Review Category : Will McCullough

Uncle John is coming!

By Will McCullough

Yep, you heard me, “Uncle John is coming!”

Maybe for some who have transplanted to the Lowcountry, a visit by “Uncle So-and-So”, “Aunt Who’s-it” or maybe even “Grandma Gettin’-Your-Room-Again” may not be a big deal. Heck, it may even be a hassle. Not so at the SC McCullough household. Truth be told, we don’t get to see a lot of family visitors around our place. It’s not their fault though, my Mom and Dad both died way too early, several decades ago, and both my brothers, John and Mike, now have lives of their own.

Hopping in the car for a 30 hour round trip is just not something that easily fits into their schedule, especially when there are now also grown kiddos randomly scattered up and down the coast. However, a few weeks ago, I received some really exciting news. I understand that, due to my poor title choice, the surprising aspect of this news may now be lost, but (pause for effect) my big brother John recently called and said he was coming to visit. I had not seen John in nearly two years and to know that he and his wife, Leeann, had a rare opportunity to make the trip down to see us made me very happy.

Here’s the deal: John is a college professor at a respected university near where I grew up in Pennsylvania. He’s also got three awesome sons, all in their twenties and late teens. In short, he’s a busy guy and genuinely so. It therefore should go without saying that an upcoming moment like this would be very much worth its weight in gold to the Beaufort Chapter of Clan McCullough.

While I personally grew up in a Norman Rockwell world of extended family get-togethers and cook-outs every weekend, I have always deeply lamented the fact that my kiddos have not been able to enjoy the same type of family connection/life experience that my childhood contained.  So, in a nutshell, “Uncle John is coming” was pretty darn exciting news around our place.

If you’ve been embarrassingly bored enough to read a few of my previous columns, you may already know that before becoming involved in the local real estate market, I was a U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructor. And, you may further know, if there’s one thing that a DI can do (besides make your life a living hell if need be), it’s “plan and schedule.” So, for many years, I’ve fantasized about what would make the “Perfect Family Visit to Beaufort” for members of my extended clan. Think of it as Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation” meets “The Big Chill” with just a dash of Jillian Michaels from “The Biggest Loser.” John’s past visits had been mostly conversation and catching up. But this time, I knew that I wanted John to finally be able to personally experience as many of my favorite aspects of “Beaufort Living” as possible in two short days. Guess what? He did!

On Saturday, we browsed the aisles of LuLu Burgess, Fordham Market, Bay Street Jewelers, had lunch at Plums and then strolled along the Waterfront Park. Sunday morning, we put in our boat at the landing beside Lady’s Island Marina, guided our sunscreen-soaked relations up the river, showed them dolphins and ospreys, went tubing, introduced them to the sandbar and topped it all off with dinner at the new Dockside location on Lady’s Island. In short, we had a blast.

Then they went home.

We all wept a bit when they left. All right, maybe more than a bit. Much like Hemingway’s “Old Man of the Sea,” it can really stink to feel alone, even if simultaneously being embraced by nature’s glory. However, there’s an old saying amongst veterans, “Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.” In a way, a similar concept applies to those looking to move to the Lowcountry. I think that sometimes it may be easiest for one to fully appreciate the Beaufort area if they’ve spent a portion of their lives living elsewhere.

As a Realtor, one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is taking folks unfamiliar with Beaufort on a wide ranging general tour of the Lowcountry, showing them not just homes, but everything life in the area has to offer. Most can’t help but fall in love and I honestly can’t blame them, the same thing happened to me just over 20 years ago. The best part, I think we saw some of the same sparks in John and Leeann’s eyes as they got to fully experience a slice of what life is like in the Lowcountry. I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, those sparks will eventually become a fire and we’ll have two new folks visiting the area looking for a home. Only time will tell but, if so, I know just the agent for them!

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More big news for Beaufort: Midtown Square

By Will McCullough

There’s been a good deal of positive buzz about the Beaufort area in the national media recently. Over just the past few days, we’ve seen thousands of fans line our downtown streets in order to show their support for local American Idol phenom Candice Glover, seen BHS alumni Devin Taylor drafted by the Detroit Lions and heard that Beaufort is named “America’s Happiest Seaside Town” by Coastal Living Magazine.  And, in case you missed it, we’ve had one other local entity receive some pretty impressive accolades recently and that’s Midtown Square, the new community in downtown Beaufort, located near the corner of Bladen and Prince streets.

