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28th Annual Take Pride in Smith Mountain Lake Clean-up Day

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Once again, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Smith Mountain Lake Real Estate is a proud sponsor the 28th Annual Take Pride in SML Clean-up Day. Please join us in helping spruce up Smith Mountain Lake for the coming summer season at tomorrow’s Take Pride in SML Clean-up Day. This event marks the 28th annual lake-wide clean-up effort. Volunteers from the entire community get involved in sprucing up the lake. Volunteers can register individually, as a group or organization. Pick up supplies today at the Smith Mountain Lake Visitor’s Center at 16430 Booker T. Washington Hwy, Bridgewater Plaza, Suite 2 from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Special thanks to the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Smith Mountain Lake Association and the Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission for working hard to orchestrate the event.

May 1, 2015   Comments Off

Avoid the 8 Staging Mistakes for your Smith Mountain Lake Residence.

Avoid the 8 Staging Mistakes.

You may love your Smith Mountain Lake home, but that doesn’t mean that everyone coming through the door will feel the same way. What may be “charming” to the seller may seem off-putting to a prospective buyer. Many sellers attempt to stage their home themselves. In doing so, they make mistakes that can sidetrack the sale. Here are some of the biggest staging mistakes, according to professional home stagers:

  • Don’t get too personal: Staging is all about de-personalizing the space, and creating a model home look that will appeal to most everyone. Don’t create a look that appeals to just you.
  • Avoid dark colors: Choose neutral or warm colors. A few coats of fresh paint will make a huge difference.
  • Take advantage of natural light: Blocking off light with heavy curtains or furniture can hurt your sale—especially if the home has attractive views.
  • Don’t think more is better: Scale down your furniture. The size of furniture needs to be in balance with the scale of the room. Furniture should define the purpose of the room.
  • Don’t leave pets at home: Remove all traces of animals from the house. Make sure Fido is away during showings. A pet could kill a sale before a potential buyer even steps into the house.
  • Don’t neglect the outside: Outside is as important as the inside. Add flowers, mow the lawn, tidy up and add kid-friendly accessories.
  • Don’t just deal with “main” rooms: Don’t forget the garage, basement and closets.
  • Don’t forget fixtures: It’s important that all lights are burning and all fixtures are working.

Staging a Smith Mountain Lake home means showcasing features, not concealing flaws. Make sure your house is in good condition and use staging to cast the home in its best light.

April 29, 2015   Comments Off

A for Accessible

When purchasing a Smith Mountain Lake home there are many considerations – space requirements, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, location, proximity to work and services. Additionally, there are the aesthetics, the style of the home, its condition, and price. However, there are other important considerations that many people overlook – and these fall into the realm of Accessibility.

The term Accessibility is often used in relation to public buildings and public transportation, and we know about it largely because of a piece of important legislation called “The Americans with Disabilities Act”, or ADA. The ADA provides the framework that ensures that public structures are able to be used by a wide population, including people in wheelchairs and those who have other physical challenges, to ensure their success in a wide range of “major life activities”.

If you have ever tried to go somewhere or reach something that was essential to your well-being, but beyond your grasp, you know the frustration and helplessness that this can evoke. Imagine facing this time and again, in your own home. Whether you are facing a physical challenge due to an accident, or aging and can no longer move and achieve as you used to, your home should be a place where you can live, work and play in a way that is easy for you. Sometimes this means that issues of “accessibility” are at play.

Accessibility can also come into focus when you have a visitor to your home that uses a wheelchair or walker, is blind, or cannot use stairs for some reason. Aged or injured guests benefit from a home that is thoughtfully designed with accessibility as a focus.

While it is possible to retrofit or remodel a home to make it more accessible, this can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Some of the principles of accessibility to consider when purchasing a home include:

  • Can everyone, of all ages and abilities, use the home equally well?
  • Are the rooms “flexible” – can they be used for a variety of activities?
  • Are items in the house simple and intuitive to use?
  • Is it easy to see where you are in the house?
  • Do the entrances make sense?
  • Is storage easy to find and use? Are closets in the right places?
  • Is it a safe place?
  • Are there railings and places to hold on to, at heights good for all ages?
  • Do stairs, windows, and hallways make sense? Are bathrooms where you expect them to be?
  • How much physical effort is required for day-to-day activities?
  • Has effort been made to make it easy to see and get to all features?
  • When a home is designed and built, it should meet the needs of people despite their age or ability. The ability for it to be flexible and adaptable is an important factor, so that as needs change the home does not create obstacles for the inhabitants or guests. Modern architecture began following the adage, “Form follows function” early in the 20th century, and home buyers are advised to evaluate homes in light of functionality as well as style.

