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How-To Tuesday: Decorating Your First Home

If you’re a first-time homeowner, you probably don’t have a whole lot where matching furniture and quality home decor are concerned. But that’s okay! Even if all you own are the bare necessities, your new place doesn’t have to look like a frat house living room. Give your starter home a more grown-up and put-together vibe with the following tips.

Fill Spaces with Live Plants

Greenery is a surefire way to make a house feel homey almost instantly. Adding live plants throughout your space will not only elevate your decor, but will also help create a healthier living environment. Plants and people are natural partners. They take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, and we do the opposite. They help remove toxins from the air and also release moisture vapor. It’s a win-win situation. Even those of us who don’t have the greenest of thumbs can use low-maintenance plants like succulents to liven up a space.

Utilize Trays on Horizontal Surfaces

Trays help contain clutter and add a certain polished look to surfaces like coffee tables, islands, and sideboards. Instead of spreading out everyday items on the table or counter, arrange things like remote controls, candles, flower vases, coasters, tissue boxes, and the like on a tray. Doing so makes things look more deliberately placed and also makes it easier to move it all when you need to clear the space.

Style Your Bookcases

Don’t just shove all your books on the shelves and call it a day. Organize them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Arrange books both horizontally and vertically, and add in accessories for interest and as space fillers.

Coordinate Throw Pillows and Blankets

Coordinated throw pillows and/or afghans make for a quick and easy way to pull together furniture that’s seen better days or doesn’t necessarily go together. Pillows don’t have to match exactly, but they should go together in some way, through color, size, style, etc. If you want to mix and match for a boho feel, make sure the vibe matches the rest of the room.

Get Some Nice Matching Frames

Find a nice, simple style of picture frame that you like and buy that style in several sizes. Use the same type and color of frame for photos, prints, and posters for a put-together feel.  Even if your wall art consists of different styles and colors, having the same type of frame will pull it all together.

Go for Grown-Up Window Treatments

Ditch the blinds and roll-up shades and add some nice curtains to your windows. Curtains add a certain something that helps pull a room together. They also help keep out heat in the summer and cold in the winter while adding a layer of privacy as well. Make sure to install a good curtain rod to add some polish, not just one of those cheap bent aluminum bars.

Decant Your Soap

Pour your hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent into pretty dispensers or bottles. Promotional plastic packaging can add visual clutter to countertops and shelves.

Invest in Matching Dishes

Donate or toss your mismatched hodgepodge of plates, bowls, and glasses and get a new set. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive. You can find nice matching sets at places like Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, and even the Dollar Store. If you like the mismatched look, make sure it’s intentional and not just cheap-looking a mess of plates and bowls of different sizes and materials.

Create a Bar Cart or Coffee Cart

Solve your kitchen storage problem by making room on a rolling cart for your bar or coffee-serving items. For a bar cart, store wine and liquor bottles on a bottom shelf and organize your best glasses, an ice bucket, a corkscrew, and some other pretty accessories on top. For a guest-pleasing coffee cart, put your French press or Keurig on the top shelf along with all your coffee and tea needs, like creamers, sugar, tea bags, stirrers, etc. If you run out of space, you can always add hooks or glass racks under the top shelf for storing those mugs and glasses.

Friday Five // March 1st, 2019

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s the first day of March, which means spring is just around the corner. We can’t wait for these occasional warmer, sunnier days to stick around for good, but in the meantime, there’s lots of fun to be had in the Charleston area. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, we’re here with this week’s roundup of five fun events happening throughout the Lowcountry over the weekend. Go to a teddy bear picnic, celebrate the reopening of a beloved green space, sample some beer and barbeque, and more. Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents here at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a very happy and safe weekend!

Friday evening marks a long-awaited grand re-opening in Summerville. The public is invited to the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in Hutchinson Square at 6pm to celebrate! Grab the family and come out for an evening of fun with live music, food trucks, and enjoyment of the restaurants and retail shops around the square. The event is free to attend. Presenting sponsors include The Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, Ed Carter Appraisal Service, and Four Green Fields Gifts.

Come eat and drink the best Charleston has to offer at the Charleston Craft Beer and BBQ Festival. This event, featuring 20 Charleston area breweries, takes place on Saturday from 11am until 5pm at Bohemian Bull Tavern and Beer Garden. Your general admission ticket ($55 in advance, $60 at the door) includes unlimited tasting of craft beer and BBQ with sides. While you enjoy your libations, sway along to live music from Seitu Solomon and the Jaykob Kendrick Band. Please note that this event is strictly for ages 21 and up. No infants or children will be permitted to attend.

Calling all moms! Are you in need of a girls’ night out? Head down to the Charleston Area Convention Center Saturday night for the 6th annual Charleston Mom Prom, and “Let’s GLOW Crazy!” Charleston Mom Prom is a night out with the girls, filled with dancing, food, and fun. Throw on an old bridesmaid’s dress or get decked out in your brightest neon, and come ready to Glow Crazy while raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Tickets are now $60 and can be bought at the link above until 6pm on March 2nd.

