"Perfect!! Absolutely the best buying experience I have ever had!"
- Scott Marvin

1-877-SML-HOME  (1-877-765-4663)
1-877-SML-LOTS   (1-877-765-5687)

The Game Fish of Smith Mountain Lake

March 6th, 2014 · Comment Now!

Anglers interested in fishing Smith Mountain Lake, read on to find out what game fish you’ll encounter during your time on the water.

Smith Mountain Lake (SML) is one of the foremost fishing destinations in Southwest Virginia. The fact that several ESPN Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments have been held on the lake are a testament to the quantity and quality of the fish that inhabit it. Bassmaster has even rated SML as one of the top 25 bass lakes in the United States. Anglers visit the lake every year to pursue its wide variety of large and challenging game fish. Aside from crappie, sunfish, and perch, there are four main game fish native to the waters of Smith Mountain Lake.

Black Bass

largemouth_bassPhoto via Florida Fish and Wildlife

By far the most in-demand species among anglers, small and large mouth black bass thrive in both number and size in Smith Mountain Lake.  The average size of bass in SML is between two and four pounds, and they can be found in practically every part of the reservoir.

Striped Bass

striped_bassPhoto by Nils Rinaldis

In terms of desirability among anglers, the striped bass comes in as a close second to the black bass. Stocked all year, this species is a major fixture in Smith Mountain Lake’s waters. In fact, the record for striped bass caught on the lake is 49.4 pounds.

Due to ecological concerns, there are several rules that must be followed when fishing for striped bass at Smith Mountain Lake. Detailed information about how to fish for striped bass at SML can be found at the website of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  Anglers should focus their efforts on the lower half of the main reservoir for best results when fishing for striped bass.

Channel, Flathead, and White Catfish

flathead_catfishPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

Smith Mountain Lake is home to a variety of different species of catfish. Anglers who wish to hook a white catfish should head toward the lower side of the reservoir, while those in search of channel and flathead catfish will have the best luck casting their lines around the uppermost portions of the Blackwater and Roanoke arms of the lake.


muskyPhoto via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

This species’ life cycle and breeding habits make it very rare across Virginia. Luckily for anglers, musky fingerlings are stocked from time to time at the Roanoke arm of the lake. Still, these fish are mysterious and illusive. Rarely do anglers purposefully catch musky at SML, but a few are caught superfluously each year. However, the excitement of possibly catching one of these large, needle-toothed creatures is a treat in its own rite.

With so many opportunities to bring in a big catch, Smith Mountain Lake is the perfect getaway spot for any angler, be they an amateur or avid enthusiast. Whether you head out on the water on your own, or employ the help of a guide like Captain Spike or Captain Dale, there’s no doubt you’ll have plenty of stories to tell when you get back on shore.



→ Comment Now!Tags: Entertainment: Attractions · Sports: Fishing

Using The Tax Deferred Exchange To Finance A Home At Smith Mountain Lake

March 1st, 2014 · Comment Now!

house and lakeMany buyers wonder whether they will be able to qualify for a mortgage for a second home here. Some wish they could access investment funds they could use for property at the lake. Because I have worked with clients and done some investing myself over the years, I have learned strategies that can assist buyers in funding a second home.

Please note that I am not a tax advisor or licensed mortgage professional. The information discussed below is intended only to raise issues that you need to pursue with the assistance of licensed professionals.

The Internal Revenue Service has a provision that allows investment properties to be sold and exchanged for a new property without taxation on the gains from the exchanged property. This is called an IRS Section 1031 Exchange, and is also referred to as a like-kind exchange. Though the name implies a swap of properties with another property owner, the exchange is actually between your current investment property (referred to as the “relinquished property”) and a new one (the “replacement property”). While it is rare to find two property owners who wish to swap, I was involved in a swap of waterfront lots like this here last year, and the owners enjoyed these same tax benefits.

Let’s assume you own an investment property in which you originally invested $200,000 and is now worth $600,000. When you sell it, you may pay tax on the capital gain, possibly 15% of $400,000, or $60,000. This would leave you with proceeds of $540,000 to purchase a new property (assuming there is no debt).

If you sell this property and purchase another property through a 1031 Exchange however, you would have the entire $600,000 available to purchase the new property. The tax on the gain would be deferred until the sale of that property in the future. The process could be repeated however, and the gain could be deferred indefinitely until the property is passed to your heirs. As I understand it, your heirs will actually get a new basis in the property, and the accumulated gains during your lifetime may never be taxed! Please consult an attorney and tax advisor to confirm how this may work in your situation.

