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What Might Be Hiding Behind That Perfect Staging

It’s always nice to see a perfectly staged home when you’re out house hunting. Staging makes it easy to envision yourself and all your belongings in a space and makes things more attractive and inviting than a cold, empty house. But sometimes sellers are looking for a quick fix in order to sell a house quickly. If you’re interested enough in a house to entertain the idea of making an offer, be sure to check for any damage, cosmetic or otherwise, that perfect
“makeup” could be hiding. Here are just a few examples.

Wall Damage

A new paint job could be covering a multitude of sins. Take a closer look. Is there wallpaper hiding underneath that new paint? Are there cracks in darker paint that aren’t evident until you get up close? You should also make sure to have the walls checked for things like mold. Wall coverings, artwork, and knick knacks could also be hiding things like holes.

Floor Damage

Be sure that big, trendy rug isn’t hiding damaged flooring underneath. Oddly placed furniture could also be a red flag that there’s something lurking underneath. Take a peek under floor coverings to make sure that there’s nothing going on there that you should be aware of.

An Awkward Layout

There’s not much a seller can do beyond a full remodel to hide a home that has an odd layout or small rooms. In order to make a small or awkward room look more appealing, sellers are advised to stage the room with furniture that will make it seem bigger and more functional. Looks can be deceiving! It’s always a good idea to bring a measuring tape with you on your house-hunting trip to make sure your own furniture will fit.

Noise Pollution

It’s common for agents and sellers to play soothing music during open houses or showings. But that music could be doing more than setting a nice, relaxed mood. There’s a chance it could be hiding noise pollution such as outside traffic or construction, or even noises in the house like dripping faucets or creaky floors.

An Amateur Flip

Flipping houses can be a lucrative business, but unfortunately there are amateurs out there who really don’t know what they’re doing and don’t take the care they should with remodeling. A big warning sign is inconsistency in the home. For instance, if a few rooms look shiny and new while others are just so-so, you might be looking at a half-finished project. It’s possible that the flippers just concentrated on making the worst parts of the house look better and didn’t give the whole house the care it needs. You could end up having to undo all the “work” they did, which will cost more time and money than you probably bargained for.

Friday Five // October 26th, 2018

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time for our weekly roundup of fun things to do in the Lowcountry over the weekend. With Halloween coming up next week, there’s certainly no shortage of Halloween and fall-themed activities and festivals to attend in the Charleston area. Check out a seasonal festival, watch a fun Halloween film, treat yourself to brunch, and more. Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy weekend!

Head over to Park Circle on Saturday and Sunday for the Charleston Brunch Festival. We don’t know about you, but brunch food is some of our very favorite food of all. Various vendors will be on site with delicious dishes like breakfast tacos, brunch burgers, doughnuts, biscuits and gravy, mac and cheese, potato bowls… Are you drooling yet? In addition to all the brunch fare, enjoy a bloody mary and mimosa bar, backyard games like Giant Jenga and Cornhole, and live music. Parking and admission are free. Drink tickets are available for advance purchase, but food vendors will take payment on the spot.

Mount Pleasant Towne Centre is the place to be on Saturday from noon until 3pm for their annual Fall Festival. This is a family-friendly, pet-friendly event with activities that include a pet costume contest to benefit Pet Helpers, arts and crafts, face-painting, caricatures, a bounce house, balloon animals, trick-or-treating, and fun with bubbles. Meet Charlie the Riverdog, check out exhibits from local organizations, and enjoy food and sweets from various vendors like Dave n Dubs Hot Dogs, Trolly Dolly Treats, Spun Charleston, King of Pops, and more.

For a family-friendly spooky evening, check out Family Fright Nights at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on Saturday night. Everyone is encouraged to come in costume to enjoy games, treats, candy, face-painting, balloon-twisting, a hay maze, a photo booth, costume contests, pony rides, and even the popular Mad Scientist Lab. Concessions will be available for extra charge. There will be a mild version of the Spooky Train Ride from 6pm until 7:30pm. After 8pm, the train ride will be a little more…adventurous. Admission to the event is $10 per person, and children under age six get in free. If you’re a Magnolia annual member, this event is free to you!

