A perfect day in the mountains…for me.

I like sitting on my porch on a day like today when the the sky is that perfect North Carolina blue, the sun is warm on my face, but a spring time breeze is still cool enough to require an extra layer.  My preferred spot isn’t in on of the “directors” chairs we head to at the end of the day where we sit and enjoy the amazing view of the mountains and watch the sun set paint the sky in shades of blues and pinks. On days like today I much prefer my spot on the steps off our deck that leads to our back yard.  The wood has absorbed the heat of the sun and it shares it with me as I lean against the railing for support. I put my head back, close my eyes, and let my other senses take over.  We are blessed to live in a place where, on most days, the only sounds we hear are the rustling trees and the birds. On occasion there may be the sound of tires on a gravel road somewhere near by or of a plane passing overhead, but otherwise, this is the quietest most peaceful spot I have ever lived in my 60-some years. 

Here on my perch, I stretch out my legs as much as I can and use my bent knees to support a book or a favorite magazine. On this particular day, my choice is the latest edition of Garden & Gun, a magazine I never would have chosen on my own, based on the name alone. But I received it as a gift subscription last year and can now no longer do without it. The magazine is based in Charleston, South Carolina and its pages are filled with articles, recipes, stories, and all things southern.  I look forward to its arrival like an old family friend.

The sun glares off the white pages and since reading glasses are a necessity, sunglasses are not an option. I don’t mind really. For reasons unknown to me, I enjoy getting familiar with the contents of a magazine before I delve into reading it page by page.  It’s a lot like reading a restaurant menu.  I look at each offering deciding if it sounds like something I might like, how it is prepared, how many calories might be hiding in the dish, and what it costs. I do all this before considering the next item on the menu. Eventually I narrow down my options and make a choice. 

So it is with me and magazines. I love a good book and welcome those times when I can lose myself in a good story. But books pretty much force the reader to start on page one and follow each page in succession lest they lose the story line. Not magazines.  I can start on the back cover and work my way to the front without missing a thing. On this first pass I notice ads but I might be compelled to read an article if it is a short one or holds some immediate interest for me. More than likely I scan it quickly, making a mental note about the subject matter and file until I have the time an opportunity to read it. It isn’t until I have flipped backwards through all the pages that I decide what I want to read first, and not necessarily in any particular order.

One of the many things that I appreciate about Garden & Gun is the writing. The articles are more like short stories that waste no time grabbing my attention and holding it until the last word. Most issues have some story involving a dog so naturally I go there first. Today, though, my attention lingered in the recipe section where a fresh blackberry and peach cobbler recipe caught my eye. Peaches, juicy ripe berries, and luscious tomatoes are the only reason I tolerate summer and this particular recipe recalled me to my mother’s kitchen and summers growing up in the south. Peach cobbler was a staple in our house when peaches were in season. I can still remember the soft bite of a fresh peach swimming in sweet cinnamon laced juice, perfectly thickened and topped with flaky pie dough. A spot of butter or a scoop of vanilla ice cream made it all the better. My mom is passed now but seeing that recipe and remembering the days when the smell of peach cobbler filled her kitchen fills my heart with sweet memories.

I don’t know when I will have another chance to sit on my steps again like this and do nothing but enjoy the sun and while away my time reading.  Our life is pretty busy these days trying to balance work, projects around the house, and carving out some time for friends. But when I find the opportunity I will spend it on that familiar step looking backwards at a favorite magazine, and maybe a memory or two.

$10.00 Holes and Other Thoughts on Gardening

My dad used to say you could grow anything. All you needed was a $1.00 plant and a $10.00 hole.  Translated, that means you don’t need to spend a lot of money on the plant; you just need to make sure the hole you dig for it is filled with quality soil. Both of my parents just knew how to grow things – there were always flowers in our yard and we always had a vegetable garden.
FamersMarketApparently the instincts and knowledge of how to grow things wasn’t passed down in my DNA.  Just this week I bought a basil plant, put it in a pretty pot with good soil and began dreaming about all the ways I’d cook with it. In only two days, my basil plant is wilted along with my optimism.

