Tag Archives: AL

The Ultimate List of Homebuyer Tips

The Internet is awash with short and incomplete lists of tips for homebuyers. For the many Americans unfamiliar with the home-buying process, trying to determine which tips to focus on could be confusing. Upon reading these lists, aspiring homebuyers must ask themselves, “Are these tips that industry experts would actually recommend, and are they worth spending my valuable time on?”

To remedy this problem, Market Leader gathered tips for homebuyers from half a dozen sources, put them all on one giant list, and, after removing the trivial and contradictory ones, surveyed almost 400 real estate agents about the importance of each tip. For the 17 tips featured in this survey, participants indicated whether they found them to be very, moderately or slightly important for homebuyers – or not recommendable at all!


Click here to read a list of more homebuyer tips

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Replace a heart valve without open-heart surgery? Huntsville Hospital can

Medical inventor and Huntsville native Stanton "Stan" Rowe is interviewed about his new heart valve device at the Westin Huntsville on Oct. 23, 2014. (Lee Roop/lroop@al.com)

Medical inventor and Huntsville native Stanton “Stan” Rowe is interviewed about his new heart valve device at the Westin Huntsville on Oct. 23, 2014. (Lee Roop/lroop@al.com)

Replace a heart valve in an hour without open-heart surgery with the patient awake on the table? It sounds like something from “Star Trek,” but a procedure invented by a Huntsville native has allowed surgeons around the world to do just that 150,000 times since 2002. It’s so accepted Medicare will pay for it, but it’s still rare enough that only two hospitals in Birmingham performed it in Alabama before this summer.

Now, Huntsville Hospital has joined the hospitals able to perform the procedure as a treatment for the disease called aortic stenosis. A team led by cardiologist Dr. Alex Vasquez has done a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) on seven patients since Aug. 12.

The aortic valve passes blood from the heart back through the body, but in patients suffering from aortic stenosis, the valve is clogged with calcium buildup and able to move only a small fraction of the blood the body needs. The results can range from loss of energy and fainting spells to heart failure and sudden death.

The disease affects people over 65

“It occurs in 12 percent of patients over 80,” medical inventor Stan Rowe said in a Thursday interview. Rowe, a graduate of Huntsville High School and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is now chief scientific officer with Edwards Lifesciences LLC in Irvine, Calif.

“It’s an insidious disease,” Rowe said. “That’s one of the challenges. This loss of energy that’s probably the biggest symptom occurs over months because the disease has taken years. It’s under-diagnosed.”

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The valve used to replace the aortic heart valve. (Courtesy Edwards Lifesciences)

The traditional treatment is open heart surgery. “The cardiothoracic surgeon, who does amazing work, cuts through your sternum, opens your chest, puts you on cardiopulmonary bypass, cuts open your aorta and removes the diseased valve, then puts in with 30 sutures a new surgical valve.

“We’re the world’s leading maker of surgical valves, too,” Rowe said, “so what these surgeons do is amazing. Their mortality rate is only about 3 percent – phenomenal – but it’s a really rough procedure on older patients. A lot of older patients have other medical problems … that may put you at high risk.”

The new procedure is for high-risk surgical patients, Rowe said, “because it’s done on a beating heart. You can do this without general anesthesia while the patient’s awake on the table.”

In the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the upper thigh to access the femoral artery, which goes directly to the heart. A guide wire is inserted, then a sheath or conduit. A balloon catheter is inserted to dilate the valve. Then, the valve is pushed through and docked with the balloon. The valve is put in place and the diseased valve is pushed out of the way. The procedure takes about an hour. Patients go home in three-to-five days and recover in a month.

They said: It won’t work, we don’t need it

“This idea had been around, but no one had ever made one,” Rowe said. “No one knew what it should look like. A lot of people said it won’t work and we don’t need it, mostly the folks already doing the procedures. So I founded the company that developed this procedure in January of 2000 with two cardiologists, myself and one other engineer. We raised money, did the early engineering and by April 2002 did our first case in Europe. It shocked a lot of people that it worked. We did 14 cases before I sold the company to Edwards Lifesciences.”

So, what’s next? “Great question,” Rowe said. “Next is the mitral valve, which is a bigger deal than this one. It’s leakage, it’s not narrowed, it’s leaky. We have the same issue there that there’s no great option for replacing a valve in the mitral position. I worked for five years to develop a trans-catheter mitral valve, and we just started doing those clinical trials in January.”

A Huntsville Hospital, the procedure involves a number of medical disciplines including cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, imaging cardiologists, cardiac anesthesiologists and perfusionists as well as operating room and cardiac cath lab staff, all in the same room, at the same time.

