Put your left foot in, take your left foot out…….

do the hokey-pokey and reduce yourself to tears of frustration at times. Lately, it feels like our life is one step forward and two steps back.

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retaining walls and heavy trucks don’t mix

My mom left for Illinois over a week ago and two days later the moving truck arrived. The movers were two young Serbian boys who did a good job of bundling up moms furniture and carefully loading it on their truck, but they weren’t such good drivers. While turning their truck around in our driveway they got too close to the retaining wall and pushed it out. Now we are diligently looking for someone to repair our retaining wall in the next few months. Do you know anyone?

Don has been busy in the garage-apartment, laying new flooring and cleaning it up. The green paint in the bedroom didn’t look good with the flooring so I spent the weekend painting it “Canvas Tan” to match the rest of the apartment.  Things are looking good up there. Not so much in the house. Don turned on sprinklers to water the grass outside of the breakfast room window, not realizing that I had opened the windows to let in the cool morning air. As I was headed out the door to an appointment I saw the flood of water on the floor and hurriedly shut the windows and grabbed the towels and fans. Since these are real wood floors and not laminate, there isn’t any damage that a light sanding and a few coats of poly won’t fix. We’ll just add it to the list……..2018-06-16 15.13.08

The other night we were busy preparing dinner. The dogs had just finished eating when Don happened to catch old lady Truly peeing on the floor! Oh my gosh! This is new. Truly will be 13 in a few weeks and occasionally has lapses that seem a bit like dementia. We often leave the porch door open for them to come and go as they please but with this heat, we have been running the a/c. Instead of asking me to go out to pee, Truly just did the job where she was standing. Thankfully it was caught in the act so no damage was done but we are starting to feel the pressure to get into the apartment so we can stop adding to the list of maintenance items on our house. It’s starting to get a little overwhelming.

On Facebook yesterday a friend posted how exhausting it is to prepare a home for sale and I had to agree. Our entire summer will be spent prepping this home for sale this fall. There are many activities that I’ll have to miss and the thought of working on stained glass is out the window. Who has time? I keep repeating to myself, it will be worth it. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it; the more your home sparkles, the better impression it will make on a buyer and that translates to a quicker offer and more money in your pocket.  It’s a proven fact. Do not skimp on prepping your home and keeping it maintained. There is nothing more disheartening than being told that your home (or even my sellers home) looks “too lived in” or is showing its age. My home is 13 years old but I want it to look brand new. That only comes with a lot of hard work. Speaking of which, I better get to my list!

Dogs, Apartments and Designs

We have many things that need to happen before we can put our home on the market. The first is to move out of the house. Having pets makes home selling difficult, although not impossible. We have previously sold three other homes while living with one or two golden retrievers but those homes were smaller and easier to manage. This home is quite large and our three goldens can make a day’s house cleaning look like a wasted effort in no time. Just keeping up with the puppy nose prints on the windows is a full-time job. We have the option of moving into the apartment over our garage so this is next on the checklist.

When we designed our home back in 2002-2003, my mother in law had just moved in with us. We decided to build the garage first, with an apartment over it, and then live there while we built the house. It was a great plan except that the apartment only has one bedroom. To give everyone a bit of space, we planned for a half bath in the garage and partitioned off part of the garage as a bedroom. Don and I slept in this space while my mother in law got the apartment. We ended up living with this arrangement for two years. Two long years. My mother in law lived with us for several years then moved back to Louisiana. We had a couple of renters after that. Each were real estate clients that needed a place to crash for a short term. Then our nephew moved in for a while. Six years ago, my own mother moved in with us. Recently she decided to move back to Northern Illinois to be closer to friends and family and that’s how I spent this weekend; helping my mom with her final packing. We spent a great deal of time organizing what the movers will take north, what goes in storage and what goes to Goodwill.  The apartment is now empty (or will be after today). It’s almost time for us to move in.

Next on the checklist is scrubbing down the apartment, fresh paint, and new flooring. We have to remember that this space is also for sale and it, too needs to look good. Once this is complete we will move just enough furniture for our needs, including the dog beds. All two dozen of them. Doesn’t every dog have a bed in every room of the house including their very own couch in the bedroom? Of our three golden retrievers, only Tripp will think that moving is an adventure. Old lady Truly simply won’t care as long as she is sleeping in the same room with us. The Punkin, however, is not going to like this. The Punkin doesn’t like change. She thinks everything is a conspiracy to her happiness and well being. The Punkin will not be pleased but the Punkin needs to learn to cope. We expect many arguments with the dogs as they realize they are no longer allowed in the house. All three of them have lived their entire lives on this property. Not having access to their refuge is going to take some convincing. If they only knew what comes next…..

