Thursday, July 28, 2016

Time for Tax Free

The weekly forecast shows triple digit highs as far as the eye can see but the Halloween decorations are already out! It's the awkward transition to fall which also means - Back to School!

Tax free weekends are right around the corner and are a time to take advantage of the tax savings on qualified purchases.

For South Carolina residents the tax free weekend is August 5th through 7th.  For Georgia residents, tax free is THIS WEEKEND, July 30th and 31st.

Visit the links below for a full list of qualified items. Here are a few of the highlights:

- Clothing
- Computers
- Computer Equipment
- School Supplies
- Bath Towels
- Footwear

Does not apply to jewelry, cosmetics, eyewear or items on layaway

For more information click HERE

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Understanding Closing Costs

Closing costs are one of the many talked about but not necessarily understood components of obtaining a home mortgage.

Understanding and comparing closing costs are an important part of shopping for a mortgage.

Closing costs are primarily made up of fees associated with the closing and mortgage process that are passed on to the buyer.

On average closing costs are 2-5% of the home price.

They include items such as:

  • Obtaining a credit report
  • Processing paperwork for the loan (loan origination fees)
  • Legal fees
  • Appraisals
  • Surveys
  • Title insurance
  • Title searches
  • An escrow deposit
  • Recording the transaction in the city or county’s records
  • Underwriting the mortgage (evaluating the borrower and the property)

Most of the closing costs are the responsibility of the buyer, however sometimes the builder or seller will contribute.  Talk to your lender to get a full explanation of the costs so their won't be any surprises at closing!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Caring For Your Lawn

With the hot sun blazing down and temperatures not scheduled to dip for many more weeks - it's important to adapt your lawn maintenance plans to accommodate the summer!  Following these tips can help prevent damage and save you money on maintenance.

- Lawns need at least one inch of water a week during extreme heat
- Water less frequently but for longer amounts of time to encourage roots to grow deeper
- Water early in the day to beat evaporation but not at night which could encourage disease

- Don't cut your lawn too short - longer lawns are more resistant to the damaging effects of heat
- Make sure your blades are sharp so the grass is cut and not torn
- Mulch the clippings to create a moisture barrier

- Don't fertilize in the summer - even if your lawn looks brown - it can burn the lawn
- Place stepping stones in high traffic areas to minimize damage
- Pick up outdoor toys after playing to keep dead spots from popping up

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Take Interest in Interest Rates

We hear so often about interest rates - good ones, bad ones, refinancing to get a lower interest rate. But what does it really mean? What impact does it have on the house you buy or don't?  Here's a quick overview to explain one of the most important factors of mortgage lending.

Interest is the amount it costs you, the buyer, to borrow money in the form of a mortgage.  Banks require a return on the amount of money you borrow.  Your monthly mortgage payment is made up of the principal (or loan itself), interest, insurance and taxes. The higher the interest rate - the more money you owe on your mortgage each month. That's why it's important to search for the best interest rate for your particular type of mortgage.

Interest rates are an annual figure. To calculate your monthly rate take the interest rate and divide it by 12.  This new number is the amount of interest you will pay on your loan per month.

Each month your interest payment decreases as you pay more towards the principal on your loan.  In order to keep your monthly payments the same banks use an amortization schedule which applies more money to your principal and less money to interest each month.  Banks can provide you a full amortization schedule upon request.

Currently interest rates are at historic lows. This means that borrowing money for a home is more affordable than it has been in years. Take a look at the graph below for an idea on how far interest rates have come and why now is a great time to buy!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sweets for the 4th!

Celebrate Independence Day with flair! Take a look at these simple to make but amazingly patriotic dessert options!  Stay safe and enjoy the holiday!

Berry Trifle

Strawberry, blueberry and delicious angel food cake make this patriotic trifle a sure be winner!

Star Brownies

Use cookie cutters to cut up brownies and then decorate with icing and red, white and blue sprinkles!

