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Acquiring acreage: Demystifying the dream of land ownership

Currently available: 140-acre farm in Chickamauga, Georgia, listed by Todd Henon. (Photo: Todd Henon Properties)

Owning a piece of land is a fundamental American ideal. Many of the country’s first settlers came here with that dream in mind. As the eastern United States started to become “crowded” in the latter part of the 1800s, pioneers headed west to appropriate a slice of land to call their own. Even today’s American dream, for most, includes at least a little parcel of acreage to cultivate.

For many folks in our tri-state region, that dream is bigger than “a little” piece of land—yet they don’t realize just how obtainable their dream is.

Friendly financing climate for land
Many people are surprised to learn that you can mortgage land just like you can a traditional home. Today’s current lending landscape is just right for people who want to own land and need to mortgage it. Interest rates are low (3.5–4.5 percent) and lenders are aggressive, which allows room to negotiate a favorable rate.

However, it’s important to factor into your planning that land loans typically require a down payment of about 25 percent, with a shorter financing period than with a traditional home.

Land can provide income and enjoyment now, as you plan for the future
Even younger people who dream of building their own places someday may want to look into buying land now rather than later because of the income streams land can provide in the interim. For example, buying a wooded parcel may provide you the opportunity to harvest timber that can be sold at market price. Another strategy is to invest in a piece of land larger than what you need, giving you the option to split it up and sell off a portion to help recoup some of the original price.

In the meantime, before you build, the land can be used for recreation, get-togethers, parties, even a tiny home or mobile home to live in or rent.

I’ve found in my close to 20 years in real estate that owning land is a box that a lot of folks want to check in their lifetimes. There’s something very primal about owning a piece of land. Many find value in the organic, fundamental joy of “working” the land, hunting on it or simply being a good caretaker of God’s unique creation on the Cumberland Plateau.

Remember that, just like with a residential home, there are ongoing costs associated with owning a piece of land, such as property taxes and maintenance. (Photo: Todd Henon Properties)

Location, location, location
Another common misconception is that a land purchase means moving far away from Chattanooga city limits, or even Hamilton County. That’s just not true. Although the lots are smaller and the prices higher inside the city limits, the options are still there.

There is currently a large supply of land on the market in Hamilton County within 30 minutes of downtown Chattanooga.

Thinking outside the box
Acreage, more often than not, returns its value. Purchased at the right price, land appreciates, and sometimes very quickly. “Purchased right” means that you are smart about the dollars, zoning, soil quality, conservation regulations and future development around your acreage. It’s also important to think through how to maximize the land, including best home sites, pond and pasture development, potential subdividing, and income generation. Enlisting the help of not just a Realtor, but a land specialistRealtor, can be critical in guiding your decisions.

Keep in mind that if you see something you like, you can even approach landowners about buying acreage that isn’t technically for sale. Again, working with a land specialist enables you to bring a level of knowledge and sophistication to the process, and helps protect your interests.

In the words of a philosopher
My team and I find that folks are amazed at the acreage opportunities and variety of price points within easy driving distance of Chattanooga. There’s more out there than you likely suspect that’s both attractive and affordable to people of all ages, in all seasons of life. As a land specialist and lifelong outdoorsman, I agree professionally—and personally—with the simple wisdom of Mark Twain, who said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

Todd Henon Properties is a top Chattanooga-based real estate team serving Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama since 2000. Specializing in homes, land, farms and estates, Todd’s seasoned neighborhood and acreage specialists are known for their expertise in the sale and purchase of traditional and unique properties. Todd’s credentials as a general contractor and visionary land consultant give his clients a daily edge. A lifelong Chattanoogan and avid outdoorsman, no one knows the market better or loves the region more than Todd and his innovative team of respected agents. Headquartered at Keller Williams Realty–Greater Downtown Chattanooga (each office is independently owned and operated), the Todd Henon Properties’ team invites you to search for your next home or investment move at ToddHenon.com.

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Unique Properties: A look at some gems in the Chattanooga real estate market (with photos)

Chattanooga is one-of-a-kind in many ways … from its outdoor opportunities so near its downtown cityscape, to its gorgeous mountain scenery, to its rich historical value. And the Scenic City’s real estate opportunities reflect the originality of this gorgeous city. Take a look at some of the most unique properties on the local market right now:

Vibrant city life

This Chestnut Street corner unit, located above Blue Plate, offers scenic views of the Tennessee Aquarium, the Riverfront and other downtown favorites. This home is filled with natural light, and the covered patio offers enviable access to Riverbend, Ironman, 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival and much more. It’s a little over 1,200 square feet, and has one bedroom and 1.5 baths.

