Leaf Collection in AshevilleFall is a beautiful time here in Western North CarolinaAsheville trees begin to wear their gorgeous autumn colors and, eventually, fall to the ground.  Now is also the best time to start pruning back your flowering shrubs and overhanging tree branches to make way for winter.  But, what do you do with your clippings and dead leaves?

As of July 1st of this year, the City of Asheville approved changes in the collection of leaves and brush from residential neighborhoods.  Leaves and brush are not collected with regular trash pickups.  In an effort to lower costs and increase customer satisfaction, brush and leaf collection was changed to twice per month from its previous once a month collection schedule.  Also, the City of Asheville will only collect leaves that are bagged and ready for pickup.  The City will provide large leaf bags on a first come, first served basis as supplies last.  You may also get the larger leaf bags at any Asheville fire station.  However, you can use regular trash bags if you would like.  Bagged leaves must be set out at curbside by no later than 7am on the Monday morning of the week your area is scheduled for pickup (click here to view the City of Asheville brush and bagged leaf collection schedule).

When you gather together your tree and shrub trimmings for collection, make sure to place them in loose piles at the curb.  No other debris can be included in the piles.  “Other debris” would include grass clippings, vines and weeds from your garden (which the City of Asheville does not collect).  If you have thorny trimmings (from rose bushes, for example), put these in a separate pile from the tree and shrub trimmings.  No tree limbs can be longer than 4 feet or larger than 6″ around.  If you have a lawn service that takes care of these, they are responsible for hauling away the debris, not you or the City. 

Bags of leaves should not be tied or be placed in containers with lids.  When using a container for leaf collection, please write “leaves” or “brush” in large letters on the outside of the container so City collection personnel will be able to identify it without difficulty.  Otherwise, it may be mistaken for regular trash and not picked up at the proper time.  It is illegal to burn leaves within the City of Asheville.  People caught doing so can be fined anywhere from $250-$500 by the Fire Marshall, may be arrested and can receive additional fines from the City of Asheville as well.

Finally, one of the best possible ways to get rid of your leaves is to compost them for future use on your gardens and lawn.  This natural fertilizer works wonders for moisture retention, warding off bugs and cultivating beautiful landscaping.  By spring, you’ll be good to go!

Leaf collection in Asheville is fairly easy if you follow a few simple rules.  Keep our streets and gutters free of debris so that water can drain properly, reducing the risk of flooding streets.  Most of all, enjoy the beautiful fall picture that Mother Nature graces us with every year here in Western North Carolina.

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Western North Carolina real estate blog here: http://activerain.com/blogsview/2563454/leaf-collection-in-asheville.

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Henderson County is building a new CNG refueling station that will be open to the public.

Thanks to a stimulus grant, Henderson County has broken ground on its own CNG station.  CNG (compressed natural gas) is a cleaner alternative to propane, gas or diesel and can save the county around $1.50 per gallon once the CNG conversion is completed.  Another positive reason to use CNG is that it decreases our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, the base for our petroleum use.  Construction of the CNG filling station is expected to be completed by this October.

While Henderson County vehicles will be converted to CNG (two CNG-run buses have already been purchased for the Apple Transit System), the goal of the new filling station is also to get Henderson County residents to consider using CNG in their personal vehicles instead of other, harsher fossil-based fuels, such as petroleum-based gasoline or diesel.  There are already CNG fueling stations in Arden and Asheville.  They are going to make the new CNG filling station a public fueling station instead of just for private County use.

If you’re interested in converting your own vehicle into a cleaner CNG-run vehicle, there are several things to consider first, such as the cost of conversion, seeing if your car can handle the weight of the canisters that hold the CNG, EPA standards, availability of refueling stations and more.  To find out more about how to convert your vehicle to natural gas, click here.

With Henderson County building a CNG station, it’s nice to know that they take the environment seriously as well as using our tax dollars wisely.

Don't get a lemon. Contact Rich Cooke for all your Hendersonville real estate needs.

