Two of the Coolest Bugs in East Tennessee

Plants, animals and bugs (and people!) of many varieties thrive in East Tennessee.

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East Tennessee is a vibrant, lush place to live. Plants, animals and bugs (and people!) of many varieties thrive here. If you’re drawn to the outdoors, like many Tennessee residents are, you’ve probably noticed a few interesting species. On this week’s blog we’re featuring two species of bugs you’re sure to encounter soon, if you haven’t seen them already!

Fireflies

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are not an unusual sight for anyone living in the southeast part of the United States. But, for those moving in from western states like Montana or Colorado, fireflies seem truly magical! We have lots of these glowy creatures. We have a great climate for them, as well as plenty of places for them to live, since they like the damp, rotting wood that’s found on the floors of our forests.

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This is a great firefly habitat!

Here are a few fun facts about fireflies: it’s usually the males who fly around, signaling to find mates. The females are what we think of as “glow worms,” and they are usually very different from males. They don’t have wings, and instead look like grubs on the ground (similar to larvae, actually.) They glow their own kinds of signals to the males. In the Great Smoky Mountains, there is a special place where fireflies synchronize. It’s a pretty amazing sight! The woods go from very dark to completely lit up in pops of light. You have to buy tickets to reserve a spot to see these amazing creatures.

But, you can still enjoy your own lovely backyard firefly show during the summer months. They might not synchronize, but it’s still a magical sight.

Cicadas

These creatures are fascinating, because they have either 13- or 17-year life cycles. They have a distinct, rise-and-fall whine that tunes up at night during the spring months, lasting far into the summer. Usually, 17-year cicadas live in northern states and 13-year cicadas live in southern states. Because of Tennessee’s location, we get both 13 and 17-year cicadas.

The cicada life cycle is fascinating. The female lays eggs in slits in trees, which then hatch in six or seven weeks. The nymphs make their way into the soil to live and eat tree sap from roots for 13 or 17 years, before coming back up to the surface and morphing into adults. If you look for them, you can see the nymph skins left behind on tree trunks and sides of buildings. (Kids are great at spotting these!) Adults are colorful, with black-veined wings and bright red eyes. They don’t bite.

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Listen for cicadas tuning up after sunset!

You might be worried about cicadas harming your saplings, and you’d be right. Cicada nymphs under the soil don’t noticeably hurt trees, but adult females laying her eggs in trees can cause damage during this process. Check out this website for more information about how to protect your trees from cicada damage.

If you’re interested in finding about more about living in East Tennessee, please check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

Tennessee: A Great Choice for Retirement

What does Tennessee have to offer retirees?

Retirees of today are living longer and enjoying life at a much higher level than this demographic ever has before. They know what they want out of life, and they’ve saved diligently to reach their goals!

So, what do retirees look for across America, and what does Tennessee have to offer them? Read on to find out more! Be sure to click the highlighted links to more articles on the subject.

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A common sight in East Tennessee: white-tailed deer.

This article outlines the results of a survey comparing what retirees in America thought they would pursue after they punched their last time card with what they actually do now. Surprisingly, many retirees who thought they would spend the majority of their time in leisure activities, like visiting museums, golfing or painting, got bored with those things quickly. Instead, they found more value in the time they spent volunteering and even working part-time! Feeling connected to their community added value to their lives.

In addition, many retirees wanted to keep their toes in and add value to the workforce by consulting, or even opening their own businesses. Those who are just starting out in the business world benefit tremendously from a mentorship with someone who’s been there, and done that. It’s a satisfying relationship for people at either end of the work life spectrum.

Traveling and continuing education round out retiree activities. People get a deep sense of satisfaction when they achieve the lifelong goals of getting the degree or certificate they’ve always wanted, and visiting places that have been on that “bucket list” for ages.

So, where does Tennessee fit in with the parts of a retiree lifestyle?

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Your money goes further in Tennessee.

With one of the most favorable lifestyle vs. expense rates in the nation, living here means you can have a comfortable home with money leftover to pursue all the activities you want! Property and tax expenses are dramatically lower than they are in other parts of the country, and the milder summers and winters mean heating and air bills aren’t through the roof.