Thankfully, our area is chock full of people who DO know how to grow things and I can reap the benefit every Saturday morning at the Transylvania Farmers Market.  It opened for the season a couple of weeks ago and is open every Saturday from 8:00 am – noon.  A wide range of local farms are represented, including Pitch Pine Farm pictured here.  You’ll find all sorts of vegetables and herbs; dairy farmers with artisan goat cheese; and several booths sell farm fresh eggs. Then there are the artisan bakers, crafts people, and of course gardeners selling all kinds of plants that call out to me.  This year there are a couple of caterers with great food and most weekends there is music courtesy of local musicians.  Aside from the envy I feel as I go from table to table marveling at the gorgeous plants and vegetables, I know that what I’m buying is locally sourced, supports small farming businesses in our community, and that I can find a wonderful assortment of organic food that our local grocery stores don’t have (and probably never heard of!)

If you are in the Brevard, North Carolina area some Saturday, I encourage you to head down to the corner of Johnson Street and Jordan Street.  Be sure to bring your appetite and a big basket so you can carry home all the amazing goodies you’ll find.

Maybe I’ll see you there. It’s very likely I’ll be looking for a new victim basil plant.

 

Five Things You Can Do To Help Sell Your Home This Year.

Winter is just about over and most people I know are looking forward to the color and warmer temperatures of spring.  It’s also about the time of year that people start thinking about putting their homes on the market.  Typically, our peak season runs from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving.  So, for anyone thinking about selling a home this year, now is the time to get serious about it. There are things that you can be doing now to maximize your chances of selling so when the season starts, you’ll be at the head of the class.screwdriver

So where do you start?  

What needs repair? Fix anything that drips, squeaks, or doesn’t work the way it should.  It could be something simple like tightening up a loose door knob, repairing some screening, or figuring out why that one door always sticks.   Other things like electrical and plumbing may require a professional.  If you don’t think you can be objective enough, ask a friend to go around your home with you to help you see things as a potential buyer would.  Take a walk around the outside of your home as well to see what may have been damaged during the winter months. Look for things like damaged siding, cracks in the driveway, loose or missing shingles on the roof, and peeling paint.

Are all systems a go?  Make certain that your HVAC system has been serviced and in good working order. Check your water heater to make sure there are no leaks.  Replace all filters.

Freshen up a bit.  In most areas it may be too cold to paint outside, but if the inside of your home needs freshening up, this is a good time of year to do it. If you decide you want to repaint, Rustic_Flower_Pots_zpsc9258b10keep it neutral. You may be mad for magenta, but your potential buyer probably isn’t.  Clean your carpets and give your hardwood floors some love. Don’t forget the outside of your home. When temperatures are right, take a hard look at your decks and see if they could use a fresh stain or a coat of paint.  Give your front door some extra attention too.  A great many of us enter our homes through our garage and rarely do we enter through the front door so it’s an area that be easily overlooked. If it’s been a while, give it a fresh coat of paint or stain. Consider adding a seasonal wreath or fun door knocker for some interest. Replace that worn out door mat while you’re at it. Then when all those gorgeous spring flowers start showing up in your favorite garden center, create a pot or two to put by your freshly painted front door.

One thing I can’t say enough about is how important it is to have clean windows. I know. Cleaning windows isn’t my favorite thing to do either. But trust me when I tell you that cleaning your windows will make an enormous difference.  While you’re at it, be sure to get rid of cob webs, dead bugs, leaves or anything else that has found a home on your sills, and don’t forget the screens.  If you can’t reach your windows or simply don’t have the time, hire someone to do it for you. It will be money well spent.

Clear out the clutter.  Face it, most of us just have too much stuff.  As winter winds down, take stock of your closets and storage areas.  Consider donating or disposing of anything you no longer need or haven’t used in the last year.  Clutter is something that can stop a buyer in their tracks because they struggle to see the unique character of your home when there is “stuff” everywhere.  Clutter is also a signal that there may not be sufficient storage….something most buyers covet.

