Here in Charleston, we are hunkered down with another tropical storm warning, the remnants of Hurricane Michael. So far, there is some light wind and rain, but it looks like we will be spared the worst. My thoughts are with those who are in the storm's path. The threat of storm forced me to move a few meetings to tomorrow, but I made the most of it by finishing up this October newsletter.
Here's what you'll find in this month's news...
Client Spotlight: Molly Basile Interiors
I love featuring clients and their ventures in my newsletters, and this month's profile is one I am particularly excited to share. I regularly get asked for interior designer recommendations, so when I heard that past client, Molly Basile, was opening shop, she immediately went to the top of my rolodex. I'm thrilled that she agreed to be featured this month.
Molly and her husband, Jeff, bought a new build home in Old Mount Pleasant in 2016. Having gone under contract early in the home's construction process, Molly and Jeff had the opportunity to direct many of the design choices. While Molly was on a different career path back then, her style and design instincts were apparent; thus, it was no surprise to hear that Molly was making it official with the launch of Molly Basile Interiors. Read on to learn about Molly and her new business.
Real Estate Lingo: Mount Pleasant Edition
In a recent newsletter (and republished on my blog), I offered a list of Charleston Real Estate lingo: Downtown Edition. This month, we are looking at lingo aimed at helping you navigate the real estate scene in Mount Pleasant.
Q3 Report: The Year in Real Estate (so far)
With the advent of October, we have officially entered into the last quarter of 2018. It's been a fantastic year personally, as well as for William Means as a company, but the year's not over yet! Here's a look at some of the highlights of this year in real estate (so far).
Vanderhorst Street in Radcliffeborough and Vanderhorst Wharf South of Broad: You may have heard that this name is pronounced "VAN-DROSS." Well... it's not how I, personally, say "Vanderhost." Read on to learn more.
There are locals who will tell you (emphatically) that this name is pronounced with two syllables: “VAN-DROSS” (or "VAN-DRAWS," depending on the accent of the accent of the speaker).
With this seemingly insider knowledge, many go on their way feeling happily in the know about how to say this Charleston name.
However, I’ve heard more than one old Charlestonian insist that this is pronounced just like it looks (“VAN-DER-HORST”) and that the “VAN-DROSS” pronunciation is a mid-to-late 20th century movement, which picked up steam when Kiawah Island (previously owned by the Vanderhorst family for nearly two century) ownership changed in the 1950s and again in the 1970s, and, presumably the "Vanderhosrt" name was in the news.
Ek, so which is it?
I consulted one of my favorite books, and the only one I know of on the subject of pronunciations of South Carolina names, and it reports that both are correct, though it does point out that the street name in Charleston is pronounced "VAN-DROSS" (this book was first published in 1983).
So, my conclusion is that both pronunciations ("VAN-DROSS" or "VAN-DER-HORST") are acceptable, but, personally? I tend to go old school and use the more traditional “VAN-DER-HORST.”
What say you? "VAN-DROSS" or "VAN-DER-HORST?"
Because I am licensed with one of Charleston's premiere luxury real estate firms, buyers sometimes assume that a "smaller" sale is not in my wheelhouse or that I don't have the time for a first time buyer. To the contrary!
Maybe it's the former counselor in me, but I love working with first time buyers. It wasn't that long ago that I was purchasing my first home, a $200k 2 bed/1 bath charmer in West Ashley. It was 2008. I was 27, fresh out of grad school and back in Charleston. While this was years before I would get into real estate as a career, the decision to buy then had lasting positive impacts, and it is from this place that I love to help other first time buyers navigate the buying process.
Below are my tips for first time buyers. Email me with any additional questions you may have!
FAQs for First Time Buyers
If I am thinking about buying, when should I start looking?
I generally recommend that buyers start looking approximately 4-6 months before your ideal purchase date. Looking early can give you an opportunity to ease into the home-viewing process and also will allow you to get a sense of the market (what’s available, prices) before you are in it “for real.”
Once I find a home and make an offer, how long does it take to close?
