Biking the Cade Cove loop road in the Great Smoky Mountains

Posted by Jim Lee, REALTOR® @ 11:10 am, May 24th, 2010  

UPDATE May 22, 2010: Made a trip around the Cove on the newly paved loop road. Spectacular! Those of you that remember the old crumbling and patched road there before won’t believe the difference. Still the same scenic beauty but a much better roadbed to enjoy it from now.

Original post follows:

One of the many great things about living in the Knoxville, Tennessee area is it’s close proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

There are many very scenic and beautiful sections of the park but one of my special favorites is Cades Cove. Going from Knoxville through Maryville and Townsend to the Cove is about a 40 mile drive but because of the narrow, windy roads in the park allow about an hour for the drive one way.

“The Cove” as it’s known to local folks was originally a pioneer settlement first homesteaded by John and Luraney Oliver around 1818. The Olivers and their descendants lived in the Cove until the Park was established in 1934.

Cades Cove is a very special place to me. The “Cove” as the local folks know it, is an oasis of peace and tranquility in an all too “hustle & bustle” world. Spending a few hours here amid the surrounding green mountains in the meadows and woodlands are like a relaxing ‘mini vacation’. I always come out the other side of the loop road a happier, more tranquil person than when I started off.

A lot of the original buildings have been preserved by the national park service to illustrate how life was back in those days. One of the very enjoyable things you can do in the Cove is to ride your bike around the 11 mile loop road that circles this scenic valley.

Cades Cove great smoky mountains national park knoxville tennessee

This past Saturday I took my bike up to the Cove and set off about 8:00 am to ride the loop. I got a bit later start than usual and there were lots of other bikers either on the road already or getting ready to go. There are also usually quite a few walkers and some runners as well; no exception today.

It’s a great ride with several pretty good pulls up hills that get your heart pumping. Since it’s getting pretty close to fall I saw several bears up in Oak trees stuffing themselves with Acorns in preparation for going into hibernation soon.

cades cove gsmnp knoxville tennessee

This looked to be a pretty young bear. He was busy stuffing food into his mouth and oblivious to everyone below his tree watching and taking pictures.

The Cove also abounds with lots of deer and it’s not unusual to see as many as 100 or more during your tour. Other game include big flocks of wild turkey like the one pictured below, black bear, wild boar, and multitudes of small game and birds of all sorts.

Cades Cove 002 wild turkey in great smoky mountains national park

Wild turkey in Cades Cove

Wildlife in Cades Cove are very used to visitors and it’s usually easy to get some terrific photos of the plentiful bear, deer, wild turkey, and other wildlife.

One cautionary note; these are wild animals and there are no bars between you and them like in the zoo. This is also their home; you are the visitor so please respect them, don’t try to get too close, and above all else DO NOT try to feed them or touch them. It is against the law and the park rangers will cite you or arrest you on the spot if they see you. It also does harm to the animals by teaching them to go to humans for food instead of finding it on their own as nature intended.

Here’s another shot of some Cades Cove deer having breakfast. This photo is from a previous visit.

cades cove gsmnp knoxville tennessee

If you’re visiting, the Cades Store has a bike rental for you. $4.00 an hour for coaster bikes and $6.00 for geared models. I highly recommend the geared models for an extra two bucks unless your name is Lance Armstrong.

Riding the loop road takes anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on your fitness level and how much sightseeing you do along the way. I recommend taking your time and enjoying all the Cove has to offer.

If your time is short there are also two roads, Hyatt and Sparks Lanes, you can cut through the middle of the Cove and finish much quicker.

From early May until late September the Cove loop road is closed to vehicles on Wednesday and Saturdays until 10:00 am. I strongly suggest planning your ride during these times especially on Wednesdays if you can arrange your schedule.

Cades Cove is a very, very popular destination and the loop road is typically clogged with vehicles especially during the summer and a bear sighting brings all traffic to a halt.

We usually try to hit the road on Wednesdays just at first light. That’s the time the most animals are out feeding and the crowds are almost nonexistent then.

Enjoy your ride, take along plenty of water, stop and enjoy the views often; I guarantee it’s a ride you will remember for years to come.

Recipe for Vidalia Chicken………Mmmm, good.

Posted by Jim Lee, REALTOR® @ 4:38 pm, May 10th, 2010  

Vidalia® onions are in lots of stores now so it’s time to get cooking. These super sweet onions can only be legally called “Vidalia” when grown in a 20 county area of Georgia with the town of Vidalia being roughly in the center. Vidalia, Georgia is roughly located about 90 miles east of Savannah, GA

The Vidalia Onion was named Georgia’s official vegetable in 1990; but enough history, let’s talk about eating them.

