Why should you check for RADON?

What is Radon gas and why is it important to you, the homeowner?  Taken from the TN.gov website, “Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soils. Radon gas is tasteless, colorless and odorless. The only way to know if it is in your home is to test for it.”  The geological landscape of Tennessee makes radon gas a common enough issue that we recommend testing before purchasing your home. Some homes even have radon mitigation systems installed.

Again, from the TN.gov website, “The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) considers radon to be a very serious problem in our state.  No matter where you live in Tennessee, there is the potential for radon to enter your home. Radon gas has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.  About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. As radon gas breaks down, it emits high-energy alpha particles. These particles are in the air we breathe, and once inhaled, they can be deposited in our lungs. The energy associated with these particles can alter cell DNA, thus increasing the risk of lung cancer. Persons who smoke and live in a home with elevated radon levels are at a very high risk to develop lung cancer.”

Do you have questions regarding radon in your area?  There are several businesses that can help you, and if you are looking for a home in East Tennessee, let me help you through this process. I’ve been selling real estate here for over 20 years, and have the experience and knowledge to guide you.

9 Ways to Celebrate Halloween amid COVID

I’ve been seeing some great ideas on the internet for ways to celebrate Halloween this year. Some of them are for safe trick or treating, while others are ideas you can do with your kids in lieu of traditional trick or treating. Here are some of my favorites. If you have more ideas to add, drop them in the comments for everyone to see!

  • Scavenger Hunt: If you decide not to take your kids out trick or treating this year, plan a scavenger hunt for them with treats hidden around your home.
  • Trunk or Treat: Organize a trunk or treat with your neighborhood. Put your treats in the trunk of your car and let the neighborhood kids pass by, keeping their distance from you, and take a treat from the trunk.
  • Costume Parade: Some neighborhoods are planning to have the children parade in front of homes, 6 feet from one another, in a costume parade. Neighbors could combine their treats and let the kids pick them up at the end of the parade.
  • Reverse Trick or Treat: In this idea, the kids stay in their own yards in costume, and a parent from each home drives by and throws candy from the car.
  • Glow-in-the-dark Eggs: Order glow-in-the-dark eggs from Amazon, fill them with candy, and scatter them in your yard. Kids can pick up an egg without coming too close to anyone.
  • Pick a Cup or Bag: Similarly, put your candy or treats in small cups or paper bags and set them out on your porch or a table in your driveway. You can sit nearby and let the kids take their treat as they pass by.
  • Halloween Piñata: Here’s another idea if your family decides to forgo trick or treating this year. Let your kids take turns whacking a pumpkin piñata until the treats spill out!
  • Ring and Run Treats: This fun family activity is a new take on the old doorbell dash prank. Sneak to your kids friends’ homes and leave a treat on their porch, then ring the doorbell and run! Treats can be Halloween cookies you all bake together.
  • Virtual Costume Party: Let’s face it, what the kids enjoy most is choosing a costume, dressing up, and showing it off to their friends. They can enjoy each-others’ costumes virtually with a Zoom or Facetime party.

Sellers FAQ and Guide

“What do I need to know about selling my home?”  Is that a question you find yourself asking during this booming real estate market?  You aren’t the only one wondering these questions.  I’ve put together a FAQ of many of the common questions.

When is a good time to sell?

An easy answer is when it’s best for you! Obviously, if you are closing on a home purchase, moving for work, or want to get settled before the new school year, you have a timeline you need to work with. But, if you have the luxury of choosing when to sell, there are a few considerations. Spring is traditionally a time when there are more buyers looking, but you may also have more competition. Fall, and closer to the holidays, is a good time to get a higher price from buyers that need to move before the new year. Watching the market is always smart. A seller’s market, meaning there are more buyers than sellers, is always a good time to list.

What is my home worth?

Determining your home’s market value is one very important reason to use a real estate agent. I will do a comparative market analysis (CMA) to help you set the correct listing price. I look at recent sales of comparable homes, similar homes that are under contract, and homes that are listed in the same price range of your home. Then I compare features of the homes including the size, style, number of rooms, age of the home, amenities, condition, lot size and placement, and the location or neighborhood. (Note: the tax appraiser’s assessed value of your home has nothing to do with the market price.)

