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October
3

A Bluffton State of Mind

 

About a half hour from Savannah, and a few minutes from Hilton Head, sits the gorgeous Low Country town of Bluffton, South Carolina. Right on the banks of the May River, this town is filled with beautiful antebellum homes, rich history, southern hospitality, salty air, and centuries-old oak trees. There's no better place to vacation, adventure, or find yourself at home than Bluffton.

So how did Bluffton come to be? The story of this coastal town started more than 250 years ago, as settlers started to stake their claim on the area… when they were faced by the Yemassee Indians, who were already occupying the land. As a result, the Yamasee War broke out in 1715, fighting continued for several years until the tribe migrated to Florida. European settlement then began, and in the early 1800's the Historic Old Town Bluffton emerged. Early on it became a summer town, as many escaped the hard inland plantation conditions to come to Bluffton, where the breezes helped keep yellow fever and malaria outbreaks at a minimum. The first cries of secession were given voice in Bluffton, and eventually South Carolina was the first state to succeed from the Union. During the Civil War, the town was mostly abandoned, destroyed, and eventually burned in 1863. Only 15 homes and 2 church survived the fire. By the turn of the century, the town experienced commercial growth and residents began making Bluffton their summer home again. Today, Bluffton is one of the fastest growing towns in South Carolina, and tourism here continues to blossom.

For history buffs coming to the area, you should take a tour through Old Town Bluffton. The two must-see places are The Heyward House (which seconds as the Welcome Center) and The Church of the Cross. The Heyward House was built in 1840 by a local plantation owner. The house is a representation of the architecture and lifestyle of that time period, as it has been virtually untouched. The Church of the Cross is one of Bluffton's oldest surviving buildings which overlooks the May River. It has witnessed everything from the Civil War to the burning of the town, and the hurricane of 1898. It remains a place of worship and beauty for the town. 

Winding through the Old Town area, is the May River. Take advantage of its beautiful views and fun adventures. You can go kayaking, take a fishing charter, eat oysters, see the beautiful wildlife (from dolphins to sea birds), and hit the links at the May River Golf Club while you're here.

While the gentlemen adventure away, the ladies will shop! Calhoun Street and The Promenade are the perfect place to start; you'll find eclectic shops and art galleries galore. Boutiques and antique stores aren't the only shops found here, the town is also home to a factory outlet which attracts visitors and locals alike.

The food in Bluffton is out of this world. The Cottage is a Cafe, Bakery, and Tea Room. It's a cozy spot to grab a delicious bite for breakfast, lunch, or casual dinner but they're especially known for their sweet treats. If you're looking for a fancy date night out on the town, The Bluffton Room is perfect with its rooftop bar area. Agave for tacos and margaritas, and fire roasted pizza at Local Pie. The Bluffton Oyster Factory-- four generations owner-- is another crowd favorite, located oceanside and serving up fresh seafood and sandwiches in a casual setting. Every Thursday afternoon, Calhoun Street comes alive as it's transformed into a vibrant Farmers Market with locally grown fruits, veggies, and freshly caught seafood so you can feast like a local.

 

If you're looking to live in a Bluffton State of Mind, there seems to be no better place to start than Cora Bett Thomas Realty. The homes here offer unique architecture and breathtaking views. From entry-level properties, cottages, family-friendly neighborhoods, to that dream home along the May River. There's truly something for everyone in this rapidly growing Low Country town.

September
9

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.

Be Smart

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).

Assess

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:

  • Complete Roof Inspection
  • Siding and Entry Inspection
  • Window inspection
  • Comprehensive Plumbing and HVAC Check

Have an Evacuation Plan

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. 

Stock Up

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.

September
9

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.

 oysters

Oysters have many health benefits

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.

There are five species of oysters

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.

Oysters are good for the environment

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. 

That "er" myth

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!

 

September
9

Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval

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:

Step 1. Pre-Qualification (this is different than Pre-Approval)

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.

Step 2: Pre-Approval

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.

September
5

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!

July
12

Whether you are selling your home, just purchased your first home or are a homeowner planning to stay put for a while, there is value in knowing which home improvement projects will net you the most Return On Investment (ROI). Here are our top 4 Home Improvements For Max ROI. 

 


 

#1 Minor Bathroom Remodel

It costs about $10,500 to replace the tub, tile surround, floor, toilet, sink, vanity and fixtures. All manageable projects that update the new look of a dated bathroom. You'll get back an average of $10,700 at resale, a recoup rate of 102 percent.

Cost to Complete: $10,500 | Return on Investment: $10,700 or 102%

#2 Upgraded Landscaping

A splash of color at the front of the house is an eye-catching plus. Not sure where to start? Local garden centers often offer free design services, or ask the neighbors what works for them. A charming focal point like a walkway and fountain adds major value to your property.

Cost to Complete: $5,000 | Return on Investment: $5,000 or 100%

#3 Minor Kitchen Remodel

If your kitchen's floor plan is good but requires a new look, refacing cabinets, adding a tile backsplash. changing the countertop, or adding under cabinet lighting is a great place to start. Add professional detail without the cost by changing drapes, fixtures and window molding.

Cost to Complete: $15,000 | Return on Investment: $14,913 or 98.5%

#4 Exterior Improvements

Outdoor spaces add curb appeal and a place to enjoy the aforementioned landscaping improvements. Consider repainting your house or investing in vinyl siding. For an updated look, remove old awnings from windows and doors. A new front door will add a welcoming feel .

Cost to Complete: $7,000 | Return on Investment: $6,700

Source: HGTV

 

July
11

Beaufort Water Festival

Keep the summertime fun going strong after the July 4th holiday by checking out the 64th Annual Beaufort Water Festival. This festival spans 10 days is held in scenic Beaufort, South Carolina. Beaufort's beautiful Waterfront Park is the hub of the festival. Most of the events that make up the festival will be either in the Waterfront Park, or on the river itself. 

The Beaufort Water Festival begins on Friday, July 12th. The opening ceremonies will feature live music by The Parris Island Marine Band and fireworks. The Festival Arts & Crafts Market will also open on this Friday. The Arts and Crafts Market will be open for the duration of the festival. 

Throughout the week, the festival will host a variety of events. Sporting events include a bocce ball tournament and a badminton tournament. In addition to nightly concerts and The Commodore's Ball, the festival will also host a Teen Dance and a Lowcountry Supper. Other entertainment includes a Ski Show and Shrimp Boat Tours. The festival culminates with the Blessing of the Fleet and Parade of Boats on Sunday, July 21st. 

The Beaufort Water Festival celebrates the spirit of community that makes Beaufort one of the best places to live in the Southeast. Whether you're looking just to visit, or considering a stay that lasts a bit longer, the Beaufort Water Festival is a great way to immerse yourself in the heart and soul of this quintessential Lowcountry town. 

June
28

 

Buying a Home is a Big Deal

It's a life event, and it's an important decision. If you're looking to buy, you'll want to find the right neighborhood, right mortgage, and perfect home. If you're looking to sell you'll want to find the right price and the right time to put your home on the market. But this important step is often overlooked … Searching for the perfect agent for yourself.

This person should be someone compatible with you (and your family), but also someone who has the experience to make the process enjoyable. Cora Bett Thomas suggests that you interview your agent, asking them these 5 key questions for finding the perfect agent:

What do you do differently than anybody else?

Find out what sets them apart. What type of Brokerage to do they work for? How are they going to go above and beyond for you and the service you need?

What experience do you have?

Have them tell you about the most interesting listing or sale they've ever made. How long have they been in the business in your area? If they are new to the market they may still be learning the area. Have they helped sell your type of property before? Have they helped a buyer in your situation? All real estate transactions are different, so you want to make sure your agent knows how to guide you through the process, or has the resources behind them to support your needs.

How do you communicate?

Communication is a big deal. Some people prefer phone calls, others a text or an email. The frequency of communication is also a deal breaker. You should have your choice of how you like to be communicated with, but no matter the case they should be communicating with you very often and very clearly.

How active are you as an agent?

Are they actively soliciting listings and going out and finding customers? That is the key. This is not a 9-5 job, this is a smart job. Your agent needs to know more than just the transaction at hand. Are they caught up on the national market as well as your local market? Be sure to ask about community involvement. An agent who has relationships around your town will help get you connected.

How are you going to market my property?

There's more to it than just putting the For Sale sign in the yard. Your agent should be explaining what your property offers to a wide audience. They should be using videos, digital marketing, Instagram, Facebook, and all social media platforms to help sell your home.

Ready to Sell or Buy a Home?

You want the home buying and selling process to be just as important to your agent as it is to you. Come see us at Cora Bett Thomas Realty, because we have the right agent for you!

June
28

South Carolina Fourth of July Events

July 4th fun abounds in the Lowcountry, and not just in Savannah. From Beaufort to Hilton Head Island, there are plenty of Lowcountry fireworks and fun for the whole family to enjoy.

If you're on Hilton Head Island, Check out Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina for the biggest 4th of July fireworks show. Besides a variety of shopping and dining options in the Harbour Town area, you can enjoy the Harbourfest July 4th Festivities. Start the day off with a parade. Decorate your bicycle, wagon, dog or kids in red, white and blue and join the parade. Meet in the parking lot by the lighthouse at 8:30 a.m. to register and pick up decorating supplies — limited to the first 100 participants. The parade will start at 9:30 a.m. You won't want to miss Shannon Tanner's special patriotic family show at 6:30 & 8pm. There's also plenty for the kids to do, including bouncy houses and train rides. 

For a truly patriotic experience, head over towards Beaufort and enjoy Independence Day at Parris Island. Free and open to the public, this family-friendly event will feature a kid's fun zone and The Parris Island Band. And, of course,  an incredible fireworks celebration. Food and beverages will be available. Patriotic glow sticks, bracelets and headbands also will be available for purchase. Gates open at 5 p.m. The Parris Island Band will perform at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks will start at dark, or around 9:20 p.m.

Lowcountry Fireworks

The 4th of July Celebration & Fireworks at The Sands of Port Royal begins at 5 p.m. Fireworks will begin around 9 p.m.  The Port Royal Independence Day celebration will include food booths, refreshments, vendors, entertainment, face painting, a water slide, bounce houses and more. This event is sponsored by The Port Royal Historic Foundation.

Fourth of July Flyover

Another way to truly embrace the pride in our country is to participate in the Salute from the Shore. Every year on July 4th, hundreds of thousands of people gather on the beaches of South Carolina in patriotic attire to wave the red, white and blue and to demonstrate their gratitude to America's finest for their bravery and commitment. The flyover of military aircraft will start at 1 p.m. in Myrtle Beach. Salute from the Shore encourages participants to share their stories about why they love America and those that protect it by posting their own video and images of the event on social networks to be seen by American Armed Forces deployed throughout the world. For a full schedule of flyover times in the Beaufort area, visit salutefromtheshore.org

Keep the Fun Going

And after the 4th, keep the fun going by visiting the May River Shrimp Festival Sunset Party. This event, held in beautiful Bluffton, South Carolina, features an arts and crafts village, as well as a craft beer garden and wine. The Bluffton Sunset Party is a great way to make the most of summertime fun. Come grab a delicious beverage and enjoy the sunset with friends and neighbors at this beloved community event. 

[caption id="attachment_2305" align="alignnone" width="640"]Bluffton Farmers Market Image Credit: Bluffton Farmers Market[/caption]

As long as you're in the Bluffton area, stop in and check out the Bluffton Farmers Market. The BFM is open every Thursday from 1pm to 6pm. The Bluffton Farmers Market is an ideal stop for grabbing fresh produce and wares from local vendors who are passionate about their goods and love sharing their stories. The BFM also features local entertainment. Stop in, grab some goodies and enjoy the company of friends, family and community at the Bluffton Farmers Market. 

The July fun continues in Beaufort as well with the 64th Annual Beaufort Water Festival. This 10-day event is one of the longest running events in the Lowcountry, and features arts and crafts, live music, air shows, and the Grand Parade. If you want to make the most of your summertime fun in South Carolina, then the Beaufort Water Festival should be on your to-do list. 

Harbourfest at Shelter Cove isn't limited to July 4th fun, either. This event runs throughout the summer until Labor Day. The events of Harbourfest will continue to feature live music, fireworks, and plenty of activities for the kiddos all summer long. Check out the schedule and find out more information at the Harbourfest website.

June
14

Tips for Tree Risk Assessment and Limb Failure.

Tree Risk Assessment

While not a perfect science — given the unpredictability of nature — there are many signs to look for that could indicate the potential for tree failure. Some caused by improper pruning practices, and others occur naturally. In this article we will discuss signs and growth patterns that may indicate a trees potential likelihood for failure, along with how you — as the manager of your own little slice of our urban forest — can be educated when hiring a tree service contractor in hopes of mitigating these potential risks.

It's easy and understandable to be concerned about large trees near or over your home with the annual threat of hurricanes. As long as your house is within striking distance of a tree, there is the potential for impact if such a storm does occur; or, if structural problems with the tree go unnoticed or untreated. The goal of this article is to familiarize you with some common defects so you can be informed and are able to address potential issues. Also knowing how to identify some of these problems and understanding mitigation options will help you weed out potential "tree choppers."  These individuals may feed off of your fear of property damage and make unnecessary recommendations that can cost you significant money and oftentimes be damaging to your trees.

Tree Risk Assessment

First off, check to see if your tree is over or within striking distance to any targets. These include structures, high traffic areas, playgrounds, etc. If it isn't, move on to others. If it is, let's take a closer look:

Does the tree have any large, dead limbs? These are most easily spotted in summer when healthy limbs generally have leaves.

Do you notice a lean in the tree? Has the lean noticeably worsened over time? You could see heaving of the ground/roots on the opposing side of the lean. Are the majority of the limbs (weight) on the side of the lean, or does the canopy balance out the lean?

Now let's look at the larger branches, leads (large tree parts that grow from the truck off of which branches are attached), and trunk. Do you see any decay on these? Binoculars may be helpful. Keep an eye out for cavity dwellers: bees, raccoons, etc.. These are an obvious sign of hollow areas. Look at the "forks" of the large limbs. This is the area where the trunk branches out to smaller sized leads and limbs and often times where limbs break in high wind. The optimal fork will have somewhat of a "U" shape on the top side. Spread your fingers wide, and look at the base where they meet your hand. Notice the small webbing like appearance — that is what we are looking for in an optimal tree fork. This is the strongest growth form. If you instead see a harder, more "V" like connection, often times with swollen or discolored bark — this could be included bark.

Included bark will cause a weakened attachment of the leads predisposing them to possible failure. A supplemental support system (Cables and/or braces) may be necessary to prevent failure.

Moving on, let's look at the trunk and base of the trunk, "root flare" (Root flare is the base of the trunk where the trunk meets the roots)- do you see any cracks, cavities, loose or missing bark, conks or water Stains? Do you see flat areas as opposed to the mostly uniform roundness? Do you see any deep recesses or ridges at the lower portion of the trunk near the root flare? These are often times an indicator that the trunk may be hollow. If you don't spot any of these, let's move on to the roots.

Do you see any mushrooms or other such fruiting bodies? These could indicate root rot issues. Has there been a driveway recently installed, or other such disturbances that may have damaged the anchoring system of the tree? Do you see any lifted areas of soil or roots? Is the area a low spot? Oversaturated soil due to poor drainage could cause a tree to uproot easier in high winds and is also a breeding ground for root rot causing pathogens further weakening roots.

Risk Assessing Multiple Trees on Your Property

Now let's take a broader look at all of the trees on your property that could be a risk. Here is a list of potential hazardous trees and the risks they pose.

  1. Trees left after development. Often densely wooded lots are cleared with the exception of just a few trees. These trees are more likely to fail in high winds, given they previously shared wind load with other trees. They are usually tall with very thin trunks, low live-crown ratio, and lack a root flare. Root flare is swelling at the base of the trunk caused by added structural wood as a result of wind loading and is a desirable structural feature.
  2. Water Oaks and Laurel Oaks. These trees have a short life span and often develop decay and included bark with age. Keep in mind that just because the leaves are green and appear healthy, the trunk may still be largely hollow. Further inspection may be necessary by an ISA Certified Arborist if the tree is in a critical location.
  3. Trees that have previously been topped or lions tailed. We will dive further into this later in this article.
  4. Large limbs that extend well past the crown of the tree.
  5. Trees in low lying areas. Soil may provide poor anchoring, upping the potential for uprooting in high winds.
  6. Trees with excessive leans.
  7. Trees with low live-crown ratio - usually Pines. Live-crown is measured from the lowest limb to the top of the tree. Optimally this just be about ⅔ of the total height of the tree. The more limbs are concentrated above the halfway mark of the tree, a lever arm action is created in high winds.
  8. Bradford Pears. These are the perfect candidate for limb failure given all of the limbs generally grow from the same area on the trunk, resulting in weak attachment.

How Improper Pruning Practices May Result in Tree Hazards

Topping

Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree limbs to stubs or to lateral limbs that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Often times people assume that by shortening a tree they are ensuring it is receiving less wind load or is less of a hazard because it now won't reach the target if it falls. While the immediate result of topping is just that, many more problems arise down the road. Depending on the severity of the hack job, the tree may die shortly after. Remember — trees need leaves to supply food to sustain. If the tree does survive this travesty, it will sprout out numerous shoots all from one area at the end of the nubbed off limbs. These shoots grow to large limbs over a few years and are weakly attached and prone to break much more than before. Compounding this issue is the trees reaction to topping. It will allocate all of its energy to putting out new shoots/leaves and very little energy to the sealing process, leaving the end of these limbs open for decay. The newly grown limbs will be even more prone to failure. Avoid topping trees.

Lions Tailing

Lions Tailing is when all of the inner limbs of a tree are removed, leaving only the foliage near the ends of the large limbs - resembling a lion tail. The misunderstanding is that by doing this the wind will more easily flow through the tree reducing its wind resistance; however there is actually the adverse effect. Now that all of the wind resistance is at the tip of the limb, a lever arm is created and forces are amplified. Instead of removing this interior growth, weight/limbs should be shortened. As an example, try holding a 5-pound weight with your arm fully extended. Now rest the 5-pound weight directly on your bicep. The latter is much easier. Furthermore, the tree will react to lions tailing by exponential sprouting where the limbs were just removed in an effort to replace lost leaf area. You will hire someone to do it all over again and again. Avoid lions tailing limbs.

Making Large Pruning Cuts on Mature Trees

Large limbs/leads of trees over your house or valuables can be nerve wracking. The first thought is often to remove the entire tree part (i.e limb or lead) all the way back to the trunk. This may not be the best choice. It's important to know that every cut is a wound. The larger the wound, the longer it takes to seal - if ever. Open wounds from large cuts are the perfect opportunity for decay causing pathogens to enter the tree. Instead of having large limbs removed, consider removing weight/limbs from the tip to lighten the load.

Hiring a Tree Professional

Now that you are informed, this should be much easier. Avoid "point and cut" companies. These are the ones who know little about arboricultural practices but have a chainsaw and are willing to cut wherever you point. Find an ISA Certified Arborist — preferably with a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification. They have the knowledge to guide you on what is best for both you and your trees. Yes the initial cost may be a little more, but the results will save you far more down the road. My hope is that this brief "do it yourself" tree risk assessment is helpful. Importantly, this is a very watered down version as a guide to help you spot defects and hazards and should not be a substitute for a tree professionals thorough inspection and advice.

By Shem Kendrick
ISA Certified Arborist SO-7151A
Tree Risk Assessment Qualified
TCIA Tree Care Specialist

Coastal Arbor Care

912-272-0175
www.Coastalarbor.biz

June
10

summer maintenance tips

Technically, the first day of summer is June 21st, but as we in the Lowcountry know, summer has already arrived. Long days of sunshine, heat, and humidity are already upon us. No need to worry, though — with these easy summer home maintenance tips, you can have your home ready for summer in less time than it takes to heat up the grill. 

Indoor Summer Home Maintenance Tips:

1. Check your smoke detectors and your carbon monoxide detectors. 

  • Replace the batteries if needed.

2. Get your cooling system ready.

  • Consider getting your air-conditioning system serviced. Proper air conditioner maintenance can help your AC last longer and prevent air conditioner fires. In Savannah and the Lowcountry, life without AC is just about unthinkable. Don't wait until the dog days of summer to make sure your cooling system is up to par.

