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8 Ways to Winterize Your Home

While Charleston residents haven’t felt the need to pull out those winter coats just yet, the fact is that—say it with me—"Winter is coming!" Winter has never been a predictable season in the Lowcountry.

We might enjoy a breezy and beautiful 75-degree day only to be surprised by a high of 55 degrees the very next day. It’s for that reason that early winterization is key for helping to avoid high energy bills during the colder months. Don’t be caught unprepared when frosty weather eventually rears its head. These eight steps will save you time, money, and grief over energy costs and other cold-weather issues.

  1. Dodge the drafts! No matter how small, pesky streams of air that leak in through gaps in windows, doors, chimneys, and siding have a big impact on your heating bill. Use caulk and weatherstrip tape to seal any gaps in these areas, and invest an entire $10 or so in a draft guard that slips under the door to prevent air from leaking in. If you use window units, remove those for the winter to keep drafts out around the edges.
  2. Clean out gutters. This is especially important for safety’s sake. Make sure to clear out all autumn leaves and debris that may have collected in the gutters. Water must be able to flow freely to prevent icicles and ice dams. It isn’t often that we have to worry about these in the Lowcountry, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Remember those ice storms from last January? Yeah. Clear those gutters.
  3. Flush out the water heater. This will get rid of particles and sediment that might have settled in the base of your water heater and cause it to work harder.
  4. Replace filters. You should be changing your central air filters regularly anyway, but take this as a gentle reminder. Clogged air filters force central air and heating systems to use more energy.
  5. Give the heating system a tune-up. Don’t be surprised by a lack of heat when the temperatures drop suddenly! Make sure your HVAC system is in working order for the colder months. Some utility companies provide free check-ups to ensure your heating system is working properly to reduce energy use and costs.
  6. Reverse ceiling fans. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the base that enables you to reverse the direction in which the blades turn. Counter-clockwise motion cools the room, while clockwise motion warms the room. Since hot air rises, some of it stays up near the ceiling. Reversing the direction of the blades forces that warmer air down, preventing the need to turn up the thermostat.
  7. Insulate pipes. Keep those pipes warm to prevent freezing and bursting. Pipe foam can be found at most any hardware store and is easy to install. Simply cut it to size, wrap the pipe, and seal it with duct tape.
  8. Turn the heat down! When you leave the house—especially for longer periods of time—turn the temperature down on the thermostat. There’s no reason to keep the house toasty when no one is there. Even better, invest in a programmable thermostat.
Are you ready for colder weather? Have you learned the hard way how important it is to winterize your home? What winterization tips have we left out that you find important or helpful? Tell us in the comments below!

 

How-To Tuesday: Become a Real Estate Agent

Becoming a real estate agent (and a successful one at that!) isn’t as easy as you might think it is. If you’ve been considering a career in real estate, it’s important to know ahead of time what to expect and what your first steps should be. Here are a few things you’ll need to do to get started.

 
  1. Get educated. The first thing you’ll need to do is take a pre-licensing course. Each state has its own requirements for this. In South Carolina, prospective real estate agents must attend a 60-hour pre-licensing class. There are several options for this, including a class at the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors and others at various real estate schools.
  2. Choose a brokerage where you’d like to start your career. It’s best to choose the broker you’d like to work with before you graduate from your pre-licensing course. Interview several brokers and compare what they offer their agents. For example, as a boutique brokerage, Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company is able to offer personalized training and mentoring in a smaller environment.
  3. Get licensed. After you graduate from your pre-licensing class, you will need to take your state’s licensing exam. Usually, there is a limit to the time you can take the exam after the class, so make sure you check your state’s requirements and read them carefully.
  4. Develop a budget. Between licensing courses, exam fees, licensing fees, association dues, business cards, signs, advertising, and possible desk fees, you can expect to pay somewhere around $2,000 just to get started. It’s also important to realize that you won't start raking in the commission checks right away. Set aside money for those first few months or so to support yourself.
  5. Find a mentor. Any good, committed broker-in-charge will be ready to help you whenever you need it, but it can also be beneficial to find a fellow agent in the office who can mentor you. Some agents might be willing to co-list with you, for instance, which means you share the work and learn alongside that more experienced agent and split the commission when the listing sells.
  6. Contact your sphere of influence. The first step to getting business is to let people know that you’re a real estate agent. Make a list of everyone you know, including family members, close friends, acquaintances, and anyone you might know who’s already in the real estate business. Call them, send out cards, or find another creative way to announce that you’re ready to help them with all of their real estate needs.
 
