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G.I. Lawrie Lawrence-(704) 994-8641

By G.I. LAWRIE LAWRENCE, Realtor | Broker in Mooresville, NC
  • The History of Lake Norman

    Posted Under: General Area in Mooresville, Home Buying in Mooresville, In My Neighborhood in Mooresville  |  August 28, 2014 9:27 AM  |  10 views  |  No comments

    Lake Norman’s original purpose was to provide fresh water and flood control for the region. Fifty years later, the lake has transformed into a statewide destination, and the story of what lies beneath its waters continues to fascinate.


    Today Cowans Ford Dam looks about like it did one Sunday afternoon in 1963 when our daddy piled my three younger sisters, my brother, and me into our white Rambler station wagon. We were just out of church and we drove north from Charlotte past Derita and Huntersville, down a country road — N.C. Highway 73 — to a vast and hot construction site. Steel trestles. Train cars. Miles of white. We all piled out and climbed to a concrete viewing stand. Daddy waved his arms and explained hydroelectric dams and how everything would be forever changed. He said the dam was 130 feet high, and he told us all about the water below, more than 32,000 acres of it covering houses and trees.

    We got back in the car and drove north again to a wooded area way off the main road. We walked through the briars to look out. “When we get the road built, this will be our lot,” Daddy said. All we could see was a red clay field with tree trunks sticking up. But Daddy was waving his arms again. And there it was. The water from the Catawba River backing up to become Lake Norman. It had been inching its way up the 33 miles from that giant dam for months.


    Duke Power had been damming the Catawba River since the early part of the century to create hydroelectric power. Lake Norman was the final and largest of the seven lakes on the river, from just above Morganton down to where the Catawba joins the Santee-Cooper in South Carolina. Duke had been buying the land since the 1920s, and by the 1950s the company had almost all it needed for the project.

    Duke bought land from Wib Overcash, who is now 86 and remembers well when the waters began to rise. Overcash sold 72 acres, land that had been in his wife’s family since the 1700s. Duke paid Overcash about $200 an acre, and in July 1963, Overcash brought his kids to camp on their new lakeshore. They had a 50-gallon drum for water, and no electricity.

    Overcash’s is just one example of a family whose land now lies beneath the waters of the lake, which turns 50 this year. In 1963, when the lake first began to fill, it swallowed farms, buildings, churches. The shoreline stretches 520 miles and the surface area is about 32,000 acres — the size of about 25,000 football fields. Its waters are in four counties. The lake is so massive, people call it the “inland sea.”

    ‘Prosperity gained’

    The planning for Lake Norman began long before 1963. A Duke Power Company forester named Carl Blades walked every inch of those bottomlands, talking to the reluctant farmers who didn’t understand what was coming. The project meant moving cemeteries and homes. In 1957 plans were announced for building the dam at the historic Cowans Ford where Revolutionary War Gen. William Lee Davidson was killed. Gov. Luther Hodges visited in September 1959 to blast the first dynamite for the dam. Bishop Nolan Harmon of the Methodist Church was there to pray, “May the land lost prove prosperity gained.”

    But the idea was first introduced in 1895, after the world’s first hydroelectric plant was built at Niagara Falls. William States Lee, a young engineer from South Carolina, was there working on the project and reportedly said, “Why can’t we do this back home on the Catawba River?”

    In 1905, Lee and his friend Dr. Walker Gill Wiley met with James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, North Carolina’s tobacco and textile giant. When Lee and Wiley explained the idea of damming the Catawba River for power, Duke gave them a check for $50,000 to begin the Catawba Power Company (later Southern Power, finally named Duke Power).

    Lee’s great-grandson, States Lee, stands on a lake pier and recalls adventures with his father, Bill, who served as chief engineer for the lake and later as president and CEO of Duke. States and Bill surveyed the area, climbing through a hollow with pokeberries and briars. When Bill took out a 16-penny nail and hammered it into the base of a pine tree, he told States, then 6, what would happen. “When this lake fills up, it will be two feet below this tree. Now we know where to build our pier.”

