Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Water, Sewer and Trash...Oh My!

If I had the proverbial quarter for every time a client told me that they didn't want to pay city taxes, I'd be a millionaire! I thought this would be a great time to blog about this topic given Aqua's recent push to increase rates without utility hearings.  Several neighborhoods in Forsyth county are serviced by Aqua, such as Abington and Salem Glen. Understandably, it is clear that the tax rate between cities and county rates can be far apart.  The certain lure and appeal of the lower rate sure seems enticing but it's important to make sure you know what you receive and don't receive for those annual property taxes and how it impacts your monthly budget outlay. First let's look at some basic, general differences.

City taxes usually encompass services such as a dedicated police and fire department, parks and recreation, public water/sewer access, trash/recycling/bulk pick-up and street maintenance.  Of course, this is not inclusive of all cities. Some cities provide more or less depending on their structure and budget. 

County taxes in the Triad usually cover county-wide services such as parks, schools and have add-ons for local fire jurisdictions depending again, on county size, budget and location.

Let's start by talking specifically about Kernersville.  I have clients that have purchased in Abington and enjoyed the lower tax rates.  However, it does not take long for these folks to realize that the private water company rates are far higher than city/county utility rates and can often increase on a regular basis, sending budgets into orbit.  Add to that, trash and recycling collection which can tack on another $40-50 every two months.  There are instances when averaged out, the expense of living in the county, outside of the city limits, can actually be equal to or more than living in the city limits.  Of course, keep in mind, this determined on a case by case basis, not a generalization across the board.  These same residents in Abington are served by the Sheriff's department and a volunteer or limited staffed fire department which generally has a longer response time than city police and fire.  Let me be clear, this is NOT because of inefficiency of the departments, but more in part to the amount of area these providers have to cover.  Again, something to keep in mind if you or a family member have regular need of medical service.

If you are not hooked up to city services such as water/sewer, the maintenance of septic tanks and wells should also be considered in your budgeting.  On the flip side, not having to rely on or pay a bill for well water or sewer can be an upside and a boon to budget savings.  Again, all is situational depending on the past maintenance, age and depth.

The bottom line is that you need to know up front, using the assistance of your real estate professional,  what services the property taxes include and what services you might be required to pay for out of pocket on a monthly basis.  It is important to make sure that your agent understands and has access/knowledge of these items in the city or area of the county you are interested in living.  These items, especially ones that could increase exponentially over time or that you could be assessed for in the future could play a large role in the affordability of your purchase. At first glance it might appear that you are choosing an area that is less expensive with a smaller property tax impact. Knowledge is certainly power and power comes from planning...Happy House Hunting!

If you are interested in this topic, check out my Facebook page at Brooke Cashion & Associates to view an article we posted today (November 19, 2013) on a potential rate increase by Aqua for their NC clients. If you do not have access to a Facebook account, feel free to email me at Brooke.Cashion@allentate.com and I will send you a link to the article.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Can You Feel It?

The news and social media outlets are all abuzz with the latest developments (or lack thereof) and implications of the recent government shut down.  It has an impact on your personal life in some degree, but to what extent may be contingent upon your career, economic station and receipt of government subsidized services.  For the women on the WIC program, which is a program that provides vouchers for formula and baby needs, the end of the month is going to come very quickly and abruptly if those vouchers stop being issued.  If you are a government employee that is labeled "non-essential" then you may be furloughed currently and waiting on being called back to work.  However, for the majority of Americans, the impacts are felt in far more subtle and potentially further-reaching ways. The impact to our economy's vibrancy and confidence, the impact to our personal liberties and freedoms and the impact to our trust and pride in our government are sure to have lasting implications that reach far beyond the shutdown.

To try and understand the fragile nature of our current economy in a blog post is impossible.  However, we all understand that we just started to gain traction in one of the longest and nastiest recessions our country has ever seen.  Given the relatively young age of our country, I liken this latest recession to our high school years.  Self-assuredness, that most would view as "cocky", lots of blemishes masked by layers of political "make-up" and a complete lack of understanding of how finances work because a real job has yet to be gotten.

