Southern Holiday Traditions

How do you celebrate Christmas in Charleston and where did those traditions originate? The South is rich in history, and Charleston is no exception. Did you know that Southern states were the first to adopt Christmas as a legal holiday? (Alabama in 1836, followed by Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.) Over the years, it’s no surprise that many regional Southern holiday traditions have spread around the country.

CHARLESTON’S POINSETTIA ROOTS

Southern holiday poinsettiaToday we hail the poinsettia as the official plant of the Christmas season. Did you know this is thanks to a South Carolina gentleman by the name of Joel Robert Poinsett? Poinsett was in the US House of Representatives and also served as the Minister to Mexico. While on a trip to Mexico in 1925, he discovered the festive red-colored flower. He brought it home to Charleston and introduced it as a holiday adornment. The rest is history. Today, throughout the South and the nation you will see these beautiful flowers displayed on the inside and outside of homes during the Yuletide season.

CITRUS FOR THE SEASON

Southern holiday citrus decorationsTo this day, it’s a Southern holiday tradition for Santa to leave some citrus fruit in children’s stockings. No, it’s not a gimmick to take up space. Years ago, finding citrus in your stocking in the middle of winter was a luxury. Citrus fruits were only available during certain seasons of the year, so receiving an orange at Christmas was a special and expensive treat. Decorating wreaths, trees, and holiday decor with different citrus fruits is still a tradition today. In fact, take a tour around downtown Charleston or visit one of the museum houses to see citrus and evergreen decorations on the outsides as well as interiors of historic Charleston homes. To view some beautiful examples, try one of these tours. Or if you can’t make it in person, you can watch the Garden Club of Charleston create their annual traditional holiday decorations at the Joseph Manigault House.

FRIED TURKEY, OYSTERS, & PECAN PIE

Southern holiday oystersWhat would a Southern meal be without any of these delicacies? Fresh oysters are popular during the holiday season because their harvest is best during the coldest time of year. (Remember the old adage that oysters are good during months that have an “R” in their names.) Deep frying as a preparation for turkey also originated in the South. And don’t forget the pecan pie for dessert. The documented history of this recipe dates back to the 1880s. Legend says the French in New Orleans made a version of it after Native Americans introduced them to the pecan tree. Today this gooey, delicious Southern treat has spread across the country and is a staple this time of year. Visit Southern Living for a variety of delicious pecan pie recipes and other traditional Southern holiday foods.

What holiday treats and traditions does your family celebrate? Please share in the comments. Disher, Hamrick & Myers wishes HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all!


If this discussion of Southern holidays makes you yearn for a home in beautiful Charleston, SC, give us a call at 843.577.4115. Disher, Hamrick & Myers has been a leader in Charleston real estate since 1984. From historic downtown to the islands, we will help you find your dream property!

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Best Pets For Small Homes

Disher, Hamrick & Myers’ Marketing Director, Avery Edwards, was recently quoted in Redfin’s blog, “The 8 Best Pets for Apartments.

While many people enjoy the companionship of pets, animal lovers living in smaller spaces can have a hard finding the right one. Whether you lease or own an apartment, live in a rented room, small home, or even student housing, there’s a lot to keep in mind. You’ll need to consider available space, your building’s restrictions, noise levels, your budget, and time commitment,. In addition to cats and dogs, you may want to look into “exotic” animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs, birds, turtles, or even fish.

Per Avery’s suggestion, a domestic rabbit can be the perfect apartment pet. Already the third most popular pet in America, they are well-suited for indoor living. Bunnies are smaller in size that most cats and dogs, weighing as little as 2 pounds. They are quiet, clean, and odorless — making for happy neighbors. You can even  easily train them to use a litter box. You will need to rabbit-proof your space until you know your bunny’s personality and behavior. Since they do tend to exhibit natural activities like chewing and digging, you won’t want to be making repairs to your baseboards or risking your security deposit.

Be sure to check out the full article for more options, advice, and tips. And for all your Charleston real estate needs, give DHM a call at 843.577.4115.

 

 

 

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5 Tips to Keep Your South Carolina Lawn Healthy All Year

It’s important to take care of your lawn in all seasons, not just spring and summer. Since the weather in South Carolina doesn’t get cold enough to completely kill off grass, prepping in winter will lead to a greener, healthier lawn come springtime. As winter approaches and your turf looks less and less appealing, you can take some simple steps to return it to health and bring back its color. Just follow these 5 tips, and you’ll have the yard of your dreams year-round.

