Smith Mountain Lake News

Make Your Lake House Look the Part: Essential Lake Decor

April 14th, 2014 · Comment Now!

Lakeside living is a lifestyle like none other, and the décor of each lakeside house is a special part of the experience. Combining a mixture of maritime, vintage, and traditional motifs, lake house décor has a chic flare all its own.

lakeside_housePhoto by Bradley Wells

Whether you’re a seasoned lake house resident or avid decorator in search of genuine lake house designs, use these interior decoration tips to give your home a cozy and authentic lake house vibe.

Use a Fresh, Light Color Palette

The use of light colors is common for lake and beach houses alike. In general, maritime themed interior décor makes generous use of whites and light pastels. However, when using these colors it can be easy to cross the line from tasteful to tacky. To avoid going overboard, pick a bright white as your primary color and use just one or two other colors as accents throughout the home, one darker color at most.

The light, ethereal atmosphere that this color scheme can impart to a waterside home makes for a gorgeous and understated living space.

Ditch the Drapes

One of the main reasons for taking up residence in a lake house is to enjoy the beautiful views, so don’t keep them from joining your interior décor ensemble. With the exception of bedrooms and bathrooms, the windows in your lake house should be uncovered to allow you and your guests to witness the gorgeous setting in which your home is situated. Plus, extra natural light will improve the aesthetic of any living space.

Bring in Maritime Subtleties

bouyPhoto via Flickr

Decorators need to be extra careful when dealing with maritime accents. Every lake house needs the appropriate maritime accouterments, but it only takes a few too many to ruin the feel. Avoid items that are too new and artificial or too old and dingy. Tastefully worn wooden buoys, duck decoys, and so on are good choices when seeking maritime accents, and they can be found easily in local thrift stores and antique shops.

Choose Antiques Carefully

In the minds of many there is a memory of a lake house rental from summers long past, with quaint fixtures and decades of character. Channeling that image into your home with tasteful, quality antiques can give your home a whole new element of rugged authenticity. Look for simple pieces with specific purposes – an old kitchen table, headboard, or wardrobe. These salvaged gems are sure to add character to your home.

Incorporate Raw, Unfinished Accents

Nothing works better than a few raw or unfinished accents to offset the bright white color scheme of the typical waterside home. For example, cast iron dining room chairs can add a rustic edge. Rough, unfinished supporting beams of hardwood, if they are present in your home, should be uncovered to show off their character. Incorporate these elements into your home to tie together a completed lakeside look.

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The Golf Destinations of Smith Mountain Lake

April 3rd, 2014 · Comment Now!

With such a gorgeous waterside Appalachian setting, resident and visiting golfers will probably wonder where they can take in the scenery and play a few rounds during their time at Smith Mountain Lake. Luckily, the lake are has several golfing options to offer, rather nice ones at that. And for those willing to make a short drive, there are more fantastic courses in the Roanoke area.

golf_smith_mountain_lakePhoto vio Flickr

Of the four courses surrounding the lake, two are private, one is public, and one is semi-private. Let this post serve as your guide to the golfing opportunities of Smith Mountain Lake.

Mariner’s Landing

Mariner’s Landing isn’t just a lakeside golfing destination; it’s also a well-established resort and conference center. Golfers can enjoy an 18-hole, par 72 championship golf course designed by English course architect Robert Trent Jones, known for having designed or redesigned roughly 500 different courses worldwide.

The Mariner’s Landing course is open to the public, and it offers some of the best views of the lake and its surrounding terrain.

The Westlake

Another 18-hole, par 72 course, The Westlake golf and country club is a full-service attraction, including a pro shop, clubhouse, and restaurant. Set slightly off the lake, the Westlake course provides enjoyable scenery without too many difficult water features. But that’s not to say this course doesn’t present a formidable challenge. Course architect Russell Breeden, well known for his work in Virginia, designed the Westlake course with holes that will test the skills of any player.

golf_clubsPhoto via

The Westlake golf course and country club is semi-private, meaning patrons can join the club for discounts and amenities or play and visit at their leisure as a guest.

