Cleaning and Caring for Siding

The annual cleaning and repair of your home's exterior will pay off in a long life and increased value.
 
If you'd like to prevent costly home repairs and add to the value of your house, clean your siding. With proper care and a little regular maintenance, your home's exterior could be trouble-free for 50 years and more. Cleaning removes dirt and mildew that may shorten the life of your siding. A clean house protects your investment, too. "A good first appearance on a home can add as much as 5% to 10% to the value of the home," says John Aust, a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Appraisers.

Cleaning wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, fiber-cement siding

All types of siding benefit from a good cleaning once every year to remove grit, grime, and mildew. The best way-whether you have wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, or fiber-cement-is with a bucket of warm, soapy water (1/2 cup trisodium phosphate-TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers-dissolved in 1 gallon of water) and a soft-bristled brush attached to a long handle. Divide your house into 20-foot sections, clean each from top to bottom, and rinse. For two-story homes, you'll be using a ladder, so keep safety foremost.

Cleaning an average-sized house may take you and a friend every bit of a weekend. If you don't have the time-or the inclination-you can have your house professionally cleaned for $300-$500. A professional team will use a power washer and take less than a day.

You can rent a power washer to do the job yourself for about $75 per day, but beware if you don't have experience with the tool. Power washers force water through a nozzle at high pressure, resulting in water blasts that can strip paint, gouge softwoods, loosen caulk, and eat through mortar. Also, the tool can force water under horizontal lap joints, resulting in moisture accumulating behind the siding. A siding professional has the expertise to prevent water penetration at joints, seams around windows and doors, and electrical fixtures.

 Inspect for damage

Right before you clean is the ideal time to inspect your house for signs of damage or wear and tear. A house exterior is most vulnerable to water infiltration where siding butts against windows, doors, and corner moldings, says Frank Lesh, a professional house inspector in Chicago and past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (http://www.ashi.org). For all types of siding, look for caulk that has cracked due to age or has pulled away from adjacent surfaces, leaving gaps. Reapply a color-matched exterior caulk during dry days with temperatures in excess of 65 degrees F for maximum adhesion.

Other defects include wood siding with chipped or peeling paint, and cracked boards and trim. If you have a stucco exterior, be on the lookout for cracks and chips. For brick, look for crumbling mortar joints. Repair defects before cleaning. The sooner you make repairs, the better you protect your house from moisture infiltration that can lead to dry rot and mold forming inside your walls.

Repair wood, vinyl, and fiber-cement siding

Damage to wood, vinyl, and fiber-cement horizontal lap siding often occurs because of everyday accidents-being struck by sticks and stones thrown from a lawn mower, or from objects like baseballs. Repairing horizontal lap siding requires the expertise to remove the damaged siding while leaving surrounding siding intact. Unless you have the skills, hire a professional carpenter or siding contractor. Expect to pay $200-$300 to replace one or two damaged siding panels or pieces of wood clapboard.
Repaint wood, fiber-cement

Houses with wood siding should be repainted every five years, or as soon as the paint finish begins to deteriorate. A professional crew will paint a two-story, 2,300 square foot house for $3,000-$5,000. If you've cleaned your house exterior yourself, you've done much of the prep work and will save the added cost that a painting contractor would charge to clean the siding before painting.

Fiber-cement siding, whether it comes with a factory-applied color finish or is conventionally painted, requires repainting far less often (every 8-10 years) than wood siding. That's because fiber-cement is dimensionally stable and, unlike wood, doesn't expand and contract with changes in humidity.

It's a good idea to specify top-quality paint. Because only 15% to 20% of the total cost of repainting your house is for materials, using top-quality paint will add only a nominal amount-about $200-to the job. However, the best paints will outperform "ordinary" paints by several years, saving you money.

Repair brick mortar, stop efflorescence

Crumbling and loose mortar should be removed with a cold chisel and repaired with fresh mortar-a process called repointing. An experienced do-it-yourselfer can repoint mortar joints between bricks, but the process is time-consuming. Depending on the size of the mortar joints (thinner joints are more difficult), a masonry professional will repoint brick siding for $5-$20 per square foot.

Efflorescence-the powdery white residue that sometimes appears on brick and stone surfaces-is the result of soluble salts in the masonry or grout being leached out by moisture, probably indicating the masonry and grout was never sealed correctly. Remove efflorescence by scrubbing it with water and white vinegar mixed in a 50/50 solution and a stiff bristle brush. As soon as the surface is clear and dry, seal it with a quality masonry sealer to prevent further leaching.

Persistent efflorescence may indicate a moisture problem behind the masonry. Consult a professional building or masonry contractor.

Remove mildew from all types of siding

Stubborn black spotty stains are probably mildew. Dab the area with a little diluted bleach-if the black disappears, it's mildew. Clean the area with a solution of one part bleach to four parts water. Wear eye protection and protect plants from splashes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

 Repair cracked stucco

Seal cracks and small holes with color-matched exterior acrylic caulk. Try pressing sand into the surface of wet caulk to match the texture of the surrounding stucco. Paint the repair to match.

Take time to inspect and clean your house siding, and you'll be rewarded with a trouble-free exterior.
John Riha has written six books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. Riha has been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His standard 1968 suburban house has been an ongoing source of maintenance experience.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

From HouseLogic.com

Home Sizes Fall as Builders, Buyers Embrace Economic Reality

New-home buyers responded to the tough times in 2009 by opting for smaller houses, driving down the average size of a house built in the United States for the first time in 27 years.

Data recently released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found the average size of a new home that was completed in 2009 fell to 2,480 square feet from 2,520 square feet in 2008. The last time the average completed-home size fell by a statistically significant amount was 1982.

“You’ve heard the mantra ‘downsize me’ and ’small is the new big?’ Well, last year was definitely a downer,” said Carol Lavender, president of Lavender Design Group, a residential design firm in San Antonio, Texas.

Homeowners surveyed by Better Homes and Gardens magazine said downsizing was becoming a bigger priority: 36% said in November 2009 that they expected their next home to be “somewhat smaller” or “much smaller” than their current home versus 32% who said that in 2008. “Not surprisingly, we see a ‘cents and sensibility’ approach when it comes to buying or improving a home, with practicality and price being the top priorities,” said Eliot Nusbaum, the magazine’s executive editor of home design.

While the small-house movement in the United States has been gaining steam for a number of years, the recession has accelerated it and home builders have responded.

“The era of easy money is over. You really have to think before you go out and decide you need that five-bedroom, five-bath home,” said Rose Quint, the NAHB’s assistant vice president for survey research. “Couple that with the energy cost concerns of consumers today and I think we will continue this trend. Houses will not shrink drastically, but they will shrink.”

Although actual square footage of homes didn’t fall until 2009, the percent of homes with four or more bedrooms in them has been falling since 2007, NAHB data show. And in 2009, the number of homes with three or more bathrooms fell for the first time since 1992.

Two other trends in home construction are contributing to the declining square footages: The prominence of first-time buyers in the housing market and the increasing number of households with members 55 and older who are buying homes.

First-time buyers, driven into the market in good part by the availability of an $8,000 tax credit, are more likely to compromise on home size in exchange for a lower price. And the 55-plus crowd tends to purchase single-story homes, which generally are smaller because of the land costs that favor the more-efficient two-story plans.

“Barely over half of new homes today are built with two stories or more,” Quint said. Two-story homes peaked at about 55% of the market in 2006. For 2010, home builders say they will focus on lower-priced models and smaller homes. More than 95% of builders surveyed by NAHB in January said that was the way they saw their business evolving this year.

The penchant for smaller homes will necessitate some design changes. Builders, attempting to respond to those consumer demands as well as hold the line on prices, told the NAHB surveyors that they were most likely to include these features as standard in their houses this year:

-Walk-in closets in the master bedroom.
-Laundry rooms.
-Insulated front doors.
-Great rooms.
-Energy-efficient windows.
-Linen closets.
-Programmable thermostats.
-Energy-efficient appliances and lighting.
-Separate shower and tub in master bathrooms.
-Nine-foot ceilings on the first floor.

Among the things that builders said they were least likely to add to houses in 2010:

-Outdoor kitchens.
-Outdoor fireplaces.
-Sunrooms.
-Butler’s pantries.
-Media rooms.
-Desks in kitchens.
-Two-story foyers.
-Eight foot ceilings on the first floor.
-Multiple shower heads in the master bath.
-Smaller kitchens.

“You can see that builders are concentrating heavily on energy-saving features,” Quint said. “But a lot of the luxury items are on the chopping block or on hold as builders try to lower costs.”

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

(c) 2010, MarketWatch.com Inc

Why Buy Now?

You may wonder whether it is worthwhile to wait to purchase your home until prices are at their lowest.  Prices are not the only factor that should drive your decision. Currently, interest rates are near generational lows that greatly improve the affordability of homes.  Further on the annual cost table, you can see that even if home prices decline, the possible tax savings of owning a home can lead to a lower cost for the buyer, not the renter. Also, the homebuyer’s tax credit is currently available but only through April 2010. Finally, and most importantly, when you have made the decision to commit to homeownership because you are ready, market conditions are a secondary concern. In fact, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that four in ten first-time buyers purchased a home because the buyer was ready to make the commitment to homeownership.

Homeownership–It’s NOT Just About Money

The “numbers tell the story” examples should ease your mind about the financial aspects of becoming a homeowner. But there are other, non-financial benefits to homeownership that may partially explain the fact that buyers buy when they are ready. Several research studies indicate that homeownership adds to the value of communities, has positive effects on children, and even contributes to increased voter participation rates.

