Working through the home inspection

When buying a home, one of the most important decisions you will make is whether to hire an inspector to conduct a home inspection. Real estate agents aren’t home inspectors, and we aren’t able to identify everything that may need  to be home inspectionaddressed in a property. If the owners know of and share a particular issue with the agent, then of course it is our job to make sure that is disclosed as part of the listing. In fact, one of the first things I do in preparing a property to list is to have the seller fill out a set of required documents that give us permission to sale their property. These forms include a document that lists out all of the items in a home that could have issues needing to be addressed.

If the owner hasn’t lived in the home for several years, they may choose to fill out an exemption form instead. This is often the case with vacation and second homes that are on a rental program. The owner just isn’t going to know everything about the condition of the property if they aren’t actively living in the home. Even when the owners do live there full-time, they may not be aware of potential problems that you as a buyer could end up being responsible for if you closed on the property without discovering it beforehand. So it’s in your best interest as the buyer to have a home inspection done.

What does a home inspection generally consist of?

The home inspector will:

  • test the plumbing;
  • test the electric outlets;
  • inspect the crawlspace for possible cracks or mold;
  • inspect the fireplace;
  • inspect the home exterior for signs of wood destroying insect damage; and
  • look for signs of water damage or problems along the gutters and on the roof that may not be noticeable to the untrained eye.

Once the home inspection is completed, you will receive a copy of the report that details all of the items they checked and the condition each was found to be in. If there are any serious problems, the home inspector will go through those with you at that time. Feel free to talk with your inspector and definitely ask additional questions when there are items in the home inspection that you don’t completely understand.

As a buyer, it’s important not to panic when you see the home inspection report. Any inspector that we recommend is going to be thorough! You are going to know more about the property than you may want to! They will tell you everything that is a problem now, everything that may be a problem in the near future, and the many things to look for in the distant future. This will place you in the best position of comfort and power, although it also will be disconcerting. It is kind of like when you go to the doctor and see an x-ray of your spine or an ultrasound of your organs. It’s a little disturbing! Just remember that a home inspector is hired to find every potential issue in the home so that you as a buyer can make the most informed decision possible. The good news is that 99% of issues can be addressed. The main questions are how best to address those issues, what might it cost to address them, and who is going to complete the remediation?

Once you have received the home inspection, this is the point where you would need to work with your real estate agent to send a request for items identified in the home inspection to be repaired or replaced, or for the owner to agree to reduce the sales price of the property to account for the repairs you will need to make. Your real estate agent should be able to negotiate the repairs on your behalf and, when needed, help you find people who can do the work to fix those items so you can get accurate estimates in case the owner chooses to reduce the price instead.

Its all part of buying something amazing! While often one of the more stressful parts of buying property, it can also be an exciting part – learning about your property and how to care for it in order to keep its value strong in the years to come.

Let the adventure begin! If you have more questions about the home inspection process, I and my staff are always here to help!

Custom built lodge offers investment potential

custom built lodge

This featured “Cabin of the Month,” a custom built lodge in Wears Valley, can easily be converted into an investment.

You’ll admire the stunning long range mountain views from this custom built lodge retreat located just 15 minutes from the Pigeon Forge Parkway and only 5 minutes from the “back door” entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Situated in the heart of Wears Valley, this 3-bedroom, 3-bath custom built lodge is built with soaring cathedral ceilings and walls of glass that give dramatic effect to the great room. Anchored by a handsome mountain stone fireplace, the custom built lodge’s spacious open kitchen flows through to the dining area with plenty of seating and space to entertain large groups. Views can be had from every room and every angle of the interior. This custom built lodge’s generous floor plan offers a private lofted master suite with a walk-in closet, bidet, dry cedar sauna, and attached office. The home’s 3 bonus rooms, recreation room, and wet bar are offered in the fully finished basement.
Outside, enjoy the landscaped yard and hundreds of feet of the spacious airy decks with multiple covered porches. This custom built lodge was built by the developer of Dogwood Farms for his own personal get-away- which means the attention to detail and quality will not disappoint. The unique and extremely rare pecky cypress tongue-and-groove gives this cabin the a rustic feel that provides Smoky Mountain living at its best! Gently rolling and level lot for a house seat, gives you room to romp with over 8 acres of your very own National Park-esque setting and is 100 percent private accompanied by an outdoor custom fire pit. The lot’s extra acreage offers actual build-able lots for additional cabins that would enjoy this same fantastic view.
Lastly, the cabin has recently received some updates, including a new roof, new stain, re-surfaced driveway, recently upgraded HVAC with 3 separate units (one for each floor), on demand gas hot water heaters, new main level carpet and porcelain tile, and updated bath plumbing, and lighting fixtures. This custom built lodge is move in-ready or just a few steps away from becoming a cash flowing second home!
To learn more about this property, click here.

