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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Tips for Home Buyers Moving to Charleston

If you are looking to relocate to Charleston, you are not alone. Young professionals, couples, and families alike are all flocking to the picturesque South Carolina Lowcountry. Our weather, beaches, job opportunities, and historic charm all draw new residents to Charleston. If you are among them, here are some important considerations when searching for your new home.

 

DISCOVER CHARLESTON’S NEIGHBORHOODS

Disher, Hamrick & Myers Charleston Real Estate aerial view of downtown Charleston and harborThe first thing you’ll want to do is narrow your search by exploring Charleston’s neighborhoods and surrounding areas. DHM provides a convenient Neighborhood Guide to help you determine which part of town is right for you. Each location offers its own perks. For example, if you are looking for a historic home, South of Broad is a beautiful, walkable area rich in history. If you prefer a bungalow in an up-and-coming area, North Central may be the right fit. If you want to live on the water or close to the beach, then you are going to want to check out Folly Beach or one of our other coastal islands. Is it important to you to be near a park, a bike path, or a recreational activity? What community amenities does your family want? Charleston has something to offer everyone. So prioritize your lifestyle wishes, then tour the town to find your best fit.

 

RESEARCH THE COST OF LIVING

The local cost of living is important to consider when moving to Charleston. While the state of South Carolina tends to be less expensive than the national average, Charleston tends to be a bit higher. This is especially true when it comes to housing. Home prices vary greatly depending on the part of town you choose. In order to better determine what you can afford, you’ll want to get preapproved for your mortgage. Completing this process will help you focus your search to areas and homes that fit within your budget. In addition, you’ll need to account for costs that may not be necessary where you live now — such as flood, hurricane, and earthquake insurance, as well as pest control.

 

WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED LOCAL REALTOR®

Disher, Hamrick, Myers Charleston, SC Local Real Estate AgentsTo successfully navigate the busy Charleston market, you’ll want to seek the advice of an experienced local real estate agent. A professional that knows Charleston inside and out will help you find your perfect home with confidence. Especially in a hot seller’s market, working with a local expert is a must. Your Realtor® will present your offer quickly and negotiate on your behalf in the case of a bidding war.

 

CONNECT WITH LOCAL COMMUNITY GROUPS

A great and often overlooked way to learn about homes in Charleston is to reach out to local social groups, clubs, and organizations. Like-minded members can tell you firsthand what it is like to live in a particular neighborhood. They can also provide personal insights or make suggestions that you might not be able to find otherwise. As an added bonus, once you get here, you’ll already have friends and a social support network to help you quickly become part of the community.

 

CONSIDER EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION

Student Housing in Charleston, SCDon’t forget to think about your new home’s proximity to your job, employment opportunities, and schools. How much of a commute are you willing to trade for outdoor space in the suburbs as opposed to a downtown condo? Also, if you are looking to further your education or have children, be sure to research Charleston’s many great public and private schools, colleges, and universities. You may even want to consider investing in a home or condo for student housing.

 

When looking for your ideal home in one of America’s most popular cities, it’s essential to do your homework. Charleston has so much to offer, there truly is something for everyone. From historic downtown to the beaches, you’re sure to find your dream home. And DHM is here for you every step of the journey. To get started, give us a call at 843.577.4115 or click here:

 

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New Needs For Charleston Homeowners

Today, Americans are buying homes for new reasons. The recent health crisis has truly reshaped our lifestyles and our needs. Spending extra time where we currently live is enabling many people to reevaluate what homeownership means and what they find most important in a home.

According to Zillow:

“In 2020, homes went from the place people returned to after work, school, hitting the gym or vacationing, to the place where families do all of the above. For those who now spend the majority of their hours at home, there’s a growing wish list of what they’d change about their homes, if possible.”

With a new perspective on homeownership, here are some of the top reasons people are reconsidering where they live and thinking differently about what they need in a home.

 

WORKING FROM HOME

DHM Blog - New Needs for Charleston Homeowners Home OfficeRemote work is becoming the new norm, and it’s continuing longer than most initially expected. Many in the workforce today are discovering they don’t need to live close to the office anymore, and they can get more for their money if they move a little further outside city limits. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), notes:

“With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021.”

If you’ve tried to convert your guest room or your dining room into a home office with minimal success, it may be time to find a larger home. The reality is, your current house may not be optimally designed for this kind of space, making remote work and continued productivity challenging.

