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How-To Tuesday: Kill Odors That Could Be Killing Your Listing

You know how sometimes you walk into a new place, and it has this unique smell? It’s a smell that becomes ingrained in your memory and is automatically associated with that place. Sometimes it’s a wonderful aroma, floral or spicy and delicious. Other times it’s just a familiar, comforting scent that you can’t place, but it puts you at ease immediately.

And then there are the not-so-good smells.

If you’ve ever walked into a house that has that lingering pet smell or the stale scent of cigarette smoke, you know exactly what we’re talking about. The bad thing about some scents is that we get used to them. Your home may not have a distinct smell to you anymore since you’ve lived there for a while, but other people can detect it right away. If you love your pets dearly and are used to their scents, you might not realize guests are greeted with a wave of dog odor or cat urine when they step inside your house. If you’re selling your home, it’s important to get an unbiased party’s opinion. Ask your real estate agent to give you an honest answer about any off-putting odors your home might have. And then get to work on neutralizing them pronto.

 

Cigarette smoke. Smokers might not realize that the smoke they blow out doesn’t just dissipate into nothingness. That smoke circulates and spreads throughout the house, depositing residue and odors on furniture, lightbulbs, moldings, and carpeting. Get rid of the lingering smell of cigarettes by first removing porous surfaces from the house, including carpets, curtains, furniture, and any other item that absorbs odor. Then repaint the rooms. Paint is a great odor neutralizer.

Mold. First things first: find the source of the mold or mildew, repair it, and prevent it from happening again. To rid an area of that moldy, mildewy smell that can sometimes permeate an entire house, try activated charcoal. It’s become a pretty popular product lately, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find. Check your local health food store or pet shop. Place a few containers in inconspicuous places, and it should absorb the moisture that’s causing the mold and mildew smells.

Pets. If the pet smell is restricted to a certain area of the home, it should be a little easier to get rid of. Mix one part distilled white vinegar and six parts water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture generously over pet stains and rub it in with a carpet brush or a toothbrush, then blot with a white towel. Remove the vinegar residue by applying an oxygen or enzyme-based cleaner. If an entire carpet or rug is affected by pet smells, sprinkle them with baking soda and allow to sit for twelve or more hours, then vacuum. If that doesn’t kill the odor, you might just have to replace the carpet (which is honestly a good idea any time pets are involved). When an odor is really stubborn, check to see if the carpet pad and subflooring are stained as well.

Stuffy air. Sometimes a house just smells stuffy, like when the doors and windows have been shut for a long period of time. Make sure to let in some fresh air, but also try adding a few house plants. They’re natural air cleaners! Think about also adding a few drops of essentials oils (orange, lavender, and grapefruit are great, clean-smelling choices) to a spray bottle full of water and spritz the air and fabrics for a clean, fresh scent.

Kitchen odors. No matter how clean you keep your kitchen, sometimes there’s a lingering odor that you just can’t figure out. If there’s a rotten garbage or mildew smell, try these remedies. Boil sliced citrus fruits and herbs in some water. Separate the citrus from the water, and then pour the water into the dishwasher and run it through a cycle. Dump the citrus down the garbage disposal to neutralize any odors that might be emanating from it. Once the disposal is cleared of the citrus, sprinkle in some baking soda. Don’t forget to clean the insides of the oven and microwave as well. Burned-on food stains could be adding to that stale kitchen smell.

These are just some of the common culprits of icky odors that can be found in a listing. Use these tips to kill those odors before they kill your listing!

The Art of the Home Appraisal

What is a home appraisal? Why is it needed? And why is it such a big deal if a house doesn’t appraise for the agreed-upon purchase price? Today we’re talking about the art of the home appraisal. Simply put, an appraisal is a valuation of the property in question. Once you are under contract to buy a home, your lender will send an appraiser out to ensure the property’s value is at or above the purchase price. Naturally, lenders want to protect themselves (and you), so they want to make sure it’s worth what you’ve agreed to pay.

In order to write a loan, the lender needs to figure out how much they can lend and how many protections need to be put into place to ensure the loan will be repaid. While they do use the sale price to determine the amount they will offer, they need to make sure that the house is actually worth the amount they’re agreeing to loan you. Lenders also use something called the loan-to-value ratio, which is based on the appraised value and helps them figure out how much money they can lend you and under what terms. If the loan-to-value ratio is high, you might be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) as extra protection.

So how does an appraisal actually work? Let’s take a closer look.

Three Main Steps

There are generally three main parts to an appraisal:

  • The physical visit. This is when the appraiser actually visits the home and does his or her inspection to answer detailed questions about the property. It generally takes just a few hours.
  • The comparison. The appraiser will search for comparable properties (comps) in the area that have sold recently. They’ll use these to compare and contrast to help figure the value.
  • The report. The appraiser will then write a report of his or her findings. Together, the comparison and report should take up to a week to complete.

