Misconceptions Than Can End Up Cost You Part Two

If you saw my last article, you learned that there were quite a few misconceptions about homeownership that could actually end up costing you quite a bit of money and time. Whether you are buying a house with my help or maintaining the one you already have, I want to make sure that you have all the information necessary to keep your home up to the standards you want.

So, let’s take a look at some more myths that you want to avoid.

A Recommendation Isn’t Always Enough to Hire a Contractor

While recommendations from friends help you find friendly people who do great work, they aren’t always enough when you want to hire a contractor. This is because they don’t only need to look like they’ve done a good job, but the work has to be stable enough to last for years, follow all necessary code, and they need to be reliable.

After you get a recommendation from a friend, check sites to see if you can find an online presence for them with reviews to see how others’ experience with them was.

If you are undertaking a large project and want to be certain that your contractor will do everything as they should, talk to a local building inspector to see if your potential contractor has met code on past properties that they’ve worked on.

Other questions you can ask before hiring your contractor is for some past clients you can talk to and how often they do projects like yours. If you think of this as a job interview, it makes more sense. After all, if you’re spending a lot of money on a large, time-consuming project, you want to make sure that it’s done correctly.

Turning Off Your AC Might Not Be the Best Choice

You want to save money on your air conditioning bill while helping the environment at the same time, but turning off your air conditioning might not be the best choice. In fact, this could end up costing you more money.

In the summertime, if you turn off your air completely, the house can dramatically heat up. This means that when you come home and turn it back on, it has to work overtime to cool the entire house.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should leave the temperature very low in the summer months when you’re not home. Instead, turn it up 5-10 degrees when you’re gone so that it saves you money while you’re gone, but still only has to adjust to a smaller change when you get back to your house.

If you want to take the high-tech options, you can install a programmable thermostat that changes temperatures at different times of the day, many of which you can change directly from your smartphone.

Duct Tape Does Not Actually Work to Seal Ductwork

Even though the names sound familiar, you shouldn’t try to fix your HVAC’s ductwork with duct tape. Duct tape does not seal leaks well because the hot air from the HVAC system degrades the glue. This means that it deteriorates over just a few years, meaning that air conditioning will escape before cooling off your house.

So, what should you do instead? You can use duct mastic to seal metal and flexible ductwork. This is a gooey substance that dries after it is applied. Combine it with a layer of fiberglass mesh if the gap is bigger than 1/16 of an inch wide.

Bleach is Not Enough to Get Rid of Mold

Well, sometimes it is. Bleach can actually destroy the mold on non-porous surfaces. However, it doesn’t work well on absorbent materials, such as grout, drywall, caulk, carpet, and insulation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the bleach seems to remove the mold, it only takes away the color so it isn’t visible anymore. Additionally, if you attempt to use bleach combined with water to clean it, this could actually create more mold because the surface could absorb the water.

Instead, buy an anti-fungal product that kills the mold from its roots. If you need to get rid of mold that is larger than about 10 square feet, you should hire a professional who can get rid of it safely and permanently.

You Should Never Put Dryer Sheets in Air Vents

Someone had the idea that putting a dryer sheet in your air vent will help your house smell good at all times, and it was widely circulated throughout social media. However, this is extremely unsafe.

It blocks the flow of air in the air vents, meaning that not only do you have to pay more for the extra energy the HVAC system has to use, but this could also pose a fire risk in the winter.

All you have to do to is buy candles, scented plug-ins, sprays, or any other number of options to make your house smell great without the extra energy expenditure or risk of fire.

An additional misconception about air vents that we hear a lot is that you have to change them every single month. This isn’t actually true. While it’s best if you check them every month, they typically need to be changed about every three months (sometimes sooner, but never later).

While you won’t save a lot of money on this one, it could save you about $100/year and your time.

Now that you understand the misconceptions that can cost you time, safety, and money, you can be sure to avoid them and keep your home nice for your whole family.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

Misconceptions That Can End Up Costing You

Today, misconceptions about your home are being spread faster than ever. From viral posts shared on Facebook to the popularity of TV programs that discuss buying, selling, or flipping homes, more misinformation is out there than ever before.

Let’s take a look at some of these myths to make sure you avoid them.

How careful are you with your stone countertop?

Unless your countertop is made of incredibly tough diamond, it can be damaged. Many people proport the popular myth that countertops made of marble, quartz, travertine, soapstone, and limestone can’t be stained, but this is false. In fact, all of these can be stained.

Your marble countertops might have cost you a pretty penny, but it can be scratched and stained easily. Not only this, but any type of acidic beverage like soda or coffee creates a cloudy spot in marble. This process is known as etching. This means that you should immediately clean any acidic beverage, including wine or lemon juice, to avoid any problems.

However, typical household cleaners can dull the surface of any type of stone countertop, so be sure to buy a cleaner that is specifically made for your countertop stone type.

Another issue that can come up is discoloration of stone countertops. This happens under direct heat, so make sure you don’t put a hot pan directly on the surface.

If you’d like to not worry about your countertops so much, your best bet is granite because it doesn’t stain or scratch like the other options.

Does your smoke detector really work?

