Charlotte, NC: Sometimes life calls for sacrifice, but this is not the place to do it

With about 5% of the city’s workforce propped up by two large, national banks, Charlotte is all the rage for single-family housing speculators and metropolitan transplants. Data from MacroMarkets’ Case/Schiller Index series shows that the trend in home prices in Charlotte has opted for a steadier sloping linear growth path versus the steeper S-curve of the national index (see chart) and other flipper-happy metro areas. Of course, office and residential developers are excited to capitalize on this anomaly.

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“Both Bank of America and Wachovia are building downtown office towers more than 30 stories high to provide space for their work forces to grow (About supply gluts in ‘sleepy’ towns deemed by developers as major metropolises waiting to happen…The last firm I worked for rented 3,000-ish square feet of office space on the 19th floor of a Dallas high rise…in order to store old files…for less than my monthly SF rent).

…The banks `are a magnet,’ said Robert Eisenbeis, former head of research at the Atlanta Fed… `Charlotte has become a financial center. Charlotte is an example of a community focused on services with a well-defined focus (…until some foreign bank comes along and buys Wachovia).’

Some transplants find the average-middle-America-suburbia lifestyle to be an adjustment tolerable with offsetting concessions, namely cheap housing. Of the move, transplants commented,

“We can get a house we really want in Charlotte, and I think if we make the right decision, we’ll be sitting on a lot more equity in 10 years.”

“It takes about two Top-40 songs and I’m pulling into my parking lot”

Bargain, or the national pastime of settling? Trading ten years of life for a ‘decent’ return on an equity investment doesn’t seem as rational as Russian agro-bonds and living in an international city promising a relatively greater proportion of thoughtful and interesting residents.

Karla Knotts (president, Charlotte research firm): We don’t do anything flashy or showy around here
ES: So, here in Charlotte, you live to work? Is that how you’d describe the lifestyle?
KK: [no response]
ES: So, bondage…would you call it that?
KK: We call it plodding. This is not Vegas or Florida.
[Banks Help Charlotte, North Carolina, Buck Housing Downturn, Bloomberg]

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