What’s the best way to celebrate children? By having a day and festival dedicated exclusively to fun and learning, of course! Bring them out to the 31st Annual KidsFair Presented by MUSC Children’s Health, at the Gaillard Center this Sunday from 10am until 4pm. Kids get in free and must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are $5 for adults, who must be accompanied by a child. KidsFair presents over 100 exciting educational, hands-on activities and exhibits for children and families to enjoy, including stages with great entertainment throughout the day. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with schools, local businesses, and organizations supporting children and families in the area. In its 31st year, KidsFair boasts an annual attendance of over 10,000 people and growing! Monday raised from the event goes back to support students, scholarships, and organizations in the community that share the KidsFair mission.

The Charleston Parks Conservancy invites you to attend the 10th annual Teddy Bear Picnic this Sunday from 1:30pm until 4pm. Children and their teddy bears will once again take over Hampton Park to enjoy musical entertainment, face painting, seed planting, crafts, and more. Admission and all activities are free, but advanced registration is encouraged. The popular Teddy Bear ER will be back, helping “injured” bears needing treatment and well bear checkups. New this year is a Teddy Bear Tea Party and an obstacle course geared toward older children who want to explore Hampton Park. Families are invited to bring a picnic lunch, blankets, and chairs to enjoy an afternoon in the park. Food trucks will also have food available for purchase.

How-To Tuesday: Remove Old Tile Grout

Grout. It’s not one of the prettiest words in the English language. And when your tile’s grout gets all grimy and stained, it’s definitely not pretty. Luckily, removing old tile grout isn’t really a monumental task once you know what to do. Depending on the size of the tiled area, you can remove and replace old tile grout in as little as one afternoon. The job can be done manually, or you can make it way easier on yourself and buy an oscillating multi-tool. It’s inexpensive and well worth it. Using this tool, you can remove about fifteen square feet of grout on 4” by 4” tile in about an hour.

What You’ll Need

  • A rotary tool such as a Dremel, or an Oscillating multi-tool like the Ridgid Jobma  or Bosch Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit
  • Safety glasses
  • Utility knife with a dull blade
  • Small flathead screwdriver
  • Shop vacuum

Step 1

Fit the oscillating multi-tool with the appropriate blade, which should be one specifically intended for tile or tile grout. Start by holding the blade horizontally or vertically, depending on the seam you’re starting with. Turn the power on and lightly press the blade to the grout. Don’t press too hard; let the blade do the work. It should cut through the grout easily.

Step 2

Angle the blade gently to remove more grout. Do this slowly and carefully so you don’t damage the edges of your tile. Resting your arm on a stable surface will help keep it steady and keep it from getting too tired. Use the Shop Vac throughout your project so you can actually see what you’re doing.

Step 3

Once you’ve removed as much tile as possible with the multi-tool, use a small flathead screwdriver to scrape out any loose pieces that haven’t been completely removed. If there are still stubborn bits that won’t come out, use your dull utility knife to remove them. You want the blade to be dull to start with because a sharp blade will dull quickly or snap off anyway. It also helps prevent any injuries.

Step 4

Once your old grout is completely gone, clean up your worksite to create a blank slate for the new grout. Our best tip is to steer clear of bright white grout. Dark grout is very “in” right now, but if you’d rather go lighter, try a biscuit or bone color. Stark white shows every little stain and spot much more quickly, making your tile and grout look and feel dirty even when they’re squeaky clean.

Whether your tile grout is old and moldy, it’s chipped and falling out, or you just don’t like the color, you can get rid of it fairly easily using the method above. Just remember the old special forces saying: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. It might seem like a slow, tedious job, but taking the time to do it correctly means you’ll be saving time in the end.

Should You Use Your Home’s Equity to Delay Social Security?

Did you know that consumers between the ages of 62 and 70 can earn up to 8% more in Social Security for each year they delay taking disbursements? It sounds great at face value to get more money in the long run, but many people in this age bracket need that Social Security payment each month to supplement their income. They may have retired already and are living on a fixed income through a retirement fund, or they may still be working hard to support themselves and/or their families. You can see why it might be difficult for consumers to delay their Social Security payouts. To help put off taking their disbursements, some homeowners in this stage of their lives have been known to borrow against their homes’ equity through a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM), more commonly known as a reverse mortgage. In fact, some lenders even promote this tactic.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, however, has something to say about it. The CFPB warns consumers that the cost and risk of a reverse mortgage is greater than its benefit. In fact, says the CFPB, withdrawing home equity in this way could limit a homeowner’s options if they decide to move or have a financial setback. “A reverse mortgage loan can help some older homeowners meet financial needs but can also jeopardize their retirement if not used carefully,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “For consumers whose main asset is their home, taking out a reverse mortgage to delay Social Security claiming may risk their financial security because the cost of the loan will likely be more than the benefit they gain.”