Our elected officials and some of our citizens have plunged head-on into careless spending, unfathomable debt and an overinflated self worth that showboats from campaign event to Congress without regard for feeling or common sense.  Does it sound like your teenager? Not a lot of difference and  you know that trying to reason with this arrogance is a futile effort at times.  Now let's all recall those unsightly acne blemishes that were a part of most of our teen years.  Painful and embarrassing but covering them with make-up usually didn't do a stellar job of hiding them, only making them worse.  The same holds true with our current situations.  Let's address debt, let's address voter fraud, let's address social welfare and call it for what it is.  It's ugly, it's painful and it's a sore spot.  However, pretending that adding debt to debt will allow our country to prosper, pretending that voter fraud is somehow race-related or pretending that social welfare programs are not widely abused by able-bodied Americans is going to exacerbate an already raging case of ugliness. Now, let's move on to the "job" situation.  How many times has your teen asked (begged) for money? Sometimes, unreasonable amounts of money or goods are asked for.  As the adult, you can usually step back from the situation, after the major meltdown with said teen, and reason that they have no concept of money because they have never held a real job or career.  This is no different than our government.  They haven't produced anything, typically are far-removed from private sector businesses, large or small, and have no problem spending money and taking money that is not theirs.  When you're a teen, it's tough to understand why your parents just can't see it your way and how bad you need that car, pair of shoes, new phone, etc.  You're crazed with the "wanting" of it to be "in" and "popular."  You'll do anything to get it. Some teens even resort to shoplifting they desire an item so badly.  So does our government. We the people have elected these folks to represent OUR understanding that tough decisions have to be made in the best interest and responsibility of our current financial situations.  We have a budget that takes care of the basics but beyond that they are simply wants which have NO place in the American economy.

When these common-sense core values of the majority of Americans are chipped away, both by small and large amounts, the reasonably aware citizen begins with a mild frustration expressed to friends in conversation and around the office with little commitment to action.  The frustration then builds as they see others feel the same way.  The frustration then turns to situational anger as they see the very personal toll it is having on their finances and life through taxation and forced programs.  What comes next is difficult to say because I believe we as Americans are here.  On the cusp of a rolling anger due to the clear fact that we've been justified in knowing that we now have tough choices to make.  How far does this go? How determined are we to make sure our elected officials know what happens outside of the beltway?  The sounds of freedom are rumbling like a storm on the horizon and stepping up to battle the winds of change. The resilience and ingenuity of our citizens have been like no other nation in the world, however, it now stands to be seen if those fibers have continued to be interwoven into the newest of citizens and our most recent generations.

Much like our teen years; if properly guided through solid leadership and example, we do come out on the other side.  Yes, we have painful memories that we turn to life lessons, and we have scars and losses that we learned from, but we make it and are better for it.  For those who don't have the guidance, guardrails and guidelines needed to weather those difficult years, we've seen the outcome too. Enabled, entitled and dejected individuals who are angry and don't know why.  But for those that made it, we know why. We know that through the nasty feelings, the poor decisions, the temper-tantrums and the heartbreaks, that someone in our lives cared enough to make the tough decisions and to lead the way to teaching us independence.  It is in that independence of both our personal adulthood and our country's, in which we establish value, hard work and earned success, therefore freeing us from a lifelong resentment of failure and regret.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Kernersville USDA Eligibility Ending!

One of the best and one of the last 100% loan programs in our area, the USDA Rural Housing program has shifted it's boundaries to reflect population changes in the Triad.  Since the most recent census, those of us in the real estate industry knew that the maps would be redrawn, as areas, that historically have been considered rural, moved into suburban or urban categories.  However, for the past several years, we have been out of the line of sight and enjoyed using this program in areas such as Kernersville, Reidsville and Eden.  Per the most recent maps, some of those areas will no longer be eligible.

That leaves a definite void for buyers who have had the option to use this 100% product.  It appears that one of the last traditional 100% loans will be the VA loan. However, you must be a veteran which again limits buyers' options.  There are several credit unions that offer a 100% product but it can come in the form of an adjustable rate product OR have other stipulation that was not as attractive as the USDA loan.

This could be a sign that the overall housing market is continuing to improve or at least appears to be in Congress' eyes.  As a Realtor who uses this product quite a bit in the Kernersville area, I definitely see it having an impact on buyer's options and sellers ability to sell to a larger market of buyers.

It appeared that the new maps would take effect October 1 and that buyers in the pipeline before that point would be grandfathered in.  However, a recent development shows that December 1 is the new deadline meaning that IF you are considering a purchase in the Kernersville area AND would like to use and are eligible for the 100% USDA program, you need to act quickly.  As always, if you do not have a relationship with a Realtor, please call or email me and I will be happy to assist you in finding suitable property and working you through the process with a reputable lender.


Fall Fun!

It's that time of the year in the Triad where activities abound and this weekend is one of those opportunities!  It looks as if the weather will hold for most of the outdoor activities, which includes the Winston-Salem Air Show.  The air show is always an amazing display of aircraft demonstrations, hands-on activities, food and fun!  The show does tend to get crowded and parking is sometimes hard to find, but usually if you drive to the end of Fairchild, there is free parking and it's a short walk to the main area.

If music is your thing and you're looking for something to do Saturday night, come out to Bucked Up Super Saloon and check out a CD release party for Johnny Mont.  John Montgomery is one of our agents' sons and he has created quite the buzz with his own material and homegrown vocals.  It appears he's the real deal and what a great opportunity to catch him local before he goes BIG TIME!!