 

VIRTUAL & HYBRID SCHOOLING

DHM Blog - New Needs for Charleston Homeowners Home SchoolMany school districts are using a model of virtual or hybrid learning, turning their curriculums into digital formats for students. If you have school-age children, they may need a dedicated learning space. If so, it might be time to find a larger home to provide your children with the same kind of quiet room to focus on their schoolwork, just like you need for your office work.

 

HOME GYM

DHM Blog - New Needs for Charleston Homeowners Home GymStaying healthy and active is a top priority for many Americans. With concern around the safety of returning to fitness facilities, dreams of space for a home gym are growing stronger. The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans explains:

“For many in quarantine, a significant decrease in activity is more than a vanity issue – it’s a mental health issue.”

Having room to maintain a healthy lifestyle at home – mentally and physically – may prompt you to consider a new place that includes space for at-home workouts.

 

OUTDOOR SPACE

DHM Blog - New Needs for Charleston Homeowners Outdoor SpaceEspecially for those living in an apartment or a small townhouse, outdoor space is a new priority. Zillow notes the benefits of being able to use your yard throughout the year:

“People want more space in their next home, and one way to get it is by turning part of the backyard into a functional room, an outdoor space for play as well as entertaining or cooking.”

You may, however, not have the extra square footage today to have these designated areas – indoor or out.

 

MOVING MAY BE YOUR BEST OPTION

If you’re looking for extra room to accommodate your changing needs, making a move may be your best bet – especially while you can take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates. It’s a great time to get more home for your money, just when you need it most. To find a Charleston home that fits your family’s needs, give us a call at 843.577.4115 or start your search below:

 

Search Homes For Sale

 

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Is A Smart Home Right For You?

Do you remember imagining the “house of the future” – whether on The Jetsons, or at Disneyland, or on any number of movies or promotional programs? Did you expect it would do all sorts of things for you? From vacuuming your carpet, to mowing your lawn, to making your meals, you likely envisioned an idyllic lifestyle where you could sit back and let technology take care of you. Well, the future is now, and smart homes are not only attainable, they’re growing in popularity every year.

For all their convenience and luxury, smart devices do have some drawbacks. From high upfront costs to security concerns, upgrading to a smart home might not be for everyone. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages before deciding if a smart home is right for you.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SMART TECH

A smart home, as the name suggests, is powered by smart devices. These are electronics, appliances, and other gadgets that you can control, automate, and customize – usually remotely. Smart tech is typically controlled via your smart phone and/or a hub. You’ve likely heard of the major players in the market: Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant. Whichever your preference, the house of the future is only a tap (or command) away!

 

THE BENEFITS OF A SMART HOME

It’s Convenient & Comfortable

The biggest benefit to smart devices is that they make life more convenient and comfortable. With some upfront installation and programing, a smart-equipped home takes out some of the daily annoyances and chores related to running a home.

There is a lot you can automate, from adjusting the lighting, to changing the channel on your TV via voice command, to asking your smart assistant to look up a recipe. You can also tackle chores like watering your lawn, vacuuming your house, or making a grocery list. While some of these tasks enable an easier lifestyle, others are life-changing, especially for those who may have physical limitations.

Would you like your coffee to be ready and waiting when you wake up in the morning? What about bedroom blinds that open up automatically? Does a fridge that can detect its contents and expiration dates sound good? And what if you could never touch a vacuum again? Imagine the possibilities.

 

You Save Time

If you’re a busy person – perhaps you’re a parent, a caretaker, or you have a demanding career – you are very familiar with the challenge of finding pockets of time to dedicate to chores and other home-related activities. Sometimes, even getting up to make the coffee can feel like precious minutes taken. Imagine no longer having to dedicate a weekend morning to yard work because the smart mower does it for you. Or not having to make a trip to the grocery store after work because your fridge put in an order for delivery.

Cutting out a minute here and 10 minutes there adds up to more time to sleep in, relax on the couch, socialize, or work on that big project. Time is money, and you’re getting some of it back to use in more productive ways that enrich your life, instead of draining it.

 

You Save Money

Speaking of money, a big selling point of a smart home is that it saves you money in the long-run. Yes, it can be expensive to set up, but it can also be one of the best investments you’ve ever made for sustainability – both financial and ecological.