1. CONTINUE TO MOW

The most important thing you can do for your lawn is continue to mow until it goes dormant. This will keep the grass at a manageable height, as well as remove any excess debris that has built up. Be sure not to scalp your lawn, however; removing too much of the blade can damage your grass and hinder new growth. Warm season grasses found in the Southeast (like Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia) should be mowed to around 1-2 inches tall, depending on type. And remember the rule not to cut more than a third of your grass’s height at one time. Your lawn will continue to grow throughout the winter, albeit at a much slower rate, until the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

2. RAKE LEAVES

Raking is no one’s favorite task, but it does create a healthier environment and prevents fungal disease. Always rake before rain is expected. If leaves are left to create a wet mat, they will invite insects that may travel into your home. Be sure your last rake of the year isn’t too early (before all leaves have fallen) or too late (when they’ve started to decompose).

3. AERATE

Aerating is the process of punching holes in your lawn to allow nutrients, air, and water to reach the core of your soil. Doing this before applying fertilizer or weed killer helps those products absorb, rather than being washed away.

 

4. FERTILIZE

If you only fertilize your lawn once a year, the best time to do so is fall. This will give your lawn the right amount of nutrients, oxygen, and moisture to grow come spring. If you wait until spring, your lawn will miss out on the nutrients it needs to survive through winter. Be sure to allow enough time for nutrients to absorb into the ground, where grassroots need them most, before watering your lawn, which can wash them away.

5. HIRE A PROFESSIONAL LAWN CARE TECHNICIAN

Maintaining your lawn year-round takes a lot of time and effort, and can be a daunting task. You may prefer to trust a local lawn care company. Coastal Turf, for example, specializes in services including core aeration, sod installation, weed control, and more. If you have questions, call a local technician to discuss specifics in your yard and what you can do to have the best curb appeal in the neighborhood!

BONUS REAL ESTATE TIP

If you’re selling your house in the winter, curb appeal remains crucial. Fortunately, Disher, Hamrick & Myers includes virtual landscaping in all our listing photography. Regardless of the time of year, we keep your yard tidied of leaves, your flowers blooming, and your grass as lush and green as it is during its peak. Take a before-and-after look at the possibilities:

 

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Colorful Landscape Staples that Keep Charleston Beautiful

Spring has sprung in Charleston, as evinced by all the beautiful blooms sprouting in area gardens and parks. When planning your own landscape design, be sure to include plants that are well-adapted to the area. They not only blend well aesthetically with other local flora, but more importantly, thrive in the environment.

The South Carolina Lowcountry is conducive to many plant types, from massive Live Oak trees adorned with Spanish moss that add a canopy of shade, to Southern Pines, to a number of spectacular ornamentals and unique grasses. Here are a few excellent choices for plants that not only do well in the Charleston-area climate, but also add beauty to your home.

 

CAMELLIA

These moderately tall shrubs boast colorful flowers that bloom in the winter. One of the most appealing attributes of the camellia family is that they are evergreen. In the Lowcountry climate, the leaf portion of stays green year-round.

While there are more than 3000 individual varieties across the US South, the Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) is most popular around Charleston. It was brought to the New World late in the 18th century by French botanist Andre Michaux and earned the name the “Rose of Winter.”

The camellia proves hardy in hot Lowcountry summers, and supplies a vibrant show of color through the winter months. You’ll see versions in hot pink, to pale pink, to white, and combinations of those colors. Many of the shades are the perfect landscape compliment to the primary colors of azaleas. Camellias also come in varieties that produce double flowers.

If you would like to see thousands of camellias in bloom, be sure to attend one of Middleton Place’s camellia walks. These free guided tours take place in early February each year, when the flowers are at their most spectacular. You’ll even visit the 1786 Reine des Fleurs, one of the first camellias planted in America.

Did you know that tea leaves come from a camellia? The Camellia sinensis also grows well in the Lowcountry. You can even tour America’s only tea producer, the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island. Here, you’ll see fields of the plants growing – and if you come at the right time, even being harvested. While there, be sure to sample some American Classic Tea.

