Hurricanes aren't something that anyone likes to think about, unless they come in a tall frosty glass with an umbrella. As the approach — and eventual near miss — of Hurricane Dorian showed, owning a home in Savannah, Beaufort, Bluffton or Hilton Head Island, can be a little more threatening than to someone living in, say, Nashville. And while hurricanes are powerful forces of nature, you can be proactive and prepare, and give yourself peace of mind.
The first step is to gather information. Where is your home located? Is it in an evacuation area? Will it be affected if there is a storm surge? What is a storm surge? These are all questions for which you should have answers. Bone up on your weather knowledge and make sure that you know the difference between a "warning" and a "watch" in terms of severe weather. Being able to differentiate between these terms will help you understand severe weather reports and help you respond accordingly. Also, check with the local emergency management agency — they can also assist you with how you should respond to hurricanes and the conditions that accompany them, such as heavy rain, high winds, and flooding. Make sure you have a list of contact numbers for not only your local law enforcement/public safety agencies, but also for your utility company, local TV/radio stations, and your insurance agent(s).
Before a storm gets here do a walk through of your home recording a video and taking note of art, jewelry, appliances and furniture. This can be crucial in filing an accurate insurance claim. Take a look at your yard — how many trees do you have? Will high winds wreak havoc on your landscape? Make sure to know how many windows you have, in the event that you will need to board them up. You can also use online tools to check your hazards, including flooding, risks. And be sure to keep tabs on the important parts of your home by evaluating your home at least once a year by getting:
Even though nobody really wants to entertain the idea of being separated from family or friends, especially in a hurricane, it's important that you do exactly that, and make an emergency plan with your family. Be sure to plan for locations to meet/stay away from home and make sure that your schools, daycares, and business owners have emergency plans in place. And don't forget about the four-legged family members of your family — if you have a pet, make sure to include their care in your emergency plan.
Most people think that they are prepared for hurricanes in terms of supplies and necessities, or that they will have time to stock up on supplies. Don't wait until the last minute to fight the crowds buying emergency candles and bottled water. Instead, go ahead and put together a basic disaster supplies kit, and consider storage locations for the kit for different locations.
Putting this much time and effort into planning for hurricanes that might not even make landfall on the Coastal Empire's shoreline might seem a bit much, but remember — nobody has ever survived a natural disaster and then complained that they were too prepared. If you take the time now to make sure you are ready for hurricane season, you will be avoiding even more stress when one comes our way this hurricane season, and rest a little easier for it.
Picnic in the Park is the first Sunday in October and is held at Savannah's famous Forsyth Park. This year, Picnic in the Park will be on Sunday, October 6th. Live music performances are scheduled throughout the evening at the park's concert bandshell, beginning at 3pm. Musical acts include those from local schools, the U.S. Army Band, 3rd ID, and the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra. While you can wait until the music begins before you show up, those in the know will tell you that it's better to arrive early, especially if you're looking to secure a prime picnic spot.
Which leads us to our next tip: don't be fooled by the term "picnic." If it's one thing Savannahians can do, it's have a good time, and they do so with both flair and gusto. Groups of families and friends will gather together under tents with lavishly decorated tables, fresh flowers and chandeliers. Cold cans of craft beer keep company with cans of sparkling wine in metal tubs packed with ice. Silver trays, bedecked with doilies, are topped with tomato sandwiches, wedges of cheese, or bits of summer sausages, and flank chafing dishes of fried chicken fingers and boiled shrimp. Cakes, pies, and cookies are in abundant supply, because no party is complete without a good dessert.
Some will dress in costume according to the theme, which for this year is "Paint Your World with Music." Others will keep it simple and just add a layer of bug spray to their normal attire. Ballgowns, glow necklaces, and flower crowns are a common sight, no matter what the theme of the year may be. One can say that, no matter what the theme of Picnic in the Park is, the event will always be the quirky joy of the simple pleasures. And that is an idea that truly embodies Savannah.
Few delicacies evoke emotions quite like oysters. These magical mollusks are loved and hated, and are the subject of lore and legend all over the world. We've rounded up some of our favorite tidbits that we've learned about oysters.
Most people think "health benefits" mean "increased libido." But don't think that the way oysters can benefit your body stops there. The bivalves pack a wallop of zinc, which is great for making you feel good and for keeping up your energy. Besides boosting your immune system, zinc can also help get rid of acne, ease rashes and build up bone strength. And yes, the increase in energy from the zinc in oysters can also help you with other activities.
