Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fayetteville Drops Thoughts of Action Over Walton Arts Center Expansion

It seems the drama over action by the City of Fayetteville regarding a new Walton Arts Center in Bentonville has died a natural death.

When the announcement was first made that WAC would build a 2,200 seat performing arts center in Bentonville as well as a new 600 seat facility adjacent to the existing site in Fayetteville, there was talk about a lawsuit which, if successful, would deny WAC the right to build anywhere but in Fayetteville.

That idea did not gain much support. Next came a resolution put forth by two members of Fayetteville city council to renegotiate the current agreement with WAC, which does not expire until 2017. The resolution would require the renegotiation in order to make certain an equitable distribution of fundraising and programming for Fayetteville’s WAC.

That proposal was defeated 6-2 at a city council meeting last week.

Walton Arts Center staff has stated that it is committed to maintaining quality arts and entertainment in Fayetteville.

I think we should all move forward. It shouldn’t be Fayetteville vs. Bentonville. It should be what is good for all of Northwest Arkansas.

For more information:

My blog post a few weeks ago
Fayetteville Flyer blog

Monday, December 20, 2010

Santa Came Early to NW Arkansas

In this time of giving and good will the announcement last week seemed appropriate. Grants totaling $80,000 were awarded to local NW Arkansas non-profit groups.

The funds came from the 2010 Bikes, Blues and BBQ rally, which was held in early fall. It’s a substantial increase from 2009 grants of $45,000. I think the 2010 grants bring the grand total to more than $600,000 since BBQ’s first rally in 2000.

Donations went to many worthwhile organizations in NW Arkansas – Fayetteville Boys & Girls Club, Meals on Wheels, Horses for Healing, Seven Hills Homeless Center, Youth Bridge, Big House Youth Outreach, and more. A complete list of all grants will be available later.

Bikes, Blues and BBQ is the only rally in the country that donates all proceeds to charities. It brings together bikers from all over the country, thousands and thousands of spectators, family fun, food, entertainment, and contests. Its very presence is a big boost to the local economy.

Turning all profits over to non-profit organizations is only icing on the cake.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Plans Announced for Walton Arts Center(s) Expansion

Bentonville will be the location of a new 2,200-seat Walton Arts Center. Hardly anyone was surprised at this news.

Several months ago, Walton Arts Center-Fayetteville was notified that the Walton Family Foundation would be lead donor only if the expansion were in Bentonville. This statement was crystal clear but it did not preclude proposals by various entities to build it elsewhere.

Fayetteville and University of Arkansas presented a joint proposal to expand the existing site in Fayetteville. Springdale proposed building a new WAC near the ballpark, which offered excellent access to I-540. Rogers offered a proposal and some individual landowners also made proposals.

So a new, larger performing arts center will be built at or near downtown Bentonville, but Fayetteville also received good news. A new 600-seat facility will be built adjacent to the beautiful, existing WAC. I believe this announcement intrinsically means Walton Family Foundation will continue to be the major supporter for Fayetteville WAC sites.

Exactly what “adjacent” to WAC means will be determined later.

As far as that goes, there are a lot of things to be determined in the future. Site selection, funding, timetables, cooperation from and with local governments, and space for additional parking in Fayetteville.

Talk of expansion has been ongoing for at least two years. Big deals take time and this is a big deal. The announcement by Walton Family Foundation is a win-win for both Bentonville and Fayetteville. To stop its support for WAC-Fayetteville would have been catastrophic for the city.
The announcement is certainly wonderful news for all of Northwest Arkansas.

But the drama is not all on-stage. The attorney for the City of Fayetteville is of the opinion that agreements signed in the past bind WAC to be located only in Fayetteville. He opines that Fayetteville should sue to stop the Bentonville site. At this point no official action has been taken. In the meantime, University of Arkansas issued a statement that it will not support a lawsuit. And in today’s paper, some Fayetteville officials have gone on the record against litigation, seeing it as divisive and counter productive.

The future looks bright to me. Let’s leave the drama to the actors. I’m all for culture, the arts, and good entertainment. The Walton Family Foundation has done and continues to do many good works for the people of Northwest Arkansas.

For more information:

Walton Arts Center
Walton Arts Center Expansion Plans

Friday, December 03, 2010

New Outdoor Ice Skating Rink Opens in Bentonville

A beautiful new facility just opened in Bentonville’s Ernie G. Lawrence Plaza, just a block or so off the square. It includes an outdoor skating rink for winter and will be converted to an interactive water feature during warm months. What fun!

Ice skating is a wonderful activity for people of all ages. I grew up in Northern Minnesota-- hockey country--where I learned to skate on a rink like this. I spent many hours in the cold outdoors and it was exhilarating (but thank goodness also for warming shacks). I also tried my hand at ice hockey, even though it was a "boy sport" then.

For the most part, it doesn’t get cold enough here in NW Arkansas to find a safe outdoor venue for ice skating – until now. Bentonville’s latest contribution to quality of life now provides this opportunity to the public. Only $3 to skate and skates can be rented for only $2 more.

I’m still trying to figure out how they can keep the ice frozen when the temperature gets above freezing. The recent nippy days and nights are usually the exception rather than the rule, as it gets up to the 40s or even 50s during the day during our Arkansas winters. But if there is a secret formula for the ice, more power to the city of Bentonville.

The Jones Center for Families in Springdale has offered a big, beautiful indoor skating rink for the past 15 years and it is open year round. People can simply skate, learn figure skating, play in hockey leagues, or go curling. The rink provides fun for ages 4 to 104 (I don’t think anyone has reached maximum age yet!)

If you’ve never ice skated and would like to get inspired, here’s a great feature-length documentary for the whole family to watch.

Friday, November 26, 2010

NW Arkansas’s Economy Continues to Improve - Slowly

Slow and steady seem to be the key words to describe improving economic conditions, in Arkansas as well as the country. We all wish the words could be dynamic or thriving – but let’s appreciate every bit of good news we get.

The U.S. Labor Department reported the economy added more than 150,000 jobs in October. That’s good news.

The average number of hours worked increased by 6 minutes. Doesn’t sound like much but it is good news because employers tend to increase employees’ work hours before adding new hires. Let’s face it, these days any increase in hours worked is good because people take home more money.

The number of first-time applicants for unemployment decreased. I don’t even have to tell you that’s good news.

But even better news has been happening all along in Arkansas.