Smart lightbulbs don’t use nearly as much energy. Plus, they perfect the amount of light your living space requires, based on the activity, time of day, and number of people. The same goes for smart thermostats. According to Nest, households with smart devices save an estimated 15% on cooling costs and 10%-12% on heating costs in a given year. You could be cool and comfortable in the Charleston heat without feeling guilty about the energy bills, because you’d save over $130 a year. Smart home upgrades are attractive to home buyers as well, and can increase your asking price when it comes time to sell your home.

 

THE DRAWBACKS OF A SMART HOME

You Rely On Wi-Fi

If you’re excited about the prospect of introducing smart tech into your life, you’ll need strong, reliable Wi-Fi. If your internet is down, so is your house, and you’re back to doing things manually. Fiber internet is recommended because it offers superior speed and stability. Be sure to shop around for the providers in your area that offer the best service at the best price.

Security Issues

A lot of smart devices are sold as a security upgrade – especially smart doorbells and cameras. But because they are inherently reliant on Wi-Fi connections, that can also be a weak security point. For example, Amazon has recently introduced a feature called Sidewalk that, when enabled, allows anyone walking down the street to connect to your network. That poses some security concerns, as not everyone wants to share their broadband.

In addition, any device connected to the internet can be hacked. Perhaps you’ve heard stories about baby monitors or video cameras being accessed by outsiders. Intruders can pull relatively benign tricks like messing with the lighting or thermostat in your home, or more serious ones such as accessing your locks. Always be sure to utilize the utmost security on your network. Also be sure to check your privacy settings according to how much of your personal information you are willing to share in return for functionality.

Expense

A smart home is definitely an investment with upfront costs that can be significant. But as the technology becomes more commonplace, more companies produce this type of tech. This increases competition, options, and affordability. In the meantime, the range of products currently available varies greatly in price, so look around to find what fits in your budget.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

While some dream of owning a smart home that’s just short of having a live-in maid, it’s not for everyone. While it certainly has a lot of advantages – you’ll love that smart fridge when you forget your shopping list at home – it can also pose some legitimate concerns.

The technology is still young, so there are security issues you need to be wary about. You will also need reliable Wi-Fi, and some upfront investment. But if you do decide to go for it, you’ll enjoy long-term savings on your energy bills and a lifestyle upgrade.

What are your thoughts on a smart home? Tell us in the comments below what concerns you and what smart tech you can’t live without.

 

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Exterior Design Ideas to Increase Your Charleston Home’s Curb Appeal

Charleston consistently tops major publications’ “best-of” lists for the most desirable places to live and visit. Full of historic Southern sensibilities, our home exteriors are unique from other areas of the country. To increase the curb appeal of your Charleston home and capture the attention of neighbors and passersby alike, consider these exterior design ideas.

CREATE A LUSH GARDEN

Charleston benefits from a subtropical climate with mild winters, hot, humid summers, and plentiful year-round rainfall. This weather provides the ideal conditions for maintaining lush, green gardens that are a calling card of Charleston, SC homes. Centipede, Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine grasses all thrive in Southern lawns. Magnolia, palmetto, dogwood, and crepe myrtle trees create quintessential Lowcountry charm. Azalea, camellia, and hydrangea bushes add pops of color.

For a place to enjoy a glass of sweet tea or an after-work cocktail, consider a patio or deck. Adding a pergola will give your outdoor space an extra touch of character, plus provide comfort in the Southern sun.

 

REPLACE THE CONCRETE DRIVEWAY

Cobblestone Street, Charleston, SCWhile concrete driveways are a staple of suburban America, their bland, highly-processed look is not as appropriate in Charleston — especially on the downtown peninsula, which still maintains historic cobblestone streets.

Some of the better alternatives to concrete driveways include:

Brick – This is a timeless choice appropriate for period homes. There are also alternatives to laying a traditional brick driveway. Innovative pavers give the appearance of natural brick, yet come in prefabricated sections that are easier to work with.

Gravel – A gravel driveway is a great Charleston choice, with a look that fits our coastal atmosphere and superior drainage during times of heavy rainfall. Modern interlocking grids hold the gravel in place and prevent the formation of ruts and clumps.

Cobblestone – Cobblestone is a classic driveway material that will make your home’s exterior authentically Charleston. It fits the sensibilities of 19th-century style, plus is extremely durable and resistant to staining.

Hybrid – A combination of classic driveway materials can maximize a Charleston home’s curb appeal. Fill the main bed with cinders or pea gravel to enhance drainability, while lining the perimeter with bricks or cobblestones to create a bold period statement.