Just last week, Southern Living Magazine, the largest regional lifestyle magazine in the U.S., announced that Midtown Square was being awarded the title of “Community/Development of the Year – 2013”. For a project that, only two years ago, was just a vacant patch of land resting in our city’s Northwest Quadrant, this is absolutely amazing. Before I go any further, I feel obligated to fully disclose that Deena and I are the Realtors who have been responsible for the marketing and sales of the community. For that reason, I have refrained from writing about Midtown until now as I didn’t want it to appear as if I was utilizing this column for blatant self-serving purposes.  However, as the project is now nearly sold out, I felt it was finally an appropriate time to share a little insight on what I personally feel made the development such a success.  It all boils down to the product, the location and the people involved and, while I could spend a lot of time heralding both the product and the location, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a good bit about that in other publications over the next few months. Instead, I’d like to focus for a few minutes on the people; the local folks and business that you may not hear about otherwise and were, in my opinion, instrumental to the project’s success.

Developer

Steven Tully is the developer for the project and I can say from firsthand experience that this man puts Beaufort first in his decision making process. On multiple occasions, I’ve witnessed Steve make decisions that would better benefit the city as a whole when choosing the alternative might have better benefited his bottom line. He’s the type of leader who puts forth a vision and ensures it stays on track and does so without micromanaging. In short, he’s a true asset to our community.

Builder

Allen Patterson Residential, the builder for Midtown Square, has accomplished what I consider to be akin to a miracle. It’s practically impossible to drive down Bladen Street and not be awed by his work. But what most people don’t know is that almost every single one of these custom homes were built by Allen and his team for clients who were living hundreds of miles away during the actual build. The volume of client-builder communication required to allow multiple long distance clients to show up on closing day to a custom dream home built to their specification is Herculean and Allen, Julie, Peggy, Rod, Nate and their crews should be commended.

Architect

Allison Ramsey Architects has been responsible for the lion’s share of the designs utilized for marketing Midtown Square yet their contribution to the success of the community didn’t stop there. Once again, reliable communication proved to be a crucial factor.  I’d already be retired if I had a dollar for every time one of us picked up the phone, at all hours of the day, and asked Cooter Ramsey for pictures, plans, modifications and opinions. The catch was that not only did Allison Ramsey always deliver; they did so in an extremely timely manner.

Lenders & Attorneys: While buyers successfully utilized a variety of quality lenders and attorneys to represent them during their purchases, a few local entities stand out to me as I write this.  Lender SCB&T and attorney David Tedder reliably served builder Allen Patterson Residential throughout the project. Harvey & Battey Law Firm served the developer equally well and, along with CBC National Bank, was also kind enough to assist with multiple open house marketing events.  I can’t stress enough how many “moving parts” these transactions had and the overwhelming amount of communication these local lenders, attorneys and paralegals exchanged to ensure all parties were well served.

Brokerage

Working at Lowcountry Real Estate is an absolute pleasure for Deena and me. From a sales perspective, Edward Dukes, John Trask, Donna Duncan and all of the agents at Lowcountry were a source of constant support, guidance and motivation. It should be pointed out that the entire community might never have taken off as quickly had Lowcountry agent Gary Glaeser not initiated the momentum by bringing the first buyer almost exactly two years ago.

Buyers

Making the decision to purchase in Midtown, only a few years after the collapse of the national real estate market, took a degree of pioneer spirit from the first several buyers. But these early buyers did their homework and moved forward. The community would obviously never have taken off without these first few pioneers as well.

I have no doubt that I’ve missed mentioning many who made powerful contributions to Midtown Square and, for that, I apologize.  I also recognize that there are many equally great lenders, attorneys, etc. in the Beaufort area and this column is not meant as an endorsement of any of the entities I named. One should always choose representatives whom they personally feel most comfortable with.  My motivation is simply to state that Midtown Square’s success was brought about by a wide array of local businesses and individuals, each focused on making sure their piece of the puzzle fit perfectly with all the others. This, in general, just seems to be something the people of Beaufort do quite well. While I personally was extremely lucky to be associated with the project, I’m even luckier to live in a community that so excels at working together towards a common goal.

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Rage, sorrow and thanks

By Will McCullough

“Will, your Dad is dead.”

It was 1983 and I was 13 years old when I first heard those words. My Dad, a seventh grade history teacher, never smoked, never drank, and was a lifelong athlete. He died of a sudden heart attack while turkey hunting one morning before school. My Dad was only 43 years old and, up until this point, my life had been one of innocent, Norman Rockwell bliss.