If crafts and cars are more your speed, you can check out the Triad Ladies' Civitan Classic Car and Craft show, which is all day Saturday off of Bodenheimer Street in Kernersville.  The event will take place in the parking lot of New Beginnings Church.  Plenty here to do and see, and the perfect time to get an early jump on Christmas shopping!

Several children's consignment sales are going on this weekend and next in and around Winston and Kernersville.  These always have some great finds but get there early or try to score "preview" access for the best bargains!

These events are just a sampling of what our community has to offer...share with us what you're up to this weekend or in coming weekends!!


Monday, August 26, 2013

What's Good for the Goose...

Recently a buyer of mine made and had an offer accepted on a HomePath property. For those of you who might not be familiar with HomePath, it is the entity that manages FannieMae and other government-backed, foreclosed properties. To bring you to speed on how this normally works, the property is usually listed with a traditional real estate company and agent.  The agents "should" be organized and structured to handle the volume of homes/offers and nuances that come with these properties.  There is quite a bit of addenda, online bidding, deadlines, pre-approvals, proof of funds letters, etc. that have to be executed in a tight time frame in order to even have your offer considered.  All of these needed items requires agents who are organized and efficient, in order to meet the strict deadlines imposed on bidding and closing these properties.  Under normal circumstances, it is usually the buyers' agent that has to hustle to gather up required documentation, overnight and timestamp documents, inspect and close on the government's timeline.  Not this time and apparently not now.

My client had his offer accepted online through the HomePath website on a Thursday.  We were told that we would immediately have the needed documentation to complete and that it would need to be turned in by 5:00 the same day. This was all via automatic email message.  Based on the first offer submitted, my client already had a proof of funds letter that reflected his original offer, an earnest money check that reflected his original offer amount (10% of purchase price) and all signed documents and contracts required.  Needless to say, the revised documentation promised never arrived.  My assistant and I called and emailed the listing company and finally, at 3:30 on Friday the addenda arrived via email and a request for additional earnest money made out in certified funds to the closing attorney (we had yet to be told if they would accept our attorney of choice) and they had a request for an updated proof of funds letter.  We were told via auto-email that if these items weren't received by 6:00 on Sunday our contract would be terminated.  My client works (that's why he can buy a house) and could not sign paperwork until Saturday. By the time he got off on Friday his bank was closed so he could not get a new check nor could he get his bank letter verifying funds on hand. Per the email it also said our five day window for inspections had started with the email acceptance.  Now mind you, at this point we are going on an automated email and have no seller-signed contract.

I immediately call and email the listing company and let them know that the docs will be in their email by 6:00 on Sunday but the check and letter will be there first thing Monday morning. I receive NO response. Not a confirmation as requested, nothing.  So we proceed.  I had previously set up inspections as if our bid was accepted, so we inspected on the following Wednesday--a full 5 days after our offer was accepted.  Guess what? Still NO seller-signed contract.  Part of the stipulation of our offer being accepted was that we close within 10 days.  Well, half-way there and still NO seller-signed contract.  I or my assistant have emailed and called 3-10 times a day and have gotten no response from the listing agency, other than they are trying to get a signed contract and have not heard from HomePath either.  I finally broke down and circumvented the listing agency thinking that they were dragging their feet, only to find out that it's our government. Shocking, I know!!

I left a message for HomePath first of the week and was told that I SHOULD get a call back in the next 72 hours.  I did end up with a phone call two days later. The representative left a standard, vanilla message and I immediately called back. No name was given for me to request, no supervisor, no case number, nothing. So you can imagine when I called back, I experienced the same circle.  I explained the situation, the demands that they had placed on my client as it related to deadlines, money and documentation and was told that a supervisor would call me back and that it would move up the chain.  When I asked for a reference number or person's name, the woman on the other end, threw an attitude and demanded I leave a message in order for my call to be returned. I explained that closing was supposed to occur before their 72 hour window and she hung up.  Thank God our tax dollars go towards customer service training...it's definitely paying off.

So here we still sit, two days before "closing" and still no contract, no phone calls and no response to our questions. I did finally get someone at the listing agency to answer my call and she said that she has 6 outstanding contracts that HomePath has not sent back signed. Her HomePath contact told her that they were in training and were behind.  Really?! Wow! I should have known this would be a debacle when it took 3 days to even get an appointment with instructions on entry to the home--mind you, it's a vacant, foreclosed home.

How in the world can we be expected to meet government guidelines and put our clients out there to risk their monies, time and energy when our own government can't keep up with it's business at hand.  I could go on and on and I am sure this is not the only department nor the only issues and I can assure you that my list of frustrations with this process goes on and goes deeper.  Where do we go from here? I'm tired of being the goose...


Friday, August 23, 2013

Weighing In...

