When the Earth Moves…

Western North Carolina has seen a record amount of rain in the last two weeks. The most recent 15 day total that I saw for Buncombe County put us at over 21 inches of rain. McDowell County is over 24 inches and poor Polk County is at nearly that amount. With this huge deluge of rain comes flooding and many landslides and our area has seen its fair share. Cooincidently, Jennifer Bauer with Appalachian Landslide Consultants was scheduled to talk at my office this week on this very topic. I’m glad I was able to see her presentation.

According to the NC Environmental Quality website, the word Landslide appears to covers debris flows, earth slides, and rock slides. Debris flows are often referred to as mudslides. These will start uphill when water from a spring or heavy rains mix with soil (usually a sandy/silt mixture) and the ground starts to slide, carrying rocks, trees and anything else that gets in its way. Earth slides differ in that it doesn’t take saturated ground to cause the slide. Cracks could open up in the soil that causes the earth to break away. Rock slides often occur during freeze/thaw cycles, wet weather, or any event that causes the earth under large rock formations to become unstable. We most often see these along roadways where the mountain has been carved out to create the road. For better descriptions, visit the NC DEQ page on Recognising Landslides and Appalachian Landslide Consultants page titled “What are Landslides“.

Many of you may remember in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan blew through, causing even greater flooding and property damage then we are seeing today. There was a community in Macon County called Peeks Creek that was wiped out, causing around $1.3 million dollars in property damage. A debris flow started several miles up the mountain and traveled about 32 miles an hour down the mountain, wiping out everything in its path. The scar can still be seen today. Within this community was a family who lived in Florida and had evacuated to their vacation home in Peeks Creek, only to lose their lives to the debris flow. Last week in Polk County, two separate debris flows converged right at the location of a home, killing the woman who lived inside. Monetary damage is nothing compared to the lives that are lost.

When we are house hunting in the mountains, we need to be aware of the ground below us and around us. There are some telltale signs to look for that your property might be susceptible.

  • Cracks in the ground may be signs of unstable ground, especially along driveways and home foundations where the land slopes away
  • Structural damage to a home such as cracks in the foundation. Not all cracks are the same and not all cracks are a sign of a failing foundation, but movement in a foundation wall is a serious red flag
  • Look at the piers that a porch is sitting on. Foundations might be on solid ground but a porch might have been installed over fill dirt. Are the footers sliding out from under the piers?
  • Look at the surroundings. Does the land slope uphill from the house? Are there any visible springs or wet patches in the earth? This could cause ground saturation and then a debris flow
  • Look for curved or bending trees in the woods. Trees want to grow straight to capture the sun. If the ground starts to slide under the tree, it might change the angle that the tree is coming out of the earth, causing it to have to bend it’s way back straight to the sky.

This isn’t an all-inclusive list. If you are considering the purchase of a home on a mountain, or you plan to build, it might be worth the time and expense to hire a company like Appalachian Landslide Consultants to come out and do a site evaluation for you. Your due diligence period allows you the opportunity to do this research so take advantage of it! Just remember, homeowners insurance does not cover damage from landslides and there is no government landslide insurance similar to flood insurance. A sobering thought, isn’t it?

Please stay safe, dry and on high (stable) ground until this crazy weather pattern blows over!

 

Reality TV and Real Estate

Admit it. You are an HGTV and DIY Network junkie. We all are, even when we despise what they show on tv. Let’s dispell a few myths.

On house hunters and the like – they already bought their house. The other two homes that the buyers look at were never in the running. They may not even be on the market. The camera crew shows up the day of closing then films the house hunt after the fact. It’s fun to watch but if you think every buyer can look at 3 homes and pick one, you are sadly mistaken. Often they look at dozens and are still underwhelmed and in our market, they probably write offers on a half dozen of those and get out-bid or outmaneuvered by competing bids every time. (a good agent will help you land that home!)

What’s my house worth? I once watched an episode where they asked this question of a house that I personally had listed and marketed. Oh goody! Let’s see what they did! Turns out, not a lot. There were a few updates but for the most part, the tile, sunroom and other features that the new owners claimed to have added were THERE WHEN I SOLD IT. It makes for good tv but it was far removed from reality.

Renovation shows! Oh, I love these. My favorite is when you take a clueless homeowner and convince them that they can demolish and renovate their kitchen with zero experience. The camera crew films it with no interference…….well, there was the one time the homeowner hit a gas line and the cameraman started screaming for everyone to get out and then took off running. That was pretty funny. Let me say this about these shows, my husband has been in the home renovation business for over 40 years. I’m not sure he even owns a sledgehammer. People love watching the primal energy of someone taking a heavy, blunt tool to a wall and really whaling on it. It’s pure sensationalism and nothing else. I personally have removed many cabinets and torn down walls. It’s a lot of fun but a sledgehammer actually makes it dangerous. Don’t do it. Further, you are seeing the finished product through a camera lens. The reality of the project rarely holds up to scrutiny so don’t believe everything you see. Rarely did the clueless homeowner finish their project without outside help. They just never show you that part.