This one isn’t as much of a misconception as it is a simple and understandable mistake. First of all, if you check your smoke detector like you should twice a year by using the test button, you deserve a gold star.

Although some of us accidentally ‘test’ our smoke detectors by not being the best chefs, this is an incredibly important aspect of your safety that you shouldn’t disregard.

However, even if you’re using the test button twice a year, you still might not be doing what you should. Essentially, this check will only alert you to whether your alarm sound works or not. Well, what else do you need to know? Even if your alarm sound works, the actual sensor that detects the smoke might not.

This means that you should actually regularly test the detector with smoke. The easiest way to do this is to blow out a match directly under the unit. From here, you can see if both the alarm and sensor are working.

Do you really have to clean gutter guards too?

Most people think that cleaning their gutters is all that’s necessary and buy gutter guards to lighten up the work they need to do outside of the house. However, believe it or not, you have to clean gutter guards as well.

Of course, leaves shouldn’t be able to fit into gutter guards, but this doesn’t stop all of the small debris from clogging it up. Seeds, flower buds, and more, can get through them, meaning that while you’ll have a lot less work than without gutter guards, you’ll still need to keep an eye on them and clean them when necessary.

Can a lemon help you clean your garbage disposal?

Unfortunately, no. Of course, this natural way to clean would be better for the environment, it isn’t better for your pipes because of the lemon’s acidic properties. In fact, it eventually would corrode any metal in your disposal.

Others claim to use coffee grounds, instead, to clean it, but this isn’t the best decision either. While they can clean the blades, the coffee then clogs the pipes, leaving you in a worse mess than what you started with.

Your best natural disposal cleaning option is actually baking soda. It cleans the blades well because of its slight abrasiveness, but won’t damage the metal, so you’ve got the best of both worlds.

How short should you really mow your lawn?

Many people seem to say that if you cut your grass very short, you won’t have to mow it as often. This piece of misinformation is actually slightly based in fact because if you cut your grass too short, it will actually die.

Technically, then, this is true because you would have to mow less, but no one wants a lawn with grass that’s completely dead.

If you cut your grass too short, this plant won’t have the energy to fight off weeds, pests, or the heat of the sun’s rays. While you might have to mow a little more often if you don’t cut your grass super short, your lawn will look much, much better.

Should I redo my kitchen before I sell my house?

I’ve actually written an article before about which remodels will increase the value of your home and which won’t. After TV show after TV show came out showing people the fun and value of remodeling their homes (especially the kitchen), this became extremely popular.

Unfortunately, remodeling your kitchen with decorative pieces and trendy cabinets won’t increase the value. This is because trends change, sometimes quickly. For example, remember how popular wallpaper used to be? Now, almost no new homes have this touch.

In addition to this, everyone has different tastes, so you don’t want to design your home flashy way someone else wouldn’t like. If you do redo your kitchen or other parts of your home, aim for neutral styles and colors. One thing that could truly help your home sell is a fresh coat of neutral paint.

Save your money from these misconceptions

Now that you know some of the most common misconceptions that homeowners believe, you can easily avoid them, saving yourself money and problems in the long run.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.


How to prepare to move with kids

Moving can be hard. With kids, things can be even more difficult. Will you be in your new home before school starts? Will your gets get emotional leaving their home and neighbors? What about scheduling around nap time (especially if you’re looking in a different time zone)?


Otherwise, learn how to make age-appropriate plans so you can find the perfect home for you and your family with the least amount of stress.


The age of your child or children matters quite a bit when you’re planning how to schedule showings and deal with the emotional response to moving.


Luckily, if you have an infant, you don’t have to worry about your child wanting to stay in the same neighborhood or fighting you when you ask them to pack up their toys. If they’re very young, they can just be brought along with no problem, hopefully sleeping most of the time.

Make sure you bring all supplies for feeding and changing and try to not linger in the homes so you can get your baby back in their normal schedule as soon as possible.

If you’re driving a long way to see the homes, this can be more difficult, but make sure to plan some breaks into your day.


Toddlers are, of course, more difficult than infants when it comes to looking at houses and moving. Anyone with a child this age knows that they don’t have a very long attention span and can get bored pretty quickly.

If you don’t have a babysitter for the day, make sure you bring some distractions for your toddler. Bring more than one toy in case they get bored or restless because sometimes things can take longer than you plan for, with things like traffic and other potential buyers viewing the same house.

You don’t have to overthink it; just bring some things you know your toddler will enjoy, like their favorite toy and game. If you are busy the entire day looking at homes, maybe even pack some new surprises that will be sure to hold their attention when the normal toys have become boring.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it is probably better to avoid open houses with children this age. There are a couple reasons for this.

First, you might feel like you can’t spend as much time as you would like really looking at all the nooks and crannies in the home because of all the other people around. Additionally, you might feel pressured to rush because you can’t help keep your children entertained with a toy or game if there are many other people in the house.

Over age 6

Of course, you should still keep your children occupied while shopping for homes by bringing games and toys. Depending on their age, you can also bring an iPad or tablet pre-loaded with many different age-appropriate apps to keep them busy for hours.