If you’re like alot of people nowadays, you may not be able to sell your Hendersonville home right now.  Instead, you are looking at updating your home’s look for the possibility of making a larger profit later.  Here are a few tips on how to get the most bang for your buck in remodeling projects:

Adding crown molding or a chair rail to a room like the dining room makes a dramatic difference in the room's appearance.1. Crown Molding – Easy to install, adding crown molding to the ceiling or a chair rail along the wall can instantly transfer a drab room into a fab room.  You can even dress up a light fixture with a simple medallion.

2. Wood Floors – Are your wood floors looking a little worse for wear?  Refinish them for a fresher look.  If they are completely worn out, opt for replacing them.

3. Light Fixtures – Are you still using fluorescent lights in the kitchen or bathroom?  Recessed lighting or updated light fixtures can increase the warmth and feel of any room for a reasonable price.

4. Entryway/Foyer – If your entryway/foyer area is stuck in a bygone era, you may want to freshen it up with a fresh coat of paint, newer wallpaper, refinished stairway and/or new flooring.

Adding a kitchen island increases your surface area and storage space.5. Kitchen Island – Storage is one of the toughest things to accommodate in a kitchen.  Adding a kitchen island with shelves or cabinets included in the design not only increase your storage capacity, but also your surface area.   Try using butcher block or concrete for the kitchen island’s work surface as an alternative to expensive granite or marble.

6. Pantry – Adding a simple pantry to your kitchen can increase your food storage in a small area quickly and easily.

7. Shower – Simply changing the showerheads in your bathrooms can make a dramatic difference.  One of the more popular fixtures is a large pan showerhead that simulates a rainfall.  Also, you may want to consider adding a multi-head or second showerhead in your master bath.

8. Fixtures – Updating the fixtures for your kitchen or bathroom sinks increase the room’s appeal.  In the kitchen, consider adding a pull-out sprayer with a retractable hose to help clean the sink and reach those pots or pans that are too big to sit in the sink under a traditional faucet.  While you’re at it, update the cabinets and drawers with new handles, knobs or pulls.  If your cabinets don’t include any fixtures, the look can be dramatically altered quickly.

9. Porch – Adding a porch creates a more welcome appearance and brings your living space to the outdoors.  You’ll need to make sure to check the building codes in your area first for setback requirements and obtain a building permit, if necessary.

10. Siding – Check your home’s siding for any damage.  If your siding is in good condition, you can find products at your local home supply store to restore the finish to its original condition.  If it’s time to replace, vinyl siding is the most affordable in a variety of colors and styles.  It’s not your parents’ ugly siding anymore.

These are just a few of the simpler ways to get the most bang for your buck in remodeling projects.  I’d love to hear what projects you have done to increase the value of your Hendersonville home.  What you do now will help you when you decide to sell your Western North Carolina home later.

Don't get a lemon.  Contact Rich Cooke for all your Hendersonville real estate needs.

On December 15, 2009, Laurel Park welcomed two new council members: Dona Mennella and Carey O’Cain.  This will be Dona Mennella’s third term to serve as a Laurel Park town commissioner and Carey O’Cain’s first term.  Senator Tom Apodaca swore both new members in to their posts.  Mr. O’Cain is president of the Laurel Park Civic Association and looks to be a promising new addition to the town council.  I am also happy to report that the Council was gracious enough to elect me as Vice-Mayor for the next two years.  I am very honored by this.

I would like to extend my congratulations and warm welcome to my fellow council members as they join me, Bob Vickery, Mayor Henry Johnson and Town Manager Jim Ball on the town council.  We hope to see many more people at future council meetings as well.  So, please check with the Laurel Park government website to find out when new public meetings are scheduled.  We always love to hear from you.