On Saturday evening, MUSC Health Stadium will host Films on the Field, featuring the well-loved Halloween movie Hocus Pocus on the 3,000 square foot Jumbotron. Gates will open at 5:30pm with the film starting an hour later at 6:30pm. There will be food trucks, a full bar, and jump castles available. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets for seating. Leashed dogs are welcome, and costumes are encouraged! Admission is $5 for attendees over the age of six. Children age six and under get in free.

If you’re looking for a more grown-up event to celebrate Halloween, the Terrace Theater is hosting Rocky Horror Weekend. In association with Upper Hand Tattoo Studio and Sierra Nevada, the Terrace is featuring The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a live shadowcast with Rocky Horror Charleston. Tickets are $15 (no passes accepted), and there will be special prizes and giveaways. The film will begin at 11:30pm on Friday and Saturday. Please note this event is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18.

How-To Tuesday: Refresh Your Home’s Look on a Budget

Some homeowners know exactly what they want from their home decor, and they keep everything pretty standard most of the time. Others like to change things up every once in a while. If you’re more like the latter, we’d be willing to wager that you’re always on the lookout for budget-friendly ideas and cheap chic trends. In that case, this week’s how-to is definitely for you! Add these updates to your arsenal and make a big difference without putting a big dent in your wallet.

Replace Your Hardware

You don’t need to do a major overhaul on your kitchen or bathroom to get an updated look. Just replace cabinet door handles, drawer pulls, faucets, and/or light fixtures for an instant refresh. Go with a matching set of handles and pulls, or go eclectic and mix and match your metals and patterns.

Update Window Treatments

Updating window treatments is a quick and easy change that can actually result in a huge transformation for a room. Switching from heavy blackout curtains to pretty, flowy sheers, for example, changes the tone of a room and lets in tons more natural light. It makes for an instant uplift in both the mood and aesthetic. If you want the opposite effect going into fall and winter, cozy up your window treatments by layering them or using darker colors and softer textures.

Create a Statement Wall

Paint one wall a solid color or pattern to liven up a space. If you’re afraid of that kind of commitment, go with a removable wallpaper for a dynamic look. Keep it simple with a graphic black and white pattern; go bold and trendy with fun, retro designs like flamingos or cactuses; or make things soft and pretty with a gorgeous floral design. You don’t have to go so far as to change the actual wall. You could also use shelves, artwork, or framed photos to cover a wall and create a statement piece too.

Switch Out Textiles

For a super quick refresh, change up your throw pillows, afghans, and rugs. This is the perfect way to change things up every season—or even more often if you have the storage space for the extra pieces. Elevate a room’s vibe by adding pillows and throw blankets in bright, lively colors and patterns. Make things homey with seasonal textiles like knits, furs, and leathers. There are so many options for every taste level!

Change Angles

Sometimes all it takes is a little adjusting of existing pieces to breathe new life into a room. Lay an area rug on the diagonal for some visual interest. If that’s not your style, just change up the orientation of your furniture and other decor pieces. For instance, move a couch or chair to the opposite side of a room for instant inspiration.

Is It Okay to Make an Offer That's Below Listing Price?

Short answer: absolutely. It’s okay to offer whatever price you want to offer when looking to buy a home. That doesn’t always mean the seller’s going to take you seriously if you, though. And we can’t promise that your real estate agent won’t be irritated with you for wasting their time and yours if you offer is too low and gets ignored. But yes, there are times when it’s absolutely okay to make an offer that’s below listing price…within reason.

The Home is Obviously Overpriced

When the time comes to make an offer on a home, your Realtor® will help you out by researching the comps in the area to make sure the asking price is on point. If a comparative market analysis comes in way under the listing price, you’re completely entitled to offer a more appropriate price for the house. Chances are the seller’s agent knows the home is overpriced, but the seller just won’t budge. It happens. And when it does, that overpriced house will sit on the market for a while. Your “lowball” offer will be more far more attractive to the seller than no offers at all.

