Spoleto Festival Insider Tips & Tricks

The 42nd annual Spoleto Festival USA runs from May 25-June 10 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.

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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

  • Fulton Five – Consistently rated the Most Romantic Restaurant in Charleston, this cozy Northern Italian eatery located down an alleyway off of King Street earns its marks.
  • 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.
  • Godiva Chocolatier – Find these world-known Belgian chocolates in the Charleston Place Hotel. Pick up a Valentine’s Day heart-shaped box full of assorted truffles.
  • 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 is a relative newcomer, but already receiving rave reviews.

Remember when two people love each other, anything can be romantic!

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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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.

 

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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.
 

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Increase Your Property Value with Home Staging

Need to sell your home as quickly as possible and for the best price? Have you considered home staging? If not, you definitely should. Homes that are staged sell much faster than homes that aren’t staged. Why wait around for someone to see the potential in your home when you can reveal it through some simple staging methods?

WHY STAGING HELPS BUYERS

Many buyers have trouble visualizing a home the way it could be for their family. If your home has clutter and personal knickknacks and photos throughout, it may be difficult for the buyer to see the house as their future home. Removing excess furniture and giving each room a clear purpose can really make a difference. According to the National Association of Realtors® Home Staging Report, homeowners should always do the following before putting a home on the market:

  • Thoroughly clean the home.
  • Remove all clutter from the home.
  • Repair any aesthetic issues.
  • Remove any personal photos and memorabilia.
  • Make sure each room serves a purpose (i.e., a designated family area, eating area, guest room or master bedroom).
  • Be sure not to neglect the outside of your home: pressure wash; blow the roof, driveway and decks; maintain landscaping and add colorful plants; create an outdoor living space.

HOW TO GET STARTED

Youhome staging example at 20 Murray Blvdr real estate agent can help determine what needs to be accomplished to show your home in the best light. Disher, Hamrick & Myers’ agents are experts in the Charleston real estate market and know what buyers are currently seeking. They also have eyes trained to see what you may not.

CONSIDER THIS

Here’s a real life example of something you might not consider would affect your home’s salability: a homeowner was a big fan of a local college football team and showcased sports memorabilia throughout the home. That particular team has some pretty big local rivalries and even seeing that school’s color and logo might cause a visceral reaction in fans of the other team, subconsciously giving them a negative vision of the home. Although you might not like fans of a rival football team, you certainly wouldn’t exclude them from buying your home! Simply removing the memorabilia made the home more welcoming to all and didn’t cost a penny.

If you and your agent decide to stage your home, put your focus on the following rooms:

  1. Living room
  2. Kitchen
  3. Master bedroom and bath
  4. Dining area

HOME VALUE INCREASES

According to the NAR report on home staging, 69% of Realtors® believe that staging a home could garner a 1-5% price increase. 38% believe the price increase is closer to 6-10% for staged homes. The median cost of staging according to the NAR is $675. Think of it: the median listing price in the greater Charleston real estate market is $260,000. That means a potential increase of $2600 -$13,000. That’s a minimum return of 385% on your staging budget! And if your home is in downtown Charleston where the median sales price is over $1 million, your return is even greater.

DHM REAL ESTATE CAN HELP

At Disher, Hamrick & Myers in Charleston, we won’t leave you in the lurch when it comes to figuring out how to present your home. We know what buyers are looking for today and can guide you through the process with our real estate services. If you decide professional home staging is the right option for you, we can also refer you to a proven, reputable staging company. We’ll even help coordinate the staging process. For ideas on how to get started with staging, or to buy a home that works for you, take a look at some of our beautifully staged properties for sale.

Download your FREE copy of our ebook “How to Get Your House Ready for Sale in 6 Easy Steps!”ebook-cover

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