As you can see, getting started in the real estate industry can be a challenging, time-consuming venture. Arming yourself with the right knowledge and talking to people in the know will make things much easier. If you’d like to know more about a career in real estate, give us a call at (843) 486-1600. We’re always happy to educate and welcome new agents to the wonderful world of real estate!

 

Friday Five // October 17, 2014

We're back this week with another five fun fall and Halloween-themed activities to do this weekend. Get haunted, go on a pub crawl, see a musical, and more!

Only the bravest Charlestonians dare to enter Boone Hall Plantation on weekend nights during October. Boone Hall Fright Nights is the scariest, creepiest, most horrifying Halloween event in Charleston. Have a hauntingly good time with the Wicked Woods Hayride, Frightmare Factory, Zombie Town, and Twisted Terror. Open from dark until midnight Friday and Saturdays and from dark until 10pm Sundays and some weekdays.

The 27th Annual Children's Day Festival, presented by BILO, takes place this Sunday from noon to 5pm at the Park West Recreation Complex in Mt. Pleasant. Bring the kids out to enjoy carnival games, rides, face painting, wall climbing, pony rides, a petting zoo, and more! 

Zombies will crawl the streets of Park Circle this Saturday night from 5-11pm! Actually, it'll just be beer lovers in zombie makeup participating in the Park Circle Zombie Pub Crawl to benefit Lowcountry AIDS Services and hosted by Holy City Brewing. Nine bars and restaurants will have drink and food specials, and there will be a costume contest, silent auction, live music, and a DJ.

If you enjoy a good Mel Brooks film, you probably love his hilarious classic Young Frankenstein. Here's your chance to see the movie come to life with a Broadway twist! Charleston Stage is performing The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein at the Historic Dock Street Theater from October 17th through November 2nd. You can catch the show at 7:30pm Friday and Saturday evening or Sunday at 3pm.

For some relaxed, family-friendly fun, check out the 2014 Scarecrows on the Square in Summerville starting this Saturday afternoon. Businesses, schools, and families will set up their scarecrows in Hutchinson Square from 9am to 12pm. Come out and watch them being constructed, or just take a stroll at your leisure anytime this month to see some truly creative and inventive designs. While you're there, look for Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company's scarecrow and Halloween scene! Then cast your vote for your favorite at participating locations.

 

How-To Tuesday: Purge That Clutter!