On average, the time from contract to close for homes in the Charleston market is about 6-8 weeks. This timeline can be shorter, but if you are getting mortgage, most banks ask for at least 4-5 weeks to process a loan. The timeline can also be longer, but sellers typically like to keep the timeline as short as possible.
Once I close, when I do get to move in?
Usually, a buyer takes possession at closing which means that, as of closing, the house is yours! Occasionally, buyer and seller may agree to allow the seller to stay in the house past closing or for the buyer to have access before closing, but these types of arrangements are less common.
When in the process should I talk to a mortgage lender?
As soon as possible! Or, at least before you go out seriously looking at homes. A mortgage lender can “pre-qualify” you; this is helpful for a few reasons:
How do I find a mortgage lender?
Your real estate agent is a great source for recommendations, and friends and family can also be a great resource.
Other than a down payment, how much cash do I need to buy a home?
When it comes to buying a house, you will need some cash handy. These are to cover (1) Closing Costs, (2) Items paid outside of closing, and (3) Moving and other miscellaneous costs.
How does my Buyers’ Agent get paid?
In the Charleston market, 99.99% of the time, the buyer’s agent is paid by the seller at closing. To be more specific, with the proceeds of the sale, the seller pays the listing agent's company, then the listing agents's company pays the buyer agent's company. The individual agents get paid a portion of this by their respective companies.
So, as a buyer, you do not need to worry about paying the agent directly—this is covered by the transaction and is already factored in to the final sale price of the home. In extremely rare cases—typically in an off-market, for-sale-by-owner situation, the seller may refuse to pay a buyer’s agent. If this unlikely scenario were to happen, the buyer and the buyer agent would discuss the buyer agent’s compensation before engaging in the transaction so everyone feels comfortable with moving forward.
Why should I use a Buyer’s Agent? Why not just call the name of the agent that’s on the sign of a house I’m interested in?
The agent whose name is on a sign outside of the home is the exclusively representing the seller of that home—while they are required to treat you, a prospective buyer, with honesty and fairness, their job is to represent the best interests of the seller.
On the other hand, when you work with a Buyers’ Agent, your agent’s duty is to YOU and your interests. In addition to the logistics of setting up showings and gathering market information, your buyers’ agent will go to bat for you when it’s time to negotiate a contract, and they will manage the transaction from contract-to-close on your behalf. And, since the sellers have already agreed to pay a buyers’ agent when they put the home in the MLS, using a buyer’s agent does not cost the buyer anything on top of the price of the home (see “How does my Buyers’ Agent get paid?” above), so it’s a win-win for the buyer.
Have additional questions? Email Leize at email@example.com
**While today's blog post is on the impact of hurricane risk to the Charleston real estate market, my thoughts and deepest sympathy are with those who where impacted by Hurricane Florence. If you are looking for ways to help, read this. **
When I first started in the real estate industry, I was terrified of having a closing in September or October for fear that it might be derailed by a storm. But, over the years, I've grown to accept the fact that, as a Realtor working on the Southeast coast, hurricanes--and their impacts to the real estate business--are a fact of life. So, just how does tropical weather impact real estate in Charleston? I can't speak for everyone, but here are some of the impacts I've noticed.
Impact on Prices... Or not?
Anyone who has been watching the Charleston market for any length of time knows that historic downtown prices have been steadily on the rise for the last few years, in spite of a few major flooding events. Except in some rare incidences, I have not seen dropping in prices directly related to flooding; however, we have most certainly seen a slow down in the rate of increasing prices, though whether this is a result of weather risks or other market factors, it is not clear. Make no mistake, though: As of now, prices in historic Charleston continue to rise regardless of flood risks, as homes on the peninsula are a scarce resource.
Deterred buyers... Or not?
Last year after Hurricane Irma, I was out showing property (on a street that had flooded!) one week after the storm. The fact that the street looked relatively normal just a few days after a major weather event showed that while flooding can be a nuisance, things can often get back to normal fairly quickly if you have the resources to expedite a clean up. That said, while some buyers seem undeterred, I have definitely seen an up-tick in buyers looking to avoid flood-prone area in the last couple of years.