Arkansas’ unemployment rate has consistently been about 2% lower than the national average, although it rose 0.1% in October compared to September to 7.8%. The national unemployment rate continued at 9.6%. The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA* leads the state's metros with the lowest 2010 third-quarter jobless rate, at 6.3%.

Arkansas is ranked in the top 10 for states with the LEAST number of foreclosures.

Arkansas’ taxable sales were up 0.9% in the third quarter of 2010.

Projections are that Arkansas will show personal-income growth ahead of the U.S. rate at 6% for 2011.

Positive signs are beginning to appear. Keep your fingers crossed for the trend to continue. Why? Because the more jobs there are, the more people will want to move here and buy houses.

* Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) includes Benton, Madison, and Washington counties in Arkansas as well as McDonald County in extreme southwest Missouri.

For more information:

National Public Radio Report
Arkansas Business Report

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two More Awards Earned by NW Arkansas Communities

There are so many valid and varied reasons for the outstanding quality of life we enjoy in NW Arkansas. I’ve written many times about clean air, beautiful scenery, recreation opportunities, entertainment, and more that all of us more or less take for granted.

Now I’m pleased to note that the cities of Bentonville and Fayetteville have each been named a Volunteer Community of the Year. The award was given by the Office of Governor Mike Beebe. A total of 12 awards were given throughout the state.

It’s the second year in a row Fayetteville has earned the title. For Bentonville, it’s the first year (and I’m sure there will be more awards in the future.)

According to city of Bentonville, 12,000 volunteers worked in excess of 163,000 hours during 12 months ended August 31, 2010.

Fayetteville, with its much larger population, logged 38,000 volunteers who donated more than 500,000 hours.

Volunteers serve in a multitude of ways – on committees and boards, in libraries and schools, animal adoptions and shelters, recycling, community events, food pantries, and more.

Every one of these wonderful people deserves our thanks for helping to make our communities great places to live.

My hat is off to them. It’s nice to see them receive some official recognition.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fayetteville does it again!

The Home Depot Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Institute has awarded the City of Fayetteville a half million dollars to increase long-term solutions for green planning and development. Fayetteville is one of only 2 cities nationwide out of 37 who applied to get the grant.

Initial plans are to build 40 ENERGY STAR-certified homes for low to moderate-income families in the Walker Park neighborhood. In addition to building to meet LEED standards, the design will maximize tree canopy conservation and will consider urban cooling eco-services. A section of the trail system will be extended to the neighborhood and a community garden is also included in the plan.

For more information, click here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NW Arkansas Craft Fair Weekend Locations

Come join the throngs of vendors and buyers at arts and crafts extravaganzas throughout NW Arkansas October 14th through 17th. But don’t wait until the 17th. All the best items will already be gone and some of the shows close on the 16th.

These shows attract people from hundreds of miles away. Each year the shows grow larger and new vendors vie for available slots to show and sell their handmade, unique items. It’s estimated some 200,000 people will flock here this weekend – and the weather is perfect! Bright, clear, sunny, with temps in the seventies. I can’t imagine a better time to view all the goodies, and admission is free.

Here’s a quick rundown of locations with addresses and indications of whether they are open on Sunday or not:

Bella Vista
1991 Forest Hills Drive (intersection of AR 279 and AR 340)
Closed Sunday

Spankler Creek Farm
8334 W. McNeely Rd., Bentonville
Open Sunday until 4 PM

Southern Suzy’s Craft Fair (Indoors)
Indoors at Clarion Hotel
211 SW Walton Blvd, Bentonville
Open Sunday until 2 PM

War Eagle Fair
11045 War Eagle Rd (east of Rogers) or Hwy 303 North from Hwy 412 (east of Springdale)
Open Sunday until 4:30 PM

Sharp’s Show of War Eagle
(next to War Eagle Fair – see above)
Open Sunday until 4 PM

Frisco Station Mall (Indoors)
100 N. Dixieland, Rogers
Open Sunday until 4 PM

Ozark Regional Shows (Indoors- 2 locations)
John Q. Hammons Center
3303 Pinnacle Hills Pkwy, Rogers
Holiday Inn
1500 S. 48th St., Springdale
Both shows are closed on Sunday

Jones Center (Indoors)
922 E. Emma Av., Springdale
Closed Sunday

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Walton Arts Center Hits a Home Run

It’s the post season for baseball, so this analogy seems appropriate. Last evening I attended the 2nd concert of the Walton Arts Center’s 10x10 series. This is a series of concerts priced at the ridiculously low price of $10 per ticket in an effort to get more people to attend events at the WAC. There will be 10 of them during this concert season of various kinds of music, dance and other events. The first one was a chamber music concert on Friday by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (New York).

The concert I saw last night was an unforgettable experience--an evening with Omara Portuondo, an 80-year-old “torch singer” in the old tradition from Cuba. She was accompanied by a group of 5 top caliber jazz musicians (Latin jazz).

Portuondo is a funny, charismatic, extremely talented singer, who (although she spoke entirely in Spanish) was able to communicate with the audience and establish a rapport early on. Through hand gestures she got everyone clapping and participating.

Sometimes it wasn’t immediately evident what she wanted us to do, but eventually we caught on. For example, at one point, she bent down and began chanting, which the audience was also supposed to do. We didn’t, until she stood up and stated loudly the only words in English that she spoke all evening: “pig sooie.” She had done her homework and had us calling the Razorbacks in the middle of her concert, mostly of very old songs in Spanish from the 40s. The only one that most people probably recognized was Guantanamera, and also perhaps Beseme Mucho.

The piano player was extraordinary, as were the other musicians: a bass player, guitarist, and two percussionists, one on a normal drum set and the other on other percussion instruments like conga drums, special sound effects, etc. The concert was structured like a jazz set and Portuondo gave each musician a chance to solo and shine various times throughout the concert.

I had never heard of this lady before, but according to her bio, she is a legend in her own country. It’s really a shame that politics gets in the way of art, where the Cuban trade embargo has deprived us of such extraordinary music for such a long time. I would have liked to see this lady in her prime.

And I applaud the Walton for bringing an event such as this to NW Arkansas. We really are lucky to have such a facility here where we can hear great music, see Broadway shows and dance troupes, as well as many other sorts of entertainment. This concert was totally unexpected, from my point of view, and it made me realize that I really do like Cuban music.

For information about upcoming concerts in the 10x10 series as well as other events at the Walton Arts Center, click here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Recession Supposedly Ended in 2009 – Who Knew?

