In a recent Facebook post, one of our Southeast Nashville neighbors reported that a strange man had just drove up and down her street a couple of times taking pictures of her house. Had anyone else seen anything like this and why would he do this?
Several posters chimed in to report that they had seen something similar at some time in the past and others offered their conspiratorial conjectures about the picture-taker's likely mischief.
I offered a brief explanation, based on my own experience, about why he may have been taking those pictures. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to offer a more detailed explanation here and maybe ease some of the worries you have when you see someone taking pictures on your street.
Financial institutions keep tabs on their money. If you have a mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, or pay taxes, somebody will occasionally take pictures of your house. Also, if you bought your house within the last year it may be used as a "comp" for sales that are taking place nearby. Comp is real estate speak for comparable.
An estimate of a property’s value is determined by comparing it to what similar properties in the area have sold for in the past year, or six months in a fast moving market like we've had recently.
Banks, mortgage lenders and insurance companies are not going to put thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, at risk, some of it for as long as 30 years, and say, "Okay, we've made that loan (or issued that insurance policy), hope things go well there." No, they have someone check on it from time to time and send them pictures.
Who does these inspections and takes the pictures?The Metro Nashville/Davidson County tax assessor is required to review and reassess property taxes every four years. Someone from the tax assessor’s office visits every property in the county during each four-year period--and takes at least a front picture of the house. Go to the property assessors website and you can see the most recent picture.
Financial institutions, have a system for these ongoing property inspections and evaluations. They contract with companies, called valuation companies, that provide this service. The valuation companies, in turn, have relationships with real estate agents and appraisers across the country. These are agents and appraisers they have vetted and, in many cases, run background checks on.
A financial institution places an order with a valuation company for an inspection with instructions for what they want in the report. The valuation company then sends that order out to one of their affiliated inspectors who does the inspection, takes the pictures and submits the report.
Why bother if the payments are being made on time? A lender or insurer may want to review the status of a property for many reasons.
They may be doing a routine check on properties on which they have a mortgage or insurance.
Mortgages are negotiable securities. They are bought and sold like stocks and bonds. One company may be in talks to buy ten million dollars worth of mortgages from another company. That buyer pulls a sample of the properties in that batch of securities and asks a valuation company to inspect those properties to ensure they are buying what they think they are buying.
Some years ago I was sent to inspect a rural property in western Williamson County. House numbers are often few and far between in rural areas. I drove back and forth trying to find that address. Frustrated, I pulled over on the side of the road to review my instructions and figure out what to do next. Stopped, I could see the outlines of a foundation and the remains of a burned out house in the weeds right where the address told me I should see a house. I don't know why the company had ordered that inspection. Inspectors seldom know the reason for an inspection. Maybe they already knew about the fire and were sending me to verify it. Anyway, they got their pictures of the vacant lot and what remained after the fire.
On another inspection in Antioch, I pulled up to the front of a newer, 2-story house. The lawn and landscaping were well maintained. The house appeared to be in perfect condition but, when pulled around to get a picture of the left side of the house, I could see the back of it was completely burned out.
After the 2010 floods in Middle Tennessee, inspections were ordered by the hundreds. Many flooded houses were not in a flood plain. Companies heard about the flooding and wanted to assess and track their risks.
If things are rocking along and the payments are showing up on time, inspections are probably infrequent. Each company has its procedures and schedules. But if you miss a payment, the first thing a mortgage servicer does is order an inspection. Is the lawn mowed, shrubbery trimmed, everything neat and well maintained, or does it show "deferred maintenance?" Does it look abandoned? That property will be tracked closely, probably every 30 days, until payments are up-to-date or foreclosure is completed.
If you are a neighbor and the property is abandoned, you should welcome the inspection because the lender will move more quickly to begin basic maintenance to keep the property from becoming overgrown and damaged.
Nell and I have done these reports for years. An inspection report may require only one or two pictures and a short checklist about the appearance of the house and the neighborhood. The most common report is more detailed and is called a broker price opinion (BPO). A BPO typically requires six pictures, front, house number (if there is no house number then the two closest numbers on each side of the subject property), both sides and pictures down the street in both directions. BPO's require information on the condition of the house, comments about the neighborhood, comments on the local market conditions and an estimated value based on current listings and recent sales in the area.
There are some simple rules for inspectors. Stay on public property, don't go on private property. Don't take pictures with people in them. Don't discuss what you are doing with anybody.
So, be a good neighbor. Watch out for your neighborhood and if you see anything suspicious, call the police. But if it is someone taking a few pictures from their car, it is probably just a financial institution checking up on a property where they have some financial interest or potential liability.