Beyond this, though, it’s time to start focusing on the more emotional aspect of moving, not just making sure they don’t get too bored. Kids should start to be mentally prepared for an upcoming move as soon as the details about when and what city are definite. If you as an adult need time to mentally adjust to a move, your child does, too.

Moves can either be a time of great happiness or excitement, like your family is expecting another child and wants to upgrade, or less so like a parent got laid off from a job and now the family is downsizing. Whether out of happiness or not, moving can be very emotional.

Sometimes, you need to be more gentle about preparing your kids for the move than others. For example, if the child perceives the move as coming from something negative, like their parents getting divorced, they should be given more time to adjust.

How can you help them get ready for this change?

Help them see the new life they’ll have in their new home

After you’ve decided on a particular area, drive your child around and show them what could grow to be their new favorite places.

Take them to the community soccer field or swimming pool and grab some ice cream at a local shop. Make sure they know that just because they’re moving, their favorite activities can continue.

Once you’ve decided on a house, make a list of the things your child wants in it to make it feel like more of a home. Help them envision themselves living there by asking exactly where they want to put their bed or their prized rock collection. For a bit more fun, maybe you can make plans build a treehouse in the backyard, too.

Are the kids involved in the decision?

Families have many different opinions on this, and there’s certainly not one right answer, and it greatly depends on the age of your child.

With some families, the opinion of the child is immensely important. If they truly dislike the house, yard, or neighborhood, the parents might not buy it. The older the child is, the more likely this is going to happen.

However, some parents, especially if they are moving because of a divorce or loss of a job, find the child’s opinion distracting and don’t ask for it.

Of course, sometimes children can’t understand that the price of the home they want might be out of the family’s budget. If you don’t take their opinion into consideration because of budgeting concerns, try explaining this in age-appropriate terms. While they might not immediately forgive you, they’ll understand in time.

Don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, though. Maybe you can narrow down the houses in your budget to your top three favorites, then ask your child’s opinion from there. This leaves everyone happy with the choice.

Then, don’t forget to let your young kids help so they feel like they are really a part of the move. If they aren’t old enough to actually pack, give them stickers to ‘label’ the boxes so they feel like they’re helping.

Enjoy your new home

Taking a few tips and tricks into account will make shopping for a house and moving into your new home much easier so you can enjoy the exciting process of buying a new home!

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or her office at 865-577-6600.


How to Find a Good Home Inspector

Home inspections can be a very important and potentially revealing part of your home buying experience. If you aren’t buying something that you know is a fixer-upper, it’s important that you have all the facts about the home and its potential problems.

If you’re unlucky, you can find yourself with a home inspector who just wants to get the job done, not caring about inspecting very well. Or perhaps you find a home inspector at the other end of the spectrum–one who writes down every single tiny issue, scaring the buyers away from buying what was actually a great house.

However, if you find yourself a good inspector, he or she can save you time, money, and problems that could be much bigger in the future.

What do most home inspections cover?

Typically, home inspections will check out the structural integrity of the house, different cosmetic features, and any important mechanical systems. This includes heating and cooling systems, electrical, plumbing, built-in appliances, the foundation, insulation, ventilation, and more.

A thorough inspection looks for all of the basics in addition to leaks, typical insect infestation, unsafe wiring, mold and mildew, and any type of safety hazard.

It’s important that you get someone who is knowledgeable because home inspectors have to cover quite a bit of ground and have a lot of expertise. While it’s impossible to expect them to find every single potential problem, we can help you find the best possible inspector.

One thing to keep in mind is that, if you choose to check for termites, you’ll typically have to hire a different type of inspector who specializes in this.

The time and complexity of a home inspection is completely dependent on the house. Sometimes a home inspector can be in and out in a couple hours, whereas other times it can take half the day. For typical homes, they’ll usually cost from $300 to $800, but this can range depending on the structure and age of the house.

While this range is very wide and it is important to shop around to find the best price, make sure that you don’t sacrifice quality in this regard. Your home is likely the most expensive purchase in your lifetime. This means that if you need to spend an extra $100 for the home inspector with 10 more years of experience who comes highly recommended, you’re likely getting more bang for your buck.

After they’ve completed the job, the home inspector will give you a written report with photographs and descriptions of any issues they found. This way, you’ll be able to understand the damage and get repair estimates much easier.

Make sure that your home inspector offers a real, written report about the inspection with details specific about your home, not a simple one-size-fits-all checklist. The report will have a detailed picture of the house on the day they performed the inspection, itemizing each major component and its condition.

Then, it’ll include all items that are in need of typical maintenance or attention, making it so you can be proactive in your approach to home maintenance. After this, it’ll show you each item that needs major repairs. Oftentimes, the seller will pay for these items to be repaired.

How to find your home inspector

If you’re in East Tennessee, we at Priority Real Estate can give you great recommendations for expert home inspectors in our area.

Otherwise, you can check out a list of your local inspectors on the American Society of Home Inspectors website at www.ashi.org. Make sure you check for someone that isn’t just a specialist like a plumber but instead has a background in home inspections. If they have a background in building, this is a big plus.

Ask how long they’ve been in the business and if they can provide you with any references, and make sure to double check that they have a verified license with the state agency (if your state regulates inspectors).

