Spoleto Festival Insider Tips & Tricks

The 41st annual Spoleto Festival USA runs from May 26-June 11 this year. Charleston residents and visitors alike will have the opportunity to enjoy world-class theatrical and musical performances. Want to know how to enjoy the festival like a local? Whether this will be your first Spoleto or you are a regular, here are some insider tips and tricks to make the most out of your visit to the festival.

 

SPOLETO ON A BUDGET

  • Piccolo Spoleto posterTickets are less expensive for weekday performances than for those on the weekends.
  • Some city garages offer free parking during the performances.
  • Select events offer senior, military, student and group discounts.
  • Piccolo Spoleto is a complementary festival with regional rather than international artists. Many Piccolo events are free or have a minimal charge.
  • Free events include afternoon concerts at the Festival of Churches and Synagogues, Family Day at Marion Square, the opening weekend concert at the Customs House and the Festival Finale at Hampton Park.

DINING CONSIDERATIONS

  • Restaurants and bars tend to be full before and after performances. Take this into consideration when scheduling your meals out and plan accordingly.
  • Allow more time than you think you need if dining before a show.
  • If you’re not attending a performance, choose to dine during those hours. Reservations are much easier to get at those times.

DOWNTOWN PARKING

  • Parking is always difficult. Be prepared to drive around to find a spot and then walk a good distance to the venue. The earlier you arrive, the better chance to find a good parking spot.
  • On-street parking meters are free after 6:00pm and on Sundays.
  • Neighborhood parking is usually limited to an hour or two. If you park in a residential area, you will be ticketed if you stay longer.
  • Some garages offer flat rates for the evening.
  • If possible, leave the car at home and walk or Uber.

Spoleto posterSPOLETO VENUES

  • Indoor venues tend to be very cold, so despite the usual Charleston heat and humidity outside, be sure to bring a wrap or a jacket with you.
  • You can purchase last-minute tickets at the venue an hour before the show. They are not discounted, but are often available, especially for shows at larger venues such as the College of Charleston Cistern and the Gaillard Center.
  • Go to the festival office at the Gaillard Center to get information and brochures on Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto. They will provide all the information on times, dates, length of productions, maps, etc.

 

Do you have any additional insider tips for Spoleto? If so, please add them in the comments.


Visit the Edge of America at Folly Beach

Looking for some beach fun close downtown Charleston? Be sure to explore Folly Beach off of James Island. With great surf, fun restaurants and bars, and stunning beaches, Folly has it all. Dubbed “The Edge of the America,” Folly Beach is a barrier island at the western end of Charleston Harbor. It boasts six miles of coastal beach on the Atlantic Ocean plus peaceful river and marsh views along the other side, providing water view property galore.

ISLAND HISTORY

The history of Folly goes back to Colonial times. In 1696, King William III granted the land to an Englishman, even though it was mainly inhabited by the Bohicket Indian tribe. Its name comes from the Old English term describing the dense foliage on the island. During the Civil War, US troops occupied and developed Folly as a supply depot. During the 20th century, Folly grew into a beachside tourist destination with a boardwalk, amusement rides, hotels and the famous Folly Pier – which hosted many of the biggest bands of the day. George Gershwin even composed Porgy and Bess while renting on Folly Beach. He immortalized his time there with the lyrics “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.”

Folly amusement postcard

FOLLY BEACH ACTIVITIES

Today, the town of Folly Beach delights residents and visitors alike. Although the original pier and a replacement burned down, now the Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier stretches into the Atlantic Ocean just as the famous piers of Folly’s heyday did. On the weekends, it once again comes alive with the sound of live music and shag dancing. If you enjoy the outdoors, you will find plenty to do. Try out water sports or charter a fishing excursion. Visit the Folly Beach County Park and let the kids break out the boogie boards and enjoy the surf. For the more experienced surfers, the Washout provides the best waves in town. Folly has something for the whole family.

If you are hungry for a good meal in Folly Beach, there are plenty of choices. Some delicious and lively hangout spots are:

Locals enjoy relatively quiet and tranquil winters with fewer vacationers, but be prepared for those summer months when this part of the region comes to life as arguably the best beach near Charleston. Every summer you can catch fishing events, surfing contests, family-friendly festivals and more. Annual events include the Taste of Folly, Folly Gras, Follypalooza and the New Year’s Eve Flip-Flop Drop. The island community consists of a mix of eclectic local residents, vacationers and day-trippers tossed with plenty of Southern hospitality, all wrapped up in a fun, small beach town atmosphere.