Homeownership:  The American Dream

More than two thirds of American households own their home. They know the benefits of homeownership, from the accumulation of home equity, other financial benefits, and the pride of owning a place of their own. They also had to take that first step of deciding “I’m ready to be a homeowner.”  REALTORS® assisted many of today’s 75 million Homeowners in both their decision to buy and their first home purchase.  REALTORS® are real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and who abide by the Association’s strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. They can help guide you to first-time homebuyer programs in your area, as well as assist you in searching for and buying your 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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

National Association of Realtors 2009 Profile of Home Buyers Highlights

Characteristics of Home Buyers

1.  Forty-seven percent of recent home buyers were first-time buyers. 
2.  The typical first-time home buyer was 30 years old, while the typical repeat buyer was 48 years old.
3.  The 2008 median household income of buyers was $73,100. The median income was $61,600 among first-time buyers and $88,100 among repeat buyers.
4.  Twenty-one percent of recent home buyers were single females, and 10 percent were single males.
5.  For one-third of recent home buyers, the primary reason for the recent home purchase was a desire to own a home.

Characteristics of Homes Purchased

1.  New home purchases were at the lowest level in eight years—down to 18 percent of all recent home purchases.
2.  The typical home purchased was 1,800 square feet in size and was built in 1991.
3.  Seventy-eight percent of home buyers purchased a detached singlefamily home.
4.  The median price of home purchased was $210,000 in the Northeast, $158,000 in the Midwest, $175,000 in the South, and $240,000 in the West.
5.  When considering the purchase of a home, commuting costs were considered very or somewhat important by 78 percent of buyers.

The Home Search Process

1.  For more than one-third of home buyers, the first step in the home-buying process was looking online for properties.
2.  Nine in ten home buyers and 94 used the Internet to search for homes.
3.  Real estate agents were viewed as a very useful information source by 81 percent of buyers who used an agent while searching for a home.
4.  The typical home buyer searched for 12 weeks and viewed 12 homes Home Buying and Real Estate Professionals
5.  Seventy-seven percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker.
6.  Ten percent of buyers purchased a home in foreclosure, up from 3 percent in 2008.
7.  Forty-four percent of buyers found their agent through a referral from a friend or family member.

Financing the Home Purchase

1.  Ninety-two percent of home buyers financed their recent home purchase.
2.  The percentage of first-time buyers who financed 100 percent of the purchase price with a mortgage dropped to 15 percent from 23 percent last year.
3.  Nearly half (47 percent) of home buyers reported they have made some sacrifices such as reducing spending on luxury items, entertainment or clothing.
4.  One-fifth of first-time buyers reported their mortgage application and approval process was somewhat more difficult than they expected, and one-in-ten reported it was much more difficult than expected.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Judge's ruling reverses DHEC's denial, allows Kiawah River bulkhead

Ruling would allow 1/2-mile erosion prevention wall near Captain Sam's Spit

By Tony Bartelme
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

KIAWAH ISLAND – The island's developers won a major court victory this week in their effort to build homes on a sand spit next to Charleston County's Beachwalker Park when a judge granted a permit to build a half-mile erosion prevention wall along the Kiawah River.

The judge's ruling reversed an earlier decision by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Read more

Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson's order granting Kiawah Development Partners permit to build a half-mile revetment on Capt. Sam's Spit.
Kiawah Development Partners wants to build a 2,783-foot bulkhead and revetment to stop erosion next to Beachwalker Park. Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson ruled Monday in favor of the development company, reversing an earlier decision by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Last year, DHEC said that Kiawah Development Partners could build a 270-foot wall along the county's park, but determined that a proposed 2,783-foot bulkhead would prevent "shoreline movement in an area that historically has seen inlet formation," and that it would "facilitate development in a pristine dune area." Kiawah Development Partners appealed DHEC's decision to the South Carolina Administrative Law Court.

On Monday, Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson ruled in favor of the development company, writing in a 31-page order that "… the project will clearly reduce and likely stop erosion rather than precipitate any erosion. In fact, the benefit from protection of its upland through stabilization of the riverbank is considerable when compared with the benefit of leaving the riverbank in its unaltered state and allowing the erosion to continue unabated into the forested highland and dune areas along the river. This erosion has no positive benefit for anyone and clearly is a detriment to the landowner."

In a statement, Buddy Darby, Kiawah Development Partners chairman and chief executive officer, said the judge's decision "is further validation that sensitive, low-density development can be done and will be done responsibly at Kiawah Island as well as on other sea island communities."

Darby said that sand has been building up at the southern end of the island, known as Captain Sam's Spit, for more than 60 years, sometimes at a rate of 15-feet per year. He said the design of the revetment will allow marsh grass to grow between holes in the concrete.

The developers have said they hope to build up to 50 homes on the spit, which covers about 150 acres.

Conservation groups vowed to continue their fight. "The people will win this in the end," said Sidi Limehouse, a Johns Island farmer and head of Friends of Kiawah River. "I read the order, and it looks like Darby wrote it. I think the judge came to the wrong decision."

Limehouse said he is buoyed by a decision earlier this month by the appointed board of DHEC, which nixed a separate plan by the developers to plant a wall in the sand spit to prevent erosion from affecting future utilities and road on the spit.
The development battle began two years ago after Post and Courier Watchdog revealed U.S. Rep. Henry Brown's attempt to give the developers an insurance break on any future homes that were built on the spit. Brown eventually withdrew his bill.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Tony Bartelme at 937-5554 or bartelme@postandcourier
Copyright © 1995 – 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co.
 

National Association of Realtors 2009 Profile of Home Sellers Highlights

Home Sellers and Their Selling Experience

1.  About half of home sellers traded up to a larger size and higher priced home and slightly more than one-fifth traded down to a smaller and less expensive home.
2.  Eighty-five percent of sellers were assisted by a real estate agent when selling their home.
3.  Recent sellers typically sold their homes for 95 percent of the listing price, and 60 percent reported they reduced the asking price at least once.
4.  Forty-two percent of sellers offered incentives to attract buyers, most often assistance with home warranty policies and closing costs.

Home Selling and Real Estate Professionals

1.  Forty percent of sellers who used a real estate agent found their agents through a referral by friends or family, and 26 percent used the agent they worked with previously to buy or sell a home.
2.  Ninety percent of sellers reported that their home was listed or advertised on the Internet.
3.  Among recent sellers who used an agent, 81 percent reported they would definitely (59 percent) or probably (22 percent) use that real estate agent again or recommend to others.

For-Sale-by-Owner (FSBO) Sellers

1.  The share of home sellers who sold their home without the assistance of a real estate agent was 11 percent. About half of them, 45 percent, knew the buyer prior to home purchase.
2.  The primary reason that sellers choose to sell their home without the assistance of a real estate agent to a buyer they did not know was that they did not want to pay a fee or commission (49 percent).
3.  Nearly one-third of FSBO sellers took no action to market their home, and 57 percent did not offer any incentives to attract buyers.
4.  Eighteen percent of FSBO sellers reported preparing or fixing up the home for sale was their most difficult task, while 15 percent reported getting the price right and an additional 15 percent reported understanding and performing paperwork was the hardest part of selling their 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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

 

FHA Changes On The Horizon

I posted a blog a few days ago addressing FHA lending changes.  Here is some additional information.

FHA just announced that there will likely be some changes to their requirements for insuring loans effective April 5, 2010. The main ones include an increase in the upfront mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP) and a decrease in seller concessions from 6% to 3%.

For those who don’t know what UFMIP is, it is the “down payment” that a buyer makes on the mortgage insurance when they use an FHA insured loan. This payment, which can be financed, helps keep down the monthly cost of mortgage insurance.

For reference, conventional loans have mortgage insurance (MI) for any loan that is greater than 80% of the value of the property being used as collateral. The MI had become somewhat expensive for borrowers with sub-700 credit scores, causing some borrowers to take out 80-20 loans in the past to avoid it. Because of the losses to lenders over the past couple years, there are very few new loans written like this.

FHA charges a premium up front of 1.75% of the loan amount which can be financed into the loan itself and then a monthly charge of 0.55% each month for 5 years or until the loan-to-value automatically reaches 78%, whichever comes last. This premium is set to increase to 2.25%. On a $150,000 loan, the amount borrowed will increase by approximately $750.

As far as seller concessions, a decrease in the amount allowed could have an impact on the amount of cash required to be brought to closing by the borrower. For example, a Realtor may have submitted a purchase offer on a home for X amount and asked for the seller to pay for “closing costs, prepaid items and upfront mortgage insurance premium”.

In the past on larger loan amounts, 3% would often cover these costs, and the borrower would only need to have the required minimum 3.5% down payment. Now, with the increased UFMIP, 3% will not cover the costs. Since it can be financed into the loan, this is generally not a deal breaker.

This becomes more of an issue on lower cost homes because the insurance, the title company fees, lender fees, processing fees, appraisal fees, etc., are for the most part fairly fixed and do not vary much on the price of the home. In other words, the fees to close a $300,000 home may only be a few hundred dollars more than the fees to close a $60,000 home. Being that 3% of those numbers is $9,000 and $1,800 respectively, someone buying a lower priced home (who may be doing it due to financial constraints), may be required to bring cash to the closing, in addition to the down payment, to make up for the shortfall.

There are a couple other proposed changes such as a required 10% down payment for borrowers with credit scores below 580, but this is currently a moot point, as I know of no lenders who will make an FHA loan on a score under 620.
You can read the Wall Street Journal’s take on this here or see the HUD press release here for some of the other pending changes. For those who don’t know what UFMIP is, it is the “down payment” that a buyer makes on the mortgage insurance when they use an FHA insured loan. This payment, which can be financed, helps keep down the monthly cost of mortgage insurance.

For reference, conventional loans have mortgage insurance (MI) for any loan that is greater than 80% of the value of the property being used as collateral. The MI had become somewhat expensive for borrowers with sub-700 credit scores, causing some borrowers to take out 80-20 loans in the past to avoid it. Because of the losses to lenders over the past couple years, there are very few new loans written like this.

