It’s that time of year in Chattanooga when if you’re outside and you hear a faint bugle call, or a cacophony of them, you know to look up in the sky. The Sandhill cranes have arrived for the winter. An average of 29,000 sandhill cranes spend the winter in Tennessee. They fly in formation, but they also circle around seeking a thermal of warm air to gain altitude in. Often, they are so high up that they appear to be specks but that call will give them away. With a wingspan of 6-7 feet and a height of 4 feet that tells you how high up they really are.
The nearby 6,000- acre Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is the best place to view them in Chattanooga. The refuge is a stop on the tnbirdingtrail.org. The birds are omnivores and love corn and other grains that the refuge sows for them as well as small land and water creatures. Birdwatchers gather to watch them in their habitat and there are many area kayak tours to get closer to them. The cranes mate for life and have one brood a year usually nesting in standing water.
I’ve still been hearing them fly over every night so if you haven’t taken a trip to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge it’s not too late, but they’ll be back next year, and I’ll be watching for them!
What is an inspection, and do I need one?
When you buy a home, it can feel like the list of things to do is never-ending. A home inspection is one of the many important things that will be at the top of your list.
While you’ve seen the house you’re about to buy, a home inspection brings in a neutral third party to give you a professional assessment of certain things. It can help you identify issues you may have missed and avoid possible surprises in the future. Above all, it can help you become a more informed home buyer.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a visual inspection of a property. It’s kind of like an annual check-up at the doctor. It’s used to make sure everything is working properly, and it can be useful to spot things that might eventually become a problem. A home inspector looks at a number of different items and gives a professional opinion on the status.
A home inspector’s report should highlight whether there are any problems that were visible, repairs that are needed, and potential risks that the inspector wasn’t able to see.
But don’t confuse a home inspection with a guarantee that a property is in good condition. An inspection is simply information to help a buyer make a decision about the property.
What Happens During a Home Inspection?
Though it’s not necessary, it’s a good idea to be present at your home inspection to learn as much as you can about the property. During the inspection, the inspector will walk through the property examining different areas. They may take photos and notes to use in their report.
As a potential buyer who’s making a huge financial investment, you can and should ask questions during the home inspection. A qualified home inspector will be able to answer all your questions openly and honestly. Consider asking them about the severity of certain issues so you can determine which problems will or will not impact your home purchase.
The inspection will make you aware of any potential problems now, so they don’t become bigger and costlier issues in the future.
What Do Home Inspectors Look For?
During a home inspection the inspector will look at areas that are easily accessible and able to be seen, for example:
Physical Structures: This includes checking the driveway, garage floor, roofing, attic spaces and foundations for any major issues.
Interior Structures: In addition to the home’s physical structure, an inspector will look over the interior structures of the home. This includes the condition of the flooring, walls, doors and windows and things like water damage.
Major Systems: This includes running tests on the water systems in the home, turning on each and every faucet to test water flow, cold water output and hot water output. An inspector will also test the fridge, dishwasher, oven/stove, and all of the toilets for basic functionality and performance.
Utilities: As part of the major systems check, your home inspector will assess and give you a detailed report on the quality of electrical lines in the home as well as the gas service.
They take a critical look at a number of different items around the property – a good home inspector will catch things you might not notice and be able to give you warning about potential problems that may arise.
When inspectors complete their evaluation, they’ll send you a detailed report outlining the condition of the home you are selling or buying, along with any recommendations for repairs. A report will also state whether certain appliances – such as a home’s furnace or AC unit – are nearing the end of their lives.
Home inspectors don’t cover every possible problem with a home, though. They won’t search for mold, asbestos, radon gas, lead paint or signs of pest damage. If you suspect that a home you’re buying or selling does have, say, mold or termite issues, you should schedule an inspection by a specialist who focuses on those areas
How Do You Choose a Home Inspector?
When it’s time to hire a home inspector, start by asking friends and family if they have one they recommend. You can also turn to online reviews to find honest feedback. It’s important to find an inspector who is going to give you a complete and honest assessment of the condition of the home, so take your time finding the right person.
