Gift of caring extends beyond Auburn, AL

Think about the best Christmas you ever had.  Were you a kid anxiously awaiting the arrival of a jolly old man in a red suit with a knapsack full of presents?  Maybe it was a home full of love and laughter – Christmas carols playing in the background and the aroma of holiday goodies wafting through the house. Maybe it was the memory of a favorite grandparent, aunt or uncle that always made you feel special.    The holidays remind us of the blessings of family and friends, the beauty of giving and sharing, and the celebration of a tiny baby who would change the world. 

Over a decade ago, my husband and I were asked to participate in a weeklong summer mission trip to an orphanage in Guaimca, Honduras.  Little did we know, it would create “our best Christmas ever” experience, and forever change our perspective on what is truly important.  My husband, an educator in the public school system at the time, was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of going to Central America for a week out of his much needed vacation from teaching.  After all, he spent almost every day of the year with children.  He reluctantly agreed, we boarded the plane and hours later arrived in a country still recovering from the devastation of hurricane Mitch, political unrest, rampant unemployment and abject poverty everywhere you turned.  With poor infrastructure in place, the two-hour ride from the capital city of Tegucigalpa to the orphanage was harrowing.  The road game we refer to, as “chicken” is their version of defensive driving. 

For the next two hours, we avoided potholes the size of your living room sofa, dodged livestock, wild dogs, men, women and children and evaded other drivers who were certain theirs was the right-of-way!  However, our perspective was about to change.  After a short ride on the dusty dirt road of the small town where the orphanage is located, the large rod iron gates are opened and we are greeted by the squeals of children excited that a team had arrived to “work on a project.”  Little did we know…we were the project!  Within thirty minutes of our arrival, my previously reluctant (and slightly complaining) husband was already planning his next trip when school was out the following year.  When untold numbers of toddlers spilled out from the dorm to greet us with huge smiles, big brown eyes and outstretched arms, we were, as you say…history!  My strapping 6’4”, 275lb husband was an immediate hit due to his size.  I was an immediate hit because I had candy! 

Our week came to an end.  We left physically, but our hearts remained.  We knew our lives would be forever changed because of our experience, and we began to think about trying to return for Christmas.   Thus began a series of, “the best Christmas’ I ever had!” 

Imagine approximately 600 children all seated in the small brick church building, dressed in their Sunday best, anxiously anticipating what is about to take place as the staff and volunteers pass out presents to each child.  While some children are sponsored, every child got at least one gift, thanks to the generosity of several churches, Sunday school classes, garden clubs, and individuals, as the orphanage receives no government funding.  The orphanage’s director spoke briefly about the meaning of Christmas and what it is we truly celebrate, the greatest gift of all – Jesus.  I had no idea what was about to take place as he counted, “one, two, three!”  And at that moment, all you heard was Christmas paper being ripped to shreds and squeals of excitement as presents were opened.  I stood in tears as I think for the first time ever I realized what Christmas was really all about.  The joy of seeing children open gifts prepared by total strangers, the smiles of gratitude for the simplest of things, and the hope offered in knowing someone cares.  

While you may not be called to go to Central America to an orphanage, you can offer hope to someone in your neighborhood, at the grocery store, even in your own office.  I love that our mission statement is “Caring People, Exceptional Service.”  I think of my own office and the acts of kindness and caring I see agents and staff perform every day.  It may be for a client, a colleague or a total stranger, but it speaks volumes about who we are. 

What I discovered that first trip to Orphanage Emmanuel is that often when we go with the intention of blessing others, we actually receive more of a blessing than we ever give.  My prayer is that you will discover the beauty of Christmas and have the “best Christmas ever!” 