How do I determine the right listing price?

What your home is worth and what you should list it at are not the same. You always want to have room to negotiate with buyers, so setting a “firm” price to avoid the negotiation process is not usually a good strategy. Neither is setting a very high price to “see what we get.” Setting an unreasonably high price usually results in longer time on the market, which does not look good to buyers and will frustrate you. Many sellers ask about the price that Zillow or other real estate websites give for their home. These are not reliable because these sites are only taking into consideration very general demographics.

How long will it take to sell my home?

The length of time on market will depend upon the market in your area at the time of listing and whether the home is priced realistically. I am always working to get you the highest price in the shortest time possible. On average, a home that is priced right goes under contract in two to three months. If you need to sell fast, that should be reflected in the list price.

How much will I pay in commissions?

The standard real estate commission is 6% of the sales price, split between the listing and selling sides. Commissions are not paid directly to the agents, but to our brokers. They collect fees for marketing your home on MLS and other websites, administrative costs, insurance fees, and required fees for storing your transaction records as required by law. My broker then pays me for representing you in the transaction. As your agent, I will work very hard to represent you ethically and with your best interest always the priority. If you have any questions about the commissions, I’d be happy to talk with you further.

What do I need to do to get my home ready to sell?

I recommend that you give the home a thorough cleaning– get rid of anything you aren’t taking with you, declutter surfaces, take care of repairs, make sure the major mechanical systems are in good operation, have the exterior pressure cleaned and the landscaping spruced up. You may also consider repainting if it is overdue or if the home is painted in dark or bold colors.

How will the showing process work?

We will decide together on how to handle showings. We can set parameters as to the hours and days that showings are allowed, and how to notify you in advance. Homes show best when the homeowner is not present, but if this is not possible, we will work together to create the best experience for the buyer that also fits your lifestyle. Usually we use an electronic lockbox that allows buyers’ agents to access your housekey. These boxes also notify me any time they are opened, so no one is accessing your home without my knowledge. If you have pets in the home that need to be tended to during showings, we will work out the best way to handle them. Furthermore, I will try to get feedback from each showing and pass that information back to you.

Should I consider FSBO or a flat fee listing service?

I strongly discourage those routes, not only because I want to help you sell your home, but also because they can be a huge burden and don’t get you the best price. Buyers know that when a home is sold FSBO or on a flat fee service, that the seller is paying little or no commissions, so they will offer less. Consider that when you sell your home by yourself, you will have to be present for all showings, and you won’t have someone to advocate for you through all the steps of the contract and closing process. If something goes wrong, you’ll want me in your corner to prevent problems or save the deal, so you don’t have to start over.

What marketing will you do to help sell my home?

Hands down, our best marketing tool is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS.) This is the database all real estate agents use when searching for properties for buyers. And buyers are using websites like Realtor.com, which is why all my listings automatically show up on these websites. My broker will list your home on our company website, and I may also use additional avenues such as open houses, brokers’ opens, and direct mailing, depending on your home and market.

Should I offer incentives like a home warranty, closing costs, or selling agent bonus?

Incentives are something I like to consider on a case-by-case basis. There are certain circumstances where it may be smart to offer an incentive. Some incentives can be offered from the start. For example, if your home is in an area that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, we may offer an incentive to agents to bring us a buyer. Or if you know the appliances are at the end of their lifetime, you may offer a home warranty to help the buyers replace them. Other incentives, like helping with closing costs, are better used during the negotiation process.

What do I need to disclose?

It’s smart to disclose any issues right up front. Your buyers will have the right to inspect the home, so it’s best they not be hit with bad news after going under contract. If you know of problems with the appliances, plumbing, electric, HVAC, roof, foundation, property lines, or deed, these need to be listed on the Seller’s Disclosure. If there are repairs that you can have done before listing, go ahead and take care of those. Anything that cannot be remedied before listing should be considered when setting your list price.