The powers that be (The National Bureau of Economic Research) have declared the recession over – going so far as to say it actually ended in June 2009. I suppose that’s good news to politicians and statisticians but most regular families don’t believe it and have not seen any proof of it.

Statistics by academic economists don’t impress an unemployed person who is struggling to pay his bills and feed his family. Nor do they influence the family who just lost their home to foreclosure.

More than 15 months have passed since June 2009. Consumer confidence is still low, though slightly higher than it was. Home sales have dropped off a cliff compared to 2009 and that year was nothing to brag about. Unemployment is still high and we’re told it may go still higher.

Mortgage rates are near an all-time low but homes aren’t selling because even the employed folks worry about job security.

This recession has been one of the longest and most devastating I can recall. So many people are seriously distressed and demoralized. Most everyone has suffered to one degree or another.

I can only hope the average person will soon see evidence of the recession’s end. That will mean that they might actually get out an want to buy a house.

For more information, click here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bikes, Blues & BBQ Rally in Fayetteville

It’s that time of year again. In just a little more than a week from now, Northwest Arkansas will once again welcome motorcycles from all over the country to the 11th Annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ Rally. The rally runs from Wednesday, September 29 through Saturday night, October 2, 2010.

Many people will rev up their bikes and arrive early. Who can blame them for wanting to be here as long as possible? The Ozarks are beautiful and the weather is near perfect in the fall. Warm days, cool evenings, and hints of fall color in the trees.

There will be thousands of bikes to see with events such as a Poker Run, a Parade of Power, customization competition and Battle of the Bikes competition.

And this year there is so much music and entertainment planned, it has to be spread over several venues. It all starts Wednesday, September 29, at 5:30 and keeps on going.

The BBQ is world class. The smoky aroma of barbequed chicken, ribs, pork, and beef brisket wafts around Fayetteville beginning Friday morning with public tasting events. The best of the best will be named Saturday afternoon with trophies and cash prizes awarded.

A 2010 Harley-Davidson Rocker C motorcycle will be raffled off.

More than 100 vendors will be on hand with everything from sunglasses to Harleys.

Don’t overlook (perhaps I say “look over”) the Ms. BBB competition.

As if all that isn’t enough, classic cars & trucks, street rods, tuners, and low riders will also be showing off.

Join the hundreds of thousands of people who come each year for the BBB Rally. Fayetteville is only six hours from Dallas and St. Louis, five hours from Memphis and Kansas City, and two hours from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Branson, Missouri.

The rally is good, clean fun. A lot of effort goes into keeping it family friendly and in line with community values.

BBB is self-funded and does not receive any government funding. All proceeds go to local charities. Since the rally started in 2000, more than a half-million dollars has been donated.

For more information, check out the BBBQ website.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Q2 Skyline Report a Mixed Bag—the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I try to attend as many events as possible, sponsored or promoted by the Center for Business and Economic Research of the Sam Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas. The information given often gives validation to my own anecdotal observations about the economy and the housing market in NW Arkansas.

Last Friday Arvest Bank (for whom the report is prepared) sponsored a breakfast for Realtors® and affiliates in Washington County to outline the contents of the 2nd quarter Skyline Report prepared by the CBER. The Skyline Report looks at Residential, Commercial and Multi-Family real estate in Northwest Arkansas. However, Kathy Deck, Director of the Center, usually puts this information into a larger economic context in her presentations.

According to Deck, the key to the real estate market in NW Arkansas now is employment opportunities. Although our unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national rate, it is still higher than in past years. And without new job creation, new people will not be drawn to the area to buy or rent houses or apartments or to lease or purchase commercial space.

Another factor is that although most national economic measures show a recovery, consumer confidence is still very low. Thus despite the lowest interest rates in years and incentives such as the tax credit, most people are not feeling like the economy has improved and are acting accordingly—saving more and spending less, especially on credit. Plus nationally, large private sector employers are not hiring new people (which one would normally expect in an improved economy), despite increased profitability.

In NW Arkansas, there was a 0% net increase in non-farm employment growth between June of this year and June of 2009. There was increase in education and health services, government, professional and business services, but the other sectors lost jobs. These included the leisure and hospitality sectors, financial activities, trade and transportation, and construction.

In the commercial real estate sector, there were 70,805 square feet of positive absorption in Fayetteville in office and retail space, and there were 127,787 square feet of positive absorption in Springdale, primarily in warehouse space. Nevertheless, in all categories of space, there was more available than one year ago, a dangerous situation since the absorption was weak compared to the amount of space available. There were also anecdotal reports of so-called “aggressive tenant demands” and free rent, greater build-out allowances, delay of scheduled lease rate increases at renewal, and the removal of long-term termination clauses. Commercial vacancy rates in all of the NW Arkansas communities are higher than the national average of 8%.

In the multi-family sector, there are variations between Fayetteville and Springdale, due primarily to the fact that rental units associated with the University of Arkansas comprise a large part of the rental market. However, in Fayetteville the vacancy rate for 1 and 2-bedroom apartments is high, primarily since in the past few years there were a number of large complexes built to accommodate a proposed increase in the number of students at the U of A. Enrollment did increase, but the university also built some new dorms, so with the new apartment complexes this created a glut of rental housing in the university sector in Fayetteville.

The Q2 Skyline Report distinguishes between units newer than 2008 and those which are older. The vacancy rate for the 11,256 older units in Fayetteville was 15.4%, while that for 1885 units constructed in 2008 or later was 31.2%. New apartments have also been constructed in Springdale, where the vacancy rate for 5,732 older units was higher in Q2, 12.9%, while for 312 newer units built after 2008 was 6.7%. In NW Arkansas as a whole the vacancy rate for 25,476 units constructed before 2008 was 14.0% and for units built in 2008 or after was 34.8%. Many of the units constructed in 2008 are still vacant.

With regard to condominiums, Fayetteville has the largest quantity of these. In Q2, there were only 9 sold in Fayetteville with an average sales price of $120 per square foot. However, one did sell for over $300 per square foot, 2 more sold for over $100 per square foot, and the remaining 6 sold for less than $100 per square foot. From my own experience, the Fayetteville condos are of three different types at different price points—the pricey central Fayetteville units as compared to those elsewhere in the city and the least expensive condos for the university market.

Finally, in the residential sector building permits are back at 2008 levels, a reasonable balance between the net increase in population vs. the number of new houses being built to serve those families. Gone are the days of overbuilding with a huge inventory of new homes. Now the oversupply is in existing housing. Currently there are over 5000 homes listed in the NW Arkansas MLS. Prices are more stable and have declined less in Q2 than in past quarters: 2.9% in Washington County and 2.3% in Benton County.