When you find a home inspector, ask them some questions before you decide to hire them, including:
● What does your home inspection report cover?
● How long have you been practicing?
● Do you offer to do repairs based on the inspection?
● How long will the inspection take?
● How much will the inspection cost?
● What type of report do you provide?
● When will I receive the final inspection report?
How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?
According to Home Advisor, the national average cost of a home inspection is $330, but that will vary depending on the home and the area as well as the size of the home. While this is an additional cost to home buying, consider the value in terms of the investment that you’re making. A good home inspection could save you thousands of dollars on repairs down the road.
You’re also going to want to hire and pay a home inspector yourself, rather than have the seller pay. Why? That way they’re accountable to you and no one else. You don’t want them to be tempted to underemphasize any potential problems.
How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?
The length of a home inspection depends on the size and age of the home. Usually, it will take an inspector longer to complete an inspection for a home that is older and larger.
In general, though, you can expect the inspection to take approximately 2 – 3 hours. If you’re buying a home, make sure to follow along with your inspector. Tagging along will not only give you an up-close look at any potential problem areas, but it will also give you a chance to learn the locations of such important home features as your water shut-off and electrical box.
And if you’re selling? Tag along with this inspection, too. You’ll want to hear the inspector’s explanation for which systems in your home need upgrades or repairs.
Receiving Your Home Inspection Report
After inspecting your home, your inspector will write up your home inspection report. However, depending on their schedule, it can take a day or more to receive the actual report.
Once you receive it, you should read the entire thing. There’s no standard format. Your report might be a checklist, or it might be more detailed and include photos and written descriptions of what’s found.
Your report will also include a summary describing anything that isn’t working or may pose a safety risk.
After receiving your report, you may find that there are additional items you’d like to have inspected further. You may also realize that there are significant things that need to be fixed. In that case, you may need to work with the seller to negotiate whether they will make the updates or whether you can get a credit for work that needs to be performed.
Should You Ever Skip the Home Inspection?
You should never skip the home inspection. The inspection is a crucial step that if missed, could lead to serious and expensive repercussions in the future. Purchasing a home is the biggest investment most buyers make in their lifetime, which is why they should never skip the inspection. Although a house may look like it’s in perfect shape, you never know what serious problems could be lurking under the surface.
When you make any large purchase, you should always know exactly what you’re buying. By getting a home inspection, you can ensure that the home is actually worth the money you’re about to pay for it.
If you’re selling, ordering a home inspection makes sense, too. This way, you can uncover any serious problems and fix them before listing your home. This will eliminate any surprises that could scuttle your real estate sale.
The Bottom Line on Home Inspections
The home inspection process may feel like another to-do in the whirlwind process of buying a home. But it’s designed to give you confidence as a buyer. After going through the home inspection process, you should know a lot more about the home you’re about to buy.
What does an appraiser do and do I need one?
What is an appraiser?
Appraisers are licensed or certified professionals who provide a qualified opinion of value. All states require appraisers to be licensed or certified to provide appraisals to federally regulated lenders. Meaning, you’re working with a highly trained individual who understands current real estate market conditions in your area.
Appraisers are considered third-party participants in the transaction. Their work assures mortgage lenders that the amount they are lending does not exceed the home’s true value. Yet, it also assures that you (as the home buyer or homeowner) are receiving a fair, unbiased price for your property.
What does a home appraiser look for?
The appraiser researches recently sold properties in your area with features similar to your prospective home, called “comparables.” Comps are sales records of recently sold homes. Appraisers and real estate agents use at least three, usually through the Multiple Listings Service (MLS), to get the most accurate estimate possible of a home’s value. The three comps must be sales that have closed within six months of your appraisal date to be considered accurate.
Expect your assigned appraiser to use the designated forms written and approved by the FHA, Fannie Mae, etc. These forms ask specific questions about neighborhood demographics, housing trends, utilities, home measurements, site characteristics, property condition, general improvements, and at least one approach to value.
More specifically, you can expect the following factors to be reviewed:
● The condition of the home (are there any cracks, damages, leaks, etc.)