Turning a passion into a lifestyle 

This Copperhill property is a true mountain escape on over 100 acres and is perfect for horse lovers. The custom home is surrounded by wooded trails, pasture, a barn with riding ring, bunkhouse for guests and more. This is a working equine estate that offers breathtaking views of three states to be enjoyed as a family getaway, or turned into a group retreat center or equine training facility. It’s 4,800 square feet with six bedrooms and five bathrooms.

Scenic acreage close to town

The river and mountain views on this 150-plus-acre property will literally take your breath away. The spacious home has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, but you won’t want to spend that much time inside when the Tennessee and Sequatchie rivers—and a beautiful swimming pool—beckon you outside. The property offers daily wildlife viewing, farming, ranching and more. It’s hard to believe that this much outdoor luxury is only 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

Luxurious lodge

You’d feel like you’re perpetually on vacation—maybe in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or Aspen, Colorado—on this North Georgia estate. It’s hard to imagine how a home can be both rustic and luxurious, but this one certainly is (can you say “media room” and “chef’s kitchen”?). This home/pool/barn “compound” sits on about 20 acres and is only 30 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. The inside offers over 5,500 square feet in four bedrooms and five bathrooms. The barn doubles as a guest house with a second-floor master suite. The backyard offers 360-degree mountain views, in-ground pool, stone fireplace, and generous porches and patios to enjoy the lifestyle unique to our gorgeous tri-state area.

Todd Henon Properties is a top Chattanooga-based real estate team serving Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama since 2000. Specializing in homes, land, farms and estates, Todd’s seasoned neighborhood and acreage specialists are known for their expertise in the sale and purchase of traditional and unique properties. Todd’s credentials as a general contractor and visionary land consultant give his clients a daily edge. A lifelong Chattanoogan and avid outdoorsman, no one knows the market better or loves the region more than Todd and his innovative team of respected agents. Headquartered at Keller Williams Realty–Greater Downtown Chattanooga (each office is independently owned and operated), the Todd Henon Properties’ team invites you to search for your next home or investment move at ToddHenon.com.

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Is buying a home in Chattanooga a good investment for Millennials?

Is buying a home in Chattanooga a good investment for Millennials?

The past two years have been years of rapid maturity in Chattanooga in the real estate market. Take a drive through North Shore, across the Market Street Bridge, through downtown, into the Southside, down Main Street and into Highland Park and you will see some form of construction around most every turn. As our market is only going to continue booming, now is the time to get in on the action. Millennials: While taking on a year lease at the newest apartment complex makes sense for some; you might reconsider the benefits of making your first real estate purchase now instead of later. If you live here, you are already one step in the right direction. If you don’t live here, you probably should.

Walnut_Street_Bridge_viewed_from_Coolidge_Park_-_ChattanoogaWalnut Street Walking Bridge

Here are three reasons to get in on the fun:

  1. Chattanooga is nationally recognized again and again for being a well-rounded outdoor town and “The Best Town Ever” according to Outside Magazine, a great place for young professionals to engage, and heck- we even have the fastest Internet. People are attracted to this place, and when making decisions as to where they want to plug in, we end up with another new face that you might encounter the next time you walk into Bluegrass Grill or attend a CFC game. Chattanooga is active and growing.
  1. Our Local Real Estate Market is up. And ready to go up some more. According to the GCAR at the start of 2016, average sale price was up 8.4%, and closed sales had increased by 11.4%. We are up again with transactions thus far this year. Purchase in a market where you property is appreciating. Chattanooga is worth the buy.
  1. The city is big enough to always have something new to see or do, but small enough to see familiar faces each time you meander into the Camp House for a cup of coffee. There is always a great hike on Lookout or Signal Mountain, a bike to snag for a ride, diverse and delicious dining, art out the wazoo, niche venues for concerts and parties, and as our friends at The Lamp Post Group pointed out, you get all this for a low cost of living. Engage the art, dining, outdoors, and unique people who ultimately make this place what it is. Chattanooga is a special community.

 

Trying to find a home?

Todd Henon Properties transactions thus far this year have been made up 30% by Millennials. More than half of our team is made up of “under 30’s”. We would love to help you in the home buying or selling process. Here is a link to homes for sale divided up by “neighborhood”. Let us know if you have any questions at 423.413.4507.

Written by: Brandt McGregor

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8 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Value

8 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Value

These 8 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Value are based on our Team’s last 24 months of sales and the latest data from Consumer Reports. Whether you’re thinking about selling or just want to keep your home looking great, this list is “spot on”.