The cardiologist members of the TAVR team are Vasquez, Joshua Krasnow, Michael Butler, Mihir Kanitkar, Sean Groark and Michael Ridner. Cardiovascular surgeons on the team include Drs. Benton Washburn, Shaf Holden and Aaron Hoffman. Katherine Meier, RN, is coordinator of the Valve Clinic.

To learn more, go to the website yourheartvalve.com.

Replace a heart valve without open-heart surgery? Huntsville Hospital joins the few facilities that can | AL.com.

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Town Madison developers negotiating with 10 big box stores

Conceptional drawing of what the main retail, restaurant and entertainment portion of Town Madison could resemble when it opens in late 2016 or early 2017.

Conceptional drawing of what the main retail, restaurant and entertainment portion of Town Madison could resemble when it opens in late 2016 or early 2017.

Negotiations are in the works with 10 potential anchor stores for Town Madison, which the retail developer for the 800,000-square-foot shopping center said it right on schedule for recruiting the first tenants.

Josh Beyer, vice president of development for the Florida, Gulf Coast region of The Sembler Company, which is handling retail end of the $400 million mixed-use development, said he’s not yet a liberty to announce which stores he is negotiating with, but they are all big box type of retailers that are key to establishing the shopping center.

Traditionally, developing large shopping centers begins with securing the anchor stores first, and then the smaller retailers come on board, he said. The anchor stores will occupy about 300,000 square feet, he added.

Beyer was in North Alabama on Monday and Tuesday meeting with local officials, including Madison City Council on Monday night to finalize an agreement for $3 million in tax incentives in return for constructing a series of new road improvements surrounding a new 130,000-square-foot shopping center at Browns Ferry Road and Wall Triana Highway.

Sembler was involved in the first phase of developing Valley Bend Shopping Center in Jones Valley, which now has grown into 414,000-square-foot center. It’s anchored by Hobby Lobby, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls, Bed Bath & Beyond, Petsmart and a SuperTarget.

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Land has been cleared of trees at the along Zierdt Road and Interstate 565 in recent weeks in preparation for development of Town Madison. The mixed-use development calls for 800,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space plus 625,000 square feet of office space. (Photo by Paul Huggins/phuggins@al.com)

View full sizeLand has been cleared of trees at the along Zierdt Road and Interstate 565 in recent weeks in preparation for development of Town Madison. The mixed-use development calls for 800,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space plus 625,000 square feet of office space. (Photo by Paul Huggins/phuggins@al.com)

Gov. Robert Bentley helped local officials break ground on Town Madison in August. In all, Town Madison will encompass 700 acres along Interstate 565 and Zierdt Road. Conceptual plans show 800,000 square feet of retail, entertainment and restaurant space. Lennar Commercial is partnering on Town Madison and is handling the commercial development of 625,000 of office space.

The land for the retail area has been cleared of trees in recent weeks, and developers continue to work on site plans for store layout and roads.

The City of Madison and Madison County Commission created a cooperative district that will allow local developer Louis Breland to take out a $20 million bond to pay for new roads and other infrastructure improvements, including a new interchange with Interstate 565. Breland will get a tax break on Town Madison until his investment is recouped.

Beyer said the new interchange and road supporting the shopping center must be complete before any of the stores will open. He anticipates opening in late 2016 or early 2017.

Town Madison developers negotiating with 10 big box stores | AL.com.

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Groundbreaking set for new $34 million facility at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College

Rendering of $34 million facility to be built at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College.

Rendering of $34 million facility to be built at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College.

Calhoun Community College is ready to break ground on a $34 million facility at its Huntsville campus on Wynn Drive.

Retiring Calhoun President Marilyn Beck has talked about the need to expand the Huntsville campus for several years and the expansion set to take place has been in discussions for more than two years.

The groundbreaking will be Dec. 5 at 11 a.m.

Officials scheduled to attend include Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, state school board members Charles Elliott and Mary Scott Hunter and Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System.

The new Math, Science and Computer Science building is a three-story facility with about 90,000 square feet. The building will be located on the west side of Wynn Drive.

The event will also serve as a farewell for Beck, who announced her retirement in August. It will be effective Dec. 31.

via Groundbreaking set for new $34 million facility at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College | AL.com.

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“Alabama 3rd quarter home sales highest since 2007″

Click here to view or print the full quarterly report compliments of the Alabama Housing Finance Authority.

Alabama residential sales during the third quarter while sluggish continued to gradually improve, up 3.3 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. This is an improvement over the 2.3 percent growth experienced in the second quarter of the year. Total sales of 12,469 units represent the best third quarter since 2007 (15,051 units). With that said, third quarter sales are still 25.2 percent (was 25.0 percent last quarter) below the quarterly peak established in 2005 when 16,674 units were sold.