Another possibility is for you to purchase an investment property through a 1031 Exchange and eventually (later) convert this property to your primary residence. In this case you could enjoy a gain of up to $500,000 tax-free on your residence, and switch the investment property, which was purchased with previously untaxed funds, over to your primary residence as well. Then this residence can also be sold with untaxed gains up to $500,000, according to tax accountants!  Your original intent in the purchase of the investment property must be to use it for an investment purpose such as a vacation or long-term rental.

The like-kind requirement in a tax-deferred exchange is a frequently misunderstood element of this process. Some investors believe that the rules are strict, and one must swap a condo for a condo, or raw land for raw land. The rules, however, are actually broader than that according to most experts. You should be able to trade any investment real estate for any other. So you could sell an apartment building and replace it with a waterfront lot, or a condo for a waterfront home.

You should be aware that a 1031 Exchange requires an intermediary to handle the funds – you cannot touch the proceeds at all. You must also name several potential replacement properties within 45 days, and close on a property(s) within 180 days. I work with an expert intermediary here in Virginia to whom I refer my clients.

I once had a client who was selling an investment property and wanted to buy a waterfront lot and build an investment home with the 1031 proceeds. Since the builder could not guarantee that the home would be finished and closed on within 180 days, he hesitated. Through research, we learned that this was apparently possible, however, through a somewhat complex intermediate step with a third party set-up to take title to the land during the building process. This is an issue that should be discussed with a knowledgeable 1031 intermediary.

What if circumstances demand that you take title to a new property prior to the sale of your first property?  Though this was not originally provided for in the 1031 regulations, this possibility apparently exists through IRS guidelines that were issued later. It is called a Reverse Exchange, and is more costly and difficult than a normal exchange. If tax savings are in the tens of thousands of dollars, however, it is often worth pursuing.

Since I think it unwise for me to delve further into tax advice, I would like to refer you to an excellent book on this subject: How a Second Home Can Be Your Best Investment, by Tom Kelly and John Tuccillo (McGraw Hill, 2004). You can order this book from Amazon.com. They do a great job with tax avoidance strategies as well as goal planning to make your second home dream a reality.

→ Comment Now!Tags: Real Estate: Buying a Home

Lakeside Dining: 5 of Smith Mountain Lake’s Best Restaurants

January 31st, 2014 · Comment Now!

For those who are new or unfamiliar to the Smith Mountain Lake area, or for lake veterans in search of the best, this guide shows off five of the regions best restaurants and their cuisine.

The Landing

Providing cuisine with French influence and American sensibility, The Landing is a Smith Mountain Lake hot spot that never disappoints.  The Landing also has gorgeous outdoor, waterfront dining options, including a smoke free patio and outdoor bar. Owner Bruno Silva is dedicated to working with the freshest, most local ingredients possible to create the dishes on his menu.

the_landing_smith_mountain_lakePhoto by The Landing

“My goal is to do everything local, not with big distributors,” Silva says, “I’d rather do business with locals, even if it means paying more. Because, at the end of the day, the quality products that our local growers have make amazing dishes!”

The Landing also operates its own food truck, Bruno’s Gastro Truck, which can be found roaming Roanoke, Salem, and other surrounding areas. For more information about The Landing, visit their website.

The Blackwater Café

The Blackwater Café has long been a fine dining fixture in Smith Mountain Lake. Joining French and Italian cuisine, The Blackwater Café serves a variety of steak, seafood, and pasta dishes. And for those with gluten sensitivity, there are ample gluten-free options.

wine_corkPhoto by Robert Donovan

The café’s monthly wine themed dinners are a major local attraction. Fine wines, paired with a five-course menu, are served on the second Tuesday of each month. Be sure to book your spot early, because they go fast! More information about The Blackwater Café and their monthly wine dinners can be found here.

Casa D’Amici

Smith Mountain Lake’s own authentic Italian eatery, Casa D’Amici serves up beloved classics, such as Chicken Parmesan, Manicotti, and Veal Sorrentino. And with its fine ambiance, Casa D’Amici is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or dessert.

parmesan_cheesePhoto by Artizone

For a full listing of Casa D’Amici’s menu, visit their website at this link: Casa D’Amici.

Downtown Pizzeria

For those times when only a pizza will satisfy, Downtown Pizzeria is by far Smith Mountain Lake’s best spot for pizza.  There’s no shortage of toppings either; from pineapple to pepperoni, Downtown has you covered.

pizzaPhoto by Dennis Wilkinson

Aside from pizza, Downtown also serves several subs, pasta dinners, and salads to accommodate any taste or craving. To see all available toppings and dishes, check out Downtown Pizzeria’s full menu here: Downtown Pizzeria.