 

AZALEA

The azalea has provided the most popular spring color display in South Carolina for centuries. Each spring, thousands of avid fans across the south flock to Summerville’s Flowertown Festival to see the blossoms at their peak.

While some cultivators across Charleston are indigenous, others were imported from the Orient. The azalea finds an ideal home in the shade under native Live Oak trees. The pH soil levels in the Lowcountry are also next to perfect for growing massive clusters of azaleas.

The shallow root systems of nearly all azalea varieties are excellent for providing quick moisture from minimal rainfall. In isolated landscape planters, some irrigation can be helpful during long dry spells. They rarely need pruning, except in situations where shaping or containment are desired.

 

CREPE MYRTLE

The crepe myrtle is a flowering shrub that can also grow to heights classified as a tree. Like the camellia and azalea, Lagerstroemia indica has a number of cultivators, many brought to the US from parts of Asia.

The name is indicative of the crepe paper-like bark that covers the tree’s trunk. As a crepe myrtle grows more mature, the light and dark spots on the trunk become an important part of its visual appeal. The pink, purple, or white flowers are equally as breathtaking.

Frequently, crepe myrtles are cut back in the late fall and allowed to winter over with virtually no top portion. During the next spring, shoots of limbs multiply. As the smaller crepe myrtles grows into trees, they provide a color spectacle that can last the better part of the Lowcountry summer.

 

DOGWOOD

Another species of flowering landscape foliage prevalent in the Lowcountry is the dogwood tree. Many native species grow wild in surrounding wooded areas. The two most common colors of its flowers are pink and white. Old dogwood trees often have an under layer of azaleas augmenting their spring display. The dogwood’s flowering is a signal of spring.

While not quite as visible as the bark of the crepe myrtle, the dogwood also has a unique texture to its trunk. As the trees mature, definitive bark grain begins to help foretell the years the tree has been alive.

Many historic homes in and around Charleston are as known for their fantastic gardens as they are for the actual house. Next time you are strolling through downtown Charleston, be sure to notice these popular landscape trees. Together with annual and perennial flowers, they keep Charleston blooming in vibrant color.

 

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Best Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors in Charleston This Summer

It would be hard to find a more beautiful place to live than Charleston, SC. People come here for the history and beaches, and end up staying for the mild weather and beautiful scenery. The location is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as those who have an appreciation for native plants and wildlife. You’ll find plenty of activities to enjoy under the warm southern sun. So get outside and check out these places to enjoy the summer in Charleston!

CHARLESTON HARBOR

Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel BridgeCharleston’s prime location on the waterfront makes it easy to access a variety of water activities. You can enjoy a sunset sail on a charter boat or test your skills by angling for a big fish. Kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals are also quite popular if you want to explore Charleston Harbor from the water. You can also catch a boat out to Fort Sumter, to see where the Civil War began. Or cross the Ravenel Bridge to the Mt. Pleasant side of the harbor to tour the USS Yorktown.

WATERFRONT PARK

Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park, CharlestonVisitors and locals alike are quite fond of Waterfront Park. This beautiful park stretches along 10 acres of harborfront property in downtown Charleston. It’s perfect for a morning jog or evening stroll. Bring a book, grab one of the many benches and enjoy the breeze coming off the water. Walk down the public pier and sway in one of the hanging porch swings. Take in the sights of boats and marine life. Let the kids splash around in the Pineapple Fountain, a symbol of Southern hospitality.

JAMES ISLAND COUNTY PARK

Searching for an adventure? Look no further than James Island County Park, just a short drive from Charleston. This park features great activities for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush. You’ll find a 50-foot climbing wall that’s popular with guests. Many organizations take advantage of the challenge course for a team-building exercise. Enjoy a walk or jog down one the miles of paved trails lined by subtropical loving plants. Bring some friends and challenge them to the 18-hole disc golf course. Cool off in the seasonal Splash Zone Water Park. A visit to James Island County Park is perfect for those afternoons when you need to get out of the house.

MCLEOD PLANTATION HISTORIC SITE

McLeod Plantation There are many plantations in the Charleston area that date back centuries. McLeod Plantation Historic Site, est. 1851, sits on 37 acres on James Island. Here, you’ll learn how critical sea island cotton and the plantation system were to Charleston. You’ll also learn about the lives of the free and enslaved men and women who built and ran McLeod. Walking paths take you past 19th-century buildings, which you can also tour. Keep an eye out for the many native plants that cover the area. Be sure stop by the McLeod Oak Tree, which dates back more than 600 years.

