It’s Back Breaking Work ….. part 1

The process of getting our home ready for sale means that a few things have to happen before we can tackle some big items. One thing that needed to happen was moving into our garage/apartment and we can now check that off of our list. Well, sort of. Our bed is in place and so is Truly’s dog crate and Tripp and Tyler’s beds. A couch has yet to make it up although the cushions did, so we have been lounging on the floor which suites the dogs just fine. We have plates and cups but no silverware and no food. All of that is still in the house. The other night Don said he was going to the “big house” to forage for food. He came back with a bottle of wine in one hand and a saucepan with a can of soup in the other. That’s my guy! The mighty hunter!  Four days later and we have finally moved the computers. It’s a slow process but we are getting there. At least the dogs seem happy with the move.

apartment and dogs

Our first big project to tackle is the living room ceilings. The living room, kitchen and dining room all share the same 18ft ceiling and there are a few cracks that need to be repaired. Actually, “cracks” is the wrong word. When Don was drywalling the ceiling he was recovering from a burst L1 vertebrae. Instead of using the paper tape that he has traditionally used with new drywall, he used fiber tape. It was faster and got the job done except that it only takes a slight amount of movement (settling) that all new homes go through and it cracks the paint. Slowly he has gone through the house, room by room, and fixed this issue as it has popped up. The ceiling is the last area that needs attention. Having scaffolding in the living room once again brings back memories of the beginning of this project.scaffolding.jpg

June 2004 saw us living in the garage, the house was framed and only lacked windows to be dried in. Things were going well. I was at my office when Don called and simply said “come home”.

“Why?”

“Just come home,” I immediately hit panic mode. Something was wrong. My van was having work done so someone at my office drove me home. We discovered Don laying on the floor in considerable pain. Evidently, he had been coming down from the loft when his ladder kicked out from under him, throwing him backward onto his back. He was the only person working on the house at that time so instead of calling for help, he crawled to the garage and up the stairs to his mom’s apartment over the garage. That’s when he called me. Don wouldn’t let me call an ambulance so we helped him down to my friends SUV and we drove him to the emergency room where we discovered that he had burst his L1 Vertebrae. The neurologist wanted to do surgery ASAP. Don said no, give me time to think. Thankfully we had a friend who was a surgeon who did us the favor of making a few phone calls and asking some questions. He was advised that if the burst was stable, to give it time to heal on its own. We were already incredibly lucky that Don was not permanently paralyzed after all of that moving around, now we were planning to put him in a turtle shell and let him be for several months. You can imagine that this did not make his doctor happy.

Don spent four nights in the hospital and was then sent home without surgery. He stayed in his bed for several days in the garage bedroom. Eventually, he felt well enough to make his way up the stairs to his mom’s apartment. He was on painkillers and in a turtle shell and our life was on hold. We had no idea if he would heal. There was still a chance that he could become paralyzed and to add to all of this stress the bank was giving us grief about our loan. When we took out our loan for the house, we owned our 8-1/2 acres and the garage with the apartment free and clear. We allowed the bank to hold all of this as collateral for our construction loan and now they were threatening to foreclose.  They were unhappy that our contractor/builder was laid up and that I was starting a new career in Real Estate. The loan officer felt that she had stuck her neck out too far and she was going to make sure that it wasn’t her that got burned.  Stress? Yeah, we know about stress.

I had also been competing with Tucker at that time, trying to get his first Utility leg. I had already been entered in a trial in Knoxville when this happened. Don encouraged me to go anyhow. He thought I needed to get out of this mess for a few hours. So at four in the morning, in the rain, I drove to Knoxville and over halfway there I started kicking myself. What the hell was I doing? What if I had a traffic accident? What would Don do? Stupid, stupid me! I continued on as by then it wasn’t that far away. I arrived just as our class was starting so I took Tucker out of the van, aired him and warmed him up. We went into the ring and nailed each exercise one at a time. Finally! It looked like we were getting that first leg! Finally, some good news! The last exercise was the go-out and directed retrieve. Tucker went out, sat, took the high jump as directed. My excitement was building. I sent him out again, he sat in the correct spot, I directed him over the bar jump and he….took the high jump. I quietly put his leash on him, went out to the van and started sobbing. All of the stress of the last few weeks came out. People walked by and saw me having a break down then walked away, whispering.  Eventually, I got myself together, went into the building and sat down next to my friend Michelle who was also crying. I said “Tucker blew the very last exercise. Why are you crying?”

“Titus finally got his utility title after dozens of tries”.

“Congratulations” sniff sniff “You worked hard for that title” sniff sniff. I gave her a hug, pulled myself together and drove home to take care of my husband and start the process of saving our property.

To be continued…………..

 

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our beautiful Tucker

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

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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!

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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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