HOMES FOR SALE ON FOLLY BEACH

Real estate in Folly Beach is valuable and ranges from vacation houses on the ocean, to single family homes, to condos, townhouses and more. If you are looking for a home for sale on Folly Beach, check out Disher, Hamrick, & Myers’ ocean view listing at 1651 East Ashley Avenue. We also have several homes for sale near Folly, including 10 Yeamans Road, 179 Riverland Drive and a condo at 1025 Riverland Woods Place. To learn more about these properties, please contact us at at 843.577.4115.


A View of Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor is where locals like to say “the Ashley and Cooper Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean.” While this might be a little hyperbole, the waterway is and always has been crucial to life in Charleston, SC.

HISTORY

The city was founded on its banks because of the prime location, providing easy access to water transportation before inland roadways were available. Downtown Charleston’s finest homes were built along the harbor, and meant to be seen from the water. Merchants would watch their ships enter the local waterways from piazzas or widow’s walks. The location was also ideal for defense and sprung several fortifications including Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter, Fort Johnson and Castle Pinckney – all of which figured prominently in the Civil War. The Confederate H.L. Hunley carried out the first successful wartime submarine attack in the harbor. On the night of February 17, 1864, it sunk the Union USS Housatonic before disappearing for over 100 years. In 2000, spectators again lined the banks of the harbor to watch the Hunley ceremoniously be raised from its watery resting spot.

CHARLESTON HARBOR PORTS

Charleston Harbor & Ravenel bridgeFrom Colonial times until the present, Charleston has been one of the busiest posts on the east coast. In its earliest days, it transported lumber, rice, cotton, tobacco, naval stores, indigo, and animal furs and skins. This trade made Charleston one of the wealthiest cities in the Americas. Today, it services containerized as well as breakbulk shipments, plus cars. The South Carolina State Ports Authority owns and operates public terminals in downtown Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, and North Charleston. There are private terminals as well. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently deepening the harbor to accommodate the largest post-Panamax vessels.

Charleston Harbor also serves as home port and a port of call for cruise ships by Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Tourists are able to stroll the streets of our historic district for a day, while locals and visitors can sail to the Bahamas and other Caribbean locales right from home.

ATTRACTIONS

Patriots Point – home of the Naval & Maritime Museum featuring the USS Yorktown and the Medal of Honor Museum, Patriots Point Links and the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina.

South Carolina Aquarium – with exhibits and hands-on activities highlighting South Carolina habitats “from the mountains to the sea.”

Fort Sumter Tours – enjoy a boat ride through Charleston Harbor out to the fort where the Civil War started.

Charleston Harbor Tours – another option to cruise through history and sights.

Battery – with its grand antebellum mansions and White Point Gardens.

Riley Waterfront Park – home of the famous Pineapple Fountain, as well as a popular splash fountain, pier with bench swings and green space.

Ravenel Bridgeconnecting Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, with stunning views from its popular walking and biking lanes.

Memorial Waterfront Park – located East of the Cooper, tucked under the bridge. It features a pier, playground and sweetgrass basket pavilion.

Boating and Sailing – the ultimate way to enjoy Charleston Harbor and its beautiful weather.

 

Charleston Harbor viewCharleston Harbor is one of the most picturesque, as well as most utilized, areas of Charleston. Disher, Hamrick & Myers lists properties with views of the harbor from downtown Charleston, as well as James Island and Mt. Pleasant. Currently, we have several homes with panoramic harbor views available.

These include: Dockside 10FG, 3 Chisolm Street, Dockside 8E and Dockside 7D. Call our office at 843.577.4115 today to let us help you find the perfect home on Charleston Harbor!

 

 


South of Broad – A Walk Through History

Take a step back into history and explore the beautiful antebellum neighborhood South of Broad in Charleston, South Carolina. The district dates back to 1721 and features rare historic homes amongst cobblestone streets. One of the true gems of the South, this neighborhood is a beloved part of downtown Charleston. It boasts traditional southern architecture and homes that look straight out of an American storybook.