Independence Day Kabobs

A simple no-bake dessert requiring just blueberries, strawberries and bananas!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Road Tripping Across the South

Getting out of town is a much needed escape for all of us. Sometimes taking that week long summer vacation isn't always possible.  Here are a few ways to get away if even just for the weekend!

Beach Locales:

Beaufort, South Carolina
Located just south of busy Hilton Head Island, Beaufort packs in true southern charm and lowcountry appeal.  Visit historic downtown and spend the day walking into local shops and art galleries.  For more information visit

Tybee Island, Georgia
Known as Savannah's beach, Tybee Island is a quiet beach town free from the hustle and bustle of most beach vacation spots.  See the famous lighthouse and take a dolphin tour! To find out more visit

Mountain Adventures:

Hendersonville, North Carolina
Just a half hour from trendy Asheville, Hendersonville is a quieter cousin to the artsy city. Visit the quaint downtown and find all of the Hendersonville Bears that decorate the space.  Enjoy beautiful views and local farmers markets. For more information visit

Blue Ridge, Georgia
90 miles north of Atlanta is the mountain town of Blue Ridge.  Blue Ridge is packed with outdoor adventure including hiking, waterfalls and trout fishing. For a more relaxing source of fun ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.  Find out more at

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Apps for Home Buying

Buying a new home has gone high tech! With your handy smartphone you can find tons of information that will help your home buying process.  Make sure to download these apps before you go shopping!

1. Home Search Apps
Home search apps like Zillow and provide up to date real estate information such as price, square footage, location and home description.  You can specifically look for new homes to make your search even easier.

2. Dwellr
Dwellr is an app that lets you know about the neighborhood your potential home is located in. Using Census data you can find out some demographic information about the community around you.

3. GreatSchools
Learn about the schools your home is zoned for with this helpful education app. Schools are rated and compare to other schools in the area.

4. Houzz
Interested in how to outfit your new home? Find decor ideas on this helpful app full of images of interior and exterior dream homes.

5. Mortgage Calculator by Quicken Loans
Time to run the numbers? Use the mortgage calculator app to calculate monthly payment, estimate your interest rate and down payment.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Carpet Care Done Right

Carpet is an often overlooked but important aspect of your home's style.  Stained or dirty carpet can set the wrong tone for your home and with some usual maintenance can be avoided. Here are a few tips to keep your carpet looking new!

1. Use mats outside and inside of your doors to prevent some dirt from coming in. This is a first line of defense for carpet care. Try to remove shoes when indoors.

2. Vacuum high traffic areas daily and all other areas on a weekly schedule.  Vacuuming prevents ground in dirt from cutting and tearing at the carpet fibers. Take your time and make sure each area is cleaned thoroughly.

3. If you notice a piece of the carpet coming loose or unraveling - do not pull! Clip with scissors to remove.

4. UV rays from sunshine can distort the color of your carpet and prematurely age the carpet. Close your blinds when leaving home for the day.

5. Stains happen but it's important to react quickly. Blot the stain to remove as much as possible. If a chemical spot remover is needed follow instructions carefully.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hot Spring Housing Market

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index released this week showed a national increase in home prices, up by 5% since March.  This brings prices to within 4% of their peak in 2006 - a far cry from the decline of 30% in 2012.

New home sales were up 17% in April - the strongest month in eight years.  What's driving the market? High demand and low supply. Improving economic indicators such as falling unemployment and low mortgage rates are helping to boost sales as well.

So what does this mean for you? If you're in the market for a new home - be prepared and do your research. Get pre-qualified or talk to a lender about a good faith estimate.  Work on any potential credit issues and understand what you will or won't compromise on in a home.

Home prices have been increasing steadily for the last 12 month so the time to buy is now before they increase again!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Remembering this Memorial Day

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending this country - our brave servicemen and women who fought for our freedom and gave us this land that we know today. Please reflect on these series of quotes and remember what was sacrificed for us.