The number of new jobs being created in the U.S. is roughly twice the rate of growth in the number of workers, says Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody's Analytics.
Our Southeast Metro Nashville, La Vergne, and Smyrna communities seem to be a demonstration model for Zandi's analysis. Bridgestone has just opened its new facility in the former Sears store building at The Crossings, formerly Hickory Hollow Mall, adding 500 jobs in our area. The six-story Community Health Systems (CHS) building in the new Century Farms development is about ready, and 1,600 new Antioch employees will begin moving in a few weeks.
The massive former Whirlpool plant building in La Vergne is now fully leased. SVP Worldwide, known for its Singer, Husqvarna Viking, and Pfaff brands, will move its headquarters, already located in La Vergne, and a new Singer research and development facility into 213,774 square feet of office and industrial space increasing its current local work force of 120 employees by 20%. Some of that research and development staff is being relocated here from overseas. Paul Block, Singer's CEO, was quoted in The Tennessean as saying Singer's focus is "shifting from sewing for necessity to sewing for hobby. They're looking to do quilting, embroidery and sewing for fun."
A Hong Kong-based company, Sinomax, announced in 2015 that they would begin manufacturing
pillows and mattresses in another part of that former Whirlpool plant. The plant brings 350 new jobs to our area. This is Sinomax's first U. S. venture. Their president of USA operations, Frank Chen, says Sinomax was motivated by their desire to cut the cost of shipping their bulky products to the U. S. market.
And that's just the big stuff. Smaller employers announce their impending arrival in Southeast Nashville almost daily. Recent announcements by Taco John's and Chick-fil-A come to mind.
Nationally home prices continue to increase at an alarming rate. In May, according to the National Association of Realtors®, the median list price for all types of housing topped $250,000 for the first time (median meaning that half of all listings were below $250,000 and half were above that number). Yet, the ADP National Employment Report says there were an estimated 2,000 fewer construction jobs in June. The limited supply of labor is slowing the number of homes builders can complete and, since there is plenty of demand in upper price ranges, the builders are concentrating their work there while supplies of lower priced new construction languish.
Demand for housing continues to be high. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, "Prospective buyers are being sidelined by both limited choices and home prices that are climbing too fast." It seems Yun could be thinking about the greater Nashville area when he says, "The lack of listings in the affordable price range are creating lopsided conditions in many areas where investors and repeat buyers with larger down payments are making up a bulk of the sales activity. Meanwhile, many prospective first-time buyers can't catch a break. Prices are going up, and there's intense competition for the homes they're financially able to purchase."
When a seller asks for a consultation about selling their house, the conversation eventually gets around to price.
That’s when a seller often says, “We need at least [a certain amount] for this house. By the time of my visit, I have done some basic research on what similar houses have sold for in the neighborhood. As we’ve walked through the house and yard, I’ve been making mental adjustments to the numbers arrived at in my research
.If their number falls within the price range or close to the range I have in mind, we’re on our way.
But what if their number is well above the value of any similar recent sale in the area?
We have to address what these sellers need. A house is usually a family’s single biggest asset. That often leads, consciously or unconsciously, to an assumption that the value of the house is always there as the ultimate backer of the family’s financial needs.
That may or may not be true. Why? Because of buyers. Buyers have their own word. They are looking for a “deal.” In fact, they are looking for the best bargain they can find that will meet the needs of their family and their budget. That is the eternal tug of war between sellers and buyers. Buyers have little or no interest in what the sellers need. They focus on their own needs.
Real estate brokers live in this tension between sellers and buyers. The tension can be less painful if sellers and buyers understand how houses are valued. Here the broker becomes the educator. The broker’s first job is to get them to set the emotions aside. That’s seldom easy. Sellers often want to include a premium in the price for their memories and their past hard work on upkeep.
But the numbers are the numbers. Those numbers focus on what similar houses in the area have sold for in the past six months to a year.
I often tell sellers that we are going to have to sell this property twice. First, we have to sell it to a buyer. Then, if that buyer is getting a mortgage, we are going to have to sell it to an appraiser. The appraiser is there to protect the lender from loaning more on the house than it is worth and isn’t interested in anybody’s needs, wants or deals.
We have to clear those two hurdles before anybody can meet any of their needs or wants. That’s a win-win.
Every spring one of nature’s understated beauties hides among the new green leaves of tulip poplar trees. You have to get up close to appreciate the delicate structure and colors of these flowers, and that’s not always easy since the trees have been known to tower 190 feet with an average height of 70 to 100 feet.
The leaves of the tulip poplar have a unique and easily identifiable shape. They contribute glowing gold to red hues to the autumn color display.
