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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Top 5 Simple Ways to Increase Your Home's Value

The Top 5 Simple Ways to Increase Your Home's Value

If you're like most people, your home is the biggest financial investment you'll ever make. Even small improvements to your home can equal big returns later when you are ready to sell.

Here are a few easy and (mostly) inexpensive ways to increase your home's value and improve its marketability, whether you are looking to sell next week, next month or next year:

1. Bathroom. Remodelling is a great way to increase your home's value, but chances are you do not have the time or money to remodel every room of your home. If you are going to remodel only one room in your house, the outdated bathroom is a good choice. And if you can't completely remodel your bathroom, there are still small changes you can make on a small budget. Minor updates like getting new light fixtures, stripping old wallpaper and replacing your shower curtain can dramatically improve your bathroom's overall appeal.

2. Go for Green. Energy efficiency is one thing that will never go out of style. Younger buyers are increasingly attracted to homes that are environmentally friendly and all buyers are intrigued by the prospect of low home energy bills. There are many ways to home’s increase your home’s energy efficiency, including programmable thermostats and water-saving faucets.

If you aren't planning to move for a while, you may want to plant a few tall trees in your yard. The shade provided by trees can actually decrease your home's cooling costs by as much as 40% and can also help improve your home's overall curb appeal. If you are in more of a hurry to sell, you can instantly improve your home's energy efficiency by swapping your old windows for heat-trapping windows.

3. Kitchen. Right after your bathroom, your kitchen is the next most important room you can update. It is particularly important to make sure your cabinets look clean and polished, since they can strongly impact a buyer's perception of the entire room. If you have a larger budget, consider replacing old cabinets with new ones. And if you are working on a smaller budget, a fresh coat of paint on your cabinets can make a world of difference.

4. Landscape. You've probably heard it before, but the curb appeal of your home is hugely important. If new buyers notice that your yard has been ignored, they may assume there are other aspects of your home that have been neglected. This might cause them to lose confidence in the value of your home.

5. Lighten Up. Good lighting in your home can make a big difference. It is especially important to invest in bright lights for smaller rooms in your home; bright lighting can make small rooms look more spacious. If you want to avoid a higher energy bill, a sun tube (a hole in your ceiling that funnels in natural light) can be a great way to brighten up a room without adding to your home energy costs.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How America Got Its First Christmas Tree

Christmas trees now sparkle in millions of homes, but did you ever wonder how the tradition began? No doubt there are several stories regarding the start of this custom, and here's one I'd like to pass along.
"It's now been more than 150 years since Professor Charles Minnigerode decorated Williamsburg's first Christmas tree," says Robert C. Wilburn, president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation .
"A German native, the College of William and Mary professor brought the festive tradition with him to the United States. When Nathaniel Beverley Tucker invited Professor Minnigerode to celebrate the holiday season at the St. George Tucker House, he trimmed a tree with candles and fancy paper decoration as a present for Tucker's children."
A Christmas Tree can add Excitement throughout our homes during the Season!

Beverley Randolph Tucker, a descendant, says that "regular sized candles were cut down and fastened on the tree, nuts were gilded, and other ornaments made. Presents were probably not distributed at this time, but there were songs, games, and refreshments." (Tales of the Tuckers, 1942).
From that humble beginning (and likely similar celebrations with other German immigrants), evolved what is now an American tradition observed in millions of homes.
As to the St. George Tucker house, it was donated to Williamsburg in 1993 after more than 200 years of family ownership. Used now as a donor hospitality center, the home is one of the most unusual examples of original colonial architecture to be found.
St. George Tucker was born in Bermuda and came to the colonies to study law at William and Mary under George Wythe, whom he later succeeded. He was a member of the collegiate Flat Hat Society -- a fraternity that evolved into what we today know as Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1788, Tucker bought three lots on the green in Williamsburg near the governor's palace. This was once the site of the first theater in America (Levingstone's) as well a small house. Tucker then built a home on the property which was expanded, wing after wing, until he decided to try something different: the house was pushed outward with the result that a visitor now finds parlors that have windows looking over the Williamsburg green as well as windows which look into the home's central hallway.
Such expansion was a necessity because Tucker had nine children and five stepchildren from two wives. While not all lived to adulthood, a family dinner could include Tucker as well as three children who served in the Congress at the same time: John Randolph (a stepson), Beverley Tucker, and Henry St. George Tucker. His brother, Charles Tucker, a physician, was appointed Treasurer of the United States by Jefferson and served from 1801 to 1828.
"When he was in his early twenties," writes Beverly Randolph Tucker, "he happened to be in Richmond during the meeting of the Assembly at St. John's Church and to have been sitting in the gallery when Patrick Henry made his famous 'Give me Liberty or Give me Death' speech and immediately afterward St. George Tucker wrote what we know of the speech today."
When the Revolution began, the British seized the Williamsburg magazine to deprive the colonialists of ammunition and powder. Believing that fair is fair, Tucker sailed to Bermuda, "liberated" the British magazine, and brought tons of ammo back to the colonialists.
After the revolution, Tucker taught at William and Mary, became a judge, and 1803 published an Americanized edition of Blackstone's Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws, of the Federal Government of the United States, and of the Commonwealth of Virginia . This five-volume set is one of the foundations of our legal system and today is still in print.
Tucker held a number of opinions which are at the core of American law and custom.
On religion he wrote, "Liberty of conscience in matters of religion consists in the absolute and unrestrained exercise of our religious opinions, and duties, in that mode which our own reason and conviction dictate, without the control or intervention of any human power or authority whatsoever."
Tucker was also a strong believer in the concept of a free press.
"Liberty of speech and of discussion in all speculative matters, consists in the absolute and uncontrollable right of speaking, writing, and publishing, our opinions concerning any subject, whether religious, philosophical, or political...."
Perhaps most remarkably, in a state and a society where the ownership of slaves was equated with wealth and status, Tucker wrote "A Dissertation on Slavery: With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of It in the State of Virginia."
"Whilst America hath been the land of promise to Europeans," he wrote in 1796, more than 60 years before the Civil War, "it hath been the vale of death to millions of the wretched sons of Africa. The genial light of liberty, which hath shone with unrivalled lustre on the former, hath yielded no comfort to the latter...."
Tucker died in 1828, and it was his son, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, also a judge and professor of law at William and Mary, who hosted the famous tree in 1842.
No doubt if Mr. Tucker were with us today he would extend to one and all the very best wishes for this holiday season and the coming New Year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Should You Purchase A Home In the Winter?

