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How-To Tuesday: Refresh Your Home’s Look on a Budget

Some homeowners know exactly what they want from their home decor, and they keep everything pretty standard most of the time. Others like to change things up every once in a while. If you’re more like the latter, we’d be willing to wager that you’re always on the lookout for budget-friendly ideas and cheap chic trends. In that case, this week’s how-to is definitely for you! Add these updates to your arsenal and make a big difference without putting a big dent in your wallet.

Replace Your Hardware

You don’t need to do a major overhaul on your kitchen or bathroom to get an updated look. Just replace cabinet door handles, drawer pulls, faucets, and/or light fixtures for an instant refresh. Go with a matching set of handles and pulls, or go eclectic and mix and match your metals and patterns.

Update Window Treatments

Updating window treatments is a quick and easy change that can actually result in a huge transformation for a room. Switching from heavy blackout curtains to pretty, flowy sheers, for example, changes the tone of a room and lets in tons more natural light. It makes for an instant uplift in both the mood and aesthetic. If you want the opposite effect going into fall and winter, cozy up your window treatments by layering them or using darker colors and softer textures.

Create a Statement Wall

Paint one wall a solid color or pattern to liven up a space. If you’re afraid of that kind of commitment, go with a removable wallpaper for a dynamic look. Keep it simple with a graphic black and white pattern; go bold and trendy with fun, retro designs like flamingos or cactuses; or make things soft and pretty with a gorgeous floral design. You don’t have to go so far as to change the actual wall. You could also use shelves, artwork, or framed photos to cover a wall and create a statement piece too.

Switch Out Textiles

For a super quick refresh, change up your throw pillows, afghans, and rugs. This is the perfect way to change things up every season—or even more often if you have the storage space for the extra pieces. Elevate a room’s vibe by adding pillows and throw blankets in bright, lively colors and patterns. Make things homey with seasonal textiles like knits, furs, and leathers. There are so many options for every taste level!

Change Angles

Sometimes all it takes is a little adjusting of existing pieces to breathe new life into a room. Lay an area rug on the diagonal for some visual interest. If that’s not your style, just change up the orientation of your furniture and other decor pieces. For instance, move a couch or chair to the opposite side of a room for instant inspiration.

Is It Okay to Make an Offer That's Below Listing Price?

Short answer: absolutely. It’s okay to offer whatever price you want to offer when looking to buy a home. That doesn’t always mean the seller’s going to take you seriously if you, though. And we can’t promise that your real estate agent won’t be irritated with you for wasting their time and yours if you offer is too low and gets ignored. But yes, there are times when it’s absolutely okay to make an offer that’s below listing price…within reason.

The Home is Obviously Overpriced

When the time comes to make an offer on a home, your Realtor® will help you out by researching the comps in the area to make sure the asking price is on point. If a comparative market analysis comes in way under the listing price, you’re completely entitled to offer a more appropriate price for the house. Chances are the seller’s agent knows the home is overpriced, but the seller just won’t budge. It happens. And when it does, that overpriced house will sit on the market for a while. Your “lowball” offer will be more far more attractive to the seller than no offers at all.

The Seller Needs to Sell

Sometimes sellers can’t wait for that perfect offer to come along. They might have to sell quickly to move away for a new job; they might have lost a job and need to get out from under their mortgage; or they might have already bought another home and need to get rid of the old one pronto. Every seller has his or her own motivations and requirements for selling. If you can find out what those motivations are, it will make negotiating that much easier.

The House Has Been on the Market for a While

If a house has been languishing with a For Sale sign out front for a while now, or it’s come off and back on the market a few times in the last year, the seller may be looking to make a deal. A little research will tell you the exact number of days it’s been on the market. Have your agent do a little digging to see if there’s been any other interest in the house. If the sellers have been waiting around with no offers, they’ll probably be more than happy to see yours, even if it’s a little below asking price.