However, everything changed after my father died. Without going into too much detail, I will simply just say that a sad rage consistently festered inside me as I navigated through my teen years while attempting to deal with his loss. I left my hometown in Northwest Pennsylvania for the U.S. Marine Corps the day after I graduated high school and, shortly thereafter, my Mom (also a teacher) passed away from Leukemia. I was told later that my Mom’s last words were “Make it stop, make it stop. It hurts, it hurts.” Whatever barriers that remained against my constant internal fury and sorrow collapsed.

I do not share all of the above for sympathy. I fully understand and respect the fact that everyone has their own life story and that those individual stories very likely contain chapters of sadness as well. I’m not seeking attention and I certainly take no pleasure in publicly sharing private emotional matters. I share the above this week, as opposed to my normal real estate related column, because I needed to say “Thank you” to Beaufort, both the place and the people, at this specific time.

I came to Beaufort in 1993 to serve as a Drill Instructor at Parris Island. It was the first place I’d been stationed where I didn’t feel that the Marines were viewed by the local populace as fiscal cattle to be fed upon. As opposed to being treated like “walking camouflage dollar signs,” Beaufort seemed to just accept us as members of the community.  To make a long story short, I personally ended up finding happiness in Beaufort and, when I received orders to leave the area, I ended up choosing to leave the USMC instead of the Lowcountry.

It’s been 20 years now but I needed to finally publicly thank you Beaufort.

I needed to thank you for blue skies and warm sunny days. I needed to thank you for strangers who wave and for the close friends we’ve come to know over the years. I needed to thank you for nights spent at the Water Festival and days spent on the river. I needed to thank you for the businesses that demonstrate that they value their patrons. I needed to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to support my family.  I needed to thank you for waving me through on the street as opposed to cutting me off and for smiling as opposed to glaring.  I needed to thank you for Hunting Island and, while I’m at it, for the Waterfront Park. I also really needed to thank you for oyster roasts.

I could go on but, in short, I wanted to thank you Beaufort for giving me peace.  As I myself will be celebrating my 43rd birthday by the time you read this, I think it’s the best present a guy like me could have received.

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Help us help you

By Will McCullough

So you’re thinking about buying a property in the area? Here are a few tips from my “local agent” perspective that might help make the process a good bit more efficient and effective for you.

Find a local agent with whom you connect well: There are hundreds of local Realtors.  That’s right, hundreds.  And, as it should be, we’re all competing for the right to earn your business.  We all have the ability to show/sell you the exact same properties regardless of who has it listed. So what is in your best interest is to identify who is the best local Realtor for you.  Don’t be afraid to initially communicate with a few local agents to determine who responds in a timely manner and with a work ethic/personality that fits your personal needs the best.

Establish Buyer Agency:  Whomever you select as an agent can (and will) explain this to you in much more detail but, in short, all real estate agents in the State of South Carolina work for the seller by “default.” That means, even if it is not their personal listing (or even their company’s listing), all agents are required to represent the seller’s best interests in a hypothetical transaction unless you have transferred that ethical/legal obligation to serve to you, the buyer, via what is called a “Buyer Agency Agreement.” This is a topic that warrants a column all of its own but, for now, just know that it’s very important to establish representation and you should discuss it in detail with the agent you have selected to work with.

Get a “Pre-approval letter” from a lender:  This is another topic that warrants a column of its own but, in short, a pre-approval letter is a note from a bank or mortgage broker stating, in advance, that you have undergone their credit checks, etc. and are qualified for a mortgage up to a set price limit (subject to certain conditions). Having one of these already in hand when you begin shopping will greatly assist you in your quest to find the perfect property for a variety of reasons to include personal peace of mind, negotiations with a seller and offer consideration.  On a related side note, if you are a cash buyer, consider having a means to provide documented proof of liquid capital in hand.

Articulate your criteria:  Make a list of exactly what you are looking for in a “perfect property”.  Consider location, maximum price range, square footage, bedroom and bathroom counts, whether a garage is essential, ideal floor plan, what you’re looking for with regards to amenities, etc. I can assure you that you can never cover too much detail on this topic. Once you’ve got your basic criteria established, share it with your buyer’s agent leaving no stone unturned.