What happens if my home doesn’t appraise above the contract price?

It sometimes happens that a home does not appraise at or above the contract price. When this happens, we go back to negotiations to determine if we can save the deal by adjusting both the sales price and the terms of the contract to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller. Usually we are able to work it out and save the deal. You always have the right to refuse to lower the price to meet the appraisal, but it’s usually in your best interest to try to work with the buyer to resolve the issue as the next appraisal could result in the same valuation. If you are concerned about the appraisal value, go ahead and have your home appraised before setting the listing price.

How do you negotiate multiple offers?

A multiple-offer scenario is a fun position to be in as a seller. I will help you through the negotiation process to select the right buyer– and that is not always the one with the highest offer. We need to consider how strong the offer is, whether they are offering cash or financing, how much they are financing and what type of loan they are using. How much they are offering to put in escrow and the terms of the inspection process are indications of their commitment to the deal. You may also draw on sentiment: are they buying your home as an investment or a place to raise their family?

I’m here for you.  I’ve also put together a Seller’s Guide of Information that I can provide for you to read at your leisure.  Let me help you with your real estate needs; it’s what I’m here for!

Our Top First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s answered

Mortgage-Related

How do I know if it’s time to buy instead of rent?

If you know where you want to live, have a steady and secure income, and are ready for the responsibilities of homeownership, then it’s a great time to invest in property.

How much do I need to save up for a down payment?

A conventional loan down payment is usually 20% of the sales price, but other types of financing require as little as 3.5% to 15%. A mortgage lender can tell you what types of loans you qualify for.

How do I know if I qualify for a loan and how much I can afford?

Contact a mortgage lender to get pre-approval for a loan. The lender will ask you some basic questions about your income and debts and can tell you what amount you can be approved for, and how much your mortgage payments will be.

What does the lender need from me to give me a loan?

Usually, you are asked to provide your last two tax returns to show proof of income. You should also provide recent bank and credit card statements and proof of your current pay rate. You will also be asked for your social security number so they can run a credit check.

What’s the difference between pre-approved and pre-qualified?

While often used interchangeably, these terms don’t mean the same thing. Pre-qualification is an estimate of what you may be approved for based only on the verbal information you provide. Pre-approval means the lender has verified your income and debt information and run a credit check.

How do I know which mortgage option is right for me?

Your mortgage lender is the best person to advise you on this question. Their products and qualifications change from time to time, so they would know best what products are available to meet your needs.

Searching for a Home

What should I do when I see a house online that I like?

Call your buyer’s agent: the agent you are working with to find your home. It’s best that you work with one real estate agent throughout your search because that person learns what you like and dislike and will invest a lot of time vetting properties for you. That person also represents your best interests only. When you call the agent advertising the home, you are dealing with the seller’s agent, so, while they can assist you, they are also trying to get the best price for the seller.

Can you show me a house if it’s not your listing?

Absolutely. As a buyer’s agent, I can show you any house listed in our MLS system, and I will contact FSBO sellers on your behalf. As mentioned above, working with me as your buyer’s agent ensures that your interests are protected.

How do we write an offer?

When you find the property you want to make an offer on, I will run a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to help you determine a fair offer amount. I will also guide you through the additional terms of the contract, such as the escrow amount, closing date, and any additional terms you want to be added to the offer. I will write the offer on a contract form and submit it to the seller’s agent.

What if I want to back out of a contract?

You always have the right to back out of the purchase, but you may lose your escrow deposit. If the contract is contingent on a property inspection, you usually have the right to cancel for any reason during the inspection period. Once the inspection period has passed, you cannot back out and keep your deposit unless the seller agrees, or an additional term has not been met.

What happens if there are other offers on the house I love?

If a seller receives multiple offers on their home, usually their agent will inform the buyer’s that multiple offers have been received and the buyers have another opportunity to alter their original offer to present their “highest and best” offer. Keep in mind that many factors may influence the seller in addition to the offer price, such as the down payment amount, closing date, and inspection terms.

What happens when my offer gets accepted?

