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How-To Tuesday: Keep Your Fridge Clean & Organized (For Good!)

Cleaning the refrigerator is one of those chores that often gets neglected. If you’re anything like us, fridge organization isn’t at the top of your chore list. Out of sight, out of mind, right? This year we’re making our New Year’s resolutions ahead of time. To keep ourselves from having to do a big fridge clean-out a few times a year, we’ve committed ourselves to keeping things clean and organized year round. Follow the hints below to keep your fridge nice and tidy, and you’ll find yourself wondering why you didn’t try it years ago!

Keep like items together.

This is a great idea for both organization and safety’s sake. Cross-contamination can happen easily, so don’t keep your meats and veggies in the same drawer. Keeping like items together also makes it easy to find things in a hurry and is pleasing to the eye (if aesthetics are your thing).

Mind the fruits and veggies.

We have a rule of thumb. Cook or eat the vegetables and fruits first that spoil fastest. Using those up first prevents them from being forgotten in the crisper drawer and shriveling up before their turn.

Separate raw meats.

Keep raw meats from contaminating other foods by storing them in a crisper drawer or a separate, clear bin. This makes cleanup easy in the event that raw chicken juices escape from the package. Just take the bin or drawer out and give it a good cleaning in the kitchen sink!

Keep condiments in the fridge door.

Since door shelves are the warmest part of the fridge, you should only store things there that don’t spoil easily. Condiments, bottles of water, and canned drinks are fine here. Items like eggs and milk, though, need cooler temps and should be stored on the inside shelves.

Label everything you freeze.

Wondering what’s in that mystery Ziploc bag of…brownish goo? Could be Granny’s Giblet Gravy. Could be an old batch of baby food. Next time, label it and there’ll be no doubts!

Use clear, airtight containers.

You already know that using airtight containers keeps your food fresher for longer. But they can also help with organization—especially if you use clear containers, making it easy to see what you have at a glance.

Do a weekly wipedown.

We hate cleaning out the fridge, so we try to make it easier on ourselves by wiping things down once a week. Designate a day each week to do a quick wipedown, and you won’t find yourself struggling to scrape crystallized syrup when you finally decide to do a deep clean.

Check expiration dates.

Sometimes it’s okay to ignore the “sell by” or “best by” date on a container…for a little while, anyway. But make a habit of checking expiration dates on containers that you haven’t looked at in a while. Use your best judgment. If it’s not something that spoils quickly and has a “sell by” date of last week, it’s probably fine.

Do a deep clean every few months.

As long as you stick to the rules above, you shouldn’t need to deep clean the fridge very often at all. Toss whatever’s gone bad; wipe shelves down regularly; and keep everything in its place, and you’ll use much less elbow grease when you do decide to do a deep clean.

 

What Is Escrow?

If you’ve ever bought or sold a home, you’ve no doubt heard the word escrow mentioned several times. Once an offer on a home has been accepted, it is said to be “in escrow.” But what exactly is escrow?

By definition, escrow is the neutral third-party handling of funds, documents, or tasks specific to the closing of a home sale as specified in the contract. Essentially, the escrow officer is the unbiased middleman between the seller and buyer. They exist to protect everyone’s interests.

Escrow in South Carolina

The escrow officer is typically an attorney or a closer from a title company. In South Carolina, attorneys are the closers and are chosen by the buyer and/or seller. They are responsible for following the instructions set forth in the sales agreement by the buyer, seller, lender, and real estate agent. Once all terms have been met, they will provide a closing statement and disburse funds at closing.

Earnest Money

The first time you hear the word escrow is probably when the buyer hands over an earnest money check when an offer is accepted. The earnest money check is held in an escrow account to ensure that no money will change hands until all conditions of the contract have been fulfilled. These conditions might include a home inspection, the completion of repairs, and the purchasing of home insurance. Earnest money is either refunded at closing or applied to the purchase price, which will be noted on the settlement statement.

Escrow Accounts

You might also hear about escrow when you discuss mortgage payments. Since your lender holds an interest in your home, the last thing they want is for anything to put that interest in danger. For example, what happens if your home insurance lapses and there’s a fire or a flood, leaving the house in a state of irreparable damage? You and the lender lose a whole lot of money. What if the home is subject to a tax lien due to unpaid property taxes? The mortgage company will only get whatever amount is left over after the taxes have been paid upon sale of the home. Instead of taking that chance, lenders add on a certain extra amount to your principal mortgage payment each month. The extra money goes into an escrow account to pay your homeowner’s insurance and taxes. That payment is typically known as PITI: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. There’s a bonus side to this: when an escrow account gets overpaid, you get a little refund after insurance and tax bills are paid!

Escrow can seem like complicated jargon if you’re not sure what it means, but it’s actually a fairly simple concept. If you have any other questions about what escrow is and how it benefits the parties in a transaction, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

Friday Five // November 24, 2017

Now that Thanksgiving is over and we’re beginning to emerge from our food comas, it’s time to see what’s going on this weekend throughout the Lowcountry! Visit with Santa at a holiday festival, take in the big game, and shop Small Business Saturday. Whatever you choose to do, we wish you a safe and happy weekend!

Get into the holiday spirit officially with the Freshfields Village Holiday Festival this weekend. Santa will be available for pictures in his workshop there on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (click the link for times and other details). There will be free children’s activities on Saturday, including face painting, balloon twisting, inflatable games, Mechanical Reindeer rides, and complimentary craft and activity booths. Food and treats will be available for purchase from local food vendors. Sunday’s events include Santa’s Little Helpers Yoga for kids and Santa Paws Sunday, during which pets are welcome for pics with Santa!

