Possible Warning Signs Of A Predatory Loan

1. Sounds too easy. “Guaranteed approval” or “no income verification” regardless of borrower’s current employment, credit history, and assets. These claims indicate the lender doesn’t care about whether you can afford to make thepayments over the long haul.

2. Excessive fees. Higher lender and/or mortgage broker fees than are typical in your market. Because these costs can be financed as part of the loan, they are easy to disguise or downplay. On competitive loans, fees are negotiable. It is common for home buyers to pay only one percent of the loan amount for prime loans. By contrast, a typical predatory loan may cost five percent or more. 

3. Large future costs. High-risk adjustable rate mortgages where the payment raises a lot after a short introductory period are seldom appropriate for families who already have had problems repaying other loans. Home buyers also should avoid a large single “balloon” payment (a lump sum due at the end of the loan’s term).
4. Closing delays. The lender deliberately delays closing so the commitment on a reasonably-priced loan expires.
5. Over-valued property. Inflated appraisals that allow excessive fees to be included in the loan and result in the borrower owing more to the bank than the home is worth.
6. Barriers to refinancing. Prepayment penalties that make it hard for a borrower to refinance in order to pay off a high-cost loan by taking advantage of a low-cost loan.
7. No down payment loans. These loans may be split into two mortgages, with one having a much higher cost. Home buyers should be sure they can afford the payments.
8. Unethical document management. An ethical lender or broker will always require you to sign key loan papers, and they will never ask you to sign a document dated before the date you sign it.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

Understanding Traditional Fixed Rate and Adjustable Rate Mortgages


For most home buyers, the traditional fixed-rate mortgage and adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) continue to be excellent options. However, even these traditional financing options require a number of important decisions. Should you get a 15- or 30-year loan? Should you get a fixed-rate mortgage to lock in today’s interest rates for the term of the loan—or take an adjustable-rate loan with a lower current rate and payment, but with the risk of rate and payment increases in the years ahead? 
 Fixed-Rate Mortgages: With a fixed-rate mortgage, you are guaranteed the same interest rate over the life of the loan. Your monthly payments never change, and the loan is paid off completely over the term you select. The key choice involves how long you have to pay back the loan. The most common options are 15- and 30-year loans, with the 30-year being the most popular. As this chart illustrates, a shorter-term loan comes with both a lower interest rate and higher monthly payments (so that you pay the loan back faster). Rates, and the differences between rates for 15- and 30-year loans, change daily.
Adjustable-Rate Mortgages: The initial interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is generally lower than that for a fixed-rate loan. However, with an ARM, the interest rate may increase or decrease in the future, and the sizeof your payments will go up or down along with the rate. Most ARMs are“hybrids,” meaning that the interest rate is “fixed” for a certain number of years after which the rate begins to “float.” The most common ARMs fix the initialrate for three, five, or seven years. ARMs are probably most appropriate for people who have sufficient financial resources to handle potential payment increases or know that they plan to sell their home around the time the loan’s interest rate is set to change.
Potential Pitfalls of ARMs: Even small changes in your interest rate can increase your monthly payment significantly, resulting in “payment shock.” Even a change of 1% or 2% in interest rates can result in a very big jump in your monthly mortgage payment. For example, if the interest rate on your mortgage changes from 4% to 6%, your monthly payment could rise by as much as 50%(from $1,000 to $1,500). ARMs can be complicated, and many specialty ARMs (with risky terms appropriate only for a small group of borrowers) are now being marketed widely. Be sure to avoid loans with terms that you don’t understand.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

Why Rent When You Can Own a Home?

As an example, let’s look at a $200,000 home. Unlike your rental unit, your home should appreciate over time. Instead of assuming average growth, we assume that prices are flat in the first year of ownership and pick up, but only slightly, in the second year. In the third year of ownership, your home has appreciated to a modest $210,858. After ten years, assuming a return to an average 4.5 percent appreciation rate, your $200,000 home will be worth $286,948. Not only do you earn a rate of return on your original purchase price, you also get a return on any subsequent appreciation. More than two thirds of American households own their own home. They know the benefits of homeownership, from the accumulation of home equity, tax incentives, and the pride of owning a place of their own.