St Michael's, South of BroadWhile Charleston has many beautiful and unique neighborhoods to offer residents and visitors alike, South Broad is arguably the most renowned. Located between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, many of its well-preserved homes offer views of the Charleston Harbor. It encompasses the original walled city of Charleston as well as early-20th century infill projects. Famous Rainbow Row is located South Broad. This stretch of East Bay Street hosts several colonial Georgian row homes painted different pastel colors and is a top tourist attraction in Charleston. The Four Corners of Law, so-named by Robert Ripley, is at the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets. In this part of town you’ll see guests in horse-drawn carriages viewing the grand mansions.

Some key sites to visit South of Broad include:

Battery and White Point Gardens: a public park with Spanish moss-draped oaks and Civil War cannons. It is bounded by a seawall walkway where Charlestonians like to say the Ashley and Cooper Rivers combine to create the Atlantic Ocean.

Sword Gate House: the oldest residence on Legare Street, with its famous wrought iron gates that match the pair at the Citadel. Interested in owning this piece of Charleston history? It’s currently on the market.

Heyward-Washington House: a museum house of The Charleston Museum. Declaration of Independence signer Thomas Heyward, Jr. lived there. President George Washington stayed there during his 1791 visit to the city.

Edmonston-Alston House: also open to the public. Stand on the porch where General P.G.T. Beauregard watched the bombardment of Ft. Sumter, starting the Civil War. Still owned by the Alstons, its collection houses many historic family pieces.

Calhoun Mansion: the largest private home in Charleston. You may tour this Italianate beauty’s extensive collection of decorative arts and furniture, and even access the widow’s walk for an incomparable birds-eye view of the lower peninsula.

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon: one of the America’s most-important Colonial civic structures. Your tour includes one of the few places to see an exposed part of Charleston’s original wall.

Don’t take offense if someone refers to you as an SOB; in Charleston, it’s a moniker for those who live South of Broad. A popular restaurant just up East Bay Street has made a clever play on this term, calling itself SNOB, for Slightly North of Broad. Enjoy their local shrimp and grits for dinner or Sunday brunch.

The Battery, South of BroadWhile the area is mostly residential, you’ll also find plenty to entertain. Stroll through the shops and art galleries along Broad Street and the French Quarter or attend one of the quarterly Art Walks. For a bite to eat, enjoy a glass of wine and a cheese plate at goat.sheep.cow, which is housed in a building over 200 years old. In nice weather, why not pack a picnic lunch for White Point Gardens? For a relaxed meal in a social atmosphere, you have the Blind Tiger Pub, named for Charleston’s infamous speakeasies. If you prefer a fine-dining option, try Oak Steakhouse.

As you explore the alleyways and streets South of Broad, you’ll notice the unique Charleston Single House style of architecture that lends the city much of its historic charm. Most of the homes are covered by easements to retain this historic look and fabric of the city. Disher, Hamrick & Myers currently has several beautiful historic homes for sale South of Broad that will fulfill all your southern home dreams. These include single houses at 24 King Street and 45 Church Street and a condominium at 3 Chisolm Street. Let our team of Charleston real estate agents show you a piece of history you just can’t find anywhere else!


Enjoy a Taste of Charleston at the Wine & Food Festival

The 12th annual Charleston Wine & Food Festival is taking place Wednesday – Sunday, March 1-5. If you are a foodie, you won’t want to miss this premier event! Charleston is known around the world as one of the most cultured cities in the south. From our beautiful historic homes to our rich southern history, visitors from around the globe can’t get enough of our unique character and culture. But Charleston is also recognized a top culinary destination and you won’t get the full Charleston experience if you aren’t sampling our local cuisines. The first weekend in March is a special opportunity to celebrate our culinary distinctions, taste our southern fare and toast to everything that makes Charleston the gem of the south!

Charleston Wine & Food Festival signThe backbone of the Charleston Wine & Food Festival is the Culinary Village located in Marion Square. Here, you can sample local food and spirits, meet purveyors and chefs, watch cooking demonstrations and purchase goods. More than 100 other events are also planned throughout the week. Highlights for festival goers include:

  • Dinners
  • Workshops
  • Excursions
  • Parties
  • And More

Most events are conveniently located in downtown Charleston within walking distance of Marion Square. Others are throughout the surrounding areas and have shuttle service to the venues.