 – Written by Sherri McCollum, First Realty Auburn broker

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Become a Decorating Genius, visit RealtySouth Pinterest

Have you ever attended a holiday event where the decorations looked like the brainchild of Southern Living magazine and the Biltmore Mansion?  And upon seeing those decorations, did you wish your mind worked that way – that in a matter of minutes you could take a roll of ribbon, a garland of evergreen and strand of lights and think of ten different ways to turn them into Christmas decorations to die for?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.  I’ve been there too, right alongside my friends Envy and Jealous.

Places around our state like Birmingham’s Christmas at Arlington and Auburn’s Loveliest Village Christmas Tour of Homes have probably left many of us wondering, “How did they come up with that idea?”  And better yet, “How did they actually do that?”

Wonder no more, friends. Thanks to the dawn of Pinterest, those of us who are less-than-gifted at decorating can give some of our craftiest friends a run for their money.  Can I get a hallelujah chorus?

For those not familiar with Pinterest, it’s an image-based social media platform.  It’s full of beautiful pictures of just about everything known to man.  It’s a place where you can collect photos of things that interest you and then organize them into categories so you always have these ideas at your fingertips.  And what’s even better is that most of the images have web addresses associated with them, so when it comes to decorating, you have access to instructions.  Pinterest, in a word, is heaven.

Because Pinterest is a visual medium, it’s easy to find inspiration.  As you browse the site, your eye will immediately be drawn to the things you love and would like to duplicate.  Do you want a beautiful wreath for your front door?  A whimsical centerpiece for your holiday dinner table?  Easy.  Do a search on Pinterest and browse until you find what you love.  Chances are, you can either make it yourself or take the image to a florist or designer who can do it for you.   

And Pinterest isn’t just for holiday decorating.  Find your dream kitchen on Pinterest. Get ideas for children’s birthday parties.  Plan your wedding.  Collect recipes.  Follow fashion and jewelry trends.  Make a travel bucket list. The possibilities are practically endless.

RealtySouth Pinterest boards are full of ways to transform favored spaces for the holidays and year round.

While you’re online morphing into the next Martha Stewart, take a look at the RealtySouth Pinterest page by clicking here www.pinterest.com/realtysouth.  We’ve had a ball building our boards and feel that you can find all sorts of decorating inspiration there.  Try the Holly Jolly or Entertaining Savvy board for Christmas ideas.  If you like beach or lake décor, take a look at our Beachy Keen and Lake Living boards, inspired by our Orange Beach and Lake Martin offices.  And if you’re looking for ideas for a specific area of your house, check out all our individual room boards like Beautiful Baths, Fluff & Fold, and Step into My Office. 

As you’re decorating for the holidays and beyond, remember you don’t have to be an interior designer, florist or event planner to come up with great ideas.  You can find your own creative genius with the help of your new friend Pinterest.

Written by Heather Lackey

 

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Run your way to healthier living, Alabama trails prevail

“The mental is to the physical as four is to one” said the Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Knight. Maintaining good physical fitness is important to maintain good mental fitness, alertness and dealing with stress.

As a young broker one of my agents noticed that I was catching colds and being sick more often than the norm.  She asked if I was getting enough exercise to burn off stress. As a nurse in a previous career she had a ready prescription. Get more exercise. And it worked.

Running along Alabama trails, on a treadmill or in the neighborhood can help prevent sickness and improve stamina.

During the holidays our schedules are not the same. We are more likely to eat and drink more and have unusual schedules. And it all starts Thanksgiving season.

Turkey has an amino acid called L-Tryptophan that introduces drowsiness. That, plus a helping of dressing, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, etc. and you have a full stomach, and extra calories to burn. What to do? The Birmingham area has some excellent jogging paths to help you tone up, work it off, and keep sharp.

Alabama trails are everywhere.  A few good jogging trails can be found in our over-the-mountain neighborhoods. A popular one is in Homewood along Lakeshore Drive. There are various places to begin, from Brookwood Mall over to Samford University. The path runs all the way to Green Springs Highway along Shades Creek, and the length can vary by where you start.