The House or Property Needs a Lot of Work

Fixing up a house that’s outdated or in an ill state of repair can take a lot of time, money, and effort. The listing price should reflect the amount of work a house needs. If it doesn’t, feel free to do the math and come up with an offer that reflects that amount of work. Now, we’re not talking about minor repairs or simple cosmetics here, like painting or merely ripping up the fairly new carpet because you prefer hardwoods. We’re talking seriously out of date homes or properties that aren’t liveable until certain repairs are made. If a house needs a new HVAC system or an entire new roof, for example, the listing price should reflect those repairs.

Yes, You Can Buy a Home With No Down Payment

One of the major obstacles that keeps many people from buying a home is the inability to come up with a large enough down payment. In order to get the best interest rate, homeowners are typically asked to put down 20% of the home’s value. But when you’re talking about a purchase price that’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, that 20% isn’t exactly pocket change. If you’re struggling to save enough to make a down payment on a home, don’t lose hope. There are actually some options out there that don’t require any down payment at all.

USDA Loans

Don’t skip over this one because of the name! We know it might sound like only farm or ranch land would qualify, but that’s not the case. In fact, 97% of land in the U.S. is in areas that are eligible for USDA loans. The United States Department of Agriculture has its own housing program to help with rural development. It allows families with low to moderate incomes to buy a primary residence outside of major cities, in rural or suburban areas. For exact location and property requirements, check the USDA Loan Program website.

VA Loans

U.S. Military Veterans may qualify for a VA home loan. VA loans offer 100% financing and do not require mortgage insurance. Because of this there is a one-time funding fee, which can be as low as 1.25% or as high as 3.3% of the loan amount. That amount can be financed into the loan, so no money is required up front. Credit requirements for VA loans differ by lender, though most will require a minimum 620 credit score. Some smaller lenders may take lower scores. All will require a VA Certificate of Eligibility, which can be obtained through the Department of Veteran Affairs website.

Navy Federal Credit Union

If you qualify for membership with Navy Federal Credit Union, you may be eligible for 100% financing and 0% down on your mortgage loan. Navy Fed’s HomeBuyers Choice Mortgage offers conforming and jumbo loans with a low fixed rate, no money down, no private mortgage insurance (PMI), and refinancing options. They also allow up to 6% in seller contributions. Like a VA loan, this program charges a one-time funding fee of 1.75%, which can be waived for an .375% increase in the interest rate.

Down Payment Assistance

If you’re a first-time homebuyer and don’t qualify for any of the mortgages that offer zero percent down, you might want to look into down payment assistance. Some mortgages, such as FHA loans, will allow 100% of the down payment to be gifted. So if you have a parent or someone else who wants to help out, they can gift the money to you or make a personal loan to make up the down payment. There are also government programs and grants that help first-time homebuyers make their down payments. They can be found on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website.

Low Down Payment Option: FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) does not offer zero-down loans, but they do offer loans with a very low down payment. Since eligibility requirements aren’t as stringent as conventional loans, FHA loans are very popular among first-time buyers. Even buyers with a credit score as low as 580 can qualify for a loan with a 3.5% down payment. If your credit score is lower than 580, you may still qualify with a 10% down payment. As stated in the previous option, FHA loans allow the down payment to be paid using gift funds. Some buyers have even been known to set up a crowdfunding account for friends and family to contribute toward as gifts for a wedding or birth, etc.

Friday Five // October 12th, 2018

Searching for something fun to do this weekend? Look no further, because the Friday Five is here! It’s our weekly roundup of fun events happening around the Charleston area throughout the weekend. Catch an outdoor family movie, enjoy two cultural festivals, celebrate Oktoberfest, and more. Whatever you choose to do, as always, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a safe and happy weekend!

Bring the whole family to Corrine Jones Park in downtown Charleston on Friday evening for family movie night, featuring Disney + Pixar’s Coco. Beginning at 6pm, the Charleston Parks Conservancy and Lambda Theta Phi present an evening full of Latin-themed activities, a Salsa lesson, free popcorn, and games. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from El Pincho Taco Miracle’s Tasty Express. The film will begin around 7:15pm. The event is free for all to attend, but prior registration is appreciated.