Edo Grill and Sushi

Finding quality sushi can be a challenge, especially when supermarket California rolls and subpar sushi are so common. For authentic, fresh, and premium sushi in the Smith Mountain Lake area, Edo Grill is the place to go. With a diverse selection of Maki, Nigiri, and Sahimi, Edo Grill can satisfy even the most discerning sushi fan.

sushi_rainbow_rollPhoto by Linh Nguyen

For the less adventurous, cooked entrees featuring chicken, seafood, and steak are also available. Edo Grill’s menu can be seen here: Edo Grill and Sushi.


→ Comment Now!Tags: Entertainment: Dining

Scary New Way People are Being Robbed of Their Home Titles

January 22nd, 2014 · Comment Now!

Some of us remember childhood playground moments of grabbing a playmate’s soccer ball and yelling, “Possession is nine points of the law!” After a little good-natured fun, the ball would be returned to its rightful owner, and everyone would leave the playground as friends.

Unfortunately, the same has not been happening in some recent legal tussles over foreclosure properties.

The Nightmare Begins

Imagine coming home after caring for a dying relative and finding that an unknown intruder has moved into your house, changed all the locks and is now waving legal documents that he says give him possession of the property.

home_foreclosurePhoto by Zane Hollingsworth

That’s exactly what happened to a Springdale, Ohio family around Thanksgiving last year. The family was in the process of moving to Pittsburgh, and a Springdale bank was going through the steps to foreclose on their property. However, a fellow named Robert Carr essentially swept down on the property, filed a legal action, and took over the vacant house as a squatter. Carr reportedly broke in through a window, yanked all of the family’s belongings from the house, changed the locks on all the doors and posted “No Trespassing” signs. Welcome home!

Underhanded Legal Wrangling?

The legal issue here is based in a specific type of real estate lawsuit called a “quiet title.” Haven’t heard of it? Most people haven’t. And in times of relative prosperity, quiet title lawsuits are rather uncommon.

In today’s roiled real estate market, with foreclosures and abandoned homes becoming more and more common, quiet title cases are causing quite a stir in many places around the country.

foreclosurePhoto by Simon Cunningham

It turns out that this Springdale family wasn’t the first target for the enterprising Robert Carr. WLWT news in Cincinnati discovered that Carr had filed quiet title lawsuits on about a dozen homes in the area, and when a reporter finally caught up to him and confronted him regarding his actions, he didn’t see anything wrong with what he was doing.

“Why not? The property’s vacant,” Carr told the WLWT reporter. “When you abandon a property, bam! Walk away from it. ‘I ain’t never coming back, I don’t want nothing to do with it,’ right? Somebody can come in (and say) ‘Oh, it’s mine!’” says Carr.

Carr says that he doesn’t need a deed and that anyone can take over an abandoned house like this. He works with people who he says watch the homes to make sure no one is living in them, and then he tells them to go in and change the locks.

According to one FBI agent who has looked into these cases, groups of individuals are often trained in the quiet title tactic Carr is using, and then they go out into the community looking for properties to take over. However, just because people like Carr are trying to wrestle away properties from homeowners and banks doesn’t mean that they are successful.

Carr, in fact, has had at least one indictment filed against him for breaking and entering.

Foreclosure Fight

Some homeowners are learning to use quiet title as a way to fight foreclosure. You might remember the “robo signing” scandal that hit the foreclosure industry in 2010, creating ways for homeowners to fight their foreclosures. Quiet title lawsuits can be part of this.

Let’s get back to the real intent of quiet title laws. They are intended to let people bring cases to court when there are legitimate questions about who owns a property.

Let’s say that Joe owns a home. He promises to sell it to Mary, but Joe dies before the sale is complete. Joe’s will gives the property to his cousin Ernie. An adverse title situation arises, and Ernie and Mary now both have claims to the property. A quiet title suit allows the court to decide ownership.

When banks take shortcuts in the foreclosure process, it’s possible for them to create conditions that would allow for successful quiet title lawsuits. However, even if homeowners win and retain the property, it won’t make their mortgage debt disappear.

Quiet title suits can also backfire. When someone files one and loses, the other party could then be awarded the title.

Before you decide to take Carr’s gamble and become a squatter in an abandoned home across town or fight the financial institution foreclosing on your home, note that every state has its own quiet title laws. So be sure to know your state’s laws before taking action one way or another.

→ Comment Now!Tags: Uncategorized

New Homeowners’ Secret Room Reveals a Nightmare of Problems

January 9th, 2014 · 2 Comments

This story was submitted by a reader who fell prey to a careless realtor and a dishonest home inspector; the names of the individuals involved have been changed for their privacy.

A secret room is the stuff of dreams for many people. Childhoods were built upon imagining that somehow, you would stumble upon a secret room that your parents never told you about, and oh, what fun you’d have! But what if you actually did find one – in your newly bought home? Even worse, what if that secret room, a room that you had hoped would fulfill your childhood fantasies as you cracked open its door, turned out to be a nightmare of a problems as well as a health hazard? For two new homeowners, this nightmare came true.

