What to do in Asheville over the Holidays

Holidays In WNC Are Magical

One of the best things about the mountains of WNC are the holidays.. Whether you love the outdoors or prefer to be warm and cozy, there is plenty for you to do and add to your favorite holiday. Here are some favorite things to do in the area.


Biltmore Estate Is A Favorite

The Biltmore Estate is one of the oldest manors in the country and they certainly know how to bring out the fabulousness to the holiday glitz and glamour. Festivities are already in full swing at the estate and will no doubt put you in the holiday mood. Starting in early November, they provide a Christmas tree raising that includes plenty of fanfare as the 35 foot Frasier tree arrives in a carriage and is erected in the Banquet Hall. The theme for 2017 is A Vanderbilt Christmas and harkens back to the Gilded Age. Each evening from November 3 to January 6 there are Candlelight tours offered in addition to their usual daytime tours. The home and several of the other annexes, such as the Winery and Antler Hill, will be decked out in holiday décor as well. Tickets range from $40-$75 each for the daytime tours and $70 to $85 for the Candlelight Evenings. We recommend pre-purchasing the tickets a week or more in advance to take advantage of any discounts available. Due to the popularity of the event, many tickets sell out quickly so buy now!


Ride The Polar Express

Each year Great Smoky Mountains Railroad brings the popular movie, The Polar Express, to life with their holiday themed ride through the mountains. Rides begin November 10 and end on December 31 with some days closed so employees can enjoy the holidays with their families. An easy hour and a half trip begins and ends at the Bryson City Depot. Featuring music from the movie soundtrack and picking up Santa along the way will sure to excite children of all ages. Hot chocolate and caroling are sure to make your holidays extra special. In 2016 over 84,000 people rode The Polar Express and has certainly become a favorite tradition for many. Tickets sell out fast so rush to get them now while you can. A wide variety of options are available to fit any budget and experience you want to enjoy.


See The Lights At The Arboretum

The North Carolina Arboretum is a favorite amongst the residents due to beautiful views, fantastic learning experience, and amazing hiking trails. From November 17 to December 31 the Arboretum opens up at night for a special viewing of holiday lights. If you enjoyed cruising neighborhoods at the light displays as a child, you will love the impressive light displays in the gardens. Since the event is held outdoors, dress warmly for the walk through the grounds. All tickets much be purchased in advance to ensure admittance at the gate, no ticket sales at the gate. Don’t forget to take pictures of these memorable light displays.

Run The Holidays In

Asheville and WNC locals love to run and there is no shortage of 5K’s to enjoy during the holiday. Work up an appetite for Thanksgiving with the Turkey Trot in downtown Asheville on Thanksgiving Day. If you aren’t a serious runner, or looking for a fun new tradition, join the one mile Gobble Fun Run that precedes the 5K.

On December 10, the Asheville Jewish Community Center is hosting a Hanukkah 8K. All proceeds to the fabulous run will benefit the Shalom Children’s Center, a pre-kindergarten program for area children. Bring the kids out for a fun, free 8 lap race to see how well they can do.

In Fletcher, Trinity of Fairview is hosting a Joy To The World 5K that benefits a mission trip to Nicaragua next summer. Deck out in your favorite holiday race gear for the fun on December 16th.






Finding Work In Asheville

Earlier in the year, it was reported that Asheville saw a drop in unemployment at an impressive rate of 3.2%. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, employers have been struggling to find employees to fill their needs. This was especially true for part-time positions! This means that now it’s a lot easier to get work than it has in previous years. Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to work in Asheville.


Home Of The Local Biz

Asheville locals love to support local businesses. Even with the rise of chain stores and restaurants, many prefer quaint shops, small service shop, and local artists to purchase their goods and services from. If you are someone looking to boost your own small business, Asheville is a great place to do that sort of thing. Creating pottery, painting masterpieces, beading fabulous jewelry, and metalsmithing or those things that really do well here. If you provide home care services such as personal assisting, pet sitting, and nannying you will also find a slew of work. Want to do office work from home? Join the local Chamber of Commerce to connect with other businesses and see who is the right fit for you.