FHA charges a premium up front of 1.75% of the loan amount which can be financed into the loan itself and then a monthly charge of 0.55% each month for 5 years or until the loan-to-value automatically reaches 78%, whichever comes last. This premium is set to increase to 2.25%. On a $150,000 loan, the amount borrowed will increase by approximately $750.

As far as seller concessions, a decrease in the amount allowed could have an impact on the amount of cash required to be brought to closing by the borrower. For example, a Realtor may have submitted a purchase offer on a home for X amount and asked for the seller to pay for “closing costs, prepaid items and upfront mortgage insurance premium”.
In the past on larger loan amounts, 3% would often cover these costs, and the borrower would only need to have the required minimum 3.5% down payment. Now, with the increased UFMIP, 3% will not cover the costs. Since it can be financed into the loan, this is generally not a deal breaker.

This becomes more of an issue on lower cost homes because the insurance, the title company fees, lender fees, processing fees, appraisal fees, etc., are for the most part fairly fixed and do not vary much on the price of the home. In other words, the fees to close a $300,000 home may only be a few hundred dollars more than the fees to close a $60,000 home. Being that 3% of those numbers is $9,000 and $1,800 respectively, someone buying a lower priced home (who may be doing it due to financial constraints), may be required to bring cash to the closing, in addition to the down payment, to make up for the shortfall.

There are a couple other proposed changes such as a required 10% down payment for borrowers with credit scores below 580, but this is currently a moot point, as I know of no lenders who will make an FHA loan on a score under 620.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210
 
Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

"Carolina Joe" Just Listed Another One!!!

"CAROLINA JOE", YOUR REALTOR TO KNOW!

0 HWY 15 TRACT #6 CANADYS, SC 29433 LP: $99,000

MLS#: 1002191p – VAC Status: Active
Area: (82) CLN-Colleton County
Municipality: (82) COLLETON COUNTY
Low Price:  
Zoning:   Tax Map#: 062-00-00-141
Address: 0 HWY 15 TRACT #6
City: CANADYS Zip: 29433
Lot Size: 0000 Acres: 23.78
Subdiv: CANADYS Subsec:  
Grade Sch: COTTAGEVILLE Middle Sch: COLLETON
High Sch: COLLETON    
Legal Desc: PART OF 062-00-00-141
Dev Status:   Docs Avail:  
Existing Util:   Road Front:  
Income: None Misc: Will Subdivide
Structures:   Uses: Residential, Agricultural, Hunting
Directions: FROM CHARLESTON TAKE HIGHWAY 61 TO CANADYS. TURN LEFT ON HIGHWAY 15. PROPERTY IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD ON THE RIGHT.
Remarks: THIS IS TRACT 6,WITH ROAD FRONTAGE ON HIGHWAY 15, CONSISTING OF 23.782 ACRES SUBDIVIDED FROM A 88.49 ACRE TRACT OF LAND WHICH WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A PRIVATE COUNTRY ESTATE, HUNTING, OR SUBDIVISION. THIS TRACT OF RAW LAND HAS BEEN INTERNALLY SUBDIVIDED INTO SIX TRACTS. THE SUBDIVISION SITE PLAN HAS BEEN APPROVED BY COLLETON COUNTY. THERE ARE MULTIPLE PERKS SITES ON THE TRACT. THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED 2-3 MILES FROM THE EDISTO RIVER BOAT LAND, 3-4 MILES FROM I-95, 2-4 MILES FROM COLLETON STATE PARK, AND 8-10 MILES FORM GIVHANS STATE PARK. THERE IS ROAD FRONTAGE ON BOTH HIGHWAY 15 AND RED BANK ROAD. THE PROPERTY IS ABOUT MIDWAY BETWEEN ST. GEORGE AND WALTERBORO.

Click on Photo to Enlarge

"Carolina Joe" Just Listed Another One!!!

"CAROLINA JOE", YOUR REALTOR TO KNOW!

0 HWY 15 TRACT #5 CANADYS, SC 29433 LP: $79,000

MLS#: 1002189p – VAC Status: Active
Area: (82) CLN-Colleton County
Municipality: (82) COLLETON COUNTY
Low Price:  
Zoning:   Tax Map#: 062-00-00-141
Address: 0 HWY 15 TRACT #5
City: CANADYS Zip: 29433
Lot Size: 0000 Acres: 2.31
Subdiv: CANADYS Subsec:  
Grade Sch: COTTAGEVILLE Middle Sch: COLLETON
High Sch: COLLETON    
Legal Desc: PART OF 062-00-00-141
Dev Status:   Docs Avail:  
Existing Util:   Road Front:  
Income: None Misc: Will Subdivide
Structures:   Uses: Residential, Agricultural, Hunting
Directions: FROM CHARLESTON TAKE HIGHWAY 61 TO CANADYS. TURN LEFT ON HIGHWAY 15. PROPERTY IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD ON THE RIGHT.
Remarks: THIS IS TRACT 5,WITH ROAD FRONTAGE ON HIGHWAY 15, CONSISTING OF 17.9111 ACRES SUBDIVIDED FROM A 88.49 ACRE TRACT OF LAND WHICH WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A PRIVATE COUNTRY ESTATE, HUNTING, OR SUBDIVISION. THIS TRACT OF RAW LAND HAS BEEN INTERNALLY SUBDIVIDED INTO SIX TRACTS. THE SUBDIVISION SITE PLAN HAS BEEN APPROVED BY COLLETON COUNTY. THERE ARE MULTIPLE PERKS SITES ON THE TRACT. THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED 2-3 MILES FROM THE EDISTO RIVER BOAT LAND, 3-4 MILES FROM I-95, 2-4 MILES FROM COLLETON STATE PARK, AND 8-10 MILES FORM GIVHANS STATE PARK. THERE IS ROAD FRONTAGE ON BOTH HIGHWAY 15 AND RED BANK ROAD. THE PROPERTY IS ABOUT MIDWAY BETWEEN ST. GEORGE AND WALTERBORO.

Click on Photo to Enlarge

"Carolina Joe" Just Listed Another One!!!

"CAROLINA JOE", YOUR REALTOR TO KNOW!

0 HWY 15 TRACT #4 CANADYS, SC 29433 LP: $49,000

MLS#: 1002188p – VAC Status: Active
Area: (82) CLN-Colleton County
Municipality: (82) COLLETON COUNTY
Low Price:  
Zoning:   Tax Map#: 062-00-00-141
Address: 0 HWY 15 TRACT #4
City: CANADYS Zip: 29433
Lot Size: 0000 Acres: 9.01
Subdiv: CANADYS Subsec:  
Grade Sch: COTTAGEVILLE Middle Sch: COLLETON
High Sch: COLLETON    
Legal Desc: PART OF 062-00-00-141
Dev Status:   Docs Avail:  
Existing Util:   Road Front:  
Income: None Misc: Will Subdivide
Structures:   Uses: Residential, Agricultural, Hunting
Directions: FROM CHARLESTON TAKE HIGHWAY 61 TO CANADYS. TURN LEFT ON HIGHWAY 15. PROPERTY IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD ON THE RIGHT.
Remarks: THIS IS TRACT 4,WITH ROAD FRONTAGE ON HIGHWAY 15, CONSISTING OF 9.013 ACRES SUBDIVIDED FROM A 88.49 ACRE TRACT OF LAND WHICH WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A PRIVATE COUNTRY ESTATE, HUNTING, OR SUBDIVISION. THIS TRACT OF RAW LAND HAS BEEN INTERNALLY SUBDIVIDED INTO SIX TRACTS. THE SUBDIVISION SITE PLAN HAS BEEN APPROVED BY COLLETON COUNTY. THERE ARE MULTIPLE PERKS SITES ON THE TRACT. THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED 2-3 MILES FROM THE EDISTO RIVER BOAT LAND, 3-4 MILES FROM I-95, 2-4 MILES FROM COLLETON STATE PARK, AND 8-10 MILES FORM GIVHANS STATE PARK. THERE IS ROAD FRONTAGE ON BOTH HIGHWAY 15 AND RED BANK ROAD. THE PROPERTY IS ABOUT MIDWAY BETWEEN ST. GEORGE AND WALTERBORO.

Click on Photo to Enlarge

"Carolina Joe" Just Listed Another One!!!

MLS#: 1002187p – VAC Status: Active
Area: (82) CLN-Colleton County
Municipality: (82) COLLETON COUNTY
Low Price:  
Zoning:   Tax Map#: 062-00-00-141
Address: 0 HWY 15 TRACT #3
City: CANADYS Zip: 29433
Lot Size: 0000 Acres: 2.31
Subdiv: CANADYS Subsec:  
Grade Sch: COTTAGEVILLE Middle Sch: COLLETON
High Sch: COLLETON    
Legal Desc: PART OF 062-00-00-141
Dev Status:   Docs Avail:  
Existing Util:   Road Front:  
Income: None Misc: Will Subdivide
Structures:   Uses: Residential, Agricultural, Hunting
Directions: FROM CHARLESTON TAKE HIGHWAY 61 TO CANADYS. TURN LEFT ON HIGHWAY 15. PROPERTY IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD ON THE RIGHT.
Remarks: THIS IS TRACT 3,WITH ROAD FRONTAGE ON HIGHWAY 15, CONSISTING OF 2.314 ACRES SUBDIVIDED FROM A 88.49 ACRE TRACT OF LAND WHICH WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A PRIVATE COUNTRY ESTATE, HUNTING, OR SUBDIVISION. THIS TRACT OF RAW LAND HAS BEEN INTERNALLY SUBDIVIDED INTO SIX TRACTS. THE SUBDIVISION SITE PLAN HAS BEEN APPROVED BY COLLETON COUNTY. THERE ARE MULTIPLE PERKS SITES ON THE TRACT. THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED 2-3 MILES FROM THE EDISTO RIVER BOAT LAND, 3-4 MILES FROM I-95, 2-4 MILES FROM COLLETON STATE PARK, AND 8-10 MILES FORM GIVHANS STATE PARK. THERE IS ROAD FRONTAGE ON BOTH HIGHWAY 15 AND RED BANK ROAD. THE PROPERTY IS ABOUT MIDWAY BETWEEN ST. GEORGE AND WALTERBORO.
Agnt Notes: Click here to report incomplete or inaccurate information

Click on Photo to Enlarge

"Carolina Joe" Just Listed Another One!!!