I know what you're thinking, "Only five? That number can't be right" But it's true. While there are over 100 varieties of oysters, those varieties are all derived from 5 species. These 5 species include Pacific Oysters (or Japanese Oyster), Kumamoto Oysters, European Flat Oysters, Atlantic Oysters and Olympia Oysters. The differences between these bivalves are the water they grow in, and their shells. The European Flat has a large, straight shell with fine ridges. Kumamotos and Olympias are similar in that they are both smaller than the European Flats, and their shells are rounder and paler. But, Olympias have a slightly smoother shell with a bit of iridescent coloring. Pacific Oysters are smaller with wavy casings. Last, but not least, the Atlantic species looks like a teardrop and tends to be on the larger side.
In one day, an oyster filters about 30 to 50 gallons. Not only are oysters delicious, but they are good for the environment, too! And once oysters have been joyfully consumed, they are still useful. The shells are great for helping your garden flourish. The calcium in oyster shells can improve the soil's pH balance, adds nutrients to the plants and strengthens their cell walls, all of which leads to healthy produce and brighter flowers.
In the Lowcountry, and especially in Savannah, oysters are celebrated as beloved local cuisine and enjoyed in a variety of ways, such as raw, steamed, or fried. Oysters Rockefeller are a popular preparation, and you can rarely go wrong with a fried oyster po'boy or basket. Some of our favorite places places to grab these bodacious bivalves in Savannah include Sorry Charlie's Oyster Bar, Husk, The Grey, and Chive Sea Bar and Lounge. We're also huge fans of the Lady's Island Oysters at Saltus River Grill in Beaufort, South Carolina.
The best thing about oysters is that, despite popular belief, you don't have to restrict your oyster consumption to months ending in "-er." Oysters are generally thinner in the summer because they devote their energy to reproducing. However, if the oysters are being farmed, this may not even be an issue. There are many farmed oysters varieties making oysters available year round. Your best bet is to contact purveyors and restaurants serving oysters to determine what kind they have available. So pop out today and find out what place has your favorite mollusk!
Some people operate under the notion that most of the summertime fun is over after Labor Day, In Savannah, we know that is not true. For Savannah, September means that the Savannah Jazz Festival has arrived. For over 35 years, the Savannah Jazz Festival has been bringing jazz musicians and performers to Savannah. The week-long festival is made up of jazz acts at various venues throughout the city. These venues include Good Times Jazz Club, the Mansion on Forsyth, Rancho Alegre, the Perry Lane Hotel, the DeSoto Hotel, the Ships of the Sea Museum and the Lucas Theatre. While some of these venues may charge a cover, the SJF culminates in a free concert in Forsyth Park that spans 3 days. The Savannah Jazz Festival also includes traditional after-hours jam sessions at venues all over town.
This year, Savannah Jazz Festival's 38th year, the list of performers include jazz musicians and singers from all over the world, as well as local performers. The lineup includes Cynthia Utterbach and Eric Jones Trio, the Robert Louis Quartet, Anat Cohen, Eric Culberson Band, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Dan Wilson, Dolette McDonald, Gino Castillo and the Cuban Cowboys, The Huntertones, LPT, and Sugar Ray Rayford. Performances will also be made by the UNF Jazz Ensemble #1, the GSU Jazz Ensemble, and the Savannah Arts Academy Skylite Jazz Band.
The Savannah Jazz Festival is produced by the Coastal Jazz Association. The CJA is a grassroots non-profit formed in 1981. The Coastal Jazz Association is responsible for the Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame, and provides assistance to jazz performers in need as well as jazz education scholarships.
The Savannah Jazz Festival will be from September 22, 2019 through September 28, 2019. Shows begin as early as 2pm and as late as 10pm. For the Forsyth Park shows, bring a chair or blanket, and refreshments, and keep an eye on the weather. Last year, the last show in Forsyth Park had to be moved indoors due to lightning, but that didn't stop the party. We, along with other festival-goers, packed up and headed over to Rancho Alegre. The final show of the Savannah Jazz Festival was held there, and it led to a late-night jam that had everyone up and out of their chairs dancing. Don't miss it this year!
Getting ready to buy that dream home, first home, or second home? One of the first steps in the home buying process, can also be the most overwhelming (and sometimes confusing). But that's where your knowledgeable Cora Bett Thomas Realty agent comes in. They're able to break down the difference and importance of getting pre-approved and pre-qualified, so you won't miss a beat!