● The size of the home and the property lot
● The quality of landscaping
● The quality of roofing and foundation
● The number of bedrooms and bathrooms
● The quality of lighting and plumbing
● The number of fireplaces
● The condition of a swimming pool or sprinkler system
● The quality of the basement (whether it’s finished or unfinished)
● The finishing details in the home (such as granite countertops, hardwood floors, and appliances)
A home appraisal is not the same as a home inspection. Learn about the differences and the importance of home inspections.
How long does an appraisal take?
Home buyers or borrowers looking to refinance: you can expect an appraiser to be at your home from 20 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of the property. They’ll use that time to take photos of all living areas which will document the condition of the home.
Once the physical appraisal is complete, the appraiser creates a written report of findings for the mortgage lender. This generally takes three to five days. The appraiser must confirm all data, so this takes some time.
How to prepare:
Maximize your home value ahead of time, so your home appraises as high as it can. This may include significant work such as home renovations, or simple tasks like the ones listed in the checklists below:
Appraisal checklist for buying a home
- Review neighborhood home values and recent sales.
- Assess your desired home’s condition so you can plan ahead for necessary repairs.
- Include an appraisal contingency so your offer can be withdrawn if the appraisal comes up short.
- Ensure your landscaping is on point as “curb appeal” is considered during an appraisal.
- Repairing damaged drywall or painting rooms can factor into your home valuation.
- Make sure every light switch, wall outlet, fan or vent is in working condition.
- Document recent home improvements with estimated prices and dates.
- Provide copies of previous appraisals.
- Make sure all rooms of the house are accessible.
- Be flexible and coordinate the appointment around the appraiser’s schedule.
- Let the appraiser do the inspection without distraction.
Be aware of the $500 rule
Appraisers tend to value property in $500 increments – like $300,000, $300,500, $301,000, etc. Because appraisals with $500 increments are common, it’s in your best interest to make small repairs if you are selling your home or refinancing. Even the smallest of changes can contribute to the overall condition of your property.
HOUSE CLEANING TIPS WHEN SELLING YOUR HOME
Your deep cleaning checklist will help you learn how to clean your house to sell. It will help you to ensure that you don’t forget anything and, importantly, that you pay attention to those items that can be overlooked. If you’re ready to clean your home, you’ll want to start with the big things before you get to the little things.
THE BIG THINGS
A big part of learning how to clean your house to sell is knowing what the most important parts of your home to clean might be. These are the places and things in your home that are easiest for prospective buyers to spot. If they’re dirty, you can lose a sale. As such, you’ll want to pay special attention to cleaning the following areas.
FRIDGE, DISHWASHER AND OVEN
These are bigger than you think. While you might be used to how your appliances look and smell, new buyers are going to view them with fresh eyes. You’ll want to make sure they are all cleaned inside and out. There are special products for cleaning out ovens and dishwashers, so invest in those. Make sure that your fridge is emptied and that you’ve cleaned out every shelf and drawer. Put in some extra effort to make sure that each of these major appliances shines.
BATHTUBS, SINKS AND TOILETS
You already know that these are high-traffic areas, so make sure to take care of them appropriately. You’ll need to spend some serious time scrubbing here, removing every stain and bit of stray dirt. Make sure to pay extra attention to both the sinks and bathtubs, as they’re very easy for even casual observers to look into. These are areas in which a little extra effort can go a long way. Empty the garbage cans, no one wants to see trash when viewing a home.
GLASS AND MIRRORS
The goal here is to eliminate all of the streaks and smudges that you can find. Use a good glass cleaner and make sure to leave any glass surfaces as clear as possible. Good mirrors help to make rooms look larger, so you’ll want to make sure that they are clean and that they reflect the light well. Glass also needs to be dusted, as the dust particles can make your entire house look a little bit dingier than it should.
WALLS AND COUNTERS
Your walls and counters have a few different issues that need to be addressed. First and foremost are the basic marks that have accumulated over the years – a good scrubbing should get rid of most, but don’t be afraid to invest in a special cleaner if you can’t get them out.
