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Charleston’s New Short-Term Rental Laws

Short-term rentals have been a bone of contention here in the Holy City for some time now. After much deliberation and argument both for and against short-term rentals in Charleston, the City Council finally made them officially legal in April. That’s right. All you AirBnB’ers and HomeAway enthusiasts can now legally rent your homes out to short-term vacationers—with a few very strict rules and regulations.

We’ll start with the biggest kicker: short-term rentals (STR) of whole houses are now officially banned in the City of Charleston. Under the new ordinance, homeowners are required to inhabit the home while hosting short-term guests, and no more than four adults may occupy a short-term rental at once. The homeowner doesn’t have to physically be in the home at all times while guests are there, but at least one full-time resident must sleep there each night of the renters’ stay.

In addition, hosts must apply for and obtain a short-term rental license from the city’s Department of Planning, Preservation, and Sustainability. Any home that is not occupied full-time by its owner, as determined by property tax assessments, is not eligible for short-term rental licensing. This makes investment properties ineligible for STR permits. Portions of dwellings (e.g. duplexes) and accessory dwellings (e.g. carriage houses) on a property are eligible. All STRs must also have at least three parking spaces: two for residential use and one for guests.

Rules for eligibility are based on location categories, as follows:

Category 1 refers to the Old and Historic District, which only allows properties in the National Register of Historic Places to be eligible for short-term rental.

Category 2 refers to the rest of the peninsula, with the exception of the STR Overlay Zone. Properties in category 2 must be at least fifty years old to be eligible.

Category 3 refers to the rest of the city, including incorporated areas of West Ashley, James Island, Johns Island, Cainhoy, and Daniel Island. There is no property age limit for these areas.

The STR Overlay Zone refers to the pre-existing area of Cannonborough-Elliotborough. No changes have been made in this area, with the exception of an annual permit renewal.

Like it or not, this ordinance is now official, effective as of July 10, 2018. In fact, the city has hired three individuals to serve full-time as STR enforcement officers. According to the Frequently Asked Questions section on the City’s website, “The regulations have been carefully crafted to allow the City multiple avenues of enforcement for short-term renters, property owners, and listing companies. They broaden what qualifies as a violation and allow for effectively targeted enforcement via special categories. In addition, the City has three new staff members dedicated to short term rental enforcement and ultra-modern enforcement technology.”

Those who are already operating illegal short-term rentals will not be “grandfathered in,” as some have wondered. If a property is eligible for a permit, those owners will have the opportunity to apply. Those who are not eligible must discontinue their short-term rentals under penalty of law.

In short, to determine whether or not your home is eligible to be permitted as a short-term rental, you must answer three questions.

  1. Is the home your primary residence, with a 4% rate of property tax?
  2. Does it fall within one of the three categories of eligibility as laid out above?
  3. Does it have at least three parking spaces?

If your answer is yes to all three of these questions, you are eligible to apply for an STR permit.

How-To Tuesday: Use Farmhouse Design to Attract Buyers

Updated farmhouse style has become wildly popular in the home design world, thanks in part to Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines. Her immaculate sense of design consists chiefly of blending the old with the new and the natural with the industrial, which are all big parts of this vintage-turned-modern style. Farmhouse style isn’t just a popular trend in home design; it’s now being called a great marketing trend, too. According to research conducted by the website RealEstate.com, farmhouse design elements like barn doors, exposed beams, and farmhouse sinks can actually fetch higher prices. In fact, homes with these features “tend to fetch prices up to 30 percent higher than other homes,” says Realtor Magazine. Whether you’re interested in using this design trend to simply enjoy in your home or to attract more buyers, we have a few key guidelines for you.

Everything Old Is New Again

Farmhouse style is largely about repurposing. The perfect farmhouse decor is sourced from antique shops, flea markets, and local crafters and artisans. Items handed down from older family members are also perfect for this endeavor. Use items in unexpected ways. For example, a beautiful old bar cart might be the perfect place to store books or other collections; a vintage armoire can be used as a linen closet or coat storage; and antique watering cans make adorable planters.

Farmhouse Design Calls for Practicality

Farmhouse design is about no-frills, hardy decor and furnishings that are also sophisticated and charming. Nothing should look too “planned” or matchy-matchy, and pretty much everything should serve a purpose yet should add some character to the room.