All seven of our dogs have lived all or some part of their life on this property. Taylor was our first golden and we got her as a little pup when we lived in town on Murdock Avenue. From that remodel project we moved into a rental house while we built in East Asheville then moved again when that house was complete. We eventually sold that house and then house-sat for friends for a few months before moving into another rental while building the Spec house at the front of our property. We moved into that once it was complete. Poor Taylor moved with us four times plus two house-sitting stints. By the time we got to the Spec house, she knew all of the signs and when she saw the dog bed hit the floor in the new house, she was not please. She went to a corner, turned her back and sulked. We tried petting her but she went rigid. Her body was vibrating with the effort not to respond. So we did the only thing we knew to do; we made popcorn. Popcorn makes everything better in the eyes of a Golden Retriever. It was while living in the spec house that Taylor was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor. She was our beautiful flower child, always chasing butterflies and looking for fun. She made it through one more move when we moved into the garage. She saw the foundation go in for the house but missed the rest. She is the only one of our seven dogs who has not lived in this home but at least she had the opportunity to enjoy the pasture and the 100 Acre Woods.

This home was built and designed for our dogs as well as for us. There are no stairs for arthritic hips to maneuver when going outdoors. The windows are at dog level so they can look out at the pasture and watch their domain. We tiled the back foyer and designed a pocket gate for easy confinement when entering the home with muddy feet. The basement has a training ring so I can work with my dogs towards obedience competition titles and a large dog bath to make grooming easier. We also have a dog run off the back of the house so the dogs have a place to potty on days when we are gone too long. I am hoping the person who buys this house loves dogs as much as we do. We built it for them as much as for us.

 

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Tripp and the Punkin watch over their domain from the dog bed

 

The House on the Hill

Don and I are constantly asked why we are selling our home. Today is a prime example of one of the many reasons. He is busy mowing and scraping the road while I am busy mowing and spreading mulch. Both of us would rather be in our studio creating art but even without the amount of rain that we have had lately, our remaining 8-1/2 acres is a full-time job this time of year. Our property would be perfect for a horse person as we have ample space to cross pasture without overgrazing. The knoll where the tobacco barn used to sit would make a beautiful spot for a stable.  A gentleman farmer would enjoy having orchards and maybe a cow or two. Don and I faced the hard truth several years ago, we are not farmers. We are artists and what we want out of life is not what we wanted when we purchased this property 18 years ago. Our needs have changed.

Like any home seller, putting our home on the market is not an easy step. We can’t just say “ok, do it now.”  There is a lot of prep work involved.  The basement needs more insulation installed in the ceiling. I had started drylocking the dogs grooming room, mostly to brighten it up but the job is only half done. The basement itself is a mess. My training area is in order but we tend to pile stuff wherever we drop it. On the first floor the fireplace is still lacking a cherry surround and mantel. My closet was finally finished with shelves installed after 13 years of living out of milk crates. Many rooms are missing trim in areas. The kitchen needs some additional cabinetry and most buyers are going to expect quartz or granite countertops and not the Formica that we have been perfectly happy with. The second floor has rooms that need painting and more trim installed. The outside has all kinds of little maintenance projects.  Could I put the house on the market without doing these many items? Sure, but I wouldn’t get top dollar for my home. In fact, even if your house doesn’t need a lot of maintenance (or in our case finishing) a good power washing and scrubbing down will make your home show better. The better it shows, the faster you will get an offer and the stronger that offer will be. Don’t skimp on the spit shining.

Curb appeal is important which is why we are keeping up with the mowing and the gardens. We want everything to look its best when the property goes on the market.  Even when designing our home, curb appeal was at the top of our minds. When planning a driveway and the approach to a house, too many people get from point A to point B with very little thought and an opportunity is lost for some wonderful curb appeal. What Don envisioned that October day in 1999 as we sat on the hill was a driveway that snaked into the property. As you come in from the road, there are woods on one side that hide the home from view. You start to come around a curve and you catch a peak of the home but then your view is hidden once again by the rolling fields. As you round another curve, there it is in full view; our imagination comes to life. The fruit of our designing efforts to combine a southern plantation home with stylish arts and crafts. This home has curb appeal and plenty of it.

