5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding To Rent Or Buy

Even though the real estate market is recovering beautifully as effects of recession recede, many homeowners still find themselves displaced as a result of foreclosures and short sales. By the rules of supply and demand, this has driven the rental market up in recent years. More families looking to rent equals less rentals on the market, which gives landlords the ability to ask for higher rent. As of January, the asking price for rentals in the Charleston metropolitan area had risen 9.6% over the previous year. The actual rental price rose 6.2%.


The same has happened recently with residential home sales. More families are once again able and willing to buy without fear, and the inventory of homes for sale is way down, resulting in higher asking prices. This is known as a seller’s market. With increasing prices in both renting and buying, how do you know which is better for you? Many people would assume that buying is better, because your home is an asset which builds equity. Though this is true, it isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. At Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company, we work with buyers, sellers, renters, and landlords. If you need a professional opinion, you can always call us to explore your options! Before you make any kind of decision, there are several questions you need to ask yourself when determining whether to rent or buy.


  1. How much financial freedom do I have? There are upfront costs for both buying and renting, but the numbers are significantly different. Costs for buying vary depending on aspects like the type of loan you secure. Do you need a down payment? Will your closing costs be paid by a builder or seller, or will you need to come up with 2-5% of the mortgage loan up front? If you’re short on cash or your credit score isn’t up to par, renting is probably the better option. Upfront costs for renting usually include a security deposit and sometimes the first and/or last month’s rent.
  2. How’s my credit? If your credit score isn’t in good shape, you might not be able to secure a loan in order to buy. Renting might be a necessity in this case. The good news is that it will give you time to repair your credit while you rent. Come up with a plan to pay off bills and build credit by paying your rent on time each month.
  3.  Am I prepared to cover recurring and incidental costs? The most obvious costs here are monthly mortgage payments and rent. But when you buy a home, you also need to be prepared for yearly costs, including taxes, any HOA fees, homeowners insurance, and upkeep. The upside of this is that some of these costs are tax deductible. Being a homeowner is great when tax time comes around. When you rent, your main recurring cost besides rent will probably be renter’s insurance.
  4. Will I be moving in the foreseeable future? If there’s a possibility that you might move in a year’s time, buying might not be the best thing for you. That said, many people choose to turn their homes into investment properties when they move. It’s a great way to make your house work for you, especially with the rental marketing doing so well right now. If you'd rather rent leases can be tailored to your needs, and once your lease is up, so is your obligation.
  5. How much flexibility do I want? Both buying and renting pose a certain amount of flexibility in different areas. For example, it might seem like you're saddling yourself with a huge commitment by buying, but owning a home does give you some freedom by allowing you to make all the decisions yourself. Want to paint the walls? Replace the carpet? Plant a garden? Build a swingset in the back yard? Go for it! There's no need to get permission (unless your homeowners' association has restrictions on types of outdoor renovations). On the other hand, renting makes it easy for you to move if you end up not liking the neighborhood or just need a change of scenery. 

Make a list of these questions and sit down to answer them honestly. It will make things much clearer and aid you in making an educated decision. And if you're still not sure about what your best option is, consult one of our professionals at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company. You'll get an un-biased opinion from specialists who work in both sides of the business. 




How-To Tuesday: Choosing Paint Colors


There’s no denying that colorful walls add character to a house and expresses your personal style, making it feel more like home. But did you know that the paint colors you choose can actually affect your mood and energy level? Color is light, and light is energy. Different colors reflect light in different ways, which means some spark energy and motivation while others inspire warmth and tranquility. So how do you choose? To give you a jumpstart, we’ve compiled the following list of colors and how they might affect you. Just remember, you’ll probably have to live with your paint color for a while, so choose wisely!



Red signifies strong emotions like passion, boldness, and courage. It can stimulate energy and inspire us to take risks. If you’re in love with red, think twice about the room you’re painting. Kitchens and dining rooms are popular places for this color, but it might not work well in a bathroom or a bedroom, where you’ll more than likely want a more calming space…which brings us to our next color.



A sister of red, pink has a soft, calming influence. Don’t let your mind go straight to bubble gum or Pepto Bismol. Think ballerina pink for a child’s room or bathroom. Just the slightest twinge of pink can bring the feeling of softness and beauty to a room.



We have a love-hate relationship with orange. On one hand, it’s a color of warmth and enthusiasm. On the other hand, it can look a little too much like Halloween. The mood you encourage here has everything to do with the shade of orange you choose. If you want to kindle warmth, go for a deep rust or burnt orange. Bright orange might be fun for a kitchen or playroom to inspire energy.



