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The Pros and Cons of Golf Course Living

There’s no shortage of beautiful golf courses in the Lowcountry, especially those surrounded by neighborhoods that offer gorgeous homes overlooking the links. Living on a golf course used to imply a certain level of luxury and prestige. These days, neighborhoods that surround golf courses offer homes of varying sizes, styles, and price ranges, opening the door to homeowners of all types. There are some great advantages to living on a golf course, but there are also plenty of disadvantages. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of life on the links.

VIEWS

Pros

Obviously, a prime reason for wanting to live on a golf course is the pristine landscaping with gorgeous views. Most courses offer views of rolling greens, mature trees, ponds, fountains, and even wildlife.

Cons

Close proximity to a tee or fairway means a golf ball could fly into your yard or right through your window at any moment. Be sure that your homeowners insurance will cover any damage done by errant golf balls. Immaculate landscaping of a golf course also typically entails regular usage of pesticides and fertilizers. Be sure to ask about the lawn care products used by the grounds maintenance crew before buying a home on a golf course, especially if you have children and/or pets.

PRIVACY

Pros

Overlooking a golf course means you’re not peeking into a neighbor’s back yard, and they’re not peeking into yours. Instead of staring at someone else’s overgrown lawn and mildewy siding, you get a view of the greens.

Cons

On the other hand, privacy isn’t always guaranteed. Depending on how close you are to the fairway, you could have golfers and errant balls invading your space all day long. If the golf course in question hosts large tournaments, car and foot traffic on tournament days could be an annoyance.

NOISE

Pros

Luckily, golf is a daytime game. That means once the sun goes down, you’re free to enjoy your privacy, peace, and quiet all evening long. Golf is usually a pretty quiet sport as well, which is a major pro.

Cons

If you’re not a morning person, you might not enjoy living on a property that borders a golf course. Mowing and other maintenance typically happens very early in the morning. If noise is an issue for you, make sure your future home isn’t close to a tee or cart path, as these tend to be the noisier parts of the course.

AMENITIES

Pros

If you’re a golfer, living on a golf course could be a dream come true. You could wake up in the morning, have a cup of coffee while admiring the rough or fairway outside your home, and then hop into your very own golf cart and meet up with your buddies for an early tee time. Golf course communities also usually include tennis courts, swimming pools, clubhouses, restaurants, and other great amenities.

Cons

Many courses have restrictions on where you can walk, hike, especially when it comes to cart paths and official landscaping. Since the community is centered around golf, that is the first and foremost concern for those in charge. Those extra amenities can come at a premium as well. Even though homeowners are sometimes offered discounts on club memberships and greens fees, dues and fees could be pretty steep depending on the community.

HOA RESTRICTIONS

Pros

Golf course communities often have notoriously strict covenants, conditions, and restrictions. Living under a homeowners association comes with its own long list of pros and cons. The number one advantage to a strict HOA is beautifully maintained houses and landscaping.

Cons

Sometimes HOAs can really put a damper on your desire to put a personal touch on your home. The number of home improvement projects you can complete without prior approval is usually very limited. Some HOAs even have restrictions on allowable types of holiday decorations, vehicles in driveways, visible sports equipment, and more. HOA dues can also be pricey in golf course communities.

Honestly, it all comes down to personal preference. You might consider some of the cons in this list to be pros, and vice versa. Every prospective homebuyer must take the time to make their own list of pros and cons about each house they’re interested in to make their final decision.

How-To Tuesday: Help Your Guests Feel At-Home During the Holidays

’Tis the season for visitors and guests galore! Traveling during the holidays can be a stressful event. Here’s how to help make your houseguests feel right at home for the holidays.

Create a Comfy, Cozy Guest Area

Whether you offer up an actual guest room, a kids’ room, an office area, or a pull-out couch, it’s important that your guests feel comfortable during their stay. Make the bed as cozy and inviting as possible, ensuring all linens are in good shape and freshly laundered. Offer plenty of extra pillows and blankets. If you typically use your spare room for storage, make sure there’s enough space for your guests’ belongings and room for them to move around and be comfortable. 

Go the Extra Mile: Provide plush robes and slippers for your guests to use during their stay and take home with them when they leave.

Make Space in the Closet or Dresser

Be sure to leave some hangers and drawer space free so your guests don’t have to live out of their suitcases during their stay. It’s also a good idea to place a hamper or laundry basket in the room so they have a spot for their dirty clothes and towels.

Go the Extra Mile: Line drawers with beautiful paper and toss in a scented sachet.

Set Up a Nightstand

We don’t typically realize just how inconvenient nightstands are until we don’t have one. If you don’t have a nightstand in your guest room or area, think about getting one. Any small table or shelf will do, really. 

Go the Extra Mile: Stock the nightstand with a lamp, a box of tissues, some bottles of water, a small clock, and even a phone charging cord.

Stock the Guest Bathroom

First and foremost, make sure the guest bath is spotlessly clean and organized. Few things will make you feel out of sorts when away from home than a dingy or cluttered bathroom. Put out clean, fluffy towels and washcloths, a full bottle of hand soap, and any other toiletries you want to provide. Make extra toilet paper and other necessities readily available. Add a nightlight so guests can find their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  

Go the Extra Mile: Create a personalized basket filled with items like shampoo and conditioner, soap, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, razors, etc.