3. Dust the ceiling fan blades and check that the fan is balanced and working properly.

  • Attach a dryer sheet to a paint roller so you can reach easily and dust away. Or, my personal favorite, grab an old sock (b/c how often do you need socks in Savannah, anyway?) and dust the blades. After you use it, toss it in the washing machine and it's as good as new.

4. Get your chimney cleaned.

  • This isn't applicable to everyone, but many homes in the Historic District have chimneys, and they shouldn't be neglected. Yes, you might not use your fireplace again until fall or winter, but that's exactly why this is the perfect time to call a chimney cleaning service. They won't be as busy!

5. Clean or replace your shower heads. 

  • Most shower heads can be easily cleaned. Don't be deterred by scaling from hard water, vinegar can easily take care of that problem for you.

6. Clean bathroom drains.

  • Whatever method you choose, clean them! With so many affordable options available, there's no excuse to put this chore off another day.

7. Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans.

  • If your fans spin counterclockwise, they'll push the air straight down to your home will stay nice and cool. To do this, turn off the fan, wait for it to stop, and find the direction switch and check that your fans are spinning counterclockwise.

8. Clean the baseboards of your home. 

  • Use a damp cloth and wipe away all the dust and grime. Disclaimer: I will be the first to admit, this is one of my least favorite chores. But man, is it satisfying once I've done it!

9. Check your attic and basement.

  • In your attic, look for signs of dampness, mildew, leaks, holes in the roof, and pests.
  • Basements are uncommon in the Lowcountry, but if you have one check for leaks, pests, mold, and mildew.

10. Clean the vents of your bathroom fans.

11. Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct.

  • Clean out all of the dust and lint trapped in the vent and exhaust duct. Call in a professional to clean and service your washer and dryer if needed. Clothes dryers can be a fire hazard if they're not cleaned and maintained.

12. Change the filter in the air conditioner.

  • If you have a smart thermostat, such as Nest, it should be automatically reminding you when it's time to change the filter. Pay attention to that reminder. Also, make sure to keep the vents around your air filters clean.

Outdoor Summer Home Maintenance Tips:

13. It's grillin' time! Are you and your grill ready?

  • Charcoal grills: Empty the grill and wipe away any dust or residue. Use hot water, dish soap, and a scrub brush or sponge to clean both the outside and inside of the grill. Be sure to let your grill dry off before using it next.
  • Gas grills: Close the lid, turn the heat up high, and let the grill cook for about half an hour. Let the grill cool. Use a grill brush to sweep the grill. Wipe down the outside with a sponge and cleaner. Then clean out all of the drip trays.

14. Wash down your porch. You should sweep the porch thoroughly, then wash it with a cleaner. Remove any embedded dirt by scrubbing with soap and water.

15. Give your deck a once-over. This is a summer home maintenance must, especially with the amount of late-afternoon thunderstorms we experience here in Savannah and the Lowcountry.

  • Check your deck to see if there are any boards that look like they're rotting, loose, or feel soft. If they appear to be any of these, replace them now. Summertime weather conditions will only make them worse.
  • Hammer any loose nails.
  • You can also check if your deck needs to be resealed by pouring a little water on it. If the water beads into little puddles, you're good. If it sinks into the wood, you should get your deck resealed against water.

16. Wash the windows.

  • Why not? Clean windows are nice. Use warm water and soap to get those windows sparkling, or go old school with vinegar and newspaper. 

17. Wash or change your window screens.

  • Use hot soapy water and a brush to gently wash your window screens.

18. Add a layer of mulch.

  • If you have plants, the extra mulch will help fight off weeds and help your soil retain moisture during these scorching summer months.

19. Check for outdoor leaks. 

  • Go on a hunt for leaks by checking all outdoor faucets. Then look at your hose. You can waste a lot of water if there's even a tiny hole in your hose. Use electrical tape to repair any small holes in your hose.

20. Check your outdoor play equipment. 

  •  Repair or replace anything that's damaged or possibly hazardous and make sure that the structure is still sturdy and strong. This includes rust, missing pieces, or tears in any parts of your play equipment. Safety is key.

21. Protect your home against unwanted guests. 

  • Yes, unfortunately sometimes critters decide that your house is the place to be. From snakes to squirrels, take steps to close off your home to non-pet animals.
  • Cover any holes that are more than a quarter-inch wide.
  • Get your tree branches trimmed back so they don't create a highway for squirrels to your attic. Branches should be at least 8 feet from your roof.
  • Make sure your outdoor trash bins are tightly sealed to prevent a buffet for pests.
  • Do away with yard debris. Leaves and twigs are a haven for animals that might decide to invade your home.
  • Tend to your lawn frequently by mowing.

22. Clean out the gutters and downspouts. 

  • You should clean the gutters at least once a year, perhaps twice if you have a lot of trees around your home.

23. Inspect the caulking around the windows and doors of your home. 

  • Keep ants and bugs at bay in the kitchen by adding fresh caulking to your windows and doors.

24. Consider having your driveway and walkway pressure washed.

25. Repair cracks or holes in your driveway and front steps.

26. Trim bushes and plants. 

  • Pay special attention to the area around the AC unit.

27. Touch up the paint on the outside of your home.

28. Check over your fence. 

  • Have it repainted, resealed, or repaired as needed.

29. Look at the outside of your house. 

  • Check for rotted, dirty, or loose siding.

30. Consider getting your roof inspected.

This summer home maintenance tips list may seem daunting, but honestly, most of these tasks take no time at all. Preventative maintenance will pay off by helping you avoid costly home repairs later. The priceless peace of mind that you can enjoy knowing that your home is ready for the summer is also invaluable, and will make that piña colada you're enjoying on your porch even more delicious.

June
5

Cora Bett Thomas Realty is a Proud Leading RE Member

When you think of Cora Bett Thomas Realty you think of the 100 mile coast and the Low Country, but did you know the agency has a world-wide connection? Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates is the Savannah representative for Leading Real Estate Companies of the World ("Leading RE"). As a member of Leading RE, Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates provides global accessibility with a local focus.

Leading RE has a global membership that spans six continents and 70 countries. Each year, Leading RE connects more than 565 firms and 130,000 sales associates who produce over 1.2 million real estate transactions. Membership to Leading RE is by invitation only, so the network of real estate professionals all uphold the highest standards and strive for exceptional experiences for all clients.

As a member of Leading RE, Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates provides a quality real estate experience, global marketing reach and access to top real estate professionals in virtually any market worldwide. Listing your home with Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates connects your for sale sign to firms all around the world, thanks to Leading RE.

Cora Bett Thomas Realty is a charter member of its Luxury Property division, Luxury Portfolio International. Your home will be featured on the very best websites and get exposure from more than 150 websites, because of this connection. Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates has set the standard for marketing, professionalism and growth among luxury brokers in the region.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today for more information on what our Membership in Leading RE means for you as a buyer or seller.

June
5

Savannah Summer Fun

Hot… that's certainly one way to describe summers in Savannah! But you're never too far from the water or a good time to truly enjoy the Hostess City. We've compiled a list of Summer "Hot Spots" perfect for locals to enjoy, or for those just passing through to get a taste of Savannah.

 Savannah Summer Fun

Unwind and Sunshine

What says summer more than a trip to the beach? A 20-minute drive from downtown Savannah gets you to a little slice of paradise, also known as "Savannah's beach", Tybee Island. Feel the ocean breeze, the sand between your toes, and the time slow down just enough. If you're visiting without a car, hop on a shuttle, and it'll get you to and from the beach with ease!

A Grand Slam Experience

Conveniently located and fun for the whole family, a Savannah Bananas Baseball game is a summer must, and you don't even have to like baseball to enjoy it. Their season runs from June through August, but tickets sell out fast! It's truly just a fan-first experience: you'll be dancing and singing, eating and drinking, and truly enjoying every inning… while cheering on the home team.

Savannah Summer Fun

Ice Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for Leopold's

There's no better way to cool off, than with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. Award-winning, homemade ice cream that will melt in your mouth (or on the cone, if you don't eat it fast enough). Located on Broughton Street, Leopold's Ice Cream is a perfect place to take a break from all the shopping and indulge in a sweet treat that's been a Savannah tradition since 1919.

Savannah Summer Fun

Boat Ride with a Porpoise

Soak in Savannah from its historic waterways. Hop on a boat from River Street, venture through the water towards Tybee Island, and don't forget your camera! Dolphin Magic guides guarantee you'll catch a glimpse of our friendly dolphins and leave with a rich history lesson too. What's better than a sunset cruise, dolphins, and entertainment along the way?

Good Eats & Drinks

No matter the season, Savannah has a food scene that's perfect for any palate. Fresh caught seafood, fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits, pasta dishes to die for, fried green tomatoes, and plenty of dining options for that sweet tooth. Locally sourced and locally owned Savannah restaurants are easy to come by and certainly a must. We also suggest that you "rooftop bar hop"! From Peregrin in the historic district to Top Deck right along the Savannah River, and everywhere in between… be sure to catch the Savannah sunset with a drink in hand.

May
8

Painting a Picture for Savannah's Future

Cora Bett Thomas Realty welcomed a special guest last week. Robert Morris, Senior Director for Corporate Communications at the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), took some time to explain the impacts and the future of the port of savannah to our agents.

The ports are Georgia's gateway to the world, and with its growth, right here in Savannah, real estate sees a positive impact.

The Georgia Ports Authority brings 42,500 jobs to Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, and Effingham counties. As you may know, our terminal here in Savannah is a record-setter. It's the single largest and the fastest growing U.S. Container Port. That growth isn't stopping anytime soon, as they are working on an estimated $1.019 billion project to deepen the Savannah River by 5 feet. Right now that project is 50 percent complete.

Robert presented these outstanding numbers to Cora Bett's team through his passion for art. Interestingly enough, Robert studied art at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. and Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. His art has been widely exhibited in major American museums, galleries and libraries. His paintings were displayed throughout his presentation.

From May 22 through January 12, the public will have an opportunity to see his artistic side at the Ships of the Sea Museum. 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's groundbreaking trans-Atlantic crossing.

The numbers speak for themselves and truly show the impact that GPA have on our community, but it is Robert's artwork that really paints a beautiful picture and captures the aesthetic impact it has on the port of Savannah.

May
6

Hurricane Preparedness Week 

In the Lowcountry, we are less than a month away from the beginning of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and now is the time to make sure you are prepared. We have recently had two seasons with close calls and you can read what  we learned about preparing here 

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is an upcoming event in the annual formation of tropical cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere. The season will officially begin on June 1, 2019, and end on November 30, 2019. These dates historically describe the period each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin and are adopted by convention. 

While predictions right now favor average activity for hurricanes in the Atlantic, it is still important to be ready. Don't wait until the last minute to make preparations. One of the most important things you should do, and do immediately, is to check your homeowner's insurance. Most standard homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Check your flood zone at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources DFIRM Flood Map. Then, make sure to have adequate flood insurance for your home. Flood insurance coverage usually takes 30 days to go into effect.

Make sure that you are aware of your community's  evacuation plan and evacuation route. A great way to be prepared for a hurricane and to stay informed during a hurricane is to sign up to receive local alerts and warnings.

Pay attention to local weather forecasts. Storm paths change quickly and without much warning, so listen out for local weather alerts. Also listen to local officials for warnings and instructions, such as evacuation orders. Follow the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, or CEMA, on Twitter and Facebook and check in often for updates.

The FEMA mobile app is also a great resource for hurricane preparation, and includes checklists for hurricane preparation. The FEMA mobile app also provides weather alerts from the National Weather Service and maps of open hurricane shelters and recovery centers. 

Create and review your family's emergency communication plan and make sure that your family is all aware of the contents and location of your emergency supplies. Another important way to be prepared is financially. Strengthen your financial preparedness in the event of a hurricane by collecting and securing important financial, insurance, medical, and other personal records. 

Protect Your Investment

If you have an investment and/or rental property, do not neglect it, even if it is vacant. Instead, make sure to conduct a full hurricane preparedness check on the property every year. This ensures that your property is ready to withstand the high winds and heavy rainfall that is common during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. The staff at Cora Bett Thomas Property Management are available to conduct a Full Weather check on your property, which includes:

  • Complete Roof Inspection
  • Siding and Entry Inspection
  • Window inspection
  • Comprehensive Plumbing and HVAC Check

Once the check has been completed, you can approve any work or repairs that need to be done to ensure that your property is ready to withstand the forces of Mother Nature. The peace of mind that comes from having your property ready will be worth the effort and expense.

These are just a few tools and resources that can help you and your family get prepared, and offer some peace of mind as we approach the 2019 Hurricane Season. 

May
6

41st Annual Mayfest This Weekend!

Bluffton Village Festival  

The days are growing longer and the jasmine is blooming. Nature is announcing the arrival of summer in the Lowcountry. In Bluffton, South Carolina, we welcome summer with the Bluffton Village Festival. The Bluffton Village Festival has been going strong for 41 years and is formerly known as Mayfest. But whatever you choose to call it, this local celebration is fun for the whole family, including four-legged family members. 

The Bluffton Village Festival features over 200 food vendors and artists. This year, the festival will be on May 11, 2019 from 10am to 5pm in Old Town Bluffton. The event is organized by the Rotary Club of Bluffton. In addition to free admission to the festival for all, free parking and free shuttle service are also available.  

[caption id="attachment_2218" align="alignnone" width="640"]Bluffton Village Festival Courtesy Bluffton Village Festival[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2220" align="alignnone" width="640"]Bluffton Village Festival Courtesy Bluffton Village Festival[/caption]

The Bluffton Village Festival includes longtime favorite events such as the Pie-Eating Contest and the Ugliest Dog Competition. A recent, but no less popular addition to the festival is the Kids' Donut Eating Contest. Local bakery The Sugaree provides the tasty treats for both the Pie-Eating and Donut-Eating contests. 

If you're a fan of that Lowcountry staple, shrimp salad, then you'll want to try one of the festival's shrimp salad sandwiches. These sandwiches are so famous that some people attend the festival from hundreds of miles away just to get their hands on one. The shrimp salad sandwiches are made and sold by the ladies of The Church of the Cross. Even though these ladies make more and more sandwiches to keep up with the growing demand, be warned. These sandwiches usually sell out quickly and early.

Local musicians are playing all day at venues all over The Bluffton Village Festival, including The Chiggers, Lyn Avenue, and Snowbird Mike. Students from The Bluffton School of Dance are also performing. 

The Bluffton Village Festival has no shortage of shopping opportunities from a variety of vendors and artists. This year's featured artist is Amos Hummell, who has been connected to Bluffton for over 40 years and is an active supporter of arts in education. 

The Bluffton Village Festival brings the town of Bluffton together to celebrate. This celebration has a laid-back attitude that embodies the community and quirkiness of Bluffton itself. The Bluffton Village Festival is a a great way to kick off summer in the Lowcountry. 

See you there!

April
30

Staging a Home is Key to Presenting Properties

By: Catherine James

When selling a home, there are infinite approaches and scenarios. Some sellers completely move out before putting their home on the market, others live there permanently until they sell it, and then there are those that are a brand new build. Whatever the case may be, the goal is the same: to sell the home.

In order to do so, there is one very important step in the process that sometimes gets overlooked: staging. Staging a home is professionally decorating, furnishing, or rearranging so that the buyers can see the potential in the space. It's the secret ingredient that helps a home sell quickly, and at a potentially higher value.

What's not a secret, though, are the numbers. According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly one third (29%) of selling agents believe staging increases the value of a home by 6% to 20%. They also found that staged homes sold 72% more quickly than empty homes.

People don't realize once they put their home on the market, it's no longer their home, it's a commodity. It's time to declutter, depersonalize, and truly make it easier for an outsider to picture themselves living there

This process can be difficult for some homeowners, as they have to detach from the memories and appeal to a larger audience. The bubblegum pink wall they raised their daughter in, the collage of family photos that covers their living room wall, and excessive furniture that shrinks the space … they all have to go.

A professional stager is hired to help you see everything, from curb appeal to the small details that you may have never noticed! They do the research on the area and the current trends. They help you decide color palette, furniture, and props. They get movers to make it happen and help attract your space to more sellers.

So what is the secret to staging? It's not about covering up the negative… it's truly about highlighting the best features in your home. It's all about painting a picture for the lifestyle of a potential home buyer! Show them that they can kick back, relax, and sip a glass of lemonade or a cocktail on their new screened porch. Portray to them that they can wake up to a cup of coffee at their breakfast bar. Set up the space so that it's spacious and they see that they have room for growth.

Staging isn't a secret, it's a necessity.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today for more information on Staging and Selling Your Home. 

April
8

Trina Gecco

Cora Bett Thomas Realty recently announced the hiring of Office Director, Trina Gecco. In this role, she will enter listings, process commission checks, create and distribute e-blasts, and handle internal and external office communications.

Trina has an extensive background in real estate and hospitality, equipping her with the knowledge and skills to fulfill the responsibilities as Office Director. She has an Associate's Degree in Business and Hospitality Management and has spent over 10 years in the real estate industry.

With roots in Upstate New York, Trina is happy to be living out the Lowcountry lifestyle. She currently lives with her family in Bluffton, South Carolina, where she enjoys fishing, boating, and shopping locally. Trina also spends her time volunteering and is actively involved in her son's school.

Trina's sense of teamwork, leadership skills, business acumen, and real estate experience provide her with the expertise to manage office responsibilities at Cora Bett Thomas Realty.

For more information about Cora Bett Thomas Realty and Associates, visit www.CoraBettThomas.com

April
2

As the winter weather in Savannah slowly gives way to sunny spring days, more and more flowering bushes and trees appear. One of the most noticeable blooming trees in the Historic  District of Downtown Savannah is the Japanese Magnolia.  The Japanese magnolia, or saucer magnolia, opens its fat, furry flower buds in February or March before the rest of its foliage emerges. The branches of the Japanese Magnolia are covered in blooms before they leaf out in late winter, allowing these specimens to stand out in any landscape. The flowers blooming on leafless branches are particularly noticeable and add a distinctive charm to many of the squares in the Historic District.

Japanese Magnolias have a stunning natural structure that is reminiscent of a crepe myrtle. When the flowers are young, the petals are held fairly upright, giving the flowers a distinctively tulip-like appearance. As the flowers age, the petals tend to open more and lay down, creating a more saucer-shaped flower. The flowers of the Japanese Magnolia have the citrusy, musky fragrance that is associated with traditional magnolias. 

The flowers are large and showy and come in a variety of colors, such as white, lavender-pink, rose-purple, dark reddish purple and light yellow. The brightest color is on the outside of the petals, while the inner surface tends to be creamy white. The flowers range in size from about 4 to 6 inches across, sometimes larger. The Japanese magnolias generally grow to be about 15 to 25 feet tall with a spread of 10 to 15 feet.

One of our favorite squares in the Historic District, Troup Square, is home to several Japanese Magnolia trees. Though these trees are smaller in size, especially compared to traditional magnolias, they are no less striking. The blossoms of the Japanese Magnolia provide a welcome wash of color to the winter landscape and signal to Savannah that spring is just around the corner. 

March
29

Real Estate Virtual Realty

By: Demetri Chrissos

From the alarm clock that wakes you up every morning to the maps that get you from point A to B on time, we are living in a technology-first world. Connectivity is inevitable. Most likely all of these resources can be found in the palm of your hand, on your smartphone.

The same goes for the world of real estate. Highly developed gadgets are improving by the minute, and Cora Bett Thomas has always put a huge emphasis on the importance of technology.

"It's time to embrace this new world of real estate."

Real Estate Virtual Realty

"My goal is to be open to new ideas and be a step ahead of the technologies in the ever-changing world of real estate," says the founder of Cora Bett Thomas Realty, Cora Bett Thomas. "It's time to embrace this new world of real estate."

Technology has truly transformed the way realtors think, operate, and serve their clients. There are now 3rd party websites showcasing properties, and 3-D home tours, right from the luxury of your home. You can feel like your inside another home with the click of a mouse.

Real Estate Virtual Realty

To make it even more real, Cora Bett recently introduced her team to Virtual Reality glasses. They are made by Google and branded with Cora Bett Thomas Realty's logo, costing only a few dollars to produce and compatible with most any smartphone. These VR glasses, paired with the Matterport 3D camera, give users the chance to see and feel a property layout without actually stepping foot inside (as seen in photo).

