Laura's Lifesavers!

Laura & Sarah

I was recently inspired by a friend, Laura Wessell. She invited her Birthday Guests for an "Iron-Building" cookout and followed it up with a Birthday Blood Donation Party (the next week) at Red Cross. This is the third year that Laura has given the gift of life by promoting a blood drive on her birthday. This is truly a gift that keeps giving. Laura estimates that close to 100 pints of blood have been donated during her drive. This has become a family tradition that she shares with her sister Sarah and brother Matt on their birthdays.

I LOVE this idea! Thank you Laura for the inspiration! 

For more information about donating or volunteering in your area contact:

Party Treats

Easy Like Sunday Morning!

Bald Eagle

Friends & Family

Well, it was actually Sunday afternoon but you get the picture. I had the pleasure of taking a guided tour around Jordan Lake with family and friends. We were concerned about the weather because of a stormy forecast but the skies were clear (Carolina Blue) and full of sunshine. The breeze over the water was perfect. We had a partially covered boat for shade and were provided water mist fans if needed along with a beautiful fruit tray and icy cold beverages. 

Our guide, Dave Griffen, navigated the boat and provided a wealth of knowledge about the lake and wildlife. With his help we spotted several Bald Eagles and other wildlife. This was a perfect way to relax and enjoy the beauty of Lake Jordan. I highly recommend this tour for any occasion.  

Happy Trails To You!

The Big One

I love walking different trails. There are plenty of places to get your fill of outdoor activity and adventure in the Triangle. One of my favorite trails is the Al Buehler Trail (pics) that is located around the perimeter of Washington Duke Golf Course in
I have included a cool free app that I use to keep me on track.
Another great tool is
This is a free Pocket Ranger for NC State Parks.
Check out this awesome site for more details of bike and walk

It just keeps going...
Beautiful view at the top:)

Shout out to Mood Changers @ Earth Fare

I just wanted to give a shout out to the folks at Earth Fare (Brier Creek) for providing exceptional customer service! Have you ever had a day that just seemed a little off and people surrounding you changed your mood? That is what happened to me.

I experienced great  customer service at the cheese counter where they patiently helped me select cheese. I ended up with the 8 month raw Manchego. Yum!  Then the butcher called a competitor after I mentioned that I had an allergic reaction to their beef. He verified where Earth Fare's cattle and where the competitor's cattle are raised and how the beef is processed for comparison. Wow,  that was memorable and setting a high standard. BTW it was delicious:)

My day continued to get better at the register. I had the pleasure of meeting two wild and friendly kids that were ROCKIN some bright hair styles, positive attitude and inspiration. They made me smile! When I asked if I could take their picture they said of course and then struck a serious pose.

There are several reasons why I love working at Go of our company sayings is "Go Be Better." I loved the customer service that I received at Earth Fare and it was a pleasant reminder that we can learn from everyone how to go the extra mile and be memorable to our customers.

Check them out: Earth Fare

Obstacles (Trail of Tears)

This is what I recently faced on the Washington Duke Trail (aka Trail of Tears). For those of you who don’t know me I really don’t like to get dirty. I’m not sure when this happened because I remember enjoying making mud pies and loving puddles as a child but let’s fast forward to this day. I had been warned by a friend about ½ miles before I got to this area of the trail so I knew what was ahead of me. My mind started clicking…  Should I just turn around? Maybe I can walk through the woods and bypass it… Thank god I don’t have on my new shoes…Maybe my friend was exaggerating…how bad could it be?

When I finally arrived on the scene I evaluated it and stopped and took the picture. Ummmm. I could turn around and no-one would know (except me) or I could suck it up and continue on. What is my strategy? Walk fast or play it safe? After a few minutes it felt silly just standing there (and my Nike GPS App was ticking away) so I tried to delicately walk around the edge. That was not a good choice because mud started flowing over the top of my shoes so then I decided to walk quickly and then the dirty water splashed up to my thighs. You would have probably enjoyed seeing a picture of the horror on my face more than the water on the trail. So after my fear had passed I still had another 3 miles to get to my car. 

I usually walk to clear my mind and solve world peace so this got me thinking. We are faced with obstacles every day. Whether it involves relationships, work, health, spirituality or finances.  The list goes on and on. Realistically, we can only control our actions in each given situation. So for me the trail represents life in many ways. It’s challenging but rewarding at the same time. 

Music to My Ears!

I had the pleasure of seeing Chris Botti perform with the NC Symphony at Durham Performing Arts (DPAC) in Durham. I have always loved attending concerts and enjoy a variety of music. There is something magical about the range of emotions that can be experienced through music. The passion, dedication and love that the musicians, singers and performers demonstrated was very powerful and somewhat spiritually moving at times. The music swept me away and I felt moments of joy and then a strong sense of calmness and peace. It was a fantastic night filled with toe tapping jazz. Some of my favorites were “Hallelujah” and “Emmanuel.”I highly recommend that you attend one of his memorable concerts.

