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How-To Tuesday: Upgrade Your Laundry Room on the Cheap

Let’s face it. No one enjoys doing laundry. (Or if you do, can you come over to our place and take care of ours too?!) If the laundry room isn’t exactly the most inspiring room in your house, maybe it’s time to give it a bit of an upgrade. Here are seven cheap and easy upgrades you can put to use to make your boring old laundry room a more enjoyable space for everyone.

Add some interest to the walls… The laundry room is one of the few places in the home where pretty much anything goes when it comes to design and decor. Paint the walls a cheery color or put up some wallpaper in a fun pattern. Now is the time to use those loud colors and prints you’ve been too nervous to use in the main areas of your home.

…and don’t forget the floors! There are so many fun things that can be done to floors to create interest and make a space more inviting. Add some gorgeous patterned tiles to the floor (peel-and-stick works just as well as ceramic!), go neutral with a hardwood or laminate, or just stain or paint the concrete floors.

Create a workspace. If you have a front-loading washer and dryer, there’s some prime real estate right on the top just asking to be used. Prop a butcher block on top to create counter space for separating and folding laundry right out of the dryer. No need for a laundry basket, which—for us, anyway—for us makes it easier to just push laundry aside instead of putting it away.

Organize and label everything. If you have shelf space, keep bins for all the different odds and ends that call the laundry room home. For example, label a bin for socks missing their mates, one for clothespins, one for stain removers, one for cleaning rags, and so forth and so on.

Upcycle old, unused furniture. Is there a piece of furniture you’ve been meaning to get rid of? Maybe an old desk or bookshelf? Give it some new life with a coat of paint, some contact paper, wallpaper, or fabric, and make a spot for it in the laundry room. This can help you keep your laundry and all its accoutrements nice and organized.

Use glass jars and containers for detergents and other needs. Add to the aesthetic of the room by decanting your laundry soap, softeners, et cetera, into pretty glass jars. So much prettier than those plastic jugs taking up space on the shelf!

Accessorize. Just because we don’t see the laundry room all that often doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give it a style boost. Hang some artwork on the walls and add a plant or two to liven up the space. Organize things with pretty baskets, and add other inspiring pieces that will actually help you want to visit the laundry room every once in a while.

What’s the Difference Between Being Pre-Qualified and Pre-Approved?

While the words qualified and approved may have similar meanings, there’s actually a big difference between the two when it comes to getting a home loan. Being pre-qualified is a good start to show that you’re serious about buying a home, but getting pre-approved will get you much closer to the closing table. Let’s take a look at the main differences between being pre-qualified and pre-approved for a home loan.

Pre-Qualification

Pre-qualification for a home loan pretty much comes after a cursory review of your finances and other information. You’ll provide the lender with details such as your gross income, all of your debts, and your total assets (savings, stocks, IRAs, etc.). The lender will calculate your debt-to-income ratio and let you know how much you qualify to borrow. In pre-qualifying you for a loan, the lender isn’t actually promising to lend you this amount or approving you for a loan at all. They don’t check to verify any of the information you provide. This step is really meant to let you know how much house you can afford based on the income and existing debts you report to them. In fact, if you really want to show sellers how serious you are and get the process moving along quickly, you can skip this step all together and go straight to getting pre-approved for a mortgage.

Pre-Approval

Being pre-approved for a home loan takes a much more in-depth look at your financial information. The lender will pull your credit report and check your score to get a look at your credit history. The debts reported there will also help them determine your official debt-to-income ratio and decide whether you’re a good candidate for a loan. You’ll need to submit official documents to them, including (but not limited to) paycheck stubs, W-2s, bank account statements, asset statements, and a list of any other real estate holdings. You’ll fill out a loan application, and the lender will go to work getting you pre-approved for your home loan. Be aware that once you get that pre-approval, you’ll need to get the ball rolling, as most loan pre-approvals are typically good for 60 to 90 days. Also make sure not to do anything that could jeopardize that approval, like opening up a new credit card, making a large purchase, or changing jobs.

If you’re ready to get down to business and buy right now, it’s best to go ahead and get pre-approved. Skipping the pre-qual process completely can help you get to the closing table much faster. But if you’d rather take your time and wait for that perfect home to come on the market before pulling the trigger, pre-qualification might be the way for you to go. Always talk to your trusted lender and your real estate agent for the best advice tailored to your specific situation.  