If your state doesn’t regulate inspectors, try to see if they are on the ASHI’s website. Some other respectable organizations include the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO).

Of course, they don’t need to be a part of these organizations, but if they are, it can help you have some insight into their background and involvement.

Sometimes, inspectors can get certifications obtained through just a couple weeks of studying or even buy a certificate through trade organizations. That’s why it’s very important to learn about your inspector’s experience. There’s really no equivalent to years of experience inspecting homes.

Your inspector should have errors and omissions insurance and double check that their schedule can work with when you’d like to close on your house.

Another thing that you might want to take into consideration is the tools that your potential home inspector is planning on using. While it might be common for talented and experienced inspectors to bring almost nothing more than a flashlight, paper, and pencil to a home, there are many new technologies available today that can help them stay ahead of the curve.

Taking advantage of the best testing equipment available today means that they are likely dedicated to providing you with the best possible services, even if sometimes that can mean an investment in new technology.

This equipment can be anything from electronic carbon monoxide analyzers to moisture meters to electrical circuit analyzers. These tools are often necessary for making sure that your home is up to the standards that it should be reaching.

Finding a home inspector can be a daunting task. After all, they do need to know a lot about your future home. If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your path to finding the best possible specialist for your home. Instead, if you’re in East Tennessee, give us a call at 865-577-6600 for the best recommendations.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

Secrets of Staging Companies

Staging companies come in and set up furniture in your house in a perfect way that appeals to buyers. This can greatly increase the number of people interested in your home, as well as how much they are willing to offer.

Luckily, you don’t have to fundamentally change anything about your house, just simply reorganize it. Do you want to know their secrets without shelling out the big bucks?

No more clutter

Speaking of clutter, it isn’t important just to make sure that you don’t have papers all over the counter or closets that are bursting with disorganization. Instead, you have to remove the clutter that you might not even notice after years of living in your house.

This is where the staging experts come in handy. Because the home is new to them, they can walk into the living room and see that there is way too much furniture. What could be a loving family room actually becomes cramped.

To avoid this, try to look at your house with new eyes. Of course, make sure all of the top-level clutter, like messiness, is gone, but also make moves like taking out some pieces of furniture to make your home feel larger and more open.

Center furniture

On the note of making your home look larger by reorganizing the furniture, make sure that you don’t have anything pushed up against the wall. Many people would assume that pushing that couch back gives more room to walk around, but this is actually the opposite of what you should do.

If you instead group furniture together, rather than pushing it up against the wall, you can help guide the room’s traffic flow, making it look less empty and more usable.

Never underestimate light

Bright lights in a home accomplish a number of different goals. It will look larger, as well as more friendly and open. Although simply adding some lights seems like such a small thing to do, don’t underestimate it.

What many consider to be a good rule is about 100 watts of lighting per every 50 square feet. Staging experts know how to utilize task light, ambient light, and accent lighting to make your house appear warmer and larger.

Soften the bedroom

As we’ve talked about in previous articles, it’s usually the kitchen that really sells the house. However, this doesn’t mean you can ignore the bedrooms. Walking into a master bedroom where future homeowners can envision themselves relaxing is very important in making a sale.

In order to accomplish this, only choose soft colors for things in the bedroom, from the paint to the comforter set on the bed. Of course, you don’t need to replace your bed, but the bedding should have soft colors paired with a neutral pattern.

Additionally, make sure the closets are as empty and organized as you could possibly make them. Everyone knows that there can never be enough storage space, but making your closet look larger is always a benefit.

Neutral tones throughout the house

Neutral tones are best used throughout the house. Even if you have a beautiful accent wall, bright colors often drive buyers away because they might not like the particular color you’ve chosen and they don’t want to invest the time and money to repaint it.

Because of this, sticking to colors like light gray, beige, or tan is perfect if you decide to repaint your house before putting it on the market. With colors like these, particularly if you are replacing wallpaper with a neutral light gray, will help give your home a more modern feel.

With these colors, people are better able to envision themselves in the home without worrying about their artwork or furniture conflicting with any bright, bold colors.

Strategically place wall decorations

First, take away the pictures of your family and friends that are scattered throughout your walls. Once again, this is about helping the potential buyers see themselves in your house. This is more difficult to do while seeing old family photos.

Then, organize those paintings and other artwork so their spacing and height are varied so more attention is drawn to them. If you’re unsure exactly how to organize your artwork, try imitating some pictures that you see in magazines or online.

Utilize every room

If you’re like my family, you might have a “junk” room, where all the miscellaneous items that you aren’t exactly sure where to put end up. If so, it’s finally time to clear out this room. First, organize, pack, and sell anything that can’t remain in this room.

Then, give the room a purpose. Is it large enough for a guest room? Great, decorate it like that. If not, or if you want to save money, perhaps simply set up some small pieces of furniture to make it a small closet. Instead, it could become an office.

Whatever you choose to do with it, make sure you give the room a purpose other than a simple extra, unused room. If you do this, you’ll add a lot of value to your home and give it that extra kick.

Any projects going on?

We all know how it goes. You start a project with all the motivation in the world after seeing a particularly inspiring HGTV episode, but then life comes along and you keep putting off this project until weeks turned into months (and possibly even years).