A popular jogging path in Mountain Brook is called the Jemison Loop. You begin at Mt. Brook Elementary or Mountain Brook Village, head south on the trail adjacent to Cahaba Road, and jog east along Mountain Brook partway through scenic woods. Left on Overbrook Road, left again on Montevallo Rd, with a return to the starting point. That route can take you four miles – unless you shorten it by running through the neighborhoods on the way back.

In Vestavia, check out the Liberty Park route. The jog from the Liberty Park Fire Station down to the shopping center in Liberty Park ranks in the 3-mile range. You can extend it a couple miles by running to Mountain Brook High School.

In whatever part of Birmingham you live, from Alabaster to Gardendale, there are jogging routes that can be found near you. Perhaps it is just getting out and walking around your subdivision or new home development (such as the route found at http://www.walkjogrun.net/running-routes/USA/AL/Birmingham/    for Caldwell Crossings). Perhaps it’s just getting on a treadmill or going to the YMCA. Any effort you make is going to pay off in better stamina, physical and mental health.

We invite you to get exercise visiting our open houses or calling one of our professional associates to show you homes while mortgage rates are near record lows. If you ask one of our HomeServices Lending mortgage loan officers to qualify your borrowing ability, we predict you will run, not jog, to take advantage of this buying opportunity.

-Written by Jim Dye

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Alabama charities in need this holiday season

The holiday season is a time many of us look for ways to give back in our communities.  Alabama has countless charities that need donations of money, supplies and time.  Here are several non-profit organizations in different parts of our state that do wonderful things for their respective communities and that need your help this holiday season and beyond.

Camp ASCCA –  Lake Martin/Jackson’s Gap, Alabama
Camp ASCCA, located on Lake Martin in Jackson’s Gap, is Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults. ASCCA is a nationally recognized leader in therapeutic recreation for children and adults with both physical and mental disabilities. Their mission is to help these individuals achieve equality, dignity, and maximum independence.  The year-round camp offers a wide variety of activities such as horseback riding, fishing, swimming, environmental education and arts and crafts.  As a result of state funding being cut, the camp is in dire need of donations.  To find out how you can help, call (256) 825-8332 or toll-free from within Alabama, (800) THE-CAMP.  You can also visit their website at www.campascca.org.   

Food Bank of East Alabama – Auburn, Alabama
In difficult economic times, there are increased numbers of people who need assistance just to receive basic necessities like food.  The Food Bank of East Alabama, located in Auburn, is a centralized warehouse that stores and distributes donated and purchased perishable and nonperishable food items.  They distribute food to low-income residents in east Alabama through member agencies that serve the needy, infants and the ill.  In addition to distributing food to the hungry, the Food Bank of East Alabama works to reduce food waste and raise public awareness of issues related to food and hunger.  If you’d like to donate time or resources, call (334) 821-9006 or visit www.foodbankofeastalabama.com.

There are Ronald McDonald Houses in Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama – Birmingham, Alabama
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama, headquartered in Birmingham, provides a “home-away-from-home” for sick or injured children and their families when they travel to Birmingham for medical treatment.  The organization also has a Ronald McDonald Family Room at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, giving parents a place to rest and regroup just steps from their child’s hospital bed.  The Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham is open 365 days a year and provides laundry, recreational and internet facilities and dinners prepared by House volunteers.  RMH charges just $5 to $10 per night for services that cost more than $65 per night to provide.  To find out how you can donate money or time to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama, call (205) 638-7255 or visit www.rmhca.org.

Share the Beach – Gulf Shores, Alabama
Protecting our wildlife for future generations is something near and dear to many Alabamians.  Share the Beach, a sea turtle volunteer program, leads the way in sea turtle conservation on the Alabama Gulf Coast.  From May to October, gulf coast residents and visitors share the beach with dozens of endangered female sea turtles. These “momma turtles” come to the beaches looking for a place to make a nest where their babies can safely hatch and find their way to the waters of the Gulf.   Located in Gulf Shores, Share the Beach trains volunteers to search for nests, assist in hatchling success and educate the public about Alabama’s coastal ecosystem.   To find out how you can help with their efforts, call (251) 965-NEST or visit www.alabamaseaturtles.com.