Be The Professional

Professional positions in health care and office work are on the rise as the city grows. If you are a highly skilled nurse, doctor, administrative assistant, or accountant you will find lots of opportunities, both part-time and full-time depending on your needs. However, this is the one sector that is still highly competitive so bring you’re a-game!


Home Of The Tourists

We aren’t just talking about the minor league baseball team, The Asheville Tourists. Asheville has always been a tourist town and the boom in tourism in recent years means more jobs. Right now we are seeing an incredible high rate of hotels being built all over the city and many need workers to cover everything from housekeeping to front desk to valet services. Restaurants are also plentiful in our food haven and staff is often needed. If you can cook amazing food or wait tables with efficiency, you will have no trouble finding work. Have that entrepreneurial spirit? Food trucks are the “it” thing and the locals love supporting the food truck scene. For a small investment and unique food it can be an easier endeavor to give a little bit of local love. One thing is for sure, we love ethnic foods and if you can offer ethnic yummies you will become popular in a heartbeat.


Spend The Day Driving

While Asheville has plenty of cabs and mass transit options, many locals are finding driving services to be a great way to make cash on their time. Uber and Lyft are incredibly popular and many locals prefer to use those services over taxis due to the price differences. Locals that have chosen to drive with these companies prefer the flexibility it offers and the chance to meet new people. If you have bus driving skills, and a license, check into our mass transit. It is growing each year and there is discussion of adding more lines to the already incredible service they offer. Drivers are currently needed and will be needed in the future. If you have skills in maintenance and office work, positions occasionally pop up.


Educate Your Peers

If you have a skill that you can teach, consider starting your own courses in the area. If you have a degree to teach a specific area of knowledge, check in with University of North Carolina – Asheville (UNCA) or Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (AB-Tech) to see if they need any positions filled. Several local elementary and secondary schools may be hiring within the city or the county of Buncombe.


Asheville is well-known for being a hotbed of tourism and hosts a unique flavor of artistry. Any service you can provide or any position you can fill will certainly improve the area and help us flourish.



Hot Topics in Asheville – Hotel Tax and Housing

Taxes and housing are on the tip of everyone’s tongue, whether they are visiting or living here. Asheville is seeing significant growth that is impacting both the occupancy tax rate and the housing situation. Let’s investigate both just a little further so that we can understand the financial makeup of Asheville.


Occupancy Tax is Still Affordable

Occupancy tax belongs to Buncombe County, the home of Asheville. This tax covers all hotels, motels, inns, and short term rentals (cabins, AirBnB, etc). The last increase took place in 2015 when it increased to 6% from 4%. Currently that is exactly the tax rate one pays when they stay here. It may seem a bit higher once you factor in our 7% sales tax, but for the sake of discussion we are solely focusing in on the occupancy tax. As of now, there are no plans for the county government to raise taxes. We are certainly hearing the rumors, but to date there is no reliable source that would back those rumors up. However, we must factor in the incredible boom Asheville is seeing right now in tourism. It wouldn’t be of any surprise if the county government took measures to increase in order to make the most out of the financial benefit of a tourism boom. Despite the consideration, the occupancy tax is relatively low when compared to other counties in the state of North Carolina and the majority of the country.

Many people often wonder if Asheville will impose a city wide occupancy tax for the hotels and AirBnB’s situated in the city limits. The short answer is “No”.  The longer answer is that they are simply not allowed to by the state of North Carolina. It isn’t technically a law but in order for any local government to impose a special tax within city limits, they must make a request to the state and receive approval. So far, no one on City Council has discussed that as their focus has been strongly on housing issues.