Our local community colleges, like Walters State, offer free or dramatically reduced community classes to keep your mind fresh. Community centers like Rose Center in Morristown offer art, exercise and other classes, too. Click here for a list of colleges offering free or discounted tuition for senior citizens in Tennessee.

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Volunteer at your local animal shelter.

Local churches, humane societies and Friends of the Smokies offer more volunteer time than you can possibly fit in, with the opportunity to make like-minded friends and make a positive difference in your community!

Fitting in leisure is easy here, too, with hundreds of town, state and national parks within a short walk or drive from anywhere in East Tennessee. Each season brings regional free or low-admission festivals and events like choir concerts and plays.
Please visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com to find out more about living your retirement dream in East Tennessee!

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!

Spring Festivals in East Tennessee

Once the warm weather starts, it’s officially festival season.

Now that spring is here, it’s time for one of the best parts of family life here in East Tennessee: the festivals! From car enthusiasts to artists, people around here love to get out for more than just hiking in the Smokies. Once the warm weather starts, it’s officially festival season. We’ve rounded up a few happening in the area. Read on to find out more:

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Morristown:

Annual Spring Thyme in the Garden

Located at the Rose Center

On Earth Day: April 22

Presented by the Garden Thyme Herb Society, this annual event is the perfect kickoff to the year’s gardening season! Buy your herbs, flowers and other plants, as well as yard art, signs, pottery and other art. There will be live music and food available, and more! Visit rosecenter.org for more information about this and other Rose Center events.

13th Annual Strawberry Festival

Located at 510 West Economy Road

This free community event features family friendly vendors, food and events, all geared toward celebrating the year’s strawberry harvest. Visit their website for more information.

Sevierville:

Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass

May 19 and 20

Do you enjoy live bluegrass music, world-class barbeque (seriously: this is a World Food Championship qualifier event!) and other fun festivities? Head to Sevierville this May! This year, Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder will be live on Saturday! Think you’ve got what it takes to win the Mountain Soul Vocal Competition? Then bring your pipes and your favorite Dolly Parton songs to sing. And don’t forget to try some amazing barbeque while you’re here. Click here for more information.

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Knoxville:

Dogwood Arts Festival

Located on Market Square

April 28-30

This one is a regional favorite, celebrating spring and the arts! It’s a beautiful combination. This festival has plenty to do for adults and children, with public art displays, cooking demonstrations, entertainment and activities for the family, and more! Check out the site for more information.

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Located at the old Candoro Marble Building in South Knoxville

Mother’s Day Weekend (May 13)

Music, art, food, hand-crafted goods and tons of history abound at this annual event. The Candoro Arts and Heritage Center was once central to the Tennessee Pink Marble industry—a fascinating subject all by itself! Whether you’re a mother or want to honor yours, this is a great event to share. Visit the website to find out more.

International Biscuit Festival

Market Square

May 20

You know you’re really in the south when you find a whole festival dedicated to biscuits. The $15 ticket pays for 5 separate biscuit samples, so come hungry and visit Biscuit Boulevard first thing! Visit the site to learn more.

Be sure to check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com if you’re looking to find (or sell!) your home in East Tennessee.

The Encore Theatre Company

Today we’re spotlighting a community of artists in our neck of the woods.

Enjoying life in East Tennessee isn’t just about relaxing and taking in the sights. Many people who choose to live here work hard to make it a better place for themselves, their neighbors and their children. The Volunteer State was Tennessee’s nickname long, long before The University of Tennessee was ever dreamed up, and for good reason! People here aren’t afraid of hard work, and there are many communities that set out to prove it. Today we’re spotlighting a community of artists in our neck of the woods that helps bring together those with a love of the dramatic arts.

The Lakeway Area is known for many things: farms, lakes (of course), being the “back door” to the Smokies. But a local group of artists wanted the area to be known for more than that. They noticed that more and more artists and creative people were going out of town to practice their craft, and this was dismaying. They had a mission to provide a supportive environment for established and aspiring actors. This group of visionaries became the Encore Theatrical Company.