The tulip poplar grows tall, straight and fast, for a hardwood tree. In 1947 the Tennessee General Assembly designated it the state tree “because it grows from one end of the state to the other,” and because it contributed to the development of the state by providing the lumber for houses and farm buildings.
Like one of the old vinyl records, we REALTORS® feel like we are stuck repeating the same thing over and over, rising prices and low inventory.
Turn on the news. You’ll hear that the job market is great and mortgage interest rates remain at historically low rates. So why is home ownership stuck at a 50-year low? The National Association of REALTORS® says it is because of a “perverse mix of affordability challenges, student loan debt, tight credit conditions, and housing supply shortages.” To that, they add “post-foreclosure stress disorder.”
The real estate market along the I-24E corridor through southeast Nashville, Antioch, La Vergne and Smyrna seems like it was drawn up as an illustration for the NAR analysis. The charts above show clearly that year-over-year price increases are out-pacing yearly wage growth which is stagnant in the 2% to 3% range.
In our five target zip codes, 37013, 37211, 37217, 37086 and 37167, there are 112 active new construction listings on the market and 199 new houses already under contract. Builders are working as fast as the labor market will allow. Be careful around new construction sites. You are apt to be handed a hammer or shovel and told, “You’re hired.”
In these zip codes, the least expensive is $205,000 for three bedrooms, two baths with 1,325 square feet in Antioch’s The Village at Harbortown development. The top price in these zips is $445,000 for three bedrooms, three and a half baths with 3,395 square feet in Hampton Roads Estates in La Vergne. Builders are now projecting completion dates of new homes out into November and December.
There is some indication that millennials are becoming more active buyers as they age into their 30’s and are motivated by increasing prices that threaten to put home ownership of reach if they don’t act now. Current homeowners continue to be reluctant sellers because of the challenges involved in making a smooth transition into a new purchase.
Someone recently asked what we are telling first-time buyers who are trying to navigate their way to home ownership in this market. That caused some reflection on what we have experienced with our clients; what has worked and what hasn’t.
Buyers need to understand how the current market is working. This is not your father's real estate market. Friends and family offer advice. “Take your time.” “Be patient and find exactly what you want.” “Buy in the best area.” “Start out with a low offer; you can always come up from there.” That’s all good advice, but in this market, if first-time buyers aren't careful, it will have them losing out on house after house.
This market requires a different approach, based on the realities of a rampant seller's market. Failure to know and do what works will likely result in renewing that rental lease again and again.
The successful buyer in this market starts with one clear goal: “I want to be a homeowner.” Nothing more complicated than that.
Then begins the journey through the requirements and compromises necessary to attain it. Here are four things we tell first-time home buyers:
REALTORS® share the emotional roller-coaster ride with buyers. When you start getting excited about a home, we join in. Likewise, when you are disappointed, we share the disappointment. Sometimes our clients will ask, “How do you do this day after day?” That’s where the experience comes in. If you need coaches who have been in this contest before, call us. We’ll use our experience to help you finish the race.
On Thursday morning, May 25, 2017, Antioch became the “It Neighborhood” of the “It City.”
That gasping, sputtering sound you heard from the east and west sides of the city was people choking on their lattes as they heard the news.
Metropolitan Nashville Mayor Megan Barry held a press conference, along with representatives of Ikea to announce that Ikea will be building a new store in Antioch. Here is what we have been able to glean from the announcement and various news stories:
Homeowners in the southeast Metro Nashville, La Vergne, and Smyrna, owe Oldacre McDonald, the developers of the Century City development, a big “Thank You.” This development will eventually change the character of the entire I-24E corridor. One of the most dramatic changes will be in the property values; we predict they will increase steadily during and after the development of Century City as more upscale businesses follow Ikea into the development.
The Ridgeview development in the Crossings at Hickory Hollow area continues to build, and sell as fast as they can build. Marhaden Pointe in the Hamilton Church Road/Pin Oak Drive area has four new homes listed under $250,000, as of this writing, with completion dates out into October. Hollandale Estates in La Vergne has some of the lowest prices for new construction in the I-24E corridor, offered with completion dates projected out near the end of the year. Likewise, Lenox of Smyrna has offerings slated for completion late in the year. Developers are working overtime planning new developments. This tight market looks like it will last for several years, barring national or international disruption. See the April 2017 Real Estate Market Report for Southeast Nashville, Antioch, La Vergne and Smyrna here.
On Saturday, May 20, noon to 3:00 p.m., the Special Operations Division of the Metro Nashville Police Department will hold their 2nd Annual Special Operations Division Open House in the football stadium of McGavock High School.