The “numbers tell the story” example should ease your mind about the financial aspects of becoming a homeowner. But there are other, less monetary, benefits to homeownership. 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.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

Selling Green

Energy efficiency is a highly desirable feature. With energy costs rising, the strain on the pocketbook has resulted in awareness of environmental concerns and intensified the importance of energy efficiency. Increasingly, consumer’s preferences for products and services that reflect this awareness, even extending to the purchasing a home. A recent NAR survey of home buyers shows just how important energy efficiency is for many home buyers.

Ninety-two percent of all home buyers consider energy efficiency at least somewhat important with 46 percent ranking it as very important when considering a home purchase.
Repeat vs. First time Buyers. Repeat buyers are more attuned to energy efficiency. Fifty percent of the repeat home buyers report energy efficiency as a very important attribute, while only 41 percent of the first time home buyers consider this important.
New vs. Existing Homes. Buyers of new homes place more importance on energy efficiency. Sixty-five percent of new home buyers consider energy efficiency important compared to just 39% of existing home buyers.
Age of Buyers. Older buyers are significantly more likely than younger buyers to cite energy efficiency as a preference in their home. Thirty-two percent of home buyers aged 18-24 reported that energy efficiency was important in their home purchase. The percentage steadily increased to sixty-three percent of buyers over 75.
Native born vs Foreign Born. U.S. born home buyers place less importance on energy efficiency. Sixty percent of the foreign born home owners said energy efficiency was important compared to 44 percent of the U.S. born home buyers.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

How to Avoid Foreclosure and Keep Your House


For decades, homeownership has benefited families and communities all over America with greater stability, economic prosperity, safer neighborhoods, better educational opportunities, and even improved health. The recent increase in foreclosures threatens previous gains made in homeownership, as millions of families who had hoped for sustainable homeownership are now struggling to pay their mortgages. If you are having trouble paying your mortgage for any reason, or expect problems, you should work with your loan servicer (the company that collects payments on your mortgage) or other experts to find a solution now. If you fall behind and don’t take action, the lender will foreclose on your home. If that happens, you may lose your home and all of the money you have already invested in it. The sooner you act, the better the chances you will avoid foreclosure.
The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that over 2 million American households with subprime mortgages have lost or will lose their homes by the end of 2009. Their neighbors will suffer financial losses, too, as these foreclosures cause nearby property values to drop by $356 billion.
Talking to the lender, or loan servicer, the company that collects the payments, should be one of your first steps. The earlier you call, the better your chance to work out a solution. Here are some options:
1. Loan Modification. Loan servicers can help you catch up on late payments or amend your mortgage to make it more affordable. For homeowners who face losing their home, a loan modification is often the most effective way to avoid foreclosure. 
Modification options include:
            a. Adding all the missed payments to the loan amount and changing the monthly payment to  
                 cover the larger loan.
            b. Giving you more years to pay off the loan, lowering the interest rate,  and/or forgiving part of the
                 loan, to lower your monthly payment.
            c. Switching from an adjustable rate mortgage to a fixed rate mortgage, so you can avoid higher
                monthly payments.
            d. Requiring amounts for taxes and insurance to be included with your monthly mortgage
                 payment so you avoid big bills in addition to your mortgage.
2.  Repayment Plan. If you can start making payments to catch up, the lender may let you pay an additional amount each month until you are caught up.
3. Forbearance. Lenders may let you make a partial payment, or skip payments, if you have a reasonable plan to catch up. Tell your lender if you expect a tax refund, a bonus, or a new job.
4. Reinstatement. Reinstatement refers to making a payment that covers all your late payments, usually at the end of a forbearance period.
5. Sign Over the Property to the Lender in Exchange for Debt Forgiveness (often called “deed in lieu of foreclosure”). This can hurt your credit, but is better than having a foreclosure in your credit history.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe

Do you have what is takes to be a “For Sale By Owner”?