More educated buyers (and agents)
Prior to October 2015, Charleston hadn't had a major, wholesale flooding event since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, leading many buyers to underestimate the risk of flooding and many agents to be unaware (or unable to remember) of the history of certain parts of town. Recent flooding events have resulted in a much savvier buyer when it comes to location and home updates to mitigate flood-damage, and agents are, in my experience, more knowledgeable about these issues.
Strengthening the sales pitch for certain homes, and weakening the case for others
Prior to October 2015, it was rare to see any mention of flooding (or lack of flooding) in a property listing description. These days, it's not uncommon to see mention of "high ground" or "no recent flooding" in the description for homes that meet this criterion. Sellers and sellers' agents know that this question is top of mind for buyers and buyers' agents, so they are putting it out there, front and center. By contrast, homes with known flood history (particularly those with first floor flooding, rather than just crawl space inundation), are struggling to sell unless sellers have taken special steps to curb future flood related hassles.
Homeowner fixes to mitigate future flood-hassles
Sellers with homes in flood-prone areas are increasingly taking steps to mitigate future hassles. One of the most common steps is the removal of under-house duct work in favor of mini-split air conditioning units. This is a controversial topic: Some swear by their efficiency and breathe easy (no pun intended) knowing they aren't going to have to deal with flooded ductwork the next time a hurricane blows through. Others find them visually obtrusive and would rather take the risk. Some homeowners have reached a happy medium--keeping traditional HVAC systems but replacing the duct work with waterproof PVC. While forward thinking home updates will not guarantee a home sale, they certainly don't hurt.
Confusion about Flood Zones
I see a lot of confusion about flood zones, and why wouldn't there be confusion? FEMA's flood maps is notoriously difficult to navigate, and there's been talk of new flood maps for Charleston for going on 2+ years (the new maps are still not in effect, BTW). I frequently have buyers tell me that they "don't want to look any any homes in a flood zone." Since technically all homes are "in a flood zone" (some low-moderate, others higher risk), I have to figure out whether someone making this statement actually means (a) they want to avoid areas known to be flood-prone or (b) they want to avoid all high-risk areas as defined by FEMA, regardless of whether or not the area has any known flood history.
Impact to active transactions
In the event that a hurricane hits in the days or weeks prior to a Closing, things can get complicated--A storm could cause damage to a home resulting in extra needed repairs, it could temporarily halt a buyers' ability to get insurance, or it could delay a closing because a law office is closed. Rather than sort through endless "what if" scenarios ahead of time, I've learned that it is best to assess a situation as it unfolds and navigate the transaction accordingly, for my clients' best interest.
With the storm watch going on day 3 (or is it 4? I lost count), those of us who remain in Charleston are feeling a mixture of optimism that we won't get the worst of it and empathy for our neighbors to the north who are currently facing Hurricane Florence head on. All those impacted by the storm in Eastern NC and the Outer Banks are in my thoughts this morning. Meanwhile, impact to Charleston remains yet to be seen. We are expecting rain and wind starting this evening, as well as possible storm surges--particularly around high tides (roughly 1 AM tonight and 1:40 PM tomorrow afternoon). Everyone stay safe and dry.
Last month marked one year since Ben and I closed on our new home in Wagener Terrace. We have enjoyed our new neighborhood even more than we expected. Learn more about our stomping grounds below!
Location and Boundaries
Wagener Terrace is located in downtown Charleston, above the crosstown. The neighborhood is located north of Hampton Park, west of Rutledge Avenue, and south of Sunnyside Avenue. While the neighborhood mostly consists of 1940s/50s homes, two newer planned developments are located within the boundaries of Wagener Terrace: Longborough (Mary Ellen Drive/Alberta Street) and Lowndes Pointe (Lowndes Pointe Drive) and feature homes built in the 2000s. Wagener Terrace is often confused with nearby neighborhoods, Hampton Park Terrace (below Hampton Park) and North Central (East of Rutledge Avenue).
Some Brief History
Prior to the 20th century, the are that is now Wagener Terrace was primarily farm and wet lands. After the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition (1901-1902) in what is now Hampton Park, the areas directly surrounding the park became targeted areas for residential development. Wagner Terrace lagged behind the development Hampton Park Terrace to the south of the park, the first streets and lots where platted under the name "Wagener Terrace" in 1918. The first homes were built in the 1920s and 30s with the bulk of building occurring over the next three decades, particularly after WWII. Families who bought homes in Wagener Terrace were largely middle-class Protestant families who worked on peninsula, though the neighborhood was also home to middle-class Greek and Jewish families.