Jake, Maddie and I recently traveled to Florida for our summer vacation and decided that rather than drive, we would enjoy the luxury of flying.  I fly somewhat regularly but usually it's just me, not the entire family.  We have been in dire need of new luggage for quite sometime and after our trip to Montana, Jake vowed that never again would we take that set of luggage with us anywhere. 

I made a trip to Costco for some very reasonable and sturdy Samsonite luggage that consisted of the new, plastic-like material that gives the luggage a hard shell, as opposed to the cloth that we had previously owned and recently threw away.  I thought I had really made a wise investment with my purchase of one large piece and a smaller, carry-on bag, both complete with wheels that rolled in all directions!!  Saturday night prior to our Sunday afternoon departure, we began packing. Jake and I had planned on sharing the "big" bag and Maddie would have the smaller carry-on bag.  We had paid for a checked bag and a carry on bag with our tickets.  As we were packing, I started to vaguely recollect that Allegiant Air had recently implemented a 40lb baggage rule.  You could go over but then you were subject to the "at-airport" fees that are upward of $50 regardless of being overweight one pound or twenty.  This now "big" bag that was stuffed full, needed to be reduced to 40lbs or under.  Once we culled it down to what appeared on the scale to be under 40, the clothing items remaining shifted willy-nilly in the bag--there was room for so much more!!  Maddie's carry-on would not be weighed but then again, only so much would fit in it!  I panicked! What were we going to do?! Jake hates to fly, and this kind of stuff drives him nuts!

In comes the Sunday morning Costco run to purchase yet another carry-on sized bag for my stuff while Jake's clothes swam comfortably around in the large bag that could have easily held another person's wardrobe but for the weight limit.  Bag purchased, we switch everything out before leaving and proceed to the airport and subsequently to the counter to check the bags. 

The line was out the door and at least 40 people deep.  Jake comments on how glad he is that our bags are squared away so that we don't have to deal with the nonsense that others in front of us are going through.  Our turn arrives and the first bag goes on the scale...the "big" bag--OH $H*+!--this bag is STILL 3 lbs. overweight.  The second checked carry-on goes on the scale and its only 35 lbs. but stuffed so fat that the zipper is screaming for mercy.  The gal behind the counter offers the suggestion to switch items from "big" bag to a smaller bag...great idea but no room in the smaller bag.  Jake is now breathing loudly through his nose and color is creeping up his neck.  We are THOSE people despite our efforts otherwise!!  Bags are unzipped, clothes, toiletries removed...those items of course can't go in our carry-on where there is room, because they exceed the liquid ounce requirements!  It's like doing Algebra homework for the first time, as we try to put together the right formula!  Finally, the gal behind the counter "passes" our bags and puts them on the belt as we realize we have no identification on any of the bags! Now, Jake worries that our bags will be profiled due to our piss-poor attitude at the gate. I assure him that airport workers don't profile...the TSA assures us of that!  We move on to the gate, wondering if our luggage will make it or split under the pressure.  As for the big bag, we are certain that someone has plenty of room to climb inside and stow-away to Florida.

My questions are a) why can't airlines just charge per pound? It's obvious they don't care about how much you carry, regardless of what they say.  No reason for someone who's three pounds over to be charged the same as someone 50 lbs. over as it appears is the current case. b) why can't your bags be an aggregate amount on direct flights? If you purchase and pay to have two bags checked, one could be 60 lbs. and the other 20 lbs...who cares what goes where if it really IS about safety? c) if weight is so important why aren't there "official" scales at strategic areas of the airport where you can weigh your bag without hundreds of eyes piercing your back as you hold up the checking-in process?

Safely landed and at home it's a little more humorous to reflect on the situation, but how unfortunate that it was the beginning memory of our summer vacation. If airlines want passengers to continue to fly and to travel, then common-sense requirements need to be established for everyone's benefit and safety.  Maybe I'm just missing some of the tricks to traveling...I'm sure it's just a matter of time before people are going to be charged for how much they weigh...Thank goodness I started back at the gym last week, I've got a trip to Vegas in the near future! :)


Monday, June 17, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough...Hire an Expert!! Great Article...

Want to Sell?  Hire a Realtor

Home sellers are more than twice as likely to get their homes sold if they use a Realtor®, rather than trying to sell their home on their own, according to a new survey conducted by HomeGain of 400 home owners nationwide from July 31 to Aug. 10. Seventy-three percent of the home owners surveyed said they used a Realtor®.

On the other hand, 21 percent of those surveyed said they tried to sell their home themselves. The survey found that 66 percent of the home owners who used a Realtor® were able to successfully sell their home compared to 30 percent of for-sale-by-owners. 

What’s more, the survey found that 22 percent of the for-sale-by-owners eventually decided to use a Realtor® to try to sell their home. More than half of those who did were then able to sell their homes too, the survey found. 