It can be an incredible tool for agents who want to show a variety of interiors to those who are just starting their search. They don't fully replace the showing of properties (yet) but they add an element of service for clients and customers. It will also grow as a tool for visitors looking to just rent our vacation properties

The DIY cardboard trend in technology can be seen elsewhere. Nintendo recently came out with the Switch, a console designed to be portable and enable players to bring gaming experiences out of the family room and into the world. They've even created cardboard cutouts that can create a steering wheel, a fishing pole, and more. This provides affordable access and the "Do It Yourself" experience for those who otherwise wouldn't get to experience these innovations.

As technology changes, easy and affordable access to it is one of the most important factors. By sharing and introducing Cora Bett Thomas Realty clients and agents to virtual reality, we're contributing to the conversation.

March
5

Azaleas Mean Spring in the Lowcountry. 

Azaleas

The South is known for its variety of flora, and few flowers say "Savannah" quite like azaleas. This evergreen shrub thrives in areas with partial sun making it common underneath trees. It is an ideal inhabitant of the squares in Historic Downtown Savannah. Azalea bushes can be pruned to smaller sizes, or can be larger, covering areas of quite a few feet. Smaller azalea bushes can be spotted along Savannah sidewalks, while larger versions inhabit the squares of the Downtown area.  

Botanically, azaleas are members of the Ericaceae (Heath) family. The Heath family includes blueberries and mountain laurel. Several species of azaleas are native to Georgia and the Southeast. Their flower color ranges from white to pink, yellow, orange, scarlet or crimson, with several shades in between. Plant size is also variable, ranging from 3 feet to more than 20 feet. Although native azaleas are considered more adaptable and more hardy than introduced species, it is important to approximate their native growing environment if they are to be grown successfully.

Most people associate blooming azaleas with spring, but several varieties bloom in summer and fall. This means by selecting certain varieties, it's possible to have azaleas blooming all year long. Azaleas can be grouped by whether they bloom early, mid-season or late. Early flowering types generally bloom from mid-February through March, mid-season types bloom in late April and May, and late-flowering types bloom from June through October. 

Looking for tips on growing and caring for azaleas?

Here's a great article on Southern Living

The larger azalea bushes can be found in the medians of Liberty and Oglethorpe Streets in Historic Downtown Savannah. Azaleas of all sizes and colors can also be found in many of the squares, including Columbia Square and Monterey Square. But, azaleas are not exclusive to the downtown area. Their vivid displays of color can be appreciated in Forsyth Park and in Bonaventure Cemetery

Looking to Buy or Sell a Home This Spring?

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today!

March
5

During Springtime, Savannah Comes Alive With Bursts of Color.

springtime flowers

Visitors to Savannah come from all over the world to admire the charm of the city. The appeal of Savannah's historic architecture draws admiration from tourists and locals alike. Savannah's elegant homes and cobblestone streets are enhanced by the botanical beauty that abounds in the Historic District of downtown Savannah.

As the the weather warms up, the natural beauty of Savannah awakens. The budding and blooming flowers infuse the squares and sidewalks of Historic Downtown Savannah with bursts of color. While many of the springtime flowers in Savannah are not unique to the South, there is something about them that is undeniably Savannah. Better still, Savannah's springtime flowers tend to start blooming at the beginning of the year, giving the feeling that spring is just around the corner here in the Lowcountry.

Camellias are one of the most distinctive flowers in the South, occupying many of the squares in the Historic District. These shrubs feature glossy leaves and large blooms. Some of the most popular camellia flowers in Savannah are white, pale pink, and ruby red. 

Savannah's springtime flowers

Azaleas are also distinctively southern plants. Like camellias, azaleas are shrubs of varying sizes. Also like camellias, azalea bushes burst into a profusion of colorful blossoms. Azalea blooms are also colorful, and it is not uncommon to see groups of different-colored azaleas bushes in yards, medians, and squares of the Historic Downtown District. One of our favorite places to enjoy azaleas is Bonaventure Cemetery.

Japanese magnolia trees may not be shrubs like camellias and azaleas. But, this tree puts out blooms at the same time that camellias and azaleas begin to blossom, and the flowers of this delicate tree are no less striking. The most common shades for the flowers of  Japanese magnolia trees put out blossoms are deep glossy fuschia, or white with a deeper purple center. 

The beauty of Savannah's springtime flowers is by no means restricted to these 3 flowers. But, they bloom around the same time to herald the approach of spring. And these plants are often spotted throughout the Historic and Victorian Districts, as well as popular spots like Bonaventure Cemetery and Thunderbolt. It is nearly impossible to see camellias, azaleas and Japanese magnolias and not think of springtime in Savannah. 

Looking to Buy or Sell a Home This Spring?

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today!

February
21

Prepare Your Home For Sale

Ready, Set ... For Sale!

BY ANN TOHILL

It's time to upgrade, find a better school district, move cities for a new job, or make room for more! Whatever the case may be, selling your home should be an exciting time. It's out with the old, and in with the new. It's time for a reset. But for some homeowners, it can be overwhelming. To ease stress ahead of one of the hottest home selling seasons, here are some tips for preparing your home… so that "For Sale" sign can be added to the front yard.

1. Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is so important — and so are first impressions! Start with the lawn. Freshen up the mulch/pine straw, add colorful flowers to the flower beds, mow the lawn, get rid of those pesky weeds, sweep off the pollen from the front porch, and make sure your front door is sparkling from afar. Catch their attention right away.

2. Take a Deep Breath

When you open your door, take a deep breath in… What does it smell like? Wet dog, cigarettes, food, bleach, cleaning supplies, or too much air freshener? You want that fresh scent, but nothing that's too overbearing. The smell of your home will make or break the deal. Diffusers are a wonderful investment or throw a batch of cookies in the oven just before a showing.

3. The Details

Make sure batteries are replaced in your smoke alarm and all light bulbs are working. You want the potential buyer to get a true feel for your home!

4. Clean, Clean, Clean

Wipe down your baseboards, wash your walls, clean your carpets, scrub your bathrooms, dust your fans, and don't forget your curtains and blinds.

5. De-personalize Your Space

Potential buyers want to be able to picture themselves in your home. Take down personal photos, artwork, and collectibles. Declutter your space, but don't throw items in a closet or the oven... people will look in all of those places when touring your home.

6. Touch up Your Paint

Think about using only neutral colors. Consider painting your daughter's hot pink room or your bright orange kitchen, a light tan or a faded gray. That's an easy fix for new home buyers, but some can't picture the potential, they actually want to see it.

7. Give Your Home an Easy Flow

Make sure your furniture is moved around so that it's comfortable. If you can afford it, think about renting a storage unit for excess furniture.

8. Set the Stage

It's good to have your home staged. You can hire a stager and get them to spruce up your home, so people can dream up what it can look like.

9. Make Repairs

That loose handle, the faucet that always drips, or the closet door that doesn't shut all the way… fix that!

10. Hire a Home Inspector 

If you've lived there a while, it's a good idea for you, as the seller, to hire a home inspector before putting your home on the market. This is to make sure it passes all inspections and is 100% ready to sell.

Are You Ready to Sell?

These 10 steps are all affordable and worth the time and effort. The homes with neutral colors that are sparkling clean and inviting to a stranger, don't last long on the market. There's no specific ideal time to sell your home, but if you're considering attracting springtime buyers, now is the time to start to prepare your home for sale.

If you have any additional questions or are looking to sell, visit our website at www.corabettthomas.com or call us at 912.233.6000 and we will connect you with a licensed agent.

February
15

A Southern Beauty for Over 200 Years

Savannah doesn't lack for natural beauty. A number of varieties of flowers and plants make the Historic Downtown District sparkle. None so much as the camellia embody the genteel beauty of Savannah. These evergreen shrubs boast large and colorful blossoms and adorn Downtown Savannah like jewels.  

Camellias have been a part of the southern landscape for over 200 years. The plants were first introduced to the United States by way of Charleston, South Carolina in 1786. Camellias can serve several functions in landscape planting. They are staples in most of the squares in the Historic District. Camellia bushes can be used for foundation plantings, screens, accent plants, background groupings and hedges. 

The colors of the camellia blossoms found in Savannah range from snowy white to deep ruby red. Camellia bushes can grow to a height of up to six feet tall and two feet wide. Some of the most beautiful variations of camellia blossoms include pale pink blossoms with darker pink stripes. The broad, glossy dark green leaves of the camellia contrast beautifully with the lush and fragile blossoms of the camellia's blossoms. When the camellias come into full bloom in the winter, their stately and refined elegance call to mind the Southern belles of Savannah's history. 

Some of our favorite squares to admire these Savannah belles are along Bull Street: Chippewa Square and Wright Square. Both of these squares are dotted with artfully spaced camellia bushes. Calhoun Square, on Abercorn Street also hosts photo-worthy camellia bushes. Although these bushes in this square are a bit shorter than their sisters in Chippewa and Wright Squares, they are no less stunning.

The natural beauty afforded by the camellia shrubs and blossoms is something that Savannah visitors and locals alike can enjoy. The camellia blooms add a dash of color to our occasionally gray winter days, and remind us of the promise of warmer weather just ahead.

January
24

Is Your Retirement One Dimensional?

In an uncertain world, why not diversify into real estate for your retirement?

Most retirement accounts are invested in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Given the volatility in the markets, holding real estate is a safe bet in the long term. For many years IRS regulations have allowed 'self-directed IRAs' to hold alternative investments such as secured notes, precious metals, and real estate.

Opening a self-directed IRA will allow you to hold real estate investments for retirement. This could be land purchased for future value appreciation, or property with an income stream such as multi-family apartments, retail or office. The income accumulates in your account, as will the proceeds when the property is sold, and taxes are deferred until distribution. Alternately a Roth IRA can be used, set up with after tax funds, and the income profits will be tax free.

To set up an account, funds can be transferred from an existing retirement account — perhaps a 401(k) from a former employer — and annual contributions can be made, according to your age bracket. Real estate is purchased by the IRA, and all expenses for the properties are paid from the account.

The IRA account can also get a loan to purchase the real estate, or the IRA can partner with other individuals or entities to purchase property. A self-directed IRA offers freedom and flexibility for a real estate purchase.

Of course, there are rules, regulations to be followed in order to maintain your tax advantages. As well as risk. The Securities and Exchange Commission has released an investor alert addressing Self-Directed IRAs and the risk of fraud. Consequently, it's important to work with a reputable real estate broker, closing attorney — and an IRA custodian — who understand how self-directed IRAs work. 

Contact the experienced team at CBT Commercial today to learn more.

January
24

Whether you are thinking of selling your house or buying a home, today's real estate headlines can be confusing – perhaps even concerning. What is actually happening with mortgage rates? Are home values dropping or are they just rising at a slower pace? What impact will the economy have on the housing market?

If you are either a buyer or seller (or both), you need to know what it will mean to your family if you go ahead with the move. You need to understand three things:

1. What is happening in the housing market right now?

Consumers must get past those fear-mongering headlines and gain a deep understanding of what is truly happening. How strong is buyer demand right now? How much competition do listings have today compared to what they will have in the spring? People want to make an educated decision on what is probably their family's greatest financial asset.

2. Why is it happening?

Understanding the individual pieces that impact the sale or purchase of real estate is important. Understanding how those pieces impact each other is critical. How does the amount of a down payment impact the mortgage rate a buyer will be offered? Can you still price your house a 'little ahead' of the market and still be sure it will sell?

3. How do the first two affect your local market?

Basically, you want an understanding of the overall housing market and a simple and effective explanation of how it will impact your personal real estate goals.

Bottom Line

The best way to get all three is to work with a professional at Cora Bett Thomas Realty who understands this shifting real estate market and can expertly guide you on the journey to reach your housing goals. Let's get together to discuss what today's market means for you.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM 

January
17

It Needs to Be Considered, But it is Not a Deal Breaker.

Student Loan Debt A Threat to Homeownership

Over the course of the last thirty years, a shift has happened. An entire generation has been raised to believe that a college education is their key to unlocking opportunities that were not available to their parent's or grandparent's generations.

Due to this, student loan debt has soared to $1.5 trillion and represents the largest category of debt, surpassing credit card and auto loan debt in 2010 and never looking back. As more and more Americans continue their education amongst rising tuition costs, this number will no doubt increase.

Many housing experts have blamed student loans for a drop in the homeownership rate for young families, and to an extent, they've been right. Increased debt at the time of graduation has no doubt limited young people from being able to afford a home at the same rate as their parents or grandparents did at the same age.

In a recent Forbes article, the author explained that "in just the class of 2017, the average student has about $40,000 in debt — almost enough for a 20% down payment on a median-priced home."

The Federal Reserve set out to determine exactly how much impact student loan debt has had on the homeownership rate of those 18-34 (millennials). Their results found that,

"Every $1,000 in student loan debt delays homeownership by about 2.5 months, but it doesn't prevent homeownership entirely.

 In fact, by the time college grads reach their 30s, those with student loan debt have a homeownership rate nearly identical to those who didn't take out loans." (emphasis added)

In the Wall Street Journal's coverage of the Fed report, they found that recent graduates prioritize paying off their student loans over saving for a down payment, despite their desire to be a homeowner. Many with debt want to "get that monkey off (their) back (before they) make any new investments."

This has just delayed the wave of young home buyers from hitting the market. But as Danielle Hale, the Chief Economist at realtor.com warns,

"2020 will be peak millennial, the year when the largest number of millennials will turn 30."

 By age 30, those who attained a bachelor's degree right after high school will be one or two years away from paying off their loans and will have been in their career long enough to earn a higher salary.

In the long run, research shows that attaining a bachelor's degree or more actually increases the chances that someone will become a homeowner.

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many millennials who has prioritized paying down your student loans over saving for a down payment, you're not alone. Even if you are a couple years away from paying off your loans, let's get together to help you determine if waiting really is the best decision for you. The best thing you can do is start planning now.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM 

January
9

Kelly Durbin

Cora Bett Thomas Realty recently added of Kelly Durbin to our team. Kelly will be responsible for buying and selling homes in Richmond Hill and the surrounding communities. In this role, she will create targeted marketing strategies, be an expert at negotiating contracts for clients, and have a comprehensive understanding of the market.

Kelly is a strong negotiator and has a passion for real estate. She recently moved to the area from North Canton, Ohio where she served as a realtor for 5 years. While there she received several awards for her dedication to real estate, including the Ohio Association of Realtors President's Sales Club Award of Achievement from 2016-2018.

Kelly received her Real Estate Certificate from Hondros College and also attended Walsh College in North Canton, Ohio. Prior to real estate, she worked for several years as a Medical Coding and Billing Representative.

The beautiful history, proximity to the coast, and unbeatable landscapes, are just a few reasons Kelly  is excited to call Richmond Hill home. She's thrilled to explore everything our area has to offer and looks forward to sharing her love of real estate with so many new clients.

For more information about Cora Bett Thomas Realty and Associates, visit www.CoraBettThomas.com

December
17

Holiday Shopping Along the 100 Mile Coast.

The holiday season has officially begun, and many folks have already started their holiday shopping. The 100 Mile Coast  is filled with shops and boutiques. These places offer unique gifts, and create a shopping experience that is as enjoyable as giving the gift itself. We've asked the Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates team for their favorite places to do their holiday shopping in Savannah, Bluffton, and Beaufort. Check out our list of our top shops in Savannah. 

Satchel.

A leather-goods shop located in the heart of Historic Downtown Savannah, on Liberty Street. Satchel. is locally owned and operated and offers both ready and custom made leather bags and accessories. The studio is no longer taking orders for the 2018 holiday season. But, there are still plenty of dazzling bags  in a number of styles, hides and colors available for purchase.

One Fish, Two Fish 

This boutique is located in the Downtown Design District and is practically a one-stop shop that sells jewelry, accessories, clothing and home decor. One Fish, Two Fish is an ideal place to pick up a gift, whether it is a necklace or an oyster shell Christmas ornament. Don't miss the other shops in the Downtown Design District either!

PW Short General Store

Owner Scot Hinson wanted to recreate the feeling of a small town community meeting place where you could find everything from French copper pots to smart phone chargers with utilitarian design in mind. This shop has a great selection of goods to furnish your home bar and is also a great place if you are looking for unique gear for a picnic in the park. The vibe is eclectic with a good dose of Midcentury Modern.  

The Paris Market   

This elegant market and brocante is located on Broughton Street. One part boutique, one part flea market, and one part museum, this shop is an ideal place to stop in and "take a look." But if you walk out of The Paris Market empty-handed, then you weren't looking hard enough. Lower levels feature home decor and furnishings, including custom-made lighting. The upper level features all manners of treasures and troves, including perfumes, jewelry, and paper goods. 

Smith Brothers Butcher Shop

Smith Brothers Butcher Shop 

One of our favorite places to get both gifts and holiday dinner supplies. Smith Brothers is located on Liberty Street in Historic Downtown Savannah. An affordable wine, deli, and fresh meat selection make for fuss-free holiday party planning. Better still, Smith Brothers offers unique and local gifts such as handmade oyster knives and etched glassware from local artisans. 

Le Chai 

Speaking of planning for parties, no party in Savannah is complete without the perfect bottle. Le Chai galerie du vin is located off of Forsyth Park. This wine shop is a local favorite and truly embodies Savannah. The polished facade of Le Chai belies the accessibility of the wines it houses. Le Chai does specialize strictly in Old World wines, but these wines are available in every price point and for every palate. We recently stopped by to get owner Christian Depken's recommendations for wines this holiday season.

E. Shaver, Book Seller 

Savannah's oldest bookstore, located on Madison Square in Historic Downtown Savannah. E. Shaver has seven rooms devoted to all things books, including local and regional topics. If you can't find what you are looking for at E. Shaver's, then they will be happy to order it for you. E. Shaver also offers non-book gifts, such as bags, mugs, stationery and journals. E. Shaver also houses The Savannah Tea Room. The Savannah Tea Room sells tea by the cup, as well as prepackaged tea and handmade mugs. 

The Book Lady Bookstore

The Book Lady, located on Liberty Street next to Satchel., is a local favorite. The book Lady has been offering new and "gently used" books to Savannians since 1978. They have every genre you can think of as well as a nice collection of harder to find and first editions. This is a cozy shop with a great selection of Savannah based literature and rare finds to spend an afternoon exploring. This is one of Cora Bett's favorite shops and you can find several tomes from the Book Lady on her shelves at home. 

This list is some of the holiday shopping that can be done in Downtown Savannah. See a list of some of our other favorites places to shop in the 100 Mile Coast below. Shopping at these stores will not only support local merchants but will also prove to be a pleasant shopping experience for you and put you at the top of the "Best Gift-Giver Ever" list. 

Beaufort Favorites

Don't let the size and serenity of Beaufort fool you — there are some places that you absolutely have to visit, and there's a good chance that you'll enjoy one so much that you might not make it to the others in one go. Here are some of our favorite places in downtown Beaufort, and we think you'll love them too.

Scout Southern Market
M Home & Garden & Interiors
Carolina Me Crazy
Grayco Hardware and Home
Island Lavender Company

Bluffton Favorites

It's common knowledge that Bluffton is a great place to live. It turns out, it's a pretty great place to shop for gifts, too. 

Markel's Card & Gifts
Corner Perk
Gigi's Boutique 
Bluffton General Store
Al-Harry Furniture Design
May River Excursions
May River Gallery

Happy Holidays!

December
16

Kelly Foley

Cora Bett Thomas Realty has hired real estate agent, Kelly Foley. As Sales Associate, she will guide buyers or sellers through the negotiations, contractual aspects, and lengthy real estate processes.

Foley has an extensive background in customer service, equipping her with strong negotiation skills for home buying. She spent five years in the U.S. Air Force. Following that, she spent over 20 years in the aerospace industry, traveling the world with airline executives and partnered with the Department of Defense, as Director of Operations.

Foley is happy to be back to her roots in the Southeast, where she spent most of her early life. She now lives with her family in Rincon, where she enjoys spending time with husband, Vincent, and son, Liam. Foley also volunteers her time with PACK, a local organization collecting food donations for underprivileged children, helping ensure have meals over the weekend.

Foley's leadership skills, business acumen, and project management experience provide her with skills to assist buyers and sellers through their real estate transactions.

December
12

Cora Bett Thomas Realty Recently Hired Dylan Mckie  as Sales Associate

Cora Bett Thomas Realty Hires Dylan Mckie as Sales Associate.

Cora Bett Thomas Realty recently announced the addition of Dylan Mckie as Sales Associate. In this new role, he will facilitate clients with renting, buying, and selling of residential properties.

