How Triangle Homes Celebrate Earth Day

BuildSense HomeHappy Earth Day!  As an EcoBroker (a Realtor specially educated on issues regarding green homes) it’s great to know that the Triangle is a hotbed of activity in green home building.  I was drawn to Green Building because it provides options to save money, resources and provide healthier home environments.

In fact, May 3-4 and 10-11 will be a great time to see the best in local Green Homes on the Triangle Green Home Tour.  Founded in 2006, the Green Home Builders of the Triangle promote building of resource-efficient homes and were the hosts of the national Green Home Builders’ conference a few years ago, a testament to interest in green building in the area.  Randall Lanou is one of the premiere members of the group and is President of BuildSense Architecture.  Check out his entry at 1201 Watauga in Mordecai on the tour (pictured), or find out more on their BuildSense Blog.

In Raleigh, both custom home builders and production builders have embraced Green.  You can find many energy-efficient features on home built by Lennar, Meritage and others.  Green features are a part of the MLS, so a custom search can be made for you!

If you’re thinking of remodeling, or taking on just one project in your home, the folks at Common Ground Green Building Center in Durham a great resource.  Talk to Paul of any of the staff about beautiful and unique glass countertops, cork floors or low VOC paint.  Keep in mind even a small project such as improving insulation around your doors and windows or equipping lights with auto off switches (if you tend to forget as I do!) can be helpful.  A big part of what makes a home more earth-friendly is about using resources more efficiently.
It may not seem like it yet this year, but sun is a resource we’ve got great plenty of in the Triangle, making solar installations at home a viable option.  Local Cary Company Yes! Solar Solutions offers residential installations to lower your energy bill.
Read the Indy Week article about affordable solar and the Solarize programs starting in North Carolina. This grassroots initiative for community solar started in Portland Oregon several years ago, and has swept the country. The first North Carolina program was in Asheville in 2013, and Solarize Durham is the first in the Triangle, with more programs announced for Raleigh and other communities across the state. Solarize Durham, sponsored by Durham non-profit NC WARN and its designated installer Yes! Solar Solutions, launched January 15 and already has had over 100 homeowners sign up.

Not ready to build or buy a green home but wonder what you can do to make your home more earth-friendly?  How about composting?  Love the idea, but don’t have the time…or perhaps even the space to make your own?  Try Raleigh’s own Community Compost Shuttle.  They’ll pick up your compostable materials weekly and if you like, bring you back some compost to use!  Check the website to see if service is available where you live, serving most of the Triangle!

Ready to Show Tip #2: Your Door and More

The door is both functional and symbolic. I was out with clients the other day and I noticed the restless anticipation the buyers had as they waited for me to open the lockbox (and yes, electronic lockboxes are coming soon to the Triangle to simplify & make more secure this process). While the buyer waits on the porch, they not only get extra time to look at the view, listen to traffic and observe the neighbors, but they are thinking “is this the one?” and getting keyed up (no pun intended!)

First impressions mean a lot! For this reason, and many more it’s important to evaluate every entrance. It’s not just the front door that will be given a once over. “Doors offer a huge bang for the buck” says ChrisNeumann, director of operations for Pyramid Builders in Annapolis.

Here are a few “Ready to Sell” tips:
• Update interior doors or at least replace hinges and knobs (brass is still NOT in!)
• Replace any rickety bi-folds on closets with double swing or heavier solid-core doors. Estimated costs: door hinges can cost $3, unfinished pine interior doors start at $99. TIP however, if you haven’t ever re-installed a door, be ready to do some adjustments.
• Even adjusting and planning current doors can help them close better, and it’s practically free.

As the lady said, “You Had Me At Hello.”

Ready To Show Tip #1: They don’t call it curb appeal for nothing…..

Car_tree_600We just survived “snowpocalypse!”  Now that we’ve removed the limbs that fell on the lawn (or the tree across the street in my case!) it’s left the front of many homes here in the Triangle in need of a bit of care.   Don’t let March become June without tending to the actual “curb appeal” of your home.  Clean out that front curb where the muddy stream ran down the street (that dirty sidewalk makes a less than perfect first impression too).  Check for loose or clogged gutters, and broken or missing flashing materials, which help to prevent leaks behind the gutters.  Get ready to trim the lawn (especially those early greens that shot up on our 60+ degree days!) and trim the bushes.  Soon, you’ll be wiping down that lawn furniture for spring use, and don’t forget to fix any loose or dangling shutters.  There!  All better, winter almost over.  Estimated cost:  Mostly free!  However, completely replacing gutters can be expensive.  Replacing just parts is more economical.  A 10- foot gutter starts at $6. downspouts start at $8.  If you want to get fancy, a new garage door costs about $1000, but a decorative garage door hardware kit starts at $19.

The Lovely Home Next Door….?

Plaid HouseLast week while showing a home to my clients, we noticed something unusual. Across the street was a very notable home. In fact it was plaid. Yes plaid – the whole house. It wasn’t awful but you certainly could say strange. The seller of the property we were viewing was home, and I had to ask him about the house. Subtext of question: is your neighbor a kook? He had a great answer prepared about the generosity and community spirit of said neighbor.

So what to do? Your home has a place that is not the neighborhood showplace nearby. Peeling paint, unkept yard…or just strange. When it comes time to sell, how can you frame this for your potential buyers? The first is to see if a plain old helping hand might be useful. I’ve had clients mow lawns, cut trees and help and financially stretched neighbor to clean up. It was appreciated by all. But you can’t change taste. If plaid or purple is what you’re looking at out the window, this is the time for a great story about the character, charm and personality of your great hood! And possibly, better blinds.

