The Market dropped more than my weight yesterday! Everyone seems to be questioning when it is going to hit the bottom.  I started to delve into all this to see what wasn’t losing money. Something astounded me and then it all made sense! According to on Tuesday the following is stated to be true:

The Nasdaq Composite managed more modest losses than the broader market, with BlackBerry maker Research in Motion(RIMM) and eBay (EBAY) rebounding solidly. 

Hmmm????? Please read no further until you agree that I am NOT a Stock Market GURU. This is how I understand it: Everyone is tight on money so they have to sell all the things they have and don’t really need.  They get on EBay and research the products, prices, and surplus. They pop it up on E-Bay NOT worrying about the commission they have to pay, just happy that they have an audience. They set their reserve (blind to bidders), wait a few days and all of a sudden they have a bidder! Perhaps the reserve wasn’t met but they still have a potential buyer! They agree that something is better than nothing! And they Sell!

So, where does RIMM (Blackberry) fit in? This is what I know. As a “discount” broker I would buy a Blackberry over an I-phone because it is a mid range phone and I am able to do ALL my business from it. Sadly I am on a Razor right now and waiting patiently for my 12 months to run through so I can get a Blackberry or whatever else they have on sale. Luckily I work from home and my husband, Dan will call me as soon as an important email comes in to give me the scoop. EBAY users need instant email and Internet access, hence the Blackberry. Its a Match made in Heaven!

Sellers; I advise you to please set your “reserves” but don’t walk away from any offers. They may be insultingly low but it is an opportunity. Remember that many E-Bay bids start out at a penny. The excitement about bidding is not knowing the reserve. In real estate some Buyers come in with a one time offer but the majority of Buyers are ready to negotiate.

Buyers; I’d love to tell you that you can get a Big Canoe home for 50% off but your chances are pretty slim. These are few and far between. Trust me I LOOK every day for amazing foreclosures in Big Canoe. They pop up every once in a while and when they do, I write about them and usually advise you to make haste.  Sure, you may be able to find one or two on your own but unless you really know the area well it’s best to have an agent that knows the nitty gritty. It doesn’t have to be a foreclosure to be a bargain. Many new and resale homes are aching for offers. If you see a home you like, give it a shot, expect a counter, and prepare to get a great deal in the end.

From EBay I have learned to:

1. Research the products. Not all homes are alike. Big Canoe is a unique community. Don’t buy the first home you see! Learn the neighborhoods and apply one to your lifestyle.

2. Stay alert and in touch. Get a smart phone and call your agent regularly, check your favorite sites too, and watch the neighborhood stats! (They will go up tomorrow! I promise!) 

3. Whether you are buying or selling, be patient, realistic, and level headed. A great house may NOT be there tomorrow but if you know your market you’ll be one step ahead of the next guy. If you have a home that isn’t showing, find out why? Most of the time it’s priced too high, or has a drawback that you may already be aware of. Fix it if you can, or price it to sell.


With a grain of salt….I am patiently waiting for Oktoberfest!!


October 10th, 2008

Posted In: All Posts, Big Canoe Real Estate, Real Estate Marketing

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Screenshot of Pickens County, Ga Tax Assessor Site

We often have clients ask us about the sales history on our listings in Pickens and Dawson counties (located in the North Georgia mountains).  Most of the listings we have are in Big Canoe which is located in both Dawson and Pickens, and Bent Tree, which is located in Pickens.  Here in Big Canoe, realtors often have a good sense of property value as well as local knowledge on the sales history of many Big Canoe homes, but it’s impossible to keep track of every sale.   Finding  information on homes such as sales history used to require a trip to the courthouse and several hours spent searching through the books.

This is no longer the case, and in my opinion is somewhat of a mixed blessing.  Both Dawson and Pickens counties now provide much of this information online.  There is no registration or fee required, and the amount and detail of data is extensive.  The websites are:

Searches for real estate in both Pickens and Dawson can be made through parcel number, owner name, or location address.  Pickens County offers map searching as well.  The map search really impressed me.  It’s a street map of Pickens County with land parcels overlaid on top.  Clicking on a parcel displays sales information as well as other home details.

Screenshot of Pickens County, Ga Parcel Map

The amount of information including a sketch of the home’s footprint, exterior picture, sales history, heated square footage, and a variety of other details is pretty amazing.  This info is very useful to buyers, sellers, and realtors.

