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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.

7 Design Trends Homebuyers Will Be Looking For This Year

While it’s smart to keep things fairly neutral and future-proof when trying to sell your home, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on trends that could give you an edge. Stand out from the pack of sellers by throwing a few newer, trendier features into your neutral base palette. Here are just a few of the trends homebuyers will be on the lookout for when house-hunting this year.

Warm neutrals. While gray remains our favorite neutral color, design pros are predicting a warming trend for 2019. Instead of greige, bo beige. Buyers might be more drawn to more classic neutrals like beiges, taupes, and even creams with a slightly pinkish tinge this year.

Natural light and fresh air. Buyers know that natural light can be a boon to both mood and health, so they’ll be looking for lots of windows, skylights, and indoor/outdoor living. If your house has a darker, cozier feel currently, consult a contractor to see if it’s possible to add some windows or skylights. You might also think about building a deck, screened-in porch, or sunroom on the back of the house.

Sustainable features. Savvy homebuyers are looking to reduce their carbon footprint. You can capture their attention by including sustainable features like induction cooktops, mini-split HVAC systems, and heat pump water heaters. If you really want to up the ante, look into installing solar panels and charging stations for electric cars.

Darker shades of pink. Millennial pink had its moment in the spotlight, and while it’s still a very pretty and elegant color, buyers will be looking for more obvious pops of color this year. Go with a deeper raspberry tone for statement pieces (kitchen islands, couches, and area rugs), or just tie it in subtly here and there (wall art, throw pillows, or trimwork).

Tweed. Lush materials like velvet have been at the head of the class for the last few years, but look toward a slightly lighter textile for 2019. Tweed can be lightened up and neutralized in creamy colors, or it can pack a gorgeous, sophisticated punch in darker tones like black. Since it’s a tightly woven wool, a tweed sofa won’t look out of place paired with the jewel-toned velvet armchairs you just bought last year.

Patterned tiles. Everyone loves a clean, white subway tile, but this is the year of high contrast and artisan design. Buyers will be looking to make a statement with tiles. Much like wallpaper, tile can provide a gorgeous focal point in a room. Go for contrasting wall and floor tiles that play off of one another. Or just go with a lighter tile and dark grout, or vice versa.

Florals. And we don’t mean Laura Ashley circa 1993. We mean big, loud, often abstract florals like you might see on the New York and Paris runways. We expect to see these florals grace wallpapers, bedding, other textiles, and more in the coming months.

Friday Five // January 11th, 2019

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening throughout the Charleston area this weekend. Eat some oysters, have a fun history lesson, sample the city’s best dishes, 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!

The new West Ashley Area Chamber of Commerce will host the inaugural West Ashley Restaurant Festival on Sunday. The festival takes place from 4pm until 8pm at the recently renovated Schoolhouse Event Venue on Magnolia Road in West Ashley. Several West Ashley restaurants, as well as visiting restaurants from nearby districts, will serve 2-3 ounce samples of signature menu items. In addition to food, music, and entertainment, there will also be a VIP & Sponsors Food Sample Hour.

The South Carolina Historical Society hosts their Second Saturday at the Society this weekend with the Charleston Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The discussion focuses on the Best Friend of Charleston, the first locomotive built in the United States for public service. A working model of the Best Friend made by Lionel Trains will be on display, and children will be able to paint a wooden model of a train to take home.

Join the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission this Saturday for Shuckin’ on the Cooper. This event costs $8 in advance or $10 on-site and takes place at the Mount Pleasant Pier from 1pm until 4pm. Enjoy live music, $10 buckets of oysters from Charleston Bay Gourmet, and other food and beverages for sale, like hot dogs from Dave ‘n’ Dubs. Outside alcohol, beverages, and coolers are strictly prohibited. A registered and paid chaperone is required for participants under the age of 15, and photo ID is required for entry at the gate.

Run through the #1 City in the U.S. this Saturday at the annual Charleston Marathon. The event includes the marathon, half marathon, Shrimp & Grits 5K, and youth marathon. Runners will jog through historic parts of Charleston and end up in North Charleston for a celebration at Riverfront Park. The post-race party will include an awards ceremony, free shrimp and grits and beer/mimosas for all participants (over 21 for alcohol), and musical entertainment. Proceeds from the race benefit Engaging Creative Minds, a local nonprofit that works to provide all students equal access to quality learning opportunities.

Make your way to The Citadel’s Johnson-Hagood Stadium on Saturday for The Charleston Mac Off—America’s largest mac & cheese event. Your $15 general admission ticket includes free parking, live music, and access to multiple vendors, the Berlin’s kitchen demo, and a kids’ area. There will be mac & cheese samples for $2 each, other foods for $4 to $7, $5 or $6 beers, $5 wines, $7 cocktails, and more! VIP tickets are available for $125 and include VIP parking, an open bar, private bathrooms, catered food, access pass to mac & cheese vendors, and a beer garden.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Searching for a Home Online

A large majority of home buyers begin use the internet to search for a house long before they even speak with a real estate agent. Starting your house-hunting adventure online is a great way to get started, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to the World Wide Web when looking for a new home. Think of this initial online search as a way to educate yourself about your needs and wants before you really get into your search. Here are a few do’s and don’ts you should consider before conducting your online home search.

Do be sure to search a reputable site. You want to make sure the website you’re browsing keeps its listings and search results up to date. You don’t want to waste your time by falling in love with a listing that’s already off the market. For the most reliable information, we recommend using Realtor.com, which pulls information from MLS regional databases every 15 minutes.

Don’t rely too much on the photos. Many real estate agents hire professional photographers to shoot photos of their listings in order to present them in their best light. Those photos are meant to highlight the house’s very best features. What they won’t show are repairs that need to be made, or what it looks like when it’s not illuminated by the best possible lighting. On the other hand, a listing’s pictures might not be the best (perhaps the owner and agent weren’t willing to pay for professional photos), but it could be a hidden gem in person.

Do realize your real estate agent is a wealth of information. Yes, real estate websites show a lot of information, but that info is really just a snapshot of the house and its neighborhood. You’ll be able to see active and sold listings, home prices, sales history, and other relevant information. But it won’t take into consideration specifics about the home and the surrounding area. They also might be privy to other details about the sale of the home that you wouldn’t see online and wouldn’t get from the seller’s agent if you decided to buy on your own.

Don’t even think about buying sight unseen. Unless the circumstances are dire, you should never buy a house without seeing it in person first. Looking at pictures and information online, or even getting the info from an agent over the phone or email, is never a good substitute for seeing the house in person. You need to be able to get a feel for the house, examine all its faults and features, and talk to the owners and/or neighbors before you move forward with a purchase. Buying a home without really getting to know it in person is a lot like marrying someone you met on a dating website without meeting them face to face first.

Do use your online search as a jumping off point. Searching for a house online is the perfect way to get an idea of what’s out there and narrow down what you do and don’t like. It’s also a great tool for helping you and your agent get on the same page. Send them some examples of listings you like along with your list of needs, likes, and dislikes, and they’ll have a much easier time helping you find a group of homes to check out in person.

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