In August of 2018 Mckie became a licensed Realtor®. He takes time to study property listings, interview prospective clients, and draw out real estate contracts. He also assists real estate powerhouse, Bradford Moody, with research and the completion of transactions. His background is in construction and home renovation.

New to Savannah, Mckie recently moved from Highland Village, Texas. He now lives near Daffin Park and loves meeting new people there. In his free time, he volunteers with Habitat for Humanity in downtown Savannah.

Although new to the real estate field, he says what he lacks in experience, he gains in enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

December
9

Eat, Drink and Be Merry.

We are pushing full speed ahead into the height of the holiday season. That means it's time to get the bar fully stocked up and ready for the festivities. We all want our holiday parties to be full of fun and good food and drink. You may be the host serving up glasses of vino, or the guest bringing a bottle. Either way, it's important to make sure that good wine is a part of the party. We checked in with our one of our favorite wine shops, Le Chai galerie du vin. Read on for owner Christian Depken's suggestions for wines. We've included 2 each of bubbles, whites, and red, from affordable to "holiday splurge." 

Bubbles

Domaine de Nerleux, Brut Rose Cremant de Loire "La Folie des Loups." This sparkling rosé wine is made with cabernet franc grapes from the Loire Valley. The wine is dry and clean, with a slightly earthy yet fresh taste. A sparkling wine that is as easy on the palate as it is your pocketbook.

Splurge: Roger Coulon, Heri-Hodie Premier Cru.  This is what is considered a "proper" champagne. A blend of 50% Pino Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir, and 25% Chardonnay. The resulting flavor is one that is fresh and floral, but still full-bodied. If you are a lover of true Champagne, this is the bottle for you. Christian described this one as "badass."

 

Reds

Iuli Rossore. This red wine is derived from 100% Barbera grapes, and hails from the Piemonte region of Italy. Rossore, named after the color Barbera puts in your cheeks, has a fruit forward palate, but is not sweet. Rounded, medium-bodied, and a crowd-pleaser for red drinkers, especially those on a budget. Buy one or two for a party and maybe one for yourself!

Splurge: Lopez Heredia Rioja Vina Tondonia Reserva. This wine is considered a blend, but it's mostly Tempranillo. The finish is long and refined, with clean flavors. But make no mistake — this is a "serious" wine. It is full-bodied, and as such, should be paired with a meal.

Our Favorite: La Coartada. One of our favorite red wines. This comes from the Alentejo region of Portugal and is a blend of Aragonez (Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A complex wine that somehow manages to be elegant and rustic at the same time. Best enjoyed with food, and definitely worth a try if you're looking for a new red. Beyond the taste, the bottle's shape and label are unique and make it a great looking bottle to bring to dinner.

Whites

Tegerneseerhof 2017 Durnstein Federspiel Riesling. If you're averse to sweet wines, don't be put off by "Riesling," especially in this case. From the Wachau region of Austria, this wine is bone dry, with a high acidity and minerality. Pairs perfectly with turkey, pork, or goose.

Spend: Kozlovic Malvazija. This white wine comes from the Istria region of Croatia. It is highly aromatic. While this wine is fruitier than Riesling, it is still dry and has both a sharp acidity and a mineral complexity that makes it mouth-watering. Hands down, this is a wine to be enjoyed with food.

December
5

paint the town red

Cora Bett Thomas Realty is handing out red, reusable bags to help improve our environment. On November 1, 2018, a new Beaufort County ordinance went into effect banning "single-use" plastic bags commonly used for groceries, takeout meals, and clothing.

Cora Bett Thomas Realty wants to help make the transition to the new ordinance hassle-free for residents. We ask that you help us  "Paint the Town Red" this Friday, at Night on the Town, in Downtown Beaufort. Downtown Beaufort businesses will stay open late, with live music and entertainment, Christmas tree lighting, a visit from Santa, and the Cora Bett Thomas Realty team members will be there handing out their reusable bags to those in attendance for our "Paint the Town Red" initiative.

Beaufort's "Night on the Town" Event

WHO: All community members (especially Beaufort County residents)

WHEN: Friday, December 7, 6-9 p.m.

WHERE: Downtown Beaufort

See you There!

November
30

Walking into the dimly-lit interior of the bar at Circa 1875 is an escape from the outside world. At both the front and the back of the space, plump banquettes beckon and encourage long conversations and lingering glances. The smell of fresh bread softly permeates the air, as does the melody of jazz and French music.

A glass of Cotes du Rhone, from the Famille Perrin, drinks easily, pairs well with almost everything on the menu, and is affordable enough that 2 or 3 glasses won't break the bank. A bread basket's bundled napkin is opened to reveal slices of rustic French bread and warm brioche rolls. A side of herb butter is provided but seems almost unnecessary. 

Circa 1875

The Plateau du Chef, literally a platter of meat and cheeses, can serve as an appetizer or as a meal in itself. The flavors may vary based on seasonal availability, but some of the favorites include pork rillette, saucisson sec, Port Salut, and Red Dragon. Accompanying the meat and cheeses are more bread and fresh preserves. This is a platter made for sharing, as one finds it easy to engage in conversation, or even just thought, while savoring the flavors.  

An order of the Foies de Poulet is a perfect blend of Paris and Southern cuisine, as fried chicken livers are served atop brioche and topped with apple demi-glace and caramelized onions. The meat is tender and juicy, while the brioche manages to absorb the demi-glace without ever becoming unattractively soggy. 

Ordering a burger in a place like Circa 1875 may seem, to the uninitiated, like a rookie move. Rest assured, it is quite the opposite. The 1875 Hamburger Au Poivre is one of the best hamburgers in Savannah. This burger is cooked to perfection and covered with a green peppercorn brandy mustard sauce. The decadent  flavor of the burger is enough to have it serve as the final course of the evening. Follow it up with a digestif, or one more glass of wine, and suddenly you're fortified enough to face the evening once again. 

Circa 1875

48 Whitaker St,

Savannah, GA 31401

November
15

Circa Lighting

Lighting can make all the difference in the space you inhabit. And while the right amount of light can infuse you with a good mood, the right amount of light from just the right light fixture will make your good mood great. A truly stylish home focuses on the details, and lighting is one of those inherent details that must always be just right.

Circa Lighting was founded in Savannah in 1998 by Gale Singer. Gale had a vision for a curated lighting selection presented in a boutique-like showroom. Through the first showroom Gail reached out to interior designers, architects and builders to have a similar experience locally and online with well curated offerings.

Located in Savannah's Downtown Design District, Circa offers lamps and fixtures of all kinds, for both interior and exterior lighting uses. Floor lamps, table lamps, and ceiling lamps are all available, as well as wall-mounted lighting fixtures. Circa Lighting also offers fans, also for both interior and exteriors. And to help keep the air circulating in your home or business, fans and floor fans are available too.

Floor to Ceiling

Ceiling lamps include chandeliers, flush mounted lamps, lanterns, hanging shades, and linear lamps. A ceiling lamp is a great way to make a statement with your lighting, without sacrificing living or surface space. Both table and floor lamps are divided into 2 categories, decorative and task. Table and floor lamps come in any number of shapes, sizes and materials. In most cases, the only limitation to what you can have is either what you can afford or what can fit into your home.

Wall-mounted lighting fixtures include decorative, bath, task and picture lamps. Most wall-mounted lighting is more functional than fun, but the pieces at Circa still, nonetheless, have pizazz. The same goes for fans, which are more of a necessity than a luxury in Savannah. The fans at Circa can very nearly be considered art, and can add panache to any dwelling. 

Whatever style of lighting you are looking for, Circa has it. Understated, overstated, modern, traditional, dramatic, if you can think of it, Circa has something that will fit your description. Better still, if you are struggling to come up with what exactly you do want, Circa can help with that, too. Circa Lighting's expansive and beautifully designed showrooms are full of inspiration, and their knowledgeable staff are there to help you. 

Circa Lighting |  Savannah Showroom
405 Whitaker St
(912) 447-1008

November
12

Christmas in Savannah

It seems like not so long ago, the months of November through February signaled a quieter time in Savannah.  That has since changed. It's time for the holidays in Savannah and there is no shortage of things to do, beauty to behold and places to go. So as we enter this season, let's take a look at what the season has to offer to residents and visitors alike. 

Holidays in Savannah — Walk and Shop

The fun is about to start in a matter of days. On Thursday, November 14th is the East End Holiday Block Party. This is a charity event supporting 2 great causes: Coastal Pet Rescue and Second Harvest Food Bank. The event will be from 5pm-8pm and will offer food, music, shopping and cocktails, as well as raffles.

On November 15th, head on over to the Liberty Street Holiday Block Party. Don't miss one our favorite shops in town, Satchel. Then, head next door to vintage clothing store East + Up, which will also be hosting a pop-up shop from local boutique Mamie Ruth. Once you get tired of shopping, head across Liberty to Edgar's Proof and Provisions. This bar is located in the DeSoto Hilton and will be featuring live music, nibbles, and drink specials.

Few things get the holiday spirit going like gingerbread ... unless it's Christmas lights. The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa can easily help you get your holiday fix on with its Gingerbread Village and the Savannah Boat Parade of Lights. The hotel is located across the Savannah River from Historic Downtown Savannah. If you don't feel like driving, grab an Uber or hop on the free ferry. 

Another much-anticipated event for local Savannahians in the know is the Design District Holiday Walk, on November 29th. This is a great way to visit the shops of the Design District, support local Savannah merchants, and enjoy the holiday vibes. Many shops will have complimentary cocktails on hand, and this year Big Bon Pizza will be serving delicious, made-to-order pizzas in the Annex.

If you're out and about in the Bluffton area on December 8th, check out the Bluffton Coffee and Chocolate Fest. This event will be held at The Cottage in Bluffton, SC and will host yummy offerings from local vendors, including gourmet coffee and scrumptious desserts. Those sticking closer to Savannah can also check out Picker Joe's Annual Christmas Party, also on December 8th. 

See Something Pretty.

People come from all over to take in the architecture and natural beauty that makes Savannah so special, so you can bet that we take our Christmas decorations seriously. To behold the glory that is Old Savannah bedecked in all its holiday finery, behold the majestic solemnity of Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a candlelit tour of  The Davenport House, or the refinement of The Owens-Thomas House; all are open to the public and available for tours.

Another great way to experience the elegance of the Historic District during the holidays is The Holiday Tour of Homes; while a tour of Savannah's historic inns is available, the most popular tour is that which includes 8 (count 'em, EIGHT) private Savannah homes and 2 museum houses in the Landmark Historic District. Word of warning: if you aren't already in love with the historical houses of Savannah before this tour, you will be after.

Enjoy A Show.

There's just something extra special about catching a holiday show, and Savannah offers something for everyone when it comes to holiday entertainment. Those hardworking performers over at The Savannah Theatre will be presenting "A Christmas Tradition," a 2-hour extravaganza of music, dance, comedy, and a little bit of audience participation. The renowned Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra will be returning with its 8th season of its "Holiday Pops" show, beloved by Savannahians and visitors alike. 

There is so much holiday fun to be had in Savannah and the Lowcountry, and this is just a bit of it. Get out, have fun, and enjoy the holiday spirit. Happy Holidays!

November
5

Homeowners Associations:
A Blessing and a Curse 

Homeowners Association

Make sure your agent has knowledge about the Homeowners Associations where you are interested in buying. 

First things first, let's make sure we all know what and why HOA Fees exist. The Homeowners Association (or HOA) is an organization within a subdivision, planned community, or condominium that creates and enforces the rules for the properties in their jurisdiction. When you purchase property within an HOA's jurisdiction you are often required to pay dues - the infamous HOA fees. There are both advantages and disadvantages to living in communities that have an HOA - we talk more about that in this article. But first let's look at 5 questions you should ask when talking to your agent about a property that would come with an HOA fee.

Is the HOA mandatory?

Do not be fooled by thinking just because a community has an HOA it is mandatory.  There are mandatory and voluntary Homeowners Associations. A mandatory membership requires every owner in the community to be a member, otherwise they could face penalties for not complying with rules and dues. However, some communities have a voluntary associations.   An example of a voluntary HOA may be a neighborhood that asks members to be apart of their civic organization or club to help maintain community spaces or the neighborhood entrance.

What does the HOA fee cover?

Some HOA fees can be quite steep depending on the community or area you live in, therefore it is wise to have a clear understanding of what the fee is covering. Make sure your money is being put to good use. Here are a few items that an HOA fee may cover.

  • Amenities: Pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, gym facilities
  • Lawn Care: This could cover anything from general lawn maintenance to snow removal
  • Maintenance and Repairs: Oftentimes condominium HOA fees cover interior, like the lobby or community space of a condo, and exterior maintenance.  They will also keep a set amount on reserve for bigger projects like replacing water heaters or community floors.
  • City Services: Trash pickup, water, sewage

How often are the HOA fees collected?

Homeowners Association fees can be collected, yearly, monthly or quarterly. Once you know when your HOA fees are expected it's a good idea to put a reminder on a calendar or budget accordingly so that the fees do not catch you off guard.

What is the penalty for not complying with the HOA?

In most cases if you do not pay the fee, the HOA has the power to place a lien on your property.  A lien is placed on the properties title, and restricts the owner from legally selling, refinancing, or transferring the title of ownership to the home. This could lead to a foreclosure, with the understanding that if one is not financially secure enough to pay an HOA fee, they could fault on their mortgage payment as well. If you are able to get caught up and pay the overdue fees the lien will be removed.

Do you have an HOA website or Facebook group that is regularly updated?

The Homeowners Association should have a website that hosts the community covenants and restrictions.  Often HOAs will have a website that has their bylaws, but then an additional Facebook page to showcase community events or ways to get involved.  One of the benefits of moving into a community that has an HOA is the community bonding opportunities available.

A sign of a good agent is someone who has already asked these questions and then some! Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

October
14

Today's Real Estate Market

Interest Rates & Home Inventory

When it comes to buying or selling a home there are many factors you should consider. Where you want to live, why you want to buy or sell, and who will help you along your journey are just some of those factors. When it comes to today's real estate market, though, the top two factors to consider are what's happening with interest rates & inventory.

Interest Rates

Mortgage interest rates have been on the rise and are now over three-quarters of a percentage point higher than they were at the beginning of the year. According to Freddie Mac's latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates climbed to 4.72% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage last week.

The interest rate you secure when buying a home not only greatly impacts your monthly housing costs, but also impacts your purchasing power.

Purchasing power, simply put, is the amount of home you can afford to buy for the budget you have available to spend. As rates increase, the price of the house you can afford to buy will decrease if you plan to stay within a certain monthly housing budget.

The chart below shows the impact that rising interest rates would have if you planned to purchase a $400,000 home while keeping your principal and interest payments between $2,020-$2,050 a month.

Today's Real Estate Market

With each quarter of a percent increase in interest rate, the value of the home you can afford decreases by 2.5% (in this example, $10,000). Experts predict that mortgage rates will be over 5% by this time next year.

Inventory

A 'normal' real estate market requires there to be a 6-month supply of homes for sale in order for prices to increase only with inflation. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), listing inventory is currently at a 4.3-month supply (still well below the 6-months needed), which has put upward pressure on home prices. Home prices have increased year-over-year for the last 78 straight months.

The inventory of homes for sale in the real estate market had been on a steady decline and experienced year-over-year drops for 36 straight months (from July 2015 to May 2018), but we are starting to see a shift in inventory over the last three months.

The chart below shows the change in housing supply over the last 12 months compared to the previous 12 months. As you can see, in June, July, and August, inventory levels have started to increase as compared to the same time last year.

This is a trend to watch as we move further into the fall and winter months. If we continue to see an increase in homes for sale, we could start moving further away from a seller's market and closer to a normal market.

Bottom Line

If you are planning to enter the housing market, either as a buyer or a seller, let's get together to discuss the changes in mortgage interest rates and inventory and what they could mean for you.

From the KCM Crew

October
11

Are We About to Enter a Buyers' Market?

Home sales are below last year's levels, home values are appreciating at a slower pace, and there are reports showing purchasing demand softening. This has some thinking we may be entering a buyers' market after sellers have had the upper hand for the past several years. Is this really happening?

The market has definitely softened. However, according to two chief economists in the industry, we are a long way from a market that totally favors the purchaser:

Dr. Svenja Gudell, Zillow Chief Economist:

"These seller challenges don't indicate we're suddenly in a buyers' market – we don't expect market conditions to shift decidedly in favor of buyers until 2020 or later. But buyers certainly are starting to balk at the rapid rise in prices and home values are starting to grow at a less frenetic pace."

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist of realtor.com:

"The signs are pointing to a market that's shifting toward buyers. But, in most places, we're still a long way from a full reversal."

In addition, Pulsenomics Inc. recently surveyed over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment & market strategists and asked this question:

"When do you expect U.S. housing market conditions to shift decidedly in favor of homebuyers?"

Only 5% said the market has already shifted. Here are the rest of the survey results:

Bottom Line

The market is beginning to normalize but that doesn't mean we will quickly shift to a market favoring the buyer. We believe Ivy Zelman, author of the well-respected 'Z' Report, best explained the current confusion:

"With the rate of home price appreciation starting to decelerate alongside the uptick in inventory…we expect significant debate about whether this is a bullish or bearish sign.

In our view, the short-term narrative will probably be confusing, but more sustainable growth and affordability will likely be the end result."

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM 

October
11

… Should You Wait to Buy?

Should You Wait to Buy?

Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased by close to a quarter of a percent over the last several weeks. Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the National Association of Realtors are all calling for mortgage rates to rise another quarter of a percent by next year.

In addition to the predictions from the four major reporting agencies mentioned above, the Federal Open Market Committeerecently voted "unanimously to approve a 1/4 percentage point increase in the primary credit rate to 2.75 percent." Historically, an increase in the primary credit rate has translated to an overall jump in mortgage interest rates as well.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact that they may no longer be able to get a rate below 4%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades:

Bottom Line

Though you may have missed the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago, a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago, and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM 

October
10

The price of any item is determined by the supply of that item, as well as the market's demand for it. The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) surveys "over 50,000 real estate practitioners about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions" for their monthly REALTORS Confidence Index.

Their latest edition sheds some light on the relationship between seller traffic (supply) and buyer traffic (demand).

Buyer Demand

The map below was created after asking the question: "How would you rate buyer traffic in your area?"

The darker the blue, the stronger the demand for homes is in that area. The survey showed that in 38 out of 50 states buyer demand was slightly lower than this time last year but remains strong. Only six states had a 'stable' demand level.

Seller Supply 

The index also asked: "How would you rate seller traffic in your area?"

As you can see from the map below, 23 states reported 'weak' seller traffic, 22 states and Washington D.C. reported 'stable' seller traffic, and 5 states reported 'strong' seller traffic. This means there are far fewer homes on the market than what is needed to satisfy the buyers who are out looking for homes.

Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand

Bottom Line

Looking at the maps above, it is not hard to see why prices are appreciating in many areas of the country. Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet buyer demand, prices will continue to increase. If you are debating listing your home for sale, let's get together so I can help you capitalize on the demand in the market now!

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM 

October
9

Fall Home Maintenance

Fall is here! Well, at least according to the calendar, fall is here. The weather in Savannah may not feel like summer's over, but now is the time to get to work on some colder-weather maintenance for your home. This way, you can have everything ready before the weather changes. Read on for our handy list of home maintenance to-dos for fall home maintenance.

Exterior Fixes

Regularly clean gutters and downspouts.

Fall is when gutters can fill up quickly and we still have a few weeks of hurricane season so keep them clean to protect your property. Make sure all drainage areas are unblocked by leaves and debris. Consider installing gutter guards to make the job a lot easier.

Check for rotting wood.

Check for soft spots, which can indicate rotting wood. Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around your windows, doors, railings and deck. Use caulk to fill the holes, or completely replace the wood if it is rotted.

Paint.

Lower humidity and cooler (not yet cold) temperatures make fall a good time to paint the exterior of your home.

Roof.

Inspect your roof, or hire a licensed professional to examine your roof for wear and tear. If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, replace them. If you have a lot of damage, it's time to consider replacing  the entire roof.

Garden

Split.

Fall is the perfect time to divide or move perennials. Remove your dead annuals and mulch hardy perennials.

Clean.

Clean your gardening tools before storing for the winter. Better still, make sure your storage area/shed is clean before storing your tools.