This got me thinking of when my love for music began…Was it the song and music that I learned to tie my shoe laces to? Learning to sing the alphabet? Practicing my multiplications to music for memory? Learning the planets or listening to School House Rock? I don’t remember because music has always been present in my life. When I was younger my friends and I could always talk my mom into taking us to concerts in the city (usually an hour or more away) because she loves music too. We wanted to see every performance possible. Honestly, I had never heard of some of the musicians until they were in driving distance and therefore had my attention. This was an interesting experience and always made for great stories. Our home was always filled with sounds of Rhythm and Blues, Country and Rock while preparing dinner, entertaining company or just passing time. One of my fondest childhood memories was that on Saturdays we would make homemade pizza (before we had a local pizza place) and dance while watching American Bandstand and Soul Train. I was fascinated by music and how it made me feel but never (yet) learned to play an instrument. I took ballet, tap, jazz and baton like most southern girls but refused to learn an instrument even though I was strongly encouraged.
Do you ever hear a song and place it with a memory? Every time I hear “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer I think about how our parents looked shocked after we did a dance to it in first grade. Lol  Of course we were clueless about the lyrics it was all about the beat. Every time I hear “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John I look like I forgot were my flash mob was meeting and breakout into a solo performance that was embedded into my brain when I took dancing classes. In my teens I related music to freedom, fun, rebellion, love, disappointment or whatever I was experiencing at the time. How many of you associate a song with a past crush? Seriously, I don’t… I just thought I would mention it. Ha Ha! Music is real and can be used to lift your spirits, change your mood or wallow in your troubles so the decision is yours.
Not all of us have the talent to share the profound performance that I witnessed at Chris Botti’s concert. However we do have the opportunity to have the same passion and dedication in our own lives. I feel fortunate to be living a life full of gratitude in an area that I love and enjoying my business in real estate. I may not be able to carry a tune on an instrument yet but I do enjoy the rhythm of life and look forward to any opportunity to put some pep in my step.

“Music is an outburst of the soul.” ~Frederick Delius

Social Worker = Realtor?

Social Worker = Realtor? It could be more similar than you think…In my previous life as a social worker I worked at a child abuse center, psychiatric educational school and mental health facility doing various activities. Now I work with people that feel somewhat abused from the real estate market (usually from other states), taken advantage of by banks and wanting a deal because they need a certain amount of money for their current home or have a magical number in their head in mind for purchasing a new home.  I get it! I totally understand where you are coming from and my goal is to help you get as close to your dreams as reasonably possible. With this being said, I look at every opportunity with an objective view and love showing people the facts and letting them make their own decisions.

We are bombarded daily with daunting and scary news by the media. I’m not here to sugar coat it, just to give you a different perspective. Interest rates are still great even though it may take a little more paperwork and time to get a loan. Should we really complain about this since it is for consumer protection? It is still a Buyer’s market in most areas which means as a buyer you may get a better deal. People still need to sell their homes because of relocating, new jobs, having larger families and downsizing etc. Some sellers still want/need to sell to improve or adjust their quality of life. No matter what the economy looks like there will always be people who need to buy or sell.
My job is to help you determine if it’s the right time or not. I have found that sometimes people live in fear of what could happen. Well the truth is that no one knows what tomorrow will bring but we do have choices. So if purchasing or selling is something you have been considering give me a call. I would love the opportunity to discuss your options.  I bring a variety of skills to the table with my past experience as a social worker and realtor. I believe that these skills give me an advantage and if my clients ever get really stressed I can always talk them off the bridge:) 

3 Absolute Musts for Buying a Home - Without the Stress!

Major money transactions are stressful. Moving is stressful.  Big life commitments are stressful. Put 'em all together, and what do you have? The home buying process (and the potential for one of the most stressful life experiences you'll ever have)! 

But even in this volatile market where distressed properties - and people! - are commonplace, it 
is possible to maintain your sanity in the midst of a real estate deal - I promise.

Here are 3 money, mindset and calendar management strategies for buying a home, without stressing entirely out.

1.  Work the Boy Scout program: be prepared.  Scrambling for money and documents that the lender, unexpectedly, “requires” to close has got to rank up there in the top couple of stressors that buyers experience. Once you get into contract and, especially, once you’ve removed contingencies and put your deposit money on the line, every request that your lender makes seems like a ransom demand for your home - and your life, as you’d planned it.

Avoid this scrambling by being prepared. If you are planning to buy a home down the road, consult a mortgage broker and real estate pro early on in your planning process, so you can know what kind of cash you'll realistically need to close the deal - before you start the buying process. You might keep hearing about 3.5% down FHA loans, but your local pros can reality check you that it might cost an addition 5 or 6% of the purchase price just to close such a loan, in your area and price range!