Stick with Clean Lines and Natural Materials

Some of the key elements in modern farmhouse design are exposed wood beams, repurposed barn board, butcher block, farm sinks (also called apron front sinks), shaker-style cabinets, vintage furniture (often given updates like a new coat of paint or fresh, modern upholstery), wicker and rattan, and weathered finishes like rough wood, natural linen, peeling paint, worn-in leather, and metals with gorgeous patinas.

Keep Away from “Country Kitsch”

Kitschy country design had its day in the sun a few decades back, but it’s a far cry from today’s more modern, elegant farmhouse design. Farmhouse style isn’t about ceramic roosters and cows, dried sunflowers, paintings of fruit, and gingham print curtains. It’s about clean, warm style influenced by both nature and industry. It strikes the perfect balance between old and new. Think basin sinks and harvest tables mixed with industrial touches like stainless steel appliances.

Take It Slowly

The genuine charm and character that are the hallmarks of modern farmhouse style can’t be sourced in a single day. Take some time to browse places antique shops, flea markets, and relatives’ attics. Enjoy it. Become a collector, and have fun with it.

Friday Five // July 13th, 2018

Well, hello there, Friday! It’s the beginning of another weekend and time for another Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening in the Charleston area throughout the weekend. Kick off the weekend with a dancy party, sample some tasty burgers, enjoy some good old-fashioned fun, and more. Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a safe and happy weekend!

Kick off the weekend at the Mount Pleasant Pier with Friday Night Boogie from 7pm until 11pm. DJ Jim Bowers will spin a variety of oldies and beach music classics while you dance the night away on the pier. This event is for ages 21 and up only, and photo IDs are required. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, but outside food, alcohol, and coolers are prohibited. No pets are allowed at this event. Feel free to bring chairs, as seating is limited.

Fans of South Carolina Stingrays hockey will want to be at the North Charleston Coliseum on Saturday morning for Stingrays Fan Fest 2018. This free event, presented by Crews Chevrolet, begins at 10am and includes free parking as well. Expect a merchandise sale, the opportunity to select your seat for next season, a game-used equipment sale, and more. Rusty Bull Brewing Co. will be on hand with beverages, and Cici’s and Sabor CubaRican Cuisine will supply the food. There will also be kids’ activities like the inflatable slapshot and bounce house.

Satisfy your burger craving on Saturday at the Bands, Burgers, and Buds Burger Throwdown at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. Some of your favorite Lowcountry chefs will battle it out in a live cooking competition to see who makes the best burger in town! Gate admission is $7, and those under 12 get in free. The event is ticket-based, with burger-tasting tickets for $2 each and other food and beverage tickets for $1 each. While you chow down, enjoy live music from Thomas Champagne and Friends, Moondog, and Folly Pirates Over 40.

If you’re staying closer to Summerville this weekend, check out the Knightsville Porch Jam at Knightsville General Store and Coffee House on Saturday for some good, old-fashioned fun. Remember a simpler time at this free, family-friendly event. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy some yummy food, sweet treats, and tasty beverages while you listen to live music, play giant Jenga, corn hole, or checkers, and catch up with your loved ones and neighbors.

For Sunday Funday, head out to Two Blokes Brewing for STEM on Tap: Summer, a fundraiser for the Lowcountry STEM Collaborative and the Charleston STEM Festival. This is a quarterly fundraiser designed to explore the STEM behind the brewing process and engage participants in STEM dialogue in a casual atmosphere. Costs include a souvenir pint glass and one beer. Pint glasses are available at the door for $15 cash or check.

Transform That Empty Nester Bedroom

For high schoolers and college students across the country, graduation day has come and gone, leaving many parents dreading empty nest syndrome. How can parents deal with the feeling of no longer being constantly needed? Easy. Instead of shuffling around the house, wondering what to do with all that newly vacated space, make it work for you! Let’s take a look at some creative ways to transform your empty nester bedroom into something useful.

Create a Beautiful Guest Bedroom

If you’ve always wanted a proper guest bedroom but haven’t really had the space, now is the perfect time to set one up. Turn your empty bedroom into a beautiful guest suite with a fresh coat of paint, some plush linens and pillows, a few pieces of wall art, and some fresh flowers. Bonus: If you’d like to supplement your income with a little extra spending money, you could even rent that room out on AirBnB, VRBO, or another similar short-term rental website.