Now is the time to finally finish them. Buyers noticed these little unfinished projects and they are a large deterrent. Additionally, if something left unfinished could present a safety hazard, it could make it so your home does not pass inspection.

So, finish those projects and make sure everything is up to code. And, while you’re at it, make any minor repairs that won’t take very long but you’ve been putting off because they aren’t very important. Small things can make a big difference to potential buyers.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll be staging like a pro in no time.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

Top Tips for Your Open House

Getting visitors to your open house can sometimes prove a real challenge. And once the day finally arrives, how do you guarantee everything will go according to plan?

Don’t worry; we’ve got some tips that’ll help you get all those potential home-buyers to your open house, as well as make sure the house is looking it’s best once they arrive.

Advertise online AND local papers (even very small ones)

Many agents are beginning to switch to exclusively online advertising. After all, they want to get the best bang for their buck and studies show the majority of people today search for homes to buy or rent online.

In fact, I recommend that you advertise your site everywhere you can online, including sites like Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In addition to that, though, don’t forget print advertising. Large magazines such as Homes & Land are great to get the word of your available properties out to a large audience, but don’t underestimate the local newspapers. This is particularly true in small towns.

With these strategically placed ads in both online and print locations, people are sure to know about your open house.

Make sure you have great pictures

This partially fits with the advertising tip, but it’s so important it needs its own section.

If you post the open house on Facebook (or any other site), it’s absolutely necessary to include pictures with the post. Your ad will get much more engagement with pictures and help draw people to the house.

Consider hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of every room of the house, the outside, and any property that is included. Depending on the house, you should also look into getting a video filmed by a drone of the home and the surrounding area.

Don’t underestimate the potential for great photos and videos to help your home get shared around social media and bring many more people out to the open house.

Offer free food

Honestly, who can say no to free food? You’re pretty much guaranteed to get a larger number of guests at an open house that advertises free food than one that doesn’t.

While it’s true that some of these people might just be stopping in to check out the free snacks, the majority are genuinely interested drawn out by the extra incentive of free food.

Of course, you don’t need to buy a 5 star, eight-course meal, but some finger foods picked up at your local grocery store will go a long way in getting guests to your open house.

Strategically place signs in advance

While knocking on the neighbors’ doors could be seen as intrusive (and even against the rules of certain neighborhoods), you have to let them know about the open house somehow.

Chances are, neighbors aren’t actively searching for available homes around them on the internet or in the newspaper, but they often know of friends or family members who are very interested in the neighborhood.

Because of this, it’s very important that these neighbors know about the open house. Rather than being a nuisance, place a sign in the yard detailing the date and time of the open house, as well as several pointer signs with “Open House” written on them.

With this, you’ll certainly catch the attention of those who are living nearby the home who could suggest your potential future buyer.

Always follow up

Keep track of everyone that enters with a sign-in sheet that includes their name, email, and phone number. Then, input this information into whatever you use to keep track of leads, whether this is an application or a simple Excel sheet.

Afterwards, make sure to follow up with every person that came to your open house. Even if they weren’t interested in that particular house, you can help them search for one that fits their needs better.

The art of following up is important for almost every aspect of real estate, open houses included.

Depersonalize the home

This one should be done not only during an open house but anytime potential buyers are viewing the house.

Make sure you put away all pictures of the family that is currently living in the house and any odd design features. This includes anything religious in nature, awards or other items with the owners’ names on them, and anything else particular to the owners.

Buyers like to envision themselves in the house and this is much more difficult if there are pictures or specific details of the current owners throughout it. However, don’t go through too much trouble getting this done, as there’s no actual data that proves it leads to more sales.

Last minute checklist (temperature, valuables, cleanliness, pets, lights on, etc)

Print yourself out a last-minute checklist and take it with you while you’re setting up for the event. Is the temperature set to a comfortable degree? Check. Are all the loose valuables put away? Check. Is the house clean, particularly the small details that buyers tend to notice such as clean windows and organized closets? Check.

Another thing to put on your to-do list is to make sure all the lights are on to make the home look more open and welcoming.

Also, all pets should be put away, preferably outside if possible. This helps you avoid trouble with guests who could have allergies or simply don’t like pets, as well as the off-chance that the pet could have an accident inside during the open house.

Having this checklist will help you feel much more comfortable knowing that you aren’t forgetting anything important so you can focus your attention on the open house guests.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her website www.MicheleKarl.com, her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.


To remodel or not to remodel?

You know the old saying: you have to spend money to make money. This potentially applies to houses too. There are certain aspects of a home that, if remodeled, could help you get a much higher offer. Although, if you don’t have much excess cash to spare but still want top dollar for your home, there are plenty of budget-friendly options, too.

Keep in mind, though, that remodeling might not be your best option. Large projects can take much more time and money than they are actually worth it, so make sure you read this article carefully before unnecessarily remodel something.

Major Remodels

Probably a bad idea

First, let’s start with the simple one. If you’re thinking about doing a major remodel on a home that you’re planning to sell soon, the solution in this situation is almost always NOT to do the major remodel.

These large renovations include things like adding an in-ground swimming pool, finishing a basement, or doing a major kitchen remodel.

