Make Your List and Check it Twice!

Stay off the financial naughty list by making sure these things are taken care of!

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So, it’s December y’all! The last month of the year. This is the month for holiday decorations, for cheer and good times, and for parties.

It’s also … the last month of the year. And even though we’d like to spend our time shopping, baking and generally enjoying our loved ones, it’s important to make sure all the year’s financial considerations have been taken care of, especially if you bought or sold a home in 2017. Read on for a few considerations in closing out the year on good financial footing!

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Real Estate Gains

Most people won’t have to worry about paying taxes if you earned money from the sale of your new home. As this article points out, only gains above $250,000.00 (or $500,000.00 if you file with your spouse) require taxes to be paid. There are other rules to consider, too: your house must have been your primary residence for two to five years, for example, for the gains to be tax exempt. If there are any other complicating factors, such as divorce or inheritance, it’s very important to make sure you’ve covered all your fees and taxes. To be absolutely sure you’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted your i’s when it comes to paying taxes on real estate gains, make sure you consult with your tax professional soon!

Consider Taking a (Polar) Plunge

If you’ve been putting off buying your new home, now might be the time to jump on it. Why? Because that home could be as much as 12% cheaper now than it will be in the summer, according to this article. While there are more houses on the market in the summer, largely because families prefer to make their move in between school years, if you’ve found your perfect place in the winter, pounce on it!

Change of address!

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If you moved this year, there might be a few places you overlooked while changing your address. Don’t worry, Santa will probably still find you. (He can fly all around the world in one night and get into houses without chimneys; he can find you in your new neighborhood!) But you want to be sure your 2017 W2 forms will find you, too. Here’s a change-of-address list from Moveline.com to check twice:

    Your place of employment

Your financial institution

Your credit card companies

Your utilities, cable, phone and internet providers

Your doctor, dentist, optometrist and other medical professionals you see regularly

Your health insurance company

Your life insurance company

Your vision/dental/catastrophic insurance company

Your car insurance company

Your rental or home insurance company

Your child’s school

Your child’s doctor, babysitter, music instructor, and others who provide paid services

Your pet’s veterinarian and kennel

Your alma mater

Circulation departments of magazines, newspapers and catalogues you subscribe to

Anyone who may need to send you final bills or info about their professional services in your new area

Friends & family, particularly those who go through the trouble to send holiday cards and paper invitations

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Now that you’ve taken care of all that, feel free to toast yourself with a bit of eggnog and get to wrapping presents! Luckily, you can re-purpose some of your moving boxes for gift boxes.

Of course, if you’re ready to start out 2018 in a new home in East Tennessee, go to DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

 

 

What Do Millenial Homebuyers Want?

Check out this post to find out what millenials look for when buying a home!

These days, people choose houses for pretty much the same reason they’ve always done it: for a safe, comfortable place to call home that’s near work, schools and a lifestyle they can afford. But the houses that fit all those modern family needs are different than they were in past generations. Why is that? Because millenials are now the biggest generation in America, and they have seen some of the most drastic changes in our culture. In some cases, proximity to work is a big deal, but many millenials don’t care as much about that: they work from home! Some millenials choose to have big families, and so they want to live somewhere with tons of family-friendly lifestyle options and good schools. Some millenials even choose a home based solely on the needs of their pets.

So, what are a few of the home features that millenials seem to like the most? Read on to find out!

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Open Floor Plans

Fewer walls and less “formal” spaces seem to be more popular these days. According to this site, millenials are all about homes that blend functions, that allow for easier socializing and interaction between family and friends. And, because many millenials are choosing smaller homes, open floor plans make multi-functional rooms easier.

Technology

Millenials are all about tech, whether it’s a completely plugged-in smart home or just multiple devices (tablet, cell phone, laptop) to juggle. They want a home with uninterrupted cell and internet service, and plenty of places to plug things in. And, these days, there are ways to make connecting and charges your devices even easier!

Millenials also see technology that leads to energy-efficiency as important. They’re looking to conserve energy and keep bills low. Insulated windows and highly efficient appliances are a big plus in the housing market these days! (And, East Tennessee boasts some of the lowest energy bills in the nation. Pair this with smart, energy-conserving choices, and you can see why so many people choose to relocate to this affordable state!)

Style

Minimalism is in, and that means some old-school style is back. Hardwood floors, simple tile, neutral colors, even succulents and xeriscaping is considered chic right now. Low-maintenance is king, and decorating choices reflect comfort in an on-the-go generation.