Difficulties arise when homes present barriers to the people who live in or visit them. If the owner ages significantly and loses abilities that made living in the home possible, then something must change. If babies or children enter the scene who might be hurt by stairs or other hazards, those dangers must be addressed. Accidents or other medical issues can result in sudden changes in mobility or self-sufficiency requiring adjustments to improve accessibility. In short, it might be prudent to consider accessibility when buying, building, or remodeling a home.

Looking at a building’s “bones” enables you to understand right away where barriers might occur. Pay attention to hallways, doorways and stairs – even when there are just one or two steps, as each of these elements can be an obstacle to someone who has mobility or sight issues. While doorways can be widened, hallways are more difficult to modify. Additionally, hallways can be dark areas and “wasted” space. Is there a good place for a lift-chair or elevator should someone in a wheel chair have to go up stairs? How easy will it be to control the light, reach counters and cabinets, enjoy the grounds, live daily life?

Cabinets, doors, faucets and switches can be difficult to operate, but easy if you think clearly while choosing these options. As you move around your home, look at these features and how it would feel to use each of these should your hands become stiff or painful. Traditional doorknobs can be replaced by lever-style “knobs” that could even be operated with an elbow or chin in an emergency. Faucets that operate with levers are also useful, as are switch-plates that operate with a simple touch – but beware that they are intuitive to use.

When you are buying a home that might require “adjustments” to afford the accessibility that you desire, consider the spaces and structure of the home. Is there enough property to create ramps to the entrance? Is it feasible to enjoy the best areas of the home and property if mobility is impaired? Are there steep inclines on the property or is the property exposed to extreme weather conditions that could increase hazards seasonally? Look at the approach to the property and how close you might bring a car to the entrance. Are the walkways easy to traverse?

Understanding the more challenging issues around a home or property might not rule it out, but will give you insight into the cost of overcoming these potential obstacles. Pay close attention to bathrooms and stairwells to ensure that you would have the space you need to adjust bathtubs and showers, or to install lifts. Is there a bedroom or office on a lower floor? In the event that it is needed, having an option to create single-level living arrangements could be a boon to your family.

Homes are designed to shelter people and their possessions, provide space for cooking and eating, hygiene, and sleeping. Entertaining in your home is a luxury for some, and a necessity for others. In each function, age and physical ability must come into play, and so architects and builders who consider accessibility up front will usually build more adaptable homes. If you believe that accessibility could be an issue for you or members of your family, consider taking the time to have an expert evaluate a property that you would like to buy. There is a list of professionals in the area of accessibility through the National Council on Aging In Place (NAICP.org). Going in with your eyes open will result in long-term satisfaction and a plan for the house and people alike.

May 6, 2013   No Comments

Future Renovation Plans at The Waterfront Country Club

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The Willard Companies, owners of The Waterfront Country Club, a private golf and country club at Smith Mountain Lake, unveiled future club expansion and long term renovation plans at a vision meeting with its membership last week in conjunction with a new membership campaign.

The Willard Companies partnered with Richard Mandell Golf Architecture to develop a proposed land plan for the Clubhouse and hired Architect Antonio Veloso to design a new fitness center and pool building. The Willard Companies main goal will be to update existing Club amenities such as relocating the swimming pool in closer proximity to the Clubhouse complex, incorporating a new state-of-the-art fitness and recreational area for members, and creating a new short game area for the club. Expansion features include the following: zero entry pool, lap pool and diving area, lounge area in pool, outdoor bar, fitness center (group exercise and weights), 4 Pickle Ball Courts, 2 tennis courts, and a short game area between the club and range. Estimated costs for the renovation are projected around $1.4 million.

Timeframe for the groundbreaking and construction start on the renovation project hinge on membership growth. The company recently launched a new membership campaign offering prospective members lower initiation fees with financing options, reduced social dues structure, and new Under 40 classifications with special pricing. The company goal is to reach pre-recession membership at around 400 members in order for the vision to become reality.

According to Ron Willard II, Vice President of The Willard Companies, the Private Club Industry is in the process of finding its niche again and clubs are being forced to adapt to the demands of membership and potential members. “The Private Clubs that are going to survive in the decades to come must change and adapt to the market demands,” said Willard.

For media inquires or for more information, please contact Christopher Finley at 540-721-5288 or email chris@thewillardcompanies.com.

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The Waterfront encompasses 750 acres and 8.5 miles of shoreline. The 18-hole, PGA Championship Golf Course was designed by George Dillon of the Fazio Group. The course offers a very fair but challenging layout. Preserving the history of the land used was at the top of the list of priorities when this course was built. It offers incredible vista views and follows the original topography of the land. The 22,000 square foot clubhouse was planned by The Willard Companies in cooperation with Robert Bradley, AIA and Associates. Club amenities include tennis courts, swimming pool, fitness center, driving range, pro shop and fine dining. The Waterfront Country Club opened in 1981. Visit online at www.thewaterfrontcc.com.

