Tuesday, June 03, 2014

School's Out for the Summer...

Well for some of us.

My daughter's last day of school was this past Friday and I know that many of our friends are also rounding out the school year in the next couple of days.  This begs the question, what to do with your kids this summer so that the break is just that and not a prison sentence for you or them.

Scheduling camps and structured activities are an important part of the summer experience. It gives kids something to look forward to and gives parents a bit of break from the inevitable "I'm bored" mantra.  Camps can be expensive but don't have to be and our area offers several reasonable options for all budgets.  It may be that some are full or on a wait list but keep searching and something will present itself.  If  not, work with other local parents to make up your own camps. Each of you take a day or two to plan and organize activities and field trips.  Listed below are links to some area camps that I have had wonderful personal experiences with and some that my daughter has also enjoyed.

Camp DonLee
NC 4-H Camps
Camp HanesYMCA
Old Salem Summer Camps
Sawtooth Summer Art Camps
Children's Theatre Greensboro
Children's Theatre Winston-Salem

With all of those opportunities available, it's tempting to schedule every minute and every day.  However, you don't want to take away the beauty that is truly summer.  Those lazy days of sleeping in, late breakfasts in front of the t.v watching the Price is Right or lounging by the neighborhood pool.  These unstructured days are what summer is all about!  Again, it's tempting to allow the kids this freedom to lounge and relax, but make sure that the iPhone isn't the focal point of this time.  Having specific times for phone usage is more critical than ever, especially in an age where kids are "hiding" in their phones as a way not to have to interact with other kids and adults.  I could write on this topic forever, but let's save it for another day--maybe a good winter post!

Apps to Monitor Phone Usage

It's also a great time for kids to catch up on reading, take a class in an area that interests them or get some additional tutoring for a subject that is challenging for them.  Preparation for upcoming courses, as painful as it can be, is a great gift to bestow on your child. The Duke TIP program, some local school boards and organizations such as Sylvan offer new course study and tutoring.

Duke TIP
Sylvan Learning Centers

Earning money, as my daughter gets older, has become more and more important to her.  She is interested in having her own "stash" for shopping and sports.  This time of year presents itself to establish additional chores, allowing the kids to organize areas of the home that you've been putting off all winter or putting together photo albums that have been stored on memory sticks and in phones.  Giving them the opportunity to earn a little of their own cash is a great way to start an understanding of money, its value and a healthy appreciation of how quickly it goes. :)

Money Saving Tips for Teens

Have a wonderful summer break and I would love to hear from you as to what you and your family plan to do with your free time this summer!


Monday, April 28, 2014

Good is Good and Great is Better!

With first quarter's difficult numbers behind us, the real estate market has put the petal to the metal!  Coming up to catch a breath to even write this piece, has been difficult at best.  That's the bad news...that you haven't seen this article earlier.  The good news is, that the subject applies even more today than it did several weeks ago when I was planning on publishing the post.

We are listing homes like crazy and they are selling in record times and some with multiple offers.  Then why, you might ask, has your home gotten little activity or lackluster feedback coupled with no offers?  In most cases these homes that are selling have the perfect combination of great pricing and great condition.  What exactly does that mean?

Pricing your home realistically is of course, important.  Having your home clean and organized is important.  However, just being good, is well, good but being great, is GREAT!  Sure, good homes sell everyday but GREAT homes shine and command what they want in terms and pricing.  Most of this is about realistic expectations when it comes to where the market is today and the perceived recovery of the market.  Sellers who understand that market recovery doesn't mean the peak prices of 2006 are the ones benefiting from the uptick in activity.  They, along with the guidance of their agent, are realistic as to what homes are selling for in their area today, not yesteryear.  They are pricing to sell, within the range of other homes in their area and are doing the pre-sale work such as serious de-cluttering, staging with the assistance of professionals and some are going as far as pre-inspections, making repairs and professional landscaping.  Other little gems include adding home warranties, always being show-ready and do most anything that it takes to bring those buyers into a near-perfect situation.

I certainly understand that not everyone feels that they can up-end their household to get their home in this condition, but the folks that are making these sacrifices are getting paid in the end, not only by their homes selling but by being able to take advantage of those interest rates that are still on the historically low side.