Factors That Affect a Home Appraisal

Appraisals are very detailed valuations, but most include the following:

  • The location of the home, the type of area, and how it affects the value
  • Details about the property
  • A comparison of the property to three other comparable ones in the area
  • Any detrimental aspects like condition, access, foundation issues, etc.
  • An estimate of how long the home could take to sell

Details Appraisers Look For

Within the above categories, there are more specific questions the appraiser is looking to answer. These might include:

  • Property size. How big is the lot? How big is the house? Is there room for expansion?
  • Interior. What materials were used to build or upgrade the home? What kind of fixtures are included in the home? The quality of these materials matters.
  • Home improvements. Have there been any upgrades or remodels recently? What shape are they in?
  • Exterior. What type of exterior does the home have (brick, wood siding, etc.)? What type of foundation and what condition is it in?
  • Extras. Are there any extras in the home that might add to its value? These could be things like a fireplace, an enclosed patio, a security system, a pool, a large deck, and more.

Appraisals Are Very Useful

Obviously, the main objective of having an appraisal done is to make sure the lender is able write a loan for the purchase price. But your appraisal might also be used to determine:

  • Insurance value
  • Replacement value
  • Assessed value for property taxes

Keep in mind that appraisals aren’t an exact science. They are the professional opinion of a home’s value, and they can differ depending on the appraiser. Changes in market conditions might also alter the appraised value. For the most part, all of this happens behind the scenes and is relatively painless for both the buyer and seller. Of course an appraisal can occasionally create a hiccup in the closing timeline, but for the most part they’re just one of those necessary steps that get you closer to closing on your new home.

Friday Five // May 18th, 2018

With a closed bridge and some rather wet and muggy weather, it’s been sort of a rough week here in Charleston. Why not treat yourself to some weekend fun to make up for it? Check out our roundup of five fun events happening throughout the Lowcountry this weekend. Celebrate the royal wedding, check out a cultural festival, sample local beers, and more! Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy (and dry!) weekend.

Looking for a place to celebrate the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle? Roadside Blooms will host A Royally Floral Affair Saturday morning. The wedding takes place in person early in the morning, but the shop will re-air the big event at 10am, serving light brunch bites and a mimosa bar. Learn how to create a floral adornment for your fanciest hat and design a petite garden-style arrangement inspired by Ms. Markle’s wedding bouquet. Come dressed as a wedding guest if you wish, bring your hat and your own bubbly for the mimosa bar, and Roadside Blooms will provide the rest. Register at the link above.

With definite rain in the forecast for Saturday, you might want to do something indoors with the kids but still get out of the house. Mellow Mushroom will be hosting their monthly Mellow Matinee this Saturday at their West Ashley location in Avondale. This month’s family-friendly feature is one of our favorites: Aladdin. Kids can enjoy $5 kids’ meals, while adults can order from the full menu and take advantage of $2 mimosas. As a fun extra, special guest Princess Jasmine from Glass Slipper Productions will join the fun!

If a little rain isn’t enough to keep you from raising money for a good cause, check out the 2018 Walk to Cure Arthritis on Saturday. This event will be held rain or shine at James Island County Park. The Walk to Cure Arthritis is the largest arthritis gathering in the world, celebrating arthritis warriors and raising funds for research, resources, and a cure.

Beer lovers, unite! The seventh annual Charleston Beer Garden will be held rain or shine this Saturday with Carolina craft beer taking center stage. More than thirty breweries from North and South Carolina will be serving up over sixty craft beers, including IPAs, stouts, reds, and ciders. Festival-goers can enjoy the Yelp Beer Games, live music from The Dubplates and Sol Driven Train, samples from the Homebrewers’ Village, and shopping in the Vendor Village.

Unity of Charleston hosts the 12th Annual African Market and Festival this Sunday from 1pm until 4pm. A celebration of African culture, the African Market and Festival will include African art, crafts, clothing, jewelry, dancers, drummers, skin care, and more. A variety of vendors will be in attendance, and there will also be a silent auction. Come enjoy an authentic, delicious African meal including flavored peanut stew, fried fish, plantains, jollof rice, couscous, vegetarian specials, beverages, and more. This event is a fundraiser for the African Community Exchange (ACE) to benefit the Ann Sandell Independent School in Paynesville, Liberia. Proceeds enable boys and girls to attend school and gain an education to help them reach their full potential. Admission to the festival is free, and the event will be held rain or shine.

Dating Do’s and Don’ts That Apply to Buying a Home

Not long ago, online dating wasn’t the norm, but now you can’t go many places without encountering someone who met their significant other through the internet. It’s much the same with the real estate industry. A mere decade ago, before even everyone’s ten-year-old had a smartphone, fewer people started their search for a new home online. Now around 80% of home buyers start their home search online. And that’s not the only parallel homebuying has with dating. Both quests are about finding that one perfect fit for you.  Finding a home is like navigating the world of dating in many ways. Let’s look at a few dating rules that apply to home shopping.