"CAROLINA JOE", YOUR REALTOR TO KNOW!

0 HWY 15 TRACT #2 CANADYS, SC 29433 LP: $69,000

MLS#: 1002186p – VAC Status: Active
Area: (82) CLN-Colleton County
Municipality: (82) COLLETON COUNTY
Low Price:  
Zoning:   Tax Map#: 062-00-00-141
Address: 0 HWY 15 TRACT #2
City: CANADYS Zip: 29433
Lot Size: 0000 Acres: 16.81
Subdiv: CANADYS Subsec:  
Grade Sch: COTTAGEVILLE Middle Sch: COLLETON
High Sch: COLLETON    
Legal Desc: PART OF 062-00-00-141
Dev Status:   Docs Avail:  
Existing Util:   Road Front:  
Income: None Misc: Will Subdivide
Structures:   Uses: Residential, Agricultural, Hunting
Directions: FROM CHARLESTON TAKE HIGHWAY 61 TO CANADYS. TURN LEFT ON HIGHWAY 15. TURN ON TO RED BANK ROAD. PROPERTY IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD ON THE RIGHT.
Remarks: THIS IS TRACT 2,WITH ROAD FRONTAGE ON RED BANK ROAD, CONSISTING OF 16.811 ACRES SUBDIVIDED FROM A 88.49 ACRE TRACT OF LAND WHICH WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A PRIVATE COUNTRY ESTATE, HUNTING, OR SUBDIVISION. THIS TRACT OF RAW LAND HAS BEEN INTERNALLY SUBDIVIDED INTO SIX TRACTS. THE SUBDIVISION SITE PLAN HAS BEEN APPROVED BY COLLETON COUNTY. THERE ARE MULTIPLE PERKS SITES ON THE TRACT. THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED 2-3 MILES FROM THE EDISTO RIVER BOAT LAND, 3-4 MILES FROM I-95, 2-4 MILES FROM COLLETON STATE PARK, AND 8-10 MILES FORM GIVHANS STATE PARK. THERE IS ROAD FRONTAGE ON BOTH HIGHWAY 15 AND RED BANK ROAD. THE PROPERTY IS ABOUT MIDWAY BETWEEN ST. GEORGE AND WALTERBORO.

Click on Photo to Enlarge

 

"Carolina Joe" Just Listed Another One!!!

"CAROLINA JOE", YOUR REALTOR TO KNOW!

0 HWY 15 TRACT #1 CANADYS, SC 29433 LP: $69,000

MLS#: 1002157p – VAC Status: Active
Area: (82) CLN-Colleton County
Municipality: (82) COLLETON COUNTY
Low Price:  
Zoning:   Tax Map#: 062-00-00-141
Address: 0 HWY 15 TRACT #1
City: CANADYS Zip: 29433
Lot Size: 0000 Acres: 18.28
Subdiv: CANADYS Subsec:  
Grade Sch: COTTAGEVILLE Middle Sch: COLLETON
High Sch: COLLETON    
Legal Desc: PART OF 062-00-00-141
Dev Status:   Docs Avail:  
Existing Util:   Road Front:  
Income: None Misc: Will Subdivide
Structures:   Uses: Residential, Agricultural, Hunting
Directions: FROM CHARLESTON TAKE HIGHWAY 61 TO CANADYS. TURN LEFT ON HIGHWAY 15. TURN ON TO RED BANK ROAD. PROPERTY IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD ON THE RIGHT.
Remarks: THIS IS TRACT 1,WITH ROAD FRONTAGE ON RED BANK ROAD, CONSISTING OF 18.84 ACRES SUBDIVIDED FROM A 88.49 ACRE TRACT OF LAND WHICH WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A PRIVATE COUNTRY ESTATE, HUNTING, OR SUBDIVISION. THIS TRACT OF RAW LAND HAS BEEN INTERNALLY SUBDIVIDED INTO SIX TRACTS. THE SUBDIVISION SITE PLAN HAS BEEN APPROVED BY COLLETON COUNTY. THERE ARE MULTIPLE PERKS SITES ON THE TRACT. THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED 2-3 MILES FROM THE EDISTO RIVER BOAT LAND, 3-4 MILES FROM I-95, 2-4 MILES FROM COLLETON STATE PARK, AND 8-10 MILES FORM GIVHANS STATE PARK. THERE IS ROAD FRONTAGE ON BOTH HIGHWAY 15 AND RED BANK ROAD. THE PROPERTY IS ABOUT MIDWAY BETWEEN ST. GEORGE AND WALTERBORO.

Click on Photo to Enlarge

 

Chimney Maintenance for Warmth and Safety

Maintaining your chimney and fireplace can make the difference between warm safety and drafty danger.
 
Your fireplace, the most low-tech piece of equipment in your house, may seem like a simple load-and-light operation, but ignoring annual maintenance can impair its performance, leading to heated air (and dollars) blowing out the chimney, harmful smoke inside, and possibly even a chimney fire.

The average number of annual U.S. home fires caused by fireplace, chimney, and chimney connectors between 2003 and 2005 was 25,100, and the average costs for those fires was $126.1 million, based on the most recent statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That's roughly $5,024 in damage per home. An annual inspection and sweeping removes flammable creosote, the major cause of chimney fires, and identifies other performance problems.

Is it worth the $205 fee, two-hour service call, and all that ash possibly blackening your carpet? Here's what you need to know to decide.

Annual inspections keep flames burning right

Creosote-combustible, tar-like droplets-is a natural byproduct of burning wood. The more wood you burn, the wetter or greener the wood, and the more often you restrict airflow by keeping your fireplace doors closed or your damper barely open, the more creosote is produced.

Soot build-up, while not flammable, can hamper venting. One half-inch of soot can restrict airflow 17% in a masonry chimney and 30% in a factory-built unit, according to the CSIA (http://www.csia.org). Soot is also aggressively acidic and can damage the inside of your chimney.

The more creosote and soot, the more likely you are to see signs of chimney fire-loud popping, dense smoke, or even flames shooting out the top of your chimney into the sky. Chimney fires damage the structure of your chimney and can provide a route for the fire to jump to the frame of your house.
"If the chimney is properly maintained, you'll never have a chimney fire," says Ashley Eldridge, the education director of the CSIA.

The best way to ensure your chimney isn't an oil slick waiting to ignite? Get it inspected.

Three inspection levels let you choose what you need

A level-one inspection includes a visual check of the fireplace and chimney without any special equipment or climbing up on the roof. The inspector comes to your house with a flashlight, looks for damage, obstructions, creosote build-up, and soot, and tells you if you need a sweep. If so, he'll grab his brushes, extension poles, and vacuum, and do it on the spot.

"You should have it inspected every year to determine if it needs to be swept. An annual inspection will also cover you if the neighbor's children have thrown a basketball in it, or a bird has built a nest," says Eldridge.
A level one typically runs about $125. Add a sweep, and you're talking another $80, or about $205 for both services, according to CSIA.

Consider a level-two inspection if you've experienced a dramatic weather event, like a tornado or hurricane; if you've made a major change to your fireplace; or bought a new house. This includes a level-one investigation, plus the inspector's time to visit the roof, attic, and crawl space in search of disrepair. It concludes with a sweep, if necessary, and information on what repair is needed. The price will depend on the situation.

A level three inspection is considered "destructive and intrusive" and can resemble a demolition job. It may involve tearing down and rebuilding walls and your chimney, and is usually done after a chimney fire. The cost will depend on the situation.

Small steps can improve your fireplace's efficiency

Besides the annual sweep, improve your fireplace's functioning with responsible use.
Only burn dry, cured wood-logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to 12 months. Cover your log pile on top, but leave the sides open for air flow. Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest, though dry firewood is more important than the species. Less dense woods like spruce or white pine burn well if sufficiently dry, but you'll need to add more wood to your fire more often, according to CSIA.

Wood, only wood! Crates, lumber, construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated wood releases chemicals into your home, compromising your air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your fire going, but they burn very hot; generally only use one at a time.

Close your damper when not using the fireplace to prevent warm indoor air-and the dollars you're spending to heat it-from rushing up the chimney.

On a factory-built, prefab wood-burning fireplace, keep bifold glass doors open when burning a fire to allow heat to get into the room.

Have a chimney cap installed to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney and to reduce downdrafts. The caps have side vents so smoke escapes. A chimney sweep usually provides and can install a stainless steel cap, which is better than a galvanized metal one available at most home improvement retailers because it won't rust, says Anthony Drago, manager of Ashleigh's Hearth and Home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Replace a poorly sealing damper to prevent heat loss. "You can get a top-mounted damper that functions as a rain cap, too, an improvement over the traditional damper because it provides a tighter closure," says CSIA's Eldridge.
Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your house-near the fireplace as well as in bedroom areas (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/create-a-home-emergency-preparedness-kit/).

If you burn more than three cords of wood annually, get your chimney cleaned twice a year. A cord is 4-feet high, by 4-feet wide, by 8-feet long, or the amount that would fill two full-size pick-up trucks.