GO WEST

Angel Oak, John's Island, SCThe famous Angel Oak is located just a short drive west from Charleston, on Johns Island. You can’t miss this beautiful tree that is at least 400 years old and covers more than 17,000 square feet. The tree itself is stunning, but there are also other outdoor activities to enjoy on this side of town. Travel a little further up picturesque Maybank Highway to Wadmalaw Island. Here, check out Charleston’s only winery, Deep Water Vineyard, and sample some of their muscadine wines. Or tour the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in the US.

 

Author John Williams is an outdoor living expert and explorer. When he’s not traveling to nature’s well-known beauty spots, he tends to the greenery surrounding his home.

 

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Six Spring Blooms in Charleston Gardens

Spring is a colorful time in Charleston, SC. From the lawns of historic plantations to decorative flowers in parks, the city rebounds from winter with a burst of pigments and hues. From Hampton Park to Magnolia Plantation, there are so many places to catch a glimpse of the vibrant spring blossoms. Take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and soak in the sights of these 6 blooms, which you will see everywhere in Charleston gardens this spring.

 

AZALEAS

azaleaWant to catch a glimpse of azaleas in full bloom? You’ll have plenty of opportunities to view these shade-tolerant blooms in Charleston, where they blossom for several weeks. Azalea Park in nearby Summerville is filled with hot pink azaleas, as well as other flowering plants like lavender, wisteria and white dogwoods. The annual Flowertown Festival, held in April, brings thousands of guests to view its flora and enjoy food, craft booths and family fun activities.

 

DAFFODILS

daffodil

Daffodils take hold in spring in Charleston gardens. You can find them as early as February in most parts of the city. These perennials bloom until the end of April and continue to come back every season. Typically planted in the fall, daffodils are resistant to deer and other pests and hold up well to the hustle and bustle of the city.  They display blooms that are white, yellow, orange, pink or tricolor. They are often seen as a harbinger of spring.

 

CAMELLIAS

camellia

Charleston is home to hundreds of types of camellias, including the “Reine des Fleurs” or “Queen of Flowers.”  This specimen is the only surviving one of the first four camellias planted and cultivated in America – in 1786! You can see it today at Middleton Place, which hosts camellia walks throughout the spring. On this tour, you’ll learn about the different forms these flowers take and see other ancient camellias as well as more modern cultivars.

 

SOUTHERN MAGNOLIAS

southern magnolia

The city is famous for its magnolias, which are native to South Carolina. These trees come into bloom in May, producing gorgeous foliage in spring and early summer. Their saucer-like white flowers emit a wonderful scent that is used in many locally-produced perfumes, candles, soaps and home fragrances. This iconic tree lends its name to the famous Magnolia Plantation, where romantic gardens allow it and other plants to grow informally, as nature intended.

 

NOISETTE ROSES

Noisette rose

Take the time to pause and smell the roses in Charleston. Here, they bloom in late April and continue until the first frost, which is usually not until November. Charleston is the birthplace of one of the most famous garden roses, the Noisette rose. In fact, it’s the only class of rose to originate in the US. No surprise, they’re a favorite in Charleston gardens. You can also find them growing in public attractions like Boone Hall and Hampton Park.

 

HYDRANGEAS

hydrangea

If you’re a hydrangea lover, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to view them throughout Charleston in early summer. That’s when thousands of these large blossoms, which make beautiful cuttings, are in bloom. Hydrangeas present in many colors, including a rarity for the flower kingdom: blue. Interestingly, their hue depends on the pH of the surrounding soil, creating shades from white to pink to purple to blue. The floral clusters also dry very well, so you can enjoy their beauty into fall.

 

No matter where you roam in Charleston – from parks to plantations – there are plenty of places to catch a glimpse of these beautiful spring colors. Make sure you bring the camera and enjoy the colorful palate this spring!

 

Author David Wheeler is a landscape design writer and nature enthusiast. He is an avid traveler and loves to spend his time hiking and strolling through magnificent gardens, learning about rare and native flowers across the world.