“The value of a Realtor® in a real estate transaction is made strikingly apparent in our 2012 FSBO verses Realtor ® survey of home sellers,” says Louis Cammarosano, general manager of HomeGain. “A qualified Realtor ® understands the dynamics of the market and can better assist home sellers in the pricing and preparation of their homes for sale.”
Source: HomeGain

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Not Created Equal...

Not all licensed real estate agents are created equal. And for good reason.  Not all sellers and buyers are created equal nor do they have the same needs and expectations.  I am saying this because over the past few weeks, as I have attended listing appointments, sellers in particular have been surprised that not all agents do the same things or have the same designations.

First, not all licensed agents are Realtors.  Realtors are members of a trade association that take real estate ethics to the next level.  All agents should abide by real estate law, but the Realtor association lays down an additional layer of ethics through their code of ethics and their adherence to the Golden Rule. In my humble opinion, using a Realtor, asking if your agent is one, and knowing the difference, is pretty important.

Not all companies use a showing service to set appointments.  Make sure yours does.  Nothing is more frustrating to a buyer and a buyers' agent than wanting to see your home and not being able to reach the listing agent or anyone at their firm.  Hire an agent whose company subscribes to a showings service that is open 7 days a week and 364 days of the year. Lost showings are lost offers. Period.

Not all agents in the same firm use the same marketing tools.  Ask when interviewing what your agent is going to do for you, that other agents both in their firm and outside their firm are not going to do.  You want to choose an agent who invests in their brand and business. Agents who have "skin in the game" treat their business like a business and have incentive to sell your home.

Agents do NOT get paid a salary.  We make money only when we sell a home. For the most part we are all self-employed, independent contractors who run a small business under the umbrella of a larger firm.  Usually we pay the firm to work under that umbrella.

Not all agents are FULL-TIME.  Your should be.  You need someone who works on a daily basis and understands the full-time nature and access to availability that the real estate industry demands.  Ask during your interview how much they are in the office and how many hours, on average, they work a week. If they stumble on that question, then they probably don't have a business-plan for their own business and might be challenged when it comes to a marketing plan for your home.

Not all commissions are the same.  There is NO STANDARD fee. It's all negotiable.  However, make sure you know what you are paying for because usually you get what you pay for.  If your agent has a difficult time protecting their fee and income, how do you think they are going to fare on your behalf when an offer comes in and they are negotiating YOUR equity? 

If you have specific questions on interviewing the right agent for you or if you would like to set up an interview please give us a call 336-817-3598 or shoot me an email.  brooke.cashion@allentate.com


Hit the Road Jack...

If you're planning to hit the road this summer for a quick getaway or a lengthy family sabbatical, there are a few things you might want to plan on in order to care for your home while you're away.  Though this list is certainly not 100% comprehensive, it does serve as a nice checklist for the highlights.

-Pets...make sure you arrange boarding ahead of time. Kennels are booked early and there's nothing like stressing over whether or not your pet is going to be well-loved while you're out of town. Shots and records need to be current and printed prior to arrival in the event your pet has not boarded a particular kennel. If pets are staying home or staying with family/friends, make sure you leave specific instructions on care along with ample food and treats. It's usually a good idea to have  a visitation or two prior to your trip to introduce both parties.

-Mail...Have a trusted neighbor, friend or family to check your mail every other day or request your local post office to hold your mail until you return. This is a free service not often used.

-Plants...You've worked too hard this Spring on your flowers to let them burn in the hot Summer sun.  Pay a neighborhood kid or find a service that waters and/or weeds flower beds and gardens.

-Thermostat...Set your thermostat at a higher temperature to prevent unnecessary running while you aren't there. However, avoid the temptation to turn completely off as it will take longer and require the system to run harder when you return to get things back to a normal comfort level.

-Refrigerator...It's a great time to throw items away that might expire while you're away. Nothing worse than coming home to molded, smelly food in the fridge.

-Laundry...Have the majority of your laundry completed prior to leaving because when you come home, you know there will be LOTS to do.  No need to double the burden.  If you don't have the time look into laundromats where you can drop off laundry for wash n' fold that's paid for by the pound.

-Yard...If you are going to be away for longer than a week, find a yard maintenance person who can trim the grass.  Nothing says, "I'm not home" like an unkempt yard.  No reason to invite thieves into your home.

-Drive By...Some local police departments will actually drive-by your home while you are away while on their regular beat.  Ask your local police department if this is a service they offer.

-Security System...If you have a security system TURN IT ON!!  If you don't, give me a call and I can put you in touch with some companies that monitor and install very reasonably.  The added comfort of knowing your home is monitored while you're away is worth every penny. Some even offer video activation so that you can check in on pets and the house.  Not to mention, most insurance companies usually give you a discount if you have a system.

Happy Trails to You!!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Inventory Low...Is It Time to Go?

