Dear First-Time Homebuyers: Never Apologize for These Things

Buying your first home is a big deal. It’s a major life event that comes with a multitude of new and difficult decisions, mixed feelings, educational experiences, and more. No matter what goes on when you’re in the midst of your very first real estate purchase, you should never apologize for any of the feelings, opinions, or questions that crop up along the way. Let’s take a look at some of the unexpectedly common feelings you might be questioning as a first-time buyer.


Your house will most likely be the biggest purchase you make in your entire life. It’s completely normal to have some anxiety about buying your first home. New buyers constantly find themselves subjected to others’ horror stories about homeownership and their buying experiences, which will do nothing to quell the fears that might already be lurking in the back of your mind. In addition to signing up to spend a good amount of money on a mortgage payment each month, you’ll encounter a lot of new jargon and legal terms and learn a ton of new information. Rest assured that your anxiety and fears are completely valid. Lean on your Realtor® to help guide you through them!

Asking Lots of Questions

This is your first adventure in real estate. No one expects you to know everything, and there definitely won’t be a pop quiz at the end. When you buy your first home, there will be a whole team of experts at your disposal, from your Realtor® to your mortgage broker to your home inspector and beyond. They’re there to help you and guide you through the process. Feel free to ask as many questions as you need to. Any question you come up with is probably one they’ve all heard before and will be more than happy to answer. 

Sticker Shock

In the long run, owning a home will be a much better investment than renting, but it might seem a lot more expensive at first. First there’s the mortgage payment, then the property taxes, homeowners insurance, utility bills, furniture to fill all those rooms, upkeep and maintenance… Then there’s the issue of having to pay for every little problem that arises—a leaky pipe, air conditioning that’s not cooling properly, a broken water heater…you name it. But trust us: pride of ownership and the equity you’ll build in your home are well worth the up-front expenditure.

Buyer’s Remorse

It happens. You compromise, you settle, and you end up moving into a house you don’t absolutely love but told yourself you can tolerate for the time being. You find yourself dreaming about your next home and constantly thinking about what’s not quite up-to-par in your current house. Don’t feel guilty. This isn’t strictly a first-time buyer thing; it can happen no matter how many times you’ve bought and sold houses. But don’t let it get the best of you. Focus on all the positive things your new home has to offer and figure out a way to change the negatives.

Not Getting Everything Done Right Away

There’s so much to do when you move into a new home, from unpacking and hanging window treatments to replacing countertops and buying new light fixtures. Don’t feel like you have to get it all done right away, and don’t feel bad if it takes you a while. You’ve earned some couch time after the hard work of finding a home, making it to closing day successfully, and moving in. No one says you have to have everything organized and finished right away. Take your time and enjoy the process. 

Feeling Proud

Never let guilt creep in and cast a shadow over your pride. You should absolutely be proud of yourself for taking such a big step! So go ahead: throw yourself a housewarming party and bask in the pride of ownership you’re feeling at this moment.

How-To Tuesday: Create a More Tranquil Home Environment

Life is crazy busy for most of us these days. When we get home, all we want to do is chill out and relax. The problem is that sometimes, home can be just as chaotic as the outside world. How unfair is that? Everyone deserves a tranquil spot at home where they can unplug, destress, and recharge for a bit. With that in mind, we created a list of ideas to help you create a more tranquil home environment. Use them all, or just take one or two and make them your own!

Create a Nook for Relaxation

Find a room or a corner of your home that you can tailor to your relaxation needs. This spot can be indoors or even outside on a patio or balcony. Add some comfortable seating, light a candle or diffuse an essential oil in a calming scent, and add things that just make you happy. You can bliss out as needed, read a book, or even take a little catnap in your peaceful nook.

Establish a Fail-Safe Organization System

It’s incredibly difficult to relax in a messy house. Believe it or not, clutter in the home promotes clutter in the brain. Find an organization system that works for you (because we all know there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all tactic out there), and resolve to keep to it. Get rid of any items that you don’t use or need anymore, and organize what’s left. Make a concerted effort to put everything back in its place as needed, keeping up with it throughout the day and making a final sweep through the house before bed.

Make Your Bed

Okay, so this one might be a little simplistic. But making your bed each morning is one of the easiest ways to help your bedroom feel like a tranquil retreat, and not just a place where you spend a lot of hours sleeping. Getting into a made-up bed at night is more restful than untangling a heap of blankets and sheets before you can lie down and relax.

Separate Work Life and Home Life

Leave your work worries where they belong, and enjoy the peace and quiet your home affords you. This is notoriously difficult to do if you work from home, but it’s so important for your sanity’s sake. If you work outside of the home, store your work gear in a place where it’ll be out of sight until the next day. If you work from home, find a way to separate your workspace from your living space. It could be a home office that enables you to literally close the door on your workday, or it might just be a charging station where you can place your electronics and other work-related items until it’s time to pick up where you left off.

Keep Windows Easily Accessible

Natural light is more rejuvenating and relaxing than artificial light, and it’s always nice to get a glimpse of nature when you’re unable to get outside. Make sure you can open the drapes or blinds and let the sunshine in whenever possible. Never block windows with furniture or other items.

