Low Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home’s Exterior



Make your home more appealing for yourself and potential buyers with these quick and easy tips:


1. Trim bushes so they don’t block windows or architectural details.

Mow your lawn, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before the showing to make the lawn sparkle.

Put a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch.
4. Install new doorknobs on your front door.

Repair any cracks in the driveway.

Edge the grass around walkways and trees.

Keep your garden tools and hoses out of sight.
8. Clear toys from the lawn.

Buy a new mailbox.

Upgrade your outside lighting.
11. Buy a new doormat for the outside of your front door.

Clean your windows, inside and outside.

Polish or replace your house numbers.

Place a seasonal wreath on your door.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

5 Things to Know About Homeowner’s Insurance


1. Know about exclusions to coverage. For example, most insurance policies do not cover flood, wind and hail, or earthquake damage as a standard item. These types of coverage must be bought separately.

2. Know about dollar limitations on claims. Even if you are covered for a risk, there may be a limit on how much the insurer will pay. For example, many policies limit the amount paid for stolen jewelry unless items are insured separately.

3. Know the replacement cost. If your home is destroyed you’ll receive money to replace it only to the maximum of your coverage, so be sure your insurance is sufficient. This means that if your home is insured for $150,000 and it costs $180,000 to replace it, you’ll only receive $150,000.

4. Know the actual cash value. If you chose not to replace your home when it’s destroyed, you’ll receive replacement cost, less depreciation. This is called actual cash value.

5. Know the liability. Generally your homeowner’s insurance covers you for accidents that happen to other people on your property, including medical care, court costs, and awards by the court. However, there is usually an upper limit to the amount of coverage provided. Be sure that it’s sufficient if you have significant assets.

For additional information contact Wally Burbage, with All State Insurance, at 843-881-1921, or 843-766-1221, or email WallyBurbage@AllState.com, or go to his website http://www.allstateagencies.com/WallyBurbage/Welcome/.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

What You Need To Do To Get an Offer on Your Home



1. Price it right. Set a price at the lower end of your property’s realistic price range. It is best to be in the top three lowest prices for homes in your neighborhood.
2. Prepare for visitors. Get your house market ready at least two weeks before you begin showing it.

3. Be flexible about showings. It’s often disruptive to have a house ready to show at the spur of the moment. But the more amenable you can be about letting people see your home, the sooner you’ll find a buyer.

4. Anticipate the offers. Decide in advance what price and terms you’ll find acceptable.

5. Don’t refuse to drop the price. If your home has been on the market for more than 30 days without an offer, you should be prepared to at least consider lowering your asking price.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.
"Carolina Joe"

8 Reasons Why You Should Work With a REALTOR® When Selling a House


Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Here are five reasons why it pays to work with a REALTOR®. 
1. Navigate a complicated process. Selling a home usually requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multi-page settlement statements. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes.
2. Information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local community and neighborhood marketing trends. They will be able to tell you what homes have recently sold and what homes are currently on the market. They’ll also be able to provide objective information about how each property relates to your home.
3. Current market analysis.  Your REALTOR® will be able to tell you the price range that your home will sell for and the average days on the market. 
4. Negotiating skills. There are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession, and inclusion or exclusion of repairs, furnishings, or equipment. In addition, the purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.
5. Property marketing power. Real estate doesn’t sell due to advertising alone. In fact, a large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, and family. When a property is marketed with the help of a REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.
6. Someone who speaks the language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with a professional who is immersed in the industry and knows the real estate language.
7. Experience. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. Even if you have done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS®, on the other hand, handle hundreds of real estate transactions over the course of their career. Having an expert on your side is critical.
8. Objective voice. A home often symbolizes family, rest, and security it’s not just four walls and a roof. Because of this, home buying and selling can be an emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll every make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on both the emotional and financial issues most important to you.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

"Carolina Joe"

8 Tips Find Your New Home


1. Research before you look. Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you’d be willing to spend each month for housing.

2. Be realistic. It’s OK to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property.

3. Get your finances in order. Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can’t afford.

4. Don’t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own.

5. Decide your moving timeline. When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move. If you own your current home, do you need to sell it first?

6. Think long term. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.

7. Insist on a home inspection and a termite inspection. Typically the home inspection will be the buyer’s cost and the termite inspection will be the seller’s cost. If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year.

8. Get help from a REALTOR®. Hire a real estate professional. Buyer’s reps are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment.

For additional information see my buyer’s / seller’s page on my website www.CarolinaJoe.com.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

What does a Good Home Inspection Cover?

 Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

For more information, try the virtual home inspection at www.ASHI.org, the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors.  

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.
Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.
  • Doors and windows
  • Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  • Driveways/sidewalks
  • Attached porches, decks, and balconies
Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.
Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.
Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room. 
Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.


Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.
Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:
  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Steps, stairways, and railings
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Garage doors and garage door systems
Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.  
Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

How to Pack Like a Pro!