Altogether, we have to wait and see what will happen with the housing market. Despite incentives in the government stimulus measures passed by Congress, it has not improved markedly, and in NW Arkansas, prices are still generally declining. It’s a great time to purchase a home since interest rates are at record lows, but with consumer confidence also low, the task will be to convince potential home buyers to take the plunge. Even though the first-time home buyer credit has ended, the low interest rates--coupled with the large selection of homes on the market at modest prices--make this an ideal time to buy a home.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Let’s Keep Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

There’s been talk of enlarging or building a new Walton Arts Center for more than two years. A feasibility study indicated Northwest Arkansas had grown to the point that it could support an arts center with 2,500 seats.

The existing WAC opened to great fanfare in 1992 in downtown Fayetteville and proved to be the impetus that helped revitalize the entire area. Since then WAC has hosted world famous artists, Broadway shows, ballets, and too many more to list in this space. However, it has only 1,200 seats and limited parking.

The city of Fayetteville owns WAC but it is widely known that the Walton Family Foundation has always been the lead donor.

So it was bad news when the Foundation recently said it would not continue to be the lead donor if a new WAC was not built in Bentonville. To most people, that seemed to mean it would be Bentonville or it just wouldn’t be.

But Walton Arts Center invited proposals for enlarging or building a new arts center and received 24 proposals from cities, chambers of commerce, the U of A, and individuals. The next step will be review of each proposal. The review committee hopes to narrow the proposals down to perhaps three by December 2010.

I know the review will be a daunting task. Personally I would love to see Walton Arts Center stay in Fayetteville and I believe Fayetteville’s proposal stands an excellent chance of approval. It is the only one of the proposals that offered potential funding of approximately $33 million.

That’s not to say Springdale and Bentonville did not make good proposals – they certainly did. I’m just prejudiced by my affinity for Fayetteville. Plus the Fayetteville proposal has the advantage of expanding the facility on the current site.

Wherever the new Walton Arts Center ultimately lands, it will be a major economic benefit to that area.

If you want to view the proposals, click here. For more information, click here.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The U of A Rocks--updates at the University of Arkansas

I have written in the past about how the University of Arkansas contributes to the economy of Fayetteville, how Fayetteville has been rated as one of the best college towns in the country, and how Fayetteville has been at the top of many “best places” lists, often because of the university.

I ran across some additional facts about the University recently that I wanted to share.

First is a video about renovation plans for the university. I’m glad to see this happening because to offer a top quality education, students need good facilities—labs, classrooms, technology, etc.

Awhile back the U of A had made an offer to purchase Fayetteville HS. The idea was that Fayetteville schools would then use the money to help build a new, state-of-the-art high school. When the University withdrew their offer, I always wondered why, and this video explains it.

I’m sorry that Fayetteville HS will have to be remodeled and stay in the same place, but on the other hand, some facilities at the University need remodeling too. And that’s where the money that was originally going to be used to purchase Fayetteville HS is going.

Another indication of its commitment to excellence can be found in the music department which has set plans in motion to become an “all-Steinway” school, one of only 113 colleges and universities worldwide to attain this status. It's going to cost about $1.3 million, with funds being sought from private donors. So if you have some spare change ...

Second, the University of Arkansas permits people who are at least 60 years old to attend classes for free on a space available basis as part of the Senior Razorback program. They may be degree-seeking or non-degree-seeking. According to one of the employees of the admissions office, the oldest person she knew of who got her Bachelor’s degree through this program was 83 years old! I guess we’re never too old to learn.

And there are some fun things that can be done. An acquaintance of mine took Italian classes with his wife and then went to Italy on vacation to “practice.”

Finally, for those who are interested, the fall Razorback football schedule is out:

Razorback enthusiasm is palpable during the school year, and the team enjoys support from the entire community. Because there are no professional teams in Arkansas (except the NW Arkansas Naturals baseball team), Arkansas sports fans have tailgate parties and other events to promote and support the team.

The Razorbacks website also has all kinds of information about the teams, traditions, facilities, tickets, shopping for Razorback gear—you name it.

And if you really want to find out about the right way to do that hog call, listen in. Woo Pig Soooie!

PS. For those who might be interested actually getting a college education, the University's main website has information about the usual stuff: admissions, financial aid, courses, etc.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rogers Picked as One of the Best Places to Live

Little old Rogers (actually not so little any longer) has been picked by CNNMoney.com as #10 on their list of best small cities to live.

It’s ironic sometimes that as we watch things gradually change and grow, we sometimes do not stop long enough to look at the big picture. CNNMoney did that for us.

Rogers has lots to offer – excellent schools, lakes, golfing, upscale shopping and office facilities, low unemployment, good weather, and a population of 57,000 people from all over the country. Many of the residents were drawn by Rogers’ proximity to Wal-Mart’s home office in Bentonville. They liked what they saw and in many cases they encouraged friends and family to join them.

Rogers is indicative of life in the other cities of NW Arkansas. Sperling’s Best Places, U.S. News and World Report, and others have frequently cited the City of Fayetteville and the entire Fayetteville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Rogers, as outstanding places to live. Those ratings considered affordability, education, clean air, employment, crime statistics, and just about everything else people take into consideration when deciding where to live.

Congratulations Rogers. Keep up the good work.

For more information:

CNN-Money Article

Wikipedia on Rogers, Arkansas

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Property Tax Appeals – NW Arkansas

Home prices in NW Arkansas are still falling, but the decline is less than in the recent past. In fact, we may be nearing the bottom of the market, but we won’t know that until after that moment has passed. Nevertheless, July is generally when property tax notices for the coming year go out, so residents may find that the value given their property does not conform to current market conditions.

In Washington and Benton County, Arkansas, assessments are normally done every three years. And appeals normally are accepted during the month of July and part of August. However, this year is an assessment year in Washington County, so notices will be sent out to all property owners during the first two weeks of July with the new assessed values. There will be instructions on the notices on how to appeal if you think your taxes are too high, compared to the market value. The latest date for appeal will be August 18.

In Benton County, next year is the assessment year. Tax notices this year will go out in early July and residents may call to schedule appointments to appeal their property tax bill from July 15 to the 3rd Monday in August. The Benton County website has a special page on the appeals process for that county.