Friday Five // January 18th, 2019

It’s Friday once again—yay!—which means it’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening around the Charleston area throughout the weekend. Enjoy local eats, see a family-friendly movie with a special guest, celebrate a historic birthday, and more. Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy weekend!

Beginning this Friday at 7pm and Saturday at 10am, the Taste of Folly street festival showcases everything Folly with an emphasis on its eclectic culinary scene. Festivities kick off Friday night with the Cannon Distillery Cocktail Competition, featuring craft cocktails from various establishments. The competition takes place at Tides Beach. Admission is $20 in advance or $25 at the door and includes a 5 oz. sample of each cocktail. Taste all the yummy offerings and vote for your favorite! The street festival portion takes place on Saturday from 10am until 4pm. Folly restaurants will take to Center Street to serve up their best dishes and participate in live cooking demonstrations throughout the day. The street festival will also feature drink specials, an oyster shucking contest, a hot dog eating contest, a chili cook-off, server olympics, live music from local musicians on three stages, and a fun kids’ area. Admission to the street festival portion of the Taste of Folly is $5. Folly residents and kids under the age of 12 get in free.

The first Charleston Restaurant Week of 2019 wraps up this Sunday, but you still have time to take advantage of all the amazing special deals throughout the weekend! Restaurant week is the perfect time to try out all those eateries you’ve always wanted to try but were maybe out of your budget. More than 80 participating restaurants offer prix fixe menus, discounted prices, and other specials during the event. For example, reserve a table at Charleston faves 82 Queen or Poogan’s Porch and enjoy a three-course dinner for $35.

This Saturday is the 210th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the celebrated American writer who served time in the military right here in Charleston. What better way to celebrate than with a birthday party at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island? Head out to Poe’s for lunch or dinner and enjoy some of the yummiest fish tacos, burgers, and fries the area has to offer. The celebration will be complete with balloons and birthday cake to be cut at noon and 7:30pm.

Head to Mellow Mushroom’s Avondale location (19 Magnolia Road) for their monthly Mellow Matinee this Saturday from 11am until 1pm. Once a month, Mellow Mushroom shows a family-friendly movie with the sound on while kiddos enjoy $5 kids meals and adults sip $2 mimosas and $4 Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pilsner. The restaurant’s full menu is also available at regular prices. This month’s movie is the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. As a special bonus, Princess Belle herself will be available for an enchanting meet and greet!

On Sunday afternoon, the sixth annual East Cooper Meals on Wheels Oyster Roast, presented by Crews Subaru of Charleston, will be held at Palmetto Island County Park in Mt. Pleasant. The oyster roast is a family-friendly event with plenty of oysters, barbecue, live music, a bounce house, and many other activities for the family. Enjoy music from The Shakin Martinis Band while you shuck oysters and chow down on barbecue and hot dogs. Tickets are $35 for adults, $20 for non-oyster eaters, and $10 for children ages 5-12. Guests are also required to pay the $2/person park admission fee.

Renting Vs. Buying: The Factors That Might Be Missing in Your Math

So you’re thinking of buying a home, but you can’t quite figure out if it’s a financially sound move. On one hand, renting a house or apartment certainly takes a little bit of responsibility away, and you’re not sure if you can come up with the money for a down payment and those other upfront expenses. On the other hand, owning a home is a wonderful investment; and any money you put into it goes right back into that investment. It also means you won’t have to worry about finding a new place every year or so when your lease is up. It sounds like a great way to guarantee a secure future. You’ve done the math. The mortgage payment will be less than you’d pay in rent, which will save you a ton of money each month, right? Actually, that might not be true. While owning a home is typically cheaper than renting in the long run, there are some extra expenses that come with homeownership. Let’s take a look at some of the factors you might not have thought of when making your decision.

The mortgage payment won’t be your only monthly home expense.

A typical mortgage payment will be less than the amount you’d pay in rent for a comparable home. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it will be your only monthly expense when it comes to ownership. In addition to paying the principal and interest on your loan each month, you’ll need to include homeowners insurance, property taxes, and sometimes private mortgage insurance depending on your loan type. If your home is in an area that has a homeowners association or regime, you’ll need to account for those HOA dues or regime fees as well.

You need cash for closing costs.