If you would like your home to be a SUPERSTAR home, give me a call or shoot me an email and let's talk!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Advertising Sells Homes...

Advertising in real estate has changed dramatically over the years and even more so through the "Great Recession".  Where agents and real estate firms typically filled the pages of newspapers and the voids of mailboxes, the tide changed when expense began to outweigh income.  However, a successful agent knows that staying relevant and continuing to advertise even through economic downturns is key to capturing market share and to successfully selling homes.

I have structured my advertising to bolster my sellers' home's exposure, create brand-awareness, to stay top of mind and to make sure that both buyers and sellers are receiving the best, the most current and the most accurate information as it pertains to the local real estate market.  The advertising drives consumers to the website which not only allows them to search ALL homes on the market, but it also features a wide-array of bonuses such as mapping, virtual tours, local blogs, links to facebook and twitter and means to communicate with me on the client's time frame.

As new buyers and sellers are entering the marketplace, broader advertising such as the billboard, helps me to meet clients not yet working with an agent or not yet sure of our market, it's inventory and it's opportunity.

More targeted advertising, such as the Triad Business Journal focuses on being a resource to established decision-makers in the community, who know that they need an agent who takes their profession seriously and can get the job done from the first timely introduction to the last signature on the settlement statement.

Marry these sources of advertising to other marketing resources such as the targeted mailers, the yard signs and our company's amazing marketing campaign and you then have a formula which sells homes on a regular basis, normally out-performing the marketplace on a whole.

That doesn't mean that a great agent only needs to understand marketing. That's a topic for another day. :) The ability to follow-through after the listing presentation is where top agents know the "rubber meets the road".  All of the advertising in the world is worthless if at the end of the day the home doesn't sell or the buyer doesn't find what they are looking for.

Where do you go to find agents and homes? I'd love to hear about your experiences with real estate advertising!


Friday, January 24, 2014

How to Make Existing Homes Better than NEW!!

If you have ever looked for a home, you have probably looked at existing construction.  This is not new construction that has been built as a spec or part of a community, but for our intent and purpose we'll define "existing construction" as homes who have had someone living in them.  Easy enough-right?

Well, we also know that with someone or several someone's living in a home come those scrapes, dings, scuffs, stains, dirt and grime that are a very real part of our day to day living.  We also know that someone else's choice of turquoise carpet or that orange "accent" wall just might not be the perfect match for our furniture or style.  You don't care for the black toilet, the brass hardware or the carpeted bathroom but you love the style, the lot, the location and everything else about it.  If only you had the extra money to make the improvements and updates and have money for a down payment!  You know the area is perfect for your family and the construction is quality--too bad right?  Nope!  There is a possible solution!  You may or may not have heard of renovation loans, sometimes referred to as 203k loans.  These nifty loan programs allow you have work quoted by your choice of licensed contractors and include the improvements in your loan with as little as 3.5% in a down payment!

This is a  great solution for older homes in established neighborhoods that just need some updating in master baths, kitchens, and d├ęcor OR maybe the home needs new windows, a roof or more systematic improvements because the cosmetics were completed recently.  Either way, this loan is an option but certainly needs the guidance and advice of a trusted team in order to coordinate getting the job done in a timely and professional manner. 

Should this sound like  a product that you might be interested in, contact me and I will put you in touch with our renovation loan specialist, LuAnn Davis at Premier Commercial Bank.  We will both guide you through the process including assistance in contractor selection and interior designer selection for larger projects.  We will then work with our team to expedite the process through closing to bring you the home that you want, where you want it, in the condition you love!

Never look at existing homes the same way again!  Listed below are a few of my listings that would be great candidates for the renovation program!  Also, below the photos you will find LuAnn's contact information as well as mine should you have questions or would just be interested in additional information. 

593 Doe Run Drive Kernersville NC 27284

6043 Marion Point Belews Creek NC 27009

436 Meredith Way Winston-Salem NC 27107

5075 Toucan Lane Kernersville NC 27284
LuAnn Davis-Premier Commercial Bank
Brooke Cashion, GRI, ABR, Realtor

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Float a Little Float...