 

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Have Your Best Valentine’s Day in Charleston

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Now is the opportunity to pamper your loved ones – and yourself – with some of the best that Charleston has to offer. Here are our real estate agents’ recommendations for the most romantic spots to celebrate your Valentine’s Day in Charleston. Just click on each name to be linked to the individual businesses’ websites for more information.

 

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANTS IN CHARLESTON

  • Tempest this upscale seafood eatery on Market Street was just named the #1 Best New Restaurant in the USAToday 10Best Readers’ Choice awards. The historic Harriott Pinckney Home for Sailors building they house has undergone a beautiful transformation, including a custom-designed stained glass ceiling. Try out their special Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu.
  • R. Kitchen – Chef Ross Webb creates a new four-course menu every night for the 16 lucky guests who sit at the counter in his kitchen in Cannonborough-Elliotborough.
  • Middleton Place Restaurant – Once the daytime crowds have left, enjoy strolling the moonlit pathways of Middleton Place gardens before or after your traditional Southern meal at the restaurant. Don’t miss the Huguenot Torte for dessert! To top your evening off, book a romantic room in the Middleton Inn where you can enjoy champagne and chocolates in a soaking tub or beside the wood-burning fireplace.
  • Zero Restaurant + Bar – Located in a boutique hotel in Ansonborough, this small fine dining spot is the reason why Zero George was named one of Conde Nast’s Top 5 Foodie Hotels in the World.
  • Circa 1886 – Tucked in the former carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion, enjoy the seasonal menu or splurge on the 5-course tasting menu. After dinner, be sure to tour the Wentworth Mansion. If you are lucky, catch a glimpse of the city at twilight from atop their cupola.

 

BEST CHOCOLATES:

Charleston Valentine's Day chocolates & flowers

  • Christophe – Treat yourself to handmade traditional chocolates as well as delicious pastries from French Artisan Chocolatier-Pâtissier Christophe Paume.
  • Market Street Sweets – If chocolate alone isn’t your thing, indulge your sweet tooth with warm pecan pralines and fresh Bear Claws. Originally from River Street in Savannah, this shop also has locations on the Market and King Street. I dare you to walk by the smells wafting out of these shops without stopping for at least a sample!

 

BEST FLORIST:

  • Lotus Flower – Since 2000, the owners have been making some of the most creative arrangements in Charleston.
  • Tiger Lily Florist – The converted service station on Spring Street has become one of downtown Charleston’s premier flower shops, plus they deliver throughout the area.
  • Charleston Flower Market – This long-time shop on Maybank Highway on James Island advertises “uniquely creative” cut flowers and arrangements.

 

BEST SPA:

  • The Spa at Charleston Place – This European-style retreat is located in the Charleston Place Hotel in downtown Charleston. Guests have access to a rooftop pool with retractable glass ceiling. After your appointment, enjoy a poolside lunch. Or have a mommy and me day, treating your daughter to a “Lollipop Manicure.”
  • Earthling Day Spa – Another stalwart of the downtown spa scene, Earthling also houses a Pilates studio.
  • Woodhouse Day Spa – This luxurious spa across the Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant receives rave reviews. They also have a second area location in the WestEdge development on the peninsula.

Remember when two people love each other, anything can be romantic! And if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, why not pamper yourself?

How will you spend your Valentine’s Day in Charleston? What are your suggestions for the most romantic spots? Let us know in the comments.

 

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Guide to Charleston Home Foundation Issues and Solutions

Charleston, SC is a highly desirable place to live, with beautiful scenery, rich history, and a strong sense of community. However, the climate and soil in and around the city tend to promote foundation problems, which may lead to costly repair bills. Fortunately, if you know what to lookout for, and with the help a reputable home foundation inspection, you can prevent or remedy these problems.

Below, we’ll discuss common foundation problems, along with the likely underlying cause, the most appropriate solution, and the cost of foundation repair in Charleston. We’ll also point out some red flags that can help you identify problems before they become severe.

 

COMMON HOME FOUNDATION ISSUES IN CHARLESTON, SC

 

FOUNDATION CRACKS

Cracks appear in nearly every home foundation after construction. Most are the result of ordinary, healthy settling of the concrete. Settling cracks are typically less than ⅛” thick and run vertically on the side of the slab or spread out across the surface. These aren’t cause for alarm in most cases, but many homeowners choose to seal them for cosmetic reasons and to prevent water intrusion.