Footprint of My Home as Seen on Dawson County, Ga Site

There are some problems with this system.  Perhaps the biggest problem is that it it seems a little too public.  Having my name, address, picture of my home, sketch of the home, along with a variety of other home specs posted on the web for everyone to see (with no registration!) is a little creepy.  Also, it appears as though this whole system works on an auto opt-in format, so if you’re a taxpayer, your info gets posted online.

Another problem is that I noticed several errors.  One home we had sold 2 years ago for $294,000 was incorrectly displayed with a sales price of $2,940,000 (I wish!!).  I also noted some errors in square footage and numerous typos.  Also, the counties often use an assessed value on the home that is considerably less than what the home is actually worth.  There is no way to actually determine the current value of a home by just looking at these sites.  It’s impossible.  A home could have the best long range view of the North Georgia mountains, and there is no way for this system to reflect a value on something as subjective as a spectacular view.  Natural beauty and it’s worth are in the eye of the beholder!

The bottom line is these sites provide another tool that can be used to help analyze and research real estate, but they should not be considered the final authority on home values.  Combining information from a variety of sources such as a local real estate agent, tax records, local MLSs, and of course examining the home yourself along with a home inspector will provide a better overall analysis.  As always, complete due diligence is key.

June 26th, 2008

Posted In: All Posts, Big Canoe Real Estate, Real Estate Marketing

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Many of the real estate agents who serve Big Canoe have a Caravan every two weeks to showcase Big Canoe homes for sale. If your home is on the Caravan you may feel a little like you’re trying out for American Idol. Approximately 25 agents will walk through your home and give their professional opinions and suggestions to help you sell your home. Sounds scary but as “Mom” always said, “Don’t be too good to be told.” During the Caravan, comments are solicited from other agents.  These comments should be viewed as constructive criticism to help sell the home. The following are some general suggestions I often hear on the Caravans, and I think people with their homes for sale in Big Canoe (and anywhere else for that matter) might find these tips helpful:

  1. Depersonalize – The moment you list your home you have agreed to let someone else make it their home. Take your personal pictures down, tone down any collections that may be “too much”.
  2. De-clutter – Keep in mind that your home looks a lot bigger when there is less furniture.  De-cluttering really ties in with depersonalize.  It’s often hard for potential home buyers to imagine how they would decorate the home when it’s too cluttered.
  3. Make Rooms– Small conversational areas are popular. Often potential buyers will sit and discuss the home if they like it. Large couches are not necessary. Rarely do more than two people sit on a couch together. Why not use a love seat and 2 chairs with a versitile ottoman in between?  Promote conversations by hiding TVs .
  4. Pattern and Colors – Neutralize (but don’t sterilize) your colors. If you need help picking out good colors, you may want to solicit the help of  designer.  While the designer may cost you some money up front, it may very well save you some money by picking the right colors the first time you paint. Another suggestion is to go to a model home and get ideas about using color to help sell.
  5. First Impressions Make a Difference– Curb appeal is important. People pull flyers when a home looks good from the outside. Big Canoe doesn’t have flyers posted outside homes but we do post pictures on web sites and FMLS. If the house looks plain, then Buyers have no desire to read more about it. Mulch, landscaping, and seasonal color can make the home come to life.
  6. Fix Obvious Problems – Walk through your own home with the eyes of a buyer. They will look for signs of wear and tear. You know your house like the back of your hand. Fix any obvious problems before the buyer finds them.

This is not a comprehensive list, but I think it does give a pretty fair representation of the comments I often hear on the Caravan. I hope you find them useful, and that you get your home sold!

~Karin Elliott is a resident of the North Georgia mountain Community of Big Canoe. Read more about living in Big Canoe in her blog Life in Big Canoe, Real Estate in the Mountains.


June 12th, 2008

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*Update 7/17/2008 – The Cragislist email scammers / spammers have a new name they are using in addition to fay, natalie, and the rest of the gang. Thanks to Christa for naming this one – is apparently being sent out as well now, so if you’re advertising on Craigslist, keep an eye out for it!
*Update 7/13/2008 – There was a big spike in traffic to this article today with people conducting various searches on our pals Fay Colson, Natalie M, Jay19, Jackt, and of course we can’t forget Mr. Gelbert! I can’t believe these email scammers are so lazy they can’t come up with new names.
*Update – Looking at the stats for this article, there are a lot of people that are receiving emails from:,,,, These are all spammy emails.  Feel free to link to this, might save someone from wasting their time or having their email added to the spam list! 🙂