The Seller Needs to Sell

Sometimes sellers can’t wait for that perfect offer to come along. They might have to sell quickly to move away for a new job; they might have lost a job and need to get out from under their mortgage; or they might have already bought another home and need to get rid of the old one pronto. Every seller has his or her own motivations and requirements for selling. If you can find out what those motivations are, it will make negotiating that much easier.

The House Has Been on the Market for a While

If a house has been languishing with a For Sale sign out front for a while now, or it’s come off and back on the market a few times in the last year, the seller may be looking to make a deal. A little research will tell you the exact number of days it’s been on the market. Have your agent do a little digging to see if there’s been any other interest in the house. If the sellers have been waiting around with no offers, they’ll probably be more than happy to see yours, even if it’s a little below asking price.

The House or Property Needs a Lot of Work

Fixing up a house that’s outdated or in an ill state of repair can take a lot of time, money, and effort. The listing price should reflect the amount of work a house needs. If it doesn’t, feel free to do the math and come up with an offer that reflects that amount of work. Now, we’re not talking about minor repairs or simple cosmetics here, like painting or merely ripping up the fairly new carpet because you prefer hardwoods. We’re talking seriously out of date homes or properties that aren’t liveable until certain repairs are made. If a house needs a new HVAC system or an entire new roof, for example, the listing price should reflect those repairs.

Yes, You Can Buy a Home With No Down Payment

One of the major obstacles that keeps many people from buying a home is the inability to come up with a large enough down payment. In order to get the best interest rate, homeowners are typically asked to put down 20% of the home’s value. But when you’re talking about a purchase price that’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, that 20% isn’t exactly pocket change. If you’re struggling to save enough to make a down payment on a home, don’t lose hope. There are actually some options out there that don’t require any down payment at all.

USDA Loans

Don’t skip over this one because of the name! We know it might sound like only farm or ranch land would qualify, but that’s not the case. In fact, 97% of land in the U.S. is in areas that are eligible for USDA loans. The United States Department of Agriculture has its own housing program to help with rural development. It allows families with low to moderate incomes to buy a primary residence outside of major cities, in rural or suburban areas. For exact location and property requirements, check the USDA Loan Program website.

VA Loans

U.S. Military Veterans may qualify for a VA home loan. VA loans offer 100% financing and do not require mortgage insurance. Because of this there is a one-time funding fee, which can be as low as 1.25% or as high as 3.3% of the loan amount. That amount can be financed into the loan, so no money is required up front. Credit requirements for VA loans differ by lender, though most will require a minimum 620 credit score. Some smaller lenders may take lower scores. All will require a VA Certificate of Eligibility, which can be obtained through the Department of Veteran Affairs website.

Navy Federal Credit Union

If you qualify for membership with Navy Federal Credit Union, you may be eligible for 100% financing and 0% down on your mortgage loan. Navy Fed’s HomeBuyers Choice Mortgage offers conforming and jumbo loans with a low fixed rate, no money down, no private mortgage insurance (PMI), and refinancing options. They also allow up to 6% in seller contributions. Like a VA loan, this program charges a one-time funding fee of 1.75%, which can be waived for an .375% increase in the interest rate.

Down Payment Assistance

If you’re a first-time homebuyer and don’t qualify for any of the mortgages that offer zero percent down, you might want to look into down payment assistance. Some mortgages, such as FHA loans, will allow 100% of the down payment to be gifted. So if you have a parent or someone else who wants to help out, they can gift the money to you or make a personal loan to make up the down payment. There are also government programs and grants that help first-time homebuyers make their down payments. They can be found on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website.

Low Down Payment Option: FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) does not offer zero-down loans, but they do offer loans with a very low down payment. Since eligibility requirements aren’t as stringent as conventional loans, FHA loans are very popular among first-time buyers. Even buyers with a credit score as low as 580 can qualify for a loan with a 3.5% down payment. If your credit score is lower than 580, you may still qualify with a 10% down payment. As stated in the previous option, FHA loans allow the down payment to be paid using gift funds. Some buyers have even been known to set up a crowdfunding account for friends and family to contribute toward as gifts for a wedding or birth, etc.

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