I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism. - Bob Riley

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. - Bill Clinton

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. - Joseph Campbell

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened. - Billy Graham

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. - John F. Kennedy

Friday, May 20, 2016

Spice Up Your Memorial Day Menu

Memorial Day - the unofficial start of summer. A weekend full of family, friends and BBQ.  How about switching up your usual BBQ staples to include some of these fun foods for a crowd?

Grilled Corn. Add some sizzle to this summer staple! Other vegetables you can throw on the grill? Peppers, asparagus and tomatoes!

No good BBQ is complete without seasonal fruits! Use a watermelon to display them.

Cool down with Cucumber salad - cucumber, onions, tomato and italian dressing.

Finish off the celebration with a sweet treat! Strawberry kabobs with marshmallow and brownie pieces!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cleaning Your Home

Longer days, warmer temperatures - a perfect recipe for getting outside and taking care of those chores around the house.  One that can make a big difference in your home's curb appeal? Cleaning your siding!

Pressure washing is often the recommended technique for cleaning the exterior of your home but it can come at a cost. The force of pressure washing can cause water to get behind your siding or even through the mortar in your brick to cause moisture build up in your walls.  Pressure washing can rip window screens or break the seal of your double-pane windows.

So what are your alternatives? Thankfully there are other ways to safely clean your home!

Before beginning - check the manufactures guidelines for your particular type of siding. Before using a cleaning agent test it on an inconspicuous spot and let it sit for 24-48 hours.

The Vinyl Siding Institute recommends using a soft cloth or long handled bristle brush. Start at the bottom of your house and work up - rinsing as you go.

To remove mold or mildew use a solution of 30% vinegar and 70% water.

If you're not into DIY cleaning - contact a company that specializes in "no pressure" washing. Look for warranty or guarantees to ensure you choose someone who will stand by their work.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Get the Look!

One of the hottest TV shows around right now is HGTV's Fixer Upper. If you haven't tuned in yet, the premise of the show is all about renovation and restoration.  Chip and Joanna Gaines of Waco, TX, take outdated and overlooked homes and make them look amazing! Check it out when you can.

If you are already a fan you may wonder how you can steal the Fixer Upper look for your own home. Here are a few tips!

1. Decorate your walls with vintage maps, clocks, mirrors and uplifting quotes.

2. Incorporate open shelving where possible - especially in the kitchen.

3. Accent each room with greenery - real where possible, wildflowers are always in style!

4. Use neutral colors with bright accent pieces such as textured pillows or rugs.

5. Group together like items to create fun and functional vignettes.

How do you incorporate your sense of style at home?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Benefits of New Homes

The National Association of Home Builders designated April as "New Homes Month".  To celebrate - here are a few reasons why you should buy new!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spring Grill Prep

Telltale signs of spring - the sound of lawnmowers, children jumping through sprinklers and the smell of BBQ wafting over the neighbor's fence.  Before you get your grill out of hibernation - make sure you've taken these steps to guarantee a problem free BBQ season!

Start with giving your grill a good cleaning - inside and out. Brush off any visible debris with a wire brush. Remove grill grates and wash with warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry before putting back on the grill.

Check the fuel lines for any signs of cracks or rips. Make sure there are no kinks or bends in the line. Clean off any build up that may have accumulated on the lines. Check the gas tank for any obvious signs of damage.

Don't forget to clean out your grease trap - typically located under the grill. Clean thoroughly before your first use.

Light the grill and let it burn for a few minutes to ensure that everything is working properly. Make sure that all burners are lit and there are no leaks.

Now that you're ready to grill - use a few easy maintenance tips to ensure a great grilling season well into the fall.  Cover your grill to protect it from the elements of wind and rain.  After using your grill let it burn for an additional 15 minutes to burn off any food residue and make for easy clean up.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Home Buying Calculators

Today's home buyers have a plethora of online resources at their disposal. From searching Internet  listings to comparing mortgage rates, or looking up the latest design trends, the World Wide Web has created new avenues for today's home shopper.