If you’d like to schedule a visit to see the custom built lodge, please call me at 865-765-6157 or my support line at 865-654-2111.

Lake home can be your perfect vacation getaway

For our first “House of the Month” in 2019, we’ve selected this lake home at Douglas Lake.

This 2-bedroom, 2-bath gorgeous lake home offers stunning mountain views!! Located on Douglas Lake, this can be your perfect second home. Its open lake homeconcept floor plan on the main floor makes it ideal for entertaining guests
The room’s large windows allow you and your guests to take in not only the beautiful mountain views but also the serene views of Douglas Lake! Upstairs, you’ll find a master suite in the loft, while downstairs the large semi-finished basement with just a little work finishing can provide a fantastic area for your extra living space, workshop, at-home gym or whatever you want your next large project to be! Lastly, you and your guests will love spending time on this lake home’s oversized deck, where you can enjoy the outdoors, cook and serve meals from your new large outside kitchen, curl up by the warmth of the fire pit, or even take an outdoor shower!
To learn more about this lake home, click here.

If you’d like to schedule a visit to this lake home, call me at 865-765-6157 or my support line at 865-654-2111.

Sherwood Forest resort investment cabin offers amazing opportunity

Our featured “Cabin of the Month” is this amazing investment cabin located in Sherwood Forest resort!

Sherwood Forest resort in Pigeon Forge is one of the top rental vacation investment cabinresorts in the Great Smoky Mountains! This 4 bedroom investment cabin comes with its own indoor pool and full theater setup, providing your guests with the very best of amenities needed to make an outstanding rental experience. Indoor pools in rental cabins generally pay for themselves, and cabins that have them can produce significantly more than those that don’t because they continue to attract guests in the cold winter months at the beginning of the year.
This fantastic investment property is only 5 years old and has a low HOA fee.
To learn more about this investment cabin, click here.

To schedule a showing at this investment cabin, call our office at 865-429-2121 or my support line at 865-654-2111.

Don’t miss seeing this custom built Sevierville home!

custom built homeIf you’re looking for your next home in the Great Smoky Mountains region, this beautiful stone custom built three-bedroom home just might be it! Located just minutes from downtown Sevierville, this more than 2,000-square foot home sets on a private lot with gorgeous landscape! Its open concept floor plan comes with hardwood floors throughout, a stacked
stone gas insert fireplace, stainless appliances, an eat in kitchen and formal dinning.

Inside the custom built home

The master suite of this custom built home is located on the main floor,  and you’ll want to check out the enclosed sun room with its walls of glass that offer an opportunity for you to take in nature and the surrounding wildlife.  The home also has custom built-in bunk beds, an oversized garage, and a workshop on the base level. The setup is perfect for storing all of your tools for your next big project.
Out back you will find a large entertaining space that is beautifully landscaped to enjoy flowers almost all year long, a deck area, nature path, handcrafted workshop/storage shed, and a tree house!
To learn more about this custom built home, click here.

To schedule a showing at this custom built home call me at 865-765-6157 or my support line at 865-654-2111.

Solving the appraisal challenge in an increasing market

When buying a home or vacation cabin, one of the most crucial steps in the process if you’re working with a lender is the appraisal. Appraising the value of a property can be one of the most challenging, and probably the most stressful, aspects of the process for buyers. This can be especially true in a market where appraisal values don’t reflect where the market is at in terms of purchase value. As I discussed in last month’s article, this is mostly because lender appraisers are looking at the value of the property in a different way than everyone else, and with a different purpose. The purpose of a lender appraisal is to determine how much the lender can sell the property for in the event of a foreclosure. So even though the buyer is paying for the appraisal, the appraiser making the determination is actually working for the lender.

In our market, as we continue to work with a low number of properties for sale, the sales price of cabins has continued to rapidly increase over the last 12 months. We’ve seen a slower pace on our local residential market, but home values are also increasing. If you as a buyer have an appraisal that comes in under the offer price, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to buy the home. You and your agent have a few different options to help you work out a solution with the seller.

Ways to address the appraisal

The first thing I tell my buyers when the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price is, “Don’t panic.” We look over the appraisal report and re-evaluate our own comparable group of sold listings to see if we’ve missed something about the property. An appraiser can go back as far as 12 months, and is required to first use anything that’s sold within the same subdivision or resort community. The appraiser is limited on what he or she can do to review those sold properties. They rely heavily on MLS and tax records, so when those documents aren’t completely up to date, it can skew the data in a way that might hurt your appraisal.