Troy and Ellie* were a couple in the market for a new home. Itching to take advantage of the 2009 tax break, they found a seemingly normal home that they thought would be a domestic paradise for them and their children. A huge upgrade from their cramped apartment with just three rooms, they were ecstatic when their offer, which came in 20k lower than the listed price, was accepted instantly. It seemed like everything was going great, contrary to the naysayers who intoned that a cheap first home would be full of problems.

The home inspection did turn up a few issues, but the new homeowners weren’t fazed. They offered a sum to make the necessary repairs, and after checking with the home inspector, who confirmed their budget would cover the repairs, they closed on the contract and began moving in. The house seemed to be perfect for them, and with all of the work of getting settled, redirecting mail, and preparing to enjoy their new home, they didn’t get the chance to take much of a look around.

But about a month later, as they were down in the basement one night, the facade started to crumble. They were down in the laundry room, when Ellie noticed something under the bottom of the stairs leading down into the basement. She went over to check it out, and found a tiny hook and eye latch. Undoing the latch and pushing hard against the wall, they discovered that it was actually a disguised door – a secret room!

Basement MoldThe wall opened to reveal a room strewn with debris and falling pipework

However, their excitement quickly died out as they looked inside. As it turned out, the room had been used for trash and construction debris, which had grown immense amounts of billowy white mold. Pipes that led to unknown areas of the house hung down from the ceiling at dangerous angles, threatening to break free.

Residential MoldSome of the debris thrown in the room – old nails, a door, and a disintegrating push lawn mower (the black object partially buried)

Troy and Ellie, upset by this discovery, called up their realtor, who denied knowledge of the room and put the blame on the home inspector. Troy then contacted the inspector, describing the issue to him, and was told that the inspector would return as soon as possible. A couple of weeks later, the inspector showed up and glanced over the room, confirmed it was mold, and casually mentioned that the couple should, “put on dust masks and Clorox the h*ll out of the place”. With that, he left, leaving the couple completely at a loss of how to conquer the room.

House MoldA door covered in mold and other debris

For Troy and Ellie, it was a long uphill battle afterwards. Many other cover ups were discovered around the home, from finding that the wall molding was stuck on with double sided tape, to the discovery that the drainage pipe had been disconnected from the main bathtub – which led to bathwater simply draining straight into the room below. Further investigation revealed that the home inspector had a reputation for being lax, overlooking problems with homes in order to close more sales and acquire more jobs.

Thankfully, stories such as this are quite uncommon. Prospective home buyers can learn a lot from this, though. Buying a home is not something that should be rushed. Take time to thoroughly research the individuals involved in your home buying process; check online for reviews of the realtors and the home inspector. You may also want to consider hiring an independent contractor or engineer to look over the home as well, as they tend to be unbiased and more stringent in their observations.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Home Building and Finding A Contractor

October 30th, 2013 · 3 Comments


If you are building a home in this area, this is a critical issue — especially if you are from outside the area. My family moved here from the Detroit area in 1998 and we needed a builder. We were frankly surprised that some of the builders here didn’’t seem to have cell phones, brochures, or business cards. It seemed a bit odd, to say the least. Fortunately, things have changed a lot, and this is no longer the case for the most part. However, some builders still manage their operation like a dropout from life looking for something to do, while other builders operate professionally. Choose the latter.

I had a builder tell me once that “all buyers are liars.” He was referring to the allegation that all clients speak badly of builders after the construction is complete. He said there were so many factors that go wrong in the building of a new home that this was inevitable. Another builder told me that all of his clients are angry with him for the last part of the building process, when the final details and costs are being ironed out. I don’t believe it must be this way, and have assisted many clients who have a much more positive experience. Even so, many home owners are unhappy with their builder, and describe the construction process as a nightmare. I don’t want this to happen to you, and it doesn’t need to.

It is common to get sweet-talked into using the first builder you speak with. This is easy to do since some of the initial conversations with builders take a lot of your valuable time, especially if you don’t live in the area. This might work out OK, but take a few more simple steps first.

First, talk in detail to your REALTOR® and others from the area. Ask them to provide the names of their top builders and ask why they recommend them. Make sure they are not just recommending a friend, neighbor, or a few names from the phonebook. If you are buying a lot in a newer neighborhood, you may be able to speak with neighbors who have recently had a home built. (You will be amazed at how friendly the folks are here. You can just walk up to their door or catch them taking a walk). Ask them who they dealt with and take good notes if you hear a name that is spoken of positively. If you find a few neighbors who loved one builder, and recommend him, you’’ll have a good candidate to interview.