Wider or uneven gaps in the slab and those crossing over the corners of your foundation are more severe and often indicative of structural damage. They develop because of soil movement. Charleston is underlain by expansive Bohicket soil, which is high in clay content. It swells and shrinks in response to moisture changes, exposing your foundation to uneven support and dangerous shifting.

home foundation crack in concrete

WHAT TO DO ABOUT FOUNDATION CRACKS

If you have hairline cracks from normal settlement, you can have them sealed to keep water and moisture from coming through. In Charleston, this typically costs around $250 per crack.

If you have structural cracks that are wider, uneven, or spanning the corners of the slab, you likely need stabilization in the form of underpinning. This process involves placing supports, called push piers, under your slab to provide additional support where the soil is shifting. Push piers usually cost between $1000 and $3000 each, depending on the type you need. You can expect your total cost to fall between $3000 and $20,000.

 

WATER INTRUSION

Water intrusion is a the most common type of foundation damage in Charleston. A few factors contribute to this problem.

First, the city receives an average of 48 inches of rain annually, which is more than 1.5x the national average. Rainfall frequently saturates the soil, leaving home foundations exposed to moisture for extended periods. Runoff wicks through foundation cracks or directly through undamaged, porous concrete and enters your home.

Second, Charleston has very shallow groundwater, as it’s located so close to the coast. The average height above sea level throughout the city is just 19 feet, meaning there is little room for runoff to drain before it backs up to the surface.

This low elevation in combination with above-average rainfall leaves the city prone to flooding. Floodwater interacting with your foundation and the surrounding soil can contribute to shifting, and it promote water and moisture issues in your home.

 

WHAT TO DO ABOUT WATER & MOISTURE

One of the best and most permanent solutions to water and moisture issues is a waterproofing system. In Charleston, these typically include gutter systems, French drains, crack sealing, and soil gradation. For those rare homes with basements, the system may also include sump pumps, other interior drainage systems, or footing drains.

A waterproofing system in Charleston typically costs between $2000 and $7500, depending on the extent of the moisture issue. Your foundation repair specialist might recommend more extensive measures if your property experiences flooding regularly.

 

 

HOME FOUNDATION RED FLAGS AND FIXES

 

Home foundations are under a lot of pressure from the weight of your house and the expansive soil underneath. As such, it’s imperative to identify minor problems and have them professionally repaired before they become severe. Even a DIY foundation inspection can help unearth foundation problems before they develop into structural instability. Of course, you’ll want to follow up with a professional assessment of any concerns you might find.

 

PROPERTY DAMAGE

Foundation cracks are the most prevalent foundation problem in the Charleston area. Most homes in the area are built slab-on-grade with limited access to the concrete. Still, you can inspect the visible strip of concrete under your home from outside. Look for cracks wider than ⅛” or those that wrap around the corners of your home. It’s best to have a structural engineer inspect these larger gaps. They can advise if the issue is structural in nature and requires stabilization.

Even if you don’t notice cracks, keep an eye out for signs of a shifting foundation inside your home. Typical symptoms include cracks in the sheetrock around windows, doors, and the corners of rooms, sloping floors, and nail heads popping through the sheetrock. You may also notice windows and doors that stick when you open or close them, indicating the framing has shifted in response to foundation movement.

crack in a wall above a door

MOISTURE IN YOUR HOME

Since most homes in Charleston don’t have basements, identifying water intrusion can be tricky. Homeowners likely won’t find visible water damage, but instead will notice changes in moisture. Moist air typically feels colder in the winter and hotter in the summer, so uncomfortable indoor temperatures can indicate a water intrusion problem.

Moisture trapped between your slab and your flooring can also promote mold growth. You might notice musty odors, non-seasonal allergy symptoms, itchy eyes, or difficulty breathing. These all suggest a moisture issue beneath your home.