What’s up with these time frames? Oh, I HAVE to have this home renovated for a June 9th open house! Hold the open house on June 20th instead. What the heck is the rush? I’ll tell you why the rush, it adds drama. That’s all.

Speaking of drama, so many issues that pop up on these shows are not really issues. So many times they make a big deal over a new window that was ordered wrong and everyone is wringing their hands then it turns out a bit of shimming will make it fit. No kidding. I’m shocked every time. (no, I’m really not)

Have fun watching these shows but please, take it with a grain of salt. I’m not saying that many projects can’t be done on your own but please, do your research and don’t rely on a tv program to tell you how it’s done. Always consult a professional, after all, they make it their lives work to know about these topics. Tap into that knowledge base. Life is easier when you do.

 

 

 

 

High End vs Vintage Homes

vintage

noun  vin·tage  \ ˈvin-tij \

1a (1) a season’s yield of grapes or wine from a vineyard

(2) wine; especially: a usually superior wine all or most of which comes from a single year

a collection of contemporaneous and similar persons or things: crop

2the act or time of harvesting grapes or making wine

3a a period of origin or manufacture such as a piano of 1845 vintage

length of existence: age

In this case, we are talking about Vintage Homes.  Why use the word Vintage?  Because old sounds old and tired as if the home is in need of work when that’s not always the case. Many of these old homes have been lovingly restored with modern features yet retain an amount of charm and character that new homes often lack. A home absorbs the feel of the families who occupied it and the older the home, the more life it has experienced. They are full of love and sadness, joy and sorrow. They have a character that you feel as well as see. It’s no secret that I LOVE Vintage homes and it is for this very reason.

Recently I had the opportunity to view a stately mansion, circa 1916. I called my friend and fellow Realtor, Lydia to join me on this expedition. Lydia is a Buyers Agent for high-end clients but rarely sets foot in a Vintage home. I have listed a few high-end homes but my passion is Vintage. It was fun to tour this home together as our perspectives where far from overlapping.

The first thing she noticed was a slope in the kitchen floor. I bounced on it a few times, looked at the joists from below and declared there were no worries, it’s typical settling for this age. She was stunned. What do you mean this is FINE?  Agreed, in a new home it is most certainly not fine but in a 120 year old home, it’s normal and expected. I was excited that the home had air-conditioning. Lydia gave me a blank stare. Why wouldn’t it have air? Because it’s an upgrade! Even in this high end price range, not all homes have updated heating, cooling and electrical. This one has all three! The kitchen in this home is spacious which excited me. In many Vintage homes, the kitchen was an afterthought.  Lydia was concerned that her high-end buyers would bemoan the lack of granite tops and stainless steel. OK, she has a point on that one. I was unhappy that the master bath was not done in period tile. She was overjoyed that the travertine tile, rain forest shower head and large, claw foot tub for soaking gave the owners a spa-like feel. Everything else is period, can’t we give them one getaway to relax and rejuvenate? OK, I’ll give her that one too. She knows what her buyers need and if her buyers are not into the quirks and peccadilloes of Vintage, a home like this would be a poor choice. However, even if Vintage is their thing, they may still want a touch of modern.

It’s always important to work with a buyers agent who understands what you want and need in a home. By the same token, if you are selling a Vintage home it would behoove you to pick an agent that shares your passion. As we have just discussed, not all high-end real estate agents have the same perspective. Choose someone who understands you and understands your home and it will be a successful partnership every time!

Sunnyside,_173_Macon_Ave.,_Asheville,_N._C._(5756038688)

Living on the County Line

This is a cautionary tale for anyone purchasing a home that is located on the county line. I am not saying you shouldn’t do it. In fact, there are many perks that can come your way. But there is also some frustration.

Many years ago my husband and I went looking for land to build our new home. Don wanted to be in Madison County for the lower tax rate. We both wanted to be close to Asheville. We found the perfect spot right on the county line. The property was in Madison but it was the Weaverville (Buncombe County) post office that delivered our mail. Therefore, people thought we lived in Buncombe County.

On the plus side, this gave me access to a larger library system. It also gave us slightly lower delivery rates from many local vendors. It also caused some issues.
Sometimes it’s minor stuff like discovering the lumber yard was charging me a higher tax rate because they assumed we were using the lumber in Buncombe County. I have to always remember to tell the car mechanic that we live in Madison when we have inspections done. Madison does not require emissions testing. However, you have to make sure your car registration is always recorded correctly as it affects your personal property tax rate. Speaking of taxes…….