If they give you a range, err on the high side - penny-scraping buyers are generally the most stressed of them all, as they are the ones whose deals are most likely to be entirely derailed if there’s an uptick in interest rates, say, during the time they are house hunting or in escrow, or if the homeowners’ insurance costs a bit more than they planned.

And have all your documents ready, too - things like divorce decrees, tax returns, updated check stubs, documentation of bills that you’ve recently paid down or off , even driver’s licenses (you wouldn’t believe the number of people who can’t produce ID when the notary needs it at the closing table!), keep all these items at the ready in case your lender requires them. By the same universal law that renders my dogs smarter and faster the wetter they get, it seems like lenders require the most documentation of the folks who have no idea where their most important papers are.

Last, but not least, there’s also an education element of preparedness.  Educate yourself about the standard practices and timelines for a real estate transaction in your local market (your agent will surely be able to brief you on this, and you can also peruse Trulia Voices Community to sample the experiences of other folks buying right now in your area.)  If you’re buying a bank-owned property or a short-sale, educate yourself about what this will entail - spend some time reading up on the rollercoaster of Wild Westiness (a mixed metaphor, I know, but still appropriate) that some distressed property sales can be, from the buyer’s point of view.  

When it comes to buying a home, realistic expectations will set you free.  Stress-free, that is.

2.  Keep your timelines as flexible as possible, as long as possible.  Rarely does the sun set in America without some homebuyer (or 5) near you lying awake in bed wondering how long they’ll have to:
    a) keep bunking with their in-laws, 
    b) keep paying the nightly rate for the all-suite hotel down the street from the place they’re buying,
    c) keep paying the daily fee for the moving truck which is parked outside,  
        containing everything they own, 

    d) keep begging their landlord to please, please, please give them another 24 hours
        and they swearing they’ll be out after that (even though they said that yesterday!), 

    e) keep pushing back the vacation days they took off work for the move that seems like it will never       
        happen, or
    f) some combination or all of the above,

all because their escrow is not closing on the timeline they expected it to.

There are as many reasons for late escrow closings as there are insomniac homebuyers facing this issue: buyer’s loan underwriting is taking too long, seller’s short sale application is still being processed, appraisal is glitchy, bank-owned property asset manager is slow to produce the necessary signatures, and the list goes on.  

More important than knowing the causes, though, is having the awareness that escrow closing dates are not set in stone until the end is very, very near - and that the problem of delayed closing comes up with ever-increasing frequency these days. Buyers who are trying to time their closing so that they move out of their apartment on the exact day they plan to close are likely to be disappointed - and temporarily homeless - in the current market climate.

Best practice is to plan on some overlapping days, weeks or even a month between the time you should be able to move into your next home, and the time you must be out of your current home, if you can afford it. Keep your moving plans flexible as long as possible - I’ve know a number of buyers who didn’t realize their move would be delayed until they were signing their closing docs!  

Also, it’s sanity-making to try to keep some flexibility about your daily calendar while you are in escrow, lest you need to show up at the property and get some additional inspections, unexpectedly, which were recommended by your inspector.  If you only have a couple of days before you must remove your inspection contingency, you might have to drop everything and stop in at the place for an hour here or there.  You might also need to stop in at the bank - in person - to wire cash when it’s time to increase your deposit or pay your down payment or closing costs into escrow. This cannot usually be done over the phone or outside of banker’s hours, so if you can be a bit flexible for these outings, calendar-wise, you’ll be in good shape.

3.  Pre-approve the folks across the bargaining table from you.  There’s nothing worse than doing every thing you’re supposed to do, then having the deal fall apart at the last minute, through no fault of your own. I’ve known scores of buyers whose short sales failed to get approved by the seller’s bank and fell out of escrow as a result.  I’ve also seen and heard from buyers whose deals died when their intended properties failed to meet the buyer’s mortgage guidelines because of condition problems like incomplete kitchen remodel jobs, mold or electrical problems and high-cost pest report items that neither the buyer nor the seller can afford to repair.

These ailing transactions can be prevented by early diagnosis: vet the other party’s qualifications and ability to close the deal, before you get into contract.  For buyers, this can mean having your agent collect as much information as possible about the seller’s equity position, how underwater the home is, which banks are involved and how successful the listing agent is at closing short sale transactions - all of these things can give your agent and yourself a big old clue as to whether a short sale is likely to close.  Similarly, if you’re getting an FHA loan, before you make an offer, walk through the property with your agent and troubleshoot it for condition problems that might come up during the appraisal. 

With this information you can make an informed decision whether to move forward and try to buy the place; if you get into contract knowing it’s a crap shoot, at least you’ll have realistic expectations - the sort that are very difficult to disappoint. 

Brought to you by Tara-Nichole Nelson at Trulia