Second, interview the builder face-to-face. You will learn a lot about a builder this way. How does he manage his personal life? Was he on time for the meeting? What is the condition of his vehicle? Ask him for a list of homes he has built and take a drive by. Ask him what his relationship with past clients is like, and then ask for a list of references. Call the references and ask detailed questions such as the cost and timing of the finished project compared with what was estimated or promised. Ask the builder where most of his supplies are purchased. Go into that store and ask the contractor staff or manager whether the bills are paid on time and if the builder’s business seems to be run in a professional manner. Even if the employee feels compelled to speak positively about their customer (the builder), you can often read a lot in their responses. Ask the builder for addresses where building is in process. Check out the job site after hours or on a weekend. Does it look sloppy and carelessly managed or neat and tidy?

Third, if all of the above check out, talk to the top two builders about their approach to pricing and cost. I recommend narrowing the builder down to your top choice or two before asking for a detailed bid. This will be more fair to the contractor and provide you with a more accurate estimate. It would be good at this point to know which cost approach the builder prefers and why. There are two main approaches: contract-bid or cost-plus. You need to think through the differences in using each approach.

In a contract-bid approach, the builder should provide an extremely detailed breakdown of the finished items included in the bid and the factors that would cause the cost to go up or down. Note the cost of expensive, highly variable items such as cabinets, flooring and lighting. A great builder should be able to anticipate the level of quality and cost of items in his bid based on his experience, conversations with you, and the final value of the home on the lot. If he is honest, he will not have bid these at a low level just to get your business. (This will take some homework on your part to anticipate the price range to expect for these items). There are builders out there who can provide a bid per square foot, but once you have chosen a long list of upgrades midstream the cost ends up 50% higher. They may try to make it sound like it was all your fault for choosing “so many upgrades,” but the truth is that they are responsible for not bidding the home more honestly upfront. This issue should be discussed with the builder and his references in advance. A contract bid builder must add some cushion for contingencies such as weather problems or increases in the cost of materials. This cushion can turn into extra profit for the builder if things go well, and on the surface, it seems like this approach may result in a higher price to you.

Enter the cost-plus approach! Builders using this methodology argue that you, the customer, should not have to pay for that extra cushion in the event that things don’t go wrong. At the same time, they don’t want to bear the financial liability in the event that things go awry. So they give you their best guess on how much the home will cost based again on their experience, conversations with you, and the final value of the home on the lot. Then they provide you with detailed invoices along the way showing their costs of labor and materials. Their profit is simply a matter of adding a set percentage to the cost (the “plus” in cost-plus). A typical profit range is 15% to 20%. (The builder may argue that he would figure in 30% if doing a contract-bid in order to account for unexpected problems). It seems like this open-book approach would be less costly to the client and fair to everyone.

I am not willing to say that there is one correct approach in all circumstances. It is highly dependent on the builder, your level of knowledge and involvement, the weather, the type of lot, and much more. I will say, however, that most of the problems and dissatisfied clients I encounter are in the cost-plus arena. The cost-plus approach puts the risk of all problems on you, the buyer. It would be great if there are no significant problems, but you need to know something right upfront: THERE WILL BE PROBLEMS!

As an inexperienced homebuyer, do you want to bear this risk or do you want to allow it to be borne by the person who deals with these types of issues daily, and has for years? Another criticism of the cost-plus approach is that it is like giving your builder your checkbook. Do you really trust him that much? What motivation will he have to get several detailed bids for a component of the job? Will he fight to get the lowest price for the electrical work, for example? Will he tell you about a wholesale outlet where you can save 25% on the lighting and plumbing fixtures? Or, due to the cost-plus profit arrangement, might he even be hoping that the costs will come in higher? Do the math. Twenty-percent of a bigger number is…a bigger number! If you go with a cost-plus approach, you better know your builder extremely well. And if he is that close of a friend, you better realize that he may not be a friend after the process is complete.

Is it obvious that I generally favor the contract-bid approach? You need to make your own decision on this, but whatever you decide, you can see that you should be willing to spend a significant amount of due diligence upfront before choosing a builder. Ask a lot of questions. Call all references. Find other homes the builder has constructed and talk with those owners. Much of this process can be shortened by looking for word-of-mouth references. If you start your search in the phone book or chamber of commerce directory, you will greatly lengthen the process and set yourself up for possible frustration. Bottom line: Seek counsel! Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed”.