The Willard Companies is the umbrella for Willard Construction of Roanoke Valley, Inc., Prudential Waterfront Properties, The Waterfront, The Water’s Edge and The Westlake Golf and Country Clubs. The company is involved in country clubs, building, developing, marketing and real estate. The Willard Companies is also affiliated with Westlake Towne Center, Westlake Cinema, Westlake Salon & Spa, Window and Door Design Gallery and Smith Mountain Building Supply. Visit online at www.thewillardcompanies.com.

April 15, 2013   No Comments

Thanks Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce for the Regional Advocate Award!

The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce rolled out the red carpet in 2013 with the theme, “Blur the Lines-One Community” at the 12th Annual Chamber Awards Dinner. Organizers created an Academy Awards inspired event, for all who attended, with television cameras, TV screens, elegant décor, an excellent meal and full award regalia.

In addition to gathering the membership to kick off the 2013 business year in grand style, the dinner also served as a platform to recognize the work of area individuals and businesses for outstanding achievement.

The Willard Companies and Prudential Waterfront Properties received the Regional Advocate Award. This award goes to a SML Chamber member or business who has exhibited creativity in promoting this region as well as their business and has used many levels of marketing to significantly impact growth in the region as well as promote products, services, and this region.

In addition to the Regional Advocate Award, The Norma Jean Teass Award for community leadership went to Teresa Tyree, SML Animal Control. Print-n-Paper was named Business of the Year. Emerging Entrepreneur Award went to Laker Beverage & Tobacco. The Enduring Enterprise Award was awarded to Capps Home Building Center and the Service Excellence Award went to The Landing Restaurant.

February 7, 2013   No Comments

Making the Most of Storage

Whether buying or selling a Smith Mountain Lake home, storage becomes an issue. Buyers want ample storage areas — indeed, it can be a make-or-break feature when buying a home. Sellers need it both for eliminating clutter from rooms while showing a home, and for containing their own personal items. Learning how to best utilize the storage will increase the functionality and presentation of your home.

Once you’ve reduced the amount you would like to store – items have been sorted, unwanted and useless things have been discarded – presumably the remaining items needing storage are wanted, useful, and/or valuable in some way. Here are the steps that will ensure success:

Assess: Storage Areas and Items to Store

What you have and where you will store it are both questions that are pertinent to the task at hand. Storage of dishes or books, clothing or car parts, may require different solutions. The only way to do this is to take a good look. Simply having a lot of space is only part of the puzzle; being able to access your belongings is equally important.

Inventory the storage areas on your property to better understand “reality”. Having an attic or basement does not mean that you have more storage if they are difficult to access, wet, unduly hot or cold, infested with mice or mold – so check these areas and really look at their condition. Similarly, cabinets and closets with particularly high shelving or excessively deep shelving provide wonderful storage for items that are not often in use.

Don’t overlook non-traditional storage – alcoves, and places where storage furniture or built-in furniture could exist. Your space might have a perfect place to put an armoire, bench seat with storage, or built-in bookshelves. Mantels and large porches, sheds and garages often have places where storage is possible. If these areas are exposed to view, containers should be attractive and appropriate to the spot.

When assessing where to store each item, keep in mind that having items close to the location where they will ultimately be used is often essential to it having value. Items you cannot access might as well not be there. If you are keeping something, consider “charging it rent” – is it worth the space it takes up?

If in your assessment of space and items to store you have far more items than space, then further reduction of possessions might be in order. An alternative is to “find more space” by creating more storage in the home or on the property possibly by building an addition, garage, or shed. Otherwise, if you have more stuff than fits in storage, you will either live with it in your way day-to-day, or have to rent storage space out of the home, which is expensive and inconvenient for accessing your items. Or perhaps you just need a bigger home!

Prepare: The Space, the Items, and the System

After you have assessed the storage space, it is time to remedy any issues found. Creating access, resolving moisture or pest infestation, heating or cooling issues, and cleaning an area can ensure that items stored there will retain their value and usefulness.

Storage space that is climate controlled (not too hot or too cold), dry and easily accessible is the most valuable storage on your property. Renovations that add additional storage of this sort may increase your home’s value. Any time that you consider removing storage, eliminating closets or shelving, consider the consequences carefully and determine if that storage will be available elsewhere.

Storing items in containers that are strong, helps keep them in good repair. While storage containers might be expensive, storing your valuables poorly can result in loss or damage, which might be equally costly. Cardboard boxes are subject to moisture and are often difficult to move, and can result in content which is difficult to see and access.

Shelving can provide an alternative to stacking boxes on the floor and make them easier to access. Moving one box to get to another is acceptable, but stacking too many boxes on top of each other can make retrieving items from lower boxes a daunting task. If you cannot get to your stored items, they can become a burden rather than a help.

