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.

 

 

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!

Down Payment Assistance

One of these options, plus getting frugal, could get you all the way to paying closing costs and the down payment on your house.

Lots of renters think paying a monthly mortgage is way beyond their reach­–until they do the math, look up one of the online mortgage calculators and realize, “Wait a minute! Mortgage payments on a modest home are actually less than my monthly rent!” Not only that, but the money homeowners pay on their mortgage actually builds wealth. The house appreciates in value over time, so that years from now, when you’re ready to move on, you’ll actually make money from the sale of your home. That’s a pretty great alternative to watching rent checks go down the drain each month.

BUT …

The up-front costs of buying a home sometimes brings a potential homebuyer to a screeching halt. Traditionally, banks require twenty percent of the cost of the home as a down payment. That’s more cash than most first time homebuyers have on hand! To use a simple figure, it would be $20,000 on a house priced at $100,000. Plus, there are closing costs: house inspection and appraisal, title company and bank fees, and more, depending on the particulars of the loan.

There is good news, though.

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There are several financial strategies, as well as grant and loan programs available to homebuyers in East Tennessee. Any good loan officer can check out a few options to help you find your best one. Here are a few ideas:

 

  • You can use up to $10,000 from your IRA for a house down payment, without penalty. If you’re married, you can pull from both IRA accounts for $20,000 in down payment funds.
  • You can borrow against your 401(k). This is less desirable, since you’ll have to pay taxes with this plan.

One of these options, plus getting frugal, selling some of your stuff online or in a yard sale, or even asking for gifts from family members could get you all the way to paying closing costs and the down payment on your house.

But, if you don’t have access to an IRA or a 401(k) and selling your stuff gets you a net gain of about $27, then you’ll be thinking about more substantial assistance. Luckily, there are many assistance programs available. Keep in mind that your financial situation and the house you want to buy create a unique set of circumstances, so your loan officer will have to assess many details of your case before you decide which loan is really the best for you.

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First Time Homebuyers

Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, sometimes first time homebuyers can get their home with a down payment as small as 3.5%.

Veterans Administration

Specifically for veterans, this loan requires no down payment, and even assistance in closing costs.

Rural Development

This loan is backed by the USDA. You’ll have to check the availability of this loan for the area you want to live. You can’t get this one for the loft downtown, but you could get it for a house in a neighborhood just off the main thoroughfare. You don’t have to live far out in the country to get this loan, and it requires zero down payment.

Grants

Check into local and state grants available for the specific area you want to move to. Sometimes a city or county is looking to help a blighted area develop, and is willing to encourage homeowners by paying part of the down payment.