To burn fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats and keeping your damper completely open to increase draw in the early stages. Burn the fire hot, at least occasionally-with the damper all the way open to help prevent smoke from lingering the fireplace and creosote from developing.

By the way, fireplaces aren't officially rated for energy efficiency because they're so varied. Depending on the source of information, they can be 10% to 30% efficient in converting fuel to heat.

No inspection will turn a masonry or factory-built fireplace into a furnace, but it can improve efficiency somewhat, decrease the amount of heating dollars you're sending up the chimney, and increase your enjoyment of your hearth time by reducing smoke. If a sweeping prevents a chimney fire, you're talking about the difference between another ordinary January day, and the potential loss of your home, or even life.

Wendy Paris is a writer in New York currently living in a home with a very smoky fireplace that has set off the smoke detector more than once. After finishing this article, she decided to schedule a chimney sweep. She's written for This Old House magazine, as well as for The New York Times and Salon.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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

FHA Toughens Down Payment Rules

The Federal Housing Administration will raise the minimum down payment for its least credit-worthy borrowers, the agency announced Tuesday.

The change is among a number of major changes the FHA is making to ensure its long-term financial soundness.

Borrowers with credit-rating scores below 580 will be required to put down at least 10 percent. Those with a credit score above 580 will be able to continue to put down only 3.5 percent. The changes are intended to shore up the agency's finances.

The FHA also will increase its upfront mortgage insurance premium from 1.75 percent to 2.25 percent. The agency is expected to seek congressional approval to raise annual mortgage insurance premiums, paid by borrowers over the life of the loan, above the current 0.55 percent maximum. The amount it will seek has yet to be announced.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

When It Pays to Do It Yourself

Doing home-improvement jobs yourself can be a smart way to save money, but choose the right DIY projects or you'll end up paying dearly.
 
Why pay someone big bucks to do something you can just as easily do yourself? That's the thinking that has gotten more Americans than ever swinging their own hammers. In a recent Time magazine poll, nearly a quarter of people said they were taking on more home-improvement projects themselves-understandably so, when you consider that it usually means a 50% to 75% discount, since all you pay for is materials.

But sometimes doing it yourself costs more than it saves, like when you decide to replace the toilet, end up flooding the basement, and have to pay a pro to fix your mistakes. Or, worse, if you become one of the more than 100,000 people injured each year doing home-improvement jobs. Here are some guidelines for deciding when DIY can save you money and when it could cost you.

Stick to routine maintenance for savings and safety

Seasonal home maintenance (http://www.houselogic.com/categories/maintain-structures-systems/) is ideal work for the DIY weekend warrior, since you can plan tasks in advance and get to them when your schedule allows. Because these are repeat projects, your savings will add up to big bucks over the years. Just by mowing your own lawn, for example, you can save $55 to $65 a week for a half-acre lawn during the growing season. The bigger the lot, the bigger the savings: with two acres, you'll pocket around $150 per week.

When It Pays: Look for maintenance jobs that are relatively easy and need to be done regularly, so you can hone your skills over time. In addition to mowing, other good ones are snow removal, pruning shrubs, washing windows, sealing the deck, painting fences, fertilizing the lawn, and replacing air conditioner filters.

When It Doesn't: Unless you have skill and experience on your side, stay off of any ladder taller than six feet; according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (http://www.cpsc.gov), more than 164,000 people end up in emergency rooms every year because of ladder injuries. The same goes for operating power saws or attempting any major electrical work-it's simply too risky if you don't have the experience.

Act as your own GC on small jobs

If you're more comfortable operating an iPhone than a circular saw, you may be able to act as your own general contractor on a home-improvement project and hire the carpenters, plumbers, and other tradesmen yourself. You'll save 10% to 20% of the job cost, which is the contractor's typical fee.

When it Pays: If it's a small job that requires only two or three different tradesmen, and you have good existing relationships with top-quality professionals in those fields, consider DIY contracting.

When It Doesn't: Unless you have an established network of contacts who will show up as promised, the time to spend on oversight, enough construction experience to spot potential problems, and the skill to negotiate disputes between the various subcontractors, trying to manage your own project can quickly send the schedule and budget off the rails.

Pitch in with sweat equity on big jobs

Contributing your own labor on a big job being handled by a professional crew can cut hundreds or even thousands of dollars off the contractor's bill. Tear the cabinets and appliances out of your old kitchen before the contractor gets started, say, and you might knock $800 off the cost of your remodel, says Dean Bennett, a design/build contractor in Castle Rock, Colorado.

When it Pays: Grunt work-jobs that are labor intensive but require relatively little skill-makes the best homeowner contribution. Offer to do minor interior demolition like removing cabinets and pulling up old flooring, daily jobsite cleanup, product assembly, and simple landscaping like planting foundation shrubs and grass seed around your new addition.

When It Doesn't: If you get in the crew's way, you may slow them down far more than you help. Make your contributions when the workers aren't around, such as in the morning before they arrive, or on nights and weekends after they've left.

Put on some of the finishing touches

Unlike the early phases of a construction job, which require skilled labor to frame walls, install plumbing pipes, and run wiring, many of the finishing touches on a project are comparatively simple and DIY-friendly. If you do the painting yourself for a new basement rec room, for instance, you can easily save $1,800, Bennett says.

When it Pays: If you have the skill-or a patient temperament and an experienced friend to teach you-finish work like setting tile, laying flooring, painting walls, and installing trim are all good DIY jobs.

When It Doesn't: The downside to attempting your own finish work is that the results are very visible. Hammer dents in woodwork, for example, or sander ruts in your hardwood floors may cause you aggravation every time you see them. So unless you have a sure eye and a steady hand, it may not pay to embark on these tasks.

A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He's currently restoring his second fixer-upper with a mix of big hired projects and small do-it-himself jobs.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

Should You Move or Improve?

Whether to move or improve is a harder question to answer than it was a few years ago, but a few cost-benefit calculations can help you make the right decision.
 
What do you do when your family outgrows your house, or when the quirks you once found charming about the place just aren't livable anymore? A few years ago, the answers were easy. With house values climbing an average of 50% from 2001 to 2005 and lenders handing out big checks to nearly anyone who asked, you could quickly unload a too-small house and use the profits to help pay for a larger one. Or you could borrow against that growing equity to fund a big home-improvement project, with the full expectation of making your investment back someday when you sold. Flash forward a few years, and the rules of real estate have changed. In this marketplace, with home equity shrinking and banks reluctant to lend, is it smarter to move or improve? Here's some advice to help you decide.

Moving has gotten harder

With median housing prices down 25% since their peak in 2006, some 15 million homeowners-almost one in four-owe more on their mortgages than they could get from a buyer, according to Celia Chen, senior director of Moody's Economy.com (http://www.economy.com). And even folks who bought before the big run-up and can afford to sell at today's lower prices still face steep odds trying to unload their homes with the glut of inventory on the market (36% more lawns wear For Sale signs now than a few years ago). There was an uptick in units sold in early 2009, leading some economists to predict that the market has begun to rebound, but selling a house is likely going to remain difficult for a while.

Still, there can be an advantage to trading up now: If your house has curb appeal and a good kitchen-and you price it right-offers will come. You may not turn a big profit, but once you sell, you become a buyer in this buyer's market. That means you'll find what you're looking for and pay less for it than a few years ago.
To analyze your trade-up options, check local listings to ballpark the price you could realistically get for your home and what you'd have to pay for the next place. Then contact a bank to see if, based on those figures and your financial situation, you're likely to qualify for the new mortgage. Or do your research online: Investigate home values at online real estate sites and how much of a mortgage you'd qualify for at bankrate.com (http://www.bankrate.com).

Improving has gotten easier

The economic slump has actually made renovating the home you already own a bit easier. The construction-industry slowdown has lowered the cost of some building materials: Plywood is down 46%, for example, framing lumber is down 42%, and drywall is down 25%, according to Bernard Markstein, senior economist for the National Association of Home Builders (http://www.nahb.org). Many contractors are also charging less for labor, to compete for the smaller pool of available jobs. What's more, you won't have to wait months for a contractor to show up-chances are he'll be able to start in a matter of days.

Of course, you'll still need to come up with cash to pay for the project. And the news is good there, too: As a general rule, improving costs less than trading up. Figure somewhere between $100 and $200 per square foot for new construction or a major remodel, depending on the scope of the project and labor costs in your area. (For help with budgeting and financing, see"Budgeting for a Remodel" (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/budgeting-for-remodel/) ) A two-story addition with a family room, bedroom, and bathroom costs an average of $156,309, according to Remodeling magazine's 2009-10 Cost vs. Value Report. (http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2008/costvsvalue/national.aspx)

Now more than ever, though, you need to make sure that you invest your money wisely. In other words, will your $75,000 kitchen remodel increase your home value by $75,000-or by anything close? For guidelines, check out the Cost vs. Value Report, which gives national average cost and payback figures for 30 popular remodeling projects.

To assess what's right for your particular house, let your neighborhood be your guide. If there's any chance that you'll move within the next 10 years (and in this economy, who can be sure?) keep your improvements in line with those of other houses on your block, or you risk losing the money when you sell.

The most important considerations haven't changed

Your house isn't just your largest investment, of course, it's also the place where your family lives. Financial considerations aside, the question of whether to move or improve should be decided by the things you cannot change about your current home: the school district, the amount of traffic on your street, the size and layout of your yard, your commute, the ease of access to markets and malls, and your neighborhood quality of life. If you love the spot, improving makes sense. But if a different location would be an improvement in its own right, then trading up could be the way to go.

A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He's currently restoring his second fixer-upper with a mix of big hired projects and small do-it-himself jobs.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

SC homeowners should check insurance plans after Haiti earthquake

From the South Carolina Insurance News Service:

COLUMBIA, SC – The South Carolina Insurance News Service is reminding everyone that with the Haiti earthquake, now would be a good time to check your own insurance plan coverage.