Location, Location, … well, you know. Location.

Many millenials see the charm of living in the city, or at least within walking and biking distance to most stores, workplaces and schools. About half of all millenials still have their eye on the suburbs, with their quiet lifestyle, but about a quarter say they like the energy of living in the city.

What do you think? Are these home features right up your alley, or do you have completely different criteria for choosing a home?

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Of course, our area has a lot of different perks to consider. Knoxville is the biggest urban center around, at a population of just under 187,000. It’s a smallish big city. The bigger draw for our area is its eye-popping natural beauty, temperate climate and comfortable lifestyle. For those who like a big-small town feel, Morristown (pop. about 30,000) and Jefferson City (pop. a smidge over 8,000) have a lot to offer in the way of schools (including colleges), shopping, dining and low housing costs, as well as close proximity to outdoor pursuits.

 

If you’re in the market for a home in East Tennessee, then check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com. We’d love to help you out.

Millenials and Home-Buying

For many millenials, the American Dream has lost some of its luster.

The American Dream used to be all about owning your own house, where your family can be safe and sound with a white picket fence out front. But, for many millenials, the American Dream has lost some of its luster.

Millenials today (this group has a mushy definition: anyone born between 1977 and 2000, according to some) face a lot of challenges in the house-buying arena.

Bidding Wars

In some markets, competing with other, established homeowners for desirable homes is a losing battle: previous homeowners with good credit usually have more equity from a previous home and more money saved for a down payment, as well as an established financial history. On top of this, houses are getting very expensive around the nation! (Click here for an article about how this affects millenials.) In some areas of the country, such as urban California, houses are valued so high it’s almost impossible to win the bidding war. Sellers often make tens of thousands more dollars than the listing price!

Financial Burden

A major roadblock for millenials trying to buy a home is difficulty in getting home loans, which is in part due to another difficulty: high student loan debt. (We published an article here about financial assistance with buying a first home.) Many millenials feel they just can’t afford a house payment in addition to their other debts, or can’t afford to save for the down payment.

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Relief in Sight!

In East Tennessee, mortgage prices are often the same, or lower, than rent. Housing prices around here are so comfortable, it makes sense (if you’re planning to stay in the area for more than three years ) to invest in owning a home. And, especially in rural areas, it’s easy to get down payment assistance from government loan programs. Plus, when you make mortgage payments on time for more than three years, it’s just like putting money in an equity bank. When you’re ready to move, you can sell your home and roll over the equity into a down payment on a new house. (Or use the money for whatever you need it for.)

Don’t Forget the Dog!

Of course, buying a home is about more than just financial considerations. A home is an emotional and time commitment, too! What kind of lifestyle are you looking for? Millenials often have a different answer from Boomers, when it comes to lifestyle. For example, this article says that millenials are more influenced by their dog than any other reason when it comes to buying a home. Sure, extra space for the family is nice, as well as the idea of investing in real estate and being more fiscally responsible, but having a more stable place for the family pooch wins out over what we consider the more traditional reasons for buying a home.

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Home ownership might not make sense in other places, but here in East Tennessee, low home cost (and low cost of living,) options for down payment assistance and the chance to invest in your family’s future make buying a home a great option.

Whatever your reason is for house hunting in East Tennessee, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com to get started.

Fixer Uppers!

We put together a few tips to consider when you’re looking for a fixer upper!

With the explosion of popularity of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” thousands more homebuyers are on the hunt for the gem hidden behind a facade of neglect or just bad design choices from years gone by (ahem: baby food-green shag carpet, anyone?)

Not every house is worth fixing up, though! For every one house that hides gleaming wood floors underneath threadbare carpets, you could view three that have severe water damage or a foundation so bad you’ll want to hightail it out of the house for fear the whole thing will crash down on your head!

How can you get a ride on the fixer upper train? We’ve pulled together a few tips to help you get started. Read on to find out more!

Foundations

We decided to start at the bottom because, arguably, it’s the most important part of the house. If your house has a bad foundation, you’ve got the real estate equivalent of a game of Russian Roulette. It could be easily fixed with the addition of metal columns to shore up the concrete blocks. OR, you could discover it will take upwards of $50,000 to completely jack up the house, remove the unstable foundation and replace it with a working one. The problem is, you might not know what you have on your hands until you start (literally) digging in.

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The solution? Train your eyes to check out cracks and settling in the foundation. Is the roof line less than true? It could be a bad roof, or it could be the result of a foundation sinking on one side, bringing the rest of the house with it. Obvious, big cracks in the mortar of the foundation? Red flag. And always, always, get a professional’s opinion on the state of the house.