Trim.

Cut dead branches out the trees to prevent them from coming down and causing damage in a late tropical storm or future winter storm. Wait until late winter to prune healthy trees and shrubs though.

Fertilize.

Fall is a good time to aerate your lawn; it will allow moisture and nutrients to get into the roots. When you're done, spread fertilizer then grass seed. It's also the right time to fertilize turf grasses, preferably with slow-release, all-natural fertilizer. When given adequate nutrients, turf grasses have the ability to store food in the form of carbohydrates during the winter months. That will mean a better-looking lawn come spring.

Interior

Pest prevention.

Pests love attics because they are full of nice warm insulation for nesting, and they offer easy access to the rest of the house. If you have gable vents that lead into your attic, it is a good idea to install a screen behind them to keep those critters out.

Check the important gadgets.

Each fall, check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms and put in fresh batteries. These are very important detectors to have in a home and their importance can't be overstated. Check your furnace filters and check for drafts.

fall home maintenance

Clean out your fireplace and chimney.

A wood burning fireplace is a wonderful feature to have in your home. However, unless you are well versed in chimney construction, contact a reputable chimney sweep service to do a check before the cold weather sets in. Items such as bird or animal nests built during the summer, as well as excessive soot deposits from the previous winter, can easily obstruct flues and dampers, thereby increasing the chances of chimney fires. 

Take a few hours here and there for some basic fall home maintenance. It will help you spot developing problems, and, consequently, prevent costly repairs. For best results, use the tasks above as a guide; everyone's home is different and over time you will develop a fall home maintenance routine specific to your property.

September
27

Falling Home Prices

We are beginning to see reports that more housing inventory is coming to the market and that buyer demand may not be increasing at the same pace it did earlier this year. The result will be many headlines written to address the impact that these two situations will have on home values.

Many of these headline writers will confuse "softening home prices" with "falling home prices," but there is a major difference between the two.

The data will begin to show that home values are not appreciating at the same levels as they had over the last several years (softening prices). This does NOT mean that prices are depreciating (falling prices).

Here is an example: Over the last several years, national home values increased by more than 6% annually. If you had a home worth $300,000 at the beginning of the year, it would be worth $318,000 by year's end. If the appreciation rate "falls" to 4%, that $300,000 house would be worth $312,000 at the end of next year – a $6,000 difference.

The price of the home did not fall. It just didn't increase at the level it had the previous year.

Appreciation rates are projected to end this year at approximately 5%, and then drop to somewhere between 4-5% next year. This drop in appreciation rate will cause home price increases to soften.

Again, this does not mean that home prices will depreciate, but instead that they will appreciate more slowly.

Bottom Line

Be careful when reading headlines that discuss home values. Some headline writers will be legitimately confused and will use the word falling in place of softening. Others will realize that the headline "Home Prices are Falling!" will get more clicks than "Home Prices are Softening" and will intentionally write the more compelling headline. Read the article. If the word depreciation is not mentioned, home values are not falling.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM 

September
25

Cost of NOT Paying PMI

Saving for a down payment is often the biggest hurdle for a first-time homebuyer as median incomes, rents, and home prices all vary depending on where you live.

There is a common misconception among homebuyers that a 20% down payment is required, and it is this limiting belief that often adds months, and sometimes even years, to the home-buying process.

So, if you can purchase a home with less than a 20% down payment… why aren't more people doing just that?

One Possible Answer: Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Freddie Mac defines PMI as:

"An insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. It's a monthly fee, rolled into your mortgage payment, that is required for all conforming, conventional loans that have down payments less than 20%.

Once you've built equity of 20% in your home, you can cancel your PMI and remove that expense from your mortgage payment."

As the borrower, you pay the monthly premiums for the insurance policy, and the lender is the beneficiary. The monthly cost of your PMI depends on the home's value, the amount of your down payment, and your credit score.

Below is a table showing the difference in monthly mortgage payment for a $250,000 home with a 3% down payment and PMI vs. a 20% down payment without PMI:

Cost of NOT Paying PMI

The first thing you see when looking at the table above is no doubt the added $320 a month that you would be spending on your monthly mortgage cost. The second thing that should stand out is that a 20% down payment is $50,000!

If you are buying your first home, $50,000 is a large sum of money that takes discipline and sacrifice to save. Many first-time buyers save for 5-10 years before buying their homes.

To save $50,000 in 10 years, you would need to save about $420 a month. On the other hand, if you save that same $420 a month, you could afford a 3% down payment in less than a year and a half.

In a recent article by My Mortgage Insider, they explain what could happen in the market while you are waiting to save for a higher down payment:

"The time it takes to save a (larger) down payment could mean higher home prices and tougher qualifying down the road. For many buyers, it could prove much cheaper and quicker to opt for the 3% down mortgage immediately."

The article went on to say,

"Since renters typically devote a higher percentage of their income to housing than homeowners, providing flexible down payment options can help renters with solid earnings purchase a home – and gain a fixed-rate mortgage with principal and interest payments that will not increase over the life of the loan."

If the prospect of having to pay PMI is holding you back from buying a home today, Freddie Mac has this advice,

"It's no doubt an added cost, but it's enabling you to buy now and begin building equity versus waiting 5 to 10 years to build enough savings for a 20% down payment."

Based on results of the most recent Home Price Expectation Survey, a homeowner who purchased a $250,000 home in January would gain $50,000 in equity over the next five years based on home price appreciation alone (shown below).

Bottom Line

If you have questions about whether you should buy now or wait until you've saved a larger down payment, let's get together to discuss our market's conditions and help you make the best decision for you and your family.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM

September
5

National Preparedness Month. 

Preparing for an emergency

2018 has been a quiet year in general throughout the 100 Mile Coast. However, the rest of country has seen its share of fires, storms and flooding. So, with September being National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to check up on your preparedness level. Although never really wants to sit down and consider worst-case scenarios that we can face, by taking the time to make sure that you and your family are preparing for an emergency, you are giving yourself peace of mind and staying one step ahead. Preparing for an emergency may sound like a daunting task, but it can be reduced to 3 easy steps: Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

Get a Kit.

While most of us automatically reach for bottled water and flashlights in an emergency, there are some other items to consider as necessities in your emergency kit, such as:

  • A stocked first-aid kit (There are many options on Amazon) 
  • A radio (either battery-powered or hand-cranked)
  • A multi-tool
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • An emergency blanket
  • Sanitation and hygiene items
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Copies of personal and important documents (deed/lease, birth certificate, passport, insurance policies, etc.)
  • Medications (7-day supply) and any necessary medical items
  • Extra cash
  • Map(s) of the area

You'll want to make sure that you have these items in an easy-to-carry container that you can use either at home or take with you in case of an evacuation. This is just a list of necessities that you should have on hand in your kit, but it is by no means a definitive list. You will want to make sure that you pack additional items based on the types of natural disasters common to your area (i.e., rain gear, surgical or N95 masks, plastic sheeting, etc.), as well as your family members (extra supplies for infants and the elderly).

Make a Plan.

One of the most important things that you can do to remain safe for an emergency and/or natural disaster is to meet with your family members and discuss how you will respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live. This includes:

  • Assigning specific responsibilities to each family member
  • Choosing a place outside of your home to meet, in the event of a sudden emergency such as a fire
  • Choosing a place outside your neighborhood to meet, in the event that you cannot return home and/or must evacuate immediately
  • Choosing an out-of-state emergency contact person, and making sure that each family member has that contact information in writing and/or saved to their cell phones.
  • Planning what to do if you are forced to evacuate: determine whether or not you will stay with friends/relatives in a safe location, go to a hotel/motel, or to an evacuation shelter. You will also want to make sure that you are familiar with not just your evacuation route but also with an alternate evacuation route.
  • Don't forget your pets; you will want to make sure that you have a list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and shelters if you have to evacuate with your pet.

Be Informed.

Don't wait until it's too late. Learn about the types of disasters that are more likely to occur in your area, whether it's something that affects only you and your family, such as a house fire or medical emergency, or something that affects your entire community, such as a hurricane or flood.

  • Identify how local authorities will notify you of a disaster and relay subsequent information — radio, tv, etc.
  • Know the difference between different weather alerts, such as watches or warnings, and the appropriate actions to be taken for each.
  • It's a good idea to make sure that at least one person in your family is familiar with first-aid, especially CPR, and can operate an automated external defibrillator (AED), since disasters can affect emergency response times from ambulances, police officers  and firefighters.

Make good use of the resources available to help you prepare yourself and your family members for disasters/emergencies, such as those offered by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), CEMA (Chatham Emergency Management Agency), and the American Red Cross. Preparing both yourself and your family for emergencies and disasters takes only a little bit of your time, and should you ever find yourself in need, that time will have been well worth it.

August
27

Either Way You're Paying A Mortgage!

Renting Vs. Buying

There are some people who have not purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize, however, that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord's.

As Entrepreneur Magazine, a premier source for small business, explained in their article, "12 Practical Steps to Getting Rich":

"While renting on a temporary basis isn't terrible, you should most certainly own the roof over your head if you're serious about your finances. It won't make you rich overnight, but by renting, you're paying someone else's mortgage. In effect, you're making someone else rich."

With home prices rising, many renters are concerned about their house-buying power. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First Americanexplained:

"Over the last three years, renter house-buying power has increased fast enough to keep pace with house price appreciation, so the share of homes that a renter can afford to buy has remained the same since 2015.

Although mortgage rates are expected to rise, they are still low by historic standards, and real household incomes are the highest they have ever been. Assuming this trend continues, our measure of affordability, which takes into account income, interest rates, and house prices, indicates that homeownership is still within reach for renters."

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of 'forced savings' which allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person building that equity.

Interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac's latest report shows that rates across the country were at 4.51% last week.

Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy. 

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM

August
24

What Does the Recent Rash of Home Price Reductions Mean?

Home Price Reductions

Last week, in a new report from Zillow, it was revealed that there has been a rash of price reductions across the country. According to the report:

  • There are more price cuts now than a year ago in over two-thirds of the nation's largest metros
  • About 14% of all listings had a price cut in June
  • Since the beginning of the year, the share of listings with a price cut increased 1.2%
  • This is the greatest January-to-June increase ever reported, and more than double the January-to-June increase last year

Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas further explained:

"A rising share of on-market listings are seeing price cuts, though these price cuts are concentrated at the most expensive price-points and primarily in markets that have seen outsized price gains in recent years."

What this DOESN'T MEAN for the real estate market…

This doesn't mean home values have depreciated or are about to depreciate.

A seller may put a home worth $300,000 on the market for $325,000 hoping a bidding war will occur and an overanxious buyer will pay more than its actual value. That has happened often over the last few years. If the seller gets no offers and reduces the price to $300,000, it doesn't mean the home dropped in value. It is still worth $300,000.

Home prices will continue to appreciate over the next 12 months. In this same report, Terrazas remarks:

"It's far too soon to call this a buyer's market, home values are still expected to appreciate at double their historic rate over the next 12 months, but the frenetic pace of the housing market over the past few years is starting to return toward a more normal trend."

What this DOES MEAN for the real estate market…

This does mean that sellers should be more conservative when it comes to the price at which they list their homes – especially sellers in the upper end of each market.

Sellers have been listing their homes at inflated prices hoping a super-hot market will deliver a buyer willing to pay virtually any price to ensure they don't lose the house. That strategy has worked somewhat successfully over the last two years. However, the time that strategy would have worked may have passed.

Again, quoting Aaron Terrazas in the report:

"The housing market has tilted sharply in favor of sellers over the past two years, but there are very early preliminary signs that the winds may be starting to shift ever-so-slightly."

Bottom Line

Prices are not depreciating. However, if you want to sell your house quickly and with the least amount of hassles, pricing it correctly from the beginning makes the most sense.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM

August
9

Supply & Demand Will Determine Future Home Values

Supply & Demand Will Determine Future Home Values

Will home values continue to appreciate throughout 2018? The answer is simple: YES! – as long as there are more purchasers in the market than there are available homes for them to buy. This is known as the theory of "supply and demand," which is defined as:

"The amount of a commodity, product, or service available and the desire of buyers for it, considered as factors regulating its price."

When demand exceeds supply, prices go up. Every month this year, demand (buyer traffic) has increased as compared to last year and for the first five months of 2018, supply (the number of available listings) had decreased as compared to last year. However, a recent report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed the first year-over-year increase in supply in three years.

Here are the numbers for supply and demand as compared to last year since the beginning of 2018:

Home Prices are Still Rising

The increase in the June numbers doesn't mean that prices won't continue to appreciate. In that same report, Lawrence Yun, NAR's Chief Economist, explained:

"It's important to note that despite the modest year-over-year rise in inventory, the current level is far from what's needed to satisfy demand levels.

Furthermore, it remains to be seen if this modest increase will stick, given the fact that the robust economy is bringing more interested buyers into the market, and new home construction is failing to keep up."

Bottom Line

The reason home prices are still rising is that there are many purchasers looking to buy but very few homeowners ready to sell. This imbalance is the reason prices will remain on the uptick.

From KCM

August
8

millennial home buying

Many have written about the millennial generation and whether or not they, as a whole, believe in homeownership as a part of attaining their American Dream.

Comparatively speaking, millennials have taken longer to obtain traditional milestones (like getting married, having kids and buying a home) than generations before them, but that does not mean that they do not aspire to still achieve those things.

For older millennials (aged 25-34) who have established themselves in their career and are starting to build their families, homeownership is the next logical choice.

According to the Urban Institute's State of Millennial Housing, the probability of a millennial home buying increases by 17.9% if they are married, and by an additional 6.2% if they have children.

Last year, according to the US Census Bureau, the average age at first marriage was 30 for men and 27 for women, while the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that the average first-time homebuyer was 32 years old.

With most of this generation having yet to age into the 'Responsibility Zone' (the time in their lives when their responsibilities start to dictate their behaviors), there will be a steady wave of buyers for years to come!

Those who are currently out in the market searching for a home are being met with a strong, highly competitive seller's market. NAR's Chief Economist Lawrence Yun recently commented,

"Realtors® throughout the country continue to stress that there's considerable pent-up demand for buying a home among the millennial households in their market.  

Unfortunately, they're just not making meaningful ground, and continue to be held back by too few choices in their price range, and thereby missing out on homeownership and wealth gains."

Bottom Line

Millennial home buying is on the rise. If you are currently renting and thinking about jumping into the real estate market, let's get together to help you navigate our market.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM

 

August
3

Ensure That You, Your Family And Property Are Protected.

Flood

Nobody ever really wants to stop and consider the possibility of bad weather, but anyone who is looking to buy a home should consider the impact of bad weather on a potential purchase. Realistically speaking, any place in the world that you choose to live is going to have some sort of weather condition that isn't necessarily favorable, and the local governments have invested considerable time and money over the past 20 years to lessen the risk of structural flooding our communities. However, all of the effort in the world will never fully eliminate such a risk, and that is why it is important to understand and make sure that you are proactive in flood preparation

That being said, potential and new homeowners in Savannah and the Lowcountry should make sure to consider the possibility of flooding. Since the region is a low-lying coastal region, various areas are susceptible to flooding during long periods of moderate rainfall or during high-volume, short duration rainfalls. If you plan on buying property that is waterfront, you'll want to make sure that you not only keep an eye on the weather and rainfall, but also tide levels.

One of the most important things that you can do, but is often overlooked by many homeowners is purchase flood insurance. In the course of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance that you might experience a 100-year flood. Since most policies have a 30-day waiting period before going into effect, you want to make sure that you plan ahead and purchase coverage accordingly. You also may want to consider scheduling a flood preparation site visit from the City or the County (depending on where your property is located); staff can help you with issues related to flooding and stormwater drainage, and can also address any flooding concerns specific to your home and property. You should check with the Chatham County Department of Engineering or City of Savannah Development Services to find out what flood zone you are in and what the Base Flood Elevation is for your lot.

What You Can Do

You can check out the resources available at your local library to determine if retrofitting your property would be beneficial. Retrofitting is altering a building to reduce or eliminate or reduce flood damage and includes several options such as elevation, flood barriers, dry flood proofing and wet floor proofing. You can also consult the FEMA guide for more information on retrofitting your home. Even if you decide not to retrofit your home, it's still a good idea to keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, lumber and plastic sheeting in case of a serious flooding threat; not only can these materials help minimize flood damage, they can also be useful in minimizing damage caused by hurricane-force winds.

An easy way to help prevent localized flooding in your neighborhood is to make sure that ditches, culverts, and storm drains are kept clear of yard waste, leaves, trash and other debris. It is illegal to dump trash, grass clippings, leaves or other materials including chemicals, oil, gasoline or household products into ditches or other drainage systems, so if you see illegal dumping, report it to the local public works department or local law enforcement agencies. 

Make sure that you understand the flood warning system (you can get more information on this from the Chatham Emergency Management Agency), know how to turn off the utilities at your house, and know evacuation routes and emergency shelter locations. Move to higher ground if you can do so safely, but do not attempt to drive or walk through moving water or flooded areas. If you are caught at home and have no way to leave, avoid rising water by moving to the second floor or roof of your home — seek out higher ground, and take your disaster supply kit with you.

If you are instructed to evacuate due to a hurricane, and are able to do so, make sure that you return home only when authorities have indicated it is safe to do so. Check your home for structural damage. Check your heating and electrical systems, as well as appliances prior to using them again after a flood. Don't consume any food or water that was exposed to floodwater.

The Bottom Line

The trick is to be ready, but not afraid. Be prepared and not in denial that such a thing can happen. By making proper flood preparation and making sure that you and your family are protected, you are ensuring the safety of your loved ones and the durability of your property should flooding occur. If you want to learn more about waterfront property on the along the 100 Mile Coast, contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates.

July
25

savannah canoe and kayak

As we've already mentioned, we've been bitten by the kayaking bug. An awesome kayaking tour through Jack's Cut and Little Tybee is what started it, but what sealed the deal was a Sunday afternoon spent at Savannah Canoe and Kayak checking out gear and getting about a million questions answered. Not to mention sitting in some boats at the store. After spending some time with Nigel Law, the owner of SC&K, we decided to find out just exactly how this little hidden gem of a shop wound up over by Bonaventure Cemetery. 

A Long Journey

Nigel and his wife Kristin paddled from Wisconsin to the Florida Keys, and after that, had to decide what to do next. After some research on coastal areas they settled on Tybee Island. After a couple phone calls Nigel scored an interview at a canoe/kayak shop on Tybee Island. He got that job. The natural beauty of the Lowcountry beckoned, and Tybee's proximity to Savannah was a bonus for Nigel so could easily purchase photography equipment as needed. Tybee also provided an ideal location for Nigel and Kristin to continue their adventures kayaking and canoeing without as many tourists as they seemed to encounter while living in the Keys.

savannah canoe and kayak savannah canoe and kayak

Nigel enjoyed the work he was doing at the Tybee shop, but grew tired of interacting mainly with tourists, which seemed to be the case as time passed. He and Kristin also looked to do more with avid kayakers and the community. Especially in terms of bringing people closer to nature. They created a kayak program working with the city's youth, but as time passed they realized that there was a lack of a dedicated kayak outfitting store with a focus on locals. Eventually, they opened their own business, and Savannah Canoe and Kayak was born.

A Brick and Mortar

The shop was initially an online store and was run out of Nigel and Kristin's home, but seven years ago they found the building on Bonaventure Road. SC&K has been housed in this location since that time, and has proven to be a great location for those heading out to the water or back home from a day on the water. In the store you fill gear for kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing and camping. There is gear for day trips, long expeditions and casual paddling. 

Our favorite thing about Savannah Canoe & Kayak is its people. Is it easy to see Nigel and Kristin's passion for kayaking, but it is also apparent in all the SC&K team members. From helping customers to running tours, the SC&K crew is patient, professional and welcoming. You never feel out of place or intimidated at SC&K — which is amazing considering the amount of experience that the guys and gals have at the shop.

It is truly a place where those who love nature and being on the water can stop in, hang out, pick up gear, or just say hello and move on to the next adventure. With Savannah Canoe and Kayak, Nigel and Kristin have definitely achieved their goal of being not just a place that encourages community, but one that is a fixture of the community. 

Savannah Canoe & Kayak

414 Bonaventure Rd
Savannah, GA 31404

Tuesday - Saturday:10-5
Sunday: 12-5
Closed Mondays

Call 912.341.9502 or Visit Online for more information.