According to the SCINS, the earthquake that devastated parts of Haiti last week was smaller than the quake of 1886 that caused widespread damage in South Carolina. Experts estimate that if the Charleston quake — which measured a 7.3 magnitude on the Richter scale — were to occur today, damage to insured property would exceed $40 billion.

Ninety percent of the brick structures around Charleston were damaged in the 1886 quake, which was felt from Cuba to New York and from Bermuda to the Mississippi.

According to SCNIS many South Carolinians do not carry earthquake insurance. Based on a survey by the South Carolina Insurance News Service, as few as 10 percent to 15 percent of homeowners choose to purchase earthquake insurance.
Most basic homeowner and rental insurance policies do not cover damage caused by an earthquake, but coverage can be added to most policies as an "endorsement" for an additional cost. Earthquake insurance covers the damage to a home and its contents caused by the movement of the earth.

The South Carolina Insurance News Service provides the following facts about earthquakes:

 1.  Most people don't buy earthquake insurance because they think it's too expensive and an earthquake will never happen to them.

2.  In South Carolina, the entire state is considered to have a moderate to high risk for earthquakes.

3.  An earthquake of the same magnitude as the 1886 earthquake would cost close to $40 billion in today's dollars (according to Applied Insurance Research).
 Most homeowner and rental insurance policies DO NOT cover damages caused by an earthquake, but coverage can be added to most policies as an "endorsement" for an additional cost.

4.  Earthquake deductibles are set as percentages, i.e. 5% or 10% of the coverage amount rather than fixed dollar amounts. The earthquake deductibles apply separately from your basic homeowner's (and business) policy deductible. Following a damaging earthquake, South Carolinians could face loss of life, injury and property damage. Without earthquake insurance, you would have to pay for all losses to your home and possessions.

5.  Earthquake insurance can be quite inexpensive depending on the location and type of construction of your home. The average cost of an earthquake endorsement for a $250,000 home in the Charleston area would be approximately $200-$250 per year.

6.  Contact your insurance agent or company to find out what the costs would be for your home.

7.  Consider retrofitting your home to make it more resistant to earthquake damage.

8.  Educate your children about earthquakes and what they should do if an earthquake occurs.

9.  Check for hazards in your home. For example, consider fastening shelves securely to walls, place large or heavy objects on lower shelves and store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches. Also, if you have a frame house, is it fastened to the foundation? Secure your hot water tank with straps so it cannot tip over.
 
Are your gas connectors flexible to help prevent fire? Learn how to turn off the gas, electricity and water to your house after an earthquake.

For any additional questions contact Wally Burbage with Allstate Insurance at http://www.allstateagencies.com/WallyBurbage

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

New Homebuyer Credit Form Released; Taxpayers Reminded to Attach Settlement Statement and Other Key

The Internal Revenue Service released the new form that eligible homebuyers need to claim the first-time homebuyer credit this tax season and announced processing of those tax returns will begin in mid-February. The IRS also announced new documentation requirements to deter fraud related to the first-time homebuyer credit.

The new form and instructions follow major changes in November to the homebuyer credit by the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. The new law extended the credit to a broader range of home purchasers and added new documentation requirements to deter fraud and ensure taxpayers properly claim the credit.

With the release of Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit, and the related instructions, eligible homebuyers can now start to file their 2009 tax returns. Taxpayers claiming the homebuyer credit must file a paper tax return because of the added documentation requirements.
The IRS expects to start processing 2009 tax returns claiming the homebuyer credit in mid-February after it completes the updating and testing of systems to meet the law’s new requirements. The updates allow the IRS to put in place critical systemic checks to deter fraud related to the homebuyer credit.
Some of these early taxpayers claiming the homebuyer credit may see tax refunds take an additional two to three weeks.

In addition to filling out a Form 5405, all eligible homebuyers must include with their 2009 tax returns one of the following documents in order to receive the credit:

1.  A copy of the settlement statement showing all parties' names and signatures, property address, sales price, and date of purchase. Normally, this is the properly executed Form HUD-1, Settlement Statement.

2.  For mobile home purchasers who are unable to get a settlement statement, a copy of the executed retail sales contract showing all parties' names and signatures, property address, purchase price and date of purchase.
 
3.  For a newly constructed home where a settlement statement is not available, a copy of the certificate of occupancy showing the owner’s name, property address and date of the certificate.
In addition, the new law allows a long-time resident of the same main home to claim the homebuyer credit if they purchase a new principal residence. To qualify, eligible taxpayers must show that they lived in their old homes for a five-consecutive-year period during the eight-year period ending on the purchase date of the new home.

The IRS has stepped up compliance checks involving the homebuyer credit, and it encouraged homebuyers claiming this part of the credit to avoid refund delays by attaching documentation covering the five-consecutive-year period:

1.  Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, or substitute mortgage interest statements
2.  Property tax records or
3.  Homeowner’s insurance records.

The IRS also reminded homebuyers that the new documentation requirements mean that taxpayers claiming the credit cannot file electronically and must file paper returns. Taxpayers can still use IRS Free File to prepare their returns, but the returns must be printed out and sent to the IRS, along with all required documentation.
Normally, it takes about four to eight weeks to get a refund claimed on a complete and accurate paper return where all required documents are attached. For those homebuyers filing early, the IRS expects the first refunds based on the homebuyer credit will be issued toward the end of March.
 
The IRS encourages taxpayers to use direct deposit to speed their refund. In addition, taxpayers can use Where's My Refund? on IRS.gov to track the status of their refund.

More details on claiming the credit can be found in the instructions to Form 5405, as well as on the First-Time Homebuyer Credit page on IRS.gov.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Budgeting for a Remodel

To calculate how much remodel you can afford, follow these four steps: Ballpark the cost, establish a spending limit, make a wish list, and set your priorities.
 
What's on your remodeling wish list? Maybe you're longing for a spa-like master bathroom, a new eat-in kitchen, or a garage with space enough to fit your cars and your outdoor gear. Well, when it comes to home improvements, knowing what you want is the easy part. The tougher question is figuring out how much you can afford. Follow this four-step plan to arrive at the answer.

Ballpark the costs

The first step is to get a handle on how much your remodeling dreams will cost. Remodeling magazine's 2009-10 Cost vs. Value Report (http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2008/costvsvalue/national.aspx) gives national averages for 30 common projects. Or you can use a per-square-foot estimate: In general, major upgrades, such as a bathroom remodel or a family-room addition, run $100 to $200 per square foot. Your local National Association of Home Builders (http://www.NAHB.ORG) affiliate can help with estimates. At this point, you're not trying to nail down exact prices, but to get a rough sense of what your project might cost.

Figure out how much you have to spend

Once you have a ballpark cost estimate, the next question is whether you have the money. If you're paying cash, that's pretty easy to answer. But if you're borrowing, you need to assess how much a bank will lend you (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/a-guide-to-equity-loan-options/) and what that loan will add to your monthly expenses.

For the vast majority of homeowners, the best way to borrow for a home improvement is a home equity line of credit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/when-heloc-right-choice/). A HELOC (pronounced HEE-lock) is a loan that's secured by your home equity, which means that it qualifies for a lower rate than other loan types, and you can deduct the interest on your taxes. Because a HELOC is a line of credit rather than a lump-sum loan, it comes with a checkbook that you use to withdraw money as needed, up to the maximum amount of the loan. For help shopping for a HELOC, download our free worksheet.

 The catch is that the minimum payment on a HELOC is just that month's interest; you're not required to pay back any principal. Like only paying the minimum due on a credit card, that's a recipe for getting stuck in debt. Instead, establish your own repayment schedule. You can do this simply by paying 1/60th of the principal (for a five-year paydown) or 1/120th (for 10 years) in addition to the monthly interest. If you can't afford that much, then you should reconsider your project.

Get quotes from contractors

Once you have ballpark estimates of what your job might cost and how much you can spend, you know whether it's feasible to move forward. Assuming the numbers are within shooting range of each other, it's time to get a nuts-and-bolts assessment of project costs.

Don't ask contractors for bids yet, though. First, you need to determine exactly what you want, right down to the kitchen countertop material and the type of faucet. By specifying these details up front, you ensure that contractors are all pricing the same things, rather than the countertop and faucet they assume you want. If you're using an architect or designer, bring them in now to help with these choices. If not, consult magazines, go to showrooms, and visit friends' houses for ideas.

Next, get recommendations for at least three contractors from friends, neighbors, and other tradesmen that you trust. Give each one your project description and specific product lists and request an itemized bid. To make a final decision, assess some of their previous work, their attitudes, and their references, and then choose the contractor who impresses you most.

Prioritize and phase

Take the winning contractor's bid and add a 15% to 20% contingency for the unforeseen problems and changes that occur on every project. Is the total still within your ability to pay? If so, you're ready to get started. If not, it's time to scale back your plans.

Because you have an itemized bid, you can get a good sense of what you'll save by eliminating various aspects of the project. Enlist the contractor's help: Explain that you've decided to hire him (and you're not trying to nickel-and-dime him) but that the bid is over your budget, and ask him to recommend ways to cut costs. He may suggest phasing parts of the job-keeping your old appliances in your new kitchen, for example, because they're easy to upgrade later-or stealing some underutilized square footage for part of your family room to reduce the size of the addition. He may even suggest waiting until the slow winter season, or letting you do some of the work yourself (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/when-it-pays-to-do-it-yourself/). Once the bottom line on the bid matches the bottom line on your budget, you're ready to transform your home.

A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He's currently restoring his second fixer-upper with a mix of big hired projects and small do-it-himself jobs.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210
 
Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

What Home Sellers Don't Tell Buyers

As buyers ease back into the battered real-estate market, they're often hitting a stumbling block: fibbing by home sellers.