Growing up, Don’s family spent a lot of time in Louisiana and he fell in love with the look of the plantation homes with steep roofs and covered porches. I prefer the arts and crafts movement with pillars and gables. After owning our property for more than two years, we were still debating the design of our new home.  It was a constant topic for discussion. One day I was standing in line at the grocery store and was thumbing through a Southern Living Magazine when I came across the centerfold photo of a Long Island Sound beach house. It had a 12/12 pitch roof, gables, steep dormers and a circular covered porch for dining. This was the BACK of that house, but even so, I was smitten. I bought the magazine and rushed home to show Don. He smiled and said, “yes, that’s it!” We didn’t use that design exactly, but we did use that photograph as the launching point for our imagination as we drew the plans for the home that we eventually built.  Now as we drive home after a night in Asheville, we often remark that our home is just as we imagined it that day as we sat in the pasture.  Its nestled back on the furthest knoll, overlooking the pasture yet surrounded by the 100-acre woods, with the driveway adding to the curb appeal instead of detracting from it. Every ounce of our property was designed as an artistic landscape.  The vision isn’t fully complete but we feel it’s time for the next person to put their impression on this property.

One last note on that Southern Living Magazine photo that our house is based on; to make it perfect, I printed out scaled photos of our two golden retrievers and placed them in the grass in front of the porch. I must have gotten the scale correct as friends joked that we picked that house because it had dogs in the photo.  All of our dogs have enjoyed that porch, watching the sunset and hoping for a deer or fox to bark at. This home was lovingly designed for all of us. The design process is a story for another time.

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When the real estate broker becomes the real estate seller….

This morning I asked Don, for the dozenth time “did you read my blog post?”

“You posted something?”

I let out a big sigh. “Yes. On debris flows and other types of landslides. It’s posted on both my personal and business Facebook pages. You didn’t see it?”

He replied, “oh, sorry, I thought that was another news report and skimmed past it.”

Houston, we have a problem. I enjoy writing but it seems few people take the time to read what I have written. Don thinks it’s the topics. Every real estate agent that writes a blog writes about staging your home for sale, preparing for home inspections, and other well covered topics. He suggested a change of direction. Don and have decided to sell our home. This means me, a real estate broker, is about to become a home seller. Then a home buyer. Or more likely we will buy land then design and build our next home. Most likely we will be renting for a while. Or maybe living in an RV? Or maybe we will load the dogs in the van and camp out down by the river while we figure out the next step. Hmmm…….I like that idea. This could get interesting.

Let’s start this new direction with the story about how we came to buy this land. Don and I were living in the Riceville area, east of Asheville. He was convinced that he needed more than a few acres to keep him occupied once he retired. I liked the idea of living in the country. We loved the little town of Weaverville and since this would hopefully be our last move, we decided to settle north. Don suggested a little further north in Madison County since the property taxes are lower. I agreed with the caveat that we tried to find land as close to Buncombe County as we could. I was not yet in real estate so finding land was Don’s project. We looked at several parcels but none of them felt right. Then one day he called Bill Eckstat at New Horizons Realty in Mars Hill who directed him to a 9-1/2 acre tract on Bartlett Road, right on the county line.  Everything started falling into place.

After Don had walked the property with Bill, he gathered me and the dogs up in the van and drove us out to this rolling pasture. It had once been a tobacco field but for many years it pastured horses and the wild raspberries were taking over. There was an old tobacco barn sitting under a cluster of massive oak trees on one of the knolls. We walked to this and sat, looking out over the fields while the dogs went exploring. I said this would work. Don wasn’t so sure and I asked why. He said he just couldn’t picture it.

The thing to know about Don and I is that we are both artists. In the late sixties, he briefly went to college to become an architect. College life wasn’t for him and eventually, he joined his dad’s construction business and started building and remodeling homes. In his free time, he drew portraits. Since retiring two years ago, he has rediscovered his art and has even painted a few commissions for clients. I have always been artistic and loved to draw but didn’t find my outlet until about 10 years ago when I took a stained glass class. I decided immediately that I would only work from my own imagination and never from someone else’s pattern. Since then I have created many commissioned portraits of different dogs in glass.  For the two of us together, it means that we can describe ideas, plans, and house features to each other in a way that paints a picture that the other will understand. Not many couples can do this and it is a big part of why home building and remodeling is so stressful for so many people. For us, it’s our Zen place.

So as we sat on that knoll in the rolling pasture, looking out over the possibilities of a home here, I was a little surprised when Don said that he couldn’t picture it. He couldn’t get an image of what our home could look like on this piece of property. I suggested a little exercise in imagery. I told him to envision being on a long vacation and we were returning home. He is pulling in the driveway and what does he see?  We sat there in silence for a while, listening to the birds and watching the dogs chase each other in the pasture. After a while, he said “I got it. This is the place.”  We had found our next home.

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)