Let’s say you already have the entire changes planned out, including exactly what materials you want, who you’re going to hire to do it, and the exact timeline. Let me just tell you from experience that the details you choose in the beginning will almost always change.

The timeline will, 99% of the time, be longer than expected. Contractors sometimes have issues with their staff, the store might be sold out of the material you need for week, and many more problems that are simply out of your control will inevitably happen.

So, with these very common issues alone, it is usually not the smartest decision to undertake a major remodel if you’d like to sell your home in a relatively short timeline.

If you don’t have a specific date in mind but know that you’ll be selling your house in the future, there are still some aspects to consider about major remodels.

First, realize that large renovations almost never give you a high ROI. In fact, according to Remodeling magazine, these projects offer an average 62% return on investment. When they do, it’s typically because it’s a seller’s market or you’re located in a good area. So, with all of the potential problems and the small return on your investment, it doesn’t make much sense.

If you’d like to put a pool in your backyard for your family because you don’t plan on selling for another 5 years, of course that’s fine. Just don’t expect to get your money back when it comes time to sell.

Second, don’t forget that not everyone has the same taste as you. If you spend a lot of money on a renovation that you think it absolutely beautiful, understand that buyers might not think the same.

Which major remodels are worth it?

The only time when a major project is worth taking on is when your house has odd features that need to be fixed. For example, let’s say you have a two-story house with the master bedroom located downstairs, but only one bathroom and it’s located upstairs.

In an odd event like this, it could be worth the cost to put a bathroom on a main level. This would greatly increase the number potential buyers, leaving you with more competition and a higher offer price.

Another expensive remodel that might be worth it is repairing the roof. If it hasn’t been updated in many years, this might be called out in the inspection anyway. So, if you repair it at the beginning, you could get a better offer and not have to worry about it when the home inspection rolls around.

One more sometimes costly change is replacing your home’s vinyl siding. The curbside appeal is very important to potential buyers. Make sure you don’t replace the vinyl before first hiring someone to pressure wash it to see if it even needs to be replaced! Getting rid of all that dirt and grime can really do wonders.

Smaller renovations

Here is where the discussion really begins. Smaller renovations, especially those you can do yourself, are usually a great plan to help you get more money for your house.

One of the first changes you can make to your house is to paint all of the walls in a nice, neutral color (gray is in right now). Additionally, touching up the molding with a bright, shiny white will help more than you can imagine. These changes will automatically cover up a lot of wear-and-tear the house has gone through over the years, making it look cleaner and newer without much cost.

Don’t forget to make sure all holes or dents in the walls are filled in before you paint everything! Trust me, you might think that big hole from when your doorstop broke isn’t noticeable behind the door, but it is.

Another simple update to make your home look newer is changing the light fixtures. If your fixtures are from the 70s, it’s pretty obvious. Not only is the material chipping, but the design is very old-fashioned.

Low-cost but simple, elegant light fixtures can be found at most home improvement stores, and they’re a nice small touch to make the house look more modern.

Of course, some obvious renovations that will be worth your time and money are things like fixing any leaking pipes or faucets and repairing any nonworking appliances.

If your stove is covered in grease and won’t come clean after years of use, it might be worth buying a new one. Many wholesale stores sell these for great prices, and don’t forget sites like Craigslist if you aren’t looking for a brand-new appliance.

The last simple, but important, update is to swap out your old-looking doorknobs, especially the one on the front door. You don’t notice how dated and dirty it looks when you use it every day, but new buyers certainly will.

So, a simple recap: these small renovations can usually work wonders with getting you a good ROI, but you should almost always skip the larger ones.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.


How to tell if your agent is right for you

I hate to say it, but you need to know the truth: all agents aren’t created equally. Some truly enjoy helping you buy the home of your dreams or sell your house and start a new phase in your life, while others simply don’t.

Additionally, certain agents are just more experienced or have better negotiation skills. So, how do you find the right real estate agent who will fight for you while you’re navigating the complicated (and expensive) streets of home buying and selling?

Ask previous clients

One simple way to discover if your agent will be great for you is to talk to his or her previous clients. First, you should ask your agent if there are any particular people they’ve worked with recently that will be disappointed. Then, give your agent a chance to explain themselves.

Agents aren’t perfect, but sometimes they’re expected to be and are blamed for circumstances that are out of their control. For example, if an appraisal comes back very low or high and the sale is unable to close at the accepted price, this could be something completely unpredictable.

After you’ve asked about exceptions, you can get a list of past clients and their contact information (as long as the previous clients agree to be called). This will generally help you understand how the agent has performed in the past.

If you don’t want to give anybody a call, there are often review sites online that you can look at, such as your agent’s Facebook page. It’s important to keep in mind that you should disregard the few exceptionally low or high reviews and instead choose to focus on the average.

How long have they been in the business?

This one isn’t always a great way to tell if the agent will be right for you, but it can usually help.

It is true that new agents are still learning and won’t know as much as an experienced agent. However, this could mean that they will bend over backward for you to prove themselves and help you as much as possible.

