HO, HO, HOME!

Editor’s Note:  Our featured VV&W agent for December is Sarah Lauren Kattos. Here, she reflects on the importance of home during the holiday season. Also check out her fun Q&A later this month.

Do you remember that scene at the end of Miracle on 34th Street?  You know, the glorious 1940’s version where a prepubescent Natalie Wood guilts Kris Kringle to get her the house of her dreams so her mother (Maureen O’Hara) and mother’s boyfriend could finally get married already and make the three of them a family?  Yes, I love that movie, too. It’s a classic.
Image of original poster of Miracle on 34th Street
Truth be told, many classic holiday movies center around the concept of home.  Think about it: It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, The Family Stone all revolve around home as a common theme.
  • Jimmy Stewart/George Bailey hates his house almost as much as he hates his life; that is, until he realizes he truly loves them both.
  • Macaulay Culkin defends his house tooth and nail (and tar/feathers/blowtorch) against invasion while his family is away.
  • Clark Griswold endeavors to make his home the most festive, decorated home in the neighborhood, much to the chagrin of his area’s power grid…
  • The Family Stone gather at their childhood home, a picturesque Italianate that is reminiscent of a picture postcard with snow covered evergreens all around. Never mind that they’re all completely crazy, but at least the setting is gorgeous, right?

The list goes on and on.

Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart in a scene from It's a Wonderful Life

You see, the concept of “home” is not just four walls and a roof.  “Home” is a character in your own personal story.  It’s the one of a kind feeling that you get from the locations in your life where tears are shed, giggles are heard and memories are made.

I hope that your home is worthy of that honor and serves you well.  I hope it is a welcoming space that overflows with warmth, hospitality and a sense of community befitting the true “reason for the season.”  It is one of the goals we at VV&W have all year – to help our clients find that special place to call their own.

VV&W Offices, the circa 1888 Goldsmith home on Gates Avenue in historic downtown Huntsville, Alabama

May you and your loved ones make many happy memories this season in the spot you call “home.”  And, in the immortal words of Al Stillman, lyricist for the song “Home for the Holidays” (note: best version is by The Carpenters):

“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays

‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home”

The cover of The Carpenters's Christmas Album, Christmas Portrait.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Sarah Lauren Kattos

Touching the Senses

Editor’s Note:  Our featured VV&W agent for November is Sarah Blue Vaughan. Here, she shares some good advice she has for buyers. Also check out her fun Q&A from earlier this month.

Sarah Blue Vaughn, realtor with Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Properties in Huntsville, Alabama.

I used to teach English to high school students, and, other than Shakespeare, my favorite work to teach was Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.  One story was about a couple named Baucis and Philemon who unknowingly welcomed the gods Zeus and Ares, who were disguised as two poor wanderers, into their home for warmth, shelter, and nourishment.  Because they greeted their guests with a cheerful voice, a pleasing fragrance, and warm comfortable shelter, the couple proved to be the most hospitable in the land and were rewarded greatly.

Jacob van Oost (I) - Mercury and Jupiter in the House of Philemon and Baucis

Jacob van Oost (I) – Mercury and Jupiter in the House of Philemon and Baucis

The same feeling of comfort and warmth bubbles over when I think about being with my family during the holidays.  Walking in, I am immediately met by pleasing sounds of laughter and mouth-watering aromas of a delicious feast being prepared.  It’s a familiar, comforting feeling that is unlike any other.

That is the feeling you want buyers to feel when walking in your home.  Replicate the comfort and warmth by touching the senses of sight, smell, and sound.  The most obvious is sight.  Make your home pleasing to the eyes by removing any clutter or excess items and providing plenty of space to move.

Another sense to remember is smell.  Fill your home with comforting scents that are subtle and not overwhelming, like a candle in the bathroom or fresh baked goods from the oven.  The last and most forgotten is the sense of sound.  Different sounds have been proven to evoke emotions so make sure to welcome your guests with friendly, pleasing sounds of soft music playing in the background.  Making your home feel familiar and comforting like holidays with family and friends will create the perfect environment for pleased buyers and like Baucis and Philemon, you will be rewarded greatly.

Find the story of Baucis  and Philemon here.

Sarah with the VV&W team decorating our tree at Huntsville's Tinsel Tree Trail last week.

Sarah with the VV&W team decorating our tree at Huntsville’s Tinsel Tree Trail last week.

 

 

Q&A with Sarah Blue Vaughan

Editor’s Note:  Our featured VV&W agent for November is Sarah Blue Vaughan.  Below is a fun Q&A we did with her recently. 

Sarah Blue Vaughn, realtor with Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Properties in Huntsville, Alabama.