Thank you for our friendship and feel free to give us a call when you’re ready to make a move, or just wondering what project adds the most value.

Our mission is to provide the highest level of intelligent, fair, and reliable service. We are committed to creating and nurturing purposeful relationships with unquestionable loyalty and value.

 

1: The Kitchen Still Wins

A “modern/updated kitchen” is the list-topper when Buyers are looking for their dream home. For as little as $5,000, you can add a new suite of appliances, as well as a new countertop and flooring, resulting in a fresh, cohesive look.

Best of the Best:
Stainless steel. 
Yes, it’s been around for decades, but this appliance finish still shows contemporary design, so it will signal “updated” in the mind of the buyer.

Quartz countertops. Quartz has started to challenge granite and marble as the go-to material in higher-end kitchens, and it requires none of the upkeep of comparably priced natural stones.

2: Make Floor Plans Flow Naturally

Bigger isn’t necessarily better in today’s market. An “open floor plan with flexible living space” is high on most Buyer’s lists.

Many younger buyers will use the additional living spaces as a dedicated office, especially if they work from home. And at the other end of the spectrum, Boomers like space for the grandkids or hobbies.

Best of the Best:
Flex rooms.
 You’ll see flex rooms advertised as an additional living area that can serve a variety of purposes, from a guest bedroom to a play room to an exercise room to an office.

Mother-in-law apartment. They can house an additional family member or provide rental income—­allowing baby boomers to afford their house once they retire or helping millennials pay the mortgage. Rent is growing quickly, so this is a huge win for some.

Upstairs laundry rooms. Convenient to bedrooms and linen closets… need we say more?

3: Think About Energy

Lowering your home’s energy costs will save you money for as long as you live there and is expected to be a major selling point down the line. And don’t forget about water heating, which accounts for 16 percent of energy costs in the typical home.

Best of the Best:
High-efficiency windows.
 You probably won’t recoup the entire investment if you plan to sell right away, but it can be a bonus for you as long as you live there, and a selling feature for Buyers.

4: Make It Easy

Beyond a home’s cosmetic finishes, it’s important to keep the major mechanical systems in working order. Many first-time buyers will have used up most of their savings on the down payment, so having the heating system, plumbing, and electricity updated will give them peace of mind.

Best of the Best:
Updated systems.
 In addition to including the age of the system, it helps if you can also point to its reliability.

New roof. This will help assuage fears of water damage, ice dams, squirrel infestation, and other home disasters that can result from an old, bad roof.

Hardwood floors. Carpets are being replaced with long-wearing hardwoods with a durable factory finish. Engineered wood flooring, which uses a thin veneer of real wood or bamboo over structural plywood, tends not to wear as well as the solid wood.

5: Build a Home to Last

The existing housing stock isn’t equipped to safely accommodate that many older people—too many steep staircases and slippery step-in bathtubs. Forward-thinking homeowners are making necessary improvements to their home now—and those changes will benefit people of all ages.

Best of the Best:
Walk-in shower. 
Curbless showers eliminate the threshold between the shower and surrounding bathroom, making them wheelchair accessible, when the time comes.

Master on main. A floor plan in which the master bedroom is on the first floor reduces the need to climb stairs. It’s one of the most popular requests, not only from Boomers but from families who want some privacy.

6: Fresh Paint Is Still Important

Paint keeps your home looking great while also defending its surfaces from wear, tear, and the elements. Focus on high-traffic areas, including the kitchen and bathrooms. Do the job yourself for a few hundred dollars in material costs or pay a professional. Don’t forget the trim!

Best of the Best:
Neutral color scheme.
 Yes, we know it’s boring. You’d be surprised how many people still can’t envision your orange living room with their blue color scheme. Make it easy and repaint it beige.

7: Remember the Outdoors!

Your home’s property is another opportunity to expand its living space. Adding a deck or patio, with room for seating and a built-in or freestanding grill, is a way to create a defined space for outdoor living.

But remember the rule of low upkeep, especially if your future buyer is likely to be a millennial, who would rather see an outdoor fire pit surrounded by a simple seating arrangement. No need to go overboard with lush landscapes – Buyer’s see this as a chore and an expensive water bill.

Best of the Best:
Curb appeal.
 Trim overgrown shrubs, make minor repairs to the façade, including painting the front door makes a huge difference.

8: Ensure Your New Technology Is Smart

High-tech features offer notoriously bad returns on investment because technologies tend to evolve quickly. The days of home theaters have come and gone.

But certain devices add to home value and interest, including programmable thermostats like Nest. Also consider security systems or auto-locks.