Add Some Flora

Breathe easier by adding plants and flowers throughout your home. Not only are they nice to look at, but plants literally help to clear the air in your home. What a great excuse to buy pretty plants and flowers for yourself!

Create an Inspiration Board

When you’re trying to relax or get focused, visualization can work wonders. Create an inspiration or mood board to help you focus when you need it. Your inspiration board could be a painting, a collage, or just a collection of things or photos that make you happy and remind you of why you do what you do. Come back to your board when you need a visual reminder of your goals and achievements, and let go of whatever internal mess is holding you back.

Don’t Bother Fixing These Things Before Selling Your Home

When the time comes to sell your home, you might find yourself overwhelmed by your to-do list. When you do a walkthrough of your home and property with your trusted Realtor®, you’ll no doubt find several things that need to be addressed before your home is in “show ready” condition. For starters, you might need to freshen up your exterior paint (First impressions matter!), update the kitchen cabinets, and have all the hardwoods refinished and the carpets cleaned. The list could go on and on, and as the fixes start piling up, you might wonder, How am I going to finish all this?! The fact of the matter is that fixing up a house takes money, especially if you aren’t particularly handy and need to pay someone else to do it all.

But here’s the good news: you don’t really have to check off every little item on your honey-do list before you put your home on the market. Of course, you’re still on the hook for any defects or conditions that affect the function of any major aspects of your house. For instance, you will need to take care of any leaks, built-in appliances that may not be functioning correctly, insect infestations, safety hazards, et cetera. Beyond that, any repairs that serve to make your house more appealing to buyers are completely up to you. Let’s take a look at a few issues that you aren’t required to fix before you put your home on the market.

Cosmetic Damage

A house that’s been lived in for any amount of time is bound to have some form of cosmetic damage, whether it’s scuffed floors, peeling paint, chipped trim work, or stained carpets. None of these issues has anything to do with function, so it’s purely up to you if you want to fix them. While fixing them will make your home look more polished, most buyers are able to look past small cosmetic flaws. As long as a house has good bones, and all the major systems are up-to-date and in working order, most buyers will be fine addressing smaller imperfections on their own.

Kitchen or Bathroom Overhaul

Kitchens and baths are two of the main rooms that buyers take into consideration when deciding whether or not to buy a home. But unless your kitchen or bath is horribly outdated and a complete eyesore, don’t worry too much about upgrading it. Buyers have their own opinions and tastes. Even if you do a complete update on your kitchen in the popular yet neutral farmhouse theme, who’s to say the buyer won’t come in, knock out a wall, and completely change it? As long as the kitchen and bath are clean and functional, most buyers can look past any outdated fixtures and will actually be excited to update the rooms themselves.

Partial Repairs or Upgrades

If you just can’t let your house be put on the market without addressing those outdated rooms, you need to go all the way. Don’t just replace the cabinets and call it a day. Those sleek, brand new cabinets will only serve to highlight the old, stained laminate countertop and used-to-be-white appliances. Likewise, shiny new faucets and new tile in the bathroom will make it obvious that the sink and bathtub could use repairs or replacement.

Non-Neutral Paint Color

Unless you’re going to refresh your home with a coat of neutral-colored paint, don’t bother painting. Paint colors are highly personalized choices, and even if you use a super trendy, of-the-moment color, chances are the new homeowners will come in and repaint anyway. Always use neutral colors if you’re going to repaint. That said, we don’t recommend painting the walls white. Go with an off-white, a light gray or greige, or even a very light, neutral blue to offset trim work.

Any Project Without a Good ROI

Don’t forget that in the end, any cosmetic repairs or projects you complete should ultimately be to your benefit. If a project isn’t going to net a decent return on your investment, forget about it. It’s not worth spending $3,000 to update a bathroom if you can’t raise your asking price by $10,000. Before you decide to start a project, do the math and decide which will be more beneficial: spending the money on a specific cosmetic repair, or lowering your asking price a bit to reflect it? You might find that your home will sell faster if you lower the price by $10,000 instead of remodeling the bathroom.

Friday Five // May 10th, 2019

It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening around the Charleston area this weekend. Celebrate Greek culture, participate in a 5K for a good cause, enjoy some music in the beautiful outdoors, and more. As always, no matter what you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy weekend!

Celebrate fun and Greek culture at the Charleston Greek Festival, taking place all weekend long at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity. Dating back to 1970, the Charleston Greek Festival is the oldest and the third largest festival in the Lowcountry with over 25,000 attendees over Mother’s Day weekend every year. Attendees will experience and enjoy the music, dancing, food, clothing, and history of Greece through this annual event. Come ready to stuff your face with authentic and delicious Greek cuisine like delicate pastries, gyros, filling dinners, and Greek coffee, beer, and wine. The kids will have a blast too at the Publix Kidzone, where they can enjoy a jump castle, air slide, games, face-painting, and more.