Join the staff and agents from Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company this weekend at the Victory Cup. This event, taking place on Friday and Saturday, has it all: polo, hot air balloons, fashion, food, and drinks. On Friday, enjoy hot air balloon glow and tethered rides, food vendors, bars, and live music from ’80s cover band The Spazmatics. Saturday will feature a polo match, more hot air balloon rides, and a farm-to-table dinner with the polo players. This event is family-friendly and pet-friendly. Get your passes in advance to ensure admission.

Star Wars-loving families will want to be at the Main Library downtown Saturday from 11am until 2pm for Star Wars Reads Day. Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and Stormtroopers will invade the library for an afternoon of fun for the whole family. Bring your camera for photo opps, participate in a costume contest, watch Solo: A Star Wars Story, hear the CSO perform some Star Wars tunes, create a craft, test your trivia knowledge, hear a story, and enjoy Star Wars treats. Members of the Carolina Garrison chapter of the 501st Legion will be dressed in lifelike Star Wars gear for the event.

Celebrate the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and rhythms of Latin America on Sunday at the 27th annual Latin American Festival. The event takes place at Wannamaker County Park from 12pm until 6pm. Delight in live Salsa and Merengue music, authentic food and crafts, and plenty of family-friendly activities, including a salsa dance contest. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students (with a valid student ID). Kids 12 and under and Gold Pass members enjoy free admission. Outside food, alcohol, coolers, and pets are prohibited at this event.

Head to Gene’s Haufbrau on Sunday from 12-7pm for their 18th Annual Oktoberfest celebration. Enjoy seasonal beers, traditional German fare, great music, and loads of fun. Hans Schmidt German Band will go on at noon followed by Bender Funk at 3pm. Admission is $5 at the door and benefits Pet Helpers.

Pros and Cons of Living in a Bedroom Community

So you want to live in the city. But you also want to stay under budget. Oh, and you want a little peace and quiet at night…and guaranteed parking and a yard for your dog and a good school district and… All of that sounds great, and they’re all reasonable wants. The reality is you’re probably not going to get all of that living in a larger city. Instead of compromising on your wants and needs for a specific location, you might want to think about looking for a home in a bedroom community.

The term bedroom community is used to describe suburbs and exurbs where much of the population is made up of people who commute to the city for work. They come home to their suburb (or exurb, as the case may be) in the evenings to their primary residence, the place where they sleep. Hence the term “bedroom” community. If you’ve been thinking of buying a home in one of these areas, you might want to weight the pros and cons before you start the search for your new home.

The Pros

Bedroom communities are appealing alternatives to city living because of the potential savings, more space, and lower cost of living. Housing costs, property taxes, and prices of things like food and gas tend to be lower in suburbs than they are in cities. It’s also easier to find peace and quiet outside of the city. Bedrooms communities tend to have less traffic, fewer large construction projects, fewer emergency response vehicles at all hours, and no ambient noise from nearby restaurants and bars. Privacy is a little easier to come by as well. In the middle of a city, living quarters are quite literally right on top of each other. Homes in the suburbs tend to be more spread out. And if they’re not, you can always build a fence, right? That brings us to another perk. Living in a bedroom community usually comes with fewer regulations about what you can and cannot do to your property. There’s no fighting with the Board of Architecture if you want to paint your front door or build a new deck.

The Cons

As with anything in life, living in a bedroom community comes with its fair share of drawbacks. Perhaps the biggest one of all is the daily commute between home and work. Daily traffic usually runs away from the suburbs toward the city in the mornings, and vice versa in the evenings. That means unless you work nights, you’ll be right in there with the rest of the traffic each morning and night. Suburbs often have fewer options to choose from when it comes to dining out, nightlife, and shopping. If you don’t own a car, a bedroom community might not be for you. Public transportation options can be limited as well. If you’re used to lots of action throughout the day and night, moving to a suburb or exurb could leave you feeling cut off, with an outside-looking-in type of feeling.

The pros and cons of living in a bedroom community can honestly be somewhat subjective. Maybe you like some noise when you’re trying to go to sleep at night. Or maybe you find a daily commute a good time to prepare your mind for the workday and a good way to unwind after work. Everyone’s different! The best thing to do is take each pro and con into consideration and decide for yourself if life in a bedroom community is for you.

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