Turn a Room into Your Dream Office

Maybe you’ve always wanted your very own home office space. Take that vacant bedroom and turn it into your dream office! Go ahead and buy that beautiful mahogany desk you’ve been eyeing but have never had room for. Set up your space however you want. Whether your work is creative in nature or more on the business side of things, there are no limits to your perfect home office.

Treat Yourself to an Arts and Crafts Room

If your creativity is too big to be stifled, this one’s for you! Instead of keeping your arts and craft supplies contained to a small area, transform your spare room into an art studio or craft room. Find yourself a nice, big craft table, or install custom desk space with shelving options. Being able to spread out and still keep things organized while crafting will feel so luxurious.

Set Up an Exercise Studio or Meditation Room

Who wouldn’t love to have their very own exercise room or yoga studio right in their home? Need to relax? Head down the hall to your meditation room! Just paint the walls and ceiling a soothing color, lay some wood laminate flooring, install a dimmer switch, and outfit the room with yoga mats, plush towels and blankets, an essential oil diffuser, and maybe even a mini fridge for bottled water and other soothing drinks.

Create a Library

Every bibliophile has surely dreamed of having an entire library in their home. If your book collection has taken over other areas of the house, turn your empty nester room into a library. Purchase some heavy duty bookshelves, install some free-floating shelves, or do your own custom built-ins. Add some warm and inviting furniture, adjustable lighting, and maybe even a desk, and you’ve got the perfect home library.

The Ultimate Closet

If you’ve had a hankering for a closet makeover, why not treat yourself and take over an entire room? Install some custom or prefab closet fixtures for plenty of organization options. Add some bright yet flattering lighting and a full length mirror, and voila! Your very own dressing room.

Make a Playroom for the Grands

Once the kids are all grown up and moved out, turn their old room into a playroom/guest room for their children! If you love having the grandkids over for a visit, giving them their own space to enjoy can make those visits easier and more organized for everyone.

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

If you look up reverse mortgage in the dictionary, you’ll get a definition like this:

A reverse mortgage is a financial agreement in which a homeowner relinquishes equity in their home in exchange for regular payments, typically to supplement retirement income.

Seems straightforward enough, but reverse mortgages are a bit more complicated than they seem on the surface. If it sounds like a home equity loan, it’s because they’re similar. In fact, a reverse mortgage is a type of home equity loan that is only available to homeowners aged 62 and up. The homeowner borrows against his or her home, but the loan doesn’t have to be paid back monthly. Instead, the loan is only due for repayment after the homeowner moves out or passes away. Typically, reverse mortgages are considered a last resort source of retirement income. They’re not for everyone and are not to be entered into lightly. Here are a few of the basics of reverse mortgages.

How does it work?

The term reverse mortgage comes from the nature of the loan. Instead of paying the bank each month, the borrower receives a payment and retains ownership of the home. To be eligible for a reverse mortgage, the borrower must own their home outright or have a small mortgage balance that can be paid off at closing with proceeds from the reverse mortgage loan. In addition, everyone on the deed—not just the primary borrower—must be age 62 or older. The home must also be the borrower’s primary residence.

What can the money be used for?

There are no restrictions on what the money one receives can be used for. Some motivations for getting a reverse mortgage might be to pay for health care expenses, pay off debt, finance home improvements, or simply supplement retirement income.

When does it have to be paid back?

The loan is due to be paid back whenever the borrower sells or otherwise vacates the home. As long as they are living in the home, they are not required to make any monthly payments toward the loan. However, the borrower must continue to pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and homeowners association fees if applicable.

What are some caveats?

First, understand that the costs associated with getting a reverse mortgage are generally higher than they are with a traditional mortgage. Expect higher than average closing costs and a higher interest rate. Borrowers should also realize that they’re essentially cashing in on their home’s equity, which lowers the value of the home and leaves less for their heirs later on.

If you’re thinking of applying for a reverse mortgage, it’s a good idea to speak with a financial counselor first to explore all avenues and sources of extra income. Another good rule of thumb is to recruit a younger individual, such as an adult child, to help make sure everything is in order. Be aware as well that anyone interested in taking out a reverse mortgage must go through mandatory counseling from an independent third party approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development or a national counseling agency such as AARP.

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