Fourth, before you get started on your home, talk through with your builder what items are included and not included in the bid or pricing estimate. A simple example is landscaping and sidewalks. I have known of many clients who didn’t think about this item, and had a picture of a beautifully manicured new lawn to go with their beautiful new home. But when moving day came, they were faced with trying to figure out how to keep the mud off the new carpets. These folks often spend many thousands of dollars to finish what they assumed was part of the package. I am not suggesting that this is the fault of the builder, but that these types of things need to be discussed in advance. I know of many builders here in the lake area that appear to be competent and honest. In case I have discouraged or frightened you away from building, I want to highlight a bit of what I know about two local builders so you will know that there is hope! They are very different, yet both have a long list of extremely happy clients and are proud of the homes they have constructed around the lake area.

The first builder moved here from metro Washington, D.C. He has a background managing a commercial and residential construction company and runs his company like a well-oiled machine. He works out of a nice office and has a professional staff. After he gets an idea of your scope and project, he can tell you the date that he will break ground as well as the scheduled completion date. (He averages about 10 days early on his completion estimates). He will provide you with a beautiful folder with a detailed list of past clients including their phone numbers. Think about that. You can call any one of them and ask them to verify what you are hearing from him. His presentation folder also details promised versus actual completion dates of all the homes he has built in the past decade, as well as the percentage over or under his original bid was from the final total cost of the home. He prides himself on getting to know his clients in advance, and bidding their homes in such a range as to minimize upgrade change orders along the way. The average upgrades for his buyers are a few percent or less. He is not only a builder, but an artist and an architect, and he provides helpful design and money-saving ideas to his clients. Once you choose him, it will take at least a few months to get under way since he spends considerable time in the design and bid process and typically has a backlog of clients. (As a side note, this builder believes that the cost-plus approach is akin to robbery. He works only under fixed-bid arrangements). He is not the cheapest builder in town, but his clients say his services are worth every penny.

A second builder I wish to highlight seems different in many ways. He was born and raised here in the sticks and has the accent to prove it. He started building around the lake as a young man in the mid-1960s. You may not be impressed with him when you first speak to him on the phone, but you will be impressed when you see any of the homes he has built. The attention to detail and quality are unsurpassed in anything I have seen here at the lake. Many of his standard features would be considered upgrades for other builders. He has a long list of satisfied clients. I talked to one family that hired him to build their last two homes, and they say they hope he will build their third. They would never use anyone else. (This is very rare in this business). Real estate agents are happy to highlight his name in listings in which he was the builder. He has people waiting for him to start their homes, even in a slow market. You would likely not go wrong if you chose him as your builder.

These are just two brief profiles to give you hope that you can find a great builder here at Smith Mountain Lake. This should also highlight something else. Out of the many builder ads in the local phone books or Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, you would probably not have chosen one of these two to interview. You may have ended up spending a lot of time, energy and a year or so of frustration that could have been avoided if you sought professional advice and carefully checked builder references. I didn’t come up with these (and several other great) builders’ shining profiles overnight. You shouldn’t expect to either. You may choose the wrong REALTOR®, the wrong closing attorney, or the wrong mortgage loan officer, but whatever you do, do not choose the wrong builder.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Real Estate: Buying a Home

Virginia Ranked #1 State…

October 22nd, 2013 · Comment Now!

graphLast month Forbes.com ranked the state of Virginia as #1 in the country for business! The rankings were based on six important factors for businesses: regulatory environment,  costs, current economic climate, labor supply, growth prospects and quality of life. Virginia was the only state who made it to the top five in four of these important arena’s. This is encouraging news for our home state in the midst of a down economy. It also brings to light the above average quality of  Virginia’s business communities.

But that is not all the good news for our state of late. Virginia has the lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast at 5.8%, 1.9% lower than the regions average of 7.7%. And Virginia’s unemployment rate is the 13th lowest in the nation.

It is easy to be gloomy about the economic forecasts, and there are certainly reasons for concern. But it is also a good thing to spread positive information when it comes to our attention as well.


→ Comment Now!Tags: Lake Living · Local Businesses

Two Wonderful New Movies To Be Filmed In Virginia

October 15th, 2013 · Comment Now!

watermenTwo fabulous new films are in the making at two separate locations in Virginia.

The first is “The Shoeless Wonders”, a true tale of a team of shoeless orphans from Lynchburg, Va. who played fabulous football. Sara Elizabeth Timmins, Producer. Life Out Loud Films LLC Phone: 818-509-0699. www.LifeOutLoudFilms.com

The second is “Chesapeake” starring Keith Carradine and is being filmed in the Chesapeake bay region of Virginia. This story is centered around the threatened Watermen culture of the coastal areas. Contact Info: Amy Quick at amy.quick@arvold.com or by phone at 434-327-9821.