Once we are certain our offer was appropriate for the market, if we’re comfortable with it we will ask the seller to agree to reduce the price to match the appraisal value. Remember, the lender won’t borrow on more than what the home is determined by the appraiser to be worth, so if the seller won’t lower the price then the next choice will be to see if we can split the difference with the seller or simply agree to pay more out of pocket. So for example, if the purchase price is $200,000 but the appraiser determines the value of the property to be $190,000, then you would have to either get the seller to agree to reduce the price by up to $10,000 or work out how to pay that amount out of your own pocket.

As a last resort, we can try to work with the lender to resolve it, but the truth is it is very hard to get an appraisal value overturned once it has been determined. We absolutely cannot pressure appraisers to price the appraisal value of the property at the amount a buyer offers a seller.

Next month, I’ll share some ways I help sellers to price their property correctly so that the appraisal value meets the expectations correctly. In the meantime, if you have questions about appraisals or anything else regarding the local real estate market, I and my staff are always available!

Sherwood Forest cabin is fantastic rental income producer

If you love the mountains, you will absolutely adore the gorgeous, up in the clouds Smoky Mountain View from this top Sherwood Forest rental income producing cabin.

Centrally located and just 5 minutes from the Pigeon Forge Parkway (10 minutes to Gatlinburg), this cabin has the potential to be an amazing rental income producer. Sherwood Forest Resort is one of this area’s most popular resorts because of its convenient location and beautiful views of the mountains!
This 5 bedroom, almost 1,500 square foot rental cabin is fully outfitted with a full sprinkler system and rental income producing cabinother features, including a private, indoor swimming pool, a lofted game room, and theater room. These amenities will keep this cabin relevant as a superb rental income producer for years to come. The cabin is designed with grizzled tongue and groove throughout, walls of glass, and cathedral ceilings to make this a true mountain home. Handsome granite and honey colored cabinets bring home the Smoky Mountain feel. And of course, the high rental income potential makes this a perfect income generating second home or an investment on auto pilot!

Click here to learn more about this rental income producing cabin.

If you’d like to schedule a visit or have other questions about how to make rental income with this property, call me at 865-765-6157 or 865-654-2111.

3-bedroom Sevierville home is just minutes from all the attractions

Sevierville homeClose enough to get to any of the attractions and activities in the Great Smoky Mountains area but far enough off the beaten path to avoid the tourist traffic during days of high activity, this Sevierville home could be the perfect place to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Sevierville home is conveniently located

Located just minutes from Douglas Lake, downtown Sevierville, and Pigeon Forge, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home offers main level living with an additional finished walkout basement, 3 fireplaces (2 are made of stone), and other upgrades throughout. The home comes with a detached garage/workshop space as well.
Relax in this luxurious master suite with a sitting room and double French doors that lead to a private screen porch, or cozy up next to the stone
fireplace, The house offers ample storage with its 3 closets. Outside, you will find the perfect space in the 30×40 detached garage/workshop wired for 220, airlines for a compressor, and tall enough for use of a car lift.
The Sevierville home’s other interior features provide a fantastic setting for you to relax and enjoy in. The home’s beautiful kitchen with high end Tessaro counter top also comes equipped with all upgraded whirlpool stainless steel appliances, extra tall cabinetry, and built in pantry for additional storage. The large open living room has vaulted ceilings and features a stone fireplace. The double French doors open to a huge 56-foot screened porch with a metal roof, perfect for listening to the rain. On the main level, you’ll also find the laundry room and office space. Adjoining the master bedroom is a large master bathroom including a jetted tub!
The finished walkout basement is perfect for entertaining. Also downstairs, you’ll find the perfect space for additional built in storage, a fireplace, kitchenette and bar, and another large storage room. The home exterior offers easy outdoor maintenance with its composite front decking and vinyl siding. You’ll also have a place for RV parking with electrical hookups, a private backyard on the more than one-acre lot, and a 2.5 attached garage with attic space.  The house is hooked up to city water and has a septic tank. Underground utilities. Home Warranty included!
Finally, all items in this Sevierville home and workshop are not included but can be purchased.

If you’d like to schedule a time to see this Sevierville home, contact our office at 865-429-2121.

Understanding the appraisal

In this article, I’d like to share with you about one of the most important steps in a home sale where a lender is involed – the appraisal.

If you’ve been following my articles over this past year, then you already know our region – the Great Smoky Mountains, including Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and the surrounding communities – are in a season of very low inventory for property sales. This is especially true of our rental and vacation cabin market. As a result, the values of these properties have increased and the market for vacation and rental cabins has climbed steadily over the last couple of years at a rate that has outpaced lender appraisal values.