Using boxes or containers that are sized to the contents will ensure that each box does not get too heavy. Fragile items that are stored in large boxes can be broken more easily, and items with many pieces should be stored together. Ensure that shelving and containers work together, and that items of like kinds are stored near each other, in a place that makes sense. Labels are a wonderful way to cut down on searching for things, but be sure to update them when the contents shift.

Achieve and Maintain: Principles of Storing

Now that you understand what you have in the way of stuff and storage space, and you have prepared the items and the spaces and created a system, placing things is much easier. By this time, you probably understand what you have and whether it will be actively used.

Generally there are levels of storage – long-term, seasonal, and active-use. Understand the nature of what you are storing.

Items being held for future generations, which might not be accessed for years, belong in long-tem storage. If they are well-stored and secure, putting them in a far corner that is not very accessible might be fine. This is the time to consider attic and basement space, but only if the items are well-stored and the space is properly prepared.

Similarly, decorations and house wares that are seasonal will get in the way if they are taking up prime space in the wrong place. Consider dedicating “seasonal storage” that can be rotated so that the next season’s items are in the front, ready to be taken out when needed. Packing seasonal storage too tightly and not rotating it may render it useless, so this is one area where establishing a system can really pay off.

Active storage is important to keep organized and not over-filled. Items should be easy to locate, retrieve and replace, and what you want should be where you want it; kitchen and food items in their proper spots, health and beauty items in a hygienic location, and cleaning and maintenance tools where they are likely to be used and serviceable. Items that are out of place breed clutter and chaos, so well ordered active storage is a key to a well-functioning home.

Kitchen cabinets are typically sorted and items stored close to the stations where they will be used. Cabinets that are deeper might store items that are used rarely toward the back, and frequently used tools up front. Everyday plates and utensils should be easy to access and put away, while holiday dishes and party platters are better out of the way.

Garage and sheds and even bathrooms and bedrooms follow similar rules. Enabling access to tools and materials while ensuring clear areas is a key to successfully living and working in a space. Items that you use a lot need a “home” – either in storage or in plain sight. Having items you love and places to keep them will ensure that cleanup is easy and your rooms look tidy.

If you are storing something that you don’t use or love, it is taking up valuable space. Every so often, go into the back of your cabinets and drawers to find items you no longer use or love – this is one of the quickest ways to gain storage space without spending money on shelves or storage systems. Similarly, if you are storing something to give to future generations, ask yourself if they will really want it or if they might be ready to receive the item now – then it doesn’t spend years in storage and you gain space!

Refine: Love What Works and Don’t Let Trouble Continue

Every so often, a homeowner will look up and find that they have a “trouble spot”. When tools are hard to return to their storage areas, or holiday items linger in boxes by the door, it is usually a sign that the storage area is too difficult to access or the system of storage hinders use. The ability to return items to storage is as important as the ability to get to them easily – so you might need to refine your system to overcome any challenges you find.

Annual inspections might reveal that there are items to purge, spaces to improve, or systems that need upgrading – but most of all, you stay in touch with your home and its real value to you. While you are at it, don’t forget to appreciate what is working well. Storing stuff you love in a way that works makes your home a haven and a place that allows you to function at a high level. It’s the best way to get value out of your home, and give you a new perspective on what you really have. After all, as a homeowner you want to be in touch with your most important asset!

February 6, 2013   No Comments

Testing the Boundaries

Ownership of real property is a privilege that once belonged only to kings and nobility, and as masters of our own domain we each take our home and lands very seriously. It is no wonder that boundary disputes can provoke the nastiest of all sentiments between Smith Mountain Lake neighbors. Many of these disputes can be avoided, however, if both parties have a clear understanding of facts, proper documentation, and a willingness to come to fair agreements.

Know your Facts

Boundary issues can arise at any time – so one of the very best ways to avoid an issue around property lines is to know your facts. The time to do this is before signing a purchase agreement. When purchasing a home on land, there is no substitute for a thorough check on property lines, including a clear understanding of the deed of title, and land record, or “plat”. If you are purchasing a condo, or a home in a community, study all the documentation you can about your unit, storage and ancillary areas that come with the unit, and common areas, rules around building or renovating fences, screens, or dividers.

Learn about your rights and responsibilities around trees, landscaping, driveways and sidewalks, or any area where you might come into contact with your neighbors. If there is a view involved, understand any community or local view ordinances, and consider entering into an agreement with neighbors regarding your view, going so far as to purchase those rights. Offering cash to procure a written contract may seem excessive, but your rights will be protected and may be upheld in a court of law.

Drawing the Line

Property lines should be clearly described in official records including a property title and land plat. Establishing where lines are up front will aid any interested party prior to clearing, building, or using land. Online resources make these records readily available in many areas, though finding markers on site may prove more of a challenge. When in doubt, hire a licensed surveyor to establish where the property line is actually located and mark the findings clearly.