One thing to keep in mind is that Washington County Assessor’s Office personnel are aware that we are in a declining real estate market and will be reassessing accordingly. Another is that in Arkansas on one’s principal residence, there is a $350 annual Homestead Credit. You only have to apply once for this and then it is subtracted every year as long as you live in the home. Also there are caps for senior citizens and tax breaks for disabled veterans.

Washington County also has established a website, explainmypropertytax.org, where county residents can obtain answers to their property tax questions. Once notices have gone out by mid-July, it will be possible for property owners to obtain information about their properties and taxes on that website. At this time, only general explanatory information about the tax and appeal process is available.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NW Arkansas is Getting Greener Every Day and Not Just Because It’s Spring

Mother Nature endowed the Ozarks with mountains, millions of green trees, lakes and rivers everywhere. This beauty and diversity calls people outdoors to enjoy it. It is heartening to know governments, corporations and individuals are working to preserve it all for generations to come.

You can walk, hike, mountain bike, or jog at your own pace on hundreds of miles of trails throughout NW Arkansas, many of which interconnect. Springdale has been a bit slower than other cities in building new trails, but now has plans under consideration to repair an old dam and reopen an existing trail around a lake. Additionally they may convert an empty building in the downtown area into a staging area connecting trails.

Green is more than just a buzzword in these parts. As everyone knows, NW Arkansas is the home of Walmart, one of the leaders in the sustainability movement here and throughout the country. Walmart’s membership-club arm, Sam’s Club, is a great illustration of green possibilities. The Fayetteville store showcases numerous environmentally sustainable features such as wastewater recycling, motion-sensor lighting, harvesting rain water for landscape plants, and more than 200 sky lights.

In 2007, Walmart Foundation gave a $1.5 million grant to fund The Applied Sustainability Center, based at the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business. According to the Center’s web site, they have developed a broad-based coalition of partners to advance efforts in building and supporting an economy built around people, planet and profit.

The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce introduced a new program named the GreeNWAy Initiative to certify businesses that are going green. The GreeNWAy committee partnered with the City of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), and the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center to develop the certification process.

Some time back, many separate organizations joined together to form Green Valley Development in NW Arkansas. The idea is to bring together sustainability innovators, businesses, and technologies to coordinate resources and services for green companies to excel in the world market. Charter members include Walmart, several construction companies, banks, real estate companies, retailers, electric cooperatives and more.

What I’m trying to say is…

The continuing greening of NW Arkansas and adoption of sustainable policies is alive and well. It’s one of those things that make Fayetteville and NW Arkansas regular visitors to national “best places” (to live, retire, raise children, etc.) lists. And the green is one of those things that contribute to our high quality of life here.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Bentonville Schools Millage Increase Passes with Ease

No one likes higher taxes, but sometimes they are necessary to provide for important things—things like a good education for our kids. And in the case of NW Arkansas, sometimes those higher taxes also contribute to the high quality of life for which our area keeps getting kudos and recommendations from a variety of sources nationwide.

On this occasion, I want to commend the voters in Bentonville School District for passing a 3.6 mil increase in property taxes. The increase will provide $70 million for a new K-6 elementary school and junior high school as well as funds for maintenance throughout the district. The voter turnout was high and the increase passed with approval of about 60% of voters.

It is not easy to have proposals to raise taxes pass voter muster in this difficult economy. Fayetteville School District saw the proof of that last year when their millage increase proposal was defeated.

But a look at the bigger picture confirms that the continued growth of our area (and our state) depends on having an educated base of employees. A good education and promotion of schools is essential to development of the area and contributes to quality of life of its citizens.

Good schools also add value to real estate. Two identical houses, one in a highly rated school district and the other in a lower rated district, will have different values due to those ratings.

Springdale School District is seriously considering asking voters to approve a 1.9 mil increase this year to build new schools and improve athletic facilities. If that proposal passes, the district will qualify for $15 million from the Arkansas Department of Education’s Facilities Partnership Program.

And last but not least, Fayetteville has totally revamped its priorities and hopes to get a millage increase passed this year. If so, the district could also receive funds from the state’s Facilities Partnership Program.

Bentonville voters have set the new standard. Their vote denotes a populace that recognizes the importance of education. They “get it.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is NW Arkansas unprepared for this or what? RRP—what it is and why you need to know.

It seems like there are always some “hot-button” issues that realtors, landlords and others related to housing and real estate must deal with. Radon, asbestos, sexual offenders, and mold come to mind as issues from the recent past. And in some areas of Arkansas we can add meth houses.

Now lead-based paint is back on the front burner all over the country in the form of a new federal law.

Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP), is a new federally mandated program to deal with the issue of lead paint in homes, primarily those homes built prior to 1978. The program takes effect April 22, 2010 (that’s this Thursday for those who are paying attention).

It’s important that general contractors, real estate agents, plumbers, remodelers, handy-men, painters, property owners, carpenters, electricians, and all others who work in home repair or maintenance be aware of the rules and the requirements for compliance. Failure to do so can result in a fine of $37,500 per day, per violation! Heavy duty stuff.

The issue is “disturbing” lead-based paint which was commonly used in the past. Homes built after 1978 (when the federal law against the use of lead-based paint went into effect) do not have lead-based paint, and even many homes built after 1950 may not have it, since that’s when some paint makers voluntarily quit making it.

What constitutes disturbing lead-based paint? Sanding it or scraping it off, for example, on an interior wall area more than 6 feet square or an exterior area more than 20 feet square. Also such activities as replacing windows.

The main problem appears to be lead dust which can be ingested or airbourne. The issue is to limit the exposure of humans, especially children, to lead-based paint hazards. Thus buildings potentially inhabited by children in addition to homes and apartments, such as day care centers and schools, are covered by the new law.

The bottom line is that renovations of such buildings must be done by a certified renovator and supervised by someone who has taken an approved training course. There are certain techniques and practices for such renovations, which must be followed. Compliance in many cases will be difficult and in many cases, costly. In some cases, there may not be an issue if a certified inspector finds that there is no lead-based paint in the building or home.

However as of now, there are only 4 approved lead paint contractors on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality—ADEQ--list in the whole state of Arkansas. There are lots of contractors approved to deal with asbestos, but not lead-based paint. And none of the approved lead paint contractors is in NW Arkansas.

But there’s lots of information out there, and there are some opportunities. For contractors who remodel older homes, getting approved and licensed may mean a foot in the door and more work before competitora also get approved. For landlords with older buildings which are lead-free, this may become a marketing advantage.

There are also responsibilities for realtors and property management companies. Both would be advised to recommend to their repair personnel that they become certified.