Charleston Wine & Food Festival sampleAll festival events do require tickets, which fit a variety of budgets. There are even hotel packages to help you plan your full weekend. Note that this event is for adults only – no children under 21 or pets are allowed – so be sure to secure a sitter. Locals can receive discounted tickets to the Culinary Village on Sunday, March 5. Those who want to participate behind the scenes can sign up to volunteer by filling out this form. Find more information including a full calendar, event details and tickets by visiting the official Charleston Wine & Food Festival website at charlestonwineandfood.com. See you there!

Special thanks to Slather Brand Foods for the festival photos.

 


Tax Tips for Homeowners in Charleston

It’s that time of year again, but don’t wait for tax time to save money. You can do it year round by keeping in mind your qualified deductions. One of the best tax tips to save money is with good organization and planning. Keep records and notes on what you can write off so you are prepared to file at the end of the year. Here are some tax tips homeowners and residents of Charleston, SC should keep in mind this year:

DISASTER RELIEF

hurricane tax tipsIt was a stormy year for the Charleston area. Flooding and damage from Hurricane Matthew affected lot of homeowners. Did you know that homeowner losses that are not covered by insurance can be deducted on your taxes? If you went through a natural disaster and suffered a loss on your home that led to receiving federal aid, then you may be able to deduct costs that were not covered under your insurance. Likewise, if you experienced a wildfire, flood, hurricane, tornado or anything similar that created major property loss, you’ll want to consider ALL write-off options with a tax professional.

 

MOVED TO CHARLESTON?

Did you move to Charleston for a job? Then you can deduct moving costs for that new job. The new job has to be at least 50 miles from your previous home. If you used your vehicle as transportation for the move, you could deduct mileage costs, parking and tolls. Be sure to calculate the costs of your move and save.

 

GREEN ENERGY

If you installed alternative energy in your southern abode, you can deduct some of the cost through a renewable energy tax credit. You’ll receive a 30% rebate on money spent on green items like solar, geothermal and wind. There is no cap.

 

MORTGAGE INTEREST

Homeowners can also deduct some of their mortgage interest, as well as property taxes, for year-end savings.

 

HOME OFFICE/SELF-EMPLOYED

home office tax tipsIf you are self-employed and have a home office in your Charleston house, you can get a tax deduction on a portion of your utilities, rent/office, as well as other items such as career memberships, education and subscriptions. Save your receipts for all your qualified business deductions and make sure to write it all off when filing your taxes. The self-employed may apply for tax deductions that regular business employees can’t. They can deduct items like part of the rent and utilities as well as equipment, work trucks, cars, vans and more.

 

DON’T WAIT FOR THE BIG REFUND; MAKE YOUR MONEY WORK NOW

If you normally get a big refund, it may mean you are having too much tax taken out of your regular paycheck. It’s like giving the Federal government a free loan! An important tax tip is to adjust your W4 with your employer to get more of your money upfront. Then utilize it immediately and invest it better. There are many online withholding calculators you can use to run different numbers and figure out what works best for your situation.

 

FUND YOUR 401K

You can lower your taxes by reducing the actual income that is taxable. One of the best and most productive ways to do this is to invest in your employer’s 401K plan. There are limitations on the amounts you can invest. In 2016, if you are under 50 years old, you can contribute up to $18,000. Employees that are 50 or older may contribute an additional $6000, for a total of up to $24,000. This extra amount allows a graceful catch-up period to improve retirement outcome. 401K deductions are taken out of your paycheck before taxes, but you will pay a tax later when it becomes your retirement income.

 

IRAs

Another tax tip is to fund a Roth IRA or Roth 401K. These make good investments if you are worried about your taxes increasing over time and having to pay them on retirement income. You don’t get an upfront tax break with a Roth contribution, but when you start tapping into your retirement later, Uncle Sam can’t tax that income because he already did.

 

NO RETIREMENT PLAN OR SELF-EMPLOYED?

Perhaps you have no retirement plan through work or you are self-employed. No problem. You can fund your own retirement plans with an IRA or a Roth IRA as well. People under 50 can contribute $5500; over 50 can pay in $6500 a year. For help getting started, contact a financial planner. Financial experts like Dave Ramsey keep a directory of endorsed local providers that can teach you more about retirement planning and investing. He also has ELPs for taxes as well. You can also learn more about retirement resources through AARP.