 

CHOOSE COLORFUL SIDING

Charleston is all about colorful homes. In fact, Rainbow Row on East Bay Street, which features homes in various pastel hues, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. However, the best house siding material is about more than just color. To maintain a vibrant appearance in warm, salty air, consider these options:

Composites – Natural wood is a favorite home siding choice, but it does not perform as well in areas where moisture can be absorbed. Fortunately, there are a plethora of composites, such as fiber cement and vinyl, that give the appearance of natural wood. These synthetic siding materials are lightweight and manufactured in a number of colors, keeping a Charleston home’s clean appearance for many years without the threat of moisture damage.

Stucco – As long as you have solid moisture barriers between stucco and its substrate, stucco will last many years in a warm climate. Stucco’s ability to provide a uniform front makes it a particularly strong option for capturing Charleston’s colorful charm.

Brick – While the array of color options doesn’t match composites or stucco, brick is nonetheless a Charleston favorite. Its natural appearance restores the classic beauty of historic homes. Modern brick facade materials offer an increased selection of designs and colors, making it easier than ever to incorporate into a siding renovation.

 

INSTALL WINDOW SHUTTERS

With well over 200 days of sunshine each year, Charlestonians have to consider this element in their window choices. It’s a good idea to use low-E and double-paned windows to help control solar radiation entering the house. But don’t forget aesthetic when using these modern materials, especially on days when windows are just meant to be open. Six-over-six double-hung windows were particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and remain so today. You’ll also find variations on the number of panes throughout the historic district, along with arches (particularly on Palladian windows), and big bay windows. French doors and sliders are other Lowcountry essentials for easy access to the outdoors and letting in fresh air.

Another classic Charleston exterior design element is the window shutter. Historic homes used shutters to protect expensive glass from strong winds and battering rains. And while window design and installation have improved to make the shutter largely functionally obsolete, its appeal remains as strong as ever. Louver and panel styles maintain an old-world feel, while Bermuda shades are popular on the beaches. Adding shutters to even the most modern residences will give your home a timeless appeal.

 

Skylar Ross is a contributor to the Innovative Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Skylar focuses on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.

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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 have also recently opened a second area location in the new 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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5 Tips to Sell Your Charleston Home in 2021

As the new year begins and we transition out of the whirlwind of 2020, you may find that a new home is on the horizon for you and your family. After saving on expenses throughout the past year and redefining your needs while being quarantined for months, this may even be the perfect time to begin the process.

In 2020, industry experts offered a range of advice about what to buy, how to buy, and when is the best time. While that can be helpful to prospective buyers like yourself, that’s only half of the journey. In addition to buying, you need to understand how to sell your Charleston home during a pandemic as well. With buyer’s needs changing throughout the past year, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what will and will not sell in today’s market.

 

1. PRIORITIZE VIRTUAL CAPABILITIES

Online marketing is the safest way to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus. Photos that have been professionally shot and edited, virtual staging, and video tours will allow you to effectively showcase your home and all of its valuable features without putting anyone at risk. To ensure your home looks its best in photos, you should always consider professional staging. This creates a comfortable appearance in your home that allows each prospective buyer to imagine themselves in the space.

Tips to Sell Your Charleston Home - Virtual Staging

To avoid interaction all together, many sellers are instead choosing virtual staging. This option allows you to fully furnish and decorate your home (inside and out!) for less time and money. You can also avoid on-going rental costs while still showcasing the value of your home to every buyer. Disher, Hamrick and Myers was the first in the Charleston market to offer in-house virtual staging.

 

2. CONSIDER THE BUYER

Before you sell, you should deeply consider the type of buyer that would be interested in your home. Ideally, this should align with those shopping in the local housing market. If you find that it doesn’t, it may be time to make some changes to your home in order to appeal to the masses.

Given the limitations that the pandemic has brought on, many prospective buyers have begun to prioritize particular spaces that they didn’t in the past. For example, home offices and dining rooms have become more valuable. If you have a formal dining room in your house that you have been using as a playroom or tv room, return it to its original purpose. Likewise, if you have an extra bedroom or bonus room, adding a simple desk and chair turns it into a prized home office. Large laundry rooms, expansive outdoor patios, and storage spaces are all sought after this year, with at least 85% of buyers requesting these features in their new home.

Tips to Sell Your Charleston Home - Home Office

With so many prospective buyers spending more time at home, you want to highlight or accommodate the advantages your home has. You should take the time to spruce up these areas to add more value before you sell. While it may take added time or funds to renovate or upgrade these features, it will produce a greater return on your investment once you sell.

