Back to School Time!

It may be the dog days, but there’s something else that makes August notable: Back to School!

It’s August already! It’s been a beautiful summer: at times hot and muggy, but we’ve had our fair share of crystal-clear, lovely weather, too. It may be the dog days, but there’s something else that makes August notable: Back to School! Kids and parents all over East Tennessee are gearing up to walk back through those lobby doors, heading to new classrooms, new desks and a new year of learning. Here are a few tips to make the transition from summer to school a little softer.

Snacks!

It’s amazing how far a good snack can go toward cheering a kid (or parent!) up, or just helping them wind down after a day of rules and work. Add a couple of fun snacks to lunches for a little midday boost, and have something healthy and yummy waiting for a just-off-the-bus treat. Here are a couple of ideas: pinch the middle of a baggie of grapes with a twisted pipe cleaner to make it look like a butterfly, or slather peanut butter on celery and stick on raisins for “ants on a log.” Then sneak a few bites for yourself!

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Downtime

Yeah, your older kids probably have a stack of homework already, but a little bit of quiet, unscheduled time (coinciding with the snack, probably!) can set the right tone for tackling those worksheets. Reading a book quietly, building with Legos, imaginative play, even just sitting and daydreaming: all these things help a kid’s brain release after school. Note: screen time, even though it can seem like relaxation time, actually overstimulates kids’ brains, making it more difficult for them to wind down.

Get Out!

Since they’re spending so much more of their days indoors, make sure kids have plenty of opportunity to get outside. Studies show it increases their learning capabilities, reduces stress and can even help them be healthier. Kick the kids out to the backyard during the school week, and go to the park on the weekends. It’s good for parents, too! And, luckily, we have the majestic Great Smoky Mountains practically in our backyard, so a Saturday day hike is a short trip away.

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Healthy Habits

It’s important for both parents and kids to get enough sleep and eat healthy meals during the school week. It can be stressful making sure backpacks and lunches are all packed up and ready to go, the kids aren’t wearing the same stained shirt they wore for the past two days, pick up and drop off happen on time, and a million other things don’t fall between the cracks! Give yourself a boost with healthy habits.

Kids at Home

Does little brother or sister still stay at home? You can do lots of fun things to prep them for the big day they get to go to school, too. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will send free books to your home to help you jump-start your kids’ love of reading. Local libraries have reading programs and story hours that help you get out of the house and help your entertain kids, too.

Good luck with back to school time! Visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com for your East Tennessee realty needs.

Pickin’ in East Tennessee

People around here buy and sell anything from lamps to antique mason jars…

Rural East Tennesseans are no strangers to the “gettin’ it done” mentality. Only a few short generations ago, it took hours—even days, for those living way up in the hills—of arduous travel just to get to the nearest town of any size. So, if you needed farm implements, kitchen staples or even clothes, you made very certain you loaded up on all you could in that semi-annual trip to town.

As a result of living so remotely, people in East Tennessee made do with what they had. They learned to make just about everything with what was available: barrels, boats, furniture, homes, clothes, preserves … you name it, it could pretty much be conjured with some hard work and creativity. And, people didn’t throw away anything that had some kind of use left in it!

These days, of course, just about anything a body could need is a short drive into town or a decisive click of the computer mouse away. But that creative philosophy of life never quite left folks in this part of the world. One of the best results of this is a thriving flea market economy. People around here buy and sell anything from lamps to antique mason jars, and if you’re willing to spend the time hunting, you can find what you need. (Or what you didn’t even know you needed!) And, of course, the hunt is most of the fun!

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Some flea markets, like the Porter Flea in Nashville, are an annual event, worth the pilgrimage if you want to combine a vacation with a pickin’ trip. Others are closer to our neck of the woods, like the Centre Brick Indoor Flea Market in New Tazewell or the Green Acres Flea Market in Louisville (near the airport, just outside of Knoxville.)

If yard sales get your creative gears cranking, there are plenty of events in Tennessee for you. Every weekend in the summer, sometimes starting as early as Thursday morning, you can find yard sales. If it’s a big event you’re looking for, Tennessee has annual yard sale events that stretch for miles along our highways! A little bit west of here, in Fentress County, there is the annual 127 Corridor yard sale. This one’s coming up: August 3-6, 2017. It actually stretches from Addison, Michigan, to Chattanooga, Tennessee! Next spring, plan for the U.S. 11 Antique Alley and Yard Sale, which runs from Meridian, Missouri to Bristol, Virginia.

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Need a little inspiration for what to do with your newfound trash-to-treasure? Check out this article from Good Housekeeping. You can turn out-of-date end tables into a Lego brick paradise, colanders into planters, and jars and cans into anything from candle holders to terrariums. If something has “good bones,” you can find a fantastic use for it! And, really, nothing makes a house into a home more than the hand-made touch.

So, get pickin’! And, if you see a property you like while you’re out searching for antiques and up-cycle projects, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com. We’ll be happy to help you find your East Tennessee home!

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.

Cost of Living: By the Numbers

Let’s break down the cost difference between a more expensive city and Morristown, Tennessee.

By now, you’ve probably heard that Tennessee has one of the most favorable cost of living vs. quality of life ratings in the whole country. We decided to break down what this means in terms of real things you’re likely to buy.