Bond Referendum Focuses on Affordable Housing

The bond referendum was approved in August 2016 and was most recently amended for the City Council’s approval. The bond itself is worth $74 million and means that there is a 4.15 cent increase on property taxes in order to pay off the debt. While the bond covers several key issues in the area, affordable housing is the one that everyone is watching closely. It is proposed that there will be 2,800 new units of affordable housing made available by June, 2021. It also includes the expansion of permanent place-based affordable housing, so that many can have a home that they can reside in for much longer than a rental. Additionally, there is a focus on location and energy efficiency considered as key factors for the affordable housing. Lastly, the bond has ambitious plans to eliminate the homeless crisis that Asheville is currently facing. Location is probably one of Asheville’s largest challenges when it comes to affordable housing. The city has three properties that are referenced in the bond as key places to transform into usable and affordable space. Two of them are in the heart of downtown and all three are on the bus lines, making it attractive for folks who rely on mass transit for work and errands. Those three properties contribute a total of approximately 14 acres to develop, which is why it will take about 4 years to complete those developments.


What does this mean for the visitor or potential new resident? For the visitor, there is still a relatively low tax in place that won’t break your travel budget and allows you to spend more on meals and entertainment. For the potential new resident, you will see more growth in the city and new opportunities arise. Growth in the city will be a huge benefit as we support local businesses and add to our eclectic lifestyle!


The Face of Asheville’s Rental Market

When most folks move here, they look for rental property to live in to get a feel for the area before they invest in a home. It’s important to know whether or not your career, home life, and social life will flourish before setting permanent roots here. However, we have seen that getting rental property can be much harder than assumed at first glance. Here is the real truth on what the rental market looks like in Asheville and all of Buncombe county.

Reports have focused on multi-family units, meaning apartment buildings and duplexes and show that there is a 96% occupation rate as of 2016. This has actually dropped from 98% in 2014. Vacancies in 2014 were at 99 units and in 2016, that number rose to 336. However, we also have seen growth in the number of available units with new complexes built all over the county within those 2 years. When it comes to affordable housing, government subsidized and income based rentals, have seen 100% occupation rate and a growing waiting list of well over 500 families. The new complexes that have come into the area have been high-end market units with very little growth in the affordable housing sector. That growth involved 2 complexes that were filled immediately and the waiting list added to as families are increasingly needing assistance.

Rental increases were above national average as well over the past two years. National average hovered around 3% and in Asheville, average rents were raised 4.4%. Interestingly enough, the rise for 2 bedroom units rose the most at 5.2%, 3 bedrooms averaged at 4.3%, and 1 bedrooms rose at 4.2%. 2 bedroom units appear to be the most sought after rental and accounts for the higher increase in rent.

In the entirety of Buncombe County there are 36 high-end market rentals. That doesn’t sound like much but we are only referring to multi-family units. As of 2016, there are1,970 units under construction and an additional 2,600 units planned or proposed. Less than 1,000 of those units are earmarked as subsidized and/or affordable housing units with the rest being high-end market rate. With the rise of the units that are coming, we are hoping this means a lower occupation rate that is desirable for a healthy housing market.

Unfortunately, the reports don’t include single family rental units and Buncombe county certainly has a large market of those properties as well. Rents are comparable for those units as the multi-family units and also see about the same occupancy rate. However, a quick look with a real estate agent or google search will show that there are units available. They just happen to fill very quickly!

So what does this mean for you, the potential new resident of Asheville North Carolina? It means being financially smart about your move. Average rents in Asheville are hovering around $1500 a month and surrounding areas in the county are roughly around $1000 a month. This means your monthly income must be $4500 or more per month to comfortably afford the rental market. More income will be desirable in order to save for a home purchase, of course! While you are number crunching, doing some research on the cost of living will equally be important so that you can save appropriately and enjoy all that Asheville has to offer. Don’t forget to research your moving expenses as well. Most importantly, make sure you have a rental unit ready for you when you come here. We have heard too many horror stories of families moving here, assuming they can get into a rental within a week and end up living in hotels until a unit becomes available. The same can also be said for the job market, have a job lined up first before you get here. Don’t shy away from checking out those single family units as well in order to broaden your options!