See below for press/media releases:

Life Out Loud Films is in development on a film based on actual
local events

Lynchburg, Virginia (October 2, 2013) – Life Out Loud Films is currently in development on a film based on a true story out of Lynchburg. This news comes on the heels of announcing that its last film, Wish You Well, based on the novel by David Baldacci and starring Ellen Burstyn, Josh Lucas and Mackenzie Foy, and is an Official Selection at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. The film was shot on location in Giles County and is a collaboration between Life Out Loud Films, Copper Beech Productions and Baldacci Entertainment.

Life Out Loud Films has partnered with the Presbyterian Homes & Family Services and the Family Alliance of Lynchburg to develop a feature film that will tell the true story of The Shoeless Wonders, a barefoot football team of orphans who lived at the Presbyterian Homes and who ruled the Lynchburg gridiron and went unbeaten and unscored on from 1922-1930. This inspirational story is currently in the research and script development stage and is projected to shoot in 2015.

Timmins and her team have been working with PHFS sifting through photographs, uncovering the Home’s history and conducting on camera interviews with some of the real Shoeless Wonders and their opponents.
Timmins recalls, “I got chills the first time I heard the Shoeless Wonders’ legacy and from that point, I knew it was a story that needed to be told via film. Now that we are in the script development process and have had a chance to meet the real people and hear their inspiring stories, it has been really magical because the script is writing itself and it is rich with honesty and heart.”

The film supports Life Out Loud Films’ mission to balance business and art to create quality inspiring films that present strong female characters while also making a positive impact behind the scenes. PHFS was founded in 1903 and today provides programs in communities throughout Virginia to help strengthen individuals and families through care, counseling and education. PHFS programs focus on early childhood development, economic empowerment, mental health services, safe and healthy living, and residential care.

For more information about Life Out Loud Films, please visit www.lifeoutloudfilms.com.
Or for more information about PHFS, please visit www.phfs.org.


Moving Tale of Loss and Redemption Centers Around Region’s Time-Honored Watermen Culture As It Faces Threats From Modern World

Charlottesville, Virginia – Academy-Award winning actor Keith Carradine is slated to star in Chesapeake, a film written and directed by Eric Hurt (Pillage and Plunder Pictures).  Produced by Erica Arvold (Arvold Productions) and Sara Elizabeth Timmins (Life Out Loud Films), the film is projected to shoot in Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay region in 2014.   The production is currently in development, and producers are continuing to raise funds and prep for preproduction.

“The first thing that attracted me to Chesapeake [the film] was the script: it’s a classic story of loss and redemption,” says Carradine, “There’s something so ultimately affirming about this story, and I want to be a part of things that do that.  I think we have something really good here.”

The drama centers around an isolated waterman whose solitary life is profoundly changed when he saves a young boy from drowning.  Using underwater photography and 360 degree views of the area, writer/director Hurt’s vision is built around showcasing the spectacular settings of the area.

“The catalyst for me was the Chesapeake Bay’s watermen culture,” says Hurt. “When I hear their stories and see the integrity and dedication the watermen bring to their lives and work, I am inspired to build and tell a story like this one, and to create a genuine setting where these fictional characters live.”

Research and on-the-ground experience has been crucial to the development and authenticity of the project.  Hurt continues, “I’ve been amazed at the support and encouragement we have received and continue to receive from so many people and organizations, from the individual watermen we’ve met to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Film Office, who have been with us every step of the way and who are integral to this process.”

“This project is a perfect representation of what Virginia film is all about,” said Andy Edmunds, Director of the Virginia Film Office. “You have a homegrown team that has a great deal of experience on bigger films, and they combine their skill and dedication as filmmakers with a boundless passion not only for their story, but for the place where they are telling it. It’s a win-win for us, and a proven formula for making a really good film.”

Writer/director Eric Hurt’s most recent feature, House Hunting, was filmed in Charlottesville, VA and is currently in worldwide distribution.

Erica Arvold, Virginia casting director for Spielberg’s Lincoln will cast and produce Chesapeake.  Arvold also cast and produced Hurt’s House Hunting.  She brings over 20 years of work on studio and independent features.  Since moving to Charlottesville, she has focused on Virginia filmmaking, with casting credits that include Killing Lincoln, Wish You WellLake Effects and the upcoming Killing Kennedy.

Sara Elizabeth Timmins has been producing films for over a decade.  She produced the Hallmark Channel movie Lake Effects and her most recent project was Wish You Well, a feature film written by David Baldacci and premieres at the Heartland Film Festival October 19th.  Both films were shot in Southwest Virginia, and her vision and drive to involve the community in the production process resulted in lasting relationships and a positive economic impact on Virginia.

“Our approach to filmmaking is to create a collaborative environment and a fulfilling experience for everyone involved, especially the community” notes Timmins, “we have met some of the most enthusiastic and welcoming people on our visits to the Eastern Shore.”