Another thing to consider is that every agent has a more experienced broker they must work under who they can usually go to for questions. If the business is smaller and the agent can go to the broker for every question they have, you might not even realize they’re new. However, there is the risk that the broker will not be able to help on a regular basis, leaving you with an agent who doesn’t know much about the market or the business.

This comes down to you. If you trust the new agent to work extra hard to compensate or you know through previous customers that agent’s lack of experience doesn’t affect the process, hire them. Otherwise, search for a more experienced agent in your area.

Ask about their previous listings

This accomplishes a couple different things if you’re looking to sell your house. First, you should look at how long the listings were on the market.

If it’s a very slow market period, it isn’t the agent’s fault if they don’t sell quickly. If you’re unsure about the current market, you can see how long it took similar houses during the same time to sell.

Additionally, sometimes people will not lower the price of their home or stage it how the realtor recommends, so nothing can be done to help the house sell.

However, if there is a constant pattern of houses taking an extensive amount of time to sell, there is probably a reason for this. Perhaps your agent doesn’t advertise the home well, doesn’t answer or return phone calls, or doesn’t know the market well enough to help choose a good price for the home.

Another reason for checking their previous listings is to see if they are similar to yours. If you’re looking to buy or sell a piece of land in the country, but the agent only has experience buying and selling apartments in the city center, they might not be the right agent for you.

They communicate well

Does the agent you’re considering answer the phone (within reasonable hours) and return missed calls quickly? Do they always call you or send you an email when they say they’re going to? Are they on time for your showing appointments or meetings? If not, consider not hiring this agent.

If they aren’t communicating with you in the beginning when they are attempting to sell your house or help you find one to buy, they certainly won’t communicate better later.

For example, if an agent wants to list your house but doesn’t communicate well with you, it is almost a guarantee that they will not answer the phone or regularly return missed calls when future agents or potential home-buyers call them. This means that your only chance of selling your house is if the buyer’s agent is determined for his or her clients.

Of course, agents do not have to be on-call 24/7. They are human beings with personal lives as well. However, being an agent usually does mean taking calls on the weekends and after the typical 5 pm (or setting up an answering service if the agent wishes).

If an agent never answers their phone or returns phone calls, it is extremely frustrating both for you and the person on the other end of this process. It’s a simple fact that along with being a realtor comes regular communication. So, make sure you only choose an agent who takes this into consideration.

How to choose?

There are some incredible real estate agents who love helping you find a new home or sell your existing one. However, there are also agents who don’t do as much as they could for their clients.

Following this list will help you recognize if your potential agent will be the former or the later because everyone deserves someone who cares when going through such an expensive and emotional process.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.


When is the best time to buy or sell your home?

On the second night under a full moon on Sunday when Jupiter is aligned–this is the day that you should buy or sell your home. Just kidding! It’s not actually that complicated. Yet, there are quite a few things to consider.

Of course, as a seller, you want the highest price you can get for you home. And, as a buyer, you usually want the opposite. So, the advice is different for buyers and sellers. Below, I’ve included tips for both so you can be as prepared as possible.

If you’re a seller…

As the smell of flowers fill the air, get ready to list your house because spring is the season of selling houses. There are many buyers out looking for new homes to move into during the summer during spring and early summer. According to a study by Zillow, May 1 – May 15 are the perfect days to list your house.

If you wait a bit to list your house, this could be okay as long as it’s not too late in the summer season. But, if you have the ability to fully control when you list your house, choose the days above.

School will be letting out for the summer soon and parents want to get a jump start on finding a house to move into during those warm months. It is incredibly popular for families with school-aged children to move during this season in order to not force a child to change schools in the middle of the year.

For those families that want to move in the summer, they often begin their search in the spring. As the air warms, people start to feel more encouraged and enthusiastic.

This is a smart move, as finding the perfect home, getting an accepted contract, and making it to closing, can take a few months at time. Also, if you wait until the late months of summer to list your house, not only will you miss out on a lot of families with young children, but also on those who are taking this time for vacation.

One of the reasons that you should sell your house during this time is because there are many more buyers looking, which means more competition. And as we know, this means you will likely get a better price for your home during this time.

However, it’s important to consider that this is also a popular time to sell homes, so there isn’t just competition from buyers finding their new home, but from sellers attempting to sell theirs at the same time.

Don’t worry though; the research shows that you are still more likely to get more for your home in the spring.

If you are unable to list your property during the spring or early summer months, it might be best to wait for fall. During early autumn, there is a new (although smaller) rush to find a new home before Christmas.

If you are unable to control the circumstances of when you list your house, or you’re simply very eager to sell it, don’t worry about listing it in the times not shown here.

While you are statistically more likely to get a better price for your home in spring and early summer, consider that there will be less competition from other sellers during off-times. There are still very serious buyers year-round.

If you’re a buyer…

While that bright sun peaks your optimism, it also peaks prices. About half of all homes are sold in the summertime, but most sellers and realtors know this. With the large amount of buyers competing over the homes, the price immediately goes up.

If you don’t have to worry about moving a child between schools or other worries, it’s best to avoid buying in these summer months. As winter is beginning, about late November through January, prices fall.