 

FLEX PLANS AND HEALTHCARE

medical costs tax tipsIf your employer offers a health flex plan or medical reimbursement account, you can save up to 35% on taxes. You can use the pretax dollars in the account towards medical costs, prescriptions, coinsurance, copays and more — up to $2500.

 

CHILDCARE COSTS

Paying childcare costs with a childcare reimbursement account offered through your job can save you about one-third of the cost. You will not have an income tax or social security deduction on that portion of your salary. Don’t wait to deduct those bills later. Set up an account and receive the full benefits your company offers you.

 

CHARITY

donation tax tipsYou can claim any charity money donated to a tax-deductible charity as a deduction. Transportation to charitable events is also deductible. Track mileage and deduct it come tax time. You’ll feel good about giving back, and the government will give you a break for doing your part.

 

WRAP-UP

Always consider your expenses, lifestyle and costs when approaching your taxes. Many Americans leave hundreds of dollars on the table that they could claim in deductions when filing. Don’t make the same mistake. Follow these tax tips to save yourself money this year.

 

 


The Ravenel Bridge

The Holy City has many spectacular views and landmarks, but perhaps none so remarkable as the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. Tens of thousands cross Highway 17 between Charleston and Mt. Pleasant on it every day. However many – especially newcomers to the area – don’t know its story. The DHM Blog takes a look at how we got the engineering marvel that is the Ravenel Bridge.

 

DESIGN BY THE NUMBERS

Dockside flowers & Ravenel BridgeThe Ravenel Bridge is a cable-stayed suspension bridge with dual diamond towers, each rising 575 feet. At 1546 feet, the main span was the longest in the Western Hemisphere when it was completed. It is now the third longest. 128 cables connect the towers above to the roadway below. There are 8 lanes for vehicular traffic plus bicycle and pedestrian lanes. Interestingly, the original design did not call for the bike or walk lane. Grass-roots enthusiasts backed by Charleston Moves led the call for what is now one of the most popular outdoor activities in Charleston. It is officially known as Wonder’s Way, memorializing late bicyclist Garrett Wonders.

Have you ever noticed the tops of the diamonds seem incomplete? That’s because the initial design called for them to be topped with large beacons of light that would be seen for miles. However, wildlife conservationists pointed out this could confuse endangered sea turtle hatchlings from following the moon to the waterline. As a result, the bridge only has functional, not decorative, lighting.

 

ORIGIN STORY

The Ravenel Bridge replaced the functionally obsolete 2-lane Grace Bridge (1929) and 3-lane Pearman Bridge (1966), locally known as the “Old Cooper River Bridge” and the “New Cooper River Bridge.” As any local can tell you, driving over the Old Bridge, especially at night or in the rain, was a daunting experience not for the weak of heart. In fact, many people refused to drive the bridge, limiting population growth in Mt. Pleasant. An interesting piece of trivia is that the towers of the Ravenel are named for the original bridges: Grace and Pearman. In fact, sculptures made with metal salvaged from the old bridges can be found on each of the towers.

1966 Album with Ravenel BridgeBy 1995, the twin spans were both functionally obsolete. In addition, they limited port traffic, as their clearance above the Cooper River (once among the highest in the world) couldn’t accommodate large, modern shipping vessels. Credit for spear-heading the 20-year funding effort to replace the bridges goes to retired US Congressman Arthur Ravenel, Jr. The overall price of the new bridge that would be named after him totaled approximately $700 million. Funding came from local, state, and federal sources through the SC Infrastructure Bank, which was created for that purpose.

 

CONSTRUCTION & OPENING CEREMONIES

Construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony in Mt. Pleasant in 2001. The bridge was a design-build project in a joint venture between two companies (Tidewater Skanska of Norfolk, Virginia and Flatiron Constructors of Longmont, Colorado) operating under the name Palmetto Bridge Constructors. Erection of the two approaches from Mt. Pleasant and the Charleston peninsula, as well as the two towers, was simultaneous. Each span rose from the shore to eventually meet in the middle of Charleston Harbor. All construction occurred while the old bridges remained fully operational – crossing directly over the old spans and cars passing below in some places!