Many years ago I refinanced my loan. I made sure the attorney knew which county the house resided in. He collected money for property taxes then sent it to Buncombe County who then returned the check (no account to credit). The check sat on the attorney’s desk for several months. I was alerted to the error when I received a notice of foreclosure by the county for unpaid taxes. Isn’t that a fun letter to receive in the mail? It got better. The same attorney recorded our deed and mortgage in Buncombe County then discovered his error a year later and recorded in Madison County. However, the lender didn’t know about the correction (neither did I) so when that lender sold the note, then that lender sold the note, then that lender sold the note… all transfers were recorded in Buncombe County. This created a clear chain of title in the wrong county and NO chain of title in the correct county. This is a BIG problem that will hold up the sale of your property if not corrected. I did get this issue cleared up but not without a lot of aggravation over the course of several months. As my husband kept pointing out – thank goodness I am a real estate agent and understand what happened and how to fix it.

I still love my home and think it’s in the perfect location. We do plan to eventually sell and when we do, you better believe I will have a long talk with the closing attorney!
One item that doesn’t affect me but has affected a community near me is schools. The Seven Glenn’s Community has the county line running right through it. If you live in Buncombe County, your kids go to North Buncombe Schools. If you live in Madison County, your kids go to those schools. If the school district is important, make sure you make some calls and find out where your kids will go. For my own home (I actually asked!) kids would go to Madison County Schools. The Buncombe County bus actually turns around in my driveway but I would have to pay tuition if I wanted my (hypothetical) child in that school. Crazy.

Should you buy a home on the County Line? Sure! Just pay attention and you will be fine!

NC-Madison-County-North-Carolina-1911-Map-Rand-McNally

Open Letter to Those Selling Their Home

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. Seller,

Congratulations on negotiating a contract on your home! Now the frustration begins.

This is your home that you have loved, dreamed in and hopefully plan to sell with enough equity to move on to a brighter future. Unfortunately, you are about to find out that this process is all about the buyer. You, the seller only matter to your real estate agent and your attorney. The buyer, their agent, their attorney, their appraiser, inspectors and so on think this process is all about them and North Carolina agrees. I hate this for you.

Expect your home to be scrutinized. Every nook and cranny, every crack will be brought into question. Even a light bulb that is burned out will become a fixture that needs repair in the eyes of the inspector.

Expect many people traipsing through your home. It would be nice if everyone could coordinate their visits but it won’t happen. The contract that you signed (that was written by the state of NC – we only filled in the blanks) stipulates that you will make the home accessible. Yes, you can say no to a certain day or time but it may be the only time for two weeks that the appraiser can get in so saying no because it is personally bad timing for you will increase the chance that closing will have to be delayed.

Where NC really sides with buyers is the Due Diligence period. This is the amount of time that the buyer reserves to inspect the house, secure their loan and get all lenders and attorneys paperwork in order. Often this period of time is 30 days with close of the sale 5 days later. That means the buyer can back out of this sale, without repercussion, right up until almost closing. As a seller’s agent, can I tell you how much I HATE this? How are you supposed to feel secure about buying the next house, putting a deposit on an apartment, MOVING OUT unless you know the deal is going through? You don’t. In many ways it’s a leap of faith and the State of North Carolina has set it up that way.

Hopefully you have chosen your listing agent and attorney wisely. They are your advocates in this transaction. Their job is to stay on top of this sale and get the reassurances that you need that everything is working out. They will always be on the lookout for red flags that will affect your closing. Often they do their best and they are still blindsided. Their information is only as good as what the other parties share with them.  An experienced agent will be able to sense when something isn’t right and hopefully steer the contract to safe ground.

Another sad fact is that real estate favors those with money. I recently had two homes sell in the same week. The first was under contract with little fuss, flew through inspections with few issues, was appraised as soon as the appraisal was ordered and closed on the sale a week early. The second home had a fairly clean inspection report but since it was a USDA loan, there were repairs requested and negotiated that never should have come in to play except USDA demanded the seller make the repairs. The inspection was ordered and then missed their 10 day due date. The survey was done on the very last day. The buyer needed additional funding to replace a roof that was not yet in need of repair, it was just old. This contract finally closed a month late. What was the difference? Money. All parties, buyers and sellers, were wonderful people. The sellers did their best to care for their homes and the buyers were buying homes that were in their budget. There should have been no difference in how these contracts proceeded but there was. I hate this too.

If this letter comes off a bit harsh, I apologize. There are some bitter truths in real estate and I don’t want to sugar coat them. On the flip side, not every closing is contentious. I had one that was delayed for an entire year while we replaced a septic, installed a well and replaced a bridge. The seller was handling the estate for his parents. The buyers were a young couple that had the luxury of waiting. Everyone worked together as one issue lead to another but eventually we all celebrated together when we finally received the clear to close. This is how all transactions should work. We are all working together for a common goal and it is wonderful when all parties keep this in mind.