Tip: It might be a good idea to view the house after a strong storm. If water is coming into the basement, you’ll be able to see it in action.

Roof

We mentioned the top of the house already. A sturdy roof is very important in maintaining your home. It keeps out the weather and unwanted critters, but a good roof also keeps the house insulated: warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Get up there and look at it! Are the shingles bald? Crumbly? Are there dips in the roof?

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Even if the shingles need replacing, you can sometimes get away with just putting a fresh layer on top of the old ones. If you need a whole new roof, it will set you back thousands. That might not be a deal breaker, especially if you can put in the labor yourself.

Bones

Does the house “speak to you?” Can you see a vision of your future in it? Maybe if you knock down a wall there, add a window in over here … if the layout of the house is absolutely terrible, you might be able to open it all up. Or, you might realize you’d basically have to rebuild the entire structure to get it how you want it.

Feeling inspired to look for your next diamond in the rough? Visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com and let’s get started!

East TN, A Great Place for Families

Many of the best qualities of our area make it a fantastic place to be for those in any stage of life.

We’ve written a lot about how attractive East Tennessee can be to retirees, but what about young families? Many of the best qualities of our area—the weather, low taxes, relaxed lifestyle—make it a fantastic place to be for those in any stage of life. Read on to find out more!

Low Taxes

Tennessee has some of the best tax rates in the country. We don’t have an income tax, and our property taxes are very reasonable. This means your money stretches a lot farther when you work and own a home, here.

More House for the Money

Compared to other states, the price of homes in East Tennessee is much more reasonable. Basically, you can get more house for your money here than comparable homes elsewhere! Many families discover they can own their own piece of lake real estate for tens of thousands less than it would cost elsewhere.

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Public Beach at Jefferson City

Higher Standard of Living

In addition to lower land taxes and zero income tax, your money goes farther around here because the comparative cost of living is lower for a higher standard of living, compared to other states. What can this mean for your family? It means you can take the extra money you’re not spending on basics like energy bills and groceries, and invest them for a comfy, early retirement (in wallet-friendly East Tennessee, of course!) Or, it means an extra family vacation per year. No matter how you choose to allocate your saved money, it equals an elevated quality of life.

And here’s a nice perk: the state of Tennessee recently began a program for free tuition to all its state community colleges. Which brings us to our next point:

Nice Place to Raise Young ‘Uns

Even if you choose to buy a house in the city, or in a subdivision, you can still reap the rewards of a laid-back rural lifestyle. Any town in the region has easy, public access to lake parks and beaches. The most popular fall activity is visiting the local corn mazes. State and National Parks offer free enjoyment of nature. You get the picture: our neck of the woods is a pretty relaxing, wholesome place to be.

Have a Vacation in Your Back Yard!

Thousands of people flock to the Smokies, and surrounding areas, every year for the mild summers, amazing fall leaves and even the stark beauty of the mountains in winter. Living here, you can take a brief drive and feel like you’re on vacation. Trust us, the beauty never gets old. If you get too familiar with your own county, taking a drive to the next lake or park is enough to remind you how diverse the beauty of our fair state is.

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Our lovely part of the state offers the best of many worlds. Lake living, mountain living, farm living, even city living, are all within short day trips. And, with the low cost of living, you can afford to experience all of it!

 

Of course, if you have any more questions about living in East Tennessee, or if you want to start searching for houses in the area, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

 

 

How to Seal Your Real Estate Deal

You’re investing lots of time and mental energy into house hunting, and you don’t want all that to be for nothing.

Last week, we talked about some ways to know when to walk away from the real estate deal. This week, let’s flip the coin and look at some of the ways you can sweeten the deal to get your dream house. Read on to find out more!

You’ve done it; you’ve searched countless properties online and in person. You’ve weighed out the pros and cons, double checked your budget, gotten preapproved and now … you’ve finally found the perfect property! The problem is, if it’s a great house, in a great location, with a sweet price, then you might be up against some buyer competition.

Do a little research.

Find out why the seller is selling, if at all possible. Often, this is as simple as asking your realtor to relay your questions to the seller’s realtor. If they are highly motivated to sell because of a death in the family, a job transfer or divorce (for example), then you know you have some negotiating room. If they are certain they’ll get asking price and have all the time in the world to get their house sold, then you’ll have to shift your strategy. Also, find out what the seller’s least and most favorite aspects of the house are. Their answers might direct you to see how perfect the property is for your family, or they might give you reason to move on, plus add to your checklist of things to look out for during your house hunt.