Best of the Best:
Whole-house generator. 
Power failures are a reality for more homeowners. Stationary generators can usually power the entire property. Not a bad idea, especially if you live outside the city limits.

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Buying or Selling Your Home? Think Like a Real Estate Investor

Buying or Selling Your Home? Think Like a Real Estate Investor

By Devon Thorsby. July 20, 2016, 12:39 p.m.

One of the toughest parts of buying or selling a home is the fact that you’re doing a business deal that involves something so personal. It can be difficult to separate the emotional aspect of where you’re going to live with the fact that you need to make a smart decision on what is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make in your life.

Fortunately, there are people who make this kind of investment their business to show us how it’s done.

Real estate investors of all levels make a living out of buying, selling and owning property, both commercial and residential, and they better understand the nuances of real estate deals than the typical homebuyer or seller who will only go through the process a few times during their life.

Any property purchase is an investment of your money, regardless of whether you’re planning to live there yourself or make money off it. You want to be able to make a profit when it comes time to sell your home again, or at the very least get back what you originally spent. Here are key strategies from real estate investors that you can adopt to make your personal investment a success.

[See: 10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast .]

Assess the risk. Before you spend your savings on a down payment and lock yourself into monthly mortgage payments for the next 15 to 30 years, assess the chances the property will be worth the purchase price when you decide to sell.

Look at the home you’re purchasing in the context of the bigger picture: the city, neighborhood and even the traffic near the property. And if the property is affected by negative factors while you live there – maybe it’s in a declining neighborhood with an increasing number of vacant houses or the county decides to take a piece of your property to widen a road – are you able to take the hit on your home’s value?

Any monetary investment comes with risk, explains Harmel Rayat, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based real estate investor and author of “Winning With Commercial Real Estate.” “It comes with things you can’t control,” he says.

Rayat says a great example is his own home, which he purchased about 20 years ago. “I bought it in a great area, paid a very healthy price for it, and a year and a half later my home was down 40 percent,” he explains.

An international political situation lowered interest in the area of Vancouver where the property is located, and as a result home values dropped. While the area has not only recovered but significantly increased its value and interest, Rayat notes it took a long time to get there – and had he opted to sell after 10 years there would have been little profit.

It’s essential to understand the risk you’re taking on before making an offer. If you’re putting your entire life savings into a down payment and you know you’ll be stretching your money simply to make mortgage payments, taking a leap on a home that may not pay off could leave you underwater.

While risks can pay off big – like buying in an up-and-coming neighborhood or purchasing a home sight unseen – there’s no harm in selecting a house you’re more confident in.

Know the market. To calculate the potential risk factors involved with the home you’re considering, you have to know and understand the local market – or bring in someone who does.

Because you’re not in the business of buying and selling on a regular basis, having a real estate agent who can explain the nuances of homes and values in the area is imperative to bring you to the level of understanding that most real estate investors already possess. A knowledgeable agent should provide insight on the variation in cost based on certain features, like the number of bedrooms or an updated kitchen, as well as manage expectations for a competitive pool of other interested buyers.

“Making sure the agent knows that micromarket [is key],” says Tom Pietsch, managing partner and broker associate with Tom & Cindy and Associates at Long & Foster in northern Virginia, who works with homebuyers, sellers and real estate investors.

Making an offer is a decision only you should make, so select an agent who can help you understand the market in relation to your needs and the available properties, and then assess your options from there. That means considering the local school district, transportation, community amenities and more, explains Fred Cooper, senior vice president of finance, international development and investor relations at home building company Toll Brothers.

“Homebuyers should not only analyze the specific property they’re buying, but look at the ancillary aspects of the community that they’re moving into,” Cooper says.

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting .]

Be realistic when it comes time to sell. Your understanding of the market is important again when it comes time to sell your home. Regardless of the sale price you were hoping for when you purchased your home, you have to accept what comparable sales in the area tell you.

“Successful investors understand the dynamics of the local property market, so that allows them to be realistic in their expectations of what they can sell for and what they can buy for,” Cooper says.

He adds that it is important to recognize any parts of your home or the area that may not be appealing to buyers, and set the listing price accordingly to ensure the property is still enticing to them.

“Pricing the property realistically is going to make it a lot easier to sell it,” Cooper says. And with information about the market easily accessible online through sites like Zillow, realtor.com and even public record databases, there’s no reason to make an uninformed guess at what your home is worth compared to your neighbor’s. By viewing comparable properties that recently sold and researching the value of certain updates versus others when it comes to home sales, you can find a more confident price point for your home.