Watch the canine teams work. Get up-close looks at police helicopters, SWAT equipment, the Hazardous Devices Unit equipment, including their robot, and the department’s emergency contingency equipment.
Need a job? Recruiters for police officers and school crossing guards will be taking job applications.
There will also be presentations on traffic, pedestrian, and cyclist safety.
Food trucks will be there.
Everything is totally free and open to everyone.
Your home felt comfortable for a few years after you bought it. Now, your list of things you really wish it had grows longer every year. Browsing online, you get lots of ideas. Then you binge on HGTV. You begin to question, should we relocate or renovate? The answer depends on your needs and priorities.
Need a bigger kitchen for a growing family? Or maybe want your family to eat a more healthy diet and have more meals together as a family. You collection of cookware and appliances may have outgrown your cabinet space. Designing and renovating your kitchen can be satisfying and rewarding. Then it will also add value if you do decide to sell sometime in the future.
Is your family running out of space? Maybe you need another bathroom or a rec room. Finishing an unfinished basement may be a solution. If you don’t have the space to add that extra room, renovation may not be practical. If you are in a condo adding space is probably not an option. The expense and inconvenience of adding onto your current home may be as much trouble and expense as moving.
Is location an issue? You may love your neighborhood and not want to leave. The school can be an issue. If your child is happy and thriving in the school, you may be reluctant to risk a change. Renovation may be the better choice. If you are seeking more convenient shopping and restaurants, better schools or an easier commute than your current neighborhood provides, a move may be in order.
What family budget and investment issues play into the decision? If you have a mortgage payment that is easy to manage you may be reluctant to take on a larger monthly payment. Gradually improving your current home may be a more comfortable choice. On the other hand, you see prices moving upward in the Nashville area market. Perhaps you’ve had a nice bounce in family income. You may want to invest in a home in an area where home values are likely to increase more rapidly, making it likely you will benefit from a nice build-up in equity with the added benefit that you immediately have your wish list fulfilled. Here is a ranking, from the National Association of REALTORS®, of the top 10 remodeling projects that provide the best return on investment nationally.
Our market may have cooled just a little bit. But that only means it has cooled from white hot to red hot. We see a few homes sit on the market a few days longer and there are more price reductions by those who were too optimistic about the market being totally out of control and unrealistic. The minuses in the charts above are not because of slowing demand, but rather because of the extremely limited inventory available to buyers. This market still requires buyers to be both patient and persistent. Homes that are priced well for their location and condition are still selling in a few days and usually with multiple offers. Buyers continue to see housing around the I-24 corridor through Southeast Metro Nashville/Davidson County into La Vergne and Smyrna in Rutherford County as some of the most reasonably priced in the Greater Nashville area.
The end of price increases and limited availability of homes is nowhere in sight. Several large employers like Community Health Systems and Bridgestone are about to open facilities that will bring hundreds of new workers into the area, further increasing demand. Homeowners who would like to sell are frozen in place because, even though they will have no problem selling, they know they will then face the complicated buyer’s market. Many have just breathed a sigh of relief as their home’s value finally moved into the black. They are reluctant to stretch their budgets’ limits again.
If you are ready to travel the bumpy road to home ownership, there are some things you can do to avoid some of the potholes.
Got questions? We have answers, along with years of experience and lots of patience and determination. Contact us here.
The colors of the Tennessee state flag are the same as the U.S. flag, red, white and blue. There is a dark blue circle on a deep red field with a blue bar on one end. A narrow white border outlines the blue circle and the blue bar. Inside the blue circle are three white stars.
Colonel LeRoy Reeves, a member of the Tennessee National Guard and a Johnson City attorney, designed the flag. It was designated as the official state flag by the state General Assembly on April 17, 1905.
The three stars represent the three grand divisions of Tennessee (more about this in another blog). The blue circle symbolizes that these three division are united into one whole. The blue bar has no special symbolic significance. The Colonel added it as a design feature to enhance the appearance when the flag was hanging limp.
Elements of the state flag are sometimes used by companies and organizations that identify with the state, for example, the Tennessee Titans professional football team and First Tennessee Bank.
The big national sites scrape the internet for any information they can find about any house. They pick up feeds from multiple listing services, mortgage company sites
and court records listing foreclosures and bankruptcies. Wherever they can find houses listed in public records with a picture, they post it. The information may be 24 hours to weeks old when it is picked up. Then it may remain active on the site long after the property has sold or been withdrawn from the market.
Improve your search results by using local sites. Realtracs.com is the multiple listing service (MLS) for Middle Tennessee and even into southern Kentucky and northern Alabama. Your search there will get you the same houses that a REALTOR® will find with a search.