Here's a brief overview:
Before you start the hunt with your real estate agent, often times your realtor will recommend a list of 3-5 lenders to get you pre-qualified for a mortgage. Getting pre-qualified for a home is the peace of mind that both you and a potential seller need to get started in the process. But don't let this step deceive you, pre-qualification isn't a promise that you'll get a loan for the home you are wanting to buy. Instead, it's a promise that a loan officer has briefly looked at your finances; from your income and estimated credit score to your savings. From their research, they have determined the approximate amount of money that you will most likely be approved to borrow for a mortgage. Pre-qualification shouldn't affect your credit, so pre-qualify as much as you want. This step will make the home buying process much smoother.
Pre-qualification is especially important for first-time home buyers. Take the information given to you from your lender and do some simple mortgage calculations to predict what your monthly payments will be. Buyer beware, just because a lender says you prequalify for a certain monthly mortgage, doesn't mean you'll be comfortable with that commitment for years to come.
Pre-qualification is not required, but it is certainly helpful. Use this as a guide for home-shopping, it's just a rough estimate for how much you can afford.
Use this step to get serious about signing those papers, and buying a home. Pre-qualification and pre-approval differ by the depth of the lender's search into your finances. This step provides you with more concrete numbers.
Your lender will pull credit history, look at your income and debts, and you'll have to have a laundry list of documentation for them to do so. This process, generally, doesn't take longer than 24 hours… as long as you are able to provide all necessary documents. Due to the extensivity of the check this step will count as a "hard pull" on your credit, meaning it could have a negative affect on your credit score. So keep an eye out for credit score changes. The higher your credit score, the more you are expected to get pre-approved for.
The pre-approval process will also provide you with a letter outlining the expected loan amount and terms, based off the lenders research. This letter gives you the upper hand when your real estate agent places an offer. This letter is only good for 60-90 days, so make sure to put this timeline into consideration when getting pre-approved.
This pre-shopping process is an important one. Both pre-qualification and pre-approval prove to the seller that you have the funds to buy your new home. However, neither guarantee a loan with those specific terms.
Sorry Charlie's Oyster Bar opened downtown on Ellis Square in 2015 to much success. Although there was Sorry Charlie's previously in the same space, the 2015 iteration opened after a complete teardown and rebuild of the building's interior under the guidance of new ownership. Located on the first floor of the historic Gibbons Range building, in the heart of Historic Downtown Savannah, the bar and seafood restaurant rapidly gained favor with visitors and local Savannahians alike.
With the acquisition of the building next door in 2018, Sorry Charlie's temporarily closed its doors in mid 2019 to complete the renovation of Gibbons Range building and also to connect and renovate this new space. The restaurant's owners took this opportunity to update the main floor, while building out the second floor into a Tiki bar, renovating a third floor banquet hall, and creating a new rooftop bar and seating area. This second phase has been a labor of love, with much time being taken and attention given to preserving the historic integrity of the building.
The renovations to the Gibbons Range building and the adjacent space has allowed for the expansion of the basement and main floor kitchen areas, as well as the creation of stairwells, utility and elevator shafts for public and staff access. One of the most significant additions to the main floor of Sorry Charlie's is the creation of a new raw bar, with seating available. The bartop for this raw bar will be made of the same material as the beloved bartop currently in Sorry Charlie's — only in white instead of black. Other "Phase 2" updates include a tongue-in-groove ceiling, updated light fixtures, a new sound system, high speed internet, and a new building-wide HVAC system. The entrance will also be moving just a bit farther east along Congress Street, so patrons will enter directly into the raw bar area.
Reopening August 24, Sorry Charlie's will be offering the same menu items, including fresh oysters from around the country. It has maintained its close relationships with local providers, especially its oyster purveyors. As Sorry Charlie's progresses into Phase 3 and the launch of its upstairs spaces and event areas, it will be looking to hire new staff members to be serving the multiple floors.
As eager as customers are for Sorry Charlie's to reopen, rest assured that the Sorry Charlie's gang are no less eager. The entire team has recently been on site, moving furniture and appliances, cleaning, stocking, and doing whatever is needed to get ready for re-opening. Besides the introduction of new spaces, Sorry Charlie's will also be welcoming new General Manager, Brian Fogarty. A Savannah native who has recently moved back from Atlanta, Brian is ready to share his experience and is eager to step in and lead Sorry Charlie's into its latest and greatest incarnation.
When most people think of the 100 Mile Coast, they immediately think of fresh, local seafood, harvested by generations of the same fishing families. No other place embodies this idea like the Bluffton Oyster Company. And although the Bluffton Oyster Company calls itself a "typical southern oyster house," its history and commitment to providing locally harvested seafood to locals and visitors alike make it something truly special.