Most recently, I have been out with several buyers who are unable to find housing that meets their needs.  Rewind to 18+ months ago and we had inventory, both good and bad, coming out of our ears.  Currently, we are running around an 8-10 month supply, (a healthy market is considered 6 months) which still may seem high to those of you reading this.  The kicker is that the inventory currently on the market is stale.  Meaning most of what is out there either needs work to bring the home up to snuff or the price needs to be significantly reduced to meet the buyers' demands and expectations. 

We have not only been experiencing multiple offers on properties that are properly priced and in excellent condition but we are seeing favorable offers within days of homes coming on the market.  This is not the result of "under pricing" as some may think, but simply the fact that buyers have a specific location or neighborhood in mind and when a home comes on the market that meets their needs, they jump.

Moral of the story.  If you are thinking of selling and your home is in great condition and your are realistic in pricing, based on recent sales and current competition, please consider putting your home on the market.  If you are not willing to "shine that penny" and price appropriately, then it might be that you wait several more years so that the market meets your condition. 

If you have been considering a move, couple the above with the fact that rates are still hovering under 4% on conventional products and closer to 3.5% for government-backed products and you can be where you want to be and take advantage of current market conditions and rates, which over time may negate the expense of preparing your home adequately for the market.

If  you are considering a move within 2013 and want to talk about your options and current market conditions in your area, feel free to give me a call/text or email me.  As always, there's  no obligation or charge to chat!  I look forward to hearing from you and remember I always appreciate the referrals of your friends and family!!


Don't Let Your Lack of Attendance Be Your Folly...

Every year, first weekend of May, the residents and civic organizations rally around the chamber to participate in Spring Folly, which takes place in downtown Kernersville.  This annual event is a fundraiser for the civic organizations who champion their culinary specialties-everything from BBQ, to chicken wings to homemade lemonade.  The biggest challenge is usually what to choose to dine on.  Luckily, the event begins on Friday, May 3rd and continues throughout Saturday evening with limited events taking place Sunday afternoon.  That leaves plenty of time to sample a little bit of everything!  Live music on multiple stages suites the ears of all ages and genres and the craft vendors cover the gamut.  You can usually find everything from crocheted toilet paper holders to caricatures and it's the perfect time to knock out some Christmas shopping!

Folly has flourished over the past decades heralding it success to the tireless efforts of chamber volunteers, the civic groups and the simple "showing up" of the residents of Kernersville and the entire state.  Hovering around 25,000 for the weekend, this is THE premier event in Kernersville to catch up with everyone you haven't seen in a while.  You can shake the hand of the mayor or talk to your kids' Sunday school teacher. Rest assured, they'll be there.  You'll have plenty of time to chat while waiting for the kids to finish riding their favorite amusement rides.  Usually, there's a petting zoo, craft station that focuses' on recycled material and of course, the Folly is open for tours.

If you have never visited Korner's Folly, this is a great time to do so.  Having recently experienced renovations, Korner's Folly is a the crown jewel of the historic district.  Boasting over seven levels, the first private little theatre in the world, frescoes and amazing and intricate furniture desiged by Jules Korner himself, you don't want to miss laying your eyes on this unique home!

So look at your calendar and make plans to attend Spring Folly next week and of course, make sure you find me and say HEY!!  I'll be the one waiting for Maddie to ride the ferris wheel standing beside of the guy with the turkey leg in his hand!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Photos by Maddie...

So Maddie, my 12 year old, got an iPhone for Christmas and as much as I don't care for the games, texting and Instagram, I do LOVE the new hobby and talent she has discovered! I think she has a knack and eye for photography so I wanted to share a small sample of the photos she took over the weekend while spending time with her cousins...I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!

Let the Sky Fall...

I'm guessing that's what quite a few folks were thinking when they received their tax re-evaluations.  For the most part, tax values across Forsyth county plummeted as a result of the mandatory county re-evaluation. The county cited foreclosures and the overall declining market as the driving force behind these new tax values.

Note, I keep saying TAX values.  These are not the market values of homes.  The market value is a simple equation.  It is the value that a buyer is willing to give and a seller is willing to take in the present market.  That takes into account inventory, condition, location and terms.  Tax values on the other hand are based on formulas and algorithms and tax assessors typically have never entered the property being assessed to view condition or true space.  Tax values are placed on the home for the sole purpose of collecting taxes on the real property.

Certainly you can challenge these values, but first you must assess WHY you want to challenge the value.  Is it because you WANT to pay more taxes? Is it because you don't fully understand market value vs. tax value? Was their a mistake on the tax record that you feel compelled to correct? Understanding why you challenge is the first step in figuring out IF you challenge.

If you would like to discuss your specific situation or have further questions, please don't hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email and I'll do my best to advise a course of action that is best suited to your specific situation.

Just think, another type of TAX deadline is just around the corner...Until then...