    By the summer of 1963, the water came right up to Bill’s pier. The new lake, named for Duke’s president, Norman Cocke, was the last link in a mighty power chain on the Catawba River. Lake Norman would provide electricity via the hydroelectric dam on the south end and by another coal-fired station, Marshall Steam Station, on the north, with plans for nuclear stations in the years to come. (McGuire remains the single nuclear power plant on the shore.) Lake Norman would provide flood control and fresh water for the four-county region. And in the years to come, it would become a recreational destination for thousands of people in the Carolinas.

    Critters and caviar

    Duke had predicted that the lake would reach full pond — 760 feet above sea level — in 1964, but heavy spring rains surprised everyone, and by the middle of July, the lake was full and open for business.

    Families like ours could lease one-acre waterfront lots for $120 a year. Suddenly, people from all over Charlotte were coming to the lake to clear brush and build piers. The massive shoreline touched four counties — Mecklenburg, Iredell, Catawba, and Lincoln. Duke reserved much of the waterfront for future power sites. And there were restrictions on the lots that were leased. (Duke did not sell lots until 1977.) Private developers, some of them former farmers, established subdivisions with names like “Island Forest” and “Isle of Pines.”

    Our family was part of that first pilgrimage of station wagons loaded with children and camping gear who drove up N.C. Highway 115 and U.S. Highway 21. Our lot was at the end of Brawley School Road peninsula in a place called Meck Neck. There was only one road in and it didn’t have more than 20 permanent families in the first three miles. In the middle of the peninsula was Morrow’s Chapel AME church, somehow untouched by the flood. Around another curve, we saw the abandoned cemetery for Williamson’s Methodist Church that had been moved to higher ground. After that it was one long, lonely seven-mile stretch of two-lane blacktop that ended in the water.

    Enterprising Charlotteans opened businesses on the lake to serve the coming wave of people. Buck Teague and his family created Outrigger Harbor, complete with the Kon Tiki dinner boat. There was a paddle-wheel tour boat called the Robert E. Lee. Soon came Oni’s Landing, Country Corner Marine, Commodore, and Wher-Rena Marina. Our parents opened John’s Landing and John’s Trading Post, advertised as “Dealer in Most Everything.” This meant we sold both night crawlers and caviar. People brought their fish in to be weighed, and we took photos with a brand new Polaroid camera.

    On a recent June morning I visited Lake Norman again. I drove to the Cowans Ford Dam, still imposing and white, and then headed to Brawley School Road, looking for anything familiar. The road is five lanes now, with flowering trees and sidewalks and a bike path all the way down the peninsula. I passed golf courses and mansions on streets named Andover, Southwick, Yarmouth.

    Much has changed here. More than 17,000 people now call this peninsula home. Thousands more visit the lake every summer, and I know when they see that shoreline, they surely feel the same excitement I did when I first saw those waters rise.

    Under Lake Norman

    A lot lies under the water. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the lake’s creation, Davidson College archivists created a website to document the land and structures that were covered in 1963.

    Davidson archivist Jan Blodgett asked lake residents to share their images and stories, and listed the historical sites and structures online. The list includes a textile mill and housing community that once stood on the north end of the lake, and Elm Wood, a 200-year-old estate.

    Other properties were razed because the lake was not planned to be deep, and Duke Power thought bigger buildings would endanger boats, Blodgett says.

    But some properties and roads remained. Part of the old U.S. Highway 21, which connected Charlotte and Statesville, is still there, under the water.

    Find more about the history of Lake Norman and what lies below on the website atsites.davidson.edu/archives/community/under-lkn.

    By:  Donna Campbell

  • HARP Is ‘Not a Scam,’ FHFA Director Says

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Mooresville, Financing in Mooresville  |  August 28, 2014 5:34 AM  |  16 views  |  No comments

    About 800,000 families across the country could benefit from the Home Affordable Refinance Program by lowering their monthly mortgage payments, but fear is keeping them away from the program, said Mel Watt, director of Federal Housing Finance Agency, in remarks at a public campaign in Atlanta this week to promote HARP.

    “HARP is designed to reward those borrowers who are the most committed in this country," Watt said. "This is not a scam."

    The FHFA estimates that eligible borrowers could save nearly $2,300 per year on their mortgage payments with HARP. But Watt said too many borrowers are still not taking advantage of the program.