July
25

retirement

As more and more baby boomers enter retirement age, the question of whether or not to sell their homes and move will become a hot topic. In today's housing market climate, with low available inventory in the starter and trade-up home categories, it makes sense to evaluate your home's ability to adapt to your needs in retirement.

According to the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA), there are 7 factors that you should consider when choosing your retirement home.1

1. Affordability

"It may be easy enough to afford your home today but think long-term about your monthly costs. Account for property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, utilities – all the things that will be due whether or not you have a mortgage on the property."

Would moving to a complex with homeowner association (HOA) fees actually be cheaper than having to hire all the contractors you would need to maintain your home, lawn, etc.? Would your taxes go down significantly if you relocated? What is your monthly income going to be like in retirement?

2. Equity

"If you have equity in your current home, you may be able to apply it to the purchase of your next home. Maintaining a healthy amount of home equity gives you a source of emergency funds to tap, via a home equity loan or reverse mortgage."

The equity you have in your current home may be enough to purchase your retirement home with little to no mortgage. Homeowners in the US gained an average of over $16,300 in equity last year.

3. Maintenance

"As we age, our tolerance for cleaning gutters, raking leaves and shoveling snow can go right out the window. A condominium with low-maintenance needs can be a literal lifesaver, if your health or physical abilities decline."

As we mentioned earlier, would a condo with an HOA fee be worth the added peace of mind in knowing that you do not have to do the maintenance work yourself?

4. Security

"Elderly homeowners can be targets for scams or break-ins. Living in a home with security features, such as a manned gate house, resident-only access and a security system can bring peace of mind."

As scary as that thought may be, any additional security and an extra set of eyes looking out for you always adds to peace of mind.

5. Pets

"Renting won't do if the dog can't come too! The companionship of pets can provide emotional and physical benefits."

Evaluate all of your options when it comes to bringing your 'furever' friend with you to a new home. Will there be necessary additional deposits if you are renting or moving in to a condo? Is the backyard fenced in? How far are you from your favorite veterinarian?

6. Mobility

"No one wants to picture themselves in a wheelchair or a walker, but the home layout must be able to accommodate limited mobility."

Sixty is the new 40, right? People are living longer and are more active in retirement, but that doesn't mean that down the road you won't need your home to be more accessible. Having to install handrails and make sure that your hallways and doorways are wide enough may be a good reason to look for a home that was built to accommodate these needs.

7. Convenience

"Is the new home close to the golf course, or to shopping and dining? Do you have amenities within easy walking distance? This can add to home value!"

How close are you to your children and grandchildren? Would relocating to a new area make visits with family easier or more frequent? Beyond being close to your favorite stores and restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Bottom Line

When it comes to your forever home, evaluating your current house for its ability to adapt with you as you age can be the first step to guaranteeing your comfort in retirement. If after considering all these factors you find yourself curious about your options, let's get together to evaluate your ability to sell your house in today's market and get you into your dream retirement home!

From KCM

July
21

Getting Started Kayaking.

Kayaking

Savannah, Georgia is a beautiful place to live and to play, especially for those that love the outdoors. The coastline and the tidal marshlands of the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry make it ideal for those who want to explore. One of the best ways to get out and truly experience the beauty of the 100 Mile Coast is certainly kayaking. 

Why It's Special Here

There are a number of aspects of our region that make it an outstanding kayaking destination. The geology of the Georgia coast is unique and has an amazing geologic story you can read more about here. First, the most notable feature you will discover once you get on the water is not its beauty. It's the large tide range that occurs here on the coastal plain. The tide fills and empties the marshes and creeks, changes water direction, and more simply, gives kayakers a dynamic natural playground. From kayaking through Jack's Cut into the interior of Little Tybee Island or traversing the many creeks and rivers, there is plenty of reason to get out and explore in a kayak.  

Kayaking

Get Educated

"The better prepared you are, the more you can really enjoy being in your kayak and taking in the natural beauty of your surroundings."

Nigel Law, Owner
Savannah Canoe & Kayak

The key to making the most of your kayaking experiences is education and preparation. Luckily there are some passionate kayaking and outdoors-loving-people around here. We talked to our friends at Savannah Canoe and Kayak, and picked their brains on tips for those of us just starting out in a kayak.

Here's what we learned:

  1. Take a tour. I can vouch for this. Taking a half-day kayaking tour to Little Tybee and Jack's Cut got me hooked on kayaking. Savannah Canoe and Kayak offer a variety of tours: private, groups, half-day, full-day, the coast or inland. The crew is knowledgeable and will provide you with everything you need for a fantastic day on the water. Check out their website for dates and times of various tours.
  2. Stop by the store. Savannah Canoe and Kayak offers tours and classes as well as a slew of equipment for kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders of all levels. So, don't go to the shop planing to buy everything right off the bat. Rather, walk around, check out equipment. See what fits you and your goals, and above all, ask questions. 
  3. Pack a kit of necessities. Remember, whether you decide to take on a placid lake, a lazy river, or a little bit of rolling surf, you are on the water, and that means practicing good common sense and safety measures. Some key items you must include in your kit for any trip on the water are a bilge pump, a personal floatation device and plenty of drinking water. Other items you will wan to have are a sponge, a dry bag, a safety whistle, sunscreen, and bug spray.

This is just a guide to getting started. Do some research. Take a tour. Get out there and enjoy the 100 Mile Coast. 

July
10

seller tenure

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) keeps historical data on many aspects of homeownership. One of their data points, which has changed dramatically, is the median tenure of a family in a home, meaning how long a family stays in a home prior to moving.

As the graph below shows, over the last twenty years (1985-2008), the median tenure averaged exactly six years. However, since 2014, that average is almost ten years – an increase of almost 50%.

seller tenure

Why the dramatic increase?

The reasons for this change are plentiful!

The fall in home prices during the housing crisis left many homeowners in a negative equity situation (where their home was worth less than the mortgage on the property). Also, the uncertainty of the economy made some homeowners much more fiscally conservative about making a move.

With home prices rising dramatically over the last several years, 95.3% of homes with a mortgage are now in a positive equity situationaccording to CoreLogic.

With the economy coming back and wages starting to increase, many homeowners are in a much better financial situation than they were just a few short years ago.

One other reason for the increase was brought to light by NAR in their 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends ReportAccording to the report,

"Sellers 37 years and younger stayed in their home for six years…"

These homeowners, who are either looking for more space to accommodate their growing families or for better school districts to do the same, are likely to move more often (compared to typical sellers who stayed in their homes for 10 years). The homeownership rate among young families, however, has still not caught up to previous generations, resulting in the jump we have seen in median tenure!

What does this mean for housing?

Many believe that a large portion of homeowners are not in a house that is best for their current family circumstance; they could be baby boomers living in an empty, four-bedroom colonial, or a millennial couple living in a one-bedroom condo planning to start a family. These homeowners are ready to make a move, and since a lack of housing inventory is still a major challenge in the current housing market, this could be great news.

Are You Ready to List Your Home?

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM

July
6

Be Prepared for Bidding Wars.

Bidding War

Summer is traditionally a busy season for real estate. Buyers come out in force and homeowners list their houses for sale hoping to capitalize on those buyers who are looking to purchase before the new school year. This year will be no different!

Buyers have already been out in force looking for their dream homes and more are on their way. The challenge is that the inventory of homes for sale has not kept up with demand, which has led to A LOT of competition for the homes that are available.

A recent article by the National Association of Realtors touched on the current market conditions:

"Realtors® in areas with strong job markets report that consumer frustration is rising. Home shoppers are increasingly struggling to find an affordable property to buy, and the prevalence of multiple bids is pushing prices further out of reach."

Realtor.com went on to explain why buyers are flocking to the market in such big numbers:

"A booming economy and stable employment in most parts of the country have created a new generation of eager home buyers – and led to fevered price battles spilling over into some unexpected, smaller markets."

Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research for Realtor.com had this to say about competition:

"Multiple-offer scenarios are no longer reserved to the usual big, fast-moving markets…demand for homes has spilled outward into secondary, smaller markets, and more buyers are gearing up to face fierce competition in more places around the country."

Realtor.com looked at the number of homes that were selling above asking price to determine which markets were heating up. Below are the Top 10:

  • Akron, OH
  • Worcester, MA
  • Lexington, KY
  • Irvine, CA
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Sioux Falls, SD
  • Madison, WI
  • Louisville, KY
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Little Rock, AR

Bottom Line

Contact us to discuss our exact market conditions so that we can help you create a strategy to secure your new home in this competitive atmosphere. We're here to help you get into your dream home. 

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

June
30

Why Millennials Choose to Buy

According to NerdWallet's Millennials & Home Buying Study, the top 5 reasons young renters choose to own are:

5 Reasons Millennials Choose to Buy a Home

The majority of millennials said they consider owning a home more sensible than renting for both financial and lifestyle reasons — including control of living space, flexibility in future decisions, privacy and security, and living in a nice home.

The top reason millennials choose to buy is to have control over their living space, at 93%. Many millennials who rent a home or apartment prior to buying their own homes dream of the day when they will be able to paint the walls whatever color they'd like or renovate an outdated part of their living space.

From KCM 

June
25

3 Issues Facing Today's Real Estate Market

Last week, the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) held their 52nd Annual Journalism Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Among the many highly anticipated sessions was one called "Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate™," given by Joseph Nahas, Jr., Chair of the Counselors of Real Estate & Senior Vice President of Equus Capital Partners. 

The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) "is an international organization of high profile property professionals which include principals of prominent real estate, financial, legal, and accounting firms as well as recognized leaders of government and academia." 

Their annual "top 10" list spans any and all issues that could have an impact on the real estate market. This year, the list was broken up into "Current" and "Long-Term Issues."

Today we're going to focus on three of the five "Current" issues with a brief explanation of their impacts on the housing market today!

E-Commerce & Logistics

With promises of 2-day shipping no matter where you live, we are benefiting more now than ever before from the speed and ease-of-use of online retailers like Amazon. These e-retailers haven't changed whether or not we buy certain items, but rather HOW we buy them!

Many traditional malls or big-box stores are being repurposed as warehouses or distribution centers for online retailers so that they can get their products out faster.

A Look to the Future: "Developers who are including experiences into their locations are the ones who will succeed. It's about the experience and gaining something over just going to buy a product."

Generational Change & Demographics

By now we've all heard that the millennial generation is the largest yet, just by sheer volume. The largest group of millennials turns 30 years-old in 2020. The average first-time homebuying age is between 30 and 32, depending on marital status. Real estate professionals will be inundated with more and more buyers as the years roll on. Nahas commented on this in his presentation, saying that,

"Too many developers have become dependent on making decisions based on baby boomer's preferences.

The 75 million millennials are coming, and they will influence real estate and commerce even faster than the baby boomers in the 50s and 60s."

Interest Rates & the Economy

The interest rate that you secure for your mortgage is a big factor in your monthly housing cost and in how much you ultimately pay for your home. According to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates rose to 4.62% on a 30-year fixed rate loan last week.

The Federal Reserve also raised the federal funds rate for the second time this year. If unemployment continues to be at or near record lows, two more hikes are likely to come later this year. Nahas added,

"Rising rates can be good and bad for the economy. Bad for borrowing money with additional costs, but good to control inflation and help grow the economy at a moderate pace."

Bottom Line

If you are planning on buying and/or selling a home this year, let's get together to help you navigate the conditions in your market and set you up for success.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates today.

From KCM

June
21

Protect Your Dog on Hot Pavement.

Dog on Hot Pavement

Summertime is nearly here in the Lowcountry. This means longer days full of sunshine, which is great if you're at the beach, but not so great if you're trekking across hot pavement. It's always fun to go shoe shopping for summer sandals, but don't forget about your four-legged friends' feet. Sure, shoes are available for dogs, but those can be uncomfortable (and hot!) in the summer. A cheaper and more comfortable option is a paw protection wax . 

Paw protection wax is an all-natural product that forms a barrier on dog's paws. Formulated with vitamin E to moisturize, help soothe wounds and keep paws healthy paw wax is nontoxic, hypoallergenic, and easy to apply. The wax is absorbed into the paws and forms a semipermeable shield, which allows perspiration to escape through the toes. In addition to snow, ice, and hot pavement, paw protection wax also protects from irritants such as sand, salt, and rough terrain. 

Paw protection waxes are made from food-grade waxes that are non-toxic and non-allergenic, so it's ok if your dog licks their paws after an application of the balm. You can even use it on yourself as a protective balm against windburn. 

One of our favorite paw protection waxes is Musher's Secret, a dense, but breathable wax originally developed in Canada for sled dog races and it's ideal for protecting your dog's paws from extreme temperatures — hot or cold. While any paw protection wax will need to be reapplied depending on your dog's activity, a little bit of the product goes a long way. Just a small amount on each paw is good for a week's worth of walking.

Make the most of the summer days in Savannah for you and your pooch, and keep their paws protected. 

Where to Find Paw Protection Wax

Locally, find paw protection wax at Woof Gang Bakery locations. But just call ahead to make sure paw protection wax is in stock at your nearest location because of its popularity. Find your nearest store here.

You can find Musher's Secret online at Amazon.

And don't forget to pick up a travel dog bowl to keep your pal hydrated too!

June
16

Whether you are selling your home, just purchased your first home or are a homeowner planing to stay put for a while, there is value in knowing which home improvement projects will net you the Return on Investment, or, ROI

Home Renovations for Max ROI

Some Highlights

  • Whether you are selling your home, just purchased your first home or are a homeowner planning to stay put for a while, there is value in knowing which home improvement projects will net you the most Return On Investment (ROI).
  • Minor bathroom renovations can go a long way toward improving the quality of your everyday life and/or impressing potential buyers.
  • Upgrading your landscaping or curb appeal helps get buyers in the door. These upgrades rank as the 2nd and 4th renovations for returns on investment.

From KCM

June
6

save money on your summer power bill

It's that time of year in Savannah when the temperatures start to rise, and love it or hate it, it's hot outside, folks. While hot summer days certainly aren't exclusive to Savannah and the Lowcountry, the high temperatures combined with the high humidity are hard for anyone to ignore. And the solution for most everyone is simple: escape to a place with some air-conditioning. Trying to beat the heat during the summer months (May through September) without air-conditioning is nearly impossible and can even be dangerous. The biggest challenge that many face as during the dog days of summer is trying to stay as comfortable as possible without spending an arm and a leg on utility costs. But don't fret — there are some easy ways to beat the heat and save money on your summer power bill without sacrificing your comfortable cool air.

1. Change your air filter(s).

This should be a no-brainer, but I have seen some really disgusting air filters before, and I will admit that some of those have been in my own home. I absolutely understand and agree 100% that this is one of those tasks that you always think of at the most inopportune time, and never with regularity. My solution? Plan ahead. Determine when your filter will need to be changed next (you should change it monthly), and then set an alarm or a calendar reminder on your phone, computer, etc.; just make sure you will be reminded in a month in some way that you need to change your air filter.

2. Clean your air filter(s).

Again, a no-brainer, or either this is something you have thought of and dismissed it as too much work. Don't think that way. Halfway through the month, check your filter and if it need a few swipes with a dusting cloth or a vacuum attachment, go for it. You will be surprised at how much of a difference this can make to save money on your summer power bill. An air filter that is dirty will have to work twice as hard, and that means more energy that your HVAC unit is exerting.

3. Fans are your friends.

Both ceiling fans and upright (floor) fans help keep the air circulating and can make your home feel more comfortable without you having to keep your HVAC running at a low (colder) temperature. Also, using fans to keep the air circulating while you aren't home will mean that HVAC doesn't have to run twice as hard when you come home and turn it down. 

But Which Direction?

During the summer, you want the air blowing directly on you so you will feel cooler from the wind chill effect (which is how fans cool you off). Stand under the fan and turn on high speed. If you don't feel the air moving at you well, then turn the fan off and flick the reverse toggle switch. Turn it back on high speed. If you feel more air, you have it in the right position. Whichever position you feel the most air movement when standing directly under the fan is the correct position for summer. 

4. Give the thermostat space.

If you can, avoid having lamps and appliances near your thermostat--its heat sensor will pick up the heat that is put out by these items and will think that it needs to work harder to cool the house, which means a higher utility bill for you.

5. Turn it all off.

If you're leaving your house, make sure to turn off all of your lights and turn up the temperature on your thermostat. This way, your HVAC isn't working to cool an empty house but it won't have to work as hard when you return home and turn the temperature back down. Better still, invest in a smart system to save money on your summer power bill, such as a Nest, which we've mentioned before. This system can be controlled from the wall-mounted thermostat and through an app on your phone, so if you forget to turn the thermostat up before you leave, you're still covered — you can use your phone to adjust your thermostat. Better still, over the course of a few weeks, Nest will acclimate to your usual HVAC temperature settings and will begin to automatically adjust itself to those settings, saving both energy and money on utility bills.

These are just a few things that can be done to help save money on your summer power bill without sacrificing your comfort, but doing so not only guarantees that you will have a more comfortable and consistently cooled home, but you will be able to do without having to spend all of your summer fun money on your utility bills. 

May
31

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will officially begin on June 1, 2018, and end on November 30, 2018. These dates historically describe the period each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. However, the formation of tropical cyclones is possible at any time of the year, as shown by the formation of Subtropical Storm Alberto this spring. Alberto marked the fourth consecutive year a storm developed before the official start of the season.

2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Last year's season ended with 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes. The Atlantic basin annually averages 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has stated that there is a 75% chance that the 2018 season will see near or more than the average number of storms in the basin. In addition to the NOAA prediction, most meteorologists agree that the 2018 season will be near or above average. The 2017 hurricane season was very active, in part, because of a weak La Niña that developed last year.

La Niña is a natural weather phenomenon defined by cooler than normal water in the eastern Pacific equatorial region. Despite occurring in the Pacific, La Niña affects global weather patterns. One affect is decreased wind shear across the tropical Atlantic, which creates conditions more favorable for tropical storm development. 

The La Niña has since disappeared and according to NOAA some weather suggest that the opposite phenomenon of La Niña, El Niño could possibly develop later in the season. El Niño features warmer water in the eastern Pacific equatorial region, creating greater wind shear in the Atlantic and fewer tropical storms.

Even though there is appears to be a small chance we will see El Niño and subsequently have below average Hurricane Season, most meteorologists agree that the 2018 season will be near or above average. Historically, Savannah has been spared direct hits from hurricanes. As you can see from our map, the frequency of hurricanes directly impacting the 100 Mile Coast is very low. However, we did have to deal with Hurricane Matthew, a Category 2 storm in 2016. There was an evacuation, and Savannah residents, politicians and emergency workers learned many lessons. But rather than just hoping that a hurricane doesn't make landfall on our fair coastline, go ahead and prepare yourself and your property for severe weather.

Home Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

What We Learned in 2016

May
21

Home maintenance reminders

Owning your own home is an investment as well as a big responsibility. By identifying and addressing a few routine and simple maintenance issues, you can ensure you and your family's safety, as well as save time and money on costly repairs.

AC Service and Filter

Make sure to change your AC filter regularly. Better still, spend a few extra bucks and spring for quality filters that are designed to filter allergens. If you are using a smart thermostat such as Nest, the system will give you reminders when you're due to change your filter. It's also important to make sure that you keep the grate around the filter clean and as free of dust and dirt as possible.

Dryer Duct 

By keeping your dryer duct clean, you not only reduce the risk of a lint fire, you can also reduce the risk of mold buildup. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that every year more than 2,900 home fires are started by clothes dryers, and the leading cause of these fires is a buildup of lint due to lack of simple maintenance on the part of the owner. 

Lint Trap

This seems like a no-brainer, right? And yet, people overlook this easy step, or either put it off for far too long, leaving dryers with lint traps that are full to the brim. An overfilled lint trap, like a clogged and dirty dryer duct, can be dangerous, not to mention a waste of energy. A lint trap that is too full prevents your dryer from working to its full capacity, which means your dryer is using more energy and costing you more money.

Wood-burning Fireplace

If your home has a wood-burning fireplace, it's a good idea to have both the fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional. A professional will have the necessary tools for inspecting your flue and making sure that no debris or animals are in your chimney.

Pressure Washing

Regularly scheduled pressure washings will prevent grime and mildew from breaking down your home's exterior, causing you to worry less about having to replace rotted wood, chipped paint and premature aging of your home. It will also raise your home's curb appeal and can help addd value to your home.