The following original recipe I created not only involves a great tasting onion but a legendary Tennessee product as well, Jack Daniel’s famous Black Label, sour mash bourbon whiskey. Don’t worry, using Jack to cook with won’t make anyone tipsy, the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process just leaving that wonderful sweet smell and taste of sour mash bourbon which greatly complements both the Vidalia onions and the chicken.

The following is for 4 servings; easy to fix the same for 2 people and refrigerate the extra portions for another meal, it reheats very well.

You’ll need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Vidalia onions, peeled and julienned
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 Cup of Jack Daniels
  • 2 tablespoons of Lawry’s seasoning sale (or equivalent)
  • 4 slices of Swiss cheese

In a large saute pan melt the butter over medium heat, add the julienned onions and cook until they are translucent, add the chicken breasts, Jack Daniels, and seasoning salt. Cover and cook about 20-30 minutes until chicken breasts are done.

Remove chicken breasts to plate and reduce the liquid in the pan until it begins to thicken. Lay one slice of Swiss cheese on top of each chicken breast and spoon hot onions and liquid onto to melt cheese.

Serve hot with most any vegetable. If you have a large enough bottle of Jack Daniels you can also have a drink before or with dinner. ;)

Bon Appetit.

PS, just in case you need a kitchen to prepare this delicious recipe in, I suggest a visit to to pick one out.

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Is there real estate life in Knoxville, TN after the ‘first time’ homebuyer tax credit?

Posted by Jim Lee, REALTOR® @ 3:51 pm, May 9th, 2010  
Play VisualTour

This beautiful home is delightful clear through, 4 BR, 3.5 baths, and over 3,300 square feet. $249,500. A “Featured Home” on

It’s now May the 9th and the ‘first time’ home buyer $8,000 tax credit has expired. Those that had an accepted real estate contract dated before April 30th still have 60 days to get their transaction closed and still be able to apply for the credit so I believe we’ll see residual benefits for the next couple of months before it runs its course (some military personnel may also qualify for up to a 1 year extension; call or write for more information).

The question in the minds of Realtors, mortgage bankers, homesellers, and others now becomes what’s going to happen to the market now?

I personally believe the tax credit was driving as much as 20 to 30% of the lower price range market. If that proves true we should see a dip in sales in those price ranges.

Here’s today’s figures from the Knox County Register of Deeds on local real estate transfers that were recorded last week.

jim lee knoxville and knox county realtor

I count a record high 219 transactions with the $100,000 to $150,000 price range being about 25% of that total. That price range is where the bulk of the tax credit driven buyers have been.

Right now in the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors MLS there are 884 homes in Knox County for sale between 100K to 150K. You can probably add another 10% or so for the For Sale By Owner and auction market so in round numbers that would be about 970 homes for sale. 54 sold and closed last week leaving about another 920 still for sale in addition to new listings that come on the market every day. I’m going to be watching this price range very closely in the coming weeks to see what happens.

Current Knox County Realtor Listings

Knoxville tennessee real estate listings for sale jim lee realtor

knoxville tn listings of homes houses for sale

What’s going on in 2010 with Knoxville TN area real estate?

Posted by Jim Lee, REALTOR® @ 6:08 pm, April 18th, 2010  

Have a question about real estate in the greater Knoxville, TN area? Please ask; there are no dumb questions, just ones you need answers to. Please feel free to call or email any questions to: [email protected] or call 865-693-3232

Time for an update since the first quarter statistics for 2010 are now available. Let’s see how we did and which direction Knoxville area sales and home prices are headed.

First of all April is almost over now and that is the end of the $8,000 tax credit for lots of homebuyers. I believe this incentive has been driving between 30-40% of our market for the past several months. It will be very interesting to see what the trend is for the 2nd quarter of this year after it expires.

Local weekly sales dropped a little this week compared to last week. The Knox County Register of Deeds reported 159 transactions for the week of April 18th compared to 188 the past week of April 11th.

Knoxville TN area real estate sales for the week of April 1th, 2010

Week of April 11th, 2010

Knoxville TN area real estate sales for the week of April 18th, 2010

Week of April 18th, 2010

As both graphs indicate, the lower price ranges remain where the action is; from $100,000 to $200,000 with sharp dropoffs once you pass the $300,000 threshold.

And here’s the first quarter of 2010 compared to past first quarter figures. Still nowhere close to where we were a few years ago but a modest increase from last year’s first quarter.