This blog post doesn’t begin to address all of the issues, but does hope to draw the attention of those who may be in the process of purchasing an older home or about to do so to the new law and the issues surrounding it.

There are a number of websites for information--just click on the following links:

State of Arkansas ADEQ list of approved contractors

National Association of Realtors Video FAQs and other information

HUD lead paint disclosure requirements

EPA printable brochure about the new law

EPA requirements and information about the new law

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NW Arkansas Naturals season starts and Crystal Bridges exhibition opens

The opening game for the NW Arkansas Naturals was last week on April 8 at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, and then there were games on subsequent nights as well. The first couple of games didn't go too well--in the one on Friday they lost to the San Antonio Missions by a score of 13-1 as almost 5000 fans watched, speechless.

But on Saturday they came back and beat the Missions by a score of 4-3.

Whether the Naturals win or lose is not the important thing. Having a baseball team like the Naturals here in NW Arkansas is wonderful for the region and a sign of positive growth. As our collection of small towns expands and more people move to the area, the idea of a variety of activities for residents to enjoy becomes more important. In the absence of a professional team for football, basketball and other sports, the U of A Razorbacks garner an almost-fanatical following. But the Naturals, now only 3 years old, are also making their place here.

Similarly in other disciplines. Soon the new Crystal Bridges art museum will be opening in Bentonville, but there have already been exhibitions at what is called Crystal Bridges at the Massey. The most recent was a juried exhibit of local photographers which opened April 2. With more than 100 entrants from 12-year-old amateurs to seasoned professionals, Crystal Bridges showed that it too will be a centerpiece of NW Arkansas culture. The photographers were asked to capture the changing landscape in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties.

Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas have garnered recognition on many "best places" to live, retire, raise a family, start a business--you name it--and with good reason. Our quality of life is enhanced by places like Crystal Bridges and the Walton Arts Center, not to mention the U of A as artistic and intellectual venues, or even places like Georges on Dickson St. as popular music venues. And the NW Arkansas Naturals complement the Razorbacks as a sports destination for many Northwest Arkansas residents.

NW Arkansas IS a great place to live!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

University of Arkansas Has Huge Impact on NW Arkansas

The University of Arkansas’ flagship campus is located in Fayetteville, right where it’s been since it was founded in 1871. The university offers more than 200 graduate and post-graduate programs and its research, development, and outreach aids local public and private sectors.

None of that is news to most folks but I wonder how many of us ever stop to think about the overall economic impact the university has in NW Arkansas…

$725.4 million for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009 was the amount concluded by an exhaustive study recently produced for the Office of the Chancellor. The study looked at direct expenditures by the university as well as spending and taxes paid by faculty, staff, students and visitors.

A few examples include payroll of $246 million, direct expenditures to NW Arkansas businesses by the university of $56.9 million, student expenditures of $173.7 plus visitors added an additional $127.5 million to the local economy.

Not only are those numbers huge, they must be extrapolated many times over to take trickle-down factors into consideration. Most of that payroll is spent locally. Homes and vehicles are purchased, state and local taxes paid, children of faculty and staff are enrolled in schools, contributions made to local churches and charities, restaurants, medical professionals, gas stations, clothing stores – the list is endless.

If University of Arkansas were not here, this area would have an entirely different landscape.

Go Hogs!

Read the entire 106-page report:


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Crystal Ball Look into the NW Arkansas Housing Market

Predicting what's going to happen in the NW Arkansas housing market is somewhat difficult. People always ask me if the market has hit bottom yet, but I can't really tell them, since generally speaking, prices are still declining.

For those who want to get the "best" deal, there are several factors consider:

1. If you are waiting for the market to hit bottom in NW Arkansas, I think it's close, but not necessarily there yet. It also varies by town.

2. Interest rates are still very low, but predictions are that they will rise this year. What this means is that if a house is cheaper a few months from now, but the interest rates are higher, the monthly payment may still be the same. If home prices begin to rise, and interest rates rise as well, buyers may not be able to purchase as nice a home for the amount they have qualified for. Thus, buyers who are serious about purchasing a home may want to do so sooner rather than later if they find a home they really like.

3. The first time home buyers tax credit of up to $8000 was extended at the end of last year, but to get it, buyers must have an accepted offer by April 30 and close by June 30. Buyers who already have a home and want to purchase another as their principal residence may get a tax credit of up to $6500. They must have lived in their current home for at least 5 of the past 8 years. Check the IRS website to get specific information about these programs.

4. Real estate purchases are normally considered to be long-term investments. During the recent housing bubble, investors and other speculators treated them as short-term investments because they could--prices were appreciating by double digit percentages. Now that is not the case, market adjustments have occurred or are occuring, and buyers need to plan to hold on to their real estate purchases for a longer time before selling.

Which brings me to an interesting article from CNN Money about
homes prices in NW Arkansas and whether it's a good time to purchase a home here.

According to their data, the market in NW Arkansas will hit bottom in the 3rd quarter of 2011 (i.e. next year). Also that there will be a 3.1% decline in prices from the first quarter of this year to the first quarter of 2011. A couple of observations about this data:

1. It refers to all of NW Arkansas, or the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area, which also includes part of SW Missouri and Madison County, in addition to Washington and Benton Counties.

2. I'm not sure where Moody's gets their data from, but according to sales in the NW Arkansas MLS (Multiple Listing Service), the peak was different in Washington and Benton Counties, and also differed by town. According to my data from the NW Arkansas MLS, Washington County median home prices peaked in the 3rd-4th quarter of 2006 whereas Benton County's peaked in early 2007. I suppose that if they got their data from county records and/or other sources which also includes homes not listed by a realtor, the aggregate could have been the third quarter of 2006.

Who knows when the bottom will occur? In any case, we won't know it happened until after the fact and we can look at the data. And then it will be too late--prices will already have begun to rise, and who knows about interest rates?

For more current data and an ongoing look at the housing market in NW Arkansas and nationally check out Judy Luna's daily "real estate tidbits" on her Facebook business page.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NW Arkansas Housing Market--4th Quarter Skyline Report

In the last few weeks the 4th quarter Skyline report was released by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the U of A. At the quarterly Washington County breakfast sponsored by Arvest (also sponsor of the report), Kathy Deck, director of the Center and chief researcher for the Skyline report, talked about the economy as well as the housing market.

The economy—particularly employment—strongly influences the housing market for Northwest Arkansas. If there are no jobs then people will not move to the area. If we don’t have more people moving to the area, there will be no need to construct new homes, establish new businesses (to fill up the vacant commercial and office space we have), improve rental vacancy rates, etc. And if people don’t need homes, the real estate market suffers. It’s that simple.