The Arc of Tuscaloosa County – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
The Arc of Tuscaloosa County is a local chapter of The Arc of the United States, the world’s largest community-based organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Located in Tuscaloosa, the organization provides programs and services designed to enable local citizens with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to achieve maximum independence.  Programs include job development and coaching, subcontract activities at the center and on mobile crews, vocational skill training, as well as training for daily living, communication, personal care, community awareness and current events, recreation, physical fitness, music, arts and crafts and self-advocacy.  To learn more and find out how you can help The Arc of Tuscaloosa County, call (205) 556-4900 or visit www.thearcoftuscaloosa.org.

Thru the Grace of God Ministries – Clanton, Alabama
Thru the Grace of God Ministries in Clanton is a ministry that provides several resources for the needy in the Clanton and Chilton County area.  They house a food bank, serve lunch 7 days a week and have gently-used clothing and furniture for anyone in need of those items.  Thru the Grace of God Ministries is currently building a facility that will serve as a shelter for anyone who needs a place to eat and sleep.  If you’d like more information or want to donate to this charity, call (205) 755-8199. 

Alabama charities abound.  With countless options throughout the state, giving has never been easier.

Written by Heather Lackey

 

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VOTE! IT’S OUR PRIVILEGE!

This past summer, many of us loaded up our cars and headed to the beach, or caught an airplane for a trip out West.  Even now, with 9/11 still etched indelibly in our national memory, we didn’t have to ask permission to do that.  You couldn’t do that in Vietnam today, or in Iraq, or in many countries around the world.  But that’s a privilege we enjoy in America. 

If you want to worship as a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew … if you want to go the synagogue or the mosque or that PCA church down the street … you’re welcome to do that in America.  But if you worshipped next weekend in some countries, you might be thrown into prison.  Yet the privilege of worshipping as we please is one of the freedoms we enjoy in America.

We didn’t come by those freedoms at no cost.  They were purchased by countless servicemen and women and their families through the years, by each one of us who has taken his or her turn at the ballot box on election day, and by those to whom we’ve entrusted the mantle of leadership.

Every vote counts!

We’re fortunate to enjoy free elections and the right to vote for the candidates of our choice.  That’s a privilege you won’t find in just any country.  About the time George W. Bush was elected, a similar election was held in Iraq.  The Iraqi press reported that Saddam Hussein had been reelected president with 100% of the vote.  Can you imagine that?  One hundred percent of the vote!  You know, even I might be elected president if my name were the only one on the ballot.

The privilege of choosing the men and women who will lead our cities, our counties, our state, and our country is one of the extraordinary freedoms we enjoy in America—a freedom that has come to us with a huge price tag attached.

Sadly, there’s a tendency at times to stay home on voting day and hope the votes of others will achieve the results we desire.  Did you know that Alabama ranks only #30 in voter turnout?    We need to turn out in droves in Birmingham, Hoover, Vestavia, Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Gardendale—in every city we call home. 

Let’s not allow the price paid by so many to have been paid in vain.

Let’s go to the polls and vote!

-Written by Ty Dodge

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What is “clear title?”

In the real estate business, agents, closing attorneys and lenders often use the term “clear title” when referring to a particular piece of property. What does it mean for an owner to have “clear title” to a piece of property? How does an agent, closing attorney, lender – or a buyer and seller – know that the seller of a property has “clear title” or that the buyer of a property obtains “clear title” from a seller?