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If you’re moving from the Albany, New York metro area to Morristown, Tennessee, you’re about to be pleasantly surprised at how far your money goes. According to this cost comparison calculator, you can take about a 17% decrease in household income, and maintain the same quality of life you had up north.

That means if your household brought in $50,000.00, you could make less than $41,500.00 and still enjoy life! Conversely, that means if your income stays the same after you move, you’ll have 17% more value out of your money to save or take an extra vacation. That’s great news if you’re considering moving for work with the same salary, or if you’re one of the many retirees who have discovered that your fixed income would go much farther in our beautiful part of the country.

How do things like mortgages and groceries compare between New York and East Tennessee?

Let’s look at a few examples:

According to the cost of living calculator, the average home price in Albany is $397,060.67. The price for a comparable home in Morristown, Tennessee: $235,086.33. The difference: $161,974.33

That’s a huge difference! The great news is that Morristown has a great market of beautiful homes for someone looking to upgrade, downgrade or just get into their first home. It’s a diverse market in more than just price; lake homes, mini (or big!) farms, subdivisions … Morristown has a lot to offer.

What about daily living? Here’s how groceries compare:

Lettuce in Albany: $1.83 In Morristown: $1.43 Difference: $0.40

Canola Oil in Albany: $3.76 In Morristown: $2.95 Difference: $0.80

Dozen Eggs in Albany: $2.65 In Morristown: $2.26 Difference: $0.39

Coffee in Albany: $4.40 In Morristown: $4.20 Difference: $0.20

If that’s all you needed to buy this trip to the store, you’ve saved $1.79.

This is just a sampling, but you can definitely see how even a few dollars per grocery trip can add up to hundreds by the end of the year! That’s money that can go toward a trip to Dollywood, or back into your investment account to earn even more money. (And, don’t worry, if you need a good banker: we have plenty of those, too.)

There’s a lot more to love about our area than just lower cost of living. Remember that part we mentioned about good quality of life? We have all four seasons here in East Tennessee, with gorgeous spring flowers, stunning autumn leaves, lush, green summers and just enough winter weather to leave us all refreshed and ready for warmth again.

Let’s do a quick winter weather comparison between Albany and Morristown.

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The average high temperature for January and February in Albany is 31 degrees and 35 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. For Morristown: 46 and 51 degrees are the average high for January and February. The numbers prove it: our winters are much milder down here!

Between mild weather and lower costs, we’ve got what it takes to live life a little easier around here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about homes for sale in East Tennessee, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

Summer Bucket List

Here’s a list of fun, family-friendly summer activities right here in East Tennessee!

There’s so much great stuff to do with your family here in East Tennessee, sometimes it can be hard to keep it all straight! We’ve compiled a list of things you should check out before the days start to get shorter, the nights get that crisp edge and the fireflies fade away for the season. Read on!

Visit the Zoo!

Easily accessible of I40 in East Knoxville, the zoo has lots to see and do. They recently revamped their tiger habitat, bringing you up close and personal to their gorgeous, endangered Malayan tigers! Asian Trek, where the tigers now live, is also home to rare cranes, and primates.

We’ve had thunder-stormy weather lately, but when the skies dry out you can have fun on the splash pad. The zoo has changing rooms and lockers available for your dry stuff, so you can still see the rest of the animals without feeling too soggy.

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Check out Dollywood!

This theme park in Sevierville is a local and national favorite! Dolly is always changing up the performances, so each visit is a whole new experience. In the summer, the park lights up the sky with fireworks each night. There are roller coaster rides, local artists and artisans giving live performances, and lots of food to try. Don’t forget Splash Country, as long as you’re headed that way!

Picnic at the Park

We can’t say enough about our wonderful parks. A low-key afternoon playing on the swings and slides, a competitive game of disc golf, splashing at the edge of the lake … it’s a classic summer day! Bring a cooler with some sandwiches and Popsicles (and sunscreen) and you’re all set.

We also have some great splash pads at our parks, so pack your swimsuits and towels!

Take a Hike

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in our backyard, and it’s spectacular. You can choose anything from a stroll to a rigorous day hike, to even backpacking into the backcountry—but be sure to check with the Park’s rangers to find out about permitting.

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We have lots of wildlife in the mountains, including bears, so be cautious. Never, ever attempt to feed the bears! When you feed bears, you’re giving them a death sentence. Rangers can’t keep bears away from people once they’ve figured out that humans are a food source, so sometimes the only answer is to euthanize them.

Cade’s Cove

This settlement, located in the Smokies, is accessible by car. It’s a glimpse back in time, to when communities had to be self-reliant. You can park and take one of the many day hikes just off the paved loop, or just walk up to one of the cabins, or even the old mill. Cade’s Cove is a living history lesson!

White Water Rafting

Our area is full of natural wonders, and the beautiful mountains can’t get all the credit! The Big Pigeon River, in Hartford, Tennessee and the Ocoee River, about an hour east of Chattanooga, offer thrills you can’t experience anywhere else! Take a guided raft tour of the rivers and stay the night in a nearby cabin, or head back home in time to grill out for supper.

Interested in finding out more about the lifestyle here in East Tennessee? Check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

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.