As the bridge was being built, locals wondered what they would call it. The “New, New Bridge”? Just the “Cooper River Bridge”? More colloquial suggestions included the “Cuz-way” for “Cousin Arthur.” As a testament to his part in securing the funding, the bridge was named after Arthur Ravenel Jr. and is known simply as the “Ravenel Bridge,” rather than by a nickname.

A week of festivities led up to the official opening of the bridge. It included a gourmet dinner served on the bridge and the opportunity for all citizens to walk the lanes before they opened to vehicular traffic. People of all ages and abilities came from the tri-county area and beyond to do so. It’s said the number of people who turned out that day equaled the entire population of Charleston. The evening before the opening, a concert with a fireworks display (the largest in Charleston history) lit up the sky. The bridge officially opened on July 16, 2005 – amazingly a year ahead of schedule and under budget.

 

Engineers designed the Ravenel Bridge to withstand earthquakes, high winds of a hurricane, and even being hit by ships (which actually happened to the Grace in 1946). One thing they apparently did not take into consideration was the unusual occurrence of ice on the cables. In January 2014, an rare ice storm hit the area and massive icicles formed on the cables then broke off, pelting drivers below like missiles. Thankfully no one was injured. However, as a safety precaution, the bridge was closed for several days. This severely disrupted traffic and thrust Charlestonians back into the days before a bridge crossed the Cooper River. This hazard has since been addressed.

 

A NEW ERA

The final chapter in the story of the Ravenel Bridge was the demolition of the old bridges, completed in 2007. The explosions used to bring down the last of the old spans were heard and felt for miles around. With that, the Charleston skyline forever changed and one era ended while a new one began. The only physical remnant of the old bridges is a support from the Pearman Bridge left standing along East Bay Street across from aptly-named Grace Bridge Street.

Crossing the bridge is now a marvel instead of a hazard. The population of Mt. Pleasant has expanded accordingly. Community parks are housed underneath it, with additional amenities to come. Perhaps its most famous use is for the annual Cooper Bridge Run, one of the largest 10Ks in the country. The race was first hosted on the Ravenel in 2006. The bridge has been featured in popular culture in music, movies, and television shows.

Unity Walk on Ravenel BridgeThe Ravenel Bridge has also become a community gathering place. After the tragic shootings at Emanuel AME Church, a local group of women organized a show of support. They invited citizens to come together and hold hands across the pedestrian lane from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant as part of the Charleston Strong movement. On June 21, 2015, this “Unity Chain” drew upwards of 15,000 participants and became national news.

The Ravenel Bridge has quickly become an iconic and well-loved landmark in Charleston. In addition to vehicular traffic above and boats below, pedestrians and bicyclists cross the bridge day and night in all weather. Walking the bridge is a mainstay for tourists and athletes as well as commuters. Photographing the spans from the roadway, the water or the air is an art form in itself. Views of the bridge are a huge real estate selling point. DHM has several homes and condos for sale with amazing bridge views: Dockside 10FG, Dockside 11D, Dockside 2H and 52 Simons Street.

We would love to hear your stories of traveling over the old bridges as well as the Ravenel Bridge. Please share your memories along with photos in the comments.


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 decorationsIt is a Southern holiday tradition to this day 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 was only available during certain seasons of the year, so to receive 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, visit The Charleston Museum’s blog showcasing the Garden Club of Charleston’s traditional holiday decorations at the Joseph Manigault House. They will be on display to the public through December 31.

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!


Mortgage Rates – Should You Buy A New Home Now?

Near record low mortgage rates are causing many families to consider if now a good time to buy a home in Charleston, SC. Financial experts may advise waiting until you have enough money saved for a down payment, but that could be hard to accomplish for first time buyers. With today’s interest rates being so low and tempting, many people want to buy before the rates change.

2016 mortgage rates in Charleston, SC have mostly hovered below 4%. But according to the National Association of Realtors, they may crawl up a bit, possibly reaching 4.5% by the end of the year. Any hike in interest rates could change the housing market. The decision for many consumers is whether to buy now while mortgage rates are still low or risk an increase. Nobody knows for sure when the Federal Reserve will raise rates again, but if you are well-prepared, now may be the perfect time to buy a house in Charleston, SC.