Eager to unload their abodes, some sellers exaggerate the size of their lots or their houses. Others minimize their property-tax or utility bills, conveniently forget about pests, or play down flooding problems or noise.

Real-estate experts say that while such misrepresentations aren't new, the tough market of the past few years has made buyers more wary, partly because they can't expect rising home prices to bail them out of costly mistakes. As a result, deals are taking longer, and more of them are falling apart as buyers find properties sometimes aren't all they're supposed to be.

More than 30 states have disclosure laws requiring sellers to tell prospective buyers and agents about leaky roofs and other problems, according to the National Association of Realtors. But there's often a gray area involving the disclosure of problems the seller may not know about, such as a long-ago flood or hidden mold.

States are also increasingly passing laws requiring homeowners to disclose environmental issues, such as the presence of radon gas, a contaminant linked to lung cancer, and underground fuel tanks. In California, the checklist of required disclosures is so long that a cottage industry has sprung up of firms that help sellers prepare the forms.

Given the complexity of disclosure laws, it's not surprising that potential buyers don't hear about every problem in a house. Besides the issue of fibbing, sellers may genuinely not know about problems. And even if they do, the laws generally don't apply to bank-owned homes transferred in foreclosures, which now constitute a larger share of sales.

Buyers need to do their own due diligence and not rely exclusively on what sellers and agents say. They should hire an independent home inspector or home-inspection engineer, one not referred by the seller—and be aware that real-estate agents typically represent the seller.

Here are some of the common misrepresentations and white lies that buyers may hear as they shop for a house, according to real-estate experts and state regulators:

1.  "This house is on two acres." Disputes about property dimensions—how many square feet in a house or condo, or its exact boundaries—are common. Sometimes buyers don't learn the exact dimensions until the lender's appraisal.
Listing agents usually accept a seller's word on property dimensions, says Diane Saatchi, a senior vice president at Saunders & Associates, a real-estate firm in Bridgehampton, N.Y. "We tell everyone to verify," she says. Smaller dimensions also can cause an appraisal to come in lower than the agreed-upon purchase price. Low appraisals are a leading cause of ruined deals in today's market. A properly worded appraisal contingency in the purchase contract would allow you to scuttle the deal or find other financing if the appraisal comes in low, says New York real-estate attorney Michael Xylas.

2.  "We don't have pests." A basic home inspection generally doesn't include a peek inside walls or underground for termites and mold, which are among the top complaints. Inspections for mold and radon gas also generally aren't included; usually buyers must order these inspections separately. Other inside-the-wall problems include faulty wiring and old plumbing, which also may require specialists.

James Holtzman, a financial adviser at Legend Financial Advisors Inc. in Pittsburgh, says sellers of the 1901 house he bought in August 2006 said its electrical wiring was completely upgraded, yet an electrical inspection revealed only one of three floors had been totally upgraded. The seller then knocked $6,000 off the sales price before they went to contract so Mr. Holtzman, 35 years old, could pay for the necessary work.

3.   "This place never floods." Even arid states such as Arizona and New Mexico have occasional flash floods, and water and drainage problems aren't always obvious. June Walbert, 52, a certified financial planner at USAA, a financial-services company, says her San Antonio house received a clean bill of health from a home inspector before she bought it six years ago. But 10 days after she moved in, the sewer backed up, flooding the house, and she had to fork over $2,800 for repairs. "It was a rude surprise," says Ms. Walbert, who adds she asked her home inspector and the seller for compensation, but didn't get it.
Bill Richardson, outgoing president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, says a general home inspection wouldn't catch that unless the sewer line was visible from the basement or water backed up into sinks and tubs or toilets.

4.  "Taxes and maintenance costs are low." Home buyers often gripe about tax and utilities bills that are higher than sellers said they were. Homeowner association and condo dues and assessments are also common complaints. Sometimes sellers simply underestimate the bills, or forget to include recent or expected increases, agents and brokers say. Taxes can also be deceptively low because of unrecorded improvements like decks and finished basements. Ask to see recent bills, and check with the tax assessor's office for up-to-date information.

5.  "This is a quiet neighborhood." Sellers may play down distractions that could drive you crazy, such as barking dogs or idling buses. A charming park by day could be a teen hangout at night. Your best bet is to view a property at different times of the day. "I can't tell you how many times in my career buyers didn't go there in the night time, even though I told them to. You spend more time in the house at night than during the day," says Ms. Saatchi, the New York real-estate agent. Talk to neighbors and peruse the local newspapers and blogs to get a feel for a place, and check with police for crime.

6.  "There's going to be a golf course, a pool and a party room." Builders of many developments that broke ground during the housing boom ran out of money before the project was completed. Many homeowner and condo associations also are strapped because of delinquencies and defaults. Some states require upfront disclosures about this, but you should also ask neighbors, not just sellers, about any promised facilities. Also, check titles to be sure that specific parking spaces, storage units or other facilities are included in a property sale.

I read this article in the Wall Street Journal and thought it was worth passing on to you.  I believe that all home buyers should utilize a National Association of Realtors Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) to guide them through the home buying experience to ensure the best possible outcome.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

By M. P. McQueen
Printed in The Wall Street Journal

New Rules Help Borrowers at Closing

Plenty of home buyers have found themselves at the closing table, ready to sign the myriad documents that will officially make them new homeowners–only to get nasty sticker shock. What was originally supposed to cost them, say, $2,500 in closing costs, has turned into $3,000.

The Good Faith Estimate (GFE), a tally of the fees associated with a mortgage loan due at closing, is exactly that – an estimate. Often these costs, which are provided by mortgage brokers and lenders to borrowers within three days of getting a loan application, escalate by closing time.

But on Jan. 1, new federal rules adopted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development took effect, mandating the use of a redesigned, simplified Good Faith Estimate form. The idea behind the revision: to avoid those closing-table surprises.

The main change is how lenders communicate fee information to borrowers. Under the old system, there was no standardized format. "Fees were communicated in multiple ways, which adds to the confusion when comparing costs," says Keith Gumbinger, a vice president at HSH Associates, which tracks the mortgage market. Under the new rules, lenders will all be required to use the same form for their Good Faith Estimates – a three-page document issued by HUD.

More on the Good Faith Estimate

There are also new rules capping increases in costs that are disclosed on the Good Faith Estimate and guidelines so that fees listed on the initial GFE reflect the actual cost at settlement. "Those fees on the GFE at the beginning of the process will be the same on HUD-1 form [final settlement statement] at the end of the process," says Mr. Gumbinger.

The new GFE guidelines are certainly better than the old ones and will reduce closing?costs modestly – but there are still some kinks in the process, namely opportunistic pricing, says Jack Guttentag, professor of finance emeritus at the Wharton School who also operates a web site that offers free mortgage information.

That means that two different borrowers can go to the same lender but get two different estimates. The lender can size up the first one as a sophisticate, the other as a dupe, and charge the latter more than the former – just because he thinks he can get away with it. "There's no ready way a disclosure statement can prevent that," Mr. Guttentag says.

Prospective buyers should also be aware that while overall costs associated with closing on a home may come down as a result of the new GFE, they might have to pay up down the line in other ways. It will cost lenders to comply with the new regulations: they have to buy new software, print new documents, train loan originators to fill out the new forms properly. "They will be built into fees, so eventually consumers will pay" for these overhead costs, says Mr. Gumbinger.

So will the new good faith estimate make borrowers savvier about shopping around for a loan? Some are doubtful. "The forms are still pretty complicated," says Richard Vetstein, a real?estate attorney with Vetstein Law Group in Framingham, Mass. "Even for me – a real estate attorney – it took several hours to go through the forms and all the changes, and figure out what's going on."

Here, a summary of the types of charges you can expect to see on your Good Faith Estimate:

1. Fees that cannot change from the original GFE to final settlement. These include the lender's origination and underwriting charges, and the credit or "points" based on the specific interest rate chosen.

2. Fees that can increase up to 10% at settlement. These include services required and recommended by the lender. If the borrower selects a third-party provider (for title services, title?insurance and recording charges) from the lender's approved list, the fees cannot increase by more than 10% from the upfront estimate to the final.

3. Fees that can change without limit. These include charges from service providers (for title insurance) chosen by the borrower, but not recommended by the lender. This category also includes things like daily interest charges, homeowner's insurance, as well as flood and pest insurance, if necessary. It encourages borrowers to do their own shopping. "It prevents the worst abuses of price escalation on third-party charges for service providers selected by the lender," says Mr. Guttentag.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

The Wall Street Journal
By Lisa Scherzer

Residential Real Estate Sales Increase Again in December

Rounding out a year of stabilization, 618 residential real estate sales in December shows an increase of 30% when compared to sales one year ago today.

The $195,534 median home price reflects the peak of prices in 2009 and a slight 2% increase over December 2008.   December 2008 posted 476 total closings, with a median sale price of $191,600.

Several months of strong sales, prices that are growing at a sustainable rate and decreasing inventory are excellent indicators that a Charleston market recovery is underway.

“Last December, we were looking at a 33% drop in sales and a 9% decrease in median prices from December 2007.  We’re in a much more positive place at the end of 2009, actually seeing market increases.  While we don’t anticipate tremendous growth in 2010, we do expect to see continued steady growth over the next year”, said CTAR President, Jeremy Willits.

                      3 Year Review: December

     #Sales        %Change              Median Price      %Change

2009     618      +30%                      $195,534               +2%
2008     476      -33%                       $191,600               -9%
2007     713        –                             $210,000                  –

*this data reflects the market activity as of the 10th of January for each year.

At the close of the month, there were 8,940 homes listed for sale with the Charleston Trident Multiple Listing Service.