    “As it stands now, people don’t trust their lenders, and it’s creating uncertainty,” Watt told HousingWire. “We know that there are hundreds of thousands of borrowers who can still benefit from the Home Affordable Refinance Program and are essentially leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the program.”

    To date, 3.1 million mortgages have been refinanced through HARP.

    Watt said he hopes the public campaign that FHFA is launching will help more borrowers take part in HARP.

    "By engaging directly with local community leaders, faith-based organizations, local elected officials, and lenders, our goal is to leverage these trusted sources to reach as many 'in-the-money' borrowers as we can," Watt said.

    FHFA released a new interactive map that reveals the number of estimated borrowers who are eligible for HARP across the country. Borrowers in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, and California have some of the largest number of borrowers eligible for HARP.

    Source: “Watch: FHFA Director Watt Ensures HARP Is ‘Not a Scam,’” HousingWire (Aug. 25, 2014)

  • Latest Mortgage Applications Data - More people filed for mortgages last week!

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Mooresville, Home Selling in Mooresville, Financing in Mooresville  |  August 27, 2014 1:43 PM  |  25 views  |  No comments
    • More people filed applications to take out a mortgage in the past week. Applications for buying a home rose 3 percent from the prior week. They are still down 11 percent from one year before.
    • Refinance activity also got a boost by 3 percent as the mortgage rates touched down to the lowest of the year. From a year ago, however, refinances are down by 25 percent.
    • Mortgage applications do not always directly correlate with home sales. First, applications do not mean approval. Second, cash-sales can pump up home sales when mortgage activity remains flat, for example. Third, there are always sampling errors from measurement techniques. With these factors in mind, home sales this year have been running below last year’s figure by only about 5 percent. The declines occurring in mortgage purchase applications have been much larger, at 15 to 20 percent.
    • In the most recent months, there has been a slight decline in cash-sales as real estate investors have slowly begun to step out of the market.
    • It has been a tough year for mortgage brokers. The latest week’s modest upturn is therefore welcomed. However, mortgage brokers should not expect consistent increases. Refinances will soon collapse again when interest rates inevitably turn for the worse. Mortgages taken out for buying a home will likely rise because of job creations, but only slowly and not enough to compensate for the declines in the refinance business.
    • New mortgage regulations, such as the Qualified Mortgage Rule, could be hindering more loans from getting approved. Also FHA has greatly increased premiums, thereby punishing current borrowers for the sins of past borrowers, just when the default rates of current borrowers have significantly fallen. On top of this the large banks are getting hit with fresh lawsuits from the U.S. Department of Justice running in the billions of dollars. The big banks are quickly forking over the money without admitting guilt in order to shoo-away the government. That means a large cash reserve is being set aside for legal risk and not being recycled back to consumers. A strange world we live in where banks are flushed with cash, yet banks are unwilling to do the business for which they were set up to do.


    By:  Lawrence Yun

  • 5 big lenders to help lower military mortgage payments

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Mooresville, Financing in Mooresville, Military Movers in Mooresville  |  August 27, 2014 12:07 PM  |  24 views  |  No comments

    Wells Fargo (WFC), Bank of America (BAC), Ocwen Loan Servicing (OCN), CitiMortgage (C) and Quicken Loans all committed to the Obama Administration’s new program to make it easier for active-duty servicemen and servicewoman to afford homes and help them save hundreds of dollars or more each year. Per TIME:  

    Currently, Americans serving on active duty are eligible to have their home interest rates and some other debt fees capped at 6% under a 2003 law, but they must first prove their eligibility to lenders.

    But according to the article, few service members utilize the benefits because they are either unaware or they don’t want to deal with the paperwork.

    “We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify service members who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll,” Obama said. “In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt.”

    By:  Brena Swanson


  • 4 Tips for Furniture Arrangement

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Mooresville, Design & Decor in Mooresville  |  August 27, 2014 6:48 AM  |  32 views  |  No comments


    You step into a room and you know something is off but you can’t pinpoint it. Could it be the furniture arrangement?

    Home design writer Fred Albert with the Houzz editorial staff offers up several tips on proper furniture arrangement. Here are four of his tips, along with some tips fromHGTV.com, on finding the right balance when furnishing a space.


