Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You'll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Aug. 20, 2019

Sellers: Now Is the Time to Buy!

Falling interest rates coupled with increasing inventory create the ideal market to find the home of your dreams. There's no time like the present to move up! Let's get together to discuss your options.

Aug. 19, 2019

Vineyards and Wineries of the Smokies - The Best Local Spots in the Western Carolina and North Georgia Region

Posted by Lindsay Taylor

Introduction

Nothing says summer charm in the Blue Ridge Mountains like an afternoon or evening at one of the many local wineries. The music and scenery of Appalachia blends with the cool, crisp nights of the Great Smoky Mountains to provide an unforgettable visit. Europe and the West Coast may be known for their vineyards and wineries, but winemakers of the Western Carolina and North Georgia wineries are working to bring the same excellence to Appalachia. Rich soil, family traditions and a strong work ethic have paved the way for local vineyards and wineries to begin making a name for themselves. This part of the Western Carolina and North Georgia Mountains is home to several vineyards, each offering distinctive experiences and a large selection of local wines.

North Georgia and Western Carolina Vineyards

Wine production has been part of North Georgia and Western Carolina culture for hundreds of years, but in more recent years, these family-owned vineyards have started to gain popularity due to their award-winning wines and unique practices. Many of the local vineyards offer tours to showcase their grape-growing techniques, and the wineries offer wine tastings as well as wines available to sample and purchase by the glass or bottle.

Consistent with the Southern hospitality this area is known for, it’s not uncommon to find the owner of the vineyard or the winemaker/vintner milling about and socializing with their guests. They take their winemaking and their service seriously, and are usually more than willing to talk about the work that goes into growing their beloved grapes, even if you choose not to take a vineyard tour. It is precisely this charisma that will make your visit to the local wineries enchanting, enjoyable and unforgettable.

Vineyards, Vintners and the Art of Winemaking

The vineyard itself is where the true work of winemaking begins. Although a winery does not need to have an on-site vineyard to function, the allure of wineries in this region comes partly from the fact that most wineries here utilize grapes grown in their own vineyards to develop their wines. There is a lot of work that goes into cultivating a successful vineyard, though, and as Appalachian vintners know, great wine comes from great grapes and hard work.

The process of growing grapes is formally known as viticulture, and those who grow grapes for a living are known as viticulturists – persons trained in the art of grape growing. This terminology comes from the Latin word for vine, and the process is a honed art form. Viticulturists not only tend grape vines; they also use their understanding of the agricultural process to develop a sustainable vineyard. Winemakers, or vintners, work underneath the instruction of the viticulturist to care for and harvest the grapes that will then be pressed, fermented, bottled and sold to consumers. This collaboration, when done well, makes for excellent wines.

You simply can’t beat the taste of vineyard-to-bottled wines, but tasting them in their natural environment during a visit to the vineyard only adds to the appeal of Appalachian wineries. Blooming grape vines against a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop will create an unforgettable experience.

If surroundings weren’t enough, feel free to capitalize on the host’s hospitality and ask questions about the different wine options they offer. The staff will be well-versed in the processes used in their vineyards as well as the notes that make each bottle of wine special. You are sure to find that the vineyards are uniquely run, and the wine tastings at each venue are distinctly their own.

Why Go Local?

Rich soil and mild climates unique to this part of Appalachia create the perfect atmosphere for growing lush, prospering vineyards. Grapes in the Western Carolina and North Georgia Mountains are fortunate enough to have relatively mild winters and warm afternoon sunshine, tempered by misty mornings and cool evenings. This pleasant climate creates an ideal atmosphere for grape growing. Local vineyards and wineries include Crane Creek Vineyards, Eagle Fork Vineyards, Hightower Creek Vineyards, Nottely River Valley Vineyards, and Valley River Vineyards.

Local Vineyards and What Makes Each One Special

Crane Creek Vineyards

Crane Creek Vineyards is a true gem of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia. Located a mere three miles from Young Harris College, and just minutes over the North Carolina state line, this local favorite holds a certain charm that visitors and residents alike return to year after year. Just two hours away from Atlanta, GA and Chattanooga, TN, this beautiful vineyard rests under the famous Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak, and offers a peaceful respite from city life.

Erick Seifarth, Crane Creek owner and winemaker, believes that enjoying wine should mean embracing the casual pleasure of Northern Italy, where he himself learned the art of wine while stationed there as an Army officer. This casual enjoyment means enjoying a glass of wine among good food, family and friends. Crane Creek seeks to do just that by providing endless options for socializing while enjoying fine local wines.