When you are conducting your search for issues on any property that you are considering buying, it is well worth your time to understand mineral and water rights, forest issues, rights of water and well and other covenants. Know if there are any easements on your property – “Right of way” enables property owners who would otherwise not be able to gain access to their land to do just that. Usually this is accomplished by negotiating an easement across another property. If there is a recorded easement on your property, it may be exercised at any time.

In addition to your rights with regards to property lines, it is important to understand your responsibilities. Before building, clearing, or using property close to a boundary line, ensure that you have a thorough grasp of the building codes in your locality. Building over, on, or close to a property line may violate laws and incur costs that are avoidable.

Views

The value of some property is greatly enhanced by its view. Views, however, can change if a neighbor plants or builds obstructions. Many areas have rules and regulations governing the obstruction of views, however it may be wise to enter into your own agreement with neighbors, even offering a cash incentive for ensuring your view is safe. Contracts are advisable, as they ensure that these rights are enforceable by a court of law, should the need arise.

Mending Fences

The most common and often frustrating property line issues arise around the common fence. Whether designed to distinguish the property lines, provide privacy, or to contain livestock and other animals, fence owners invest a significant amount of money and time in construction and maintenance of these valuable assets. In some areas fences are owned and maintained cooperatively between neighbors, though other places one party owns and maintains the fence. Understand your rights and obligations regarding fences on your property lines. Unduly high fences or plantings designed to create barriers can present an eyesore, obstruct a view, or violate local ordinances. When this is the case, it may be deemed a “spite fence” and legal action might be considered, though it often takes time and money.

The Trouble with Trees

While many people cherish and value trees, like all living things they have a lifespan and needs that must be met. Large trees that overhang buildings, fences, or boundary lines pose a threat. Trees that lean across lines may present special situations that affect homes or fences, and there are often laws protecting each party’s interests. While perfectly healthy trees can fall or break given specific circumstances, if neglect can be proved, a property owner might be liable for damages. Understanding your responsibilities around pruning and maintaining trees on your property is key.

Insurance companies may get involved when damage is incurred by falling trees or tree limbs, though if negligence can be proven your insurance rates might be affected. Knowing the health of trees on your property, and taking measures to ensure that they don’t damage your neighbor’s home or property, is the landowners’ responsibility.

Felling large trees is a difficult endeavor and should be undertaken only by qualified individuals who are bonded, licensed and insured. Speaking with your neighbor prior to the work may reduce concerns, but also evoke some unwanted emotion. Trees that have been established for many years might be missed by some, while others might be relieved with the removal of a diseased tree or welcome the additional natural light. Tree work that may pose any risk to your neighbor’s property should be discussed prior to engaging in the work.

Avoiding Encroachment

The term “encroachment” refers to a piece of real property that hangs over the boundary of another landowner’s property. Trees or bushes are naturally occurring, while buildings or structural encroachments may be accidental or intentional. Generally, there are laws and precedents in place that are designed to aid parties in sorting out disputes. If you don’t know or understand the laws, a real estate lawyer can provide assistance.

Buildings that are already in existence, but that have been built on another person’s property present a special problem. When possible, both property owners should work together to design a property line adjustment that is equitable to both parties. While there is a temptation to resolve the issue through the court system, legal battles can be expensive, and the relationship between the land owners is often stressed to the breaking point.

While there are plenty of instances of having to raze, move, or alter a structure due to judgments against the owner who is violating the property line, there are also many neighbors who have found equitable ways of resolving the issues through a land-swap or cash agreement. Encroachment is a serious issue, and consulting with a real estate lawyer is highly advised.

In the Event of Emergency – Know the Emotional Climate

Whatever you do, avoid making decisions or confronting a neighbor when emotions are high or facts are in question. This may be difficult when highly paid contractors are on site to cut trees, dig trenches or construct fences or buildings, but ensuring that the issue is dealt with up front might avoid costly reparations on in the future, or months mired in legal proceedings should one party take the other to court.

There is a well-known saying that dictates, “Fences make the best neighbors.” While it might sound cleaver, the truth is that Good Neighbors make the best neighbors. When there is an issue around boundaries, nothing drives the point more to home. Increasingly, neighbors might not know one another. Privacy and busy lives sometimes create the feeling of neighbors being more like two ships passing at night, trying to avoid one another. However, when you know your neighbors, it helps you to understand their relationship to their boundaries. Generally, when there is an issue between two parties that know each other, it is easier to resolve. When purchasing property you can’t choose your neighbors, but you can ask good questions about them, and you can ask questions about the property lines and fences.

If you are in a dispute over property lines, rights of way and other boundary issues — be a good neighbor and treat your neighbors as you would want to be treated. If you are in a community or condo, there may be a group designed to help work through issues like yours. Mediation may be a way to avoid costly litigation, and may aid you in finding ways to adjust the property lines so that there is equity. Finally, once an issue has been resolved, ensure that all property lines and agreements are clearly and legally recorded and marked so that everyone is clear from then on.