Nationally it seems that the economy is picking up slightly, and NW Arkansas figures are somewhat better than the national ones. The GDP is up—which means that production is up. Inventories have been depleted so factories are producing more. Some folks who were laid off have been called back to work, a good sign. On the other hand, employers don’t feel confident enough to hire a lot of new people either. Thus in NW Arkansas employment figures are now at about 2006 levels, while nationally they’re at about 2000 levels.

Bottom line is that although there is some positive growth again, it will not be the “go-go” growth of the bubble years. What is needed is good, sustainable growth. According to Deck, “flat is the new up,” when compared to declines during the recent recession.

In the realm of commercial space in Q4 in NW Arkansas, there was near record available space in all sectors. This is one area where NW Arkansas figures are worse than the national figures. For example, office and retail space in all of the NW Arkansas communities is a lot above the national average, although it varies by town. Thus leasing costs have gone down and there are anecdotal reports of greater demands by tenants—leasing incentives such as greater build-out allowances, free rent, and delays in scheduled lease rate increases, for example.

For multifamily, vacancy rates are also above national levels. The national vacancy rate is 8.5% for 1-2 bedroom apartments. NW Arkansas rates approached 15% in Q4, primarily because of a lot of new apartments which were constructed, especially in Fayetteville. Expected population growth didn’t materialize, so the number of vacant units remains high. Springdale is lower, but still over 10%.

In the single family arena, building permits are now very low but the market can sustain this level. The value of permits issued has risen, since many of the residential building permits are for custom homes in Fayetteville and Springdale. In the smaller towns of Washington County most of the new permits issued have been for small, affordable homes.

The inventory is down and the problem of absorption is no longer due to overbuilding, but rather a slow down of demand (i.e. fewer people are to the area). According to Deck, the market can support a low level of construction, in fact we need to have some construction occur. As available units are absorbed, there needs to be replacement or prices will rise significantly as demand outpaces supply.

Prices on single family homes have continued to decline, so that values are now at approximately 2004 levels. In Benton County, the decline was 7.7% compared to the same period last year, and in Washington County there was nearly a 14% decline. There may be continued adjustment due to downward pressure caused by foreclosures and sales of distressed properties as well as by the decreased absorption rate.

Ultimately, low interest rates, lower prices, and the first time home buyer tax credit make this a wonderful time to purchase a home in NW Arkansas. Not a great time for selling, however. The thing buyers need to remember is that purchasing a home is normally considered to be a long-term investment, so that even if prices continue to decline, they will eventually begin to appreciate again.

Predictions are that interest rates will begin to rise, and (with low rates of construction of new homes) absorption of current inventory will also cause prices to begin to rise again.

For more information about real estate in NW Arkansas visit Judy Luna’s main website:

To search for homes or other property in the NW Arkansas MLS:

For more information about the Q4 Skyline report:

Monday, March 08, 2010

2010 Census Coming Soon to Your Mailbox

National Census Day is April 1, 2010. Use that date as your reference point for completing the census forms which will be arriving in mailboxes all over the country in March.

The Census Bureau says this census will be one of the shortest in history - just ten simple questions. Most Americans grew up knowing the national census takes places every ten years. But for newcomers, the census can cause questions, uncertainty, and apprehension.

There is nothing to fear about the census. There are no questions regarding whether you are living in this country legally or illegally, Social Security numbers are not collected, and your privacy is secure.

The data are grouped together and used in a variety of important ways (for example):

--Congressional districts will be redrawn and reapportioned.

--$400 billion is distributed annually to state and local governments for infrastructure and community services (think bridges, hospitals, senior citizen centers, and job training, for example).

--Pools of skilled workers can be located.

Completing the census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and it makes good sense for the welfare of our community.

All you have to do is take about ten minutes to complete ten questions and mail it back in its postage-paid envelope. If you don’t do that promptly, a census worker will have to drive to your home, knock on your door and ask the questions - and that costs considerably more than the postage-paid envelope. So give yourself a break and save the government some money at the same time.

For more information:

To see the actual questions:


And to get a part time job as a census taker:


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Real Estate News in NW Arkansas

Now that I’m reading the local newspaper on line again, I can use it to help my readers find information on news and issues of importance for the area.

With regard to real estate there are a few things.

First, an article Saturday in the new NW Arkansas paper provided good information about the housing market in NW Arkansas in relation to property taxes collected and delinquent taxes. It seems that the sum of delinquent taxes declined last year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the housing market is improving.

Second, last Friday was the annual Economic Forecast Luncheon at the Hammons Center in Rogers, sponsored by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the U of A Sam Walton School of Business.

We learned about recent occurrences in the world, national and local economy and postulations about what’s coming in the near future. Actually the outlook was more positive than I would have imagined and I hope the crystal balls of the speakers are not cracked or broken. We need some positive economic news to get buyers out into the streets again, purchasing homes.

The economic stimulus measures of the federal government have helped, particularly the first time home buyer tax credit, which was expanded and extended into this year. Now if only the weather would improve… ;-)

The other event which I just found out about at the Metro Board of Realtor Luncheon on Thursday was the imminent merger between two of the large local real estate companies of NW Arkansas, Harris McHaney and Coldwell Banker Faucette Realty. This will make the largest real estate company in the NW Arkansas area.

This comes on the heels of the merger under the Weichert umbrella of the Griffin Company and Weichert Clark Long and Associates in December just before Christmas.

The real estate business in NW Arkansas is a changin’. Small boutique firms (and even larger firms like Griffin and Harris McHaney) are having a tougher time. The housing market has suffered with the recession, and may continue to do so. The recent announcement by Walmart of laying off 300 people here in NW Arkansas may have a chilling effect on the economy and housing market just as Walmart’s layoff of 800 people last year did.

Foreclosures are high and there are a lot of short sales. With some of our major corporate employers also cutting back, growth in the area is bound to be curtailed, compared to the peak a few years ago. This (in turn) will lead to fewer new homes being built and sold at a time when we are still trying to absorb the inflated inventory of homes from our mini housing bubble.

I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m still optimistic.