Once both parties have agreed on all terms and signed the contract, your escrow deposit must be made and you should schedule the home inspection. Your lender will receive a copy of the contract and will begin processing your mortgage application.

We’re Under Contract!

What does “under contract” mean?

Under contract means that all parties have agreed on terms, have signed the contract, and the signed contract has been delivered to both buyer and seller. Payment of the escrow deposit is expected but is not a requirement to make a binding contract.

What is escrow?

The escrow money, escrow deposit, or good faith deposit is money that is offered with an offer, or as soon as an offer is accepted, to show the seller that you are serious about moving forward with the purchase of the home. Because you forfeit this deposit if you back out of the purchase for any reason not allowed for in the contract, the larger the escrow deposit, the more seriously your offer is taken.

Do I need an inspection?

We always recommend that you have a home inspection done. In the scheme of things, paying a few hundred dollars to have peace of mind that there are no hidden dangers or problems is well worth the money.

How much are inspections?

The cost of the home inspection depends on the size of the house and additional inspections requested, such as swimming pool, septic tank, termites, insurance four-point (HVAC, plumbing, roof, and electrical,) wind mitigation, and radon. An average home inspection, without additional inspections, is about $300.

What if my loan doesn’t get approved?

If you have gone through the pre-approval process and have been forthcoming with all the information requested by your lender, it’s unlikely you will be turned down, but it does happen. Make sure you do not change jobs, purchase big-ticket items on credit, take out a car or boat loan, or open any other new credit accounts while your mortgage is being processed. If your loan does fall through, talk with your lender about changing to a different loan type.

When can I start moving?

When you have the keys! When you are financing your purchase, it takes four to six weeks for your loan to be processed. Once the lender gives the all-clear, closing is scheduled. You will sign your loan documents and both parties will sign documents transferring ownership to you. Unless other arrangements have been agreed upon by both parties, the sellers should have completely vacated the home when they sign the closing papers. You can have your belongings ready to move, and a moving company scheduled before you go to closing. At closing, you will receive the documentation you need to provide utility companies with proof of your new residence.

 

12 Tips for Decorating a Large Wall

Have a large wall space that needs some décor but worried it will cost you hundreds of dollars in art? Not necessarily! Here are some ideas for filling a large wall without emptying your bank account.

  1. Take individual pictures of your family members and have large prints made in black and white. Add to the size of each photo by adding a photo mat, then frame them in inexpensive black frames and hang them in a row across the wall.
  2. Let your kids be the artists. Purchase large canvases and let your children paint their masterpieces. Or take artwork they have already done at school or at home and mat and frame them.
  3. Use floating shelves hung at various heights and topped with photos, vases, ornaments, books, candles, or mementos.
  4. Use plants to fill in empty spaces. You can place potted plants or succulents on floating shelves, use planters or hanging baskets made to attach directly to the wall, or make a DIY vertical garden out of an old wooden pallet.
  5. Use mixed media such as large woven or wooden trays, tapestries, or metal sculptures.
  6. Hang a collection of quirky clocks, different sized mirrors, graphic signs, old album covers, vintage prints, painted empty frames, or crosses.
  7. Stencil your wall with a graphic design, a tree, vines, or a floral pattern, or favorite inspirational quote.
  8. Reduce the wall space and soften the room by framing the wall with false drapery panels hung on either end of a sofa or pair of chairs.
  9. Light it up by attaching LED string lights in a pattern or hanging pretty wall sconces at various heights.
  10. Reduce the wall space by placing a potted tree or folding decorative screen in front of part of the wall.
  11. Search antique malls for vintage architectural pieces that can be hung on the wall, such as old window frames, an antique door, intricate fireplace screen.
  12. Create your own graphic by covering large frames or canvases with patterned fabric remnants and hanging them in a row or collage.

16 Tips for Relocating to a New Town

Moving is always hard work but moving to a new town can be exceptionally hard, even when you are excited about your next chapter in life. If you’re relocating to the Knoxville area, I’d love to help you find a home and provide information about the area. I can also give you referrals for the other services you will need, such as recommendations for hotels, restaurants, child care, and pet boarding while you get settled. If you are leaving the Knoxville area, as your real estate agent, I can also refer you to an agent in your new town to help you find your new home.