Consider a pre-emptive approach.  In North Carolina, once you enter into a contract with a buyer, they are given a period of time to do their “due diligence”. This is when they perform any and all inspections on your home.  If there are lots of things that need repair it’s likely they will come back and ask you to make those repairs or provide them with a credit.  One approach that some sellers take is to have a home inspection done prior to putting their home on the market so that any issues can be identified and taken care of ahead of time.  The cost is typically $350-$500 or more depending on the size of your home. A licensed home inspector will identify issues with plumbing, electrical, HVAC, water leaks, termite damage, faulty construction and a whole lot more.

For more helpful tips on getting your home ready to sell this year, call the Clay Team at Looking Glass Realty in beautiful Brevard, North Carolina.  Visit us online at BrevardNCProperty.com, or give us a call at 828-551-6290 or 828-551-6291.

 

 

February Market Report

SI ExifBy the time March rolls around, I’m ready for spring.  I love winter and this year it was milder than expected even though we managed to have enough snow for a week or two to make it interesting and feel like winter. But now, I’m ready to see some daffodils and budding trees. I’m also ready to gear up for the buying and selling season.

The February real estate report brings us a good uptick in residential sales over the same time last year.  In February 2015 there were 27 homes sold in Transylvania County compared to 19 the year before.  That puts us only 2 homes ahead for the year, but we’re just beginning the traditional season for buying and selling so all indications are that we will have a great year.

While it may sound like a broken record, our “sweet spot” continues to be in the under $300,000 price range.  Last month the lions share of homes sold in the $150,000 to $250,000 range. During that same time last year, the majority of homes sold in the $150,000 and under range.

As a general rule, we are seeing a settling out in prices.  Sellers have adjusted to the fact that they may not be able to sell their homes for as much as they would like and buyers are beginning to realize that most sellers are not desperate and homes are priced fairly.  For buyers, homes are selling somewhere in the range of 95-97% of the listing.  To further reinforce the strength of our market, homes that are priced properly as selling more quickly and multiple offers have once again become part of the landscape.

Land continues to lag behind home sales. There were only 12 properties sold in February compared to 15 in 2014. There are plenty of fantastic opportunities for anyone wanting to buy land. The catch is the cost of building and the holding costs for the land.

If you would like more information about the Transylvania County market, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. For more information about the neighboring markets of Henderson and Buncombe, just give us a call.

Rails to Trails

When I bought my first house in Florida, a railroad track ran more or less parallel to the back of my property. We were separated only by a small bit of undeveloped land. Beyond the track was the intercostal waterway so I enjoyed the relative privacy in an otherwise busy area. The railroad had been active for many years but shortly after we bought the house it was closed down like many others across the country. In some strange way I actually missed the sound of the train as it rumbled past our back yard to who knows where.

The Florida Department of Transportation eventually bought the right of way from CSX and seven years later the County Commissioners approved the funding to create a bike trail on the 34 miles of abandoned rail road including the section that ran behind my house. In the years that followed, I watched as the trail grew, linking parks and people in small communities. It became a part of the landscape and part of my life style. I logged hundreds of hours riding my bike past the palmetto bushes and under the overhang of live oaks draped with Spanish moss. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I had long conversations with God as I walked along the trail at sunset on so many nights. The trail taught me that no matter how hard I tried, I was not cut out for in-line skates but it was the quickest bike route to a nearby ice cream shop. I have never been a runner and I find walking a little tedious but a ride on the trail gave me a chance to get a little exercise as well a quiet place to collect my thoughts.  I eventually sold my first house and moved but I never lived far from any section of the trail and I enjoyed it for many years.

It’s been a decade since I lived in that part of Florida but I am seeing a similar opportunity for a “rails to trails” project cropping up here in the Brevard area utilizing a 19 mile stretch of track that travels from Hendersonville to where the Ecusta paper plant used to stand near Pisgah National Forest. After years of service, the rail road was closed in 2002 and has since changed ownership. The group Friends of the Ecusta Trail (FOET) is hopeful that the new ownership will get on board with the plan of converting the unused rail to a bike friendly path for walkers, runners, and riders.

trailHaving a trail like this is a natural fit for Transylvania County. Our area has long been known for the quality of life and the bountiful options of outdoor activity. DuPont State Forest is known throughout the southeast as some of the best mountain biking around. The French Broad river is there for paddlers and hiking trails are everywhere. According to the winter newsletter for the North Carolina Rails-Trails organization, “some people say there’s no place on earth quite like Transylvania County for outdoor recreation, especially bicycling and hiking. And the French Broad River – meandering alongside and under the proposed Ecusta Trail – has 100 miles of dam-free paddling including designated put-ins and campsites every few miles along the entire route. ”  I couldn’t agree more.