Yellow is the color of optimism, happiness, and—again—energy. Painting a bedroom a buttery yellow hue will surely help you get out of bed in an optimistic mood in the mornings. On the other hand, bright yellow can cause fatigue since it reflects light more than most colors, causing too much stimulation. Experts advise against painting a nursery bright yellow for this reason.



It’s become a modern symbol of eco-friendliness, but green is also a color of peace, luck, and stress relief. Think about using this color in an office, study, or laundry room.



Ah, blue. Such a popular color for walls everywhere. It’s the color of cheery skies and Caribbean waters. The ultimate color of calmness and serenity. A very light blue can turn a living room, bathroom, or bedroom into a tranquil retreat. The great thing about blue is that most any shade can work in any room of the house without causing offense or stress.



Purple has long signified royalty, wealth, and wisdom. But did you know it can also give you problem-solving abilities a lift? It might be another good color for an office or any other “get things done” room. A light lavender, which can be both uplifting and tranquil, can also be a great color for a nursery.



Many of us equate gray with gloom and sadness. As a wall color, however, it can be cozy, warm, and timeless. It’s a great color for those who like to change up their décor often, especially because it goes with literally any accent color. If you enjoy hanging bright, cheery artwork, a dark gray can offer a great contrast.



Stick with me here. I know black as a wall color can seem scary, but it really does work in a lot of areas. Black can evoke formality, mystery, and luxury. Think of your little black dress, ladies. It’s timeless and universal. A formal dining room coated in black with all white furniture, for example, is stunning and unexpected. Still too scary? Try an accent wall. A caveat: black can be weighty and overpowering in smaller rooms.



Some people don’t consider white a color at all. While that is technically true when it comes to pigment, a lot of designers do consider white a color. In fact, it’s the best one you can use if you have a particularly small space. White reflects light and creates the feeling of an open space. Small bathroom? Small kitchen? Paint it white and use colorful accents here to add some cheer. 


While choosing paint colors can be a long, drawn-out process, try not to overthink it! If you like to change things up and don’t mind painting, feel free to follow trends and use of-the-moment colors. Don’t be afraid to use those that take you out of your comfort zone. You can always change it. Above all, don’t rush the process. Take as much time as you need to decide. The walls aren’t going anywhere (we hope!), and the last thing you want to do is start over from scratch if you decide you don’t love it.


Be on the lookout for next week's How-To post, where we discuss applying paint to walls.


Moving Tips // 13 Things You Might Not Think About Before Moving Day


Moving can be a stressful event for even the most organized person. Even if you’re a seasoned pro when it comes to relocating (hi, military families!), there are several things you might not consider before the big day. Sure, you’ll need to buy boxes, make lists, and figure out whether you should hire someone or do a DIY move. But in all the activity leading up to moving day, some details can be overlooked. In fact, the best thing you can do for yourself is to begin the process months in advance. With that in mind, let’s look at a few things you might not think of when planning to relocate.

If you plan to hire a moving company, start gathering estimates about four months in advance. This might seem early, but knowing the costs involved well in advance will keep any surprises from cropping up at the last minute. If you’re moving in late spring or summer, booking early is a necessity, as about half of all moves take place during this time.

Make a file with information about your new home. This is especially helpful if you’re moving to a new city or state. When you get into town, you might need to stay in a hotel for a night or two, and you’ll most likely need to know the best places to get food while you’re in the moving process. Even though you can find most of this information on a smartphone these days, it’s still a good idea to have a hard copy in case you can’t get Wi-Fi or cell service.

Don’t forget to enjoy your old home while you still can! Visit the places you love most and spend lots of quality time with friends or family.

A couple of months before your move, take a look at your belongings. Will your furniture and other belongings fit in the new place? If there are items that won’t work in your new home, think about having a garage sale or donating them in advance. The less stuff you have to move, the better. One caveat: DON’T buy new furniture before you move, especially if you’re in the process of buying a new home.

Check into getting copies of medical records for your family before you move. Having copies in hand to give your new doctors will be helpful. And don’t forget the family pet! Make an appointment before you move to make sure your pets are up to date on shots and other medications, gather their records, and check to see if your new city or state requires pet licenses.

Once you’ve nailed down your moving company, make sure to ask if they have insurance that covers any potential accidents or losses. If not, check with your insurance provider and consider getting coverage.

Transfer memberships and accounts. If you belong to a gym that’s a nationwide chain, ask whether you’ll be able to use facilities in other areas. If you bank with a local bank, start researching options in your new town.

Think about buying or making moving announcements with your new address to send to friends and family. In addition, change your address on magazine and other subscriptions, and fill out a change of address form at the post office. Do this a few weeks in advance, NOT after you move.