They believe that the economic health of an area correlates directly with quality of life, and quality of life is intricately linked to the state of arts in the area. So, in 2006, they set about to improve the quality of life in the Lakeway Area for everyone, with a thriving arts scene!

The ETC offers live, local performances throughout the year, as well as classes and workshops for kids and adults. Find out more about their mission, performances and classes here.

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At the end of this month, ETC is performing a drama at the Rose Center in Morristown. Here’s the description of the play from ETC:

“Encore Theatrical Company’s newest play tells the story of a photojournalist and her war reporter boyfriend as they decide where to take their relationship after several tours of duty. From the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies, Time Stands Still is both funny and moving.

One of the masters of contemporary American theater brings us Time Stands Still. Donald Margulies’ outstanding script tells the story of Sarah, a photojournalist recuperating from a tour in the Middle East, and James, a foreign correspondent seeking a change of venue. Both are trying to find their happiness in a world that seems to have gone crazy. Telling tough stories about the world at large collides with the story they have to tell about themselves and their relationship to work and to each other. Now they face tough choices about their future. Can they live a conventional life and still keep a sense of right and wrong, not to mention their sanity?”

Performances will be on April 21-30 in Rose Center’s Prater Hall. You can order tickets at 423-318-8331 or find out more at etcplays.org. Don’t forget to check out Rose Center for more arts events and information.

Visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com if you’d like to learn more about relocating to the Lakeway Area.

Landscaping in East Tennessee

Planting trees, shrubs and flowers that are native to our area brings many benefits.

Spring is here! Dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom and flowers are popping up everywhere. This is an especially exciting time to be a new homeowner in East Tennessee, because you never know what beautiful plants you’ve inherited with your property until they show their pretty faces in the warm growing season!

If you’re getting inspired by our lovely, warm weather to spruce up your landscaping, consider these ideas:

Go Native!

Planting trees, shrubs and flowers that are native to our extremely biodiverse area brings many benefits. They are more likely to survive and thrive in our climate, since they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. They are also more likely to attract the pollinators. Helping pollinators like bees and butterflies with habitat and food helps us, too. Bees and butterflies not only ensure the beauty and propagation of our lovely flowers, they play a big part in growing crops that we need to eat. Check this list for ideas on native plants for your grand landscaping plan.

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Buy From a Nursery

Going native doesn’t mean digging up from the woods. DON’T take plants from public land, like a national park. It’s illegal! If you have access to ferns, trees and other plants you think you’ll be able to successfully transplant on your property, then go for it. But if you’d like a little more help and even a little guarantee, go to your local nursery. Family-owned operations are likely to have great advice on what to plant where, and when. Some places (like Lowes) have guarantees on their plants, which means if you save your receipts and your plant dies within a year, you can take it back and get a replacement.

Think Big, But Start Small

Frederick Law Olmsted, when he designed the landscaping for the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, thought long-term. Like, really long term: he planted stands of trees that would take a hundred years to mature. He knew he’d never see his vision completely realized, but he understood the grandeur of his legacy. If you have an acre of land you’d like to landscape, you don’t necessarily need to think of how it will look to your great-grandchildren, but do pay attention to how things will look in the next few years.

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Ivy and other vines might grow out of control, swamping out other plants and slowly destroying your buildings if they are given free reign. Bamboo certainly goes rampant, requiring heavy mowing. And trees are high on the list of culprits behind unsafe foundations; the roots grow out as far as the canopy, undermining the safety of your home if they’re planted too close. Evergreens are a little safer; their root systems tend to head down instead of out. Even so, that sweet little sapling you plant this year might take off in our mild, plant-friendly climate and become a danger to your roof, sewer or foundation in as little as ten years!

Consider Goats

One of the pervasive problems in rural East Tennessee is the fast-growing, invasive vine: kudzu! The best way to get rid of it? Goats. They eat it right down to the roots.

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Interested in real estate in East Tennessee? Check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com. Happy gardening!