January 7, 2013   No Comments

5 Steps for Success: Investing in Smith Mountain Lake Rental Property

Have you ever considered purchasing a rental property at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia? Rental properties can be great investments, done right. In addition to realizing gains from property value appreciation, rental income can provide a monthly cash flow. Once the mortgage is paid off, much of your rental income will be profit, allowing you to work or to enjoy retirement.

Unlike your home, this investment isn’t something that you will be personally using day-to-day, so the benefits of ownership differ. Rental property is a tangible asset you can visit, use, and personally impact the worth of your investment. With sound judgment, and by following some basic steps, you can own property and realize gains; both short and long term.

Purchase with a Plan

Investing in real estate differs depending on the type and location of the property you are buying. Will you want to use the property part of the year? Vacation rentals are enticing on many levels, though considering how you will use them during less desirable periods may affect your potential rental income. Purchasing a residence has different implications than a property that will be rented commercially. Some investors buy properties with multiple units so they can have rental income from one or more units while fixing up and/or living in remaining units. Properties with multiple units have more to consider and maintain than properties that will be rented by a single person or entity. Knowing the type of landlord you intend to be will provide some focus as you consider properties. It will also provide valuable knowledge for your realtor helping with your search.

Being pre-approved for an investment loan and ensuring that your own finances are in order is not only wise, but will make it clear if you have enough capital to proceed. When taking on another mortgage, remember – you will want to have a healthy reserve fund in the event that the property produces less income than expected. Before you look at properties, sit down with a mortgage broker or lender to see how you qualify for a loan.

Research the local rental market so you know what you can realistically expect to charge and better understand the potential cash-flow of potential rental property.

Understand Your Investment

It is important to understand the condition of the building and surrounding property you intend to buy. Unless you are particularly knowledgeable about construction, always make offers for purchase contingent upon professional inspections.

Knowing the exact condition of the roof and foundation, plumbing and electrical, floors, appliances and other aspects of the property provides a much better sense of what you will need to repair, maintain, or upgrade for your tenants. In turn, this allows you to better understand the “bottom line” of your investment. After all, you are not likely to be present on a day-to-day basis to take note of any issues that arise. As the owner you have a vested interest in ensuring that the investment stays in good condition. You should have a budget for repairs and maintenance, and ensure that the purchase price enables you to make any necessary upgrades you might need to make prior to renting it to a tenant.

Additionally, you will want to know about locale, including parking and security issues and the zoning regulations that govern the property, including any multiple occupancy limitations and any restrictions on specific business activities. Your understanding of specific property, how it might be used, and the limitations you face when renting it out make you a better investor.

Evaluate Your Options

As you look at properties, consider your options – you have many. From location and style of building to type of rental and the number of units, each decision you consider will open new doors. Is this a long or a short-term investment? If the property is one that you think you will hold for a while, do you have a sense of what the future holds and how the neighborhood is changing? Buying properties in good locations is one of the best ways to ensure the steady flow of rental income.

And remember: properties don’t always have to stay the same. Consider things you could conceivably do to the property that might affect your income or investment. For example, can you add on to the home easily? Can you build a garage or change parking? Is it possible to convert a garage to an extra room? Are there regulations regarding subdividing or renovating the home? Can you add a bathroom?

Some communities limit the number of rental properties, while others have height or size limitations when building. If something you desire is not an option, know that going in. Even if you are not planning to change the property in any way in the beginning, understanding what you can and cannot do is a good idea.

Get Insurance and Assurance

Legal documents, including rental agreements between you and your tenants, and service agreements between you and concerned parties are essential. And don’t forget more mundane issues that can arise when renting out a property: If a community has fees for water, sewer, community clubs or other amenities, clarify responsibilities — will these be the responsibility of the owner or renter? Getting the right information out of the gate and spelling it out for your tenants will aid you in the end. These agreements will give you peace of mind and provide legal recourse should you need it.

A real estate lawyer is an invaluable asset when you purchase a rental property. Not only can a real estate lawyer look over your purchase and rental agreements, they can advise you in other aspects of your investment, including interpreting local regulations. Your realtor will undoubtedly be another great asset, as they are full of more general information regarding local issues and market trends and can likely provide referrals to local property management services should you be interested. The more resources you have on your side, the more assurance you will have that your investment will run smoothly.

Proper insurance includes insurance on the structure itself as well as liability insurance, in case someone is injured while on the premises. In some locations additional flood, earthquake, and storm related coverage is a further way to protect your investment. Since you are responsible for the mortgage, you will want to have the right types of insurance with sufficient coverage to protect your investment.