 

3. INCLUDE PEACE OF MIND

Given the financial strain that many have faced throughout 2020, it may be wise to include a home warranty with the purchase of your home to entice buyers further. While the buyer will still have to purchase homeowners insurance to protect themselves and their property, a home warranty will ease any concerns over your appliances and home systems. With a simple transfer in the contract, the buyer will be able to pay a low deductible for service and maintenance.

 

4. USE CHARLESTON INSPIRATION

The Charleston area has its own unique architectural styles. When selling, you should certainly take advantage of that. Most notably, the charm of historic homes is likely what buyers are looking for in this area. Even if you have newer construction, you can add accents and features to your home that are inspired by the history of Charleston.

Tips to Sell Your Charleston Home - Decorative Molding

For example, expanding a front porch or balcony will not only enhance the style of your home to match those throughout the city, but also offer up more outdoor space for buyers, should quarantines extend well into 2021. For smaller changes, you can add window shutters, iron accents, or pastel paint colors to the outside of your home to mimic the row houses on East Bay Street. Inside, plantation shutters, crown and decorative moldings, columns, traditional mantles, and other architectural details can make a big impact. Whether you’re in the heart of the city or a ways away, you can create Charleston style in your home before you sell.

 

5. EXPECT SOME CHANGES

The most important thing to remember when selling your Charleston home during a pandemic is that it will likely be a different process than in “normal” times. You’ll need to provide added flexibility for in-person showings, depending on the comfort level of potential buyers and their agents.

Home appraisals or inspections may take some added time, given the need to comply with social distancing regulations. More transactions will take place virtually online, rather than in-person. You may still run into some hesitant house hunters, given the uncertainty of the economy. However, rest assured that there have been countless homes sold during the pandemic. With a little creativity and preparation – and help from an experienced local real estate agent, yours can too!

 

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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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4 Things to Look for in a Senior-Friendly Home

While not every senior is in the market for a new home, you may find that it’s one of the best options for aging in place. Whether you currently own a home or are renting, there are ways to ensure your comfort and stability well into your golden years. Here’s what to look for in a senior-friendly home—whether it’s a purchase or renovation.

 

ENOUGH SPACE (BUT NOT TOO MUCH)

When contemplating a home purchase, your primary concern should be space. You want enough living space to be comfortable, but not so much that you spend all your time cleaning or going up and down the stairs. This means, by default, your ideal home will likely have less square footage than where you’re currently living. Because many older adults have mobility challenges, a single-level home may be your best option.

Senior Couple Living in Charleston, SCWhen preparing to move to a smaller home, downsizing your belongings might be next on the list. Downsizing can help eliminate your home’s need for upkeep and reduce your expenses each month. But if you have items that you’re not sure you want to part with, the process can be tough.

Short-term storage offers a convenient way to clear out your home without giving up prized possessions. You can rent a storage unit while considering what to do with those belongings. It’s easy to find affordable temporary storage units in Charleston. While the cost varies by size, the average price per month is only $91.

 

ACCESSIBLE FEATURES FOR AGING IN PLACE

Part of your retirement plan likely involves living at home for as long as possible—or even forever. Therefore, looking for accessible features is crucial when buying or renovating a home. Unfortunately, more than 95% of homes lack accessible features, which means you’ll either need to buy an adapted home or make changes on your own.

Features like low countertops for seated access when using a wheelchair, wide doorways to accommodate mobility issues, and grab bars in the bathroom may be crucial for the safety and enjoyment of your home. But also consider less noticeable elements, such as ground-level entry and doorknobs that don’t require significant grip strength.

In many newer homes, universal design elements are friendly to people of all abilities—not just seniors. Pulls instead of knobs on drawers, under-the-counter appliances, and varied-height countertops are a few highlights. A newer construction property may check all the boxes for your home accessibility needs.

 

PROXIMITY TO COMMUNITY

Whether you’re moving across town or the country, finding a community is vital for older adults. Especially if you’re single or widowed, being near friends and family can help keep you connected.

Senior Couple Living in Charleston, SC

Research has shown that seniors with strong friendships and community ties are healthier than those who spend more time alone. Conversely, seniors who experience social isolation and loneliness may develop or worsen health issues. Happily, Charleston and its suburbs have numerous public activities and volunteer opportunities to keep retirees busy.