    1. Pinpoint a focal point: What do you want to highlight in the room? A fireplace or the beautiful view it offers to the outside? Arrange the furniture to highlight the focal point. Have the largest piece of furniture, such as the sofa, pointed toward the room’s focal point.


    2. Create balance: You can achieve balance by using symmetrical or even asymmetrical arrangements, depending on the feel you want to create in the room. In formal areas, symmetrical tends to work best, such as two alike sofas across from one another. If you want a room to feel more casual, you might do an asymmetrical arrangement, such as a sectional across from two small arm chairs.


    3. Good flow: Consider how traffic will walk through the room. You’ll want to be sure to keep a path between doorways. Albert recommends allowing 30 to 48 inches of width for major traffic routes and a minimum of 24 inches of width for minor ones.


    4. Mix in some contrast: Consider combining straight and curved lines in furnishings. For example, Albert notes that if the furniture is modern and linear, you might consider throwing in a round table for greater contrast. If the furniture is curvy, add in an angular piece.




  • Don't get stuck in the Renter's Trap! Owning a home is easier than you think...

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Mooresville, Rent vs Buy in Mooresville  |  August 27, 2014 6:37 AM  |  41 views  |  No comments
    In a recent press release Zillow stated that the affordability of the nation’s rental inventory is currently much worse than affordability of the country’s home sale inventory. The release revealed two things: 

    1. Nationally, renters signing a lease at the end of the second quarter paid 29.5% of their income to rent
    2. U.S. home buyers at the end of the second quarter could expect to pay 15.3% of their incomes to a mortgage on the typical home
    Furthermore, renters pay more than the average of 24.9% that was paid in the pre-bubble period while buyers actually pay far less than the 22.1% share homeowners devoted to mortgages in the pre-bubble days. 

    Don’t Become Trapped

    If you are currently renting you could get caught up in a cycle where increasing rents continue to make it impossible for you to save for a necessary down payment. ZillowChief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries explains:"The affordability of for-sale homes remains strong, which is encouraging for those buyers that can save for a down payment and capitalize on low mortgage interest rates… As rents keep rising, along with interest rates and home values, saving for a down payment and attaining homeownership becomes that much more difficult for millions of current renters.”

    Know Your Options

    Perhaps you already have saved enough to buy your first home. HousingWire recently reported  that analysts at Nomura believe:“It’s not that Millennials and other potential homebuyers aren’t qualified in terms of their credit scores or in how much they have saved for their down payment. 

    It’s that they think they’re not qualified or they think that they don’t have a big enough down payment.” (emphasis added)
    Freddie Mac came out with comments  on this exact issue: 

    1. A person “can get a conforming, conventional mortgage with a down payment of as little as 5 percent (sometimes with as little as 3 percent coming out of their own pockets)”.
    2. Freddie Mac's purchase of mortgages with down payments under 10 percent more than quadrupled between 2009 and 2013.
    3. More than one in five borrowers who took out conforming, conventional mortgages in 2014 put down 10 percent or less.

    Bottom Line

    Don’t get caught in the trap so many renters are currently in. If you are ready and willing to buy a home, find out if you are able. Have a professional help you determine if you are eligible to get a mortgage. 

  • How much down payment do I need??

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Mooresville, Financing in Mooresville  |  August 27, 2014 6:29 AM  |  27 views  |  1 comment

    Looking to get your foot in the door (of your new home)? If you're a renter who's tired of paying someone else's mortgage, now may be the time to pursue the American dream of

    homeownership. In fact, the days of needing a 20 percent down payment are long gone. While you can always elect to put down the full 20 percent or more, there are now many alternatives available. Here's what you want to know if buying a house is in your future.


    In the mortgage industry, 20 percent down is considered the benchmark down payment for looking strong on paper as a homebuyer. While this a general standard for financial strength, it is by no means a requirement, nor is it necessarily expected.

    However, keep in mind that your purchase-offer amount – your buying power — drives negotiation. How strong you are on paper does help, but when you make an offer to buy a home, the seller of the property has no idea of your financial strength other than what your real estate agent tells them and what's on your pre-approval letter. The price dictates whether you're in the game for the house, or whether you'll continue to be on the search.


    Down payment options

    So let's say you don't have 20 percent down for a home. While there are many benefits to having more equity in the home you're buying, that doesn't mean you're out of the running for becoming a homeowner. There are options for lower down payments.