Remember: You’re In Business

Buying a rental property is essentially going into business. When the monthly income from tenants exceeds the amount you pay in mortgage, maintenance, taxes and other fees, you realize a positive cash flow in the short-term. Additionally, if all goes well, you will also realize a profit when selling the property. Doing your research as you look at properties and make your choices enables you to be as prepared as you can be for the ups and downs that you will face in managing your business. In fact, what you learn can make you much more successful in the end.

Like all businesses where significant money will be changing hands, an accountant who is versed in real estate investing and tax implications will be valuable. You will be collecting rents and incurring expenses for repairs and services. Tax issues become more complex, and a professional will aid you in maximizing your returns on your purchase. Service providers like this can pay for themselves in the money that they save you. Once you know the bottom line with regard to your investment, you will be better equipped to determine a budget for projects related to the property.

Whether this is your first rental property, or you are a seasoned veteran of this sort of investment, your realtor is among your business contacts. Having a straightforward relationship where you present your needs and expectations up front enables you to get the help you need in making that critical step of executing the purchase. Additionally, realtors often have a wealth of knowledge and resources that they are willing share from handymen to potential tenants.

Success in business is not accomplished alone – developing a team of professionals from purchase through ultimate sale of the property is one key to achieving your goals. Follow these steps as you go into your new venture and you will start strong. The rest is up to you!

November 2, 2012   No Comments

The Truth About Radon Gas

There’s a scene in “The Princess Bride” where the villainous Vizzini offers his adversary an invisible, odorless and tasteless poison. While his description is meant to conjure laughs, he could have just as easily been talking about radon gas.

You can’t see, smell or taste radon, yet exposure to the gas can make you sick. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today after smoking.

Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and may sneak into the air you breathe by penetrating your Smith Mountain Lake home through cracks in the foundation. It can be discovered in all parts of the country and can cause a dangerous high indoor radon level in any home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, roughly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels.

While it’s not a requirement that you test for radon when you make an offer to buy a home in many places, it’s a good idea to ask for a Radon Inspection Contingency.

A Radon Inspection Contingency can put some structure into getting a “short-term” radon test done on any Smith Mountain Lake home to make sure the levels of radon on the lowest level of the home are below the 4.0 pCi/L level.That level was a target set by the U.S. Congress for indoor air quality, and the U.S. EPA enforces that mandate.

If you are preparing to sell your Smith Mountain Lake home, you should test for radon before you even put it on the market. This can save valuable time during a real estate transaction, as long as you have all the paperwork and testing data to show the prospective buyer.

The quickest way to detect radon is with short-term tests, which remain in your home for two to 90 days, depending on the device. The most common detectors are charcoal canisters, alpha track, electret ion chamber, continuous monitors and charcoal liquid scintillation.

Test the home in the lowest level that you currently live in, or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without making renovations. Elevated radon levels can be remedied with a radon-reduction system, which can reduce the gas by up to 99% percent and cost less than $1,000 to buy and install.

Buyers and sellers should be smart about radon. Every new home should be tested after occupancy, even if it was built radon-resistant or with a radon reducing system installed.

July 13, 2012   No Comments

Transactions for the Team: Buying a Smith Mountain Lake Property with Others

Under any circumstance, buying a home or property at Smith Mountain Lake raises emotion, evokes concerns and hopes, elevates stress, tests relationships, and causes people to learn about wants, desires, and reality. Entering into the adventure of home-buying with others is doing all that through the faceted lens of a kaleidoscope, and sometimes without the beautiful results. Simply put, buying a property at Smith Mountain Lake with or for someone else can be a trying experience.

Somehow spouses manage to accomplish the task, but even then it can be a tricky transaction that sometimes leaves one party feeling steamrolled, or both parties feeling discontent. When parents and children, or siblings, or even whole families come together to purchase a home or property, things can get tricky. Work closely as part of a team, understanding all the aspects of the task at hand and you will leave every member of the buying group more satisfied and your home-buying experience will be a slam-dunk.

Rule 1: Know the Game being Played

Before you go looking with a realtor, it is highly advised that the group develops a team of commonly-trusted professionals that will guide the team in its thinking and decision making process. Each member of the buying team should understand who is working with them, and the function that they serve, to ensure that the goals of the purchase are being met.

Whether you are buying a Smith Mountain Lake property with friends, family members, or investors, work to ensure that every person involved in the purchase has a clear understanding of the structure of ownership and tenancy, tax, insurance, investment and estate issues, if they are relevant. Before you can pick a Smith Mountain Lake property, all of this should be sorted out and clear. This will enable the group to move more quickly should the need arise, and allow all the parties to work together in a united front as negotiations unfold in the purchase of the property, the final minutes of play.

Once everyone understands the mechanics of the purchase, it’s time for the team to bring on another member. That’s right; the right team member can be the key to a successful strategy in finding the right property for everyone involved.

