Archive for Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Town Talk: New ‘med spa’ business to open in West Lawrence; home sale numbers still lagging; Sister Cities trip to Greece in planning stages

January 10, 2012


News and notes from around town:

• In my best Dr. Evil voice, I say, lasers. No, a new laser store is not opening in Lawrence. (Thankfully. The last thing a man who makes good-hearted fun of his wife on a regular basis wants in town is a laser store.) But a new type of high-tech spa that will feature a variety of treatments with lasers and other devices is set to open in West Lawrence.

Dr. Kathy Gaumer and two other partners are finishing work to open AesthetiCare of Lawrence in the Oread Medical Building near Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive. The business will be what’s called a “med spa.” It will offer the traditional spa treatments such as massages, facials, waxing (I assume for your car) and other similar services. But it also will offer services not found at traditional spas because the services require supervision by a physician.

Gaumer said those will include laser skin resurfacing, laser skin rejuvenation, laser treatment for pigmentation of the skin, laser skin tightening and other types of services that involve deep treatment or injections.

Gaumer was an OBGYN physician in Lawrence for 16 years, but also had a small aesthetics practice in Lawrence during part of that time. When Gaumer decided to leave her OBGYN practice to take a medical position at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, she said several patients asked her to keep her aesthetics practice open. She is partnering with Shea Pritchard, a licensed aesthetician, and Matthew Taranto, who has operated AesthetiCare in Leawood for the last 10 years.

Gaumer said the new business will employ about 10 people. She hopes to have the business open by early to mid-February.

What’s that? It is not for your car. Oh, my.

• Last week we reported on the not-so-good-news about Lawrence home building totals hitting a historic low. Well, we don’t yet have the final numbers on home sales in Lawrence, but the latest numbers we have show that industry has struggled some too.

The Lawrence Board of Realtors has compiled its numbers through November, and thus far home sales are down 15 percent from the same period a year ago. The board reports 982 home sales, down from 1,155 through November 2011.

For those of you taking off your shoes to do high-power arithmetic, you can stop. That’s a difference of 173 homes. But how is this for some arithmetic? Say those homes would have had an average selling price of about $185,000 each. At that level, those 173 homes would have been worth about $32 million in sales. I believe the standard real estate commission is 6 percent. At that level, we’re talking about $1.92 million worth of lost real estate commissions as a result of the downturn. When you add in the money that lenders would make off servicing $30 million worth of loans, fees paid to title companies, appraisers, inspectors and others, the impact on the local economy grows even higher.

But when you are talking about lost real estate commissions, that has a particularly strong impact on the local economy. Most real estate agents are local. I’ve never thought of it this way, but the downturn in home sales is basically the equivalent of a company that has a $2 million annual payroll shutting down.

I wish I could tell you that there is good news right around the corner, but November’s numbers didn’t suggest that. Home sales for the month were down nearly 25 percent from November 2010. So, the numbers aren’t yet trending in the right direction.

Other numbers from the report include:

  1. Sales of newly built homes continue to be in the dumps, down 43.4 percent from the same period a year ago. In total, there have been 60 sales of newly constructed homes.
  2. The average selling price of a home is actually up for the year to $184,571 compared to $181,043. The median selling price — the price at which half sell above and half sell below — is $158,000, which is basically unchanged from a year ago.
  3. The average days on market for a home is 95, up from 80 a year ago. The median days on market is 61, up from 42 a year ago.

I’m expecting to get the end-of-the-year totals in another week or so. I’ll pass them along when I do.

• Lawrence residents, get ready to say hello to your newest sister. City Commissioner Bob Schumm tells me that Lawrence’s Sister Cities Advisory Board is in the beginning stages of planning for a Lawrence delegation to travel to Iniades, Greece — which became a sister city to Lawrence in November 2009.

Schumm said the group is planning for a trip in late July or early August that would coincide with the time that Kansas University Theater students are in the city. KU students travel there each summer to participate in classical theater training.

The delegation likely would be between 10 to 20 people, and could include one or two city commissioners. But I don’t expect that the city will be spending much to make the trip happen. Lately, such trips to sister cities — our other two are Eutin, Germany, and Hiratsuka, Japan — have involved individuals paying their own way or doing fundraising to cover their expenses. The trips usually just involve air fare because the delegation stays with host families in the sister cities, and meals are usually provided by the hosts.