FLOORS AND BASEBOARDS
Your floors are the easiest area to see in your home. If they’re not properly cleaned, the rest of your home will look incredibly dirty. Take the time to clean any carpets and use cleaners that you might have on your hardwood floors. You may also need to invest in methods to clean up scratches in some areas. Your baseboards should also be vacuumed and then cleaned by hand in order to get the best results. If they are scuffed up, some fresh paint is a must.
THE LITTLE THINGS
In addition to the big items, figuring out how to clean your house to sell requires being able to identify the most important little things in your house. These items might not seem like they’d cause problems, but they’re things at which most serious buyers will look before they put in an offer on a home.
All of your light fixtures need to be cleaned before you sell. This is a multi-part task, so be prepared to put in a little work. Start by cleaning the lightbulbs with the lights off of course! Next, you’ll want to clean out the inside and outside of the fixtures with a microfiber cloth. Finally, finish by removing any stains and using glass cleaner if necessary. Once you’re done you should have not only cleaner fixtures but also much brighter lights.
Your switch plates tend to accumulate a lot of wear and tear over time. Not only are you constantly switching lights on and off, but you’re also constantly touching the plates without noticing what’s on your hands. It’s very important to examine each individual plate in order to determine exactly how much work you’ll need to do. Disinfectant wipes will help with most, but you may need to replace those that are scratched up. Don’t be afraid to remove the plates in order to make sure that they are clean, as there can often be a fair bit of build-up around the edges of the plates.
VENTS AND FAN BLADES
When was the last time you really looked at your vents and fan blades? You might have done a bit of dusting from time to time, but these are areas of the home that tend to get neglected. You’re going to want to remove your vent covers and clean them both inside and out, getting rid of any accumulated dust. Some replacement upgraded vent covers can also make a room look a lot nicer. If possible, you should also remove each individual fan blade and wipe it down. Make sure that you clean the parts that are generally covered by any lighting fixtures as well so that you can really make the fan shine.
Much like your switch plates, your home’s hardware gets a lot of wear and tear that you probably haven’t noticed over the years. At a basic level, you’re looking to get rid of fingerprints and the kind of random dirt that accumulates over the years. If your hardware is metal, though, you’re going to want to use metal cleaner in order to restore it to its original look. You’re not just dealing with wear and tear here, but very real environmental damage. You’ll need to use a little elbow grease to get the best results and make the hardware look pristine.
Your windowsills are another area that tends to attract quite a bit of dirt and grime. Unfortunately, most people tend to clean these areas with a light dusting, trusting that most visitors won’t give them a second glance. It’s recommended that you don’t just dust these areas, but that wipe them down and remove any stains. If possible, you may also want to give them a quick coat of paint in order to make them look like new.
ROCK CITY Enchanted Garden of Lights is a holiday favorite of ours. I tell everyone to go to Rock City because of the fantastic views any time of the year but this month it’s transformed! Explore the Enchanted Rock City Gardens | Celebrating 90 Years (seerockcity.com)
From November 18, 2022, through January 1, 2023, the Land of Gnomes becomes magical for all ages. Register ahead unless you have a season pass. Enjoy the icy lights in the Arctic Kingdom, although I prefer to do this on a warmer night. You can go on a cold night to make it feel legit but having grown up in a colder climate, I love that Tennessee has fun holiday traditions without really having to freeze! On a very chilly night you can stay inside your car and drive through…
NOOGA LIGHTS AT CHESTER FROST PARK from November 14 -December 31, 2022. Nooga Lights | Chattanooga’s Drive-Thru Holiday Lighting Spectacular Prepay for tickets online. At $30 per car you may want to fill the car up because it is a quick tour through the park. There were some wows from the 6 years old but honestly the best car display was free…
HOLIDAY WHOVILLE AT THE CANYONS This upscale neighborhood in Hixson really had our grandson’s attention! Many of the houses were decked out in Grinch themed decor and there was even a live Grinch in one of the yards. I kept wondering where they bought all the …stuff. But I didn’t ask out loud, Christmas magic and all that and the Grinch was kind enough to acknowledge us! There is a police presence and many cars driving through.