Rich Cooke, your Laurel Park real estate expert

$8000 Tax Credit Extended

November 12, 2009

The $8000 tax credit has been extended and includes a $6500 tax credit for existing homeowners.The $8000 First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit has been extended both in time and to include a $6500 tax credit for existing homeowners.  Previously, only first time home buyers (those buyers who have not owned a home for at least the three previous years) were eligible for an up to $8000 tax credit based on the purchase price of the home.  This was set to stop December 1, 2009.  However, President Obama has just signed an extension to the First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit that applies to all homes purchased by April 30, 2010.  If you have a signed binding sales contract in effect by April 30, 2010, you have until July 2, 2010 to close escrow.

In addition to the $8000 First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit, President Obama made available a $6500 tax credit for current homeowners looking to purchase a new home.  Existing homeowners must have used their home as their primary residence for at least five consecutive of the last 8 years to qualify for this new tax credit.

Income Limits:

If you are a single home buyer or married filing head of household, you cannot make more than $125,000.  If you are married and file jointly, you cannot make more than $225,000 to receive the total tax credit you are eligible for.  You are eligible for a partial credit if you are single or a head of household filer and make between $125,000 and $145,000 or married filing jointly with an income between $225,000 and $245,000.

Homes That Qualify:

Only a home that is purchased and used as a primary residence is eligible for the appropriate tax credit.  That means that vacation homes, rental properties and commercial properties do not qualify.  Also, the purchase price cannot exceed $800,000

These tax credits do not have to be paid back provided you use your house for your primary residence for at least three years.  However, if you sell your home before the three year time period is up, you will be required to pay back all the tax credit you received.  For more information on the tax credit extensions and how they effect you with your Western North Carolina home, please contact me.

Rich Cooke, your Hendersonville real estate expert

According to the North Carolina Association of Realtors®, home sales may be down overall across the state, but Hendersonville experienced a 2% increase in home sales from the same time last year.  The 110 Hendersonville homes sold in June 2009 was a 2% increase from June 2008 figures and was a 31% increase from sales figures in May 2009.  The average cost for a Hendersonville home was $219,362 (down 17% from June 2008’s average cost of $264,559).

In comparison, Asheville home sales were down 7% from the previous year (June 2009 showed 217 units sold, June 2008 showed 233 units sold).  However, June 2009 sales were up 45% from May 2009 figures.  The average cost for an Asheville home was 6% less than the same time last year ($266,883 in June 2008, $253,852 in June 2009).

What do these figures mean for you buyers out there?  These low prices aren’t going to last long.  Asheville real estate already seems to be experiencing what may be a bottoming out of the market, with home sales only slightly down from the previous year and the average price being only slightly less as well.  Hendersonville real estate is not too far behind, with its home sales almost exactly the same as the previous year and up significantly from the previous month.  You don’t want to miss out on owning your piece of the American dream.  With the expiration of the $8,000 tax credit coming quickly upon us, now is definitely the time to buy.  Contact me today to let me know how I can make your Hendersonville or Asheville homeownership dreams come true!

Feeling fenced in?  Contact Rich Cooke for all your Hendersonville real estate needs.

As I told you in my blog last week, Laurel Park was ranked #3 in the country for most affordable places to retire in the country.  As Town Commissioner, I was privileged to be interviewed about this announcement by BlueRidgeNow.com.  NeighborhoodScout.com, the company that compiled the list, scoured its database of over 61,000 communities and determined its most affordable places to retire in the country by comparing information gathered from the US Census Bureau, US Geological Service, FBI, Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight and the state and federal departments of education.  They also compared the median house prices, amenities offered, beautiful surroundings and crime statistics.  Laurel Park is a small town (with 1400 year-round residents and up to 2250 in the summer) and wants to keep the homey, small town feel.  NeighborhoodScout.com realized what I have known all along.  Laurel Park is a wonderful place to live and retire.  So, if you are looking for a beautiful, safe, affordable place to retire, please contact me.  I’ll be happy to show you all that Laurel Park has to offer.

Use Rich Cooke for all your Western North Carolina real estate needs.