Think about what features you want in your community—such as a senior center, fitness facility, parks, or shops, and then center your home search in areas that suit. Fortunately, Charleston has recently been named the #6 city in the US for longevity. Our walkability, gyms, sports opportunities, dog ownership, and healthy food options all help you live a longer, healthier life.

 

THE RIGHT LOAN TERMS FOR SENIOR HOMES

Wherever—and however—you decide to move, buying a home can be a stressful experience. But the rewards are greater than the drawbacks for many seniors. Owning a home provides security and comfort that renting or even senior community living simply can’t—making it an excellent choice for many older adults.

If you are considering a home purchase, think about using a VA loan. For example, PennyMac VA Loans are an excellent benefit for senior veterans. These loans require little to no down payment, they don’t charge private mortgage insurance (PMI), and the rates are often superior to those of conventional loan options.

Other loan types—including down payment assistance programs and special purchase credits—are also available for seniors. And in some cases, a first-time homebuyer program may be appropriate. Speak to a knowledgeable real estate agent to determine the best choice for your financial situation.

 

Disher, Hamrick & Myers offers a variety of senior-friendly housing options. In-city condos (such as those at Dockside Condominiums) are perfect for those looking to achieve a more maintenance-free lifestyle, yet remain close to everything downtown Charleston has to offer. Many of our listings also include accessibility features, one-story floor plans, or elevators to help you age in place. No matter what type of retirement living is right for you, our team of local real estate agents will help you find the perfect place to call home in your retirement years!

 

Author Jim Vogel is founder of elderaction.org.

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Advice for Downsizing Seniors to Help Decide the Fate of Their Home

Are you or someone you know looking at downsizing your home? At times, moving can seem more like an onslaught of decisions than an exciting transition. Even after you’ve decided on a new home, you’re still left with the fate of the old property. You could sell it to boost your savings, rent it out to earn a monthly income, or hand it over to a family member for safe keeping.

While each option comes with positives and negatives, the best choice will depend on your unique situation. Let’s dive into some of the details of each scenario to give you a better perspective on what’s best.

 

SELL IT TO BOOST YOUR SAVINGS

The natural process of moving usually sees the owner of the home sell their previous house and put the earnings towards the purchase of their next home. This tried-and-true option usually yields the smoothest transition. Downsizing seniors are particularly fond of this choice. If the current home is paid for, they often don’t have to worry about taking out a loan or managing another mortgage. They can simply sell their old house to pay for their new one.

Before placing your home on the market, it’s important to scan local listings for some information. You need to note the average cost that homes are selling for, and think about what your own home might be worth. For example, Redfin notes the average home in Charleston is selling for around $350,000. Make some comparisons, and if the price is something you’re comfortable with, you can move onto the next step of hiring a real estate agent and preparing your home to sell.

 

Downsizing Seniors in Charleston, SCRENT IT OUT TO EARN MONTHLY INCOME

It’s no secret that living on a fixed income can be challenging. When you’re in this position, renting out your old home can be a great way to enjoy some passive income. Just be sure the rent you charge is sufficient to cover the expenses of ongoing homeownership – such as property taxes, upkeep, and utilities – and still enough to pad your nest egg.

Don’t forget that having a rental property is an investment and a business. You have to front costs for updates and renovations to make the home more appealing to potential tenants. You also have to be proactive about finding reliable renters with clean records and little-to-no debt. If you’re interested in the income but don’t want the hassle of managing the property, you can hire a professional property manager to handle all of the details.

 

TRANSFER IT TO A FAMILY MEMBER

For some seniors, no amount of money or monthly income can convince them to let go of their beloved home. Too many good memories and meaningful experiences are tied up in the house to simply give it away. If this is how you feel about your old home, you don’t have to sell it or rent it when downsizing. Instead, you may wish to hand it over to a family member for safe-keeping.

Bear in mind, transferring a large asset like a house can have some complex tax ramifications. It’s best to discuss this option with an elder law attorney before jumping in.

On the upside, having someone living in the house ensures it will be maintained. Also, an empty property is more likely to fall victim to theft or vandalism, so you avoid those concerns as well. What’s more, if it’s left empty for long, insurers may void your policy.

It’s not easy to decide the fate of an old home when your circumstances require a downsizing. To help make the decision easier, take note of all your potential options and weigh the pros and cons of each. Once you sort your options, you’re sure to find the best choice for your circumstances.

 

Author Jim Vogel is founder of elderaction.org.

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