Ready the Kitchen

Clean out and organize the fridge and pantry so guests can find whatever they need quickly and easily. No one wants to go rifling through someone else’s refrigerator or cabinets to find whatever they need. Make sure to show guests where the coffee maker, kettle, toaster, and other small appliances are in case they want to use them.

Go the Extra Mile: Contact guests ahead of time and find out what their favorite foods and drinks are. Have them ready before guests arrive. Organize a basket of their favorite snacks, coffee, tea, wine, or other sundries as a welcome gift.

Make Your Home Accessible

Give guests a key, alarm code, garage door opener, and whatever else they need to have easy access at all hours. Show them how the thermostat works, and make sure to have a fan or space heater available if necessary. Put out a tray or point out a specific area where remote controls, chargers, and headphones/earbuds live. Write down the WiFi password and show them how the television or other electronics turn on.

Go the Extra Mile: Provide a written list of the WiFi password, directions for using any remote controls, and a listing of available channels.

Help Them Feel Included

Offer to include your guests in conversation and activities during their stay. Don't assume that they'll entertain themselves. They might not be the type to just make themselves at home. For example, go out and tour your town's Christmas lights; host a neighborhood party; or just have a night in with movies and games, complete with hot cocoa, popcorn, and other snacks. 

Go the Extra Mile: Get personalized stockings for your guests and hang them right alongside your own family's stockings. 

What Is a Net-Zero Home?

The United States Department of Energy officially defines a zero energy building (ZEB) as “an energy-efficient building where, on a source-energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.” In layman’s terms, a zero energy building or net-zero home produces enough renewable energy to meet or exceed its own annual energy consumption requirements.

As evidenced by the growing number of solar panels gracing the roofs of single-family homes here in the Lowcountry, more and more homeowners are moving in the right direction as far as energy consumption goes. Traditional buildings are significant contributors of greenhouse gases, consuming about 40% of the total fossil fuel energy in the U.S. and the European Union. In order to reduce carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels as well as save money on energy bills, builders and consumers are beginning to look toward net-zero homes.

How Does It Work?

Zero-energy homes are built from the ground up with energy efficiency in mind. Beginning with the most basic of construction and design elements, the focus is on reducing energy requirements for systems that usually account for the most energy usage in a home. The goal is to reduce the amount of energy needed while also increasing the home’s energy-generating capacity.

Typically, energy is harvested onsite via energy-producing technologies like solar and wind power. That self-sustaining power source is combined with technologies like highly efficient HVAC and lighting, spray-foam insulation, triple-glazed windows, skylights to reduce lighting needs, energy-savvy appliances, smart thermostats, and other energy-efficient features. Keep in mind, however, that an energy-efficient home is only truly efficient if the people who live in it practice good energy-saving habits. Net-zero homes and energy-saving features aren’t going to work if you leave the lights on all day long, run the air conditioner on full blast, and take long, luxuriating showers every day.

What Are Some Advantages?

There are many advantages to owning a net-zero home, including:

  • Isolation from future energy price increases
  • Reduced total cost of ownership thanks to improved energy efficiency
  • Reduction of monthly bills
  • Reduced risk of power outages due to grid blackouts
  • Improved reliability after natural disaster or other weather problems
  • Higher resale value than a comparable traditional home
  • Contribution to the greater benefits of society
  • Reduced carbon footprint

What Are Some Disadvantages?

As with anything in life, there are cons to go along with the pros of net-zero housing. These include:

  • Cost of building or retrofit can be higher
  • Few builders or designers have the skills and experience needed to build ZEBs
  • Current subsidies will be phased out as solar-photovoltaic mass production lowers future prices
  • Solar energy only works in locations that are unobstructed from the sun
  • Without other energy-efficient features and energy-saving habits, a net-zero home won’t be worth the initial cost.

Is This Actually Attainable for the Average Homeowner?

As you might have already assumed, building a net-zero home does cost more than building a same-size traditional home with the same features. The increase in price can be anywhere from 20 to 60 percent. But once you begin to consider factors like federal and state energy-efficiency rebates and major savings on energy bills, that upfront price increase starts to look more attractive. Those savings can add up, eventually leading the home to pay for itself. “Zero-energy homes are actually affordable,” says Jacob Corvidae, principat at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a research nonprofit focusing on clean energy. He stresses that it’s important to make this widely known, as the perception that net-zero building is expensive and unattainable would make consumers, builders, and policymakers reluctant to encourage it. The Rocky Mountain Institute took a look at how long it takes for the savings on a 2,200-square-foot net-zero home to cover the initial building costs in the 30 largest cities in the U.S. They found that it would take 7.8 years in San Francisco, CA; 11 years in Los Angeles, CA; 10.9 years in Jacksonville, FL; 12.5 years in Dallas, TX; and 11 years in Washington, DC, for example. Realtor Magazine states that “the biggest savings tend to be in locales with high electricity rates and older building codes.”

