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.

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!

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!

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!

Spring Buying Frenzy!

What can you do to alleviate some of the springtime house buying stress?

Spring is often perceived as the best time to buy a new home. The weather is getting sweeter, so prospective homebuyers are more willing to get out and about, checking out new neighborhoods. Plus, spring is one of the best times to showcase your home if you’re selling. The grass is growing, and trees and flowers are blooming. It’s when nature puts her best foot forward, which makes for some of the best curb appeal. Spring is also an ideal time to get set to move, because the kids will be out of school in just a handful of weeks (so you don’t have to pull them out mid-year, if you’re changing districts) and you’ll be getting ahead of all your summer vacation plans.

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Red Buds will start blooming soon!

But, trouble is, LOTS of homebuyers think springtime is great for buying a new home! That can make for some really frustrating situations for buyers who put in an offer on their ideal new home, only to see it bought out from under them. So, what can you do to alleviate some of the springtime buying stress?

We found this great article about the Spring Buying Frenzy! Read on for the tips we like the best:

  • You can always wait until the buying frenzy dies down. Still tour homes and watch the trends in real estate where you think you’d like to move. Doing this homework will help you feel like you are buying exactly what you want when your deal finally does go through.
  • You can bid up. Offer above selling price to make sure your dream house isn’t snatched up by someone else. This is especially true if your prospective home is a foreclosure. It’s probably being sold below appraisal, anyway, so knock out the competition with a high offer.
  • Get some local help! Your local realtor knows the market, and knows who to turn to for the fastest results and the best loans for your circumstance. Which leads me to the next point:
  • Get pre-approved by a local lender. Although you can get a legitimate online approval, that local name cues the seller that you’re serious, and your offer is more likely to be considered.
  • Practice stress management! Don’t get so caught up in the moment that you lose perspective of the big picture. Take a walk, get a massage, have a cup of herbal tea … whatever it takes to bring you back down from panic mode. It’s easier to make good decisions when you’re calm.

If it really, truly feels like the right home for you, make the offer! That’s good advice for any prospective homebuyer, any time of the year. Conversely, if you’re on the fence, if there’s something not quite right about the property or the location, then wait a few days. The old adage, “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” is probably truer in real estate than anywhere else. You’re better off waiting for the right house to come along than you are tying yourself up in a house that’s “just ok.”

If you have questions about your house-buying strategy, or about real estate in East Tennessee, please visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com.