This trail idea is a slam dunk for our community. As the newsletter explains, not everyone wants the heart pounding rush of mountain biking, especially some of us baby-boomers. We’re looking for a safe place to get some exercise outside and enjoy the incredible beauty that surrounds us. If anyone has any doubts about what a trail like this can do for an area we only have to look south of us to the Swamp Rabbit trail in Travelers Rest, South Carolina or north of us to the Creeper Trail in Abington, Virginia for two great examples.  I haven’t ridden the Swamp Rabbit trail, but I can attest to the amazing beauty and accessibility of the Creeper Trail.  I’ve ridden it twice now with a group of gal pals from the area and can’t wait till I can go again.

I’m hopeful that the folks who make projects like this a reality will see things the way I do.  If you want to get more information, or get involved start with Friends of Ecusta Trail visit their website EcustaTrail.org.

So there is more than one offer…now what?

In the past month, we have found ourselves in two multiple offer situations.  In one case, there were three offers on one home.

Before the real estate market took a nose dive back in 2008, multiple offers were fairly common.  So were higher listing prices, higher selling prices, and fewer days on market.  Things were different then and while I don’t think we’ll see the “hey day” of 2006 again any time soon, I see definite signs of a shift in the market. Homes are selling for more and the number of days on market is getting shorter. Even so, it’s been many years since we’ve been in a situation with multiple offers and now it’s happened twice in the past month. What the heck is going on here?

Personally, I’m not a fan of multiple offers. Homes can end up selling for more than any reasonable comp which means buyers can end up paying more than they really should.  In most cases the seller has the edge but it’s a tricky situation no matter what side you are on.

So what should you do? What are the pit falls to avoid?

If you are a seller, it is admittedly a “luxury” problem to have.  If your home has been priced right and marketed properly, you should expect to get offers. If you have multiple offers and they are close how do you choose? My first piece of advice to any seller is to remember that just because you have more than one buyer presenting an offer doesn’t guarantee you will end up with either.  Demand too much from buyers and they could just walk away. More than likely, the buyer has been looking at other homes and if yours doesn’t work out, most buyers we work with have a plan B.  So compares all offers, but be fair because an offer doesn’t guarantee a closing.  Look at all aspects of the offer, not just the price.  Is one offer cash and the other contingent on financing?  Does one offer have a 45 day closing and the other has 60?  Is either buyer asking you to pay their closing costs or include furniture in the deal? There many twists and turns in an offer so make sure your Realtor explains them all.  If you just can’t decide or if neither offer is entirely to your liking, you can respond to the buyers with a request for their “highest and best offer”. But be careful.  The offer you got may have been their highest and best, or signing contractthey decide they don’t want to be in a bidding war and one or both could walk away from the deal all together.

If you are a buyer, our advice is simple. Get your financing in order before you start looking at homes so you don’t waste any time. If you know you’re going to need a loan, get pre approved before you even start looking.  If you are paying cash, make sure you have quick, easy access to it.  A cash deal and quick closing is usually music to any seller’s ear.  If you find the home of your dreams but you learn there is another offer on the table give it your best shot, but be prepared to walk away.   This is not the situation where you can get on the dance floor with a low offer and hope to negotiate to a figure somewhere in the middle.  Make your offer as attractive as possible from the start, but know your limits.  If you’ve ever been to an auction and bid on something you really want, you understand that sense of urgency and competitiveness that comes over you when that guy on the other side of the room is also bidding on that same item. Don’t fall into that trap.  Know what your budget is including the cost of making any repairs, and stick to that.   All that being said, the biggest shift I’m seeing is that good homes that are priced right don’t stay on the market long so be prepared to act quickly if you know this is the home for you.

Is this a good time to sell?  Is it still a buyer’s market? For more information about what is going on the market here in western North Carolina, give us a call.