Your feelings still matter – but control them. When you’re making a decision about where you’re going to live, there’s no way to extract emotion from the equation – something that’s not as difficult to do in investment deals. “How do you remove emotion from one of the biggest decisions in life you’ll ever make?” Rayat says.

But being able to control those emotions can make the business aspect of the deal smoother, especially when you’re selling.

“It’s undeniable that emotions play a role in everything that involves spending money,” Cooper says. “For a homebuyer, and also for an investor, I would caution against blowing up a deal over small things.”

Rather than holding out for an extra $50 in rent, a good landlord will recognize the value in having a tenant occupy the home instead of paying to keep a vacant space and hoping to fetch a higher rent down the line.

Pietsch says real estate investors who rent out a home they previously lived in often exhibit detachment. “Those people tend to then move on emotionally because it’s not their house anymore and try to keep it looking good but for the least [money] they can, while getting the most that they can in rent.”

[See: 10 Unorthodox Ways Your Real Estate Agent May Market Your Home .]

Recognizing the home is no longer yours once you put it on the market can remove your emotional attachment and help you focus on how to appeal to the new buyer’s feelings.

“Turn your home back into a house. On the other hand, think about the buyer’s emotion, and do what you can to appeal to that emotion,” Pietsch says.

Thorsby, Devon. “Buying or Selling Your Home? Think Like a Real Estate Investor.” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, 20 July 2016. Web. 21 July 2016.

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Top 5 Reasons Why Millennials Should Enter The Housing Market Now

Top 5 Reasons Why Millennials Should Enter The Housing Market Now

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 – by Chris Mabee, president of Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga

With the economy and housing market still recovering in Chattanooga and surrounding areas, some potential first-time home buyers may be hesitant to invest in a new home. Yet there are several reasons why now is a great time for Millennials and other first-time home buyers to start building their American Dream.

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1) Interest rates are low.

Today’s historically low interest rates are helping first-time home buyers find affordable housing options. Average weekly interest rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage have remained under 4.0% for most of 2016.

2) Large down payments are not necessary.

While lenders are looking more closely at borrowers today than in recent years, there are options for purchasing your first home without a 20% downpayment. For example, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers loans to first-time home buyers with downpayments as low as 3.5%. However, these loans require mortgage insurance.

3) New homes are built to fit your lifestyle.

Designed to accommodate today’s busy lifestyles, new homes – including urban condos and single-family homes – feature open floor plans, flexible spaces, low-maintenance materials and other amenities that appeal to younger buyers.

4) Technology makes house shopping fun and easy.

Today’s tech-savvy home buyers use mobile apps to quickly gather all of the key information on a property and to see extensive photos from their cell phones or tablets. If you’re just beginning your search, Realtor.com is a popular app because it generally contains the most accurate information gathered from more than 800 local MLSs (multiple listing services). There also are several free mortgage apps to help you determine how much you can afford and to compare real-time rates from multiple lenders. Popular mortgage calculator apps include Zillow and Trulia.

5) Owning a home can help young families build wealth and combat rising rents.

For most Americans, homeownership is a primary source of net worth and is an important step in accumulating personal financial assets over the long term. As the housing market continues to recover, property values have begun to grow again. In fact, home values up 6.3 percent nationally in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Mabee, Chris. “Top 5 Reasons Why Millennials Should Enter The Housing Market Now.” – Chattanoogan.com. TheChattanoogan.com, 19 June 2016. Web. 20 July 2016.

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Hosting a Summer Party

Hosting a Summer Party

A List of Home Prep Tasks for Hosting Friends and Family this Summer

Temperatures are rising and summer is about to be in full swing. While we all know that Chattanooga’s weather can be extremely variant and unpredictable, one thing that is guaranteed is a good amount of heat. While beach trips and other vacations are often a first pick for the summer season in the south, here are a few tips for utilizing your house for hosting.

  1. We all want our homes to be up to date, fresh and clean. If you are hosting a dinner party in your Chattanooga home, you will want the front of your home to have curb appeal. Consider adding new landscaping to your front yard. At the very least, a mow, weed eat, and blow will make a great difference.
  2. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way. Whether it is the front entryway to your home, dining room, or living area, something as easy and simple as a fresh coat of paint can make your home all the more welcoming.
  3. Backyard space is perfect for a cookout this summer. Utilize the property space that you have. A pressure wash to a walkway, addition of a flower bed, or whitewash to your fence might be the very thing needed to make your backyard stand out.

Whether you are in Chattanooga, a nearby town, or travelling the world this summer, remember these tips for having a bright, welcoming space for hosting friends and family.