Anyone with a shred of entrepreneurial spirit has got to admire the opportunities available on the web. For many of us in the real estate business, it is the backbone of our company – allowing us to market our client’s listings in new ways to an ever expanding marketplace. I love craigslist. It’s easy to search, it’s easy to post listings, and it does provide leads….and it’s free! Over the past couple months, we have had the pleasure of hooking clients up with renters and potential buyers that contacted us through craigslist, and I would recommend to any and every client to be sure that your listing is represented on

And then there are the spammers, and scammers, and advanced fee fraudsters. This is the part that drives me up the wall with advertising online, and craigslist really seems to get pounded by these dark elements of the world wide web. Today, I posted some listings on craigslist, and about an hour later I get this email:

From: <>
Date: Tuesday, June 03, 2008 2:55 PM
Subject: $339000 Romantic 3 BR, 2BA North Georgia Cabin Located in Big Canoe! (Big Canoe)


I’m very interested to see this place, when are you showing it?
can you call me and let me know?


About 30 minutes later I received another email from, and natalie m’s email read:

From: <>
Date: Tuesday, June 03, 2008 3:30 PM
Subject: $339000 Romantic 3 BR, 2BA North Georgia Cabin Located in Big Canoe! (Big Canoe)


I’m very interested to see this place, when are you showing it?
can you call me and let me know?


So it would appear that I made the team for an email campaign for a craigslist spammer. Over the course of the afternoon, I received additional copies of the same email from:,, and Lucky me. There’s not a doubt in my mind that craigslist would love to take out the trash, but it’s just not that simple. It’s almost a virtual arms race to see if the good guys can outpace the bad guys. The old adage of caveat emptor applies more now than ever before. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are some additional links regarding online scams (and avoiding them) that are definitely worth reading:

~Karin Elliott is a resident of the North Georgia mountain Community of Big Canoe. Read more about living in Big Canoe in her blog Life in Big Canoe, Real Estate in the Mountains.

June 3rd, 2008

Posted In: All Posts, Big Canoe Real Estate, Real Estate Marketing

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Thief in the Night 

Anyone who reads this is probably wondering how death threats, lost dogs, and real estate marketing could possibly be tied together, so let me explain by fleshing out the title a bit more:

First, let me explain the death threats.

The metro Atlanta area has a very popular talk show personality named Clark Howard that hosts a consumer advice program.  Last week Clark spoke with a female caller that had received an email out of the blue that claimed she had been marked for death.  She went on to explain that the sender of the email claimed to be a hitman hired by an enemy, and after some careful consideration the hitman had decided not to whack her.  Of course, this would only occur is she paid a large sum of money  to the hitman.  Clark went on to explain that this was most likely a scam albeit a tremendously unsettling one. 

Now, let me tell you about the lost dog.

Our real estate company, IBA Mountain Homes, is located in the North Georgia mountains in the Big Canoe community.  Our community is really tight knit, and many of the residents are true dog lovers (including us).  Last week, we bumped into a young woman that was handing out flyers in an attempt to find her lost dog.  She related a story to us about how she had placed a notice for her lost dog offering a reward on a popular online “List.”  Within hours, the young woman started receiving emails claiming that her dog had been found, and unless she forked over some cash, harm would befall her pet. 

So how does this tie in with real estate marketing? 

Our real estate company has a business model that relies in part on internet marketing.  The internet marketing is a fantastic way to get to know prospective clients.  Social networks, blogging, and having a good looking (and useful) web site are great ways to get your name and your listings in front of potential customers.  The problem is that for all the good that comes from having a large internet footprint,  all that exposure presents a big, ripe target for scammers and con artists.  IBA Mountain Homes must receive a new advance fee fraud aka 419 scam every week.  While we do receive good solid leads from listings placed on services such as “Craigs List,” many of them are just variations of advanced fee fraud schemes.

Web based marketing has been and continues to be a true boon to many individuals and companies (ours included).  For all this good, there is also a really seedy side, and if you’re advertising anything on the web, always keep in mind that you’re exposing yourself to some degree.  Unfortunately, it appears that it isn’t just advance fee fraud aka 419 scammers anymore, but it’s con artists attempting to exort money!  It makes me wonder what the next step is for these scammers. It seems like death threats and extortion is pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel.   Anyway, take it as cautionary advice.  Be careful where you place your ads, be careful of who you are dealing with, keep your wits about you, and above all exercise common sense.


~Karin Elliott
IBA Mountain Homes
Life in Big Canoe, Real Estate in the Mountains


April 30th, 2008

Posted In: All Posts, Real Estate Marketing

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Io Moth - Stinging Caterpillar

Heed My Warning – Don’t Touch!