Bidding wars: they’re baaaack

bidding warRemember when sellers ruled the market, causing buyers to try and outbid each other for the best homes?

After several years of buyer supremacy, the bidding wars are back.

Today buyers must strategize to make the most attractive offer on the “hot” homes. One strategy I’ve used for some time–perhaps left over from the day when agents actually presented their client’s offer in person–is the personal letter.

This WSJ article does a great job of covering the winning letter and explaining why it’s made a comeback.

Why Asheville rocks

Asheville, NC: our beautiful mountain neighbor

Do you like the Carolina mountains? What about mountain river towns? How about awesome craft beer and mead? BBQ that’ll knock yer socks off? An arts scene like nowhere else? Then Asheville, just 250 miles west of Raleigh, is your kind of place!

Outdoor magazine put Asheville on its prestigious list of “Best Towns”–and if you’ve ever been there, you know why. Check it out!

(Check out a local Asheville honey wine maker, Fox Hill Meadery. A friend of a friend is the owner of this growing family-owned business.)

Campout! Carolina this weekend

Campout! Carolina is October 12-14

Ever wanted to turn your backyard into a wilderness campsite?

This weekend, October 12-14, is EarthShare North Carolina’s 6th annual “Campout! Carolina” event, where you can show your support for the environment just by camping somewhere… even your own backyard!

(Oh, and there are some cool prizes you can win too. REI in Cary is donating gear.)

Register/learn more at Get out there and enjoy our beautiful autumn weather!

Tell a friend: move to Raleigh

Ever been on the phone with a friend who lives far away and heard yourself waxing poetic about life in Raleigh, wishing your friend would take the hint and move closer? Have I got a web link for you…

The Raleigh Relocation Guide has all the ammunition you need (and more) to get your friends and family to start packing boxes!

Here are just a few of the awesome facts about life in Raleigh:

  • Considered a top place to live/work/play by residents as well as national magazine surveys
  • Diverse economy, affordable housing, and low unemployment rate
  • One of the top public school systems in the country
  • Thriving arts and music scene
  • Nearby Research Triangle Park, world-renowned for work in biotechnology, telecommunications, and computer hardware/software
  • Home to one of the finest research universities in the country (and adjacent to two more)

As the guide says, “There is no better place to live and work than Raleigh. And the friendly people of this Southern town with an international touch will welcome you with open arms.”

(Psssst… Don’t forget to hook your friends up with Breeze Realty when it’s time to buy a home!)

Right-size your home for better living

Varied ceiling heights create a sense of shelter over the bed and the window seat — details that make a house more personal.

Are there rooms in your home that you hardly ever use? Would more vertical storage and less total floor space give you that cozy cottage feeling you’ve been craving? Are you spending way too much on utilities during these hot summer months? Then maybe you should consider scaling back to a smaller home–an increasingly popular trend during a rocky economy.

Benefits of a smaller, downsized home can include:

  • lower mortgage payments
  • lower property taxes and utility bills
  • spending less money on decorating
  • spending less time on housekeeping, yard work, and other household chores
  • reducing some of the stress that comes with maintaining a larger home

Two women ahead of this trend are Deryl Patterson, owner of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based architecture and planning firm BSB Design, and Raleigh’s own Sarah Susanka, FAIA, owner of Susanka Studios and author of “The Not So Big House” book series and “The Not So Big Life.”

Patterson takes an individualized approach to designing the right home, taking a home-buyer’s lifestyle into consideration. “To effectively downsize,” she says, “you must furnish the floor plan so the buyer can understand how it lives and performs. Women often get this better than men. Women also understand what not to downsize — like kitchens and storage.”

Susanka’s right-sizing approach to house design is as applicable to remodeling as it is to new construction, and it can be applied to homes of any price and size. “A not-so-big house is also a sustainably and energy efficiently designed home,” she says. “That is one of the core principles behind ‘Not So Big.’ In the long run, that somewhat smaller but better designed house of your dreams will become the best investment for the future.”

If this is something you’re ready to get serious about, call me so we can look for the right home to remodel or hook you up with the right builder to design your dream right-sized home!

Adapted/excerpted from National Association of Home Builders online, 
“A House ‘Built for Me’ — Consumers Beginning to Drive Right-Sizing Trend”

Why eat local?

(image from Slow Food USA)

After Earth Day last month, a lot of us are feeling newly motivated to do our part to help the environment. You could plant tomatoes in your backyard, grow herbs in your kitchen, or join a community garden. You could also try “eating local.”

You’ve probably heard about it in the media–organic farming, locally sourced foods, slow food (a global movement linking the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment).

So what are the benefits of eating organic, locally sourced food, and why should you care?

  1. Heavily processed food is not healthy, neither for the people who consume it nor for the environment.
  2. Eating local helps the local economy. Buying food grown locally (within a 100-mile radius) keeps $0.80-$0.90 of every dollar in our community.
  3. Add more variety to your diet while sampling new cuisine. Try creatively prepared local organic foods at restaurants, including Zely and Ritz just a block from my office. (Stay tuned for news about an upcoming Breeze Realty event at Zely and Ritz!)
  4. The fresher the food, the better it tastes. Lettuce picked fresh this morning for sale at a local farmers market (or grown in your own garden) hasn’t been treated with chemicals to help it survive a long journey across the country or around the world.
  5. Local farmers love to share what they know. You can learn everything there is to know about where your food comes from, and how to grow some of it in your own backyard, by asking questions at the farmers market.

(Adapted from

Interested in learning more? You can find a bunch of great info about slow and local foods at Slow Food Triangle.