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Buying a Home: What’s Included?

When you’re looking at homes to buy, there will be certain features that capture your attention most. If there's a feature or detail that really catches your eye, you probably expect it to be there once closing day rolls around and the house is yours. What some buyers don’t realize, unfortunately, is that not every fixture in a home that’s for sale will automatically come with the house. You might assume that the beautiful built-in bookcases in the home office will stay, but there’s a chance the seller is thinking the opposite. It's the same with any high-end appliances that strike your fancy. It's important that both the buyer and the seller are clear about their expectations when it comes to what goes and what stays. As a quick reference, here are some examples of items that should definitely stay with the house when the sellers leave.

Built-Ins and Major Pieces

Elements like cabinets, window seats, bookshelves, and other custom built-ins typically tend to come with the house. Generally, if it takes a contractor to remove something, or the removal would require repairs to be made, you can assume it conveys. It’s always a good idea to ask and make sure, though.

Hardware

Doorknobs, drawer pulls, cabinet handles, towel bars, and other hardware fixtures should all convey with the house. For the most part, if a seller has an attachment to any hardware, they should replace it with something else before showing the home. If they don’t specifically state that any hardware won’t be included in the sale of the house, it’s safe to assume it’ll stay.

Certain Kitchen Appliances

Some appliances are not required for the sale of a home. For instance, you’re not entitled to a refrigerator or washer and dryer, but in some cases the seller will include them. Some mortgage lenders require that the seller include a stove, but it doesn’t have to be the very same stove you saw during the open house. If the seller has a special stove they’d like to take with them, they could switch it out for a cheaper, more basic one.

Landscaping

We’re not talking garden gnomes and path lights here, but actual landscaping. Any trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, and embedded stepping stones, for example, should stay when the sellers leave. If the sellers want to dig up a special small tree or bush and take it with them, that’s their prerogative, but they should let you know ahead of time.

Overhead Light Fixtures

Unless it’s expressly stated otherwise in the contract, any attached light fixtures or ceiling fans should convey with the house. A good agent will let their sellers know that they should go ahead and take down any fixtures they want to take with them when they move and just replace them with something else. But if you get to your pre-closing walkthrough to find that every overhead light fixture and bulb has been uninstalled, you might have a bone to pick with the seller.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These are required to be left behind, and most mortgage lenders require them to be in good working order as well. This isn’t typically a point of contention, as any house the seller moves into should already have smoke detectors installed. There shouldn’t be any reason for them to take these safety features with them.

For the most part, anything that’s not physically attached to the house or required by your mortgage lender tends to go with the seller. If there’s something you really want that isn’t typically included in the sale of a home, you can try to negotiate with the seller. For instance, if the sellers are keeping their fridge, but you feel that the fridge fits perfectly in the kitchen and would like to keep it, you can always offer to include it in the purchase price of the home or work out a deal later on.

How-To Tuesday: Stay Cool Without Overworking Your A/C

It’s been a steamy summer here in Charleston, and we still have a while to go before the heat lets up. When high temps and super humid days are the norm, it can be tempting to crank the air conditioning way up and just chill out on the couch. But when your electricity bill arrives, you might end up regretting that somewhat. The fact is that the harder your air conditioner works, the higher your bills are going to be. In many cases, forcing the a/c to work overtime can also wreak havoc on your HVAC system, and we all know how expensive those repairs can be. So how do you keep cool without overworking your air conditioner and spending an arm and a leg? Let’s look at a few tips.

Don’t turn off your A/C.

If you’re air conditioner’s not actively working, you must be saving money, right? Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Turning the a/c off completely allows the air inside your house to get too warm, meaning the system has to work harder and longer to cool it off. A good rule of thumb is to keep the temperature within a 10-degree range at all times. This ensures your HVAC system will work more efficiently.

Install a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostats are great tools for making sure the temperature in your home stays comfortable without taking a toll on your HVAC system. Simply enter a temperature range, and the smart thermostat will make sure to keep things working within that range. Some will let you program temperature ranges based on time of day, and some even sense when no one’s home and adjust accordingly.

Boost your airflow with fans.

Run ceiling fans (or box fans or oscillating fans) to help boost the air circulation in your home and create breezes for immediate personal cooling.

Keep exterior doors closed and interior doors open.

Obviously you want to keep the cool air inside. Closing exterior doors—even if you have storm doors—is a good idea, especially during the hottest, sunniest parts of the day. Interior doors, however, should be kept open to promote even airflow throughout the house.

Make sure your air filter is clean.

No matter how clean you keep your house, dust, dirt, pet hair, and other debris can build up on your air filter. This prevents air from flowing freely and causes your air conditioner to work harder. Change your filters once every three months to make sure your system keeps running efficiently.

Block out the sun.

If a room gets direct sunlight at any part of the day, it’s going to be warmer. Keep blinds, shades, or drapes closed to keep the sun from working against your a/c unit. You might even want to consider springing for window tinting in those rooms.