First, exactly what does “clear title” mean? In its strictest sense, it means that the seller of a property will sell that property to a buyer without any “liens” or “encumbrances” that affect that particular property. Sometimes, you may hear the term “marketable title” used instead of “clear title.” A “lien” includes, for example, an outstanding mortgage or civil court judgment against the seller, or a municipal filing that the seller owes money for sewer or water service. An example of an encumbrance might be an easement giving someone the right to cross the property to access another parcel of property or for a utility company to run power lines above or underneath the property. Because mortgages are very common, as are easements, it would be a rare thing for a property owner to have “clear title” to property, particularly in a populated area or in a subdivided development.

Fortunately, “clear title” in terms of everyday real estate transactions does not necessarily mean that the property has no matters recorded in the public real estate records affecting the property. In practical real estate practice, the term “clear title” has come to mean “insurable title.” That is, title that does not have any mortgages or liens recorded against it at the time of sale, but which may have easements, subdivision covenants and restrictions, or other documents representing rights held by others that may impact the property, but which do not affect an owner’s use and enjoyment of the property to an unreasonable degree.

How does a real estate agent, mortgage company or closing attorney go about determining whether or not a seller has insurable title to a particular piece of property? The real estate professional will order a title insurance commitment from a title insurance agent. TitleSouth is a title insurance agent. A title insurance agent has an agreement with one or more title insurance underwrites that allows the agent, once certain conditions are met, to issue a title insurance policy to the owner of the property or to the mortgage company making a loan to the lender. TitleSouth issues title insurance policies on behalf of Stewart Title Guaranty Company and other underwriters.

Once the title insurance commitment is ordered, the title insurance agent will undertake a search of the public property records to ensure that the current owner of the property actually owns the property, that no other individuals or entities have an ownership interest in the property, to determine whether or not there are any mortgages or liens filed against the property and whether or not there are any encumbrances that affect the property. A title insurance property search will examine all of the documents filed in the public property records for up to forty years prior to the date of the order and, once the research is completed, the title insurance agent will prepare a “Commitment for Title Insurance.” The Commitment for Title Insurance will list the current owner of the property, as well as any matters in the public records that need to be addressed before the current owner can transfer “insurable title” to a new owner, or, in the case of a mortgage, to the mortgage holder under the terms of a mortgage.

Real estate agents, mortgage companies and closing agents (such as real estate closing attorneys or title insurance agents acting as settlement agents for a property sale or a mortgage) examine the title commitment to see what actions are necessary in order for the planned sale or mortgage to take place. Often, nothing needs to be done other than to pay off the current owner’s mortgage against the property at the time of the sale. Other times, there will be defects in the documents in the public records that need to be corrected (for example, the property may not have been properly identified in a prior deed, or an old mortgage may not have been satisfied in the public records), and the real estate agent, seller, closing agent and the title insurance agent may work together to ensure that those matters are addressed and corrected before the sale of the property.

Once the sale of the property has occurred, the settlement agent will provide the title insurance agent with a copy of the deed transferring the ownership of the property, a copy of the mortgage that the buyer used to acquire the property (if there is one), as well as copies of any documents that show that any matter the title insurance agent required to be addressed has been addressed (such as evidence that the seller’s mortgage has been paid in full and satisfied on the public records, or that an affidavit correcting an error in a prior deed has been executed and filed in the public records).

Once the title insurance agent has received these documents and the premium required for the issuance of the title insurance policies, the title insurance agent, on behalf of its allied title insurance underwriter, will issue to the new owner of the property an “Owners Policy of Title Insurance.” This insurance policy protects the owner of the property in the event that it turns out that there was a defect in the title – that is the quality of the ownership of the property – that the new owner received from the seller of the property. Note that some encumbrances that are common will be listed on the policy and the policy will not provide title insurance coverage related to those matters. Subdivision covenants and restrictions and easements are common examples of the excepted encumbrances.