On Saturday, the Charleston Music Hall and NS2 will present A Motown Christmas. Treat your ears to Christmas musical stylings of members of The Miracles, The Temptations, and The Capitols. This show is sure to be “jam-packed with impeccable harmonies, dazzling choreography, and those timeless Motown grooves that everyone knows and loves.”

It’s Rivalry Weekend! Clemson and USC will battle for the win this Saturday, and Frothy Beard Brewing Company wants to use the occasion for a good cause. Bring two canned or nonperishable food items to the brewery and get $1 off pints for the day. The winner will be announced on Black Friday. If your team wins, wear your jersey and receive lots of specials while you watch the game.

After all the craziness of Black Friday, shop local at Small Business Saturday, when Summerville will host Passport to Local: Downtown Summerville Small Business Saturday. Pick up your passport at any of the participating businesses listed at the link above. Then shop till you drop, filling your passport with stamps as you go from store to store for a chance to win a gift basket.

Liberty Tap Room & Grill in Mt. Pleasant is hosting a Stranger Things Bingo Brunch on Sunday from 11am until 3pm. If you’re a fan of Eleven and the boys, this is one you won’t want to miss! If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, there’s plenty of time to do a Netflix binge before Sunday! Enjoy some Bingo with a Stranger Things theme and food and drink specials.

Are You Ready to Become a Homeowner?

So you’re on the fence about buying your first home. We don’t blame you. A house is likely to be the biggest purchase you’ll make during your lifetime. It’s smart to be absolutely certain that you’re ready before jumping in feet first. The following five steps will help you reflect on whether or not you’re really prepared to become a homeowner.

Check your debt-to-income ratio.

A debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, represents all your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. These debts can be anything from housing costs to credit card, student loan, or child support payments.

Example: If you pay $1200 a month for your mortgage, $300 for your car loan, $200 for your student loan, and $300 for other debts, your monthly debt payments total $2,000. Let’s say your gross monthly income is $5,000. That makes your debt-to-income ratio 40% ($2000 ÷ $5000 = .4).

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “Evidence from studies of mortgage loans suggest that borrowers with a higher debt-to-income ratio are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments.” This number is very important to banks and mortgage brokers. In most cases, they look for your DTI to be 43% or less.

Check your credit.

No, you’re not going to lower your credit score by checking it. Every consumer is entitled to one free credit report each year, which can be found at AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s good to know your overall credit score, but you should also check to make sure all of the information in the report is correct. Check for things like identity errors, incorrect account statuses, and balance errors. You can dispute any inaccurate or incomplete information without penalty. If your credit isn’t so great, now might not be the time for you to buy a home; however, most loan officers can help you with a plan to get it back on track so you can buy in the near future.

Learn the costs of buying a home.

A homebuying budget isn’t just about the total price of a house. On top of the sale price of the house, there’s the down payment, insurance, taxes, and other various closing costs. A good loan officer will sit down with you and work all of this into what you can afford each month to find a good budget for your home search.

Learn the costs of owning a home.

Maintenance can be a double-edged sword whether you rent or buy. On one hand, if you rent, you don’t have to worry about most maintenance work; but on the other hand, you are at the mercy of your landlord as far as getting things fixed. The great thing about being a homeowner is that you don’t have to wait on someone else to fix something. But you do have to pay for and take care of your home yourself. Before you buy, make sure you understand the costs of routine maintenance and the occasional costs of things like plumbing issues or broken appliances.

Look to the future.

What are your plans? If you know you might move in the next year or two, it’s probably not the best time to buy. In most cases, two years isn’t that long to build enough equity to make it worth your while. However, if you want to turn your home into an income property after you move out, it could be well worth the time and effort.

If you’re still nervous about buying a home after considering the above items, call our office and speak with a Johnson & Wilson Real Estate agent. We can walk you through the process and help you make a pressure-free decision about whether it’s the right time for you to become a homeowner.

 

How-To Tuesday: Host Your First Thanksgiving Dinner

When you bought that new house this year, we know you were imagining all the dinner parties and holidays you’d be hosting. If this is your first year hosting Thanksgiving dinner, don’t fret! We’re here with help in the form of tried-and-true tips from veteran hosts and hostesses.

Delegate, delegate, delegate! The meal will always be a success if you do the basics yourself and have others bring various sides, desserts, and appetizers. Potluck is the easiest way to have everyone pitch in and help.

Make some dishes ahead of time. Lots of traditional Thanksgiving fare can be made in advance and frozen or refrigerated until the big day. Cranberry sauce, casseroles, potatoes, rolls, pies, and other desserts are all prime candidates for make-ahead dishes.

Set the table or buffet the night before. Setting things up always takes more time than you think it will. If you have a formal dinner in the dining room, set the table a day or two ahead and plan the positioning of the food. If you do a more casual, buffet-style meal,

Make time to get ready. Trust us. You need to schedule this in. Time is bound to sneak up on you, and guests will start to arrive before you know it.

Have drinks ready to go. Have wine, cocktails, or mocktails chilling in the fridge. Set up a drinks station so guests can help themselves as they arrive. If everyone’s milling around with something to sip on, they won’t complain if dinner’s not ready on time.

Stick with the classics. This isn’t the time to experiment. You’ve got enough on your plate—no pun intended—without trying out brand new recipes that you haven’t already tested.

Store bought is fine. Not every single bit of Thanksgiving dinner has to be homemade. It’s perfectly fine to buy whatever you don’t feel like making from scratch. No one will know the difference if you don’t want them to!

Accept help. Take whatever help is offered. Trust us. No matter how well you plan the day, something will end up throwing off your schedule. Let your mother-in-law wash the pots if she offers. Allow your uncle to mix drinks. Don’t try to do it all!

Enjoy Yourself!

Above all, remember what Thanksgiving Day is all about: spending time with our loved ones and being grateful for all the great things in life. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from the Johnson & Wilson Real Estate family!

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