Keep up with maintenance.

One of the most important things you can do for your HVAC system is to keep up with maintenance and cleaning. Schedule a yearly appointment for a technician to come out and perform an inspection and routine maintenance. This will help keep everything ship-shape and nip a lot of preventable issues in the bud.

Your Favorite Features About Your Home Could Make It Harder to Sell

Everyone has those features that they absolutely love about their home. It might be the fact that it’s situated on a large corner lot. It might be the professional landscaping and sparkling swimming pool. Or maybe it’s the giant walk-in closet with custom shelving and storage. It doesn’t matter what feature is your favorite; the fact of the matter is that there will be buyers out there who hate it. In fact, certain highlights like swimming pools, staircases, lot size, and location could make your home harder to sell. Let’s take a look at why.

Being Close to a School

It might be convenient for you to live within walking distance of a school if you have children. But not everyone wants to live close to a school, especially if there aren’t any young kids in the family. Living near a school means contending with drop-off and pick-up traffic, school speed zones, and a certain amount of noise.

A Gorgeous Spiral Staircase

Having a two-or-more-story house can narrow your field of buyers somewhat. Older couples, families with small children, or anyone who intends to live in the house until their elderly years won’t necessarily appreciate that beautiful staircase. Having to climb and descend stairs multiples times a day can pose some risk for the elderly and the very young.

A Swimming Pool

A pool can provide hours upon hours of fun and enjoyment, but it also requires a good amount of upkeep and expenditure. Many home buyers don’t want the additional expense and maintenance a swimming pool can bring. There are other things to consider as well, like safety and liability issues or higher home insurance rates.

Over-Improvements

Having certain high-end or custom features can be really nice. Before you install them, though, you should think about whether or not recouping the cost is important to you. If it’s a feature you really want to have, and you don’t care about getting a big return on your investment, go for it. If you expect to sell your home for more money because of that feature, you might want to think again.

Tile Flooring

Tile flooring has come a long way, with some even imitating hardwood flooring almost perfectly. It’s also very easy to clean and maintain. But tile presents its fair share of problems when it comes time to sell your home. Not everyone has the same taste in patterns, colors, and styles, and tile is notoriously difficult to remove and replace. It’s time-consuming, hard, costly work, which is a big turn-off for buyers.

Lot Size and/or Location

Your half-acre lot that’s within walking distance to shops and restaurants may be just right for you, but there will always be a buyer who disagrees. A bigger lot means more lawn maintenance. Having a short walk to nearby businesses could also mean more noise and more traffic close by. While you can’t exactly change your lot size or the location of your home, you can play up other features that you know will attract buyers. For example, if you have a large lot, make sure the curb appeal is immaculate.

Friday Five // July 20th, 2018

It’s Friday again, and you know what that means! Time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening in the Charleston area throughout the weekend. Kick it at an old school brunch event, have some fun at Shark Week, attend a ladybug release, and more. Whatever you choose to do, as always, the staff and agents at Johnson and Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a safe and happy weekend!

Bring the family to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on Saturday from 9am until 2pm for the 5th Annual Ladybug Release. At approximately 10am, a Volkswagen Beetle dressed as a giant ladybug will arrive to kick off the party. Then hundreds of children will scatter throughout the gardens to find the perfect spot to release their share of 200,000 ladybugs! There will be more than twenty other events taking place, including nature displays, interactive activities, face painting, a costume contest, and more. Paid garden admission is required for this event. Adults are $20, children ages 6-12 are $10, and those 5 years old and under get in free.

On the third Saturday of every month, West Ashley’s Mellow Mushroom hosts the Mellow Matinee, a special presentation of a family friendly movie with the sound on. This month’s featured film is Disney’s Peter Pan! There will be $5 kids meals for the littles and $2 mimosas for adults, along with the regular full menu. Look for a special appearance from Tinkerbell herself, courtesy of Glass Slipper Productions.

Take it back to the old school on Sunday for a Back to the ’90s Brunch at Triangle Char and Bar in Avondale. Put on your best flannel shirt, acid-washed denim, or Kelly Kapowski/Zack Morris-themed outfit and relax with a mimosa or Bloody Mary and your favorite tunes from the 1990s. There will be lots of fun ’90s swag to giveaway while you enjoy your brunch too.

Shark Week begins this Sunday and runs all week at the South Carolina Aquarium. Shark activities and learning opportunities abound, including special dive shows and programs, expert speakers, photo opportunities, DIY projects, a shark tooth dig, scavenger hunt, and more. For a schedule of events and daily activities, visit the aquarium’s website.

If you’re looking for a way to escape the heat (or rain!) with the kiddos this Sunday afternoon, head to 34 West Theater Company downtown on Meeting Street for Enchanting Princess Story Time from 1pm until 2pm. Enjoy interactive stories told by The Snow Queen, Cinderella, and another special guest! Your child will receive one-on-one time with each character for a meet-and-greet while a professional photographer captures the moment. Popcorn, other snacks, and refreshing beverages will be available for purchase. Your ticket includes entry into the events, a goodie bag for your child, and copies of the photographer’s photos.