Appraising the value of a property can be one of the most challenging, and probably the most stressful, aspect of the process for buyers in a market where appraisal values don’t reflect where the market is at in terms of purchase value. This is mostly because lender appraisers are looking at the value of the property in a different way than everyone else, and with a different purpose. The purpose of a lender appraisal is to determine how much the lender can sell the property for in the event of a foreclosure. So even though the buyer is paying for the appraisal, the appraiser making the determination is actually working for the lender.

Appraisal is an art, not a science

As you know, when a foreclosure is put up for sale by a lender, it’s not priced at the market value. It’s priced below the market value because the financial institution is just trying to recoup as much as they can get for the property. So appraisers have to work from that angle in determining the appraisal value for the lender, and they have to follow specific restrictions. They have to find comparable sold listings within the last 3 to 6 months. If the property is in a subdivision or resort, they must use sold properties from that particular location. Obviously, appraisers can’t go into homes that were sold and take a look around. So the most efficient method for them is to look at closed listings in the association MLS, tax records, and any photos that are included with the closed listing report. It’s a difficult job, especially when you begin to understand some of the problems with doing it this way.

First of all, the reports don’t always accurately reflect the condition of the property. Rarely do tax records identify updates to the interior of the property. Sometimes the square footage is recorded incorrectly. The cabin could be smaller or larger inside than the tax record indicates. Regarding MLS records, the photos may be out of date. That pristine looking cabin exterior in the front photo could have been taken a week after it was built… 10 years ago. Today it might be full of bee holes and in serious need of a new staining. So of course it sold two months ago for $15,000 less than the one you’ve made an offer on where the one you want to buy today has been well taken care of and doesn’t need any major updating.

Appraisers also are required to look at square footage differently than the average buyer or seller. A lot of times, people look at the total square footage to determine how big the cabin is. Even when these numbers are correct in the written record, what the lender’s appraiser is looking for is how much is “above grade” and how much is “below grade.” So maybe you picked out a cabin that has a total of 2,000 square feet, but the appraiser who looks at it notices the cabin square footage is perfectly split between two levels. So, the 1,000 square feet above the mountain’s edge in that hypothetical cabin is considered above grade and worth more than the downstairs – even when that lower level has a window facing the perfect mountain view. Any level of the cabin that is 1 foot below ground is considered basement.

So that’s how the appraiser works through the process. In my next article, I’ll share some ways you can handle an appraisal that might come in below the offer price.

Setting the right sales price

When home and cabin owners make the decision to sell, the first thing they want to know, of course, is what the correct sales price for their property should be. Working every day with the market, I watch what’s happening with sales prices and I keep up with the trends of what’s happening. Right now, we are in a sellers’ market due to the low number of properties for sale, so the demand for homes and cabins is continually driving up the sales price.

Before most clients contact me, however, they’ve already turned to the internet for their research into setting the correct sales price. Real estate marketing websites use computer generated figures based on a total sum of properties without any input from a human. So they don’t take into account all the little things that appraisers are going to care about when they come out to see if the lender should finance the purchase. As a result, the internet estimates are generally incorrect. Sometimes, they are too high. Other times they are too low. For cabins, this number is derived by including all the very expensive log cabin construction in our county – lumping every kind of construction together. To the computer there is only one category and it is called “residential,” whether it is overnight rental cabins or true residential like your house. Clients who list with me will ask if the estimated sales price will hurt the sale of the home if it doesn’t match what we have priced it at based on market comparisons that are more “apples to apples.”

Well, here’s the good news, sellers: the online sales price estimate isn’t going to hurt us.

As a matter of fact, we’re going to use it as a marketing tool! We have estimates like this all the time and we make them work in our favor – even though you and I know that the estimate is not accurate (and actually buyers and buyers agents do as well).

In the Great Smoky Mountains Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service, there is no division for the type of properties we have in Sevier County. If it has bedrooms, it’s a residence – even if it is a 12-bedroom log lodge bringing in an income of $300,000 a year.

The sold numbers that throw this off are our new construction log home cabins which run $170-$280 a square foot. (True residential properties are still running right at $100 a square foot to build.) When the computer picks up these log cabin numbers it just creates estimates that are well, not accurate. It doesn’t fit the programming pattern, so it messes it up. Some computer programs also don’t seem to be able to keep up with the pace of the market, which can be a problem for someone who is selling their house based on today’s sales prices and not on a price from 90 to 120 days ago.

Until we’re all replaced by computers, sellers and buyers still need people who can look at all of the data and not just one piece of it to help determine the correct sales price for a listing on the market.