These items are by no means a comprehensive list. But, by including these things in your maintenance routine, you can avoid possibly costly repair bills in the future and ensure a positive impact on your health, safety and wallet.

Thinking About Selling Your Home?

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty if you are looking to get your home on the market this spring. 

May
17

Tax reform and the housing market.

tax reform and the housing market

Starting late last year, some predicted that the 2018 tax changes would cripple the housing market. Headlines warned of the potential for double-digit price depreciation and suggested that buyer demand could drop like a rock. There was even sentiment that homeownership could lose its coveted status as a major component of the American Dream.

Now that the first quarter numbers are in, we can begin to decipher the actual impact that tax reform has had on the real estate market.

1. Has tax reform killed off home buyer demand? 

The answer is "NO."

According to the Showing Time Index which "tracks the average number of buyer showings on active residential properties on a monthly basis" and is a "highly reliable leading indicator of current and future demand trends," buyer demand has increased each month over the last three months and is HIGHER than it was for the same months last year. Buyer demand is not down. It is up.

2. Have the tax changes affected America's belief in real estate as a long-term investment? 

The answer is "NO."

Two weeks ago, Gallup released its annual survey which asks Americans which asset they believed to be the best long-term investment. The survey revealed:

"More Americans name real estate over several other vehicles for growing wealth as the best long-term investment for the fifth year in a row. Just over a third cite real estate for this, while roughly a quarter name stocks or mutual funds." 

The survey also showed that the percentage of Americans who believe real estate is the best long-term investment was unchanged from a year ago.

3. Has the homeownership rate been negatively impacted by the tax changes?

The answer is "NO."

Not only did the homeownership rate not crash, it increased when compared to the first quarter of last year according to data released by the Census Bureau.

In her latest "Z Report,Ivy Zelman explains that tax reform didn't hurt the homeownership rate, but instead, enhanced it:

"We have been of the opinion that homeownership is most highly correlated with income and the net effect of tax reform would be a positive, rather than negative catalyst for the homeownership rate. While still in the early innings of tax changes, this has proven to be the case."

4. Has the upper-end market been crushed by new State and Local Taxes (SALT) limitations? 

The answer is "NO."

In the National Association of Realtors latest Existing Home Sales Report it was revealed that:

  • Sales between $500,000 and $750,000 were up 4.5% year-over-year
  • Sales between $750,000 and $1M were up 15.1% year-over-year
  • Sales over $1M were up 17.3% year-over-year

5. Will the reforms in the tax code cause home prices to tumble over the next twelve months? 

The answer is "NO."

According to CoreLogic's latest Home Price Insights Report, home prices will appreciate in each of the 50 states over the next twelve months. Appreciation is projected to be anywhere from 1.9% to 10.3% with the national average being 4.7%.

Bottom Line

The doomsday scenarios that some predicted based on tax reform fears seem to have already blown over based on the early housing industry numbers being reported.

Contact Us Today!

May
11

housing market

With home prices rising again this year, some are concerned that we may be repeating the 2006 housing bubble that caused families so much pain when it collapsed. Today's market is quite different than the bubble market of twelve years ago. There are four key metrics that explain why:

  1. Home Prices
  2. Mortgage Standards
  3. Mortgage Debt
  4. Housing Affordability

1. HOME PRICES

There is no doubt that home prices have reached 2006 levels in many markets across the country. However, after more than a decade, home prices should be much higher based on inflation alone.

Frank Nothaft is the Chief Economist for CoreLogic (which compiles some of the best data on past, current, and future home prices). Nothaft recently explained:

"Even though CoreLogic's national home price index got to the same level it was at the prior peak in April of 2006, once you account for inflation over the ensuing 11.5 years, values are still about 18% below where they were." (emphasis added)

2. MORTGAGE STANDARDS

Some are concerned that banks are once again easing lending standards to a level similar to the one that helped create the last housing bubble. However, there is proof that today's standards are nowhere near as lenient as they were leading up to the crash.

The Urban Institute's Housing Finance Policy Center issues a Housing Credit Availability Index (HCAI).According to the Urban Institute:

"The HCAI measures the percentage of home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates that lenders are willing to tolerate defaults and are taking more risks, making it easier to get a loan."

The graph below reveals that standards today are much tighter on a borrower's credit situation and have all but eliminated the riskiest loan products.

4 Reasons Why Today's Housing Market is NOT 2006 All Over Again

4 Reasons Why Today's Housing Market is NOT 2006 All Over Again | MyKCM

With home prices rising again this year, some are concerned that we may be repeating the 2006 housing bubble that caused families so much pain when it collapsed. Today's market is quite different than the bubble market of twelve years ago. There are four key metrics that explain why:

  1. Home Prices
  2. Mortgage Standards
  3. Mortgage Debt
  4. Housing Affordability

1. HOME PRICES

There is no doubt that home prices have reached 2006 levels in many markets across the country. However, after more than a decade, home prices should be much higher based on inflation alone.

Frank Nothaft is the Chief Economist for CoreLogic (which compiles some of the best data on past, current, and future home prices). Nothaft recently explained:

"Even though CoreLogic's national home price index got to the same level it was at the prior peak in April of 2006, once you account for inflation over the ensuing 11.5 years, values are still about 18% below where they were." (emphasis added)

2. MORTGAGE STANDARDS

Some are concerned that banks are once again easing lending standards to a level similar to the one that helped create the last housing bubble. However, there is proof that today's standards are nowhere near as lenient as they were leading up to the crash.

The Urban Institute's Housing Finance Policy Center issues a Housing Credit Availability Index (HCAI).According to the Urban Institute:

"The HCAI measures the percentage of home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates that lenders are willing to tolerate defaults and are taking more risks, making it easier to get a loan."

The graph below reveals that standards today are much tighter on a borrower's credit situation and have all but eliminated the riskiest loan products.

Today's Housing Market

3. MORTGAGE DEBT

Back in 2006, many homeowners mistakenly used their homes as ATMs by withdrawing their equity and spending it with no concern for the ramifications. They overloaded themselves with mortgage debt that they couldn't (or wouldn't) repay when prices crashed. That is not occurring today.

The best indicator of mortgage debt is the Federal Reserve Board's household Debt Service Ratio for mortgages, which calculates mortgage debt as a percentage of disposable personal income.

At the height of the bubble market a decade ago, the ratio stood at 7.21%. That meant over 7% of disposable personal income was being spent on mortgage payments. Today, the ratio stands at 4.48% – the lowest level in 38 years!

4. HOUSING AFFORDABILITY

With both house prices and mortgage rates on the rise, there is concern that many buyers may no longer be able to afford a home. However, when we look at the Housing Affordability Index released by the National Association of Realtors, homes are more affordable now than at any other time since 1985 (except for when prices crashed after the bubble popped in 2008).

May
11

Savannah has quite a lot to offer to both residents and our guests from out-of-town and Savannahians love to share their knowledge of what to do, see, eat, and of course, drink. Here's a list of some of our favorites. Consider this a starter course and be sure to find your own favorites!

Where to Stay

In Savannah, the possibilities are endless: there are dozens of B&Bs, such as The Gastonian, The Ballastone, The Kehoe House, and The Eliza Thompson House, as well as hotels such as The Brice, The Cotton Sail, and Andaz, not to mention any number of rentals available on Cora Bett Thomas Vacation Rentals. The most important thing to consider is location — we recommend staying in the Historic District — most everything on this favorites list will be in walking/biking/pedicab distance and you get to immerse yourself in history. 

Where Should I Get Breakfast?

The Mate' Factor, on Habersham Street, is quite amazing. When we last talked about this place, it was still fairly new. Now, it is a beloved neighborhood staple. It is still a cozy little den that can calm even the most agitated spirit, but now we've been able to enjoy the menu offerings even more. The egg and cheese sandwich is a thing of beautiful simplicity: 2 eggs, a healthy drape of cheese, and on a fresh made roll. Come the hotter months, an iced green drink is the beverage of choice, but in the cooler temps, an Old St. Joe will satisfy your coffee cravings.

Fork and Dagger is a no-frills place that is serving up some of the best breakfasts you've ever seen (hint — lox and cream cheese bagels featuring authentic NY bagels). A personal favorite of Cora Bett herself is Collins Quarter. A beautifully appointed and delicious Southern take on an Aussie style coffee bar and restaurant. Looking for a quick sugar high or a delicious biscuit? Check out Rise Biscuits and Donuts on Broughton Street.

The Coffee Fox

Great Cup of Coffee?

In Savannah, there is no shortage of good coffee right now. We're lucky enough to have a lot of folks with a passion for coffee, and we get to reap the benefits. For us, The Coffee Fox is near the office, so that's where we often go. They serve locally roasted Perc coffee, and they have a delicious horchata latte that is great to treat yourself. We're also pretty much now 100% devoted to the Coffee Fox and their Espresso Tonic.

On the weekends when taking long morning walks hit up either The Sentient Bean or Gallery Espresso — both have great coffee and have been serving up caffeine fixes and small bites for a while. We've also had coffee at Savannah Coffee Roasters and at The Foundry, and enjoy and recommend both of these places. Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of these businesses, but be aware: some of them have pretty simple coffee menus, so if you're looking for a Hazlenut Latte or a Toasted Almond Frappucino, these places might not be your cup of ... yeah. 

Brewery?

Two Tides Brewery is the new kid on the block, and we've heard nothing but great things about them, their beers, and their brewery. We've yet to visit, but since we are often entertaining beer-loving friends and family, all signs point to us visiting Two Tides. Stay tuned. As for Service Brewing and Southbound Brewing, well, they are still killing it. And of course, Savannah's old standard, Moon River. All of these places keep churning out more and more beers, and engaging the community with events. We can't say enough good things about our local breweries.

Art Scene?

In Savannah you can hardly take a step without bumping into great art, but if you're looking for a specific venue, the Telfair Museums is a well-known group of museums that includes the Jepson Center for the Arts and the Telfair Academy, and the SCAD museum is also a great place to visit. We recommend stopping in at Blick Art Materials on Broughton Street, and check out the works by Panhandle Slim. There's also the Art Rise First Friday Art March in Starland, which is on the first Friday of every month. It's a great way to check out local vendors and artists in one night. Also, check out the recent addition of Roots Up Gallery, located in the Downtown Design District, which showcases a number of local artists.  

Farmers' Market or Food Market?

The Forsyth Farmers' Market is great — it's one of the first farmer's markets to implement the use of EBT (or tokens) as a form of payment. Not only does the market serve great locally-grown food and flowers every Saturday from 9am-1pm, but the Market is also working to bring fresh produce to urban areas that are unable to access such goods regularly. Do yourself a favor and buy fresh, local food and at the same time support community outreach and education. Win win. The FFM is still rocking and rolling, with more and more vendors every month. Not only is the FFM a great way to support local farmers AND mingle with your neighbors, but they are also engaging in initiatives to bring healthy eating to lower-income families via urban gardening and fresh-food truck deliveries.

Barbecue?

We recommend Sandfly Bar-b-q at the Streamliner Diner. The building alone is worth a visit, but the food is worth sittin' a spell. While the regular menu is good in and of itself, hope that you show up on a night when the "Daily Special" is the "Pulled Pork Quesadilla with Ghost Pepper Cheddar." Enjoy with any of the craft beers listed (but ask for the draft specials first), and finish it up with whatever homemade dessert is perched serenely under the plastic dome of the cake stand at the bar. You also cannot go wrong with Wall's B-BQ, tucked a away in a lane in the Historic District. The crew over at Wall's serves up  delicious Southern smoked meats, but leave room for the variety of amazing scratch-made sides.

Savannah Locals Guide

Hottest new dinner spot?

There are a number of new places opening their doors and receiving a lot of attention, such as Savannah's iteration of the Charleston favorite, Husk. But if you want to find the locals, Atlantic is the place. This place is so good. Perched on the corner of Drayton and Victory (which makes it a challenging drop off for Uber drivers, so be prepared to give them some coaching), this neighborhood eatery/imbibery is a local favorite. The lot formerly housed a gas station, so the dining room is small, but there is outdoor seating available. Atlantic does not take reservations, but again, the patio makes it worth the wait. Small plates ideal for sharing and reasonably priced, as well as a well-curated wine list, is what makes this place truly Savannahian, as it is ideal for any and every occasion. We also highly recommend El Coyote, which is just down the street from Atlantic. This Mexican-based restaurant is long on style and substance. You can taste the difference in the food and cocktails, but your wallet won't feel the sting.

Best cocktail bar?

Alleycat Lounge. No question about it. This place is always packed by locals and tourists who have been let in on the secret. This lounge has a menu that can take an entire night to read, but if you leave unsatisfied in your drink order, then it is your fault. These guys know their business, and their business is cocktail-making. Strike up a conversation with anyone on the Alleycat crew and they will help you choose the perfect cocktail if need be. 

Live music?

The live music scene in Savannah just continues to blossom. This year, the Savannah Music Festival held its first outdoor, all-day, multiple-band finale, and it was amazing. If you miss that, you can still catch classic acts such as the funky Voodoo Soup and our homegrown outlaw country band, Damon and the Shitkickers. You can hear Damon and the guys just about every Saturday happy hour at the Jinx. El Rocko Lounge and the Worm Hole feature a constantly rotating lineup of new musical acts. 

Where to Stay Out Late?

It's pretty easy to get a little inebriated in Savannah — that's the price you pay for allowing people to leave bars with to-go cups. But as far as specific places go, The Rail Pub, recently named the country's best dive bar, is a wonderful place to stop in for happy hour or a no frills beer and a shot experience. Or if you're really thirsty, you can grab a 40-ounce Miller Light for $5 (just remember that you should tip at least a buck or 2, so handing over a $5 bill isn't advisable). McDonough's is where people often end up at the end of the night, whether they intend to or not. This dive is actually pretty large and well-lit, but trust me — it's a dive, and all kinds of trouble can be found here. Including karaoke seven nights week as well as one of the few late night kitchens. 

Late-night eats spot?

Our new favorite is The Diplomat Luncheonette. Don't let the name fool you — they are open for lunch (and they deliver!), but this place also reopens at night (usually around 10pm or so). The sandwich shop is located beside local favorite, The Original Pinkie Masters, and serves up delicious gigantic sandwiches on fresh homemade bread, accompanied by some of the most magnificent sides (I'm looking at YOU, charred broccoli with feta). 

Beach day?

Tybee Island, of course. South Beach is great to avoid crowds, but there will usually be just enough folks around to take up the few parking spots at that end. North Beach has more parking, plus you can walk up to the bar at North Beach Grill and get a drink. The most important thing is to not set up right by the pier and pavilion if you are looking for a little more of "chill" day at the beach. Instead, set up at either end of the island and then walk around. Fannie's on the Beach has a deck that overlooks the beach and pier, so if you have an aversion to sand, grab a drink and a chair and watch the waves from there. After the beach, stop at Huc-A-Poo's before leaving the island for a slice of pizza. The "Poo" is a great local hangout and they have been doing it right for years. 

Most underrated spots in the city?

The Frali Gourmet, which is located on Liberty Street across from the Savannah Civic Center. The family run operation has been selling fresh pasta and sauces for years, but they also have a full dining menu, and it is amazing. The family has a connection to one of Savannah's most famous but closed Italian restaurants of the past as well. The menu features a variety of fresh pastas, your choice of homemade sauces, and you can add proteins to your liking. Call ahead for larger parties and the crew will gladly make arrangements. 

In Vino Veritas is a wine bar that we have mentioned before, and most people visit for the wines on tap. But locals stick around for the shareable drink specials, such as ½ off bottles and BOGO bottles late night. The wine bar currently offers small cheese and charcuterie plates, but rumor has it that a partnership with another local favorite is in the works for some killer brunch and daytime food. Stay tuned.

Daytrip?

Bluffton, South Carolina. It's only a 30 minute drive, and it's a scenic one — lots of palmettos and oak trees and of course the drive over the Talmadge Bridge. Bluffton has its share of shops and eateries, and it's an easy jaunt. Plus, you get to travel to another state and back in less than a day. One of our favorite restaurants in the area for breakfast and true Southern fare is Cahill's, which is right outside of Old Town Bluffton. This restaurant-slash-market has been around forever and serves up some of the most delicious breakfast food. It is hands down the BEST chicken and waffles we've ever had, especially the spicy chicken version. The larger than average fresh squeezed orange juice mimosas don't hurt, either.

May
4

May is the Best Month to Sell Your Home

According to a newly released study by ATTOM Data Solutions, selling your home in the month of May will net you an average of 5.9% above estimated market value for your home. This makes May the best month to sell your home.

For the study, ATTOM performed an "analysis of 14.7 million home sales from 2011 to 2017" and found the average seller premium achieved for each month of the year. Below is a breakdown by month:

May is the Best Month to Sell Your Home

ATTOM even went a step further and broke their results down by day.

Top 5 Days to Sell:

  • June 28th – 9.1% above market
  • February 15th – 9.0% above market
  • May 31st – 8.3% above market
  • May 29th – 8.2% above market
  • June 21st – 8.1% above market

It should come as no surprise that May and June dominate as the top months to sell and that 4 of the top 5 days to sell fall in those two months. The second quarter of the year (April, May, June) is referred to as the Spring Buyers Season, when competition is fierce to find a dream home, which often leads to bidding wars.

One caveat to mention though, is that when broken down by metroATTOM noticed that while warmer climates share in the overall trend, it turns out that they have different top months for sales. The best month to get the highest price in Miami, FL, for instance, was January, and Phoenix, AZ came in with November leading the charge.

If you're thinking of selling your home this year, the time to list is NOW! According to the National Association of Realtors, homes sold in an average of just 30 days last month! If you list now, you'll have a really good chance to sell in May or June, setting yourself up for getting the best price!

Bottom Line

Contact Us Today! Let's get together to discuss the market conditions in our area and get you the most exposure to the buyers who are ready and willing to buy! 

From KCM

April
23

Savannah's New Tex-Mex Spot

Many people may recognize the location of El Coyote as the former home of The Florence, which was a place that Savannah either loved or barely regarded. These 2 restaurants have shared a building, and that is where the similarities end.

El coyote savanna

El Coyote is brought to you by the team that has been providing delicious food with a view at the Wyld Dock Bar the past several years. El Coyote's interior is nicer than that of your typical Savannah Mexican restaurant, but not so nice that you feel underdressed in shorts and a T-shirt. Think large, open dining room with the over-popular exposed-filament-edison bulbs, dark and distressed wood and stone. This along with Tex-Mex curated knickknacks and a retro, 70s-style multicolored graphic  visually tie it all together. Nothing terribly original, but it works well, giving the space a livelier feel than the previous inhabitant. And to be honest, I prefer a restaurant with less emphasis on style and more on the delicious food rather than vice versa.

An extensive list of tequilas and mezcals dominate half of the drink menu. The Mezcal Old Fashioned is not be missed. Those looking for something milder can indulge in a glass of Spanish wine or choose from a nice selection of Mexican beers. Margaritas and craft cocktails are of course, also available. I will say that the $8 I paid for the best paloma I've recently had the pleasure of drinking, was well worth it. 

El coyote savanna

Many of the appetizers are in the $3-$10 range and feature classics such as corn elote (aka street corn) and queso fundido. Another must-have appetizer are the Sappelo Bay Clams. For $15, you are served a heaping mound of clams in a michelada broth flavored with chorizo and sofrito. Also not to be missed is the Philli Relleno, El Coyote's cheeky take on a chile relleno and consists of a local blistered poblano pepper stuffed with cheesesteak and topped with mushroom mole.

The street tacos are $4 each and are served a la carte, mostly because there is no need for these tacos to be accompanied by a heap of gluey beans or dry rice. For those with larger appetites, traditional and seasonal sides such rice and black beans — or charred spring onions — are available and they are neither gluey nor dry. A tasty and unexpected side dish is Pam's Hot Pickled Mexican Carrots — for $2, you get a spicy condiment that tastes great with anything else on the menu.

The fajitas, a classic Tex-Mex dish, was hands down better than anywhere in the city. The steak version was an actual grilled steak, cooked medium rare and then cut and served on a hot cast iron plate. Accompanied by roasted poblanos, onions, portabella mushrooms, blistered tomatoes and house made tortillas, this was a welcome return to steak fajitas' roots.