To help make the logistics of your relocation as smooth as possible, here are some to-do items you may not have thought about yet.

1. As soon as you know you will be moving, start to organize your belongings, getting rid of things you don’t want to take with you.
2. Collect used packing materials like boxes and bubble wrap to reduce what you will need to purchase.
3. Start packing items you don’t use daily, like family mementos, holiday decorations, books and décor accessories.
4. Get an estimate from moving companies and schedule a tentative date with the one you choose.
5. Visit your new town, if possible, and arrange a driving tour with a real estate agent that can show you different neighborhoods, shopping centers, and the locations of hospitals, schools, churches, and recreational facilities or parks.
6. When you know what school district your children will enroll in, visit the schools your children will attend to meet the principal and tour the grounds.
7. Once you know what neighborhood you will be living in, join Nextdoor or the neighborhood Facebook page to keep abreast of what’s happening there.
8. Locate and pack your important papers and ID’s so that you know where they are at all times.
9. If your company is offering you relocation services, make sure you know all the terms. Often, they will cover items you might not think about, like the cost of shipping your car or professional organizers to help you unpack. They may also be negotiable in what they cover.
10. Save all your moving expense receipts. If you are moving 50 miles or more from your old job to start a new job, your expenses may be tax deductible.
11. Make a list of services you need to terminate in your old town and services you need to initiate in your new town.
12. If you have doctor, dentist, veterinary, or hair appointments scheduled ahead of time, call and cancel them.
13. Remember to transfer subscriptions for things like magazines, food deliveries, and mail-order prescriptions.
14. Change your delivery address on your Amazon, Target, Shipt, or other shopping accounts so you don’t accidentally ship items to your old address.
15. Schedule an appointment to transfer your automobile registration and driver’s license if moving to a new state.
16. Transfer your voter’s registration right away, especially if your move if close to a major election registration deadline.

Tips for Virtual Home Shopping During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of the way we live right now, home shopping included. Although Stay at Home mandates are starting to lift, we certainly can’t be going in and out of strangers’ homes touching doorknobs, light switches, and appliances.
If you are needing to move soon, however, don’t despair! I can help you find a home and stay safely within the health guidelines. Here are some tips for home shopping during the pandemic.

  1.  Be selective about the homes you choose to visit.  If you are the type of buyer that likes to cast a wide net and see everything in your price range, you may have to change your methodology. Try to narrow down your list of homes to visit to your very top choices.
  2. Start with a virtual tour.  Many sellers are making virtual home tours available for buyers. The technology for virtual has improved greatly in the last couple of years, from simple videos to 3-D tours with floor plans that help you feel what it is really like to walk through the rooms.
  3. Take a Facetime tour with me. If the seller doesn’t offer a virtual tour, I can do one for you. The seller may be more comfortable allowing one person to come in rather than a group of people.  I will be happy to take a video for you or Facetime with you while you tour the home, following proper protocol to limit exposure, of course.
  4. Schedule a live showing. When you find a home you really must see in person, don’t bring anyone with you that isn’t vital to the decision-making process. Besides the fact that sellers probably don’t want a family of six parading around, with fewer distractions you can get a better look and eliminate the need to come back a second time.  Take lots of pictures and measurements so you don’t miss anything.
  5. Put safety first when touring.  You want to safeguard your own heath, and you want the sellers to appreciate the you safeguard theirs as well. Generally, sellers leave the home during tours, but if they are unable to leave, I can work with them to stay in one area of the home, or in the yard, while you look.  Also, ask the sellers to open all the doors, cabinets, and closets so you don’t have to touch anything. Wear a mask and use hand sanitizer before and after you enter the home.

I am still showing and selling houses during the pandemic, so don’t let it discourage you from looking. Most of the process can be handled online now, and what cannot be done digitally, I am taking care of with your health and safety in mind.