Triangle: Hot spell

 In NC Trend

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By April Dudash

Hot, strong and interesting. Those are the three words Phyllis Brookshire uses to describe the Raleigh housing market. As president of Allen Tate Realtors, the Raleigh native oversees 1,400 real-estate agents in four regions of the Carolinas.

In many parts of Raleigh and the Triangle, there aren’t enough homes for sale to keep up with demand, and new homes are not being built fast enough to satiate all buyers and price levels. Homes in desirable neighborhoods throughout the region are selling within days or, sometimes, hours.

“Every market has something that’s unique about it,” Brookshire says. “This one is really about lack of inventory, and we have a good economy here. We have job creation. We’re still very affordable compared to most places.”

Raleigh has about a 2.3-month inventory of homes, according to a June report by the Triangle MLS, while the national average is 4.6 months.

A May study by Realtor.com identified Raleigh as one of the top 10 hot spots for relocations in the U.S. The website examined census data, cross-metro moving requests and web search traffic. It’s also a top destination for millennials, according to a June report by the National Association of Realtors.

The result is a seller’s paradise in the Triangle, and homeowners are being courted from all sides. Interested homebuyers are sending letters to sellers explaining why they should be their top pick. Some homes for sale line up as many as 20 showings their first day on the market. Realtors are trying to woo homeowners who don’t have their homes listed yet by sending postcards and making cold calls, Brookshire says.

“Sometimes you just need a little trigger to think about it, and some people are getting ready to put their house on the market,” she says. “It’s just about getting out there in front of them.”

New home starts in the Triangle stalled during the recession, dropping from 17,000 in 2007 to fewer than 5,000 in 2009, according to Metrostudy, a U.S. provider of market information to the housing industry. With limited inventory, existing homes priced at $300,000 and below are harder to come by. People hoping to buy in that price range are instead moving to more rural areas, buying in-town fixer-uppers in need of renovations or opting to rent homes or apartments, says Jay Colvin, regional director of the Carolinas for Metrostudy.

“There are a lot of folks who want to live [in North Carolina,]” he says. “While prices [of homes] have gone up, it’s relatively affordable compared to the incomes people are making.”


Crying foul

Christian Laettner’s venture into real-estate investing never proved as successful as his time on the basketball court, where he led the Duke Blue Devils to two NCAA championships in the early 1990s and then earned more than $60 million during his 13-year career in the pros. Now he faces a different kind of court, with five creditors, including Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, pressing Laettner’s assets into a voluntary restructuring in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Middle District of North Carolina. Unless Laettner is able to pay debts totaling $14 million or negotiate an agreement, which was being considered at press time, his creditors could take possession of his remaining real-estate holdings.

Laettner, former teammate Brian Davis and developer Tom Niemann started Blue Devil Ventures in 1995, using historic tax credits and other incentives to buy five tobacco warehouses in downtown Durham and convert them into apartments. Several years later, the real-estate firm bought and redeveloped more nearby buildings, leading to the 609 apartments and 104,000 square feet of commercial space now known as West Village. But between 2011 and 2013, Blue Devil Ventures had soldmost of the project to Maryland-based Federal Capital Partners and its joint-venture partner, Greensboro-based Bell Partners. FCP and Bell Partners resold the property for $187 million in February, according to the Triangle Business Journal. Laettner and Davis had an interest of about $10 million when the latest sale went through, Laettner’s lawyer told ESPN in July.

Meanwhile, efforts to replicate West Village’s success in Baltimore and other cities haven’t panned out for Laettner. Retired athletes Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls, NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman and Duke basketball star Johnny Dawkins have won separate judgments totaling about $7 million against Laettner and Davis. One highly publicized, costly affair was their failed bid to buy the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies in 2006. In addition to Laettner’s multiple business fouls, he was served with a notice of foreclosure in March 2015 on his $3.65 million mansion in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.  Records show the house was sold in October 2015. He still lives in the Jacksonville area, according to a friend who asked to remain anonymous.

— Amanda Lea


CARY — Relias Learning will invest $4.5 million and add 450 jobs over four years in an expansion of its local office, where it employs 300. Based here since 2012, the company provides online educational programs for health care workers. New jobs include ones in research and development, sales and marketing, and administration. The company could receive up to $5.4 million in state grants if it meets hiring targets.

SOUTHERN PINES — First Bancorp will acquire Carolina Bank Holdings, based in Greensboro, for about $97.3 million. Carolina Bank has eight branches and about $706 million in assets. The combined company will have about $4.1 billion in assets when the deal closes, expected by the first quarter of 2017.

DURHAM — LED lighting company Cree will sell its Wolfspeed power and radio-frequency division to Infineon Technologies, a Munich, Germany-based chip-maker, for $850 million in cash. The deal is expected to close by year-end.

DURHAM — Patheon raised $640 million in an initial public offering. The drugmaker sold 17.6 million shares priced at  $21 each. Patheon went private in 2014 when it merged with Netherlands-based vitamin-maker DSM Pharmaceutical Products.

DURHAM — Bioventus filed for an initial public offering, seeking to raise $182.6 million. Started in 2012, the company makes products to help patients heal from bone and joint injuries, diseases and surgeries. Sales exceeded $253 million in 2015.

CHAPEL HILL — Southern Season filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, closing stores in Richmond, Va., and Mount Pleasant, S.C. The gourmet-food retailer will focus on its local 60,000-square-foot flagship store, online sales and smaller “Taste of Southern Season” shops. Plans to open stores in Southern Pines and Wilmington are unaffected by the filing.

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