BERKELEY COUNTY
The Berkeley County market remains stable when compared with December of 2008.  Last year, 145 properties were sold at a median price of $173,000.  In December 2009, 141 properties changed hands at a median price of $170,112.

CHARLESTON COUNTY
Once again, Charleston County leads the region in sales and price increases.  Last December, 239 properties changed hands at a median price of $235,000.  This year, 313 properties were sold at a median price of $250,000, equating to a 31% increase in sales and a 6% increase in sale price.

DORCHESTER COUNTY
Dorchester County showed a slight 3% increase in sales over December 2008—142 homes sold in 2008 and 146 sold in December 2009.  Prices show a 14% decline from last December’s uncharacteristic peak of $195,808 to a more typical price of $167,830.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Low-Flow Showerheads: How to Choose

Thanks to innovative new technology, today's super-efficient low-flow showerheads save water, reduce your energy bills, and still feel good to use.
 
You've heard it for years: Save water by replacing your old showerhead with a low-flow model. But if you're like a lot of people, you may have ignored the message. That's because you're likely thinking of the early low-flow versions, which worked by simply restricting output or pumping the stream full of air. While that saved water, it didn't make for a very satisfying shower experience. These days, thank goodness, it's different. With one of the new generation of ultra-efficient showerheads, you can reduce shower water use-and energy consumption, since we're talking about water you pay to heat-by up to 50% while still enjoying a luxurious, powerful spray.

New technologies, bigger savings

Before 1992, showerheads pumped out five or more gallons per minute (gpm), accounting for nearly 20% of indoor water use. Federal law cut that to 2.5 gallons, but the latest water-saving models do better still. Borrowing windshield-sprayer technology from the automotive industry, Delta's H2Okinetic Technology (http://www.deltafaucet.com/smarttechnology/h2okinetic-technology.html) manipulates droplet size and direction to make only 1.6 gpm feel drenching. That's a 36% reduction over a standard low-flow showerhead. Bricor (http://www.bricor.com) uses a patented vacuum chamber that aerates and compacts water under pressure to deliver an intense blast with 1.25 gpm or less. Other manufacturers use laminar flow, which puts out dozens of parallel streams instead of an aerated spray, creating the sensation of more water. The type you choose depends on personal preference, but at $50 to $200, any of these can quickly pay for themselves in reduced water-heating costs. You may even be able to score one for free with a rebate through your local utility.

To measure your shower's flow, put a bucket marked in gallon increments under the spray. If the water reaches the one-gallon mark in less than 20 seconds, you could benefit from a low-flow showerhead.

First, check your plumbing

While replacing your existing showerhead with one of these super-high-efficiency models can be as easy as screwing in a light bulb, it's a good idea to first assess your plumbing. The big concern is the potential for scalding or getting hit with an icy blast. Because less water is flowing through the showerhead, sudden fluctuations in temperature can be more extreme.

Homes built after the mid-1990s usually have an automatic temperature compensating (ATC) valve installed as part of the shower plumbing inside the wall. These protect against rapid changes in temperature-say when the dishwasher cycles or a maniacal sibling keeps flushing the toilet. Quick check: If your shower has an old two-handle faucet, chances are it does not have an ATC valve. (Neither do most new two-handle systems.) In that case, simply sticking on a low-flow showerhead to save water is a bad idea. "The only appropriate way to retrofit a shower with a two-handle faucet is to eliminate the outdated faucet and install a new valve and showerhead," says Shawn Martin, technical director of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute.

Even then, you can't be absolutely certain that the valve will work properly with an ultra-low-flow showerhead. That's because most ATC valves are certified for the current standard flow rate of 2.5 gpm. While it's expected that soon all new valves will be certified to 2.0 gpm, your best bet, if you're installing a new valve and showerhead now, is to buy them from the same manufacturer so you'll know they're designed to work together.
By early 2010, the EPA plans to start putting WaterSense (http://www.epa.gov/watersense) labels on showerheads the way they have for toilets (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/low-flow-toilets-how-choose/). Then it will be easier to identify the models that offer the biggest water savings and the best performance.

Other ways to pump up shower efficiency

In addition to offering low-flow nozzles, manufacturers have come up with other ways to make showering more efficient. Neco (http://www.neco.com.au/default.asp), an Australian company that specializes in sustainable products, has a thumb-adjusted volume control on its Rainmaker (http://www.neco.com.au/product.asp?pID=99) head. A few high-end models feature "pause" buttons that let you to stop and restart the water at the same temperature-perfect for taking a Navy shower. That's when you wet yourself down, turn off the water while you lather up, and then turn it back on to rinse. Common practice on naval ships, where fresh water supplies are limited, this technique uses as little as 3 gallons, compared with the typical "Hollywood shower" that uses 60 gallons every 10 minutes. That amounts to a savings of 15,000 gallons a year per person.

Of course, the danger of all these new low-flow showerheads is that you'll be tempted to linger too long in your own private Niagara. Several companies have come out with shower timers to nudge habitual drenchers. The Shower Manager (http://www.showermanager.com) cuts the taps when time's up, and Eco Drop Shower, a stall unit by Italian designer Tommaso Colia, purports to save water not from the top down but from the bottom up. As you shower, a pattern of concentric circles embedded in the floor rises up to the point of discomfort, forcing you to exit. Just make sure to turn off the water first.

Laura Fisher Kaiser is a contributing editor to Interior Design magazine and a former editor at This Old House Magazine. A Navy brat, she feels guilty for not taking Navy showers.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210
 
Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

 

7 Ways to Save on Lighting Costs

Lighting eats up as much as 20% of your annual electric bill, but using energy-efficient bulbs and making other simple changes can cut lighting costs dramatically.
 
Lighting is one of the biggest energy gobblers in your house, eating up between 10% and 20% of your total electric bill. But it's also one area of the home where a minimal effort can yield major returns. Simply replacing standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents can lower operating costs by as much as 75% per bulb. And in places where you can't-or don't want to-switch to CFLs, you can use higher-efficiency incandescents and even make your existing conventional lighting cheaper to operate. When new federal legislation takes effect in 2012, all light bulbs will have to meet tougher energy-efficiency standards. But with a few small changes, you can start saving money right now.

For the greatest savings, switch to compact fluorescents

CFLs remain the go-to choice for energy efficiency. They last longer and consume less electricity than a standard incandescent. A 13-watt CFL, for example, gives off the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent and burns for 10,000 hours, compared with 1,000 hours for the conventional bulb. A typical CFL saves about $30 in operating costs over its lifetime.

Early CFLs didn't always deliver on light quality or convenience, but aesthetic performance has improved vastly in recent years. They now come in warm, neutral, and cool "colors," and major manufacturers like GE have started enclosing the telltale spiral in a conventional bulb shape so it's less obtrusive.

You get the biggest bang for your buck with CFLs in places where you would otherwise use incandescent bulbs: floor and table lamps and standard overhead fixtures. They last longer when they're not flipped on and off constantly, so they're especially good in rooms that see a lot of activity throughout the day, such as a kitchen or a playroom. A couple of caveats: CFLs can be glary, so they're not the best choice in downward-pointing fixtures like chandeliers, and most don't work with dimmers or timers. Because the bulbs contain mercury, they can't be thrown out in the regular trash. If you bought them at a home center, you should be able to return them there for recycling, or log on to recycleabulb.com (http://www.recycleabulb.com) to find a disposal center near you.

Cost and savings: Expect to pay $2 to $15 for a CFL, versus 50 cents to $1 for a comparable incandescent, but the CFL will last at least 10 times longer and cost up to 75% less to operate.

Make your existing incandescents less expensive to run

By simply lowering the wattage of an incandescent bulb by 15 watts-from 75 to 60, for example-you can knock 15% off the operating cost. And you may not even notice the difference in brightness. "A small reduction in wattage isn't discernible to the eye," says Brett Sawyer, a consultant who blogs about sustainable home design. If the light is on a dimmer, for every 10% you lower the brightness, you'll double the bulb's life. Try this next weekend, Sawyer says: Replace your most-used bulbs with ones at least 10 watts lower. If you don't notice the difference, then replace all the incandescents you can with lower-wattage bulbs. Combine that with CFLs in selected fixtures, and you'll achieve a "light layering" effect that saves money without compromising light quality, and without a hefty upfront investment.

Cost and savings: For every 15-watt reduction, you reduce energy use by 15%. And a $10 dimmer, once installed, costs nothing to use.

Keep an eye on new bulb technologies

Spurred on by new energy requirements set to go into effect in 2012, bulb manufacturers are working feverishly to come up with more efficient versions of the standard incandescent. Presently, companies including GE, Sylvania, and Philips offer high-efficiency incandescent and halogen bulbs that use less energy than standard incandescents while delivering the same light quality. And research is proceeding apace on how to bring the dramatic energy efficiency of LED technology to residential products. These lights, which require very little current and last even longer than CFLs, are prohibitively expensive for home use (except in certain applications like under-cabinet strip lighting), but that's likely to change in the coming years.

Think beyond the bulb to save on lighting costs

Changing bulbs is one way to reduce your lighting bill, but it's not the only way.
Motion sensors: Great in rooms where the occupants can't be counted on to turn off the light, such as a kids' playroom. Devices cost $15 to $50 and take about an hour to install.

Door-jamb switches: Best in a pantry or closet; opening the door activates the light. As much a convenience as it is an energy saver-as long as you remember to close the door. Devices start at about $15.
Windows: You'd be surprised at how much a simple window cleaning can instantly improve natural light.
Energy Star fixtures: Designed for CFL and LED lights, these can save up to $70 a year in energy costs. Go to energystar.gov (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=fixtures.pr_light_fixtures) to find links to manufacturers.

Lifestyle expert Charlotte Barnard specializes in home improvement and decorating topics and also consults on consumer and residential trends for magazines, web sites, and retail ventures.

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.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com