 A title insurance policy is like any other insurance policy – it protects the owner in the event of a loss or damage that is the result of a matter that is covered under the terms of the policy. If the new owner obtained a mortgage to provide the funds for the purchase of the property, the lender also, in most cases, will obtain a “Mortgagee’s Policy of Title Insurance.” This, like an Owner’s Policy, is an insurance policy that protects the lender in the event there is a defect in the quality of the owner’s title to the property. An Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance is in effect for as long as the owner holds title to the property. An Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance may even protect the owner from being responsible for any defects in the title to the property that are discovered after the owner sells the property.  A Mortgagee’s Policy of Title Insurance protects the lender for the period of time the loan is outstanding. In the unfortunate event that a lender is forced to foreclose on a property, the Mortgagee’s Policy of Title Insurance will ensure that the lender can conduct the foreclosure and then remarket the property after the foreclosure without any hindrance arising out of matters that arose before the lender made the loan.

Sometimes a buyer might say to his or her real estate agent “why do I need title insurance? I’ve heard that title insurance companies never have to pay anything.” This statement is not true. Title insurance underwriters pay millions of dollars in claims every year to compensate policy holders for monetary losses incurred as a result of a covered claim under their policy. In addition, title insurance underwriters, pay millions of dollars each year in legal fees to correct title issues that are covered under an owner’s or lender’s title policy. Finally, the title search that is done prior to issuing the title insurance commitment often reveals matters that would otherwise affect a property that can be corrected prior to or at the time of the sale of the property. Without the title search, these defects may have been unknown until such time as someone asserted an interest in the property. Title insurance therefore, protects the American Dream – the home – and gives the owner peace of mind that he or she actually purchased what they intended to purchase, without worrying about anybody else claiming an interest in the property.

So what about the cost? Title Insurance is an investment in your home. The cost is determined by each individual underwriter, and in Alabama, each underwriter must file its title insurance premium rates with the Alabama Department of Insurance. Generally, title insurance rates begin at approximately $3.00 for each $1,000.00 of coverage for an Owner’s Policy. The amount of coverage generally is the amount of the purchase price of the property. As the purchase price increases, the rate per thousand dollars of coverage may decrease. The premium for an Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance is paid at closing. The premium for a Mortgagee’s Policy of Title Insurance, when issued at the same time as an Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance generally is nominal ($75 – $150 in Alabama) and in some areas of Alabama, it is customary for the total cost of the two policies to be shared equally between the buyer and the seller.

We encourage every purchaser of property to obtain an Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance. By doing so, you are purchasing piece of mind, and protecting your American Dream.

For more information on title insurance, you may visit www.titlesouth.com or www.alta.org (the website of the American Title Insurance Association).

-Written by Pat Smith

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Have fun, be wise, follow Halloween safety tips

Hard to believe that in just two days, the streets will be filled with trick-or-treaters looking to score big with their favorite sweet treats.  By design, modern-day Halloween is a holiday loved by children.  From the opportunity to play dress up to the sugar-filled bags, children look forward to this annual tradition with great excitement. 

A far cry from its beginning centuries ago, this holiday has evolved to a more family-friendly celebration with the arrival of changing colors and cooler weather.  Some will seek goodies at a Trunk-or-Treat.  Others will engage a spookier approach at a haunted house.  Many will attend parties in the homes of friends.  Most will take to their community streets for hayrides and candy.

Trick-or-treat in Halloween costumes that allow you to easily identify those in your group.

Whether looking to take the prize for best costume or highest pile of candy bars, there are some safety precautions everyone should take this Halloween.

TRICK-OR-TREAT

  1. Make sure your costume is sight friendly.  While it may seem like a good idea in the store, try your costume on in a relatively dark place, similar to the time of night you will enjoy the holiday festivities.
  2. Young children need to hold the hand of an adult to avoid separation.
  3. Do not trick-or-treat alone.   There is safety in numbers.  Do not let your guard down because you live in a “safe neighborhood.” 
  4. Pre-determine a meeting place in the event of separation from your group or child. 
  5. Take a flashlight. Yards and roads can have surprising pits and holes.
  6. Be careful when crossing streets.  Do not cross through back yards or alleys.
  7. Do not enter the home of strangers. 
  8. Wait until you’ve returned home and evaluated the sweets and treats to determine if anything should not be consumed. 
  9. Discard any home-baked candies or goods given to you by strangers.  Better to be safe than sorry.
  10. Do not eat anything that was not pre-wrapped by the candy manufacturer.