Friday, March 01, 2013

Montana...Yes, it IS Big Sky Country...

Most of you who know me well, know that Jake and I just returned from Big Sky, Montana. We were given the opportunity by my sister's boyfriend, Chas.  His family friend has a beautiful home and we were invited to join them over the Valentine's Day weekend for a vacation that consisted of skiing, snowmobiling and taking in the beauty of the west.

I have never been out west, other than Las Vegas, which I don't really consider to be the out west I think of.  We arrived in Bozeman, MT on Wednesday and made our way to the house, which was nestled about a hour away between Bozeman and West Yellowstone. Not too much snow on the ground in the lowlands, but once we reached the house we were in for a real treat. I have never seen so much snow in my life!!

We skied three of the five days in Big Sky and experienced the changing weather that they are famous for.  The temps never really edged out of the 20's but we woke every morning to single digits and fresh powder.  There were cloudy, overcast days were it dusted snow throughout the day and then there were days that the locals called "bluebird" days where the sky was such a deep blue and clear that you felt as if you were just feet from outer space.  On the one "bluebird" day, we took the gondola to the top of Lone Peak, which soars just over 11,000 feet above sea level to take in the views.

 It was so surreal that I couldn't even get scared of how high up we really were.  Looking out over the 360 degree panoramic view was like looking at a map out of National Geographic.  I can now appreciate why it is featured in the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
One day out of the five, we snow-mobiled an entire day through Yellowstone.  We visited Old Faithful, numerous geysers, wildlife and SNOW!!  We traveled over 70 miles on the snow mobiles and learned so much about Yellowstone.  We were actually in two states that day, Wyoming, where over 90% of Yellowstone is located--as compared to Montana, where less than 3% of the park is situated.  It was approximately 15-20 degrees during the day but as we crossed the actual crust of the ancient volcano, which was a tundra-feeling area, the temps lowered and the winds increased, definitely bringing a serious chill!!
Around every bend there was an abundance of wildlife...we saw elk, a bald eagle, a couple of swan and tons of buffalo!  At several points during the trip the buffalo were on the road with us and towards the end of the trip they wouldn't move from the road and we had to wait for them to pass.  Our guide told us that since it was spring, the babies were a little feisty so be careful when we finally were able to pass because 1000 lbs of baby buffalo could create an issue if they landed in our laps!!
Jake and I both were a little underwhelmed with the notion of riding around Yellowstone to begin with, as we both thought it would basically be mountains and snow.  However, we both agreed that it was amazing and almost like a different planet given the activity of the geysers and the 3000 reported earthquakes per year!! We didn't experience one, or weren't aware of it if we did, but to think that kind of seismic activity takes place all the time is incredible and hard to even fathom.
The photo above actually shows the crater left by a large earthquake that occurred in the late 1800's and was followed by another in the 1950's...these pools of 200+ degree water and mesmerizing colors are abundant in Yellowstone.
The waterfall is a part of the RimFire basin...the water in this river is warmed by the addition of water from the geysers.  Further down the river, where the water is calm, it still does not freeze because of the warmed water and the amount of cyanide from the geysers, which actually contributes to the local herd of elk loosing their teeth prematurely.  Needless to say, you wouldn't drink the water out here regardless of how beautiful it looks!

It was an amazing trip and great opportunity to visit a part of our country that I probably would not have otherwise.  I am definitely a warm-weather kind of gal but can also deeply appreciate the beauty and diversity of all of God's amazing creation!

Housing Figures Increase In January/February...

As I write this post, we are awaiting the implications of sequestration and are learning that Americans took home the least amount of pay in years during the month of January BUT housing numbers are looking up.  What does it all mean and does anyone have a clue?  I am going with the emphatic "NO", but I'll still take a moment to pontificate on housing and related subjects.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported today that housing numbers were up 25% in January.  January typically being a slower month and not the usual beginning of the Spring market, what exactly does this indicate?  I will say that personally, I had a very strong January but it was on the heels of a strong 2012 4th quarter.  Rates are still low and buyers and sellers alike have a keen sense of awareness when it comes to their reasons to purchase real estate.  Still a great long term investment and the fact that everyone needs a roof over their head are but two of the compelling reasons to purchase a home.  Currently, we can deduct mortgage interest, but that may change if the President's wishes are full-filled and if our local NC legislature massages the tax code we might see additional fees and taxes on real estate and the actual transaction, making it less affordable for buyers and sellers to transact real estate. 

