activity begins, it trends through the area until the old houses begin to look like they do not fit. Soon these will be new very expensive neighborhoods.

This is a sad state of affairs. This issue will be revisited at the January 8 City Council meeting. If you are concerned about things on your street, the time is here for letting the City know how you see this issue.

Monday, December 10, 2007

As the man said ...

Not every one is so excited about the gold mine.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Demographics Anyone

Browsing around town on the internet, looking up a particular property for sale in the area, I encountered a site called Obeo which allows you to research the real estate and the demographics. On this site I learned two things about my part of town: education and age. It is fascinating.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Big Bucks on Buckingham

A trip down Buckingham to Yarmouth to Westwood in Coley Forest reveals some interesting developments there. This neighborhood is one of Raleigh's hidden treasures, a thoroughly wooded, settled suburb dating back to the 50's and 60's. Because the houses are larger than the inner ring recovery-era houses, this neighborhood has been home to growing families for decades.

It looks like the building boom began as it usually does, a small dated house on a large lot (or two) gives way to a new larger home. Then it happens again, and again, and before you know it, Big Foot arrives.

Once this level of contrast begins, the real estate game is on. Like the Gold Rush, the momentum rises and the speculators arrive, loans in hand, to cash in on the opportunity.

There seems to be a money tree growing in our midst. Neighborhood by neighborhood, house by house, our way of life is challenged.

It raises important questions. I hope we have the guts to ask them.

Take a Sunday drive down any of the roads on our Magical Missinghouse Tour and the envision Raleigh of the future -- is it a place you will call home?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Over the Top Award for November

November's OTT award winner is Chateau ChĂȘne Blanc. Almost complete, this home takes its place on a 1+ acre lot alongside other generously-sized properties on White Oak Rd. The land beneath this house is recently valued over $900,000. No record of the purchase price is available, it is zoned R-4.

OTT reported the original home's disappearance in June and September. Part of a continuing change on the major avenues, the mix of older homes and several new Over The Top houses and subdivisions are doing everything but blending together these days.

BTW, this lack of blend is duly noted on the City-Data Forum. After a wonderful description of life ITB, it concludes with this advice:

Be advised that living ITB comes with a cost premium. You will get less house (s.f.) than elsewhere. You will pay more per s.f. when you buy or rent. But, for those of us who think life is more about what happens outside our immediate property than inside, I highly recommend you give it a good long look.

Then a poster adds this:
I have read a little about tear down neighborhoods - problems with large homes over shadowing smaller older ones. Are certain neighborhoods more prone to this??

Some neighborhoods have fought for historic designation to ward off such vile activity. However, there are some neighborhoods where the existing home is in such bad repair that the cost of fixing it up is higher than scraping and building new. In these cases, you might see an appropriately scaled new home in a historic district.

If I were trying to avoid the most amount of scraping, I'd avoid Anderson Heights (Anderson Drive and White Oak Rd area). There is a lot of this sort of activity going on there mainly because there are lots of small homes on large lots near some of the most oustanding homes in the city. However, it's not just the small homes being scraped. Sometimes big homes are torn down in favor of even bigger, fancier ones. When they are done, there won't be any small(ish) homes in that neighborhood.
As for the neighborhoods that see less of this activity, I'd say that Cameron Park, Oakwood, Mordecai, Boylan Heights and Glenwood/Brooklyn are safer bets.

That takes us back full circle. I will miss the graceful older homes and the people who graced them.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

New and Improved

Two new widgets added to this blog ... a reader feeder for articles that are relevant, and a google map highlighting the teardown activity. I can open the map up for collaboration if readers would prefer.

Look to the right >>>>

Coming Soon, to a Neighborhood Near You

A local bi-political blog has opened the question of whether efforts by our city to deal with the issues of infill and refill in Raleigh's older neighborhoods is an effort to control growth in town disguised as neighborhood protection. In the post, the author suggests that it is "an odd thing" that any one would oppose redevelopment of existing neighborhoods with new higher priced homes. He suggests a building moratorium may be afoot.

To prevent further damage to Fallonia's sensitive inner balance, the following response was posted.

You raise a serious question here, but are minimizing the problems that can occur when a stable older neighborhood is changed drastically by new development. For the city to retain it's beautiful older charm, willy-nilly rebuilding is not in its best interest. A home that is built with respect to its neighbors will not elicit the same outrage as a home that is built only to maximize its profitability.

There is a balance to maintain so that people who have invested in living in their homes are not driven out because of rising valuations based on the recent sales of bigger homes in the neighborhood -- and the unpleasant conditions that constant construction brings.

For example, if the teardown movement gets next door to my house, the money I have invested in renovating my much smaller home may not be realized when I sell. Do I continue to care for my home (fix the foundation, pay big money to prune the trees, replace the windows) or do I just let it fall apart since it will be torn down now that the new neighborhood is unaffordable to me and my kind?

If everything unique about the city goes in the landfill, is the city still unique? Meeker and the city council are charged with care for the whole city, and this includes historic buildings, tree-lined streets, property and values. The dollar does not outweigh respect, and if some of the new infill was built with more consideration (and there is much that is built respectfully and creatively), it would have passed less noticed.

But this is not strictly about property rights or infill. Everyone in Raleigh needs to be paying attention, it can happen in any neighborhood if older well-priced stable communities can go down. What is going on is a turnover of ITB property to the highest bidder. Raleigh is not special in this regard, but to keep a mixture of population and housing near the city core, there will need to be some revision of the current code.

Atlanta did a good job of this. The architects and home builders worked with the city to come up with a better code for existing neighborhoods. The only way they were brought to the same table was thru a moratorium, however. Interrupting the flow of cash may be the only language that brings better outcome for all. [see Atlanta Infill Task Force on this blog]

From where I sit, the city would not want to cut off the flow of cash to them by being too strict in town, but could this be about trying to bring reason to the table?

If you have not done so, please let our City Councillors know your thoughts on this subject. A link is provided at the end of this frame.

Your way of life depends on it.