People interested in finding out more about the possible trip, can contact a member of the Sister Cities Advisory Board.

• One quick note about one of Lawrence’s longtime executives. The former top executive for Lawrence-based Charlton Manley Insurance, Gary Sollars, has retired. Sollars was the CEO when Charlton Manley sold to HRH in 2007, and now the company is part of the Willis group of insurance companies. The company also has closed its Lawrence office and consolidated its workforce into a Johnson County facility.

Sollars, 62, retired at the end of the year, after having served 40 years in the insurance business. Sollars said he plans to remain in Lawrence.


LivedinLawrence4Life 6 years, 5 months ago

Hello Chad, could you do a report on that biotech company that KU professor Val Stella started a few years ago and how the investors did with their investment in that company. That would be interesting to know about that Lawrence start up company and what has happened lately with it.

nekansan 6 years, 5 months ago

Chad. How about a comparison piece on new construction prices in Lawrence and the Western side of KC. We have been looking and are finding it very hard to justify the cost difference between the Lawrence & KC areas. Lot prices seem comparable for new construction, ranging between $45-90k in both locations, but when you start looking at the cost of construction there is a significant fork in the road. It's difficult for me to see where the additional costs of building in Lawrence come in to play. The costs of basic materials and labor should be very close between the 2 cities, but you get so much more for the same $$ in the KC area. We've been told some of the difference is Lawrence's building codes, but when we press for details answers get vague or they site small things (basement insulation, bathroom vents, trees) that add a few thousand to the overall cost, not tens of thousands. Often comparable new construction in the KC area is $80-100k less and/or offer significant upgrades (3 car garage, premium surfaces, more modern designs).

I suspect it is exactly this reason that has finally led to the slowdown in the Lawrence real estate market. Particularly when you look at the reality that home values are no longer appreciating at the rate they once were. It is making buyers like me that would love to continue to live in Lawrence seriously question if it is a smart financial decision and explore the options of other nearby communities.

lunacydetector 6 years, 5 months ago

the lawrence home builders pay for the streets and sewers, pump stations etc., where the new homes are built and pass along the costs to the new homes being constructed. lawrence also requires wider streets so there may be bicycle lanes which cuts down on lot sizes and increases the price per square foot for land...then there is the 2' freeboard rule lawrence has that houses have to be built 2' higher than the 100 year flood plain, that other communities don't require. i'm surprised the lot prices are similar as they were typically half the price in the k.c. metro than lawrence....but i'm no expert, just passing along scuttlebutt i've heard in town.

nekansan 6 years, 5 months ago

Good information. Wouldn't the infrastructure costs (roads, sewer, utilities) be included in the lot price or allocated out as specials on the home construction? I was told that the building permit includes a fee for tree planting by the city, so that might account for some ($1000 buys a LOT of trees) of the delta. And I don't believe the areas we were looking were impacted by the floodplain requirements. FYI just as a comparison, Lots in the vicinity of Langson Hughes were listed in the 65k range for a walkout lot backing to greenspace. We saw a much larger lot that was actually on Falcon Valley golf course that the lot was priced at $95k, so it would actually mean the KC based lots are higher in price if anything.

lunacydetector 6 years, 5 months ago

lot price figures into the final housing price with no specials.....falcon valley, the selling prices for existing houses over there dropped bigtime. a house over there that would cost $350,000 would cost at least $425,000 here IMO.

pinecreek 6 years, 5 months ago

So what is the deal with selecting Sister Cities that we don't even teach their languages in our schools? We dropped German (Eutin), we don't teach Japanese (Hiratsuka), nor Greek. We do teach French and Spanish in our schools. Anyone for a good French Sister City?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

It's called inflated pricing to live in Lawrence. High profit and high taxes.

Curtis Lange 6 years, 5 months ago

Prices are unjustifiably higher when better options are a easy 30 minute drive to the east; the reason I will NOT buy a house in Lawrence. Until builders realize that, home sales will continue to be terrible here. Plus, with the stores we've been losing lately (Sears, Old Navy, Borders, etc) there is no reason to live here unless you either work at/go to KU or just simply hate larger cities.

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