    3.5 percent down

    For a Federal Housing Administration loan, the minimum down payment you would need to buy a home is 3.5 percent down. Most lenders can lend up to $417,000 with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. An FHA loan comes with a monthly mortgage-insurance payment, which can make it more expensive than a conventional mortgage.


    In some more affluent markets, the higher loan amounts (per county) allow someone with strong income and less cash to still get into the market.


    5 percent down

    Another popular choice for buyers is using a conventional loan with 5 percent down. There are loan size amounts up to $417,000 (with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Guam) going as high as $417,000 with as little as 5 percent down. An alternative to the higher-priced FHA loan, the conventional loan allows for getting rid of the private mortgage insurance after accumulating 20 percent equity after a minimum of 24 months.

    0 percent down

    Two options exist for 0 percent down financing, one being through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program allows a veteran to purchase a house for literally no money down. Yep, the purchase price and loan amount are equal.


    The caveat? Actually, there are two: The program is for military veterans only, and the home must pass a clear pest report. This option could be optimal for brand-new construction or for property where any pest damage can be fixed in time for closing.


    An alternative to this program is a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA. You need not be a veteran for this particular loan, however in some areas, you may not be eligible to use the program because of tighter qualifying income-to-payment ratios and location. The program also only works for homes designated rural by USDA. Additional income limitations also apply. For example: For a family of four, a household income cannot exceed $96,400 per year.


    All of these options allow for the use of gift funds. Family members, cousins, relatives – these are all excellent sources to tap for possible down payment or closing costs (usually about 2 percent of the home price). Even if you already own a home and are looking to upgrade, all of these programs could present a viable option to bridging the gap between buying a home for the right price in the right area of versus continuing to be on the search.


    Boost your buying power

    Mortgage tip: If you qualify for a smaller loan size, it could be more challenging to actually close escrow on your first home. Buying power is important, especially when negotiating in competitive markets. Pure and simple, the bigger the loan you qualify for, the more opportunity.


    Conventional conforming loan: With conventional loans, you can get 95 percent financing up to $417,000. In counties where the maximum conforming loan limit is higher than $417,000, you can have up to 90 percent financing. For example: In Sonoma County, Calif., the maximum high-balance loan limit is $520,950. A loan exceeding $417,000, and up to $520,950, would require a 10 percent down payment.


    VA loan: This type of loan allows for 100 percent financing all the way through the maximum conforming loan limit in the county in which the property is located. In fact, this type of loan can allow for even higher than the maximum conforming loan limit if you do have a down payment.


    Here's how: The buyer would need a 25 percent down payment only on the amount greater the conforming loan limit. For example, with a $520,950 loan (the maximum loan limit for Sonoma County) with a purchase price of $700,000. The difference is $179,050 – and the buyer would need to put down 25 percent of that difference — $44,763 – in order to get the additional VA loan financing.


    USDA loan: These loans allow for financing up to $417,000, but here's the kicker: A buyer would need an income of $95,000 to qualify for a $417,000 loan — which is getting very close to the USDA loan maximum income limitation of $96,400. More importantly, lending qualifying ratios are more stringent for this program than any other. To qualify for this loan, your proposed house payment before debts cannot be more than 29 percent of your gross monthly income, and the house payment plus other debts cannot be more than 31 percent of your gross monthly income.


    FHA loans: An FHA loan will allow for as low as a 3.5 percent down payment up to the maximum conforming loan limit in the county in which the property is located.


    Jumbo loans: These loans usually can go as high as $750,000 with as little as 10 percent down.


    Remember: When you're putting less than 20 percent down on a home, your monthly property taxes and fire-insurance terms are required to be built into your monthly mortgage payment, and you'll likely pay private mortgage insurance, too. Some lenders might offer an alternative option called lender-paid mortgage insurance — where the lender actually pays the monthly PMI, despite not using 20 percent down to purchase a home. Make sure to do your homework, and talk to your lender so you know what your options are.


    Of course, it's always important to have your credit in the best shape possible. Before you start your home search, give yourself time to work on your credit so that you can qualify for better rates. Check your free annual credit reports for errors or any problems that could be hurting your credit scores.

     By:  Scott Sheldon, Credit.com

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