ASIAN LANTERN FESTIVAL AT CHATTANOOGA ZOO Chattanooga Zoo (chattzoo.org) This new attraction has 38 huge lanterns depicting animals plus interactive and moving displays. I am always up to see the coyotes and cougars especially at night when they are active. Like most urban zoos, Chattanooga is a small zoo and the stroll to see all the lanterns is nice for all ages.
ANIMATED CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAY EPB at 10 W MLK BLVD Every year EPB entertains the public with displays on the Broad and Market side windows. After dinner downtown this is a great destination for a walk in the big little city!
LANDSCAPING TIPS AND TRICKS
Potential home buyers form their first impression of a home from its curb appeal. Yet often a home’s outdoor landscaping is overlooked, or underdone, in the preparation for the sales process. An attractive and well-maintained landscape can add as much as 10 percent to the value of your home.
Ideally the time to get started cleaning up your yard is about a month before you plan on showing your house. That should give you enough time to get everything looking just right and not leave the impression that you simply waited until the last minute to put things in order. Follow these tips for sprucing up your yard to help your home sell quickly.
SPUCE UP OUTDOOR CONTAINERS
Container plants, especially large tropicals, add considerable interest to patios and doorways where would-be buyers enter and exit the house. Such displays also demonstrate the endless possibilities for designing with container plants.
TOUCH UP THE MULCH
Nothing spruces up a place like a new application of mulch, so apply a fresh layer in all your garden beds. The color enhances the contrast of the surrounding plants and makes everything pop. What’s more, mulch is relatively cheap and easy to apply.
PLANT SOME INSTANT COLOR
Seasonal color makes the landscape pop as well, and flats of annuals are also relatively inexpensive. Go for a splash of several colors or a more monochromatic scheme, whatever fits in with the look of your home.
SHAPE UNSIGHTLY OR OVERGROWN BUSHES AND SHRUBS
Regardless of the season, it’s a good idea to tackle any overlooked pruning chores because nothing says neglect like a bunch of dead branches. The idea is to show how well not only your house, but your garden has been maintained. It’s okay to prune deciduous trees and shrubs any time of the year.
TEND TO PERENNIAL BEDS
Tidy up herbaceous plants, such as annuals and perennials, that don’t look as good as they should. If a plant is in such bad shape that it needs to be removed, either replace it or stick a decorative pot in its place.
Now is also a good time to dig up any plants that you want to take with you to your new home. If you intend to remove any landscape plants and haven’t already done so, you have an obligation to inform the buyer exactly which plants you plan on digging up. That’s only fair, and in many states there are restrictions on removing plants from the landscape.
CLEAN UP WATER FEATURES AND IRRIGATION ISSUES
Get rid of any visible algae, remove leaves and clean filters so that the water is crystal clear. After all, a water feature that doesn’t look good or function properly can be an instant turnoff.
If there are any problems with an irrigation system, fix them. Irrigation system repairs can be expensive, and you don’t want to lay the cost of those repairs on the buyer. Provide information about your irrigation schedule, especially if you have an automatic system. Include instructions as to how the system operates and recommend the same watering schedule that’s worked for you.
REPAIR FAUCET LEAKS
A leaking faucet suggests that there may be other problems elsewhere in the plumbing, and that can be an instant turn-off to buyers.
If you receive sufficient notice that your home is about to be shown, water a half-hour or so before the appointed time. The water reduces the glare of paved surfaces and sends the message that your plants are well-maintained. You might even consider running your irrigation system just to show that it’s working properly.
CONSIDER LABELING AS MANY PLANTS AS POSSIBLE
That way the buyer will at least know the name of each plant and can then research their growing needs. Also consider creating a complete plant inventory in scrapbook form and leaving it out on a table for prospective buyers to browse through as they tour your home. This relatively simple step can have a powerful effect on buyers, whether they’re gardeners or not.
POWER WASH DIRTY SURFACES
Consider buying or renting a power washer to clean paved surfaces. With very little time or effort, you can make grungy, grimy surfaces look brand-spanking new. Power washers also do a great job of cleaning fences, as well as brick and vinyl siding.
How to buy a home step-by-step
Understanding how to find and finance the perfect home for you
Buying a house requires a lot of time and effort, but these 10 steps can help make the home buying process manageable and help you make the best decisions possible.