Not down a river and not with a boat, it's 1000 pounds of salt, a capsule with a lid, pitch black and silent with the exception of your heartbeat and your breathing.  If this sounds like something science-fiction, well, it kind of is.  Studies using sensory-deprivation or floatation therapy began in the 1940's as a way to study the brain, essentially trying to see if the brain could be forced into a meditative state for a variety of reasons including therapeutic and medical reasons.  Today, floatation is used mainly for relaxation and meditation though it seems effective for certain medical conditions by alleviating anxiety and promoting healing.

Our first experience floating was encouraged by our herbalist and a living social coupon that was emailed to me. I purchased one for both Jake and myself.  We scheduled our sessions separately, as you typically don't float together.  Each session was booked for two hours to include prep time but our actual floating time was 60 minutes.  Upon arriving, you shower in a very spa-like setting that includes fresh towels, a spongy bath mat and sensory lights for each room so you don't worry about turning lights off and on. Once you enter the floating capsule you have control depending on your comfort level.  There is an intercom if you have questions, otherwise, you are alone to experience the process as you feel comfortable.  I was concerned about being claustrophobic, so I rolled up a towel and inserted it between the lid and the chamber giving me about 6 inches of air and space until I felt adjusted.  After what I believe to be 10 minutes I was comfortable enough to close the lid completely.

Because you are in 1000 pounds of Epsom salt, it is impossible not to float and it is effortless, unlike floating in the ocean or a pool.  With your arms in candlestick position, opening up your heart chakra, you immediately feel muscles relaxing and your body sinking into a comfortable and pressure-free state.  After a few more minutes you can't even tell where the water begins and the air and your body end.  The water is at your body temperature so there is no fear of getting too hot or cold. 

Each person's actual experience in the chamber is different and I don't want to artificially impose my experiences on you but I will say that I reached what I considered a low end meditative state that was still more intense than any dream or sleep that I had encountered.  I also feel that if I go back for future sessions that I will be more comfortable with the process and could reach a deeper state of meditation and relaxation.  I found this a great time to release thoughts, to pray, to be still and quiet.  All of which I rarely do. 

Upon exiting, there is one thing that Jake and I agreed was most overwhelming and that was the sensation of well-being.  Whether it's sitting in the salt an hour, absorbing magnesium, or just the passive relaxation without hands on you or music playing or light or other worldly distractions, it did seem to put things in perspective for a while.  Both us of see ourselves going back for future sessions.

I would definitely encourage anyone interested in trying this form of relaxation to give it a try. Locally, you can go to Kernersville Hot Yoga and use their chamber.  They sell individual floats and packages.  You might also want to check LivingSocial and Groupon for deals.  I leave you with the words from a sign in the chamber room that really touched me. As you consider whether or not this is for you, ask yourself, how often do you practice the following?

"Be Still and Know that I am GOD"

Spring Market is Starting to Bud...

You've talked about since October but it was too late, too cold, too many holiday plans, too much family in town, too much to do.  Now it's time.  Yes, it's that time of year when the seeds you planted in the late fall have started to bud.  You know that you need more (or less) house and that while rates are still reasonably low, you know that it's a good time to purchase.  Even better, it appears that prices have stabilized and buyers have become more rational as to pricing expectations.  You might not have to give your house away in order to move on.  Let's talk about what you can do to transform that bud into a flower to picked in the upcoming Spring Real Estate Market.

*Interview Agents- a) choose your agent based on productivity in the previous year b) make sure they have a marketing plan that complements your expectations c) make sure you agent is FULL-TIME d) talk about communication expectations--don't settle for an agent who puts a sign in the yard and never calls or emails again

*De-Clutter and De-Personalize- a) put up your holiday decorations b) cull closets and cabinets down to half c) go ahead and pack up collectibles and personal belongings that you don't use every day (remember, you're moving)

*Clean- a good deep clean which includes ceiling fans, baseboards, windows and air vents/returns. Don't forget to have carpets professionally cleaned if they are excessively dirty or stained.