Join the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at Wannamaker County Park’s Tupelo Shelter on Saturday for Great Strides, the foundation’s largest national fundraising event. For more than thirty years, this 5K walk has supported the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s mission to cure cystic fibrosis and raise awareness for this rare, genetic disease that makes it difficult to breathe and shortens lives. Registration for Great Strides is free, but walkers are encouraged to raise funds. This is a great opportunity for family, friends, students, and colleagues to come together and make a difference in the lives of people with CF. Registration opens at 9am, and the 5K walk begins at 10am, ending with a post-walk celebration complete with local food trucks, music, and family-friendly entertainment.

Celebrate Mother’s Day at the 16th annual Moms’ Run + Family Fun Day this Saturday at MUSC Health Stadium on Daniel Island. Local nonprofit Postpartum Support Charleston invites the community to join in supporting moms struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety. This 5K run and walk, Postpartum Support Charleston’s largest fundraiser, is open to all ages and is followed by free activities for families. Participants and their families can arrive at 7am for pre-race festivities. The run/walk begins at 8am, followed by a Family Fun Day and awards ceremony. Enjoy music, local food trucks, and plenty of children’s activities.

On Saturday evening, the Joe Clarke Big Band Orchestra will perform at the Annual Concert in the Park at Smythe Park on Daniel Island. Each year, the Daniel Island Community Fund hosts a themed picnic competition for those attending the concert. The winner of the best overall picnic spread contest will receive a $500 contribution toward the charity of their choice. Picnic judging begins at 6pm with the concert beginning at 7pm. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the Picnic in the Park themed picnic competition.

If you’re closer to Summerville, you can enjoy a little music and food on Saturday evening as well at Knightsville Porch Jam. Come out to Knightsville General Store and Coffee House for an evening that will take you back to a simpler time, when music was shared on the front porch with family and friends. Bring a chair or blanket to this family-friendly event and set up in the front yard. Enjoy delicious food, a sweet treat, or a tasty beverage while listening to music, playing giant Jenga, corn hole, or checkers, and catching up with loved ones and neighbors. Various musicians will share original songs or play some of their favorite covers.


How Buying the Worst House in the Best Neighborhood Can Actually Backfire

Scenario: You want a great bargain on a house in one of the best neighborhoods in your area. You’ve always heard that buying the “worst” house in the best neighborhood is the smart thing to do, so you’re thinking that’s the way to go.

Cast of Characters: You (and maybe your family or significant other) and your team of trusted real estate professionals.

Our Advice: Not so fast!

You’ve heard all the old cliches about being a small fish in a big pond, the low man on the totem pole, and you’re ready to apply them to your home-buying experience. According to popular advice, you’re looking for the worst house in the best neighborhood. But this is a tactic that can actually backfire.

Now, if you’re looking to buy in a specific neighborhood because you consider amenities, proximity to certain places, and school district the most important aspects, then by all means, go for it. But if your number one motivator is getting the best value, and you want to build equity quickly, this might not be your best bet.

Why Not?

First of all, do you really want to pay top dollar for a house you don’t love just because it’s in a neighborhood that’s supposedly the fashionable place to be? There’s always a hot new neighborhood in town, so when your currently popular and ritzy area becomes old news, you’ll be stuck there in a house that you don’t even like. In addition, a smaller, maybe less attractive house in a nicer neighborhood isn’t necessarily going to bring you a ton of equity just because it’s cheaper than the surrounding properties. Since the area’s already established, your “worst house” isn’t going to increase in value any faster than the bigger and better properties. In their book Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, authors Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries break it down like this:

“If the adage were true, the bottom 10 percent of houses would need to perform better than the more expensive homes in their neighborhood. Faster appreciation would indicate that buying the cheapest house in the best neighborhood is a strategy that really does pay off. But—alas—it doesn’t. Instead, we found that only rarely does the bottom 10 percent outperform the top 90 percent of houses in a ZIP code.”

What to Do Instead

Instead of buying a so-so house in a neighborhood that’s been popular for a long time, it’s better to find a great deal on a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Not sure how to spot the Next Big Thing? Keep an ear to the ground and an eye on plans for your city, and go where the businesses are going. If you see an older neighborhood with a sudden influx of restaurants, shops, and other businesses, it’s a sure sign that the area is being revitalized. Neighborhoods have cycles. Older areas become new again, and they’re suddenly the place to be. If you can get in on the ground floor, so to speak, in one of these neighborhoods, you should be able to find a reasonably priced home that will build equity faster than that lower-end home in the high-end neighborhood.

The Key Takeaway

It’s just not worth paying a premium for a house that just makes you say, “Meh. It’s not what we wanted, but at least it’s in the right area.” Instead of overpaying for a house that probably won’t have much more resale value than what you paid for it, look for the hot, up-and-coming neighborhood. Find a deal on a bigger, better home than you could afford in the ritzier neighborhood, or snag a fixer-upper with great bones for an even lower price and make it your own. You’ll thank us when you find yourself sitting pretty with a nice amount of equity in just a few years’ time.



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