Brews & Tunes – What Asheville Offers at Night

asheville realtor

Two of Asheville’s favorite things are a well-crafted beer and some local music to bring delight to the ears. We have successfully been dubbed Beer City USA at least 3 years in a row. Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed May 26-June 3 as Asheville Beer Week and we celebrated our first Beer City Festival at the end of May. With just over 30 breweries in the city, it would be an understatement to say that we love our beer. Here are a few of our favorite breweries!


Asheville Brewing CompanyOne of Asheville’s oldest breweries, it has been a staple in Asheville since 1998. Offering over 30 locally brewed ales and IPA’s, it will be easy to find the right beer for you. Of course they don’t just offer beer, they offer some of the best local pizza and wings that will please the palate. If you are on the north end of town, their Merrimon location offers movie viewing at incredibly affordable prices, full menu available, and unique seating that feels more like sitting in your living room then a movie theater.


Catawba BrewingCatawba Brewing isn’t officially in Asheville, they are comfortably residing in gorgeous Morganton, just east of Asheville. However, their brews have been in our local beer scene since 1999. Mellow Mushroom, Barley’s, The Bier Garden, and the Biltmore House were amongst the first to give these WNC brewers a chance and they have certainly made a home in our hearts and our gullets. In 2014, they opened a tasting room and small brewery on the South Slope so they could cater to us a little bit easier. All of their brews are now offered in 4 different states and earning them plenty of well-deserved business for their efforts and delicious brews.


Ginger’s RevengeGinger’s Revenge is a new brewery making a big splash over off Riverside Drive, not too far from the UNCA Campus. What makes Ginger’s Revenge so special? Not only do they offer similar grain-based beers, they also create ginger beers that are naturally gluten-free. For those who are health conscious, and the few who suffer from Celiac’s disease, this is a dream come true! We are sure that we will see some impressive things from this brewer over the coming years.

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While you are enjoying all the wonderful beers that Asheville has to offer, don’t forget about the impressive music you can catch any night of the week.  Here are a few of our favorites!


Leeda Lyric JonesLyric is one of Asheville’s favorite because she was born here, raised here, and ready to entice your ears with her musical stylings. Touting inspiration from the likes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Tracy Chapman, you will be mesmerized by her soulful autheticness.


Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – Name sounds weird, but it’s Asheville! This is a band that touts themselves as “family hip hop with solid gold soul”. No, this is not a Kidz Bop cd reject, these folks mix the right blend of fun and family friendly sound to bring you up out of your seat and want to dance. Did we also mention they are Grammy Award Winners?  Yes! Earlier in 2017, they won a Grammy for Best Children’s Album.


The music scene isn’t just limited to fantastic bands either, we have some really great places to listen to music. The Orange Peel brings in a blend of modern and local music to the downtown area. Isis Theater brings the local music scene to West Asheville in style and class. The Grey Eagle has been a staple for the local music scene long before the tourism explosion. All of these great places have made sure to include local brews on their menu so that you can get the very best that Asheville has to offer. If there is anything that Asheville loves the most, it’s supporting the locals and their hard work.


Baby Boomers Find What They Want in Asheville

In 2013, the average age of citizen in Asheville was 38 years old. In the last four years, Asheville has seen significant population growth. While we attract all walks of life and ages, baby boomers have found their home here easier than any other age group. We have curated a top five list on why that is!