Eagle Fork Vineyards

Eagle Fork Vineyards is tucked off the beaten path in Hayesville, NC, a quaint town in the heart of the Nantahala National Forest. Dr. Jerry Smith, founder and winecrafter at Eagle Fork Vineyards, first began his love of grapes as a child. He had the unique experience of living and working among the grape growing companies that produced and harvested grapes for Welch’s grape juice. After earning a PhD in environmental chemistry, Dr. Smith founded an environmental engineering company that he ran until his retirement to Hayesville, where he started Eagle Fork Vineyards in 2004.

Dr. Smith’s background, coupled with a trip to Italy to hone his winemaking skills, led to a unique routine that characterizes Smith’s growing practices. He plays classical music over his grapes every morning if an effort to stimulate growth and drive away insects. This is great news for both the vineyard and the consumer because this practice eliminates the need for pesticide use. The use of classical music allows Eagle Fork Vineyards to operate as a pesticide-free vineyard that seeks to protect both its customers and the environment.

Eagle Fork Vineyards offers a horseback riding tour and a foot tour upon request and for an additional fee. The tasting room, however, is free and welcomes visitors to taste the wines and visit with the winemaker. Eagle Fork also hosts Seasonal events and personal events such as weddings. Visit the Eagle Fork Vineyards Tasting Room page and Calendar of Events page for more specific information.

Hightower Creek Vineyards

Family owned and operated in the North Georgia town of Hiawassee, GA, this local vineyard and winery seeks to bring the lure of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the taste of their wines. With names such as Red Clay Rosé, Chatuga White and Epiphany, you are sure to discover a bottle that captures your interest.

Hightower Creek Vineyards is located in the Hiwassee Highlands American Viticultural Area, an area whose valley climate lends to great-tasting grapes. The owners, Liz and Sanford Green, along with the winemaker, Travis Green, seek to bring a minimal intervention tactic in their wine cellar. This allows the grapes to speak for themselves and invites visitors to taste the natural mountain allure that brings people back to this area year after year.

Hightower Creek Vineyards welcomes visitors to their tasting room and events throughout the year, ensuring something for every season. Be sure to check them out while you’re in town!

Nottely River Valley Vineyards

Planted on family farmlands that date back to the early 1800s, Nottely River Valley Vineyards is a family owned and operated vineyard located in Murphy, NC. Because the family strives to match the excellence of the “Old World Style, Hand-Crafted Wines” for which European wineries are famous, Nottely River Valley Vineyards viticulture (grape growing) practices operate under a minimal intervention standard that includes observations such as high density plantings, below ground gravity flow and geo-thermal cooling of the cellar.

The grape growing environment Nottely River Valley Vineyard strives for comes from the French word “terroir”. To learn more about this concept, visit the Terroir page on their website.

Valley River Vineyards

Originally planted by William and Brenda Reece in 1997, Valley River Vineyards continues to operate under family members who maintain the Reece’s dedication to small batch wines made “the old fashion way”. This means that the wines are no infusions or chemicals added to the wines. Each batch of wine is truly a grape-to-bottle experience you are sure to enjoy.

The vineyard is located in Murphy, NC and is frequently involved in local events. They welcome visitors, private parties, and are also available as a large event venue. For more information on what Valley River Vineyards offers, visit their webpage. You may also enjoy looking through their photo gallery, which gives a visual representation of all the vineyard has to offer.

Posted in Community
Aug. 14, 2019

The Benefits of Growing Equity in Your Home

Over the last couple of years, we’ve heard quite a bit about rising home prices. Today, expert projections still forecast continued growth, just at a slower pace. One of the often-overlooked benefits of rising home prices is the positive impact they have on home equity. Let’s break down three ways this is a win for homeowners.

1. Move-Up Opportunity

With the rise in prices, homeowners naturally experience an increase in home equity. According to the Homeowner Equity Insights from CoreLogic,

“In the first quarter of 2019, the average homeowner gained approximately $6,400 in equity during the past year.”

This increase in profit means if homeowners decide to sell, they’ll be able to put their equity to work for them as they make plans to move up into their next home.

2. Gain in Seller’s Profit

ATTOM Data Solutions recently released their Q2 2019 Home Sales Report, indicating the seller’s profit jumped at one of the fastest rates since 2015. They said:

“A look at the national numbers showed that U.S. homeowners who sold in the second quarter of 2019 realized an average home price gain since the original purchase of $67,500…the average home seller gain of $67,500 in Q2 2019 represented an average 33.9 percent return as a percentage of the original purchase price.”

Looking at the amount paid when they bought their homes, and then the amount they received after selling, we can see that some homeowners were able to walk away with a significant gain.