A little simplification does everyone good in what can be a hectic modern life. The easiest way to simplify your home life? A good old-fashioned purge session. Getting rid of things we’ve been clinging to but don’t really need can feel so liberating that it can be hard to stop once you start…which isn’t a bad thing, actually. So drag out the donation boxes and trash bags, and consult our list below of some of the superfluous items most homeowners don’t realize they’re clinging to.
  1. Extra sheets and towels (especially the ratty ones). How many sheet sets do you really need? If you’re extra good at keeping up with laundry, you could get away with having one set for each bed in your home. But that’s not exactly realistic for most households. Each bed should ideally have two sets. Anything else is just clutter. While you’re at it, get rid of those faded towels that are riddled with holes and bleach spots. Lots of pet shelters take donations in the form of linens to create bedding and warmth for cats and dogs.
  2. That 4,983,347-piece butcher block knife set. That’s pretty hyperbolic of us, but really. Who needs that many knives? Even most professional chefs will tell you that you only need the basics to get by. Keep a couple of chef’s knives and then choose whatever specialty ones you know you’ll use (e.g. boning knife, bread knife, paring knife). And ditch that butcher block knife stand! It harbors bacteria and bits of food.
  3.  Excess storage containers. Admit it. You know you have that one scary cabinet that hides a jumbled mess of mismatched food storage containers and lids. Get rid of that nonsense! While the bowls can get by without their tops, all those stray lids are doing absolutely no good lingering in the cabinet. Toss them all! Then take stock of how many you actually use on a regular basis and weed out your collection accordingly.
  4. Multiple kitchen tools that do the same thing. Do you really need a blender AND a food processor AND an immersion blender AND a Magic Bullet? (Hint: The correct answer is no.) Ask yourself how often you use your specialty kitchen tools and pare down.
  5. Knick knacks, a.k.a. dust collectors. Most of us are guilty of hanging on to little decorative items that we don’t actually have any emotional attachment to. It may be out of guilt because the item was a gift, or it might just be out of laziness. If it doesn’t serve a purpose or isn’t part of a super special, sentimental collection, it doesn’t belong in your house. 
  6. Lonely, tired furniture. Does anyone actually sit in that cool-looking bamboo folding chair over there in the corner? It may be hip and trendy, but it certainly doesn’t look comfortable. And that old, dirty, ripped armchair only the dog loves? Yeah. It’s gotta go.
  7. Specialty cleaning products. This might seem counterintuitive (pun not intended!) since we’re talking about cleaning here, but truth be told, you don’t really need eleven different kitchen or bathroom cleaners to be squeaky clean. In fact, with just a bit of lemon, baking soda, and vinegar, you can clean pretty much anything in your house. Check out our blog post on how to make your own cleaning products.
  8. Extra dishes. Not only do extra plates, bowls, glasses, and utensils add clutter, but they also contribute to laziness. Who needs to do the dishes if there’s clean china to be had? Abandon that way of thinking! Unless you entertain regularly (and depending on the size of your household), you really only need about six place settings.
Is there anything on this list you disagree with? What would you add to our list? Tell us in the comments below!

Vertical Gardening and You!

If you haven't heard of vertical gardening, it's time for you to jump on the bandwagon! This method of growing plants and produce isn't exactly new (consider the Gardens of Babylon, for exampe), but it's become more popular in recent years for both aesthetic and practical purposes. Going vertical is an especially great way to experiment with hydroponic gardedning, which is the practice of growing plants without soil. Even if you prefer to stick to growing plants in soil, vertical gardening is a convenient method that can cost little to no money to start. Are you convinced yet? Read on to find out more!

What are the benefits?

1. With vertical gardening, monitoring and controlling pests is easier. The plants are right in front of your face, which allows you to spot signs of decay and pest activity more easily and quickly.

2. Your yield per square foot will increase since you'll be able to fit more in a vertical garden.

3. Taking away the need to hunch over, bend, and kneel makes harvesting much easier.

4. Since the fruits and veggies are right at eye level, they won't be able to hide under other plants. You'll be able to catch them at their prime ripeness.

5. Elderly gardeners and those with disabilities benefit greatly from vertical gardening since the physical exertion is less than traditional soil gardening.

What can I grow in a vertical garden?

Basically, you can plant any non-bush fruit or vegetable smaller than a volleyball. Examples of produce are tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, pole beans, squash, and mini pumpkins. Pretty much any flower or plant you grow in a traditional garden will thrive in a vertical one as well.

Where do I construct my vertical garden?

Almost any wall will do. In fact, vertical gardening is a great way to hide a particularly ugly wall! If the plants you want to grow have specific care instructions, be sure the wall you choose is located in a prime spot for those growing conditions.

How much money will I need?

This really depends on how fancy you want your garden to be. There are several methods that require different materials. If you want to build a complete, irrigated system, you'll need: a frame built of PVC pipe (Don't use metal or wood because of extra expense, weight, and possible rusting or rotting.) plastic sheeting fabric (Basic felt carpet padding works well.) galvanized screws stainless steel staples automatic irrigation system with a timer set to seconds If you don't want to get this far into it, there are simpler, cheaper methods. You can buy pockets especially designed for vertical gardening at most hardware or gardening stores. Pot hangers with polypropylene support clamps are also available for purchase. These are specially designed to endure high winds and weight. You can also go the green, free method by using found objects like rain gutters, burlap bags, shutters with wide slats, etc. If you're using a solid material, make sure to drill drainage holes; and if you're planting edibles, be sure the materials are non-toxic.

Have you had experience with vertical gardening? Have you tried hydroponic gardening? Tell us about your nontraditional gardening experiences in the comments below!

 

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