1.  What should a buyer or seller expect when working with you?  What makes you different from other agents?

I loved looking for my own home and how each house I saw could be modified to become our home.  Because I discovered how much I enjoyed seeing houses and how to improve the floor plans, I knew real estate was perfect for me; I could do what I already knew I loved and also be able to help someone else.  Since I am relatively new at this, I have time to spend on marketing a home, researching other properties to compare prices, searching for the perfect home online, in the car, and by word-of-mouth, and helping advise on improving a floor plan if needed. I truly enjoy the relationships made by helping clients who I now consider friends.

2. Why did you choose VV&W? What do you see as a client’s greatest benefit to working with us?

What makes VV&W outstanding and above other companies comes down to one word: teamwork.  Working at VV&W has been fantastic because everyone treats each other like family and truly works as a team with one goal in mind—helping others.  Since I started, I have had so much help, advice, and training from each person.  When you are working with VV&W, you work with the entire group.  You get the expertise, opinions, and knowledge of the whole company.

3.  What was the last thing that made you laugh uncontrollably?

A couple of weeks ago, my son, Christopher, came home from school and told my husband and I that his class had a funeral at school.  We were of course shocked since a funeral was the last thing we were expecting to hear about when asked about his day.  He went on to tell us that the class clock had been acting funny and not keeping good time for a few days. His cute young teacher told the students that she was going to have to remove the batteries and that they would have a moment of silence for the clock. Then students were able to say any “last words” and almost all volunteered.  Christopher said, “Clock, we have only known you for a few months, but you have been a good clock and will be missed.” My husband and I laugh because of things he says all the time.  He is a comedian.

4.  Do you prefer chocolate or fruit?

I actually prefer vegetables (good Southern-cooked) and fruit—or anything sour like pickles, lemons, and any vinargrettes.

5.  Scary movie or happy endings?

Definitely happy endings especially if they are romantic and sappy—Hallmark and Nicholas Sparks are the best!

6.  Favorite smells?

The best smell is found when walking into your warm family home during the holidays because the house is filled with cinnamon, pumpkin, and all the familiar aromas of delicious food being cooked.

7.  Where were you born?

My husband and I were both born in Huntsville, and we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  We have both lived in other places and are very happy to be back.

8.  What are your hobbies?

I love to cook especially if it is something new, plan parties in particular for my son’s birthdays, and paint and craft when I have time.

9.  Do you have any pets?

Yes, my son has an adorable, spoiled-rotten cocker spaniel named Reuben that Santa brought him a couple of years ago.

10.  Do you have any siblings? Are you similar or opposites?

Yes, I have a younger brother, John; two sisters-in-law, Jennifer and Fleming; and a brother-in-law, Kevin.  I have the best siblings ever.  I guess we are all pretty similar since we get along and have so much fun together.

11.  Funniest moment throughout schoool?

There are too many to count, and some probably shouldn’t be repeated.  I loved school and laughed a lot.

For all your real estate needs, contact Sarah Blue Vaughan, at  256-652-9063 or sarahblue4500@gmail.com.  And for Huntsville real estate news, including fine and historic homes available across North Alabama, join the VV&W Facebook page and newsletter.  Or give us a call at 256-539-0505.

Q&A with Elizabeth Thames Foster

Editor’s Note:  Our featured VV&W agent for October is Elizabeth Thames Foster.  Below is a fun Q&A we did with her recently.  Also, don’t miss her excellent advice for homebuyers from earlier this month: The Ultimate Seduction Parlor.

VV&W Agent Elizabeth Thames Foster

1.  What should a buyer or seller expect when working with you?  What makes you different from other agents?

I have never thought of myself as a salesperson.  When working with buyers, I truly want them to find the home that they love. There is nothing better than walking in a house and seeing the look on their faces that says…this is the one!

2. Why did you choose VV&W? What do you see as a client’s greatest benefit to working with us?

I told Nancy that I took a big leap of faith when I got my Realtor’s license because VV&W is the only place I pictured myself working. I am a good 8 inches taller than every Van Valkenburgh but I really feel like a part of the family!  I definitely think VV&W clients get more personal service.  The unspoken motto in our office is to “do the right thing for your client”  I see every agent in our office go above and beyond for our clients 24 hours a day.

3.  Favorite client story or something funny that has happened to you in your career.

I love this job because every single transaction is different.  I have had some crazy things happen…guy lounging on the couch as I am showing his house, raccoon falling out of a fireplace during the home inspection, extreme hoarding, escaped pets. It is always something.

4.  Are you named after anyone? – I am named after my mother.  I was actually named Katherine for one week!

My parents changed it because they wanted a family name. And the weird thing is…people sometimes call me Katherine!

5.  What was the last thing that  made you laugh uncontrollably?

I am in my car so much that I have started listening to things other than music.  I was listening to the Comedy Channel on XM Radio in the carpool line the other day.  The comedian Jim Gaffigan did a bit on body wash (google it)  I was hyperventilating with laughter but was trying to hold it together so I didn’t freak out the other parents in carpool!