Many people are comfortable in the role of a “For Sale by Owner”, are you? To be successful you need to complete the following steps:
1. Conduct your own inspection of your home and note any thing that needs repaired or could be improved. 
2. Make all necessary repairs and improvements before advertising your property.
3. Carefully research the current market to determine the similar properties currently on the market and the similar recently sold properties. From the information you gather establish a realistic market price for your home.
4. Meet with local vendors to evaluate what financing options may be available to prospective buyers.
5. Determine the best places to advertise you home and call them to get the cost for advertising.
6. Establish and advertising budget.
7. Prepare a professional attention getting advertisement targeting the right buyers for your home.
8. Purchase and install an eye catching weatherproof sign in your yard.
9. Purchase “open house” signs and place them in your yard for open houses conducted both on weekends and during the week. Get phone numbers and email addresses from all the buyers. Follow up with phone calls and emails as necessary.
10. Be available at all times to show your home to prospective buyers and to answer any questions about schools, shopping, transportation, etc.
11. Learn how to separate “’lookers” from qualified buyers. 
12. Be prepared to negotiate as an impartial “third party”. Remain calm during the negotiations. 
13. Obtain all forms required for the legal sale of real estate including:
            a. Real estate sales contract
            b. Seller’s disclosure form (It is imperative that the seller disclose all know defects to the buyer)
            c. Lead Base Paint Disclosure (required for all homes built in 1978 or earlier)
            d. Buyer’s cost sheet
14. Determine if the buyer’s type of financing is the type you are willing to accept.
15. Negotiate the buyer to determine the final terms of the contract. At a minimum this should include, the final sales price, amount of earnest money, financing, home inspection, termite inspection, financing, and closing date.
16. Address any issues found in the home inspection by completing the repairs, making an allowance for the repairs, or renegotiating a new sales price.
17. Conduct final walk through prior to closing.
18. While completing all of the above, look for and negotiate the purchase of your new home. Coordinate both transactions so you can move out of your old and into your new home at the same time.
If you think you need assistance in this process please contact a Realtor.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

Why Build a Green Home?



There are many benefits to living in a green home. A green home is good for your health, your wallet and our environment. That’s why green homes are expected to make up 10% of new home construction by 2010, up from 2% in 2005, according to the 2006 McGraw-Hill Construction Residential Green Building SmartMarket Report.
Green homes use toxin free construction materials which helps reduce indoorthereby reducing possible ill health effects air pollution. Natural and mechanical ventilation systems ensure a healthy exchange of filtered outside air and stale inside air. The net cost of owning a green home may be cheaper than a conventional built home. Up front construction costs should not be more than 2-5% above conventionally constructed home. Over time the green build owner saves as much as 40% per month on energy and water bills. Green built homes typically have less home repairs due to better quality construction materials and more rigid construction specifications.   Some, homeowner’s insurance companies give discounts for green built homes. Green built homes typically have a higher resale value. Local, state and federal governments are increasingly offering tax breaks and other incentives for building LEED certified homes or adding green features to your home.
Green built homes help the environment in several ways they are built with environmentally friendly materials and materials from renewable resources. They use less energy, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas production. They conserve water. The majority of refuse from a green build home construction is recycled, which greatly reduces the amount of waste per home construction that is deposited in landfills.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

5 Things You Should Do Before Putting Your Home on the Market


1. Have a pre-sale home inspection. Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers, and you’ll be able to make repairs before open houses begin.
2. Organize and clean. Pare down clutter and pack up your least-used items, such as large blenders and other kitchen tools, out-of-season clothes, toys, and exercise equipment. Store items off-site or in boxes neatly arranged in the garage or basement. Clean the windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures, and baseboards to make the house shine.
3. Get replacement estimates. Do you have big-ticket items that are worn our or will need to be replaced soon, such your roof or carpeting? Get estimates on how much it would cost to replace them, even if you don’t plan to do it yourself. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and will be handy when negotiations begin. 
4. Find your warranties. Gather up the warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for the furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items that will remain with the house.
5. Spruce up the curb appeal. Pretend you’re a buyer and stand outside of your home. As you approach the front door, what is your impression of the property? Do the lawn and bushes look neatly manicured? Is the address clearly visible? Are pretty flowers or plants framing the entrance? Is the walkway free from cracks and impediments?
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”



Below are the results of a recent nationwide survey of 1000 real estate agents for July 2009 comparing traditional properties, damaged REO (lender owned) properties, move-in ready REO properties and short sales. Move-in REO properties were on the market the least amount of time while short sales were on nearly twice as long as all the REO properties. The lender owned and short sale properties received nearly twice as many offers as traditional properties. Short sales had the lowest sales price compared to listing price. 