Other financial experts disagree with the CFPB’s take on this strategy, however, and call it a plausible option. In an article written for Forbes, Jamie Hopkins, co-director of the American College’s New York Life Center for Retirement Income, writes, “The CFPB’s analysis, misrepresentations, and inaccurate conclusions fail to provide a comprehensive review of potential benefits of Social Security deferral and proper use of home equity. Instead, the report unleashed an overly broad and inaccurate censure that could hamper meaningful discussion.”

Retirement researcher Wade Pfau gives a detailed rebuttal of the CFPB’s findings as well. “I am disappointed that this report was issued and heralded with a press release and other promotion by the CFPB,” says Pfau. His post gives multiple mathematical examples of what can happen to a homeowner’s portfolio if they do decide to delay Social Security with a reverse mortgage. Pfau challenges the CFPB’s report and suggests that there is value in the strategy.

“Using a HECM [home equity conversion mortgage] to fund Social Security delay does not create greater risk for retirees experience spending shocks or needing to move later in retirement,” Pfau writes, “because reduced distribution needs from the investment portfolio and the subsequent reduction in sequence risk offset the reverse-mortgage costs and preserve overall net worth.”

Hopkins and Pfau may both disagree with the CFPB’s blanket statement, but they agree that this financial strategy should be judged on a case-by-case basis. Every homeowner has different circumstances; there’s no one financial planning strategy that will fit all of the people all of the time. The key to successfully cashing in on the benefit of delaying Social Security is to consult your financial planner. Together, you can look at the facts and fill in the blanks with your personalized details. Don’t take a blanket statement at face value. Let the experts help you decide whether taking advantage of your home’s equity is the right choice to help you defer Social Security payments and get that extra 8% in the end.  

Friday Five // February 22nd, 2019

Hooray for Fridays! It’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening around the Charleston area throughout the weekend. Attend a comic convention, celebrate Mardi Gras at the beach, see a kids’ classic cartoon come alive, 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!

Head to the Omar Shrine Temple at Patriot’s Point this Saturday and Sunday for the 11th Annual Captain’s Comic Expo, presented by Captain’s Comics and Toys. The 2019 expo is bigger than ever, with a 17,000 square foot venue, and two full days of comics, toys, art, costumes, special guests, and more! See over one million comics from the 1930s through today, and participate in cosplay fun all weekend. Advanced ticket sales have ended, but there are still plenty of tickets at the door. Kids ages 10 and under and free with an adult ticket.

Laissez le bon temps rouler…Folly Beach style! Celebrate Mardi Gras at the beach with Folly Gras, taking place this Saturday from 10am until 4pm. Dressed in their Folly Gras finest, folks from all over the Lowcountry take to Center Street to spread Folly Gras cheer. Festivities will include a parade at 11am; dozens of arts, crafts, and fashion vendors; live music; free kids’ activities; and of course, lots of mouth-watering food and drinks. Follys’ participating restaurants and bars will serve up New Orleans-inspired dishes on the street and inside their establishments. Enjoy $5 Deep Eddy cocktails all day at participating locations. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at the link above or at Folly Beach City Hall for express entry. Admission is free for full-time Folly Beach residents (with a valid ID) and for kids 12 and under. Animals, coolers, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and similar items are not permitted at Folly Gras.

Potterheads of the Lowcountry unite! Muggles and wizards alike will gather at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert. Experience the full film projected in HD on the big screen while a full symphony orchestra performs the unforgettable score live. Performances take place at 7:30pm on Saturday and 1:30pm on Sunday. Tickets are $50 to $80 each, depending on seat location. Feel free to dress as your favorite character, put on your hand-me-down dress robes a la Ron Weasley, or don your best Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff attire.

There’s a brand new generation that’s found a love for an updated classic, The Magic School Bus! Kids and parents can see one of their fave book/cartoon series come to life on the stage at the Gaillard Center through The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System. Hope on the bus for a ride in this new musical adaptation based on the original book series published by Scholastic. When the class gets lost on the way to the planetarium, Ms. Frizzle saves the day by blasting into outer space for an epic interplanetary field trip. But when rivalries both old and new threaten to tear the students apart, our young heroes must learn to pull together or risk getting forever lost in the solar system. Performances take place on Saturday at 1pm and 3:30pm.

Join Home Team BBQ on Saturday for their second annual block party for a cause, Rock the Block 2019, benefitting Hogs for the Cause. Enjoy food from some of the region’s best chefs and drinks from local breweries and distilleries. The kids will love bouncing the day away in the jump castle while you rock out to live music from some amazing artists, including Elise Testone with the Led Zeppelin Tribute, Kevn Kinney, and Great Peacock. This is a free event, with proceeds from food and drink purchases and a suggested donation at the door going to Hogs for the Cause, a non-profit organization that provides grants to help alleviate the financial strain on families as they band together in their fight against pediatric brain cancer.

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