For more info on the housing market and property taxes:

For more info on the Economic Forecast Luncheon and the economy:

For more info on the merger of Coldwell Banker and Harris McHaney:

For more info about Fayetteville and NW Arkansas and purchasing or selling a home there:

And for searching the NW Arkansas MLS:

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Newsworthy in NW Arkansas

Well, I bit the bullet and signed up to pay $5.95 per month to read the local newspaper on line. I don’t get the paper version any more and haven’t for a long time. But a few months ago, the two NW Arkansas newspapers merged and now one has to pay money to read local news on line.

As anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile knows, I have used the local newspapers for “more info” on topics that I blog about. I’m sorry you now have to pay too, but that’s the way it is. I resisted for a long time because of principle. If I can read the major newspapers in the country (Washington Post and NY Times) for free, I didn’t want to have to pay for a mere local newspaper.

Neither of the old papers were that great, but they did tell us what was happening in our neighborhoods, local towns and cities. And the new paper does that too. And we need that information to be informed citizens.

The main turning point for me was that in order to read certain articles to find out news important to my business, I have to pay. Another was a comment by Kathy Deck at the Economic Forecast Luncheon on Friday on the importance of supporting our news organizations financially.

And that got me thinking about the importance of the media in a democracy like ours. Without a strong independent media, we have an uninformed electorate. But for democracy to flourish, we need a strong media which can elucidate the issues and (in an unbiased manner) provide information about our candidates, issues of importance to our daily lives, and the functioning of our political system.

Our local newspapers, like newspapers across the country, have been suffering of late because of increased use of the internet to obtain information. Television competes as well. Major newspapers such as those mentioned earlier have deeper pockets and can find alternative ways to survive without charging website visitors to read their stories. Unfortunately our local papers need additional financial help.

Thus I registered and provided my credit card number to be able to read the local newspaper. It’s a sorry sign of the times, but there it is.

The new NW Arkansas newspaper website is http://www.nwaonline.com . The old website for Judy Luna's information about real estate in NW Arkansas is http://www.judyluna.com/.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fayetteville HS options

I have been somewhat remiss on reporting on some of the issues that I used to write about. One reason is that the two NW Arkansas newspapers merged and now one must pay to read the newspaper on line. I personally think this is a bad idea and even if I would pay to read the newspaper, I don't want readers of my blog to have to pay to get more information than what I am providing in my blog.

Thus some local issues have fallen by the wayside in my blog and the Fayetteville HS is one of them. However, the Fayetteville Flyer is a great source as well and has a good article on what's happening.

It seems that money is limited for the Fayetteville HS renovation so there are 2 options as to what gets done first. Click on the link below for more information.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Does Your Mortgage Guy (or Lady) Know What He’s Doing?

I was reading the NY Times recently and came across an interesting article. It has to do with the professionalism and knowledge of mortgage loan originators. As you might imagine, this affects my business so it piqued my attention. The ability of a loan originator to get transactions closed cuts down on headaches and frustration for buyers--and their realtors.

It seems that something called the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (SAFE Act) was passed by Congress in July 2008 and required states to pass legislation requiring the licensure of mortgage loan originators. The SAFE Act mandated that state agencies participate in the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) and that mortgage brokers meet national standards in order to obtain a license.

Testing began in summer 2009. Now that results are starting to trickle in it appears a substantial of mortgage brokers have a lot more work to do to meet standards. Some 10,000 people have taken the tests and more than 30% failed the federal portion. The number of failures on the applicable state portions was slightly less – 27%. All in all, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

I would like to think Arkansas’ brokers are a cut above those dismal test results. At least our area did not suffer the horrendous housing collapse that occurred in many states where many unqualified borrowers were given loans they had little ability to repay.

Nineteen states have offered the tests to date, including Arkansas where tests began November 1, 2009. So far I haven’t been able to find results specific to Arkansas.

When a buyer asks me for recommendations about the best place to obtain a mortgage, I usually refer them to few trusted people at local companies who have done a good job in the past for my clients. I don’t necessarily trust some of the on-line lenders that advertise frequently on TV. Sometimes you get a good loan originator, sometimes not.

The other thing to look for is whether you are dealing with a mortgage broker or a bank. A bank will process the loan according to its guidelines. Sometimes they keep the loan and sometimes they will sell it to another lending institution. A mortgage broker has a lot of “investors” (usually banks) to whom they will sell the loan. Some have better relationships with their investors than others and are better able to exert pressure to get problems solved and the transaction closed. Banks who regularly sell their loans also need to have such relationships, but even the experience (or lack thereof) of loan originators within their own institutions can sometimes make or break a transaction.

A proven track record speaks volumes. A good, experienced, and knowledgeable loan originator is important, and the same is true for the realtor you select.

For more information:





Friday, January 08, 2010

Bitter Cold Strikes NW Arkansas

I’m writing this Friday at lunchtime. The outside temperature is 7 degrees F. The wind chill is approaching 15 degrees below zero. There are light snowflakes hitting the ground and it is all highly unusual for NW Arkansas.

Our region had snow Sunday followed by cold, which created hazardous driving conditions. Then it got colder. In fact, it’s been brutally cold since late Wednesday night and the forecast calls for more of the same. On Sunday, if all goes as expected, the daytime temperature should warm up to 34 degrees F. and then get a little warmer each day next week.

I realize NW Arkansas is not alone in the cold. Much of the northern and eastern parts of the country are at least as cold and some are even colder. Right now northern Minnesota where I grew up is slightly warmer than Fayetteville, Arkansas. (The kind of cold that northern Minnesota experiences every winter is a major reason why I no longer live there.)

It has been more than 20 years since NW Arkansas had a deep freeze like this one (and I hope it will be another 20 years before it happens again.)

Unusual cold is more dangerous in places where homes and buildings were not designed to handle it. Buildings in places like Minneapolis, Detroit, New York state, and northern New England have more insulation and larger furnaces for heat. Northern states also have more equipment to remove snow and sand roads. Residents in those climates normally have more warm clothes.

This time of year NW Arkansas would expect temps in the 30s and 40s. A cold night might be 20 degrees.

The result of the Arctic air is many faceted. It’s been too dangerous for school buses to navigate icy rural roads, thus schools are closed. In fact, many schools have not reopened since the holiday break. People are cold, pipes are freezing, and cars won’t start. Some older homes don’t even have central heating. It takes a lot of wood to try to heat a home that isn’t properly insulated.

There is good news, however. Several agencies in NW Arkansas have opened warming centers where people can go to avoid frostbite and worse. Many are offering hot food and some have cots for sleeping. At least one agency I heard of is allowing people to bring their pets – because many folks simply will not leave their pet behind to freeze.

So stay inside if at all possible – this too shall pass. I can't wait...