I personally believe that our local market has somewhat of a "bubble within a bubble" right now due to the visitation of an investment firm out of Malibu, CA who has entered our market after paying earlier visits to Raleigh and Charlotte.  This firm, American Homes for Rent, has been purchasing homes in newer subdivisions that are located within good school districts and are at or below market value. They are coming in with strong, cash offers, doing inspections, but requesting few repairs and are not conducting appraisals.  This has in turn, has allowed for sellers, previously held hostage by their home, to sell and purchase a new home that better suits their housing needs.  This injection of activity has been a huge boon to our market. I am not certain how many homes in the Winston-Salem area have been purchased, but I have had a handful myself, as have other agents in our office.  The News and Observer out of Raleigh, reported that American Homes for Rent, bought over 80 homes in the Raleigh area.

Upon researching the firm online, it appears that they do rent these homes nationwide and that this is part of an investment package that returns dividends to the investors of several funds.  It has also been reported that the group is having a hard time finding enough homes to meet the return promised.  That, I'm sure, is yet to be seen.

I have to speculate and wonder if this isn't the beginning of a low-income rental project that the government will put it's thumb in at some point, as it sounds just too good to be true.  I also wonder how this will effect our market and values long-term, given the fact that these rental properties will pepper neighborhoods that have struggled with foreclosures and property values.  Couple this with the recent tax re-evaluations and what you are left with are quite a few questions that remain unanswered.  I think that it's too early to be giddy about our market and signs of recovery but I am cautiously optimistic that this injection and spike of activity has been a refreshing start to what has been a sluggish past couple of 1st quarters.


Friday, January 18, 2013

It's the Good Stuff...

Rarely do we refer to our real estate inventory as "stuff" but the statement seems to be coming up more and more these days, that "the good stuff is selling".  First, let's qualify "good stuff".  This term means properties that are priced competitively and are compelling.  Sellers that are realistic about the market, in spite of reports that indicate rising prices, more buyers, etc.  Yes, all of those reports are true but are based on nationwide trends, not local markets and they are looking at year over year or month over month.  You need to be aware of how these reports are spun.  The term also includes sellers that know how to present their home in the best light possible.  De-personalized, clean, well-maintained, appropriately landscaped, flattering lighting/decor and staged to sell are no longer suggestions or options, they are must-dos! 
We have a glut of inventory but a shortage of good inventory.  I have been out for the past three days looking for a well priced home that is in good shape and meets the buyers' criteria. Out of hundreds found on the Internet, 20-30 actually toured in person;  these buyers only found three that they would even consider!  That is unbelievable!  Two of three have multiple offers going into the weekend, thus further proving the limited supply of quality inventory.
If you are a seller considering putting your home on the market give me a call or shoot me an email to discuss what it is that can make your home competitive and compelling so that you can sell your home in 2013. 
If you are a buyer looking for a home on your own and are having a difficult time navigating the conflicting and confusing information, call me or email me, and let's chat about a plan that can make sense of it all and can further guide you through the process of owning a home that fits your needs, preferences and pocketbook.

Happy House Hunting! Talk to you soon!


Any of you that have lived in the South for any amount of time, know that snow or the mere mention of the possibility of snow can shut down commerce and schools quicker than a Baptist disappears at the beer aisle. (Simmer down Baptist friends, there's jokes about Methodists too)  We just don't see a whole lot of snow here and when we do, we stop to enjoy it.  We also have those Yankees fooled.  Sure we tell them we can't drive in it, that we must stay home with the kids because they're out of school and we raid the grocery stores under the guise of needing bread and milk, but that, my friends is a hoax. 

First the driving. You're talking about a culture that prides itself on racin', muddin', pullin', draggin', plowin', tillin' and raisin' pure heck with just about anything that has a engine.  Yea, we could drive it, IF we wanted to.  But we don't.

It's tough to find a sitter for those kids when all of our friends and family are in on the secret.  When school's out, IF you can pull it off, you're out.  Yes, we could take them to the Y or our momma's house.  But we like the snow too!  We like to take a day to see our youngins bundle up with bread bags on their feet fitted with celery rubber bands (I've lost some of you at this point), coming in from the *wet* cold beggin' for instant hot chocolate and fried bologna sandwiches.  We like to make a real wood fire during the day, catch up on our soaps and not take a shower until late afternoon.  We know this snow phenomenon doesn't happen often and our kids are only young once.

Everyone needs milk to make snow cream. Period. End of story.  Bread? See above. The run to the grocery is really for luxury items, such as  beer, the ingredients for chili, instant hot chocolate, cookie dough, sausage for breakfast and all of those other grocery items that we only allow ourselves to splurge on when the weather's poor.  Silly Yankee, we know we aren't going to really be snowed in beyond being able to feed ourselves.  We put up canned goods all summer, froze veggies for stews and cassaroles and could still drive if an emergency warranted us to do so (see above). We just need an excuse to break bad on the calorie count!

Well, now, you're in on our little secret.  We hope that you too will slow down and "snow down" with us.  Enjoy God's great gift of peace and his reminder that sometimes we just need to take a small break.  After all, you are now living in God's country...Welcome to North Carolina!