These statistics show that buyers prefer the bank owned properties currently on the market the REO over both short sales and traditional properties.

Metric                        Traditional    Damaged      Move-in         Short 
                                        Sales              REO              REO            Sale
Weeks on Market          13                    10                    8                 19
Number of Offers          1.8                   3.9                 3.7                2.8
Sales Price to Listing
Price                                 95%                94%                95%              90%
Source: Campbell Communications Survey of Real Estate Agents
 As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston, SC real estate needs or questions.
“Carolina Joe”

Low Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home’s Exterior



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


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

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

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

Repair any cracks in the driveway.

Edge the grass around walkways and trees.

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

Buy a new mailbox.

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

Clean your windows, inside and outside.

Polish or replace your house numbers.

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

5 Things to Know About Homeowner’s Insurance


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"Carolina Joe"

8 Tips Find Your New Home


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does a Good Home Inspection Cover?

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

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

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


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

How to Pack Like a Pro!


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

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

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

How to Take the Stress Out of Home Buying



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Title Insurance?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Carolina Joe”

A Few Simple Tips for South Carolina FHA Loans


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

A VA mortgage is truly a fantastic loan program!




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

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



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

New Website



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

First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit FAQ’s

 1. How much can I claim for the tax credit?
Borrowers can claim up to $8,000 or 10% of the home’s value, whichever is less.

2. Who is eligible for this tax credit?
First time home buyers, or those who have not owned a primary residence in three years previous to the new purchase.

3. Does this tax credit need to be repaid?
No repayment in is necessary as long as the newly purchased home is not sold within three years. If the home is sold within three years, the entire amount of the tax credit is recaptured on the sale.

4. How long is the tax credit valid?
The tax credit is valid on all homes purchased on or after January 1, 2009 an before December 1, 2009.

5. What properties are eligible for the tax credit?
Any single family residence (including condos, co-ops and townhouses) that will be used as the primary residence.

6. Are there income limit restrictions?
Yes. To qualify, individuals must make less than $75,000 and $150,000 for couples. Higher income buyers may receive a partial credit. Individuals making over $95,000 and $170,000 for couple are ineligible.

7. How does this work with my tax refund?
This could work a number of ways. The following four scenarios will help explain.
Scenario 1: Your final tax liability is normally $6,000. You’ve had taxes withheld from every pay check and at the end of the year you’ve paid Uncle Sam $6,000. Since you’ve already paid him all you owe, you get the entire $8,000 tax credit as a refund check.
Scenario 2: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you’ve overpaid by $1,000 through your payroll withholding. Normally you would get a $1,000 refund check. In this scenario, you get $9,000, the $8,000 credit plus the $1,000 you overpaid.
Scenario 3: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you’ve underpaid through your payroll withholding by $1,000. Normally, you would have to write the IRS a $1,000 check. This time, the first $1,000 of the tax credit pays your bill, and you get the remaining $7,000 as a refund. CNNMoney.com
Scenario 4: Your tax credit may be used for your down payment and prepaids.

8. How do I apply for the Tax Credit?
You claim the tax credit on your federal income tax return. Specifically, home buyers should complete IRS form 5405 to determine their tax credit amount, and then claim this amount on Line 69 of their 1040 income tax return. No other applications or forms are required. Home buyers that have filed their 2008 taxes may file an amended 2008 tax return with a 1040X form. You should consult with a tax advisor to ensure you file this return properly.

9. Is this a good time for a first time homebuyer to purchase a home?
Absolutely! Interest rates are at historic lows, and home prices are in general lower. Also, there is a surplus of homes for sale, meaning you will have many options to choose from. One thing to note is you will need a down payment, but not to worry, there are low down payment programs for first time homebuyers.

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

“Carolina Joe”

Welcome to My Blog!

Welcome to my new Carolina Joe's blog!   Here I will be commenting on information pertaining to real estate and answering questions posed by viewers on any related subjects.

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