Do know your “type.”

Most people have a type of person they know they fit best with, be they rugged, outdoorsy types; successful and independent go-getters; fun-loving travelers; or homebodies who love to relax and enjoy their personal space. Everyone knows their type in the dating world, and it’s important to know your type when it comes to real estate too. Is your “type” a mid-century modern with three bedrooms and outdoor entertaining space? A brick ranch house on a large plot of land? A townhouse with minimal to no outside maintenance required? Before you start shopping for a new home, you should know exactly what you’re looking for.

Do know your dealbreakers.

There are some things you won’t be able to look past or get along without. For example, when it comes to romance, you might never consider dating a smoker or someone who has to travel for work a lot. Think about those details you know will be dealbreakers for a home. Maybe you don’t want to live near a busy street—or maybe you need to live near a busy street. Maybe you absolutely must have three bathrooms with no exceptions. Making a list of these dealbreakers before you really start your home search will help you weed through what’s out there without wasting any time.

Don’t be afraid to commit.

Before you start your home search, know for sure that you’re ready to move on. Buying a house isn’t a short-term commitment—unless you’re planning to flip it, but that’s a whole different story. If it’s time to break up with renting or sell your starter home, you’ll know. But have some proof. Show your real estate agent and any sellers out there that you’re serious about a long-term commitment by getting pre-approved and having your ducks in a row.

Don’t rely on first impressions.

You might absolutely love the look of a home, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hiding a few secrets that could turn you off. Take things slowly if you can. Go back and see the house again when you’re not on an emotional high. Have an inspection done. Taking a closer look and having a third party’s unbiased, professional opinion will help you see things more objectively. A flip job that is simply gorgeous on the surface might have a lot of underlying issues. Find out what issues you’re willing to take on or overlook versus the dealbreakers.

Do look for something deeper.

Don’t discount a home based on bad photos or less-than-stellar written descriptions. Not everyone knows how to present themselves effectively online. That home could be your absolute dream home in person! On the other hand, realize that you can change anything you don’t like about a home (unlike in the dating world). If a house is missing something you want at first glance, or if it has an exterior color or detail you hate, it can absolutely change to your liking.

See what we mean now? Finding THE ONE person to share your life with is a lot like finding THE ONE house to love! Follow these dating rules for home shopping, and you shouldn’t have much of a problem finding your perfect fit.

Summer-Proof Your Home Now for Hotter Months Ahead

Summer doesn’t officially start until June 21st, but here in Charleston, we’ve already bumped the thermostat down several degrees and switched on the fans. With the changing of the weather comes the adjusting of utility bills. Keep yourself from having to sweat those energy bills in the next few months by summer-proofing your home now, before things really heat up!

Have your HVAC system serviced.

Stay ahead of the game by having preventive maintenance performed on your HVAC system. Your car needs maintenance like oil changes and belt replacements to prevent future issues, right? Similarly, your air conditioning unit needs periodic inspection and TLC to keep it in good working order. Many heating and air companies have programs that include preventive maintenance so you can keep everything running smoothly and reduce the chance of an emergency visit from your HVAC tech during sweltering months, which can cost a pretty penny.

Make sure your AC unit is the right size.

Size does matter in some cases, and this is one of them! When it comes to AC units, bigger isn’t always better. If your unit isn’t the correct size for your house, it won’t be efficient and could end up costing you a lot of money. A unit that is too big for your house will use too much power and will work inefficiently. If the unit is too small, it will run continuously and result in a more expensive energy bill.

Use passive design.

Passive design takes advantage of the local climate to help maintain a comfortable temperature in your home, eliminating the need to keep the AC pumping away all day. Take advantage of sunlight in the daytime instead of using overhead lights or lamps. Plant trees for shade and install overhangs to keep direct sunlight from heating your home too much during the hottest, sunniest parts of the day. Check areas around windows and doors to ensure there are no air leaks, which are major contributors to cooled air loss in the warmer months.

Upgrade your windows.

If you have older windows, upgrading to energy efficient windows can be extremely beneficial. The energy savings you’ll see in the long run will take the sting out of the upfront cost of new windows, even if it doesn’t make up for them completely. Energy-efficient windows are also a great selling point when it’s time to move on to a new home. If window replacements aren’t an option, try a low-emissivity film (or Low-E film). These plastic films contain metal or metal oxide and block UV rays, reflecting heat and reducing glare.

Check your insulation.

The better insulated your home is, the less cooled air will leak out. You pay good money for all that air conditioning. You don’t want it literally flying out the window. Hire a pro or check yourself to ensure that all windows, floors, and ceilings are properly insulated. It’s best to do this in the warmer months in case work needs to be done. You won’t want to be opening up walls and attic spaces when it’s cold outside.

Being prepared for the hot months ahead lessens your chances of having to rearrange your budget to accommodate higher energy bills or emergency HVAC repairs. Take these tips and “summerize” your home to stay one step ahead.

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