Arvold says,  “From the moment I read the script, I was hooked.  We are currently in the process of meeting with investors, lining up resources and partnerships, and aligning ourselves with potential distribution companies.  And, knock on wood, we are well on our way!”

www.chesapeakethefilm.com Amy Quick, Coordinating producer arvold c: 434.327.9821  amy.quick@arvold.com  www.arvold.com

→ Comment Now!Tags: Local News

11th Annual Smith Mountain Lake Fall Chili and Craft Festival

October 9th, 2013 · Comment Now!

chiliOn Saturday, November 2nd from 11am. to 4pm. you can enjoy a fun full-day lake event in Moneta, Va. The Chili and Craft Festival will feature a wide variety of creative arts & crafts and a delicious competitive chili cook-off. The Chili Cook-Off is more entertainment than a barrel of monkeys and trophies will be given out for  ”Best Chili,” “People’s Choice,” and “Showmanship.”

It’ll be a fantastic day with hot food and fun people at Smith Mountain Lake.  The event is held on the water at Smith Mountain Lake, Bridgewater Plaza near the Hales Ford Bridge. Tickets are $5 at the gate! For more information, go to www.visitsmithmountainlake.com. (You can also come free if you are a Volunteer Helper! To sign up, call Lauren at 540-721-1203 or email lauren@visitsmithmountainlake.com.)

→ Comment Now!Tags: Local Events

Fantastic Fall Facts & Festivities

October 6th, 2013 · Comment Now!

KHprofilepic1It is officially Autumn and we see the signs of changing seasons all around us. Even though the weather at Smith Mountain Lake has been unseasonably warm, the leaves are falling by the boat-load, the days are getting shorter and the nights are cooler. For those of you who love the fall, it is an invigorating and fantastic time of year.

Speaking of falling leaves, do you already know why they turn such brilliant colors in the fall? Even though I know the basics, I went to my resources and refreshed my knowledge a bit. As the tree begins to prepare for winter hibernation, it also stops producing the nutrients needed for to grow green leaves. The colors we see in the fall leaves are in them all year round, but when they stop making chlorophyll (that has the green pigment in it), then we see the glowing fall colors for a while before the leaves die altogether and fall off.

The other things that determine the variety and shades of color in the leaves is the temperature and amount of rain that year. Drought can delay the arrival of Autumn; warm, wet days will dim the brightness of the colors we enjoy so much; Harsh frosts kill the leaves before they can turn colors to that they just turn brown and fall off. The very brightest and most colorful Autumn comes when the spring has been mild with plenty of rain, a moderate summer and a warm fall with cooler nights. Lets hope that bodes for the most gorgeous fall ever this year!

And don’t forget the fabulous fall festivities this year either!

Bridgewater Plaza Fall Festival, October 12 - Drive or boat to Bridgewater Plaza, Smith Mountain Lake, on Oct 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Fall Festival. Shop all your favorite stores, as well as local craft vendors, and dine at your favorite restaurants! Also enjoy live entertainment on Mango’s stage:  DJ music, singing by the Harmeneers, Staunton River High School choir, VA Dance Academy performances, Traditional Tae Kwon Do Academy demonstrations, Balloon Dude Travis, and Honey Tree Learning Center face painting.

Camp Karma Campground and local musician Ricky Ellis is pleased to announce the First Annual Bluegrass Workshop. Join us Oct. 12 & 13 for lessons on guitar, banjo, mandolin, base & dobro. Open to the public. Only $10 per person per day. http://www.campkarmavirginia.com/Events.html

Oktoberfest and 5K Trail Race -  The First Annual Oktoberfest and 5K Trail Race/Walk on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at Westlake Towne Center. 5K Trail Race/Walk starts at 10:30 a.m. Oktoberfest noon to 5 p.m. Festival includes entertainment by Sauerkraut Band and Barefoot West. Children’s play area, food and drink vendors on site and special Oktoberfest beer brewed by Sunken City Brewery. Admission is $5. Children 13 and under free. Lawn chairs welcome. Proceeds benefit SML YMCA. Visit www.SMLOktoberfest.com.

SML Harmeneers Barbershop Chorus presents our always popular annual show. “Harmony At The Hop” a medley of our best 50′s hits. Performances will be Friday, November 8th at 7PM and Saturday, November 9th at 2PM. Tickets are available for $10 at Radioshack, SML Visitors Center and the General Store.

Virginia Dare Cruises & Marina: Now is the time to Book your Fall Foliage Cruises! What better way to view the colors than on board the Virginia Dare Cruise Boat. Reservations Required!  Don’t forget our Flotilla for Toy’s Boat Parade coming up on November 30th.  Call 540-297-7100 or visit          www.vadarecruises.com

→ Comment Now!Tags: Lake Living · Local Events