Beyond the normal precautions for seeking treats in your neighborhood, remember that if you are traveling to and from Halloween parties, there are additional safety measures to consider.

ON THE ROAD

  1. Make sure to fill the tank earlier in the day.
  2. If you are attending a party where alcoholic beverages will be served, plan ahead for a designated driver.
  3. Check to see if your city has a curfew. 
  4. Stay within the speed limits.
  5. Wear your seatbelt.  No matter how safe you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, others may not be so cautious.
  6. Do not drive while wearing a mask.
  7. For teens and young adults, a phone call to your parents or a loved one to let them know you’ve returned home safely can go a long way in brownie points!

ADDITIONAL FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • Children seem to amass an enormous amount of candy during Halloween.  Pre-determine how many pieces of candy your child can keep, allowing him or her to select their favorites.  Send the rest to work for others to enjoy. 
  • Not a fun topic, but one that requires a bit of discussion… If among your beloved pets there is a black cat, make sure to keep the pet inside during the week of Halloween (may consider some time before and after as well).  Unfortunately, there is a high crime rate related to black cats during this season.   As a result, many shelters will not allow the adoption of black cats the entire month of October.
  • Lock your home while enjoying neighborhood festivities.
  • Vandalism is never a good thing, but for some reason, it tends to happen during Halloween.  To avoid slime and seeds scattered across your porch and sidewalk, place pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns inside while away. 

May your Halloweeen lack in tricks and be bountiful in treats!

-Written by Dawn Reeves

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My mental game, running a half marathon

Couch potato, yes that best described me 9 months ago when a co-worker introduced me to the couch to 5K program geared to encourage unconditioned, out-of-shape people to get back on their feet and begin exercising.  I had wanted to be a “runner” for many years but neither found the time, passion or willingness to pursue it.  After seeing his commitment for three weeks, I decided that I would take the challenge and headed out into 30 degree weather for my first run. 

Forty pounds overweight should have been motivation enough to get me off the couch, but sometimes it takes the encouragement from others.  As my family and co-workers got behind me, I found a new sense of energy to push myself further and harder.  After completing the nine-week program, I ran my first 5K and absolutely loved the experience.  The challenge of pushing myself to learn how to pace myself, run faster, and compete against others took me back to my football days.  I realized that running was something that I could do to improve my health, lose weight, and set goals for future achievements.

Living in Alabama gives me access to some of the best running tracks and trails.  Places like Mount Cheaha (Oxford), Oak Mountain State Park (Birmingham), Chief Ladiga (Anniston), Clear Creek (Oxford), DeSoto State Park (Ft. Payne), Orange Beach coastline (Orange Beach), Lake Lurleen State Park (Tuscaloosa), and Lake Wilmore (Auburn) are a few examples of great running and biking areas in Alabama.  Alabama’s weather allows for year around running and there are often races every weekend. 

Chief Ladiga Trail

After completing my first 5K, I began preparing for the next 5K.  I never thought I’d pursue a longer race than the 3.1 miles that make up 5K, but after completing my second 5K race, I had my eyes fixed on the next goal; half marathon 13.1 miles.  Could I possibly run 13.1 miles?  Adding 10 miles to my longest distance seemed impossible, considering three miles took nine weeks to achieve.  Would I have time to commit to training for such a race?  Would my body be able to handle the grueling training?  These were the questions that were swirling through my head as I contemplated going for my next big challenge.