Have you ever done something, gone through a process, or committed to a course of action and then been smacked in the face with the cold hard truth that maybe your way of doing something was not the best way to do it? And to add insult to injury, something or somebody was giving you advice to steer you in the right direction the whole time?

Not too long ago, I found a bright neon green caterpillar with sharp spiky bristles. This thing even had what appeared to be brightly colored racing stripes coursing down the length of its 4 inch body. It did not appear threatening, but it sure did look like it was issuing a loud warning not to touch it. I had read about venomous and stinging insects often being brightly and vividly marked to provide warning to potential rocket scientists like myself so they remain undisturbed.

Did I listen? After watching this bug happily munch away on my shrubbery for several minutes, I made the bright decision to test whether it was bluffing or not. Don’t ask…..the markings and sharp spikes should have been ample warning, but that signal went unheeded, and I reached out and picked-up the little rascal. Within seconds, a burning sensation spread from my fingers through my hand and up my arm. I had picked up the venomous, stinging larval stage of an Io Moth. Little blisters popped out wherever the spikes had made contact with my skin. It was unpleasant, and it hurt. But I had been warned!

So how does this tie in with real estate? For whatever reason I was thinking about this particularly stupid lifetime memory as I sat in traffic, and it dawned on me that life is full of of unheeded warnings and advice. As real estate agents, we have a responsibility to listen to the desires and needs of our clients. Our clients are also hiring us to provide advice on listing their home that will result in a sale so it would seem that they would take note of our advice to help sell their home.

To coin the phrase “It’s a two way street” is a little hackneyed, but it really is the truth. I’d like to think that as an agent, I have never let anyone down, and that I have fulfilled all my client’s checklist of selling their home the way they want it sold. Probably not 100% accurate, but I can wish. On the flip side of that, I have had a few clients that just had their feet dug in on how they were going to sell their home. No matter what the market conditions were or how other homes were priced, they had their idea of how much their home was worth, and that was that!

My parting advice is for both agents and clients is to try to listen to each other. Agents should try to listen and be sensitive to how their clients want their home marketed. Clients need to have realistic expectations about pricing and being competitive in their respective markets. Try to listen to each other and achieve the goal – selling the house. Don’t grab the stinging caterpillar!

~Dan Elliott

IBA Mountain Homes
See all our Big Canoe Real Estate Listings
Visit Our Weblog at Life in Big Canoe, Real Estate in the Mountains

April 22nd, 2008

Posted In: All Posts, Real Estate Marketing, Wildlife in Big Canoe

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My house just got a whole lot bigger, thanks to the warm sunny weather. Suddenly the rocking chair front porch is my new favorite office. The screened porch doubles as a great place to read a book and dinners taste a whole lot better cooked on the grill and served on the deck! This is the time of year where shoes become optional and you can wear your favorite tee shirts well into dusk. This blog is dedicated to helping you maximize your outside living spaces in the Big Canoe Community. Have fun!

Screened porches are very versatile for everyone in the family. My 14 year old pup Pokey is practically a rug on my screened porch. We used to have an outside dining set on the porch but have since rearranged it as an outside living room. Center it with a big rug and durable weather tolerant furniture. I have my eyes on a sectional that would be the perfect place to hide away and snooze after a good hike. Some lamps, a rustic coffee table, warm fireplace! That’s my perfect screened porch, what’s yours?

Other outdoor gathering places are decks, and front porches. The front porch is my social hour. I can work outside either on the phone, computer or even just playing with my kids and not miss a chance to wave hi to the neighbors I haven’t seen since fall! A running water feature helps to wash away stress with the soothing sounds of a creek while the birds and frogs sing. A porch swing is the ultimate southern outdoor seating regardless of the topography. Most rocking chair porches beckon friends to sit and stay a while. I love it because I can visit without worrying about how the house looks on the inside. Load your decks up with potted plants, even some tomatoes and herbs. The deer can’t climb trees so you won’t have to worry about waking up to see stems.

I could write for hours but would rather have your input. My important message is that you have a perfect outdoor retreat room somewhere and this is the time to awaken it. Make an outdoor room and take the time to relax in it. This is your special place and it’s only available for a few seasons!

Feel free to send me pics of your favorite outdoor rooms!

~Karin Elliott is a full time resident real estate agent lving in the Big Canoe Community.
 See all her Big Canoe real estate listings. Also, see her blog at Life in Big Canoe, Real Estate in the Mountains.