GETTING THE BEST MORTGAGE RATES

To get the best mortgage rate, make sure you know your credit history. Your credit report is essential when dealing with lenders, and you can obtain it free from all three credit bureaus. Before shopping for a mortgage, make sure all of your bills are paid on time and your debt to income ratio is on the lower end. It is best to pay off your monthly credit card bills or at least go above the minimum payment. You should also know your FICO score, which you can order online. Some credit card companies even post it on your account for free.

DOWN PAYMENTS

Having a solid down payment when applying for a mortgage has its benefits. Lenders will want to know what you can put down to help them figure out what they can lend out to you. Most lenders require at least 3% and FHA loans require 3.5%. Of course 20% down is always the best choice if you can afford it, as it allows you avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance) payments.

BUDGETING FOR YOUR NEW HOME

Most lenders will base your monthly payment on 28% of your take home pay. They refer to this as the housing ratio. Financial experts recommend to budget about the same percentage of your salary to be able to afford your new home. Your monthly payment will include the principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI) costs. Most people will qualify for a loan amount of 3 times their annual income. For help in calculating mortgage payments, use this handy online tool.

GETTING PREAPPROVED

signatureBefore you shop, it’s best to get preapproved for a loan. You won’t know what you can afford unless you know what banks are willing to loan you. You will have a more successful home search if you have a clear budget in place and know what your price range is. With the right data available for review, many lenders can preapprove you for a mortgage quickly. To be prepared to apply, first gather the following information that most lenders will require:

  • Name and Address(es) for the last 2 years
  • Estimated household income
  • Estimated household expenses
  • Employment and income history
  • Paycheck stubs from the last 30 days
  • W-2 or I-9 tax forms from the last 2 years
  • Personal assets such as CDs, IRAs, property, savings and checking accounts
  • Personal debt

WHICH LENDERS?

There are many lenders to choose from in today’s mortgage business. Your Disher, Hamrick & Myers real estate agent will present referrals for stable, reputable lenders. You may also find a good mortgage through your local bank or private credit union. Either way, you should shop around to see who offers the best and most appropriate loan for your situation.

FINDING THE RIGHT HOME TO BUY

The important thing when shopping for a mortgage and a home is to explore your options and get the right payment and home for you. At Disher, Hamrick & Myers, our experienced team of Charleston REALTORS® will guide you through the process of selecting the right home and discuss any concerns about proper financing. To get the help you need, call 843.577.4115 today.


French Quarter Art Walk

Disher, Hamrick & Myers is proud to be located in the heart of the city’s original commercial district on Broad Street in the French Quarter of historic downtown Charleston. And one of our neighborhood’s favorite events is coming up. The first Friday in March, May, October and December is the Charleston Gallery Association’s French Quarter Art Walk. Over 40 galleries and shops stay open from 5-8 in the evening to welcome art lovers and guests. Many serve wine and light refreshments and host artists and exhibit openings. USAToday named the art walk one of the  10BEST “Free Things to Do” in Charleston.

ART WALK INSIDER TIPS

All the participants are within walking distance and maps can be picked up at any location. You may start at any one and visit as many as you wish at your own pace. Strike up a lively conversation with a gallery owner or artist. Discuss your reaction to a painting or sculpture, and maybe even find a piece to add to your own collection. Art prices are very accessible, ranging from prints and original pieces available for under $50 to larger pieces of fine art and jewelry priced in the tens of thousands of dollars. There is truly the opportunity for everyone to find something they can afford and enjoy.

French Quarter art walkArchitecture buffs should be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see inside and behind the buildings normally only glimpsed from the street front. To make the most of your experience, venture off the beaten path to shops and galleries that are located in alleyways or on the second or third levels of buildings. The streets will be bustling with locals and visitors of all ages.

After the art walk, treat yourself to a cocktail or dinner at one of the French Quarter’s restaurants, like the upscale Oak Steakhouse or Disher, Hamrick & Myers’ neighbor, the Blind Tiger Pub. The weather should be pleasantly warm and sunny, presenting the perfect opportunity to stroll the historic streets of downtown Charleston. Beautiful weather, art, architecture, food, drink and company – what more could you ask for on a Friday evening? We look forward to seeing you all there!