Mount Cheaha, Oxford, Alabama

I came across a marathon legend’s website, Hal Higdon, which offers free training plans for half and full  marathons.  These plans start with low mileage and increase over 12 weeks to 12 miles.  After reading many success stories from others that followed his plan, I decided to take the challenge.  Week by week, I ran farther and harder.  My legs and lungs got stronger.  My determination to will my body to 13.1 miles was firm.  I could now see the finish line! 

I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah half marathon on November 3, 2012.  I am less than two weeks away and I’ve already completed a 14-mile run!  I’m so focused on reaching the finishing line, not to be the winner or to receive a prize, but to achieve the goal and the accomplishment of conquering the once frightening 13.1 miles.  To see the look on my two young sons as they see their daddy cross the finish line.  To know that I am now a “runner”!

I have learned a few things out on the road running.

  1. Never allow yourself to be intimidated by the unknown
  2. Set the bar for your goals higher because you can accomplish more than you realize
  3. Don’t allow your mind to defeat you.  Push yourself further because the feeling of accomplishment is so much sweeter than defeat.
  4. Be patient.  Allow your body time to adjust to the new stresses of running.  Rushing only leads to injury.

So, as I prepare for my first half marathon, I reflect on the thoughts that could have held me back and say to you today, you can do it too!  Push yourself!  Take the challenge to run and don’t allow fear or other’s opinions hold you back!  Happy Running!

-Written by Bobby Smith

Photo Sources:

Mount Cheaha: http://www.usapics.net/mount-cheaha-alabama.html

Chief Ladiga: http://www.silvercometga.com/chief-ladiga-trail/index-ladiga.shtml

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Hoover, Bluff Park area heating up

Things in Hoover, and specifically Bluff Park, have been heating up in the real estate market.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve received multiple offers on listed properties.  I, along with many associates, have been receiving them more and more of late.  Autumn is typically a slower season for sales, but we are heading upwards in our sales and showings.  Values continue to rise, and foreclosures and inventory to lessen.  All this is GREAT news for the real estate market.  Also, interest rates remain at historic lows, making this the best time in our lifetimes to purchase and sell real estate.

Lots of folks tell me of their unease as the election looms.  I remind them that whoever is president, the market conditions can’t get much better.  I see a lot of folks looking back in a year or two and wishing they had purchased.   Again, the time has never been better – and financing restrictions, while still stringent, are easing a bit as well.  Money has become more available. 

Finally, fall and cooler weather often gets folks out looking, especially after the past few years of pent-up demand.  In Birmingham and surrounding areas, confidence is up, inventory is still good for selecting a home, and Realtors stand ready to assist you.  So come on in, the water’s fine.

-Written by James Harwell, Alford Avenue Office

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Building buyer’s bucket list with www.realtysouth.com

Meeting with a friend the other day, he asked how a homebuyer could keep up with changes in the market.  New listings seemed to come and go before he had a chance to check them out.  He was tired of coming in second and missing great opportunities, and wanted to know how he could build and manage his bucket list of homes.

With more than 2,000 new listings hitting the market each month in the Birmingham MLS alone, I agreed it could be an overwhelming task.  But, I assured him, two solutions were available.

The first is RealtySouth’s MyHomeWatch feature (you’ll find it in the upper right corner of our website, www.realtysouth.com).  Using MyHomeWatch, you’ll be automatically notified as new homes come on the  market, and you can filter what you receive based on price, location, home features, and other criteria.  For example, you might be looking for a 4-bedroom, 3-bath home with a pool, under $250,000, in the Trussville market.  Simply input your criteria, sit back, and wait for new listings meeting those specifications to appear in your e-mail box.  Voila!

But there’s more to managing your bucket list than looking at raw data.  How do you make sense of all that information?  That’s where a RealtySouth sales associate can be your coach.  Our associates will help you understand the wealth of wonderful—but often confusing—information that’s available, bringing order to the chaos.

It’s our goal to provide you with an extraordinary real estate experience, and help you pick just the right home from your bucket list!

-Written by RealtySouth CEO Ty Dodge

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