  1. Freedom to Work – Our typical vision of retirement is one in which we don’t work at all and we spend our days doing the things that we desire. Perhaps that is learning the woodworking or growing a garden, those things that we put off during our working years because it was so time consuming. However, baby boomer have been changing how we live retirement and one thing many baby boomers want is the freedom to work if they choose to. This does not translate into a 40-hour a week, 9 to 5 position either. Baby boomers want work that fills their souls and one in which they can control. Given Asheville’s love for local business, many baby boomers are able to work out of their home crafting an art or doing a side job of some kind that gives them a sense of purpose and allows them to meet new folks during retirement. Many are able to make extra funds to pay for extra curriculars and save their retirement funds for the bills to sustain their life.
  2. Diverse Dating Scene – If Asheville is known for anything, it’s the diverse and eclectic lifestyle we so readily accept here. This also extends into the dating scene and with divorce rates over 50% these days, this means plenty of dating opportunities for the single baby boomer. Not only are their dating opportunities, there are a plethora of exciting and interesting things to do with your date! So even if you are a partnered baby boomer, there is still some great things to do in the area for you and your loved one.
  3. We are Health Conscious – Many baby boomers are starting to feel the effects of aging and this is the perfect area to find what you need for taking care of your body. We have gyms in each sector of the city and the environment lends its own natural ways to work your body. Hiking, biking, and walking groups are plentiful here. Additionally, if you are looking for mindful grocery stores that carry healthier food options, we service your needs through Co-Ops and local grocers who go out of their way to bring the best in organic and lower processed foods. Lastly, Mission Hospitals offers some of the best medical care in the area. Many of our Western medicine doctors will also work in conjunction with holistic health options to give you the best in medical care.
  4. Volunteering Opportunities Everywhere – A large portion of baby boomers are looking to volunteer more and give back to community, something they largely could not do during their working years. Combined with the fact that they have seen more political strife and rebellion than any other generation, baby boomers are simply more likely to vocalize their concerns for community and join forces to make big change in the world. Asheville is a hotbed for causes of all kinds. Whether you are working to help the homeless, domestic violence and rape survivors, or advocate for political change, there is always someone here in need of a volunteer to care for the community.
  5. School Isn’t For the Young – While the baby boomer was working, and possibly raising a family, there just wasn’t much time to learn a new language or a skill that they would’ve liked. Asheville fulfills that need through several businesses and the local community college. Whether it’s learning a musical instrument, or writing your memoirs, it’s easy to fill your time with some classes to keep the mind learning.

Baby boomers are living longer than their parents did and have more energy to live the retirement they want. We simply cater to their needs and empower our baby boomers to live a life they want!

Planning on Moving to West Asheville? Here’s 5 things You Need to Know

1.) The average cost of a home: $348,298 according to a review of recent listings. Investment properties start around $150,000, but houses up to the $600,000 range are available in W. Asheville.

2.) The average cost of a restaurant meal: $13-15 is the Asheville average for a single entree according to this Mountain Xpress article from last fall. Offerings range from tacos (Zia Taqueria and White Duck come to mind) to finer dining establishments like The Admiral. West Asheville residents also have a number of walkable chain groceries and local markets along Haywood Road for home-cooking supplies and ingredients.

3.) Parking availability/car necessity: Unless you manage to work remotely or actually in West Asheville, you’ll probably need a car. Many West Asheville homes have room to park at least one car in the drive, but car collectors beware; multi-car households may struggle.

4.) Schools: West Asheville is part of both the city of Asheville school system and the Buncombe county system. Residents benefit from access to both of these

5.) Culture:  The people and places of West Asheville have their own history. It’s not just charmingly aged window-dressing. Moving to West Asheville means putting down roots next to folks that have become local institutions. If you’re moving to West Asheville, you’re getting ready to become part of a real neighborhood.

*Bonus TipGet to Sunny Point early. Or consider drastically changing your eating schedule. Lunch at 3? Sounds perfect.


Want more? Check out this amazing time-lapse video of Asheville for a breathtaking look at our beautiful city.

Bond spending projects get first presentation in February

On February 7th, staff presented Asheville City Council with plans for a host of bond-funded projects and there’s a lot in there for anyone who lives or works in Asheville to be excited about.

Improving on perfection

Most if not all of our state’s college and universities will be able to start or complete major projects, repairs, or refurbishments. Parks improvements benefit residents, visitors, and local businesses either directly or indirectly. As Asheville seeks to lure in larger companies to drive wages and the local/regional economy, these improvements will be necessary to proving Asheville has what companies and workers want. Employers already established in Asheville and the state are expected to add jobs both in the midst of completing bond projects and after.