Any signs of moisture should trigger you to contact a foundation waterproofer or repair specialist. They can help you decide if a waterproofing system will solve the issue or if simply sealing foundation cracks will rectify the problem.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF A HOME FOUNDATION INSPECTION

 

Owning a home in Charleston, SC is a rewarding experience. Do be aware, though, that the local geology and climate can lend themselves to foundation damage. As such, a foundation inspection should be a part of your home-buying process. Afterward, you should regularly monitor your foundation for symptoms of damage, as outlined in this guide. Keeping a vigilant eye out will allow you to implement a professional fix before the issue becomes more severe and more expensive to repair.

man repairing a concrete on a home foundation

 

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Housing Your College Student in Charleston

If your daughter or son is attending one of the many colleges in Charleston, SC, you have several housing options. While many students will choose to live in a dormitory or rent an apartment, you should also consider buying a home near campus. Owning a rental home can be a worthwhile financial investment, as well as an educational experience for your child. Purchasing the property your student lives in while attending school offers many benefits:

  • Stability. Your student will be in the same location during their college years. There will not be a need for yearly apartment hunting.
  • Storage. Furniture and other belongings can remain in the home while you own it, saving both time and money.
  • Fixed expenses. Generally, rent in Charleston increases every year. The average rent in the downtown area is nearly $3200 per month. By buying your property with a fixed rate mortgage, the housing expense will be fixed for the duration of ownership. Keep in mind, you will also avoid paying security deposits and moving utility services.
  • Responsibility. Your child receives a lesson in real estate investing as well as the responsibility that comes with owning property.
  • Financial benefits. Your financial gains include possible appreciation in value, equity build up and the opportunity to charge rent to housemates.

Of course, there are some things to watch out for when considering buying a home for your student. College students are generally on the move, so staying in one location for four or five years could present a challenge. If you rent rooms in the home, you become landlords and your student may have to deal with irresponsible housemates. General maintenance costs are also something to remember when purchasing an investment property. Be sure to factor additional expenses into your formula.

 

FINANCING OPTIONS

When it comes to the actual purchase of your investment property, there are many options available for the title and financing. Some parents include the student’s name on the title for owner-occupied tax benefits, while some opt to buy strictly as a rental property. There are several ways to hold the title, so speak with your attorney and tax advisor to determine the best route for you.

When you have decided to move forward with a purchase, your lending institution should offer several strategies. If your student will be named on the title of the property, using a FHA “kiddie condo” loan is a good option. This program allows your student to qualify for the loan as a co-borrower with a blood relative. There is a maximum loan amount, so check here for limits in the location of interest. Another option is to use a non-owner occupied loan with conventional financing. Interest-only loans are also available that may have a lower monthly payment.

Should you wish to rent extra rooms to supplement the mortgage payment and share expenses, have each housemate sign a written agreement. Standard rental agreements can be obtained through your real estate agent or lawyer. The rental document needs to address the term of the lease, rate and due date for payments, security deposit, parking, pets, utility payments, maximum occupancy and notice to vacate.

college student graduationWhen your student graduates or is moving on, you have several options. You can keep the property as an investment rental. If you have another child who attends the same school, you can make a similar arrangement with him or her. You can also exchange the home for another investment property in another location in a 1031 exchange. Or you can always sell the property and realize any profits from increased value.

Disher, Hamrick & Myers has homes for sale near the College of Charleston and MUSC that would make ideal student residences or investment properties. Buying a house for your college student has many advantages. To learn more and decide if this is the right strategy for your family, call us at 843.577.4115 today.

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Home Warranties vs Homeowner’s Insurance

Home warranties and homeowner’s insurance share some common features, but they’re definitely not the same thing. Let’s look at some of the similarities and differences between these two products. Once you understand your options and responsibilities as a homeowner, you can choose the products that best suit your needs. And you just may discover you want both.

 

WHAT’S THE SAME?

hands cradling globe with home to represent house insuranceBoth homeowner’s insurance and home warranties involve paying a monthly or annual premium for protection for a specific amount of time. Both will protect you financially by covering certain kinds of damage to your home and possessions. When you make a claim, you will be charged a deductible, which is generally customizable with both products. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

While they’re commonly referred to as “policies,” home warranties are not insurance plans. Insurance plans are heavily regulated by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a body made up of representatives from all 50 states. Regulations vary from state to state, but the NAIC sets rigorous standards that states must adhere to and provides important consumer protections.