As reported by Time Magazine, median home prices in the summer of 2014 were $220,000. By the following January the median price had already dropped below $200,000. While this data is not related to the median size, age, or quality of the house, this is a continuous trend.

However, as mentioned in the previous section for sellers, competition matters. While there is less competition from buyers leading to you often achieving a better deal for the same home, it’s also true that many sellers wait until the off-season is over to list their homes.

This means that there is less of a selection of homes to buy in late fall or winter months. The number of homes on the market begins to decline in about September, moving pretty steadily downwards until after the holidays.

As expected, spring and summer months bring the highest number of options for buying a home. Although, condos aren’t bound by this rule, as typically condo owners don’t have to wait for the summer because of children in school.

With that said, it’s important to realize that you shouldn’t put your plans on hold for a certain season if it is difficult. The trade-off between achieving a cheaper price or having more selection is also an important consideration.

While these months, statistically, will help you get the best price for a home, many other things come into consideration, such as the amount of down payment you’re able to make and the current interest rate.

Finding an experienced real estate agent who will have expertise with the quarks of the market in your area is invaluable. If you are looking to buy in the East Tennessee area, I’d be happy to discuss the best times for you particularly, considering your circumstances and this specific area.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

The price is right..or is it?

If you’re a seller, your dream is to immediately get a full market value offer. But, how do you know if the price you set for your house is too high? There are so many things to consider when establishing a price, such as the neighborhood, market climate, and (of course) the house itself.

Follow these tips to make sure the price for your home is right.

Don’t let your emotions get in the way

It’s normal that you have a strong emotional attachment to the home where you raised your children, but, unfortunately, the buyers don’t.

While you might believe that it’s justified to have a higher price tag on your home, if your agent is telling you that the price is simply too high to sell, take the advice and lower it. Letting go of an emotional attachment to a house is hard, but if you decide to sell, a must.

Perhaps, instead, you think your real estate agent was simply wrong in the price they suggested. While this can happen occasionally, particularly if you have an inexperienced agent that does not know the area or market well, they probably have a good idea about what the price should be.

If you decide to set the price higher than your agent’s recommendation, read on for some more ways to tell if the price is actually too high.

Where are all the people?

If your home has been on the market for a while and hasn’t had many showing or any offers, there’s a very good chance the price is too high.

Consider that your home will almost always have more showings in June than in January, following the market pattern, and that the market will affect how many potential buyers and offers you will receive.

If you aren’t in any rush to sell and it’s a buyer’s market, consider waiting to list your property until a later date. However, if you need to sell now, the market might dictate that you drop your asking price to what potential buyers will realistically pay.

However, generally speaking, if you don’t have many showings or offers on your home after it’s been on the market a couple of months, it’s priced too high.

Priced higher than neighboring properties

This one is pretty simple. Either you or your agent should check out all the homes with similar square footage and amenities that have sold recently in your area. See what price they sold for and how long they were on the market before they sold.

Additionally, check active listings in your area, but remember that these homes aren’t guaranteed to sell for this price. If you want to price your home much higher than these comparables, it’s almost certainly a bad idea.

Your renovations might not be relevant

You may have very expensive taste and want only golden handles, but the potential buyers probably won’t share this particular fascination.

Of course, even more ‘normal’ renovations, such as putting a pool or deck in the backyard, might not earn you as much as you’d expect. According to Remodeling magazine, these projects offer an average 62% return on investment.

So the advice? Skip the remodeling project if you’re doing it for potential buyers (unless it’s something for staging, like painting the walls a neutral color). If you’re doing it just for the enjoyment of you and your family, go for it, but don’t expect to get reimbursed when you sell.

This is also true if you attempt to consider how much you paid for your house into the price now. Buyers aren’t interested in you making a profit, and the cost that you paid for the house is irrelevant to them and the current market.

So, make sure you price your home thinking rationally of the current market, not of your previous costs.

Don’t overprice to leave negotiation room

This might seem like a smart tactic, but in the days of Internet searches, it’s shooting yourself in the foot. The time of driving around neighborhoods you would like to live in and looking for “For Sale” signs are long gone.

While it’s true that some people still do this, the large majority use online searches. Additionally, every real estate agent uses an online search to scour the MLS for the perfect match.

This means that both potential buyers and their agents are entering a max price in the search engine. If your home falls outside of that price, even if you would easily negotiate down, there will be no one to negotiate with.

Also, even if the potential buyer does see your property, you might be priced too high to even get a lower, negotiable offer.

Price your home reasonably for maximum possibilities of showings and offers.

Will the appraiser agree?

This doesn’t happen until after the home is under contract, but don’t think that it’s not important.

An appraisal is a valuation of your property done by the buyer’s lender to understand the value of your home. This is to protect its financial interests on the small chance that they must foreclose on your home.

If the appraised price is far below the accepted price on your contract, there’s a chance the lender may not allow the buyer to purchase the home unless the price is lowered.

This is one reason to price your home fairly from the beginning, as a much lower appraisal amount can cause a lot of stress for both the buyer and seller.

Sometimes the appraisal will come back with an unpredictable amount that you, your agent, the buyer, and their agent won’t agree with. However, in general, you can trust your experienced agent to set a price that will help you sell your home as simply as possible.