Majority of Home Buyers Fail to Shop Around for a Mortgage

American consumers love a good bargain. Things like extreme couponing, Black Friday, and the infamous “Free gift with purchase!” gimmick wouldn’t exist. We love to comparison shop and hunt for the best deal. Keep that in mind when we reveal this rather surprising fact: Despite a house being the biggest purchase most people will ever make, about two-thirds of home buyers fail to shop around for a mortgage. We seek out the best price for a pound of ground beef. We make an extra trip to a store across town to save two dollars on laundry detergent. Yet somehow we fail to comparison shop when it comes to the largest purchase most of us will ever make.

The More You Know…

According to Freddie Mac, homebuyers can save about $1,500 over the life of a 30-year loan by getting just one additional quote when shopping for a mortgage. Homebuyers who gather more quotes before making a decision stand to save even more. Freddie Mac states that eighty percent of those buyers who gathered five quotes saved between $2,089 and $3,904 over the life of their loans.

The Lowest-Rate Loan Isn’t Always the Best Loan

Many homebuyers assume that the best mortgage for them is the one with the lowest rate. They go to their trusted bank or mortgage lender, find out if they qualify for the lowest rate possible, and go with it. What they don’t take into consideration is the fact that the interest rate is only one small part of a home loan. Other factors are equally as important if not moreso. Take a closer look at the terms to make sure things like closing costs are agreeable.

Broaden Your Search Past a Fixed-Rate Loan

There’s also the common misconception that a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the only sensible, risk-free loan to apply for. But there are lots of reasons you might not want to get a 30-year loan. If you don’t plan to own the home for more than five years, for instance, an adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, might actually be perfect for you. A 5/5 ARM will have a fixed rate for the first five years of the loan, so if you don’t plan to stick around longer than that, why not apply for the ARM and enjoy a lower payment than a 30-year fixed-rate loan can guarantee.

Gather Quotes from Different Sources

Don’t just look for different types of loans. Get quotes for various loans from a few different lenders. Go to your trusted bank. Ask your real estate agent for a couple of recommendations. Try out some internet options. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to assembling initial quotes.

We’re lucky enough to live in an era where technology makes gathering information so incredibly easy. With so much information available right at our fingertips, it’s almost a crime not to shop around before making such a huge decision. While there’s not absolute guarantee that you’ll save a significant amount of money by shopping around for your mortgage loan, it certainly can’t hurt to try!

Choosing the Best Fireplace for Your Home

Temps are dropping here in the Lowcountry, and we’re thinking warm and cozy thoughts. There’s nothing quite like curling up by the fireplace to read a good book or watch a movie on a chilly night. The only problem is that fireplaces aren’t really the norm in the Charleston area these days. Since central heating and cooling is less of a modern convenience and more of a must-have in modern times, a fireplace isn’t a necessity anymore. In fact, most builders consider them an upgrade and charge extra to add one on. But just because we don’t need a fireplace doesn’t mean we don’t want one. If your house is lacking this cozy convenience, or if you have an older fireplace that is in dire need of updating, the options nowadays are many and varied. Let’s look at the pros and cons of a few different types of fireplaces so you can choose the best option for your home.

Wood Burning

If you own an older home, chances are you have a fireplace that is or was once a traditional wood-burning one. There’s nothing like a plain ol’ wood-burning fireplace with its crackling sound, genuine warmth, and cozy ambience. The problem is that they can be an awful lot of work. With chores like chimney and flue maintenance, chopping or buying and storing firewood, and cleaning out the ashes, owning a wood-burning fireplace might be more trouble than it’s worth for some folks.

Gas Burning

Homeowners who want the look of a traditional fireplace without all the work tend to turn to the next best thing: gas fireplaces. Gas-burning fireplaces are much easier to maintain. There’s no logs or kindling to chop, no mess to clean up, and no chimney to clean. You can convert your regular wood-burning fireplace into a gas one easily, or you can buy a prebuilt gas fireplace and install it anywhere, as long as there’s a gas line and proper ventilation.

Electric

Electric fireplaces are easy to install, low-maintenance, quite flexible, and can be surprisingly budget-friendly. Whether your budget is around $100 or upwards of $1,000, you’re sure to find several options that appeal to you. Electric fireplaces are safer and cleaner than other options, and most units require little more work to install than plugging them in. If you’re looking for more than ambience from your fireplace, however, an electric fireplace may not be the best option for you. It may be more eco-friendly, but it certainly won’t put out the amount of heat a wood or gas fireplace can.

Ethanol Burning

There’s no short supply of style, shape, and size when it comes to ethanol-burning fireplaces. If you’re looking to add a touch of warmth and ambience to a room every now and then, you might want to look into getting an ethanol-burning fireplace. While they aren’t the best or cheapest option as far as function, they’re perfect for a wide range of design options and portability. Since ethanol fireplaces work on fuel that is poured directly into them and don’t require ventilation, they can be placed anywhere—even in the center of a room. Just don’t expect to heat a whole room with one unless you drop a lot of cash on a larger fireplace and its required fuel. While prices of ethanol vary, you can expect to pay around $10 for a liter.

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