In closing Mr./Mrs./Ms. Seller, keep your chin up. The goal is to sell your home and move on to your next chapter. Your Real Estate Agent is your Advocate. It’s their job to manage this transaction and attempt to take as much stress off of you as they can. Remember, this is one to two months out of your life. It will end and you will move on. A year later it will be but a blip in the road. A sunny horizon is in sight. Your agents task is to get you there.

Sincerely, me

 

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It must be Sparkly!

You have chosen your agent and they are doing their part to make your home look stunning in advertising. Mr & Ms. Seller, you also have work to do!

Your home must SPARKLE. That is capital letters, make no bones about it, SPARKLE. If two identical homes go up for sale on the same street, I promise you that the home that SPARKLES will sell quicker and for more money than the one that is only every-day clean. When a buyer walks in your door, they will see the dirt that is a part of our everyday life and it will make an impression on them. Sometimes, it can be a negative impression. Perfectly fine hardwood floors with smudge marks, dust and paw prints become floors that need to be refinished. Otherwise beautiful kitchen cabinets will suddenly need replacing because of grime that has accumulated around the pulls and handles. Every ounce of dust transmits to the potential buyer how your home was cared for and in turn, this affects not only whether a buyer decides to make an offer but how that offer is framed in terms of purchase price and repair requests. (I have previously addressed odor so I’m not going there again, but needless to say, your home needs to smell good too!)

I once worked with a buyer that looked for every little defect in a home so they could use this as a reason for the seller to reduce their purchase price. If you live in WNC, you know we have ladybugs every spring and stink bugs every fall. This buyer used the presence of even one bug to justify reducing the price. The kitchen pantry needed a good scrub down (what pantry doesn’t?). To her, this was evidence that the sellers were unclean and that she had work to do to make the home livable – so reduce the price. It was not a fun experience for anyone involved.

It is in every seller’s best interest to give their home a deep cleaning to prepare it for sale. Get rid of the cobwebs. Wash down window sills, screens and get rid of puppy nose marks on the windows. Make sure potential buyers can actually see the outdoors! Scrub down cabinets and appliances. Even the inside of a dishwasher could get looked at so make is SPARKLE. Mop your floors and clean the shower. Dust, dust, dust.  And then………keep it up because we all know it comes back again. I promise you that your efforts will pay off!

you own three dogs and see how easy it is to
keep up with puppy nose!
#thestruggleisreal

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Can you see the view????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Your Due Diligence

In North Carolina, our contracts are written to give the buyer an Inspection Period. We have labeled this the “Due Diligence Period” as this is your time to do due diligence on the home you are about to purchase.  What does this include? EVERYTHING

Home Inspection – this is a MUST, as in, you are silly to purchase a home without having a mechanic look under the hood (so to speak). They will look at the electrical, HVAC, plumbing, structure and some cosmetics of the home. They may not tell you everything that is wrong (they can’t see behind drywall) but they can alert you to what needs further examination.  For example, one transaction I was involved in had electrical that we thought had been updated but it turns out the entire second floor was still knob & tube wiring. On the home inspectors recommendation, we got a licensed electrician in for a second look and an estimate on repairs. Another time the foundation of a home was bowing in. A structural engineer took a look and told us how to set it right.

Pest Inspection – does the home have active termites? Post Beetles? Now is the time to find out

Radon Inspection – Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is thought to cause lung cancer. North Carolina has a lot of it. It’s everywhere, including the air you breathe as you walk out the door. The EPA has set a limit of 4 pCi/L for the amount of radon that is safe inside of your home.  If it’s over that limit, it’s time to talk to the seller about mitigating.

Well Water – is the water contaminated? Here is your chance to find out

Septic Tanks & City Sewer – Is everything functioning? Septic’s should be pumped and inspected. City lines can be scoped for tree roots that would cause blockage

This is not a finite list. Every house has it’s own little peccadilloes that will require it’s own list of inspections. The more you know about the home you are purchasing, the better you will feel about the purchase. Plus, you may be able to request the seller make some of the repairs and take that burden off of you.

Due Diligence is not just for inspections. In North Carolina, it also includes the time it takes to secure the loan, get an appraisal, do title work, read over restrictions, review (or obtain) surveys and any other item concerning the purchase of the home. The Due Diligence Period is your time to get to know this home and get your ducks in a row for purchasing it. Take advantage of this time.

Funny for the day. This was found in the restrictions for a home built in 1912:

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“the cost of which does not equal or exceed $5,000”  –  I’m not sure you can build an outhouse for that!  Of course, the restriction is now expired and the wording is a bit ambiguous. Still pretty funny!