6.  Do you have kids?

Harry (12 and in 7th grade)  Margaret (16 and in 11th grade)

7.  Do you prefer chocolate or fruit?

I really try and eat healthy but chocolate is so much more fun than fruit.

8.  What’s the first thing you notice about people?

I notice their warmth and sincerity.

9.  What is your eye color?

Boring old brown!

10.  Do you have any pets?

Too many…2 dogs Ruby (Mutt) and Wilbur (Pug) and 2 cats Rascal and Charlie.

For all your real estate needs, contact Elizabeth Thames Foster, at  256-652-9063 or elizabethfoster1704@yahoo.com.  And for Huntsville real estate news, including fine and historic homes available across North Alabama, join the VV&W Facebook page and newsletter.  Or give us a call at 256-539-0505.

The Ultimate Seduction Parlor by Elizabeth Thames Foster

Editor’s Note:  Our featured VV&W agent for October is Elizabeth Thames Foster. Here, she shares some wise advice she has for buyers. Check this space later in the week for her fun Q&A.

We recently got rid of cable.  I miss it sometimes but it has made our TV viewing more intentional.  My husband and I started watching  Netflix and discovered a series of nature shows called “Life” The narrator has a distinguished British accent and the episodes are broken down into groups of animals. We love it and have even talked our teenage kids into watching it with us.

We were all watching the “bird” episode and learned about a bird called a Bowerbird. They are closely related to birds of paradise and live in Australia and New Guinea.  It was fascinating because the birds decorate their homes very elaborately. They spend years building giant nests and they each have a color they are attracted to. They collect flowers, seeds, mushrooms and berries and use them as decorations. And they each have their own style!  One bird was attracted to oranges and reds and his neighbor prefers collecting blues and grays. Of course, like most things in nature, the main purpose of these displays of color is to attract a mate.  The narrator says, “this is no nest, it is the ultimate seduction parlor.”

 

My family thought that was pretty funny, but it got me thinking about my job as a Realtor.  When you are trying to sell your home you do need to create a seduction parlor.  You are actually trying to seduce a buyer!  When you are trying to sell your home you want to put in the time and energy to make it attractive to buyers. Decluttering, depersonalizing, organizing, cleaning and staging are some things that sellers should do to make their property more attractive than the competition. I find that when a home is fresh, clean, neutral, bright and inviting it attracts a buyer quickly. In a saturated housing market, you have to make your nest the most seductive!

 

For Huntsville real estate news, including fine and historic homes available across North Alabama, join the VV&W Facebook page and newsletter.  Or give us a call at 256-539-0505.

 

Spring 2017 Smart Buy: Jones Valley

We’re advising clients to keep a close eye on Jones Valley , which we consider a Smart-Buy area this spring. In fact, we feel so strongly about it, we’re having a big Jones Valley Open House Fair this Sunday so you can see the proof.

“Exactly why is Jones Valley a smart buy?” you might ask.  We’ll answer that question with a few questions of our own:

Do you like the idea of a spacious yard and floor plan, meticulously maintained, at a reasonable price?

Beautiful, spacious kitchen at 1404 Toney Drive, in the Jones Valley neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama.

Lovely back-yard entertaining area at 1404 Toney Drive, Huntsville, Alabama, in the Jones Valley area.

Lovely back-yard entertaining area at 1404 Toney Drive.

Do you want to live in a beautiful area where community gathers around and supports schools, neighborhood pools, and nature areas?

Jones Valley Elementary School in the beautiful Jones Valley neighborhood in Huntsville, Alabama.

Jones Valley Pool, in Huntsville, Alabama's lovely Jones Valley neighborhood.

 

 

Would you like living a stone’s throw away from some of Huntsville’s best shopping areas, salons, and restaurants?

Valley Bend shopping center in Huntsville, Alabama's Jones Valley neighborhood.

 

Do you like the idea of a neighborhood set around a scenic farm, giving it a fresh, pastoral feel unique in such a central area?

Beautiful Jones Valley Farm, set in the heart of the Jones Valley residential area of Huntsville, AL.

Morning in Jones Valley. Used with permission of LendonofHuntsville.com

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, Jones Valley may be for you. Come on out this Sunday from 2-4 to our Open House Fair and see what Jones Valley has to offer. You’ll be glad you did.

Seller Q&A: 1404 Toney Drive

The Hobbs family moved to Huntsville after Brad Hobbs finished his residency training.  It was love at first sight when he and his wife, Tessa, saw this hidden gem of a city that felt family friendly and “just the right size.”  The fact that it was close to their home state of Georgia was an added bonus! So Brad joined the thriving practice North Alabama ENT and the family purchased a lovely canary-diamond colored, two-story home in Jones Valley.  Today, we asked them a few quick questions about the house and the new adventure they are embarking on as a family.