Moving to a new home can be stressful, to say the least. Make it easy on yourself by planning far in advance and making sure you’ve covered all the bases.

1. Plan ahead by organizing and budgeting. Develop a master “to do” list so you won’t forget something critical on moving day, and create an estimate of moving costs

2. Sort and get rid of things you no longer want or need. Have a garage sale, donate to a charity, or recycle.
3. But don’t throw out everything. If your inclination is to just toss it, you're probably right. However, it's possible to go overboard in the heat of the moment. Ask yourself how frequently you use an item and how you’d feel if you no longer had it. That will eliminate regrets after the move.
4. Pack similar items together. Put toys with toys, kitchen utensils with kitchen utensils. It will make your life easier when it's time to unpack.
5. Decide what, if anything, you plan to move on your own. Precious items such as family photos, valuable breakables, or must-haves during the move should probably stay with you. Don't forget to keep a "necessities" bag with tissues, snacks, and other items you'll need that day.
6. Remember, most movers won’t take plants. If you don't want to leave them behind, you should plan on moving them yourself.
7. Use the right box for the item. Loose items are prone to breakage.
8. Put heavy items in small boxes so they’re easier to lift. Keep the weight of each box under 50 pounds, if possible.
9. Don’t over-pack boxes. It increases the likelihood that items inside the box will break. 
10. Wrap every fragile item separately and pad bottom and sides of boxes. If necessary, purchase bubble-wrap or other packing materials from moving stores.
11. Use color-coded labels to indicate which room each item should go in. Color-code a floor plan for your new house to help movers.
12. Keep your moving documents together in a file. Include important phone numbers, driver’s name, and moving van number. Also keep your address book handy.
13. Print out a map and directions for movers. Make several copies, and highlight the route. Include your cell phone number on the map. You don’t want movers to get lost! Also make copies for friends or family who are lending a hand on moving day.
14. Back up your computer files before moving your computer. Keep the backup in a safe place, preferably at an off-site location.
15. Inspect each box and all furniture for damage as soon as it arrives.
16. Make arrangements for small children and pets. Moving can be stressful and emotional. Kids can help organize their things and pack boxes ahead of time, but, if possible, it might be best to spare them from the moving-day madness.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

How to Take the Stress Out of Home Buying



Buying a home should be fun, not stressful. As you look for your dream home, keep in mind these tips for making the process as peaceful as possible:
1. Find a real estate agent who you connect with. Home buying is not only a big financial commitment, but also an emotional one. It’s critical that the REALTOR® you chose is both highly skilled and a good fit with your personality.

2. Remember, there’s no “right” time to buy, just as there’s no perfect time to sell. If you find a home now, don’t try to second-guess interest rates or the housing market by waiting longer — you risk losing out on the home of your dreams. The housing market usually doesn’t change fast enough to make that much difference in price, and a good home won’t stay on the market long.

3. Don’t ask for too many opinions. It’s natural to want reassurance for such a big decision, but too many ideas from too many people will make it much harder to make a decision. Focus on the wants and needs of your immediate family — the people who will be living in the home.

4. Accept that no house is ever perfect. If it’s in the right location, the yard may be a bit smaller than you had hoped. The kitchen may be perfect, but the roof needs repair. Make a list of your top priorities and focus in on things that are most important to you. Let the minor ones go.

5. Don’t try to be a killer negotiator. Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price or by refusing to budge on your offer may cost you the home you love. Negotiation is give and take.

6. Remember your home doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house itself — room size, kitchen, etc. — that you forget about important issues as noise level, location to amenities, and other aspects that also have a big impact on your quality of life.

7. Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to get approved for a mortgage, investigate home insurance, and consider a schedule for moving. Presenting an offer contingent on a lot of unresolved issues will make your bid much less attractive to sellers.

8. Factor in maintenance and repair costs in your post-home buying budget. Even if you buy a new home, there will be costs. Don’t leave yourself short and let your home deteriorate.

9. Accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will probably pass. Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big financial commitment. But it also yields big benefits. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to buy a home and what made you fall in love with the property you purchased.

10. Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation. While U.S. homes have appreciated an average of 5.4 percent annually over from 1998 to 2002, a home’s most important role is to serve as a comfortable, safe place to live.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

What is Title Insurance?


Title insurance protects the holder from any losses sustained from defects in the title. It’s required by most mortgage lenders. Here are five other things you should know about title insurance.

1. It protects your ownership right to your home, both from fraudulent claims against your ownership and from mistakes made in earlier sales, such as mistake in the spelling of a person’s name or an inaccurate description of the property.

2. It’s a one-time cost usually based on the price of the property.

3. It’s usually paid for by the buyers, although this can vary depending on your state and local customs.

4. There are both lender title policies, which protect the lender, and owner title policies, which protect you. The lender will probably require a lender policy. You should always purchase the owner’s policy.