Wagener Terrace has an abundance of "Minimal Traditional" homes, a style of suburban home typical of the 1930s-late 1940s. Typically one story and sided in brick or cement shingle, these homes are often colloquially referred to as "bungalows" but they actually post-date the Arts and Crafts movement. Other Charleston neighborhoods where Minimal Traditional homes are common include Byrnes Downs, Avondale, and Ashley Forest in West Ashley. Throughout Wagener Terrace, you will also find a scattering of mid-century ranch style homes, a few colonial revival homes, and some newer construction (1990's-2000's) in Lowcounty vernacular styles.
On the Market Now
Here's a look at what's on the market now in Wagener Terrace.
We've now been in our 1947 Wagener Terrace home for a year. Fun fact: Our home was built in the same year as my beloved Avondale bungalow, the first home I owned after moving back to Charleston.
I've been working with several buyers who have recently asked: Should we make a move on something now OR should we wait and see what hits the market later in the fall? Like most things, the answer is, "it depends."
But... I do have some thoughts on this question that may help buyers reach their own conclusion. Read on...
You may opt to wait if:
On the other hand, you may consider buying now if:
This spacious and custom Olde Park home has been on the market since late 2017
and is an incredible value in one of Mount Pleasant's most coveted neighborhoods.
If you are looking to be settled in a new home by the end of 2018 and/or you prefer a lower-pressure negotiation experience, then I recommend that you look to BUY NOW.
But... if your moving plans are fluid and/or you have the ability and willingness to make a swift and aggressive offer for the right home, then it may be a better choice for you to WAIT & SEE.
I've had a few prospective buyers and Charleston newcomers ask me about Charleston real estate terms, geographic locations, and other lingo that I often take for granted as being widely known and understood. To help those of you who may be curious, here are some terms to help you navigate Charleston real estate conversations.
This time, I'm focusing on Downtown terms--in future newsletter, I'll tackle other parts of town! And, feel free to email me with your questions if there's another term you have heard and are wondering about.
That's all for now!
What Charleston real estate terms have you stumped?
Legare Street: In addition to being one of the most coveted streets in all of historic Charleston, it is one of the most frequently mispronounced. In fact, newcomers ask me how to pronounce this more than any other old Charleston name. I've heard called la-GARE and la-GARRY--and can you blame them? The actual pronunciation is nothing like it looks!
Legare is pronounced: "LA-GREE" (rhymes with "degree").
Stay tuned for future posts on Vanderhorst, Gaillard, Simons, Huger, Prioleau, and more...
Since I started in real estate several years ago, I've produced a regular newsletter, one that goes out to a growing readership on a monthly basis. I've been pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback I receive each month... In fact, the wonderful feedback keeps me motivated to get my newsletter out each month, even when work or life threatens to get in the way. It doesn't hurt that I enjoy writing and that some of my favorite topics are real estate, market trends, architecture, and Charleston news.
"You knocked it out of the park again! Love your newsletter."
"Of all the newsletters I get, yours is consistently the best. And it’s about REAL ESTATE for heaven’s sakes. As a marketer, I think you’ve struck the perfect balance."
"I always love your newsletters and out of all the many that I get from various businesses I always read yours all the way through. You just have such great photos and fun tid bits."
Between my newsletter and my one-on-one dealings with clients, I have a developed a huge cache of original content pertinent to Charleston and our real estate market. I have started to realize that it's a shame for all that to disappear into the ether once a new newsletter comes out or once a client's deal has closed.
So... I've decided to be a little more intentional about getting all this great content out there. Between this site and my instagram feed, I'll be sharing images, answers to FAQs, and Charleston insider info for all who care to peruse. My hope is that the content I share may be of interest to those actively buying and selling in Charleston, those thinking of moving to Charleston, and/or those who just love Charleston and/or real estate (there are many).
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to engaging.