 

 

Farm Fresh Markets Near Brevard

For some people, summer time means family vacations or a trip to the beach. For me, and other foodies, the summer months are when we can flex our cooking muscle with the freshest fruits and vegetables of the year. I’m not talking about tomatoes that were grown in California and shipped in or green beans Heartpotatothat have been transplanted from Ohio. I’m taking about vegetables with local roots that are so fresh you have to brush the warm soil off them. It may sound strange to anyone who has only known life in a big city where “fresh” probably means anything picked in the last 2 months, but there is a world of difference between a potato straight out of the field and the potato you find in your local grocery store. And don’t get me started on tomatoes. I feel a little sorry for anyone who has only known tomatoes from a grocery store.

As a child, being the product of a southern upbringing, summer was the time of year when beefsteak tomatoes and juicy cantaloupe shared our breakfast plates with the salty country ham, homemade biscuits, and fried eggs.  Come supper time, it wasn’t unusual for us to have a meatless meal of pinto beans, turnip greens, fried okra, a wilted salad, and a tall glass of iced tea. For anyone who grew up north of the Virginia line, a wilted salad is bibb lettuce and green onions picked fresh, topped with bacon, and then drizzled with warm bacon grease. I know, I know. But these were the days when kids played outside every night until the street lights came on or your mom called you in to eat. Worrying about what all that bacon might be doing to your arteries wasn’t on our radar. It was just the food my southern family was raised on.  Even today I can’t imagine summer squash without onions and bacon.

My grandparents in Louisiana were part of that self-sufficient generation that always had a garden. It was in my grandmother’s kitchen where I first learned to appreciate summer vegetables. Whatever wasn’t eaten during the growing season was put up for the winter months.  Everyone had a pantry lined with jars of green beans, corn, chow chow,  tomatoes, squash, and black eyed peas, ready to enjoy when the warm days of summer were long gone. It was what you had to do to keep food on the table. Even though both of my parents worked outside the home when I was growing up, and grocery stores were plentiful, they also managed to have something growing in our back yard.   Ideally, I’d have my own little back yard garden to satisfy my cravings for fresh vegetables this time of year. Ideally, I would have inherited not just the knowledge of how to grow things, but how to can them for the months ahead.  Sadly, I have neither so for the time being, I rely on local growers who do know how to do those things. Lucky for me, I live in an area where this time of year I can find just about any fresh vegetable I can think of.

The Transylvania Farmers Market in downtown Brevard is a great place to start if you’re looking for fresh vegetables, fresh eggs, locally grown beef, jams and jellies made with local berries, and a whole lot more. Most weekends, there’s live music to enjoy while you fill your basket with all these goodies.  To me, it’s the perfect way to spend a cool Saturday morning.

cornfieldJust east of us is another one of my favorites spots.  McCalls Farm is a family farm located in Penrose, about an 8 minute drive east of Brevard.  Going to McCalls is more than a stop for great farm to table food, it’s the total experience.  The last time we were there, there was a boy about 10 years old driving the tractor in from the field all loaded down with the best corn you’ll ever eat. I never buy corn in the grocery store. Why bother. It’s nothing like fresh picked corn. While you’re there you can pick up a mess of green beans, tomatoes, peppers and other farm fresh food for your family. McCalls is old school and doesn’t have a website, but you can find them on Crab Creek road, just off Highway 64.  Or you can call them at 828-884-4054.  Corn season started today, July 14 and will only run for a couple of months so get there and get you some while you still can.

For the mother load of farmers market, head to Asheville for the WNC Farmers Market. It’s part the NC Department of Agriculture. This is the same spot where local restaurants come to fill their own pantries and stock up local produce for their daily specials. It’s an amazing experience and you’ll want to take your time. It’s 38,000 square feet and filled with certified farmers who sell direct to consumers. It’s a scenic spot with easy access and it’s open year round.

I envy people who have the time, energy, and knowledge to grow things. In Transylvania County, it seems more people have some kind of garden than don’t. I keep saying “someday” and when that day comes I will happily pick my own home grown tomatoes, have green peppers at hand, and enjoy tender baby squash. And yes, now and then I will indulge my past with a wilted salad. Until that day comes, you’ll find me at the farmers market as often as possible.