3. Out of a Negative Equity Situation

Negative equity occurs when there is a decline in home value, an increase in mortgage debt, or both. Many families experienced these challenges over the last decade. According to the same report from CoreLogic,

“U.S. homeowners with mortgages (roughly 63% of all properties) have seen their equity increase by a total of nearly $485.7 billion since the first quarter 2018, an increase of 5.6%, year over year. In the first quarter of 2019, the total number of mortgaged residential properties with negative equity decreased…to 2.2 million homes, or 4.1% of all mortgaged properties.”

The good news is, many families have moved beyond a negative equity situation, and no longer owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home.

Bottom Line

If you’re a current homeowner, you may have more equity than you realize. Your equity can open the door to future opportunities, such as moving up to your dream home. Let’s get together to discuss your options and start to put your equity to work for you.

Aug. 9, 2019

August by the Numbers

Staying current is a must when it comes to understanding the housing market. Here's a look at how the numbers stack up today. If you'd like to learn more about homeownership or your next move, let's get together to discuss your options.

Aug. 7, 2019

Lake Chatuge: How Building a Reservoir Shaped a Community

Posted by Lindsay Taylor

Introduction

Once warmer temperatures start making their way to the North Georgia/Western Carolina mountains, tourists and locals alike begin craving the summer lake life. The glittering, expansive waters of Lake Chatuge satiate that desire, while the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains invites a sense of escape from life’s daily bustle. Nestled between Clay County, NC and Towns County, GA, this hidden gem offers endless water recreation options. It is a favorite vacation spot for many reasons, but Lake Chatuge surely tops the list. Whether you’re into boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming, sight-seeing or lakeside camping, Lake Chatuge offers something for everyone at every price point.

History of Lake Chatuge

Named for a neighboring Cherokee settlement, Lake Chatuge is a manmade reservoir steeped in World War II history whose shorelines touch parts of both North Carolina and North Georgia. The picturesque waters, now home to endless recreational activities, was once home to a number of local families whose farmland is now covered by the Chatuge’s waters. Originally designed and constructed by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) in 1941 and 1942 to bolster the wartime effort and provide an additional source of power production, Lake Chatuge has since stimulated considerable growth and tourism to this part of the Appalachian Mountains.

The construction of the Chatuge Reservoir put an initial dent in some of the agricultural economy of the area as several acres of local farmland were covered by Lake Chatuge’s waters. Despite this minor hurdle, forming Lake Chatuge also helped to answer the desperate need for more job opportunities in the area. Construction efforts provided preliminary job access, whereas operating, sustaining and maintaining the reservoir continues to provide the tri-county area with additional job opportunities.

Stretching across the Hiwassee River in Western North Carolina and extending into North Georgia, Lake Chatuge provides one of the most beautiful recreation spots in all of North Carolina, and its presence continues to serve multiple purposes. Developments to the reservoir’s structures in the years after its initial construction, such as the addition of a small generator in 1954, ensured that Lake Chatuge would continue to serve as a source of clean and affordable hydroelectric power that would maximize the area’s yearly rainfall to its full potential. This means that affordable electrical power and flood protection continue to be benefits of Chatuge Reservoir. An example of these benefits can be seen in the decreased threat of flooding the local communities face each year. Whereas this was once a huge concern of local families, the Chatuge waterway system allows the TVA to aid in reducing the threat of flooding, while continuing to provide high enough water levels to sustain summertime lake activities. This ability to regulate and control the water has been instrumental to the sustainability of the local area. While farmlands were lost in the process, the benefits to the local area have helped to strengthen the community’s resistance to natural disasters as well as bolster the local economy.

Lake Chatuge Recreation Opportunities

Once Chatuge Dam and Reservoir fulfilled its wartime duties, a public park was created along its shores called the Clay County Recreation Park. This park gives residents and tourists access to walking paths, bike trails, campsites, fishing spots, pavilions, boat ramps and a playground. Next to the playground, the Clay County Recreation Park has a swimming area, complete with a sandy beach, a roped-off area designated for swimmers, picnic tables, and benches for watching your children play or for enjoying the awe-inspiring views of Lake Chatuge and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Two pavilions and restroom/shower house facilities are located in the same vicinity, while an additional pavilion and a ballfield are positioned directly up the street. Another bathroom can be found further up the path, next to additional campsites and the walking path. The majority of campsites in Gibson Cove, home to the camper and tent sites you will see at the Recreation Park, are positioned directly on Lake Chatuge Shores. The rest are lake view. This provides easy lake access for the many campers who are often found riding jet skis and enjoying time on their boats when they aren’t at their campsite.

Clay County Recreation Park also has launching sites for kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and tubes. Restrooms, shower facilities and campsites are only open during the late Spring and Summer seasons, however, the grounds themselves are accessible for year-round enjoyment.