Get that same information by using the search on the Home Page of this site. It is tied into the MLS and is constantly updated. In a fast-moving market, the most desirable new listings are often under contract before you learn about them if the search site you are using only updates every 24 hours. I think our search is more simple and easy to use.
Fortunately, in the Metro Nashville area, zip codes identify the larger neighborhoods very nicely. Use this map to determine the zip codes in your areas of interest: http://bit.ly/2p6MYlP .
Make your search even more efficient. Tell us what you’re looking for. We will enter your search into the Multiple Listing Service. As soon as a house, condo, investment property, lot or land is listed anywhere you are looking in Middle Tennessee, you will be notified by email immediately. Click here to begin your search.
Back to the search. You dig and dig until you begin to feel more like an archaeologist than a future homeowner. You search until past your bedtime. You sneak a peek at every available moment at work. You search on your phone waiting for your order at lunch. You find possibilities. You call. “Sorry, we already have multiple offers, and the seller has selected one. As soon as we get verification of financing, it will be pending.”
Or worse, the agent you call doesn’t recognize the property and mumbles, “I’m not finding it in the MLS. Where did you say you found it?” You give her the site. She looks it up. “Okay, what it is, this one is that it is a foreclosure sale. You can’t buy it with your FHA financing.”
S0 it goes, house after house. Your annoyance grows. What is going on here?
The answer: In the Greater Nashville real estate market, a bunch of stuff is going on.
It won't always be this way. Real estate, like gravity, follows the rule that what goes up must come down. When? Economists burn out a lot of brain cells trying to predict economic cycles. They seldom get it right. What we can say is that Nashville appears to be trending upward with no end in sight. Every time we turn on the news we’re reminded that our "It City" has a very bright future. If you wait for the next downturn to buy a home, you are probably going to pay a lot of rent and eventually pay even more than you will pay now. It's hard now, but easy may be a long time coming.
This is going to be painful for a lot of folks, particularly seniors on a fixed income. My reassessment came in this morning’s mail. It looks like my annual property tax bill for my home in Haywood Heights will increase by about $200. I don’t have any grounds for appeal. I think I can sell my house for more than the new total appraised value. The tax assessor’s value is conservative.
I’m approaching 28 years in real estate in southeast Nashville. I started during the RTC crisis when all of the savings and loans went belly-up, then rode rising values up to the turn of the century when the dot com swoon came. That one didn’t hit N
ashville-area real estate values particularly hard. The real estate value roller coaster climbed another incline before it tipped over into the 2007-2008
Our values slowly pulled out of that disaster until about 2012 when things went nuts. Values have since increased not only year-over-year but quarter-over-quarter. Every time two REALTORS® get together these days the conversation always turns to, “Can you believe these values? I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The good news is that homeowners throughout the Greater Nashville Area have been building equity. If you are thinking of selling, you are in the catbird seat. Buyers are beggars, and they aren't being choosy.
But for many who are on limited or fixed incomes, this new tax assessment will be difficult. What can you do?
1. Plan—Know that by February 28, 2018, you are going to owe that higher tax amount. Don’t get caught by surprise when the tax bills come out in October; budget for it.
2. Apply for the Property Tax Relief Program—Tax relief is available to seniors (at least 65 years old), disabled homeowners, disabled veteran homeowners and the spouse of a disabled veteran homeowner. The deadline for applying for 2016 tax relief has passed. Get more information on this program at www.comptroller.tn.gov/pa/patxr.asp and plan for applying for 2017.
3. Appeal your reassessment—If you think the new appraisal overshot the mark on your property’s value, you can ask for a review. There are three ways to do this: (1) Go to the tax assessor’s website, www.padctn.org, (2) Call the assessor’s office, 616-862-6059. (3) Go to the assessor’s office. The office is open weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. If you need assistance determining whether to appeal or to make an appeal contact us here. We will provide a free market analysis and property evaluation to help you decide what to do.
Finally, don’t yell at the tax assessor or her staff. The timing and the process of the reassessment are mandated by the Tennessee State Board of Equalization. Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite has worked hard to educate and prepare Metro property owners, leading up to these reassessments being sent out. I’ve been in two community meetings where she was present, handing out brochures and speaking, letting us know it was coming. So far, in Southeast Nashville, we are not dealing with the wild levels of appreciation that are occurring in some parts of the city, like East Nashville, altering the entire character of neighborhoods. The assessor’s website, www.padctn.org, has lots of information. You can find information on calculating your tax bill and a tax bill calculator at www.nashville.gov/Trustee/Calculate-Taxes.aspx .