The Best Home Buying Advice to IGNORE

It happens every time. You mention to a friend, family member, or coworker that you’re looking into buying a house, and they immediately bombard you with their advice, tips, and horror stories. It’s all well and good to want to share insider advice when you’ve been through the process, but sometimes it can do more harm than good. There’s inevitably some piece of information they get completely wrong, or some tip that only works every once in a blue moon. Some people will have great advice that will definitely help you in your home buying journey, but there are some tips you should absolutely ignore.

Foreclosures and short sales are the way to go.

Foreclosures and short sales aren’t always the great deal they’re cracked up to be. When you’re dealing with buying a bank-owned property, there’s no room for negotiation. You might be getting a good price on the home, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting a great deal. Sometimes you’re buying the property as is, and sometimes you can’t even go inside the home before buying it, especially if you’re buying a foreclosure at auction. As for short sales, people in the real estate business love to tell you there’s nothing short about a short sale. The word short in the term short sale just means that the bank is willing to accept a certain dollar amount less than what the owners still owe on the property. The whole process is usually pretty long and drawn out.

Buy a fixer-upper and save tons of money.

Don’t let HGTV and DIY Network fool you. Fixing up an old or run-down house is not as easy as they make it look on television. Getting the most out of a fixer-upper requires extra time, money, and patience. It helps if you’re handy and willing to do a lot of the work yourself, but not many people have the time and the know-how required to make a fixer-upper worth the money you might initially save upon purchase. Before you decide to buy a fixer, we highly suggest having an inspection done and getting some estimates from a contractor or two.

You don’t need a real estate agent.

Yes, you do. You always, always need a real estate agent. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that working without an agent will save you money. Your agent is there to help you get the best deal possible. They are expert negotiators. They know when the law is on your side. They have far better resources when it comes to finding a home, getting a mortgage, and having inspections and repairs done. Some sellers might try to avoid paying commission by telling you you’ll get a better deal if you don’t use a real estate agent, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You need someone on your side who knows the ins, outs, ups, and downs of real estate. Hiring an agent is the absolute best way to know you’re getting the best deal possible and steer clear of any possible legal issues.

The cost per square foot matters more than the price.

The price per square foot of a home is a general metric for measuring whether or not the asking price is reasonable. But it shouldn’t be the reason you decide whether or not to buy a home. A home’s price per square foot doesn’t take a lot of factors into consideration. It doesn’t include things like lot size; non-heated space that don’t officially count as square footage (such as garages, basements, and outbuildings); the number of bedrooms and bathrooms; and certain premium features you might be looking for, like granite counter tops or a swimming pool. If there are some things that are important to have, don’t use a home’s cost per square foot as your measuring tool.

Buy the worst/smallest/ugliest house in the best neighborhood.

A lot of people live by the advice that it’s better to be the smallest duck in the big pond than the biggest duck in the small pond. But that’s not always the truth. This might be sage wisdom for an investor, because what they care most about is paying the least to get the most equity when they go to sell. To be honest, it’s not the best advice for a family who’s looking for a home they’re going to live in for a while. It’s more important to find the house you want and will be more comfortable in, even if it’s not in the “right” neighborhood. Neighborhoods go through cycles. They’re always changing and growing. Who’s to say that the block you buy on won’t outrank the number-one neighborhood five years from now?

Buy as much house as you can afford.

You might qualify for a $500,000 home, but that doesn’t mean you should run out and buy one at that top amount. Do you really want the majority of your earnings to pay for your house, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and other costs associated with homeownership? The smart move is to find something that fits your needs and wants but is still under your budget. You might not always have the same job you have right now, and you certainly don’t want to tie yourself down to being required to bring in the same pay year after year. The best thing you can do for yourself is to buy under budget, use the money you save to pay extra toward your principal loan amount each month, and pay off that mortgage much earlier than expected.

Never offer full price!

We’ll tell you a universal truth. Submitting a lowball offer to another real estate agent is one of the most embarrassing things agents have to do. We completely understand that you want to get the best deal, but when your agent advises you against making a lowball offer and you insist on doing it anyway, it makes both you and your agent look bad. You might think that it can’t hurt to ask for that low price, but it actually does. Submitting any offer takes up valuable time and resources on both sides, and to waste time on a lowball offer is honestly an amateur move—especially during a seller’s market.

We could go on and on about all the bad advice we’ve heard people give homebuyers over the years, but we’d be here all day. In all seriousness, the best advice you can get about buying a home is from an expert, licensed real estate agent. They know the market like no one else because it’s their job to do so. So the next time Joe Shmoe approaches you with all his sage real estate wisdom, just hand him your Realtor’s business card and tell him you’ve got it all handled!

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