After a happy time at 1404 Toney Drive, the owners need more space for their new child.

What attracted you to the Jones Valley neighborhood?

You really can’t find a more perfectly convenient location than Jones Valley. The Jones Farm right in the middle of town still makes us happy as we drive past it each and every day. The close proximity to the hospital and the practice offices- both in Huntsville and Madison- were must-have on our list. We also loved that the schools that are in the area are rated at the top of the charts in Huntsville.
Beautiful Jones Valley Farm, set in the heart of the Jones Valley residential area of Huntsville, AL.

Morning in Jones Valley. Used with permission of LendonofHuntsville.com

What was the first thing you noticed/liked about 1404 Toney?  

We had pinpointed that we wanted to be in Jones Valley- but every house that was available was either going to be a huge fixer upper renovation (which we weren’t in the market for since we had a 2, 3, and 5 year old at the time) or was way out of our price range. We loved the curb appeal at 1404 Toney as well as the neighborhood feel of Greenwyche- the beautiful streets, well taken care of homes, large lots, mature trees, a vibrant neighborhood pool and rec area, all tucked away at the foot of a mountain with beautiful views.

The front view of 1404 Toney Drive, Huntsville, AL–an attractive family home with loads of curb appeal.

Favorite neighborhood amenity, shop and or/restaurant

We are so close to almost everything–but as a young family, we make the most trips to and from Chick-fil-a on Whitesburg, and of course Target on Carl T Jones. We love eating at Little Rosie’s as well as many of the other restaurants in the area. We have started using online Wal-Mart grocery ordering since we have 2 pick up locations close by. I can order online–drive 5 minutes in the morning and have our groceries delivered to the car! Our church is also only 6 minutes away–which helps when you’re getting a family of 6 out the door on Sundays and Wednesdays! We love having everything close by–but our favorite neighborhood amenity is most definitely Greenwyche Pool during the summer, and then the beautiful streets that we enjoy walking and biking on.

What are some tips the new owner should know?

  • Fabulous floor plan could suit many different buyer needs
  • Main level offers circular flow & family room open to kitchen – great for enjoying evenings together…
  • Wonderful neighborhood with precious people
  • Cozy nights snuggled up in front of the fireplace – we will leave some of our chopped wood for you to enjoy!
  • Although newer construction, the home is recently remodeled – especially our favorite spot: the kitchen
  • The driveway, though sloped, easily parks 4+ cars and is easy to maneuver.
  • The large lot offers a safe, fenced in “adventure” to be explored by the children.
  • Award winning schools just steps away from the house

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What is leading you to move?
We have just recently added a wonderful addition to our family- we adopted a precious little girl from China in August! This wonderful, life-changing family event came when we least expected it–but we felt the Lord leading to take a step of faith and pursue adoption, so we did.
 A new family member brings happiness and a need for more space.

It was a whirlwind of a year leading up to welcoming her into our family. In the midst of paperwork, lots of praying about our family’s future changes, we realized that we would most likely be looking to expand into a larger square footage home to raise our family and hopefully stay put in a “forever home.” We are hoping to stay in this exact same neighborhood- but find something with a little more space to play and raise 4 rowdy and rambunctious little ones!  We are torn because we absolutely love everything about the Toney house.–

To find out more about this wonderful home, please call:

Sarah Lauren V. Kattos

Associate Broker – VanValkenburgh & Wilkinson Properties, Inc.
204 Gates Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35801

Open House at 115 Woods End Road – Sunday 1/8

Come out to 115 Woods End Road Sunday from 2-4 p.m. to see this terrific one-level 4BR/2.5BA executive home. Full of natural light, this home is open and airy, with clearly defined living spaces. The lovely kitchen flows into a keeping room complete with gas fireplace. And steps away, a screened-in back porch looks out over a large back yard enclosed by an attractive wood privacy fence.  For more information and photos, please see the listing page.  Or contact Kristian Denis at kristian.e.denis@gmail.com or (256) 527-9463.

Exterior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Exterior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.
Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.
Interior shot of 115 Woods End Road Huntsville, Alabama 35806, a home for sale through Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson Realtors.

For Huntsville real estate news, including fine and historic homes available across North Alabama, join our Facebook page and newsletter.  Or give us a call at 256-539-0505.

Happy New Year: 2017 Edition!

Happy New Year card with glittering background.

The Van Valkenburgh and Wilkinson team wishes all of our friends and family a very Happy New Year!  We hope 2017 brings wonderful things to you, to Huntsville and Madison County, and to America and people across the world.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve your real estate needs.  Happy 2017!

For Huntsville real estate news, including fine and historic homes available across North Alabama, join our Facebook page and newsletter.  Or give us a call at 256-539-0505.