That is unless you can negotiate to have the seller pay closing costs. Even then, there are some costs that must be paid by the buyer. Closing costs vary per sale depending on a lot of different factors, but they’ll usually include things like the costs of appraisals, inspections, a title search, and title insurance. Your lender should be able to give you a good estimate of what to expect when it comes to closing costs, but you won’t know the actual figure until closer to closing day.

You’ll qualify for extra tax benefits.

Owning a home comes with some tax benefits that you won’t get as a renter. Each deduction comes with stipulations, so it’s best to consult a tax pro to see if you qualify. Some of the most common deductions are:

  • A portion of your mortgage interest
  • A portion of any “points” or fees on your loan
  • Portions of home improvement and home equity loans
  • A portion of your state and local property taxes.

Don’t forget the emergency savings fund.

You might be wondering if this is absolutely necessary. Take it from us—it is. The typical homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover every little thing that might happen to or in your home. And while you might have gotten a home warranty, even that can come with certain stipulations and restrictions that might have you spending money out of pocket for repairs. At minimum, it’s a good idea to keep at least three months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund. This will make things a bit more comfortable in the event that you lose your job or can’t pay your monthly expenses out of pocket for any other reason. You might also dip into this fund if you decide to do renovations at some point. Just be sure to replenish the fund as quickly as possible to keep that cushion in place.

How-To Tuesday: Make a Small Kitchen Feel Bigger

Sometimes there’s no getting around it. You fall in love with a house for all its charm and perfection…except for that one little detail. And we do mean little. We’re talking about small kitchens. The kind that leave you wondering how you’ll manage to keep your everyday use items organized, let alone contemplating where you’ll cram your wedding china. Along with bathrooms, kitchens are one of the most important aspects on homebuyers’ wish lists. Unless you built or bought yourself a tiny home, a small kitchen probably wasn’t at the top of your roster of “must-haves.” If you’re nodding your head vigorously and thinking Amen!, read on for a few ways to help make your tiny kitchen look and feel bigger.

Keep it light, bright, and white. When it comes to home decor, white is the color of cleanliness and freshness. It reflects light better than darker colors, which makes things feel larger and more open. If you’re not into white, a monochromatic look will work too. Using one color for cabinets, appliances, and countertops help to make things visually seamless and removes obvious edges.

Nix the trim. Go for cabinets that are streamlined with no trim, and leave out the chair rails and crown molding on the kitchen walls as well. Trimwork acts as a transition piece and divides a room into visually smaller pieces, fighting against your efforts to make your kitchen feel larger.

Use floating shelves. Cabinets take up way more room than you might realize. Floating shelves are less bulky, take up less space, and are actually super modern and clean-looking. Just be ready to commit to keeping your kitchen items clean and organized since they’ll be out in the open. Clutter always makes a space feel cramped and dirty.

Try alternative cabinet fronts. If open shelving isn’t your thing, try opening things up visually with alternative materials. Reflective surfaces are your friend when you’re trying to make a room feel bigger. Glass or mirrored cabinet fronts will work wonders in that area.

Don’t forget the fifth wall. Using interesting details to draw the eye upward is an old, tried and true trick used by interior designers everywhere. It gives the illusion of height so a cramped room. You can add interest to your kitchen ceiling by painting it a contrasting color; covering it with a pretty wallpaper; or installing beams, pressed tin, colorful tiles, or even a simple beadboard.

Clear the counters. As we said above, clutter always makes a space feel too small. If you want to create the illusion of space, you’ll have to make literal space too. Keep your counters as empty as possible, stashing small appliances and utensils until it’s time to use them. If you don’t have much storage space, consider hanging things on the backsplash (ex: a magnetic strip for knives and other metal utensils) or investing in a wall-mounted rack for things like pots and pans.

Go with an open island. There’s no rule that says you can’t have an island in a small kitchen. Just keep it simple and open without cabinets on the bottom. Choose an island that has exposed legs and open shelving if needed. A rollaway cart with a butcher block prep space on top is perfect for this purpose, but a simple table-like island with just four legs and a countertop works just as well.

Flood the room with light. If you don’t get enough natural light in your small kitchen, add LED lights under the top cabinets. You can also add them to your floating shelves or inside glass-front cabinets for even more illumination. Instead of bulky pendant lighting over your sink or island, go with recessed can or puck lights. They tend to look neater and give off brighter light.

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