Spring and summer are the high season for home sales, but winter can be a buyer’s market. If you don’t mind a smaller pool of homes for sale or moving around the holidays, winter might be a good time for you to house shop.

Less Competition, More Leverage
Since spring and summer are the most active real estate seasons, many home sellers wait until then to list their homes. That means there are fewer homes for sale in the winter, but the sellers often have strong reasons to sell their homes soon, such as job relocation. These motivated sellers can be a boon to the home buyer.

Buying a home in the winter has many unique benefits.
While there are fewer homes to choose among, the smaller selection can save you a lot of time. Do you really want to traipse through 50 houses? It may be simpler to view the handful of homes for sale in the winter and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Just as there are fewer homes for sale during the winter, there are fewer buyers, too. That means less competition and sellers who are more willing to accommodate potential buyers. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Offer a relatively low (but not insultingly low) bid for the home you’ve selected, or ask for perks such as the living room furniture or the chandelier that you admire. The low number of potential buyers also means you have more time to make your decision. In the spring, you often need to choose a home and act quickly, but in winter you may be able to take your time.

Assessing a Home’s Winter Fitness
Viewing homes in the winter lets you see how it holds up to the weather. Did you feel cold while looking through the house? Is there a functioning heating system and hot water? Are the windows letting in drafts?

Availability of Agents and Others
Another advantage of buying a home in the off-season is the greater availability of industry professionals. Real estate agents will have fewer clients and more time to focus on your home search. Lenders will be more accessible for questions and assistance. Some lenders even waive fees during the off-season to encourage borrowers to use their services. Likewise, movers tend to lower their costs during the winter months.

Gray Gardens or Winter Wonderland?
Home buyers can be turned off by the bleak look of prospective homes in winter. Bare trees and lawns covered in gray snow aren’t the most picturesque. However, you’ll be able to see how well neighbors tend driveways and sidewalks, whether the town plows or salts icy streets, and whether kids come out to play in the snow. Around the holidays, you might even see the neighborhood decorated in its winter finest.
Go Ahead. The Time May be Just Right for You.
If the only thing that's holding you back is the season, then take the plunge. You may be surprised to find lovely properties and eager sellers willing to negotiate. Good Luck!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Captialize on Fall to Sell your Home Now!

When people think of buying or selling a home, they often associate springtime with sales. It's true that spring is the busiest time of the year for real estate, with a surge in homes entering the market, and more buyers emerging to begin a home search. But did you know that fall is the second busiest time of the year for home sales?

Enhance your home's curb appeal with a great fall pumpkin theme
This fall 2013 is a particularly good time to think about putting your home on the market if you've been considering a move. It's a seller's market right now, with fewer properties available for buyers to choose from. And less inventory on the market means that you have a greater chance of making a sale. Meanwhile, though mortgage interest rates have been rising, they are still very attractive. Savvy buyers are going to want to lock in those rates before they climb any higher.
And fall is a particularly lovely time to sell a home. With shorter days and cooler weather, and lower humidity in our area, it's easy to make your home seem cozy and inviting to a prospective buyer. If you have children, fall can be a great time to show your home since the kids are back in school during the daytime and it's easier to keep rooms picked up. As with any other season, before you list your home, don't forget to clean and de-clutter each room. Sort furnishings and belongings into the following categories: keep, toss, store, and donate. De-personalize rooms by removing family photos and knickknacks and make your home a warm canvas open to a prospective buyer's imagination. If necessary, do some repainting in warm, neutral colors.
Because of the change in weather and the dwindling hours of daylight, there are a few extra steps to take in the autumn months to ensure that your home will present well at showings. Step up your yard work efforts and make certain to clear fallen leaves and other debris regularly – it might be necessary to do a little of this sort of upkeep daily depending on the type of foliage you have in your yard and neighborhood. Take care that the front steps and walkways are clear for any buyers who might come by.
Fall is a beautiful season, so capitalize on its bounty. It isn't difficult to place a few hanging baskets or planters of cheerful yellow mums to greet guests and buyers alike. A fall wreath transforms a front door into a warm welcome. Ears of Indian corn and pumpkins and gourds also speak to the season.
Inside your home, make sure there is plenty of warm lighting to showcase your home's highlights and cheer up the shorter days. It's a perfect time of year for the most welcoming of scents, like cinnamon, apples, and pumpkin, all of which make a home seem inviting.
So, if you're thinking about selling this fall, there's no time like the present! Call me. I'm an expert and I'll guide you through the process. Together we'll get the ball rolling!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