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View full sizeAlabama housing inventory down .9% from 3rd Quarter 2013. Infograph courtesy of ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: The statewide housing inventory average during the third quarter was 33,538 units, a decrease of .9 percent from the same period in 2013 and 17.7 percent below the third quarter peak in 2010 (40,745 units). There was 8.1 months of housing supply (7 months considered equilibrium during 3rd quarter) in the third quarter 2014, the same as last year (3Q). Historical data indicates that the third quarter inventory-to-sales ratio in 2014 decreased 23.6 percent from the 5-year average (10.6 months) and decreased 14.7 percent from the 3-year average.

Demand: Historical data indicates that third quarter sales in 2014 increased by 12.1 percent from the most recent 3-year average (’11-’13) and 18.3 percent from the 5-year quarterly average (’09-’13).

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View full sizeAlabama median sales price up 1.8% from 3rd Quarter 2013. Infograph courtesy of ACRE. All rights reserved.

Pricing: The statewide median sales price during the third quarter was $130,284, an increase of 1.8 percent from the same quarter in 2013. Historical data indicates that third quarter median price in 2014 increased by 3.6 percent from the most recent 3-year average and 3.2 percent from the 5-year quarterly average (’09-’13).

The Alabama Residential Quarterly Report is provided compliments of the Alabama Housing Finance Authority.

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ACRE was founded by legislative act in 1996 due to the efforts of the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce to serve the State of Alabama real estate industry and the consumers it serves. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet and our statewide ACRE Partners. Follow us @uaacre

Alabama Residential Quarterly Report: “3rd quarter sales highest since 2007″ | AL.com.

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Awesome in MidTowne!

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Enjoy carefree living with direct access to Indian Creek Greenway, literally minutes from work/dining/shopping, resort pool, lakes and a park. Better than new, this gorgeous Harrison plan by Mark Harris features beautiful hand scraped hardwood floors, isolated master suite on the main floor, open floor plan, granite countertops and custom cabinets in the gourmet kitchen and a huge loft with two additional bedrooms up. A large covered veranda and a privacy fenced back yard provide a great space for outdoor events. 6437 Lincoln Park Place

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When do leaves change color in Alabama?

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Get ready for fall foliage, fall color, or whatever you call Nature’s annual splashing of Southern forests in vivid reds, maroons and yellows. Leaves put on their brightest colors from now through early November, and that means it’s time to get outside and ramble.

Experts say it’s shaping up as a pretty colorful year – about the same as the past few years – and the dry September may have helped, not hurt this year’s color. A report from the Citizen Times of Asheville, N.C., quotes a regional expert revising her fall foliage outlook for the mountains upward. She said wet weather like we’ve had this year mutes leaf color, but dry weather like September’s makes color “pop.”

‘Not too shabby’

In Alabama, regional state naturalist Patti Donnellan said simply “not too shabby” as she looked out her window at fall foliage in Lake Guntersville State Park Tuesday afternoon.

Lake Guntersville State Park’s mountaintop lodge is as scenic as fall gets in Alabama, and Donnellan said low ground cover like sumac is already red. Bigger trees like oaks “don’t have too much going on yet,” she said, but they will start changing quickly across north Alabama beginning next week.

If you want great color this week, you’ll have to drive to western Virginia and eastern West Virginia, according to The Foliage Network, a non-profit website that uses volunteer spotters to report on fall foliage across the eastern United States. Those two areas are the only ones reporting high to peak color this week. Farther south, spotters report low color in eastern and middle Tennessee, low color in western North Carolina, and no color in middle North Carolina.

About that weekend trip: If you’re planning one, state tourism websites in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are serious about the season. Leaves changing color means big business, and the states will help you find where color is peaking when you’re ready to travel. Alabama’s website has a particularly nice interactive map.  Another hint: If you plan to stay overnight near the woods, a reservation is a good idea. It can get crowded out there this time of year.

Why do they change?

Why do leaves change color? Dr. Leland Cseke, an assistant biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, says it’s because trees start breaking down their green pigments to store the nitrogen they contain for energy through the winter. The process lets the fall sun light up the other color pigments in the leaves.

How do they know it’s time? Cseke’s specialty is tree nutrient systems, and he said the signal varies for different trees. Some trees sense the changing light as the autumn sun drops lower in the sky. Some trees sense the change in temperature. Some of the process remains mysterious.

That temperature signal to change may be a few days away. The National Weather Service Office in Huntsville is predicting normal or above-above normal temperatures across North Alabama for the next week to 10 days. So, unless something changes, there will no cold snap to get trees moving for at least the next week.

When do leaves change color in Alabama? 2014 expected to yield vibrant fall foliage | AL.com.

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