Step 1: Start Your Research Early
As soon as you can, start looking at online listings. Make a note of particular homes you are interested in and see how long they stay on the market. Also, note any changes in asking prices. This will give you a sense of the housing trends in specific areas.
Step 2: Determine How Much House You Can Afford
Lenders generally recommend that people look for homes that cost no more than three to five times their annual household income if the home buyers plan to make a 20% down payment and have a moderate amount of other debt.
But you should make this determination based on your own financial situation. Use an affordability calculator to see how much house you can afford.
Step 3: Get Prequalified and Preapproved for credit for Your Mortgage
Before you start looking for a home, you will need to know how much you can actually spend. The best way to do that is to get prequalified for a mortgage. To get prequalified, you just need to provide some financial information to your mortgage banker, such as your income and the amount of savings and investments you have. Your lender will review this information and tell you how much we can lend you. This will tell you the price range of the homes you should be looking at. Later, you can get preapproved for credit, which involves providing your financial documents (W-2 statements, paycheck stubs, bank account statements, etc.) so your lender can verify your financial status and credit.
Step 4: Find the Right Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents are important partners when you’re buying or selling a home. Real estate agents can provide you with helpful information on homes and neighborhoods that isn’t easily accessible to the public. Their knowledge of the home buying process, negotiating skills, and familiarity with the area you want to live in can be extremely valuable. And best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything to use an agent – they’re compensated from the commission paid by the seller of the house.
Step 5: Shop for Your Home and Make an Offer
Start touring homes in your price range. It might be helpful to take notes on all the homes you visit. You will see a lot of houses! It can be hard to remember everything about them, so you might want to take pictures or video to help you remember each home.
It’s also important to evaluate the neighborhood and make a note of things such as:
- Are the other homes on the block well maintained?
- How much traffic does the street get?
- Is there enough street parking for your family and visitors?
- Is it conveniently located near places of interest to you: schools, shopping centers, restaurants, parks, and public transportation?
Take as much time as you need to find the right home. Then work with your real estate agent to negotiate a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes in the same neighborhood. Once you and the seller have reached agreement on a price, the house will go into escrow, which is the period of time it takes to complete all of the remaining steps in the home buying process.
Step 6: Get a Home Inspection
Typically, purchase offers are contingent on a home inspection of the property to check for signs of structural damage or things that may need fixing. Your real estate agent usually will help you arrange to have this inspection conducted within a few days of your offer being accepted by the seller. This contingency protects you by giving you a chance to renegotiate your offer or withdraw it without penalty if the inspection reveals significant material damage.
Both you and the seller will receive a report on the home inspector’s findings. You can then decide if you want to ask the seller to fix anything on the property before closing the sale. Before the sale closes, you will have a walk-through of the house, which gives you the chance to confirm that any agreed-upon repairs have been made.
Step 7: Work with a Mortgage Banker to Select Your Loan
Lenders have a wide range of competitively priced loan programs and a reputation for exceptional customer service. You will have many questions when you are purchasing a home, and having an experienced, responsive mortgage bankers to assist you can make the process much easier.
Every home buyer has their own priorities when choosing a mortgage. Some are interested in keeping their monthly payments as low as possible. Others are interested in making sure that their monthly payments never increase. And still others pick a loan based on the knowledge they will be moving again in just a few years.
Step 8: Have the Home Appraised
Lenders will arrange for an appraiser to provide an independent estimate of the value of the house you are buying. The appraiser is a member of a third-party company and is not directly associated with the lender. The appraisal will let all the parties involved know that you are paying a fair price for the home.
Step 9: Coordinate the Paperwork
As you can imagine, there is a lot of paperwork involved in buying a house. Your lender will arrange for a title company to handle all the paperwork and make sure that the seller is the rightful owner of the house you are buying.
Step 10: Close the Sale
At closing, you will sign all the paperwork required to complete the purchase, including your loan documents. It typically takes a couple of days for your loan to be funded after the paperwork is returned to the lender. Once the check is delivered to the seller, you are ready to move into your new home.