The low-slung tabby building that houses the Bluffton Oyster Company sits on a pile of oyster shells, long discarded from previous shucking operations. The land is reclaimed, and the building was built in 1954. While numerous wooden docks and buildings once stood on the site, they are long since gone. The building is now owned by Beaufort County and shares land with a public boat ramp access to the May River. This makes the Bluffton Oyster Company a perfect stop to grab some fresh seafood after spending a day on the water.
Stepping inside the cool and dimly-lit interior of the Bluffton Oyster Company, you are immediately greeted by a case filled with tidy rows of simply presented, fresh fish. Over to the side of the case are tubs filled with ice and mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, and of course, oysters. And while you cannot go wrong with anything you take home from the Bluffton Oyster Company, you'd be cheating yourself if you left without taking some oysters.
All oysters are harvested by hand; the Bluffton Oyster Company employs up to 15 oyster pickers daily, and up 12 oyster shuckers daily. Once harvested, the shell stock is unloaded on the docks and washed with fresh water before being loaded onto the shucking tables. The shuckers then proceed to open the oysters, by hand, and into stainless steel cans. Once the cans are full, they are passed through a window that leads into the measuring and packing room. The oysters are washed again, this time in skimmer, and then packed into containers of varying sizes. The containers are kept in a refrigerated holding area until they are ready to be delivered.
Most of the workers at the Bluffton Oyster Company are over the age of 65 and have been in the business all their lives. Each shucker's oysters are kept separate to guarantee that each of them are paid correctly.
Crabbing is done year round, and are almost always available, except for soft shell crabs. The Bluffton Oyster Company harvests soft shell crabs during the months of March, April and May. The season can start anytime from mid-March to mid-April, and lasts from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on many variable factors. Whether you are an avid lover of this Lowcountry delicacy, or just satisfying your curiosity to see what the fuss is all about with these popular crustaceans, you owe it to yourself to visit The Bluffton Oyster Company during soft shell crab season. During this time, you can find soft shell crabs in various stages of molting in large molting tanks assuring that freshly molted, live crabs are available each day.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources determines specific opening and closing dates each year for shrimp season. Shrimp season typically runs from mid-June until mid-January. Oysters, clams, and mussels are in season from mid-September to mid-May.
The Bluffton Oyster Company is open Monday through Saturday from 9am until 5:30pm. Whatever seafood you're craving, stop in to the Bluffton Oyster Company and grab something to take home and enjoy. Visiting this piece of South Carolina history is an experience that is both educational and delicious, and once you go, you'll be hooked!
Labor Day is almost here, and it's a time to celebrate your hard work. There's so much to do in Savannah, so take the long weekend to taste all the foods, soak in the fellowship, shop 'til you drop, and raise a glass to your favorite college football team!
September in Savannah is still classified as the heatwave of the Summer. This year, we're expecting rain… and lots of it (thanks to Hurricane Dorian). But there's still plenty to do, without letting the rain dampen all the fun. Cora Bett Thomas and her team have compiled a list of their favorite must-do's this Labor Day weekend.
Grab your friends and check out a dozen of Savannah's favorite bars. Boomys, Rogue Water, The Escape Company, Hideaway Lounge, Tree House, Pour Larrys, Wild Wing Cafe, BarrelHouse South, PS Tavern, Bay Street Blues, 309 West on the River, Stafford's Public House, and Savannah Smiles are all participating this year. They encourage you to deck out in all things white, thanks to the old fashion rule "Don't wear white after Labor Day."
If you'd rather not drink 'til you drop, and prefer shopping 'til you drop … Broughton Street is calling. From hip boutiques to popular chain stores, you are sure to find just what you're looking for (and hopefully you'll run into an end of Summer sale, while you're there). Also wander over to City Market, which boasts antique shops, gift stores, and art galleries.
We hear Saturday is a big day for all those college football fans! At kick off, find your way to one of the many bars in town. Sorry Charlie's is Savannah's premier oyster bar. Stop by, check out the sleek new renovations, catch a game at the bar, and delve into their menu (which is a delicious mix of southern and the sea).
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If the rain holds off, pack a cooler and head to the beach! On Sunday, Tybee Island is throwing a Labor Day Beach Bash from 7-11pm. The Swingin' Medallions will play and they'll light up the night sky with a firework display. There is plenty of fun for the whole family.