We've Done it Again!

The accolades just keep on coming for Charleston. Like winning - for the third time in a row from Condé Nast Traveler magazine - the #1 City destination in the U.S. And while we say "thank you... again!" You cannot help but wonder what does all of this really mean to and for our city?

Charleston's economy does rely heavily on tourism... but most of the residents are not involved in that business at all. We are doctors, laborers, mechanics, Realtors, marketers, lawyers, designers, and the list goes on and on. 

The Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park

We live downtown, on James Island, Johns Island, Mt Pleasant, Daniel Island, Awendaw, Kiawah, Seabrook and many other wonderful parts of greater Charleston. 

So how do these designations effect us and why should we be so proud? Well the publicity that goes along with them is national and actually since Condé Nast Traveler is an international publication we are talked about around the globe. So with people hearing all about what a beautiful, "hospitable" city we are, travelers make plans to come to our city and spend their money here. Those dollars are taxed and we use that revenue to improve our roads, schools, public buildings, and other essential services.

When you're downtown driving the busy streets or weaving through crowded sidewalks, remember that even though we all feel somewhat territorial about our precious city, since it's now opened up to the world it's up to us to be ambassadors of patience and good will... even though we may lose our own patience once in a while!

(Click the link below for the full story.)

Condé Nast Traveler

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mortgage Rates Rise, How will That Effect Your Home Sale?

Mortgage rates have been rising and that has some Buyers wondering if they missed the best time to buy. Not at all, say experts. That's because the rates are still considered very low and the increase isn't sharp.
Today’s rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is approximately 4.375%, climbing from the June 1, 2013 rate of approximately 3.9%. Based on the higher interest rate, monthly payments on loans ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 don't go up significantly.
While the increases are monthly – they will add up over 12 months – it's still quite possible for many buyers to manage. Rick Allen, the chief operating officer at Mortgage Marvel suggests that if the payment isn't manageable, the consumer could buy a less expensive home. 
Get the information you need NOW from your Realtor and Mortgage Broker. Then start saving!
Rising interest rates often cause people to act quickly and jump into the housing market which can start to increase home prices in tight inventory markets as these potential buyers get more serious about home ownership.
If you're considering homeownership and wondering how the rise in interest rates will impact you, consult with a mortgage broker. An expert in the field can help you determine exactly how much home you can afford, at which rate, and for how long you'll have to pay.
If homeownership is high on your list, start your due diligence now. Meet with an experienced real estate agent to decide who can help you the most. Buying a home is a lengthy process and there is a lot to understand so you'll want to make sure you're compatible with the agent. You'll also want to make sure you have a clear picture of what you can afford, what you want in a home, and for how long you want to own it.
Next, since you know that rates are rising, start preparing. If you know that the home you wanted to buy was, for instance, in the $300,000 range but, due to rising interest rates, your monthly payments would be higher, and then look at your finances and see where you can cut back now to save a little more. Saving now will allow you to put more down on the home and reduce the amount of money you need to borrow which, therefore, lowers your monthly payments.

I write this often but it is most important – do your research. Don't give up on homeownership just because rates are rising. Instead, take a good look at your finances with experts and understand what you can afford now and/or how much you need to bring in to make your monthly payments manageable so you can afford a home in the near future. Education and understanding will lead to a more successful home-buying experience.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Why You Need to Change Your Residential Tax Status Now!

I'm always surprised to learn how many home owners have either forgotten to or just don't know to apply for the lower tax rate in South Carolina. It's simple and easy to do , but if you don't apply for it, your tax rate will stay at the rate of 6% versus the 4% that a full-time resident is entitled to.

Property taxes in South Carolina are assessed by the local counties, cities and school districts. Residential property taxes on the homeowner's legal residence and up to five acres of land are assessed on 4% of the property's value. Other residential property such as a second home is assessed at 6% of the value.

According to the South Carolina Department of Revenue,  to be sure you get the 4% assessment rate on your home you need to file an application with your county assessor. You should do that as soon as you move into your home, but you can file it anytime before taxes are due on January 15 after you've settled on your property. Once you file this application you do not have to file another one unless ownership changes or you use the property for a different purpose.
The local millage rates, which vary by location, are then charged on the assessed value to determine the tax liability.