We've prepared a list of links to use during your home search.  These calculators take some of the guess work out of shopping for a new home. The more you know, the better!

Housing Affordability Calculator from

Rent Vs. Buy from

Down Payment Calculator from FreddieMac

Extra Payment Calculator from Chase Mortgage

Potential Tax Savings from FreddieMac

Debt to Income Ratio from

What online
resources do you use to help you with your homebuying decisions?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Enjoying the Spring indoors!

The Spring weather is beautiful! The breeze is sweet and the flowers are blooming! Which means pollen.  Lots of pollen!  If seasonal allergies are holding you back from enjoying the great outdoors there are ways to bring the outside in!  Check out these tips to find out how!

1.  Decorate with plants - the non-allergic variety! Some plants actually improve air quality such as the Peace Lily, Chrysanthemum or Lady Palm.

2.  Use natural materials as accents such as rocks, stone or wood. Collections of sea shells or dried flowers work as well.

3. Take advantage of natural light. Keep the blinds open or use natural materials for window treatments such as bamboo or woven wood.

4. Don't forget your sense of smell - woodsy candles or flowery potpourri are perfect ways to accent your home.

5.  Shop your kitchen!  Use baskets of fruit such as oranges, lemons or limes to create a fresh look in the dining area.

What ideas do you have for bringing the outside in?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

When to buy

Renting vs. buying - a dilemma for many interested in entering the housing market for the first time.  Zillow has compiled an index that calculates how long a person would need to live in a purchased home before buying it would make more financial sense than renting.  For people planning on staying in the same location for a few years - this is an important figure to understand.

According to the Zillow report, living in a home for at least 1.9 years would make it more financially advantageous to buy rather than rent. This number, the "Breakeven Horizon" of 1.9 years has remained unchanged since the end of 2014.

Out of the top 35 housing markets in the country - the longest Breakeven Horizon is 4.5 years in Washington D.C. and the shortest is 1.3 years in Dallas, Texas.

To read the full report and understand more about the Breakeven Horizon visit HERE

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Cleaning Made Easy

Spring cleaning may not be everyone's favorite activity but it is an important way to maintain your home and keep its value with minimal effort.

In order to get the most cleaning done in the least amount of time we've provided some cleaning hacks that may just help move quickly enough to enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  • Clean your kitchen sink with half a lemon to remove water stains and add a fresh, citrus scent.
  • Dust baseboards with dryer sheets to prevent more dust from piling up later.
  • Use a rubberband to attach a towel to the end of the broom. Use this to reach high up places and remove cob webs or dust.
  • Remove clutter. Simply organizing makes your room feel cleaner.
  • Don't forget to clean your dishwasher! Put a dishwasher safe cup filled with white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher and run a cycle through.
  • Tackle your grimy and foggy shower glass with equal parts of vinegar and dish soap. Spray over glass and let sit for two hours to reveal shiny, sparkly clean! 
  • Use glass cleaner to make your stainless steel appliances shine.
  • Use a squeegee on carpet and furniture to remove pet hair.

How do you spring clean? Any tips or tricks that work for you?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

"Hoppy" Easter Treats!

Are you hosting friends or family this Easter? Think outside the egg and spice up your usual dinner plans.  Take a look at some unique ways to have a very "hoppy" Easter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Understanding Mortgage Terminology

Often one of the most intimidating parts of the home buying process is applying for a mortgage.  To help diffuse some of the mystery surrounding this step, we've provided definitions for some of the most commonly used mortgage terminology.
  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) - A type of loan where the interest rate changes periodically based on a standard financial index
  • Closing Costs - Costs to both the buyer and seller that occur during the home buying process. This includes items such as fees, insurance, escrow and taxes
  • Down Payment - A portion of the purchase price of the home that is paid up front without financing
  • Escrow - An account where money for taxes and insurance is held until it needs to be paid
  • Fixed Rate Mortgage - As opposed to an ARM, a Fixed Rate Mortgage has an interest rate that does not change for the duration of the mortgage
  • Good Faith Estimate - An estimate of closing costs provided to the buyer from the lender
  • Principal - The amount of debt that needs to be paid, not including interest
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) - Sometimes required if the buyer cannot provide at least a 20% down payment, PMI protects the lender against possible default
Which financing terms do you struggle with the most?  We can help provide information to make the process less intimidating!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Welcome Spring!