Affordable housing

For those of us currently making Asheville our home, the potential development of more affordable housing is of particular relevance. It’s unclear what type of housing will be built. One of the companies involved constructs single family homes as well as apartment buildings. Regardless, this is great news for the artists, service workers, and others who have long lamented the unintended side effects of Asheville’s remarkable economic growth.

A careful foundation

It’s also worth noting that even though supporters of the bill are looking forward to favorite projects taking off, the County and City are taking their time to make sure the plan addresses the stated need. A-B Tech representatives will have to take another crack at presenting a proposal that meets the Buncombe County Commissioner’s concerns about low minority enrollment rates at the college. The current owners of one property under consideration for the affordable housing project agreed to give the City eight years to decide whether or not to make the purchase.

Tracking progress

But we won’t have to wait eight years to see progress. The next few City Council meetings this spring will focus on the budget, where bond projects will again come under discussion or review. Spending on projects is slated to begin in 2018, when the bond money sees its first disbursement. Hopefully the City will continue to update their super-cool interactive map showing the locations of all proposed bond spending to indicate what gets the final green light.


If you’re new to the bond measure conversation, read Understanding the NC Bond Measure on HiAltaRealEstate.com.

Want to keep up on Buncombe County Commissioner meetings?

How about Asheville City Council meetings?

Understanding the Connect NC Bond Measure

NC voters approved the state’s plan to use bond funds to pay for improvements and infrastructure in parks, schools, and neighborhoods last year, but it’s easy to be confused about the hows and whys of how the plan will work. Following is a quick rundown of what a bond is, a little history of the NC bond measure and how the money is to be divided and spent at the state, county, and city levels, and some ways to keep up with future developments.

What is a bond?

Essentially, a bond is a loan where you are the bank. You give an amount to someone (usually a government or company) with the expectation that they will be able to pay you back, plus a little for the use of your money.

So investors are loaning money to North Carolina against its history of growth and debt repayment. NC enjoys a triple-A credit rating, part of the justification for adding new debt to the state budget.

We voted on the decision because the bonds are being issued against North Carolina’s General Fund, the name for the pool of money that largely comes from our taxes. Investors expect that if something goes awry, they will be repaid from the General Fund. This type of bond is referred to as a general obligation or GO bond. Voters have a say in GO bonds in many states.

The Connect NC Bond Bill

Here’s the full-text of the bill proposing the recent bond measure. The title states that the act will “…further economic development…consistent with the Connect NC plan.”

Connect NC was originally a transportation infrastructure plan enacted by then-Governor McCrory in the early aughts. It was criticized for going back on its promise that no tax increases would be required to pay for it in the very next year after its enactment. Since then, gas taxes and various vehicle-related fees go back into highway and transportation funding. So highway projects were cut from projects in the new bond bill.

Governor McCrory habitually made cuts to education in order to balance tax cuts elsewhere. The Connect NC plan was seemingly intended to address some of the problems colleges and universities have faced in implementing slashed budgets over the years. Critics of the bond measure from the left point out that the measure won’t be a replacement for this funding and could obscure the real need occurring on campuses and in departments across the state. Opponents from both sides remain unconvinced that the plan will function as intended, recalling the previous Connect NC measure.

The Connect NC plan addresses more than education infrastructure, however, and proponents expect that projects will have a real, measurable positive effect on North Carolina’s economy.

Allocating Bond Funds

The next few meetings about the future and timeline of the Connect NC bond at the City and County levels here in Asheville/Buncombe county will focus on the budget.

Instead of trying to untangle county versus city versus state budgets on large-scale undertakings that involve every level of government, the bond will move forward on a project basis. Schools, parks, and other entities will work with all relevant parties to put together plans that, once approved, use funds to achieve specific ends.


News about the Connect NC bond will continue to emerge as projects get approved, denied, or modified. Keep an eye on your favorite parks and local college websites; many have been posting regularly about their plans, like this from UNCA about building renovations.

Read more about the first presentation of bond projects on HiAltaRealEstate.com

Check out Connect.NC.gov for ongoing information about projects.