Knoxville tn real estate listings sold for the past 10 1st quarters

1st quarter of 2010 compared to past 1st quarters

260 more homes sold in the first quarter of 2010 versus 2009 but still a whopping 43.3% lower than the peak year of 2006.

Lack of jobs growth remains an issue for the house market. According to the US Department of Labor’s latest stats,  in March the number of unemployed was little changed at 15 million and the unemployment rate remained at 9.7%.

Economists want to believe the economy has turned the corner but housing remains the bellweather indicator to confirm that belief and it isn’t showing broad and/or sustained growth just yet.

“Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke called housing a “critical” challenge to the economy. “We have yet to see evidence of a sustained recovery in the housing market,” Bernanke said in a speech on April 7.”

It will be an interesting next few weeks and whichever direction we head is likely an indicator of the the housing market direction for the remainder of this year.

On the plus side for buyers there remains a large supply of homes to choose from. Currently in the greater Knoxville, Tennessee area you can view 11,763 great houses and condos for sale at and I will be happy to help you become the owner of one.

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7 Gardening mistakes to avoid

Posted by Jim Lee, REALTOR® @ 2:56 pm, April 18th, 2010  
Lawn irrigation system at a homeYour irrigation system can bring disease and rot to your lawn if improperly set. For best results, water in 40- to 60-minute intervals two to three times per week. Image: Rain Bird Corporation

Gardening is just about the simplest do-it-yourself home improvement work there is. If you can dig a hole, turn on a spigot, and snip a dead flower off a vine, you’ve got the basic skills down. Still, you do have to make some judgment calls, so it helps to know the ground rules, so to speak, that can help you avoid making some rookie mistakes.

Mistake #1: Making changes too soon

Take the excitement of buying a home, add a nice stretch of spring weather, and you get a lot of enthusiasm for doing yard work. That’s great; seize the day, but don’t jump into wholesale landscape changes, like pulling out plants or reorganizing the layout quite yet.

“That weed that you want to yank out in the spring might turn out to be a gorgeous fall-blooming vine,” says Gary Blondell, owner of Gary’s Gardens, a nursery in Severna Park, Md. Plus, it takes time to learn the landscape and figure out exactly what changes make sense.

Avoid this by: Living with the landscape for a full year, so you can observe it in all seasons.

Mistake #2: Planting too close together

You buy a wheelbarrow full of young shrubs and perennials and plant them in a pleasing arrangement. But if they look properly spaced now, they’re actually way too close together.

Unless you’re creating an evergreen hedge, when the idea is packing things tightly together, the immature plantings will grow into each other in a few years and struggle to compete for sun, water, and soil nutrients. You’ll either have to dig them up and transplant them—or possibly throw them away.

Avoid this by: Following the spacing requirements on the plant label—even though the results will look absurdly sparse at first.

Mistake #3: Planting without a plan

Putting in new garden beds without a long-term landscape plan is like tiling, painting, and wallpapering your house before you figure out your future remodeling plans: There’s a good chance you’ll have to undo your efforts in the near future.

Avoid this by: Drawing a simple, bird’s eye view sketch of your yard, and figuring out the rough location of any future construction—additions, patios, outbuildings, pools—so you can plant around them.

A good local nursery or home improvement store can help you with your design. Or you can hire a landscape designer to create a starter plan for as little as $250 to $500. Find a professional at the Association of Professional Landscape Designers or the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Mistake #4: Neglecting the root ball

Even the hardiest plants need a little help getting their roots established in their new locations. But just turning on the sprinkler every day to douse the foliage isn’t enough to ensure that they get the nutrients and hydration they need. You have to get the water to a plant’s nerve center—the root ball below ground—or it’s going to be stunted or short-lived.

Avoid this by: Placing the hose near the root ball and setting the water to a trickle for about 20 to 30 minutes. Do this twice a week—more during hot, dry spells—for the first four to 12 weeks. Choosing the right irrigation system can help with this task while saving water.

Mistake #5: Ignoring your yard’s sun conditions

Too many nursery shoppers pick plants based only on looks—not the growing conditions they need, which are almost always indicated on a label wrapped around the trunk or a marker pressed into the soil. “They put a sun-loving perennial under a dense tree or something that wants partial shade out in full-day sunshine,” says Blondell. “It looks great for about a week, and then it begins to die.”