Rule 2: Bringing in a Top-Draft Player

Prudential Waterfront Properties real estate agents can move around the court quickly and efficiently, helping to facilitate a purchase, and generally affect the flow of the game to keep all the players doing their job in an orderly and efficient fashion. They have played this game before, they know the rules, and they understand the psychology of the players. Often real estate agents have worked with agencies, lenders, inspectors and other service providers, so they can share their experiences and leverage that knowledge to your team’s benefit. It’s rather like knowing the referee, and understanding how they might call a shot.

But your real estate agent, like any team player, can’t do their job without having insight into the game plan and the other members of the team. Developing a business relationship that allows your real estate agent access to the game plan and profiles of the players will enable the entire team to have a strategy for optimizing the purchase of that perfect property. Bringing in a top-draft player can take a team quickly and efficiently to the win, but the game is still played by a team.

Rule 3: Develop a Winning Strategy

Buying a Smith Mountain Lake home or property with others can be a lot like a long drawn-out game, requiring stamina and skills, or simply a whole lot of luck. In worst case scenarios players get hurt. Sometimes “fouls” stop the clock. Poor sportsmanship can ruin reputations. However, when a team is coach able, with excellent players and a real strategy, that same game is a lot more fun, and often results in a quicker, better win.

So How Do You Find Your strategy?

Look around at your team. Inherently there are roles that each member plays. This is not to say that any role is less important, but knowing the strengths of the players will enable you to make decisions that meet everyone’s needs. Every player will have something to add. Some team members play defense; they ensure that the property meets the most basic of needs. They are interested in the security of the inhabitants, the ease of living, the ability to maintain a property. Others play offense; they want to know that they got value, that the home is a good investment, that they will be able to sell it in the future, that the property meets a goal or a dream. Players that seem more like cheerleaders sometimes have good things to offer. Lesser-abled players might still have interesting information to add to the game plan, so make the effort to hear what they have to say. Even the lowly towel-boy or water-person, team members with less of a “say,” might have seen a thing or two watching the team members operate over time.

Also, note other skills that team members possess. Is there someone with a lot of skill or experience, who team members will listen to, that can be trusted to coach? Will the coach have a role in the playing of the game? Is there a clear choice for Captain? Ultimately, someone will have to be the voice for the group, and they will be communicating with a variety of people to ensure that the interests of the group are being met. Understanding if the Captain or other members of the team have more weight in making decisions will be key in a successful transaction, or winning game. As you develop the team strategy for picking a property, knowing the status of each team player will provide a clearer picture of your win in the post-game wrap up. Don’t discount players in the team; it is worth the trouble of working on the skills of every person involved.

In addition to team members, roles and skills, a good strategy includes plays that enable each member to participate. Randomly going to visit properties without a clear way that team members will operate can cause confusion and chaos. How will you decide when you have found the right one? Getting every player involved in the game will provide the team with information that will make that decision much more clear and ensure that everyone is invested in the win.

Successful buying teams have invented strategies that worked for them. One such team had each member develop a list of criteria that they wanted in a property or home. Each member of the team had their own list, and each list had 5 criteria on it. These criteria were the top 5 things that each member wanted in a property. They weren’t random, they weren’t picked for them, and they had to come from the heart and really address what the team member would need to feel right about the purchase. These lists were shared with each other so every member of the team could understand what was important to each other and why, but when members of the buying team viewed a property they would evaluate it using their own list. No one could try to influence another team member about what criteria were on their list; it wasn’t a contest of influence or persuasion, it was an exercise in finding the truth.

Together, members of the team came up with a plan for these evaluations. Each of the criteria on a list could earn 0 points, half a point, or a whole point. A perfect property would end up with a score of 5; a total “loser” in their book would get a 0. The group agreed to only consider properties that scored at least 3.5 on everyone’s scale. In this manner, every member of the team would get at least 75% of what they were hoping for in a property. Some teams might adjust this percentage – desiring to meet 80% or more of the each member’s criteria. This is just one strategy, but it exemplifies working together towards a common goal of achievable satisfaction. Oh, and sharing all of those lists with your real estate agent? That’s a very good idea.

When the Last Buzzer Sounds

Why All this Talk of Team Spirit and Sports? Purchasing a Home or Property isn’t a Game, Right? Think Again.

As in all sports – there is a goal: winning. We all want to buy the best house we can for the least amount of money, getting all of our criteria met. However, there are larger lessons we learn from playing team sports. We learn about playing a “good” game, we learn about working together to achieve a common goal, and we learn the best way of winning by doing it together.

The people involved with you in buying a home or property might be in your life for quite some time. Certainly you will have some relationship to them as you finish the transaction and continue to know and interact with them. More importantly, your work with them in purchasing the property will give you valuable information about yourself. Navigating that win, the purchase of a property with all team-members feeling like they were part of the game-winning play, now that is a game we all want to see. And, we might even want to play it again!

July 10, 2012   No Comments