Nothing says Spring like a brightly decorated door welcoming you in!  Think outside the typical wreath with some unique ways to spruce up for Spring!

Utilize dollar store flip flops for a fun way to adorn your entrance

Rain boots, ribbon and fake flowers make a cheery display

A wreath made from a brightly colored garden hose is a fun twist on an old stand-by

Flower baskets are an easy way to incorporate Spring color

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tax Deductions

Tax time is almost here and though it isn't anyone's favorite time of year there are ways to make it less painful - especially if you're a homeowner.

Besides the more obvious deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes there are other ways you may be able to save money. Always talk with a professional to make sure that the deductions apply to you and that you know how to file correctly. Remember - it can't hurt to ask!

Eligible deductions for homeowners:

- Mortgage Interest
- Property Taxes
- Private Mortgage Insurance
- Medical Improvements (such as ramps or lifts)
- Dedicated Home Office Space
- Energy Efficient Home Improvements

If you've sold a home in the last year you may be eligible for deductions from that as well. Talk with a tax professional and enjoy even more benefits of owning a home!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Planning a Spring Garden

Looking to grow your own veggies this year?

It's a good idea to start with some easy-to-grow veggies that will not disappoint. Some of the best no-fail plants include:
Image result for tomato photo
- Basil
- Cucumber
- Summer Squash
- Green Beans
- Lettuce

Of course a summer harvest wouldn't be complete without red, ripe tomatoes.  Tomatoes need plenty of water and sunshine. Stake the plants to keep them from laying on the ground.  Look for disease resistant varieties where possible.

Different plants compliment each other and aide in growth.  Plant corn, beans and squash in the same area. Basil planted near tomatoes helps to repel flies and mosquitoes. Lettuce, carrots and radishes grow well together.

So here at the end of February what is your next step? . If you're growing from seed - begin the process inside where the seedlings will be safe from cold temperatures. If you're looking for rare or heirloom varieties begin placing your orders online.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Best Ways to Stay Warm

The winter weather has finally arrived and you are trying desperately to stay warm!

Here are some ways to warm up - the smart way!

1. When you're coming home to a cold house, don't crank the thermostat up too high too fast. Thermostats don't work that way and it will just end up costing you money.

2. At night, or when you're not home, don't let it get too cold. Otherwise it will take a long time to heat back up. The key is to not try and go to extremes with your temperature. Dropping by just a couple of degrees at night is the better way to go.

3. Make use of a programmable thermostat. Automatic adjustments will happen more slowly and more efficiently.

4. During the day, keep your blinds open to let in the warmth of the sunlight. Make sure all of the windows are locked to prevent drafts.

5. Don't close the heating vents in rooms that aren't used often. This could cause an imbalance in your heating system.

Do you have any stay warm tips this winter?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Housing Predictions for 2016

Predictions for the 2016 Housing Market appear strong on a variety of fronts. According to an article in the Washington Post several factors will encourage another year of positive growth.

  • Home prices should continue to increase
  • Credit requirements - especially for first time home buyers are beginning to normalize
  • Housing remains on a more solid foundation with less mortgages underwater
  • Homeowners looking to sell and move on to new homes should have an easier time selling in 2016
So will 2016 be the year you purchase your new dream home?

To read the whole article click here

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Introducing the Color of the Year

For the first time Pantone is introducing two colors of the year - Rose Quartz and Serenity.  Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute describes the two tone color combination as "an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue".

The emotional attributes of Rose Quartz and Serenity are a sense of calm and relaxation.

For more information visit the official site of Pantone's "Color of the Year"