Avoid this by: Watching the spot where you’re going to put the plant and estimating the amount of sun it gets over the course of the day during the growing season. To translate that to the language on plant labels, use this key:

Full Sun 6 hours a day or more
Part Sun/Part Shade 3 to 5 hours
Shade Less than 3 hours

Mistake #6: Misusing irrigation systems

An automatic irrigation system is a luxury that allows you to keep your landscape hydrated throughout the growing season with almost no effort. Unfortunately, with the wrong settings, it can also bring disease, root rot, and an untimely death to the plants in your landscape.

“People tend to set their systems to come on for 15 or 20 minutes each morning,” says Blondell. “That provides a nice saturation of the surface, but not a deep penetrating soak to reach the roots of large shrubs and trees.” And a deeper soak is better for the lawn, too, because it promotes deep root systems.

Avoid this by: Watering for longer intervals—say, 40 to 60 minutes—only two to three times a week. Check with the company that maintains your irrigation system for local recommendations.

Mistake #7: Not budgeting for landscaping during construction projects

Whether you’re building a house or an addition, the bulldozers that excavate the job and the pickups that park on the lawn will damage the grass, trees, and shrubs. And the new building configuration will call for new landscape plantings.

Unfortunately, homeowners don’t often include money in their budgets for this work. So you wind up with a beautiful new family room, screened porch, or solarium, with a few azaleas thrown in around the foundation as an afterthought.

Avoid this by: Allocating 10 to 20 percent of your construction budget to the landscape—both hardscaping and plants—or at least making plans to spend that money as soon as possible after the construction job is complete.

A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He’s entering his second summer at his house and has big plans for upgrading its scraggly foundation plantings.


Quick, easy, and delicious Carrot Cake recipe

Posted by Jim Lee, REALTOR® @ 8:41 am, April 1st, 2010  
Carrot Cake
Image via Wikipedia

An old family friend named Jean gave me this terrific Carrot Cake recipe many years ago. I’ve made it lots of times and it’s always delicious as well as quick and easy. Quick, easy, and delicious meet all 3 of my food preparation criteria.

Give one a try for Easter; you’ll be a star with the folks that eat a piece.

Jean’s Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups of self rising flour
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Vegetable oil
  • 1 Cup of chopped pecans (I often substitute Black Walnuts)
  • 3 Cups of fresh grated carrots, firmly packed

Mix all ingredients in order listing and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes

Cream cheese frosting

  • One 16 ounce box powdered sugar
  • 1 large block cream cheese softened
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) butter or margarine (butter is best)
  • 2 Tablespoons of pure Vanilla Extract

Mix thoroughly and spread on cooled cake, reserve a few nuts to sprinkle on top for garnish.

carrot cake compliments of knoxville realtor jim lee

Try this delicious Carrot Cake recipe for Easter

Give this one a try soon, I promise this will be the easiest carrot cake you’ve ever made and one of the best tasting.

Happy Easter

By the way, if you need a new yard to hide your Easter eggs in, try to see all the greater Knoxville area listings for sale.

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Knox County Tennessee Register of Deeds property transfers for the week of March 28th

Posted by Jim Lee, REALTOR® @ 9:44 am, March 28th, 2010  
Play VisualTour

Take a look at this charming, North Hills home. Beautiful hardwood floors, updated, and 3 bedrooms.

It appears as if the Knoxville area real estate market is showing some signs of life based on the past week’s sales figures. the Knox County Register of Deeds office is reporting 175 property transfers compared to only 92 the week before.

Days on Market (time from listing to contract) was 122 days this past February compared to 120 days in February 2009 and 100 days same time period in 2008.

knox county tn real estate knoxville homes for sale knoxville properties for sale

For the week of March 28th, 2010

A very nice increase.

The Knoxville News Sentinel had a very nice, tongue in cheek article today about the soon expiring $8,000 tax credit titled:  $8,000 – nah, you can keep it Pretty funny article and full of useful information about how the tax credit works.

As of today, March 28th, 2010 at 10:36 AM, there are 5,089 homes currently for sale in Knox County and 13,643 total in all the counties our Multiple Listing Services reaches including Oak Ridge, Maryville, Loudon County; a total of 19 counties I believe. If you’re a potential buyer that means there is a huge selection of homes for sale in all price ranges.

I wrote an offer on a home yesterday and my buyer got a 4 1/2% fixed rate, 15 year mortgage and 30 year loans are available for 5% fixed interest rate.

$8,000 in tax credits to buy a house, 5% of lower interest rates, and thousands of homes to choose from. It does not get any better than this and that tax credit expires at the end of April.

visit Knoxville Home now to pick one out for you and your family.

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