We see El Coyote becoming a local favorite and a new staple for many in Midtown and Downtown Savannah. The cost of grabbing a delicious taco and a cold beer at El Coyote may not be the cheapest taco and beer you've ever seen, but it is without a doubt among the tastiest in Savannah.

El Coyote

1 W Victory Drive

Savannah, GA 31405

www.elcoyotesav.com

April
22

In the majority in the US, buying a home is more affordable than renting.

buying a home

The results of the 2018 Rental Affordability Report from ATTOM show that buying a median-priced home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 54% of U.S. counties analyzed for the report.

The updated numbers show that renting a three-bedroom property in the United States requires an average of 38.8% of income.

The least affordable market for renting was Marin County, CA, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, where renters spend a staggering 79.5% of average wages on rent, while the most affordable market was Madison County, AL where 22.3% of average wages went to rent.

Other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Average rent rose faster than income in 60% of counties
  • Average rent rose faster than median home prices in 41% of counties
  • While median home prices rose faster than average rents in 58% of counties

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, let's get together to find your dream home.

April
20

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the 'My Home' section of their website:

"It's highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets."

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding "your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history."

Freddie Mac describes the '4 Cs' that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so. 

Contact Us Today!

April
13

Rosemary Cocktail

While some herbs and spices might be considered trendy, there is no denying that rosemary is one herb that stands the test of time. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region, but the temperate climes of the 100 Mile Coast have also provided a place to flourish to this hardy member of the mint family.

If you venture out into the Historic District of Downtown Savannah, you'll spot rosemary tucked into window boxes and dominating flower boxes along weathered sidewalks. The rosemary plant is an attractive evergreen and can be easily shaped. Besides having pretty blossoms, the rosemary plant also has a pleasant smell.

Perhaps one of the best things about rosemary is its versatility. The ease of growing the plant is appealing to horticulturists new and old alike. But a green thumb is not necessary to appreciate all of the uses of this herb. Rosemary is used in a variety of cosmetic and culinary applications.

Rosemary essential oil is believed to aid any number of maladies. Common uses of rosemary essential oil include thickening hair, improving memory function, and aiding with digestion. The fragrance of rosemary is used in household products such as shampoos, soaps, and candles.

Rosemary is also widely used as a flavor-enhancing herb in both food and beverages. With warmer weather very nearly upon us here in the Lowcountry, we are always looking to expand our recipes with local ingredients that are easily found here in Savannah. So of course, this being Savannah, when we started thinking  about using Rosemary in the kitchen, we immediately thought about a rosemary cocktail.

We contacted our good friend — and cocktail and spirits expert — Jason Owenby, over at Alley Cat Lounge. He happily recommended a gin and rosemary cocktail using a Rosemary simple syrup you can make easily at home. 

The syrup requires minimum effort to make, but the payoff is worth it, since this syrup will elevate any cocktail without the hassle of muddling or straining your cocktails. Best of all, the rosemary syrup lends an aromatic, woodsy flavor that is evocative of the South. So, cheers!

Rosemary Gin Fizz

It's super simple.

2 oz London dry gin like beefeater

.75 oz rosemary syrup (recipe follows)

.75 to 1oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

Cold soda water

Add the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Short shake everything and strain over fresh ice in a double rocks glass, and add soda.

Garnish with fresh blueberries and a rosemary sprig

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Bring 1 cup of water, 10-12 long stalks of rosemary and one 1 cup of white sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Make sure that the stalks stay totally submerged. Cover and let sit for up to 12 hours, but at least for 2 hours. Strain the mixture before using. Refrigerate any extra syrup for up to two weeks. But we cannot imagine it will last long!

April
3

Choose From Savannah's Best Real Estate Team!

Savannah's Best Real Estate Team

How do you select the members of your team who are going to help make your dream of owning a home a reality? What should you be looking for? How do you know if you've found the right agent or lender?

The most important characteristic that you should be looking for in your agent is someone who is going to take the time to really educate you on the choices available to you and your ability to buy in today's market.

As the financial guru Dave Ramsey advises:

"When getting help with money, whether it's insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman."

Do your research. Ask your friends and family for recommendations of professionals they've worked with in the past and have had good experiences with.

Look for members of your team who will be honest and trustworthy; after all, you will be trusting them to help you make one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.

Whether this is your first or fifth time buying a home, you want to make sure that you have an agent who is going to have the tough conversations with you, not just the easy ones. If your offer isn't accepted by the seller, or they think that there may be something wrong with the home that you've fallen in love with, you would rather know what they think than make a costly mistake.

According to the Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report:

"Buyers from all generations primarily wanted their agent's help to find the right home to purchase. Buyers were also looking for help to negotiate the terms of sale and to help with price negotiations." Additionally, "Help understanding the purchase process was most beneficial to buyers 37 years and younger at 75 percent."

Look for someone to invest in your family's future with you. You want an agent who isn't focused on the transaction but is instead focused on helping you understand the process while helping you find your dream home.

Bottom Line

In this world of Google searches, where it seems like all the answers are just a mouse-click away, you need an agent who is going to educate you and share the information that you need to know before you even know you need it. 

Contact Savannah's Best Real Estate Team Today!

March
19

Now's the Time!

Luxury Home

If your house no longer fits your needs and you are planning on buying a luxury home, now is a great time to do so! Recently, the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing released its Luxury Market Report which showed that in today's premium home market, buyers are in control.

The inventory of homes for sale in the luxury market far exceeds the number of people searching to purchase these properties in many areas of the country. This means that homes are often staying on the market longer or can be found at a discount.

Those who have a starter or trade-up home to sell will find buyers competing, and often entering bidding wars, to be able to call their house their new home.

The sale of your starter or trade-up house will help you come up with a larger down payment for your new luxury home. Even a 5% down payment on a million-dollar home is $50,000.

But not all who are buying luxury properties have a home to sell first.

A recent Bloomberg article gave some insight into what many millennials are choosing to do:

"A new generation of affluent homebuyers powered by a surge in inherited wealth is driving the luxury-home market, demanding larger spaces and fancier finishes, according to a report heralding 'the rise of the new aristocracy.'"

Bottom Line

The best time to sell anything is when demand is high, and supply is low. If you are currently in a starter or trade-up house that no longer fits your needs and you are looking to step into a luxury home, now's the time to list your house for sale and make your dreams come true.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today!

March
15

Choosing Your Home for Retirement

As more and more baby boomers enter retirement age, the question of whether or not to sell their homes and move will become a hot topic. In today's housing market climate, with low available inventory in the starter and trade-up home categories, it makes sense to evaluate your home's ability to adapt to your needs in retirement.

According to the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA), there are 7 factors that you should consider when choosing your retirement home.

1. Affordability

"It may be easy enough to purchase your home today but think long-term about your monthly costs. Account for property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, utilities – all the things that will be due whether or not you have a mortgage on the property."

Would moving to a complex with homeowner association fees actually be cheaper than having to hire all the contractors you would need to maintain your home, lawn, etc.? Would your taxes go down significantly if you relocated? What is your monthly income going to be like in retirement?

2. Equity

"If you have equity in your current home, you may be able to apply it to the purchase of your next home. Maintaining a healthy amount of home equity gives you a source of emergency funds to tap, via a home equity loan or reverse mortgage."

The equity you have in your current home may be enough to purchase your retirement home with little to no mortgage. Homeowners in the US gained an average of over $14,000 in equity last year.

3. Maintenance

"As we age, our tolerance for cleaning gutters, raking leaves and shoveling snow can go right out the window. A condominium with low-maintenance needs can be a literal lifesaver, if your health or physical abilities decline."

As we mentioned earlier, would a condo with an HOA fee be worth the added peace of mind of not having to do the maintenance work yourself?

4. Security

"Elderly homeowners can be targets for scams or break-ins. Living in a home with security features, such as a manned gate house, resident-only access and a security system can bring peace of mind."

As scary as that thought may be, any additional security and an extra set of eyes looking out for you always adds to peace of mind.

5. Pets

"Renting won't do if the dog can't come too! The companionship of pets can provide emotional and physical benefits."

Evaluate all of your options when it comes to bringing your 'furever' friend with you to a new home. Will there be necessary additional deposits if you are renting or in a condo? Is the backyard fenced in? How far are you from your favorite veterinarian?

6. Mobility

"No one wants to picture themselves in a wheelchair or a walker, but the home layout must be able to accommodate limited mobility."

Sixty is the new 40, right? People are living longer and are more active in retirement, but that doesn't mean that down the road you won't need your home to be more accessible. Installing handrails and making sure your hallways and doorways are wide enough may be a good reason to look for a home that was built to accommodate these needs.

7. Convenience

"Is the new home close to the golf course, or to shopping and dining? Do you have amenities within easy walking distance? This can add to home value!"

How close are you to your children and grandchildren? Would relocating to a new area make visits with family easier or more frequent? Beyond being close to your favorite stores and restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Bottom Line

When it comes to your forever home, evaluating your current house for its ability to adapt with you as you age can be the first step to guaranteeing your comfort in retirement. If after considering all these factors you find yourself curious about your options, let's get together to evaluate your ability to sell your house in today's market and get you into your dream retirement home!

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today!

March
5

housing

Just like our clocks this weekend in the majority of the country, the housing market will soon "spring forward!" Similar to tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale in the market right now is what is holding back the market.

Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest, and traditionally they would have been right.

Buyer demand has seasonality to it, which usually falls off in the winter months, especially in areas of the country impacted by arctic temperatures and conditions.

That hasn't happened this year.

Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows. Even with the recent increase in rates, buyers are still able to lock in an affordable monthly payment. Many more buyers are jumping off the fence and into the market to secure a lower rate.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that the top 10 dates sellers listed their homes in 2017 all fell in April, May, or June.

Those who act quickly and list now could benefit greatly from additional exposure to buyers prior to a flood of more competition coming to market in the next few months.

Bottom Line

If you are planning on selling your home in 2018, let's get together to evaluate the opportunities in our market.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today!

February
27

We chatted with Larissa Thut Davidson, Marketing and Graphic Design Manager of the Savannah Music Festival (or "SMF" as it's referred to by the locals), to get the lowdown on this year's artist lineup. Not only is Larissa a resident of Downtown Historic Savannah, she is a lover of all things music. Here's what she has to say about some of the artists for this year:

All appearances of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra with Daniel Hope and Sebastian Knauer Being from Zurich, the visit by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra is special to me for that reason alone, but the music that the orchestra has created and recorded with two SMF regulars (Daniel Hope, SMF's Associate Artistic Director, and Sebastian Knauer) has made for two of my favorite records of 2016 and 2017. I'm excited that they will be performing pieces from these ECHO-award winning records: Überbach by Knauer and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and For Seasons, Daniel Hope's album that he recorded with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. These concerts will be held at the new Yamacraw Center for the Performing Arts, a new venue for SMF in 2018. 

Margaret Glaspy

I am excited to see Margaret Glaspy's performance. I adore her songwriting and her guitar playing. She's got a very unique voice and is obviously a very talented guitarist. She'll be joined by the great Julian Lage on stage (who happens to be her boyfriend).

António Zambujo

This will be a memorable performance of beautiful authentic Fado on a Saturdaynight at the intimate Charles H. Morris Center! The Portuguese guitarist and award-winning singer will be joined by a 6-piece group of musicians. The music and videos I have seen and heard in working on the design and layout of the 2018 season program have made me really look forward to this one! 

Gullah Roots: Etienne Charles / Rnky Tanky

Any performance by Etienne Charles, a trumpeter, percussionist, composer and educator from Trinidad, at SMF in the past has been memorable. This year SMF commissioned Charles to create work that explores the Afro-Caribbean connections to Gullah music and the Gullah connections to American Music. The performance at SMF will be a double-bill with Ranky Tanky, a fun band out of Charleston, South Carolina, that performs the music of Gullah culture in a very approachable way. 

Lee Fields & The Expressions / James Hunter Six

I don't think this needs a lot of explaining. A double bill of R&B and soul featuring Lee Fields & The Expressions (last heard in Savannah at Ships of the Sea's North Garden Assembly Room during Stopover 2017) and James Hunter Six will make for a very fun Saturday night at one of our favorite venues! 

PIAF! The Show

I confess: I like musicals. PIAF! The Show is the closest thing to a musical we'll have ever had at SMF. Inspired by the award-winning movie "La Vie En Rose" this show narrates the rags-to-riches story of Edith Piaf complemented by projections of previously unreleased photographs and images of famous locations of Piaf-era Paris. 

North Mississippi Allstars

Luther and Cody Dickinson have been to SMF before and have always put on a great live show. Their newest album is one of my favorites of 2017, and I am excited to see these two perform the songs that I have only heard coming from my speakers so far. 

Septeto Santiaguero

SMF's "Latin Dance Parties" are always fun and vibrant, and this year will be no difference when this Cuban septet of musicians takes the stage. This will be a great way to close out our traditional festival on Friday, April 13th before embarking on the full day at Trustees' Garden for the festival finale. Septeto Santiaguero will be playing a set or two as part of the all-day event on Saturday, April 14th. So even if people miss them the night before, there's another chance to catch them here. ...and speaking of the Festival Finale at Trustees' Garden (Saturday, April 14th): I am super excited to see Jason Isbell return with his band The 400 Unit, but I am most excited about Brent Cobb. His 2016 record Shine on a Rainy Day has stolen my heart in a way only a country music album can.

Find out more online at www.savannahmusicfestival.org 

February
13

Every spring, the Savannah Music Festival arrives. Held in various venues throughout Downtown Savannah, the 2018 Savannah Music Festival will be from March 29th to April 14th, and will feature a variety of performers who will playing at all hours of the day.

Established in 1989, the Savannah Music Festival is a non-profit organization that is responsible for educational initiatives and musical arts programs throughout Savannah and six surrounding counties, and also includes educational activities such as theater field trips, in-school lessons, and public library performances. The venues that serve as hosts for these performances are scattered throughout Historic Downtown Savannah, and include the Johnny Mercer Theater (at the Savannah Civic Center), the Lucas Theatre, the Ships of the Sea Museum, the Rousakis Plaza (located on River Street) and Trinity United Methodist Church.

New for the 2018 Savannah Music Festival

This year there are two new venues. According to Rob Gibson, Executive and Artistic Director of the Savannah Music Festival, "This season is our most ambitious to date due to the addition of 2 new festival venues that are completely distinct from one another: Yamacraw Center for the Performing Arts and Trustees' Garden."

The former is located on the campus of the Garrison School for the Arts and is the first ever concert hall built in Downtown Savannah. The latter is an outdoor location that will be the site for the final day of the festival. For the first time, the Savannah Music Festival finale will be an all-day festival featuring continuous live music on three stages and a vendor marketplace with local and regional food and refreshments

The artists performing at the Savannah Musical Festival are as varied as you can imagine, and musical genres of every sort are explored within the 17 days of the festival. The appeal of the music festival is that there is truly something for everyone, and everyone who attends is clearly a lover of music, so you find yourself surrounded in an atmosphere of appreciation and joy for the performance at hand. 

Find out more online at www.savannahmusicfestival.org

January
29

What Impact Will the New Tax Code Have on Home Values?

Every month, CoreLogic releases its Home Price Insights Report. In that report, they forecast where they believe residential real estate prices will be in twelve months.

Below is a map, broken down by state, reflecting how home values are forecasted to change by the end of 2018 using data from the most recent report.

 

As we can see, CoreLogic projects an increase in home values in 49 of 50 states, and Washington, DC (there was insufficient data for HI). Nationwide, they see home prices increasing by 4.2%.

How might the new tax code impact these numbers?

Recently, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) conducted their own analysis to determine the impact the new tax code may have on home values. NAR's analysis:

"…estimated how home prices will change in the upcoming year for each state, considering the impact of the new tax law and the momentum of jobs and housing inventory."

Here is a map based on NAR's analysis:

Bottom Line

According to NAR, the new tax code will have an impact on home values across the country. However, the effect will be much less significant than what some originally thought.

January
23

Home Buyers

Many people wonder whether they should hire a real estate professional to assist them in buying their dream homes or if they should first try to go through the buying process on their own. In today's market: you need an experienced professional!

You Need an Expert Guide If You Are Traveling a Dangerous Path

The field of real estate is loaded with landmines; you need a true expert to guide you through the dangerous pitfalls that currently exist. Finding a home that is priced appropriately and is ready for you to move into can be tricky. An agent listens to your wants and needs, and can sift through the homes that do not fit within the parameters of your "dream home."

A great agent will also have relationships with mortgage professionals and other experts that you will need in order to secure your dream home. 

You Need a Skilled Negotiator

In today's market, hiring a talented negotiator could save you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of dollars. Each step of the way – from the original offer to the possible renegotiation of that offer after a home inspection, to the possible cancellation of the deal based on a troubled appraisal – you need someone who can keep the deal together until it closes.

Realize that when an agent is negotiating his or her commission with you, they are negotiating their own salary; the salary that keeps a roof over their family's head; the salary that puts food on their family's table. If they are quick to take less when negotiating for themselves and their families, what makes you think they will not act the same way when negotiating for you and your family?

If they were Clark Kent when negotiating with you, they will not turn into Superman when negotiating with the buyer or seller in your deal. 

Bottom Line

Famous sayings become famous because they are true. You get what you pay for. Just like a good accountant or a good attorney, a good agent will save you money…not cost you money.

Contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty Today!

January
12

What Did You Discover During the Snowpocalypse?

Winterizing Your Home | Cora Bett Southern Realty News

Savannah doesn't always experience winters that are as harsh as other parts of the country. Every winter in Savannah there will be a few days when you discover an extra draft or two around the house. But as this season has already shown us, it's always good to have strong plan to winterize your home. A draft or two during a typical cold snap is pretty tolerable, but a few days and nights well below freezing can make a older Southern home more uncomfortable. Here are a few tips for making sure your home is ready for whatever the rest of this winter throws at you.

4 Easy Post Storm Winterizing Your Home Tips

Winterizing Your Home | Cora Bett Southern Realty News

Run Fans in Reverse

Many homes in Savannah have ceiling fans, which are absolutely necessary in the sultry summer weather. But many people don't realize that running fans clockwise will change the distribution of the air in your house produce a warming effect. Most ceiling fans come with a handy little switch that will reverse the direction of the fan blades from counterclockwise (cooling by driving air down) to clockwise (warming by drawing air up).  Just don't forget to switch them back!

Reduce Drafts

Drafts can waste anywhere from 5%-30% of your home energy use. This is a problem that can be easily remedied with a draft snake. Make one of your own by using a rolled bath towel, or get creative with scraps of cloth and fillings such as sand or kitty litter for added heft.

Mind Your Thermostat

It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you're leaving your house, but doing so is one of the easiest ways to save money. Most houses shell out 50%-70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling. For every degree that you lower your thermostat during the winter, you will save between 1% and 3% on your heating bill. Better still, invest in a programmable thermostat such as a Nest.

Put Up Some Plastic

Like the draft snake, this is an easy and inexpensive and temporary method for winterizing your home. Pick up a window insulation kit at your local discount or hardware store. If properly installed, the plastic will be virtually invisible. A little patience, the kit and a hair dryer and you will have less drafty and more efficient home. Speaking from experience, you will notice a difference in the amount of heat that your home retains from insulating your windows with one of these easy-to-use kits. 

January
8

When to Go Beyond Your Budget

Determining Your Budget

As we've mentioned before, most homebuyers should be conservative when determining your budget. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. These exceptions include:

  • People who have stable employment and have a high probability of remaining stably employed, such as government workers;
  • People who know they will have a big increase in income due to something like a spouse returning to work, or an impending signing bonus/pay raise; and
  • People who are about to get a large amount of cash by selling off their liquid investments.

So, if you already have significant savings and you know your monthly income is going to remain stable and/or increase in the near future, then it is relatively safe for you to push to the high end of your mortgage budget. Of course, this is provided that you a) feel comfortable doing so, and b) you know that you still will have cash on hand every month to make your full mortgage payment. If you decide to push to the high end of your mortgage budget, then you should  make sure to stick to this new limit.

Some lenders will approve you for a mortgage that takes your debt-to-income ratio higher than 43% if they believe that you will be able to make your payments in full and on time. However, other lenders may deny you because they are not confident in your ability to fulfill your loan obligations. If you encounter such a situation, and a lender refuses to approve you for a loan, you may ask if you are "approve eligible." This term means that you are eligible for a loan based on your application, and if you can confirm that you are "approve eligible," then you may be able to find another lender to approve you for a loan. 

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