Everyone needs a good excuse to spend the day relaxing, and Labor Day is one of those excuses. Grab a good book from E. Shaver Booksellers and curl up on your couch or porch swing to read all day. Here are a few classic rainy day reads that'll keep you reading until the end: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, and Broken Things by Lauren Oliver.
Selling Your Home Faster: It's all in the Power of Good Listing Photos
You know the saying "a picture paints a thousand words?" Well in real estate, this saying rings true, and those pictures can help sell your home. First impressions are everything in real estate.
With the increased use of the internet, potential home buyers research homes of interest online, before taking the time to see them in person. According to research done by the National Association of REALTORS®, 87% of homebuyers who searched for a home on the internet found photos to be the most useful feature.
Photos with the toilet seat up, dark shots, cluttered rooms, or poor-quality photos will lose the attention of the potential buyer instantly. Sharp, professional, high-quality photos show off the space and its potential, perfectly. The average digital audience only has an attention span of 7 seconds. So, think like a buyer, take a look at your online listing, and ask yourself what impression you're leaving within that time frame.
Once you've kept the audience for more than 7 seconds, what do they see? Make sure they're getting a glimpse of both the interior and exterior of the home. Show off the property's curb appeal, the backyard, the garage space, the dock, and, of course, the view. Then when it comes to the interior, are you showing them the kitchen, dining area, bedrooms, bathrooms, and living space? The potential buyer wants to imagine themselves living in the space, and photography is an opportunity for them to do that.
In order to help them imagine themselves in the space, it often helps to stage your home. Declutter, depersonalize, and think big picture. Photography of an empty room isn't quite as appealing as a room that's set up for someone to live there. Take the opportunity to add a plant to the corner, stools around the kitchen counter, and cut the grass. Make the photos pop, by highlighting the best features of your home.
If you're not sold on professional photography yet, studies have shown that they help your home sell faster (and who doesn't want that?). Homes with high-quality photography sell 32 percent faster than those without professional photos. They tend to make the space look bigger. The photographer is able to capture the images with a wide-angle lens, instead of an iPhone. In addition to the fancy equipment, photographers also know the best angle to capture each photo.
Not only do they sell faster, but, according to a 2013 Redfin study, professionally photographed homes priced in the $400,000 range sold three weeks faster and for more than $10,000 relative to their list price, than their counterparts with amateur photos.
Good listing photos are so important to Cora Bett Thomas Realty, that the agents make it a part of their marketing plan to cover that cost for each of the homes it is selling. These photos attract more buyers, give you a competitive edge, sell your home more efficiently, and truly bring a space to life.
If you've never invested in professional photography before, try it on your next listing and see the difference it makes in the sale. Homebuyers want to imagine themselves in your beautiful space, not in a home that has poor lighting and looks unwelcoming.
Attracting locals, tourists, instagrammers, and health food enthusiasts, Coco & Moss is what's trending with the food scene in downtown Savannah. Located just south of Ellis Square, this chic eatery sits on the corner of Congress and Barnard streets and certainly livens up the streetscape.
This boutique restaurant offers healthy gourmet food and drink options in a bright, sleek setting. It's the latest endeavor for Ele and the Chef. This well known power team is a local restaurant group who also runs, Little Duck Diner, The Vault, Flying Monk Noodle Bar, and Shuga Bar. Coco & Moss is perfect for a light, but filling, lunch or dinner. The modern, welcoming bar also invites guests to stop by for a refreshing, after work cocktail or to try their selection of sake, beer, and wine.
Their asian-flared menu is rather reasonably priced, and offers sushi, bowls, salads, and paninis. Edamame is a must. The bowls are a delicious mixture of protein, veggies, rice, and other ingredients all beautifully seasoned. They offer a wide variety of sushi options that are mouthwatering good.
Our founder and CEO, Cora Bett Thomas, is nothing short of a Coco & Moss regular. She goes by the name of "shiso salmon lady," because she orders the exact same item off the menu every time so goes. If you guessed that Cora Bett's favorite dish is the shiso salmon bowl, then... you're right!
The dishes are what millenials would call, "instagrammable." Snap a photo of your meal on white marble tables, with pretty natural light, and you're sure to share with your friends. They're colorful, and equally delicious.
So where does the name of the restaurant come from? According to their website, "coco" represents the tropical paradise that raised the owners, and "moss" imbues the atmosphere within which it is set, nestled into Savannah's historically laced squares. It's the perfect "people-watching" spot! Grab a table on the sidewalk or in any of the windows, and you'll surely soak in the hustle and bustle of Savannah while enjoying a delightful meal.