April 17th, 2008

Posted In: Big Canoe Real Estate, Real Estate Marketing

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New York Times Features Our Big Canoe Cabin 

The other day I received a phone call from a woman named Bethany Lyttle inquiring about one of my little cabins we have listed in the North Georgia community of Big Canoe. Ms. Lyttle explained to me that she was a writer for the New York Times Escapes section and wanted to feature one of our Big Canoe listings as part of an article on Gated Mountain Comunities. She asked me to send about 4 pictures to her editor and gave me his email address which ended in “”. That’s when it all clicked in loud and clear! MY LISTING IS GOING TO BE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES!!!!!!

I was very excited and waited with bated breath to see the outcome. Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock and finally the day arrived. I tried to look it up online and found it after an extensive search. I saw my listing on 9073 Yearling Lane for $249K up there with 4 other listings around the country ranging from 1.5M to 3M!!! I worried that this adorable little 2 bedroom 2 bath weekender wouldn’t hold a candle to the other magnificent estates!! Then I got a call from my inlaws who actually saw the physical copy. They said it looked great and they’re not the type to sugarcoat. Believe it or not I still haven’t seen it but everyone else has!

Judging by our web traffic and the phone calls regarding the featured listing, I would have to say the article was a huge success for both IBA Mountain Homes and our client! Bethany Lyttle, I thank you so very much!

If anyone is out there reading this blog right now after seeing us in the NYT, please let me know. As a former Northerner I’d love to hear from you!!!

February 23rd, 2008

Posted In: All Posts, Big Canoe Real Estate, Real Estate Marketing

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I have blogged about this before, but some recent events have swayed me to follow-up on the topic of web based marketing for North Georgia, specifically in the mountain community of Big Canoe.  You can read the previous article regarding web based real estate marketing for Big Canoe here.  My point tonight is about the size of the net that we cast to attract visitors to our web site.  We write a lot of articles on our blog – some people find some of them of interest while others may wonder why we ever wrote an article about that particular subject.  I fully realized when I wrote the article about cooking BBQ in the North Georgia mountains that it would not interest everyone.  Not everyone is interested in a North Georgia cabin resale.  We realize this, but we still write the stories.  Let me explain why by way of example.

We have a sign-up form on our web site at IBA Mountain Homes which offers visitors a one line form to add their email address to receive our site updates for our Big Canoe real estate listings as well as other interesting articles related to life in North Georgia.  Recently, we received a call from a man who had submitted his email to our update database.  He really enjoyed reading about the new listings as well as the different clubs, activities, and amenities that are part of the North Georgia mountains, and more specifically Big Canoe.  At some point, this man decided living in Big Canoe and the North Georgia mountains might be right up his alley, so he called us!  Did all the articles convince him that life here was the way to go?  Maybe not, but I think it definitely helped!

The second example I don’t want to say too much about…yet.  We were contacted by a major media outlet last week regarding cabins for sale in North Georgia.  They are running a story on this topic and contacted us for more information, and hopefully one of our North Georgia cabins will be featured.  I hope to update this more tomorrow.  The fact is though, that they would not have found us if we had not written so often about North Georgia cabins.

People that blog a lot often write about blogging, and I suppose that is the case here.  We like talking about where we live because we enjoy where we live.  We enjoy the variety of people and activities that make up day.  Also, we want other people to know about activities that might appeal to them so we try to cover a wide variety of subjects pertinent to living in the North Georgia Mountains.  Check back tomorrow to see how our news story works out!
Life in Big Canoe, Real Estate in the Mountains

February 20th, 2008

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I guess my last blog about the Laurel Ridge section of Big Canoe really hit home to some people!! I just put the very adorable 350 Laurel Ridge Drive under contract and several others have gone under contract and sold over the past few months. I’m happy to see this little village community active with renewed interest because it’s cute, new, tidy and very, very rentable! The condo association keeps things on track so you don’t have to do it.  Being part of the condo association comes with a few perks including insurance coverage as well as a termite bond. Fresh pine straw is spread every 6 months. Once again the neighborhood has a lot of energy with all the weddings, reunions, and vacationers. The Saturday DJ at the pool makes you feel like you are in the Carribean for less than half the price!

Spring has sprung and the weekender crowd is coming back! There are plenty of homes for sale in Big Canoe with styles to suit every taste. Please use my site to view them all!!

Life in Big Canoe, Real Estate in the Mountains

February 19th, 2008

Posted In: All Posts, Big Canoe Real Estate, Real Estate Marketing

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