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Compare this home (and the asking price) with other homes in the area.

Even if this is an amazing house, if it’s located in the heart of the city vs. in the middle of the country makes all the difference in price. Be very aware of the market values in all the places you’re searching; house prices can change from town to town. Again, this is something your realtor is well-equipped to help you figure out.

Offer asking price.

If the house clearly has some wiggle-room built into the asking price, then maybe offer a few thousand less. But, if it’s a great price and you’re certain you want the property, go ahead and offer asking price–or even a few thousand above. Your offer is possibly being weighed against other offers, so the more money the better, from a seller’s perspective. Your realtor will be able to help you determine how stiff your competition is, so you can come up with a strategy.

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Get pre-approved!

Your realtor has probably already advised you to do this. It protects you. You’re investing lots of time and mental energy into house hunting, and you don’t want all that to be for nothing because you find out you can’t secure a loan. But, the preapproval letter also communicates your level of seriousness to the seller. It says you’ve already taken steps toward buying a home. It also says the deal is less likely to fall through in beginning stages; you’re a buyer backed by money, so the seller is more likely to get paid quickly for their home and not have to wait around for the bank to approve the mortgage.
Good luck! And visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com for your East Tennessee realty needs.

 

When to Walk Away from the House

How do you know when it’s time to walk away from a real estate deal?

We’ve talked about a lot of considerations in buying a house, such as how to approach buying a house in busy months. But how do you know when it’s time to walk away from a real estate deal?

This article on Zillow gives a few great examples of when not to sign on the dotted line. Read on to hear our take on the subject:

The house appraises for below the contract price.

If it’s really your dream home, in your dream neighborhood, then maybe this doesn’t matter to you as much. But, it can cause a problem with your lender: they won’t want to put up more than the house is worth, so you might have to come to the deal with more cash in hand. If you get the sinking feeling that you’d be paying too much for the house, or if you just don’t have the extra money to pay up front, maybe this is a sign you should walk away from the house.

The house doesn’t pass inspection.

Sometimes, a seller will fail to disclose serious problems with things like the foundation, roof or electrical or plumbing systems. If they are willing to renegotiate the price of the house to accommodate fixing these things, or if they are willing to fix the problems before the signing date, then maybe this isn’t as big a deal. Some buyers still get a bad taste in their mouth when sellers fail to disclose big issues, though. It leaves them questioning: “What else aren’t they telling me about the house?”

If the seller isn’t willing to fix the problems or sell at a lower price to help you finance fixing them, this is definitely a good time to walk away. Again, the exception to this rule is if the house is your absolute dream house, and you’re willing and able to foot the bill for major renovations.

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Keep in mind, if you’ve already signed a contract agreeing to buy the house, you might have difficulty backing out of the deal. The above-mentioned reasons to walk away can be exceptions to this rule: most contracts will state that if the house doesn’t pass inspection or appraisal, the contract is no longer valid. Your realtor will help you navigate the legalities of this.

The house is almost good enough.

Before you put in an offer, think hard about what your gut tells you. Is it a nice house, but nowhere near where you actually wanted to live? Is it in a great neighborhood, but way too small for your family’s needs? Would it be an enormous effort to fix up, and you’re just not the DIY type? Many realtors adopt this philosophy: If it’s meant to be, it will be. Don’t settle for a house that makes you compromise too much. It’s normal to have cold feet before plunging into such a big investment, but if your gut is telling you the house isn’t right, then it isn’t right.

Your partner isn’t into it.

Kinda like the above reason, if your partner’s gut is telling them it isn’t right, then it isn’t! Even if the house checks all your boxes, if your partner doesn’t love it, the house might just become a sore topic for as long as you both live there. It’s just not worth signing on the dotted line if you’re not both on board.

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The house is out of your range.

You’ve already checked your finances and been pre-approved for a certain range. You’ve done your homework, and you know what your budget can bear, but … then you see your dream home, and it’s just out of reach. You could always offer below asking price and see what comes of it, but if you can’t get the house within your league, don’t make yourself house poor. It’s not worth the ulcer your future self will curse you for. Instead, hold out for something you can afford now, and save for a down payment for your future dream home. With the equity you build now, it could be within reach sooner than you think.

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As always, for any questions you might have about this article or other real estate needs in East Tennessee, contact Darlene Reeves-Kline!