The Water’s Edge

Living up to its name, this 18-hole PGA Championship course runs right alongside the glimmering waters of Smith Mountain Lake. But with lakeside beauty comes significant challenge. Island greens and water features abound. Less experienced players should be prepared to take a mulligan!

Unfortunately, this course is private and open only to Water’s Edge development residents and their personal guests.

The Waterfront

Similar to The Water’s Edge private course, The Waterfront golf course and country club offers the complete package – pro shop, clubhouse, restaurant, and extensive amenities. The championship course spans nearly nine miles of Smith Mountain Lake shoreline and offers gorgeous landscapes and picturesque views.

golf_ball_pinkPhoto by Aftab Uzzaman

Thankfully, unlike The Water’s Edge, property ownership is not mandatory for access to the course. Those who wish to play must simply join the club with an annual fee. This makes The Waterfront course a good option for long-term Smith Mountain Lake residents.

Southwest Virginia is a fabulous destination for golfers; these four courses simply represent the offerings in the immediate vicinity of the lake. Golfers seeking more selection can find spectacular options, such as the Ballyhack, Blue Hills, and Ashley Plantation golf courses, within an hour’s drive of the SML area.

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Staying Safe on the Water: a Guide to Boating Safely

March 18th, 2014 · Comment Now!

A simple day of relaxation on the lake is a favorite diversion of Smith Mountain Lake residents and visitors alike. During the summer months, some folks make a habit of getting out on the water as often as they can. And it’s no surprise; the gorgeous lakeside vistas and temperate climate make an afternoon floating on Smith Mountain Lake a true pleasure.

life_preserverPhoto by Zsolt Fila

But whether you’re a lake veteran or a newly minted boater, you should always follow these basic principles of boating safety. Above all else, staying safe on the water is the most important mission of your outing.

Get Educated

In Virginia, new boaters are required to undergo a brief training course to ensure safe travels on the water. Any passengers who meet the age requirements for boat operation should participate in this course.

Brush Up on Your Swimming Skills

Although boaters should be wearing lifejackets at all times, proficient swimming skills are still important. Non-profit organizations like the American Red Cross offer swimming lessons at no cost. Use this tool to find classes offered by the Red Cross in your area.

Don’t Take a Booze Cruise

The likelihood of either causing or experiencing some form of boating accident is much greater when passengers on your vessel are consuming alcohol. The risk simply isn’t worth it. Leave the alcohol on shore, and continue the party when you get back.

Have a Skipper On-Board

The importance of designating a skipper cannot be understated. A skipper is an individual who is equipped to operate the boat in the same capacity as the captain or primary operator. If something happens to the primary operator of the vessel, it is imperative that there be someone on board who can bring the vessel back to shore safely.

Watch the Weather

storm_cloudsPhoto by Stefan Neuweger

Most recreational boaters find themselves on the water during the warmest months of the year. Despite seemingly mild weather, conditions can change during this season rather quickly. Be on the lookout for dark clouds, thunder, lightning, and sudden temperature fluctuation.

If you witness any of these warning signs, get back to shore as soon as possible. Don’t stay out just because you think the disturbance will blow over. The risk of being on the water during a storm is too great to take any chances.

Always Wear a Lifejacket


Photo by NSW Maritime

Most have heard this rule recited so many times that it should be ingrained permanently into their subconscious. Unfortunately, there are still numerous accidents every year where boaters perish for lack of a lifejacket.

Take the most basic and important safety step while you’re on the water, and wear a lifejacket at all times.

Stay alert, use common sense, and use these tips to stay safe during your trip on Smith Mountain Lake. In addition to putting your mind at ease and keeping your family safe, these safety tips will ensure the safety of other boaters and make Smith Mountain Lake a better place to float!

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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 plentiful and prosperous 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 spontaneously 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.



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

March 1st, 2014 · 3 Comments

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).

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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 region’s 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 said. “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 at 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 though, 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 to grab a pie.  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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Virginia Ranked #1 State…

October 22nd, 2013 · Comment Now!

graphLast month 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.


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