Alternatively, each home warranty company sets its own rules and it’s up to consumers to protect themselves. Be sure to do careful comparison shopping and understand the specific terms of the plan you select when purchasing a home warranty.

homeowner's insurance - calculator and spreadsheetThe other primary difference between home warranties and insurance is that one is mandatory for any homeowner with a mortgage. The financial institution that lends you money to purchase your house will require that you carry homeowner’s insurance as a condition of borrowing. Purchasing a home warranty, on the other hand, is optional.

 

DIFFERENT KINDS OF PROTECTION

Homeowner’s insurance comes in two basic forms: liability insurance and property insurance. Property insurance is closer to a home warranty. Both protect against damage to your home, but for the most part, they cover different things. Homeowner’s insurance protects the structure and contents of your home if it is damaged by such factors as fire, wind, or fallen tree limbs. Home warranties protect certain appliances and systems in your home that need repair.

burst water pipe leaking on carpetFor example, if a water pipe breaks and damages your carpet, the property insurance section of your homeowner’s policy will cover the cost of replacing the carpet. However, it won’t cover the cost of fixing the broken plumbing. By contrast, a home warranty will pay your plumbing bill, but it won’t pay to replace your carpet. Here, you can begin to see why both types of coverage may be beneficial.

In addition to natural disasters, property insurance covers damage to your home if you are vandalized. It also covers your personal possessions if you are burglarized. Home warranties do not offer protection in those cases. However, unlike homeowner’s insurance, they do cover repairs to items or systems necessary as a result of normal wear and tear. Home warranties also do not provide any liability coverage.

 

COVERAGE TYPES & DEDUCTIBLES

jewelry boxBoth homeowner’s insurance and home warranties allow you to tailor certain policy features to suit your needs. For example, with a home warranty, most companies allow you to select coverage for systems, appliances, or both. Some offer pre-set packages, while others let you pick and choose the items you need covered. For example, if you own a pool, you can elect pool repair coverage. Homeowner’s insurance companies also permit you to add “riders” to your policy to cover items that are not normally covered in a basic policy. If you have expensive jewelry or antiques in your home, it’s a good idea to add riders to be fully protected.

Many home warranty and all homeowner’s insurance companies also allow you to customize your deductible. In the case of a home warranty, the deductible you pay is actually a service call fee. Home warranty deductibles generally range from $60 to $125. Homeowner’s insurance policies usually offer deductible choices between $500 and $2000, but some policies establish your deductible based on a percentage of your home’s value. Choosing a higher deductible will bring the cost of either type of policy down.

 

COVERAGE LIMITS

With a homeowner’s policy, you can generally choose your coverage limits. Your mortgage lender will require that you carry insurance that meets or exceeds the fair market value of your home. If you live in a home that wouldn’t necessarily fetch a high price on the market, but would cost a great deal of money to rebuild—such as in the case of a historic home that features high-quality or unique craftsmanship—it’s best to choose coverage limits that exceed your home’s value.

kitchen with high end appliancesThere are two types of property insurance: Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Cost Value (RCV). Here’s the difference in the event of a loss. If your home features expensive but older appliances, ACV would cover the depreciated cost of a used gourmet stove. RCV would cover the cost of purchasing a brand-new stove with the same features as your old stove. Similarly, if your home features elaborate plaster molding, ACV would pay to have a store-bought product installed in your home. RCV would pay out enough for you to hire an expert plasterer to rebuild your molding to original specs.

By contrast, RCV coverage is not an option with home warranties They have very specific limits to how much they will pay to repair or replace specific items or systems. Those limits may not cover the entire cost of your specific appliances or systems. Furthermore, many home warranties limit the total amount they will pay out in a single policy term, which is usually one year. You should carefully study the coverage limits of any home warranty to decide if is worth the price.

 

EXPERT ADVICE: THE BOTTOM LINE

Since home warranties cover items not covered by property insurance, many homeowners decide to carry both. The good news is that home warranties cost less than homeowner’s insurance. A comprehensive systems and appliances plan could cost you as little as $500, while the average cost of homeowner’s insurance on a $250,000 home is around $1400.

Your local real estate agent can be an invaluable resource in helping you make smart financial decisions throughout the home buying process. You even may be able to negotiate including a home warranty in your purchase agreement. Realtors® can also recommend insurance companies.

Your home is likely your largest financial asset. Both home warranties and homeowner’s insurance help you protect it.

 

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