Make sure to get your prescriptions refilled right before moving to ensure you’ll have plenty of your required medications.

Make an “exit box” and a survival kit. Your exit box should contain the things you know you’ll need immediately when you arrive at your new home—for example, sheets, flashlights, toilet paper, etc. The survival kit is for your trip. Fill it with items you’ll need on your car ride or flight to be comfortable.

Consider having the house cleaned for the new tenants or owners. If you want to be super helpful, leave them a folder or file with information about the house, the neighborhood, and your favorite activities to do around town. For example, if you're leaving the Lowcountry, leave a map and perhaps a list of activities and historic places in Charleston.

Make arrangements for the kids and pets for packing and/or moving day. It’ll be hard to keep track of them during the commotion, and they’ll become quickly bored in an empty house.

On moving day, make friends with the movers! They’re your lifesavers. Provide some water or sodas and a treat to thank them for their hard work.

Whether you’re moving across the country or just across town, being organized and informed will keep you from pulling your hair out. Start well in advance with some careful planning, and moving day should go off without a hitch!


Choosing The Right Real Estate Agent For You

There are about 3,700 Charleston Realtors, all of whom are ready and willing to do business at any time. With the number of agents promoting themselves throughout the Lowcountry, how on earth do you decide who to hire when it’s time for you to buy or sell a home? Many real estate agents will go above and beyond to serve their clients, but sometimes a difference of personalities or opinion can get in the way of a transaction. In order to hire the right agent to represent you, there are a few things you’ll need to take into consideration. The following points will help you find a Realtor who keeps your best interests in mind and whose services are tailored to your needs.

First impressions matter. Did your prospective agent show up to your appointment on time? Did they answer your calls or emails in a quick, professional manner? Do you feel that your personalities will mesh or clash? Most people know from a first meeting whether they will get along with someone. It’s important to be able to communicate with your real estate agent on a personal level. Decide what’s important to you when it comes to communication and personality.

Rely on experience. Buyers and sellers can usually tell if a real estate agent is experienced. They know exactly how to lead you through the buying or selling process, and they’re ready to give advice whenever it’s needed. That’s not to say that someone who’s been in the business for years is always best. If they seem too busy, not attentive enough, or drop the ball a couple of times, maybe you should choose that well-educated and hungry new agent who will work hard for your business.

Make sure your Realtor is working in your best interest. If they constantly steer you toward their company’s listings, a certain neighborhood, or a higher price point, they aren’t working for you. They’re more than likely thinking of that higher commission they’ll receive by selling a home in any one of those categories. A good agent will listen to what you need and forget about what they want.

Lastly, if you are unsatisfied with your real estate agent, don’t think you’re trapped into working with them. If they haven’t earned your business and respect, you don’t owe them anything. A good agent will also know if the rapport is working out, and will realize that a tenuous relationship with a client will not lead to a smooth transaction. Trust your instincts when choosing a real estate agent to represent you, and don’t settle for less than the best!

Friday Five // February 21, 2014

It's time once again for the Friday Five! Each Friday, we post five links to articles, blog entries, and event announcements from around the internet this week that we think you'll find interesting and informative. This week, we have links from Charleston City Paper, the College of Charleston's Cistern Yard, and Better Homes & Gardens, among others.

*From the Cistern Yard: A growing number of faculty and students at the College of Charleston and MUSC oppose a bill that would force the two schools to merge into one university. CofC's Faculty Senate and MUSC's student government both officially oppose the proposed merger. Governor Nikki Haley has said that she believes the schools' boards should decide if they want to combine instead of being forced into a merger.

*Need something to do this weekend? Charleston City Paper has a slew of options for you, including the Stingrays, Columbia City Ballet's production of Alice in Wonderland, lots of live music, Brewvival 2014, and the Charleston Battery's Carolina Challenge Cup.

*According to Live 5 News, a $30-million project is simultaneously rebuilding several miles of shoreline at Folly Beach and educating young minds. During National Engineers Week, a group of high school students from Charleston Charter School for Math and Science got a close look at the effort to save Folly Beach from washing away.

*Business Insider presents a list of the 20 Happiest Jobs in America. Guess what occupation is #3 on the list? Here's a hint: We love our jobs here at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company!

*Though the weather's still icy cold in many parts of the country, it's never too early to start planning your curb appeal projects for the spring! Better Homes & Gardens has 14 Easy Curb Appeal DIY's. The best part? They're all super simple yet gorgeous upgrades.

That's our Friday Five for this week. Our staff and agents wish you a safe and happy weekend!



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