*Landscaping- have a plan to spruce your landscaping and budget for it so that when you are one week from putting the home on the market you don't have a panic attack as to how many bails of pine needles you need or if the front stoop needs planters.  A good agent can assist with this.

*Sign paperwork- don't wait until the day that you want to be on the market to reach out to your agent regarding paperwork and getting the house on the market.  An experienced, successful agent knows that it may take a week or two to prepare the home for it's big market debut.  A professional agent will many times use a professional photographer, stager and others to make sure your home has it's best "footing" forward.  Our team employs several professionals that allow our listings to stand out from other homes on the market.

*Breathe- selling a home is not easy for sure, but worrying too much about things out of your or your agent's control can set you up for disaster.  Use the time you are out of your house for showings to enjoy something as a family that you might not have had time for before.  Grab a cup of coffee, visit the bookstore or unique, local shops.  Make the best of the situation.  You'll appreciate it, your agent will love you for it and the buyer will sense it as they look at your home and being negotiations with you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Water, Sewer and Trash...Oh My!

If I had the proverbial quarter for every time a client told me that they didn't want to pay city taxes, I'd be a millionaire! I thought this would be a great time to blog about this topic given Aqua's recent push to increase rates without utility hearings.  Several neighborhoods in Forsyth county are serviced by Aqua, such as Abington and Salem Glen. Understandably, it is clear that the tax rate between cities and county rates can be far apart.  The certain lure and appeal of the lower rate sure seems enticing but it's important to make sure you know what you receive and don't receive for those annual property taxes and how it impacts your monthly budget outlay. First let's look at some basic, general differences.

City taxes usually encompass services such as a dedicated police and fire department, parks and recreation, public water/sewer access, trash/recycling/bulk pick-up and street maintenance.  Of course, this is not inclusive of all cities. Some cities provide more or less depending on their structure and budget. 

County taxes in the Triad usually cover county-wide services such as parks, schools and have add-ons for local fire jurisdictions depending again, on county size, budget and location.

Let's start by talking specifically about Kernersville.  I have clients that have purchased in Abington and enjoyed the lower tax rates.  However, it does not take long for these folks to realize that the private water company rates are far higher than city/county utility rates and can often increase on a regular basis, sending budgets into orbit.  Add to that, trash and recycling collection which can tack on another $40-50 every two months.  There are instances when averaged out, the expense of living in the county, outside of the city limits, can actually be equal to or more than living in the city limits.  Of course, keep in mind, this determined on a case by case basis, not a generalization across the board.  These same residents in Abington are served by the Sheriff's department and a volunteer or limited staffed fire department which generally has a longer response time than city police and fire.  Let me be clear, this is NOT because of inefficiency of the departments, but more in part to the amount of area these providers have to cover.  Again, something to keep in mind if you or a family member have regular need of medical service.

If you are not hooked up to city services such as water/sewer, the maintenance of septic tanks and wells should also be considered in your budgeting.  On the flip side, not having to rely on or pay a bill for well water or sewer can be an upside and a boon to budget savings.  Again, all is situational depending on the past maintenance, age and depth.

The bottom line is that you need to know up front, using the assistance of your real estate professional,  what services the property taxes include and what services you might be required to pay for out of pocket on a monthly basis.  It is important to make sure that your agent understands and has access/knowledge of these items in the city or area of the county you are interested in living.  These items, especially ones that could increase exponentially over time or that you could be assessed for in the future could play a large role in the affordability of your purchase. At first glance it might appear that you are choosing an area that is less expensive with a smaller property tax impact. Knowledge is certainly power and power comes from planning...Happy House Hunting!

If you are interested in this topic, check out my Facebook page at Brooke Cashion & Associates to view an article we posted today (November 19, 2013) on a potential rate increase by Aqua for their NC clients. If you do not have access to a Facebook account, feel free to email me at Brooke.Cashion@allentate.com and I will send you a link to the article.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Can You Feel It?