Even those who don’t enjoy water activities still have a place at the Recreation Park. The park’s pathways are often bustling with people enjoying the fresh air by walking, jogging, walking their dog or biking. It is not uncommon to see friends and families out for an evening stroll, but it is equally as common to see runners out practicing for an upcoming race. These paths are open year-round, unless otherwise noted. On a rare occasion, the wooded pathway might be sectioned off for clearing, but generally, the trails stay open throughout all four seasons.

Although the campsites and restroom/shower facility are shutdown during the colder months, winter visitors can still experience the recreation and beauty of the lake. The pavilions, playground, and ballfield remain available for your use, and portable restrooms are provided along the trail for those still brave enough to venture outside. Regardless of the season, Clay County Recreation Park on Lake Chatuge does not disappoint.

Where to Play on Lake Chatuge

Lake Chatuge offers multiple places to play. A self-professed lake community, the water is rarely empty during the summer months, but it is never too full for you to take part in all that Lake Chatuge offers. With 133 miles of shoreline and more than 7,000 acres of lake water, there are endless opportunities to enjoy everything lake-related. Scenic coves throughout Clay County, NC and Towns County, GA provide lake visitors ample room to play, picnic and enjoy the great outdoors. Many families enjoy afternoons on the lake by simply finding a cove off the roadways and parking for a few hours of fun, while others visit a marina for a boating excursion.

The North Carolina side of Lake Chatuge in Hayesville, NC offers multiple areas for recreational fun. These include:

Visitors and locals are advised by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to contact the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to obtain additional information or licensures.

The North Georgia Side of Lake Chatuge in Hiawassee and Young Harris, GA offers:

Posted in Community
Aug. 5, 2019

Do You Know Your Credit Score?

Many people assume their credit score is too low to qualify to purchase a home. In reality, 84% of Americans have a credit score that would allow them to become homeowners.! If you'd like to find out more about what your credit score really means, let's get together to chat about the opportunities.

July 31, 2019

Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Sell Your House

As a homeowner, it’s always tempting to dream about the next big project you’re going to tackle. The possibilities are endless. Should I renovate? Should I refinance? Should I stay? Should I move? The list goes on and on.

In today’s housing market, it’s actually a great time to shift your thoughts toward selling your house and moving up into the home of your dreams. Here's why:

Inventory is on the rise, but there’s still an overall shortage of houses for sale (less than a 6-month supply found in a more normal market), so homes are going under contract quickly. In fact, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Realtors® Confidence Index Survey reports that right now homes are only staying on the market for an average of 27 days. That’s less than one month, an even more accelerated pace from the 36-day trend we saw last spring.

The same report also indicates there are more interested buyers than active sellers today, which is one of the big factors driving home prices higher.

This power combination provides an ideal environment for sellers aiming to close a quick sale and earn a big return as we wrap up the summer season.

Bottom Line

There’s still time to make a move before the school year starts and the fall weather sets in. Maybe it’s time to make a change. Let’s get together to determine if selling now is the right decision for your family.

July 25, 2019

5 Things to Know About this Housing Market

Wages are increasing, mortgage rates are low, and inventory is building each month. Let's get together to talk about how to use the strength of the current economy to your advantage if you're considering buying or selling a home in the near future!

July 22, 2019

Is Renting Right for Me?

If you’re currently renting and have dreams of owning your own home, it may be a good time to think about your next move. With rent costs rising annually and many helpful down payment assistance programs available, homeownership may be closer than you realize.

According to the 2018 Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report, 74% of renters plan on buying within the next 5 years, and 38% are planning to buy within the next 2 years.

When those same renters were asked why they disliked renting, 52% said rising rental costs were their top reason, and 42% of renters believe their rent will rise every year. The full results of the survey can be seen below:

It’s no wonder rising rental costs came in as the top answer. The median asking rent price has risen steadily over the last 30 years, as you can see below.

There is a long-standing rule that a household should not spend more than 28% of its income on housing expenses. With nearly half of renters (48%) surveyed already spending more than that, and with their rents likely to rise again, it’s never a bad idea to reconsider your family’s plan and ask yourself if renting is your best angle going forward. When asked why they haven’t purchased a home yet, not having enough saved for a down payment (44%) came in as the top response. The report went on to reveal that nearly half of all respondents believe that “a 20% down payment is required to buy a home.”

The reality is, the need to produce a 20% down payment is one of the biggest misconceptions of homeownership, especially for first-time buyers. That means a large number of renters may be able to buy now, and they don’t even know it.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many renters who are tired of rising rents but may be confused about what is required to buy in today’s market, let’s get together to determine your path to homeownership.

July 11, 2019

Homeownership Is the American Dream!

A recent survey of renters shows that 50% of Americans are DETERMINED to own a home. Let's get together to help you achieve your American Dream!