5. Discounts on premiums are sometimes available if the home has been bought within only a few years since not as much work is required to check the title. Ask the title company if this discount is available.

To ask an attorney title insurance questions, contact an attorney from this website: http://www.agentowned.com/attorneys_charleston.cfm

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.

“Carolina Joe”

A Few Simple Tips for South Carolina FHA Loans


  1. Write contracts clearly so they can be read by the Originator, Processor, Appraiser, Underwriter and Attorneys. Please provide all addendums and amendments to lender prior to ordering the appraisal
  2. Be aware that all health and safety related items will need to be repaired by a licensed contractor PRIOR to closing. Some exceptions may apply.   
  3. Looking at condos? Make sure they are on the FHA Approved Condo List BEFORE writing up a contract.   
  4.  Some basics:
    1. 3.5% down payment required (must be buyers own money, a gift from a relative or SC State Housing Down Payment Assistance or Family Services Grant);
    2. Seller can contribute up to 6% towards pre-paids, closing costs and reserves…none of which can go towards the buyers down payment;
    3. This is a “full doc” loan (W2’s, Pay Stubs, Bank Statements and verifications required);
    4. Home must be owner occupied;
    5. Schedule closings for the end of the month to save on interest for your buyer; and
    6. If the contract or addendums mentions a CL-100 or Home Inspection lenders are required to review it and provide to the appraiser.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

A VA mortgage is truly a fantastic loan program!




A VA mortgage is truly a fantastic loan program; Zero down up to $417,000 in South Carolina and no monthly mortgage insurance required. Sellers can contribute up to 6% of the sales price to go towards the buyers closing costs, pre-paids, reserves and even outstanding credit card or revolving debt. Who wouldn't like that!
If a VA buyer wants to purchase a foreclosure or short sale here are some very important tips to keep in mind when negotiating and writing up a contract:
  • Lenders may not choose the VA appraiser and appraisers have up to 10 days to turn in the appraisal. Some bank held properties require unreasonably short turn times on appraisals. VA has 10 days by law to provide the appraisal to the lender.
  • VA Home Buyers MAY NOT PAY FOR A CL-100 (but it is required) Seller must pay this fee or someone else but not the buyer.  Keep this in mind when dealing with bank held properties which refuse to pay any buyer closing costs.
  • All repairs required by appraiser must be completed by licensed contractor PRIOR to closing. If seller refuses then the cost and liability falls on the buyer. No escrows for repairs allowed.
  • Current Well and Septic reports are required for all homes that utilize well water and septic tanks.  
  • If you have a home inspection done and then discuss the home inspection in an addendum (perhaps regarding repairs) the home inspection must be provided to the lender and appraiser.
  • VA loans are not for investors. Homes must be owner occupied.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

Why get Pre-Qualified / Pre-Approved for Financing in Advance?



The first step a home buyer should take is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for financing. When doing this, all potential buyers should take a good look at their financial situation before embarking on home ownership. While upfront prices may be low, the month-to-month costs of home ownership can add up. Income, credit rating, and current monthly expenses should all be taken into account when determining how much can be spent on a new home.
Visiting a direct lender (a bank) versus a mortgage broker is the best way to get an accurate budget for a home purchase and to determine the best available loan package. Direct lenders typically do their own underwriting and have complete control of the financing process from application to loan approval. While mortgage brokers are a middle man with whom you fill out an application and then the mortgage broker will shop the loan package to bigger lenders. The actual lender may in turn have a whole additional set of application questions you will be required to address and may occasionally change the terms of the mortgage.
Obtaining pre-qualification or pre-approval accomplishes many things: it ensures that you obtain a mortgage payment you desire; allows you to concentrate on the correct price range; and typically a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter is required to submit an offer on your dream home.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

New Website



Come visit my new state-of-the-art website at www.CarolinaJoe.com. It has many user interactive features. Here are some of many exciting features:
1.      Advanced search criteria to refine and focus your property search;
2.      Map of the entire MLS with all the towns and current listings;
3.      Featured listings not in MLS;
4.      The ability to email listings to your friends;
5.      Create a profile and return to your individual searches with one-click retrieval;
6.      Personalized listing alert;
7.      Listings in printer friendly pdf format;
8.      MapQuest features to easily get driving directions and property locations;
9.      Google neighborhood mapping;
10. Individual Google property search mapping for all your listings;
11. Google Street View to allow you to see the nearby streetscape;
12. A “walkability” index for individual properties which computes the walking distance in minutes to local businesses, food, and recreation;
13. Buyer and seller resources page;
14. On-the-spot mortgage calculator;
15. Community and school information pages with a brief history of local communities along with links to many of the subdivisions; and
16. An interactive blog where I discuss local real estate issues.
Your comments and questions are welcomed at the blog.  
Let me know how I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate questions or needs.
“Carolina Joe” Idleman