The news and social media outlets are all abuzz with the latest developments (or lack thereof) and implications of the recent government shut down.  It has an impact on your personal life in some degree, but to what extent may be contingent upon your career, economic station and receipt of government subsidized services.  For the women on the WIC program, which is a program that provides vouchers for formula and baby needs, the end of the month is going to come very quickly and abruptly if those vouchers stop being issued.  If you are a government employee that is labeled "non-essential" then you may be furloughed currently and waiting on being called back to work.  However, for the majority of Americans, the impacts are felt in far more subtle and potentially further-reaching ways. The impact to our economy's vibrancy and confidence, the impact to our personal liberties and freedoms and the impact to our trust and pride in our government are sure to have lasting implications that reach far beyond the shutdown.

To try and understand the fragile nature of our current economy in a blog post is impossible.  However, we all understand that we just started to gain traction in one of the longest and nastiest recessions our country has ever seen.  Given the relatively young age of our country, I liken this latest recession to our high school years.  Self-assuredness, that most would view as "cocky", lots of blemishes masked by layers of political "make-up" and a complete lack of understanding of how finances work because a real job has yet to be gotten.

Our elected officials and some of our citizens have plunged head-on into careless spending, unfathomable debt and an overinflated self worth that showboats from campaign event to Congress without regard for feeling or common sense.  Does it sound like your teenager? Not a lot of difference and  you know that trying to reason with this arrogance is a futile effort at times.  Now let's all recall those unsightly acne blemishes that were a part of most of our teen years.  Painful and embarrassing but covering them with make-up usually didn't do a stellar job of hiding them, only making them worse.  The same holds true with our current situations.  Let's address debt, let's address voter fraud, let's address social welfare and call it for what it is.  It's ugly, it's painful and it's a sore spot.  However, pretending that adding debt to debt will allow our country to prosper, pretending that voter fraud is somehow race-related or pretending that social welfare programs are not widely abused by able-bodied Americans is going to exacerbate an already raging case of ugliness. Now, let's move on to the "job" situation.  How many times has your teen asked (begged) for money? Sometimes, unreasonable amounts of money or goods are asked for.  As the adult, you can usually step back from the situation, after the major meltdown with said teen, and reason that they have no concept of money because they have never held a real job or career.  This is no different than our government.  They haven't produced anything, typically are far-removed from private sector businesses, large or small, and have no problem spending money and taking money that is not theirs.  When you're a teen, it's tough to understand why your parents just can't see it your way and how bad you need that car, pair of shoes, new phone, etc.  You're crazed with the "wanting" of it to be "in" and "popular."  You'll do anything to get it. Some teens even resort to shoplifting they desire an item so badly.  So does our government. We the people have elected these folks to represent OUR understanding that tough decisions have to be made in the best interest and responsibility of our current financial situations.  We have a budget that takes care of the basics but beyond that they are simply wants which have NO place in the American economy.

When these common-sense core values of the majority of Americans are chipped away, both by small and large amounts, the reasonably aware citizen begins with a mild frustration expressed to friends in conversation and around the office with little commitment to action.  The frustration then builds as they see others feel the same way.  The frustration then turns to situational anger as they see the very personal toll it is having on their finances and life through taxation and forced programs.  What comes next is difficult to say because I believe we as Americans are here.  On the cusp of a rolling anger due to the clear fact that we've been justified in knowing that we now have tough choices to make.  How far does this go? How determined are we to make sure our elected officials know what happens outside of the beltway?  The sounds of freedom are rumbling like a storm on the horizon and stepping up to battle the winds of change. The resilience and ingenuity of our citizens have been like no other nation in the world, however, it now stands to be seen if those fibers have continued to be interwoven into the newest of citizens and our most recent generations.

Much like our teen years; if properly guided through solid leadership and example, we do come out on the other side.  Yes, we have painful memories that we turn to life lessons, and we have scars and losses that we learned from, but we make it and are better for it.  For those who don't have the guidance, guardrails and guidelines needed to weather those difficult years, we've seen the outcome too. Enabled, entitled and dejected individuals who are angry and don't know why.  But for those that made it, we know why. We know that through the nasty feelings, the poor decisions, the temper-tantrums and the heartbreaks, that someone in our lives cared enough to make the tough decisions and to lead the way to teaching us independence.  It is in that independence of both our personal adulthood and our country's, in which we establish value, hard work and earned success, therefore freeing us from a lifelong resentment of failure and regret.