Give Feedback: When your buyer’s agent sends you property information via email and/or when you tour properties with your agent, don’t hold back on explaining what you do and do not like about a property. Like everything but the small kitchen? Say so! Wish it had a bigger back yard? Say that too!  I was a Marine for many years and I always consider this portion of our real estate relationship to effectively be a “reconnaissance.” We’re essentially gathering as much information as possible on your likes and dislikes so we can even better fine tune our service to you and help locate/secure the most ideal property possible for you.

When it comes down to it, a successful transaction boils down to successful communication. Find an agent with whom you can communicate well, communicate well with them in return and be sure you have proper documentation on hand to be able to communicate your ability to purchase to a seller once you find that perfect property. Happy hunting!

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Beware the real estate scammer

By Will McCullough

While the modern real estate industry uses a wide range of “checks and balances” to protect individuals from fraud, the common utilization of digital marketing in today’s world has opened the door to creative scammers, con-men and all around scumbags. While I personally have seen only a few blatant attempts at real estate related “scams” over the years locally, those few could have been utterly catastrophic to the unsuspecting potential victims. I was motivated to choose this topic for today’s column because my most recent related experience took place just last week and, as this specific scumbag initiated a scam I’d never seen or heard of before, I felt it important to share.  But, before I share the details, please allow me to reintroduce you to a few catchy sayings you may have heard before:

1. Believe but verify.

2. There’s a sucker born every minute.

3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Don’t take any wooden nickels.

5. Ask no questions, hear no lies.

All that being said, here’s what happened: I had a client who was looking for a rental property to reside in on Lady’s Island.  Deena and I normally don’t handle rentals but wanted to help this person.  Anyways, we were contacted by the client last week and they, apparently, had found the “perfect rental” on Lady’s Island via Trulia.com and asked if we could investigate it for them before they sent the owner their deposit.  Upon a little standard research, we found the home offered for sale in our MLS by a reputable local agent but not offered for rent. We thought that was odd so we then located the rental listing our client had found posted on Trulia.com. The contact number for the rental listing was a Chicago area code.  This sent up a “red flag”, I know the listing agent personally and he’s not from Chicago. We then tried to contact the listing agent but were unable to reach him. As it’s not totally unheard of for a person to attempt to rent a property themselves while simultaneously listing it for sale via an agent, we went ahead and called the number on Trulia.  I mean, come on, it’s Trulia right?

And then it got weird …

When we called the number, an individual answered who allegedly spoke little English. They also had a really bad phone connection. There was enough clarity to eventually exchange email addresses and cell phone numbers for texting. I realized later that, despite my best efforts, he apparently thought I was a potential renter and not an agent.  Or he didn’t care. In hindsight, who knows? In any event, below please find an extremely condensed version of our two days of text/email conversations:

Me: I have a client interest in renting your home. I will contact your agent directly.

Scumbag: I am renting myself due to bad experience with Realtor and tenant.

Scumbag: Renting myself. You don’t have to contact agent anymore.

Me: How can we gain access to view the home?

Scumbag: Drive by tonight and look through windows.

Me: How do we get the key to see inside?

Scumbag: OK, sounds good. Send the $1000 deposit and I will send you keys.

Me: My clients will not send a deposit until they have seen inside and have an executed lease.

Scumbag: OK, understand we need to trust but other people want my house too.

Scumbag: OK, my wife says we will take half deposit then send keys.

Me: No, we will not send funds until we have viewed inside and verified ownership, etc.

Scumbag: We are a God fearing family and treat others this way. Send half deposit and we send keys.

The above communication examples continued to repeat, varied slightly, in a frustrating circle, via email, text and garbled phone calls, for some time. I then finally received a response from the listing agent whom I’d contacted earlier. As it turned out, the property was not being offered for rent, only for sale. As a matter of fact, the owner had yet to even move out and was still living in the home.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell. This individual found the legitimate “for sale” listing of the property in question online.  He then created a bogus (and tantalizingly below market) “for rent” listing for the same property on Trulia.com utilizing the real “for sale” listing’s online pictures and details and was attempting to convince potential local renters to send a deposit to his Chicago mailing address after instructing them to simply drive by and “look through the windows”. He made this seem plausible and realistic by expressing his love of “Christian values” while simultaneously feigning a lack of mastery for the English language.

It’s OK though. All was reported to the appropriate folks. What’s the moral of the story?  Always remember to apply the appropriate “protect your fiscal backside” saying of your choice listed earlier before sending anyone money for any reason.  As a bonus, we may have at least helped initiate a catchy new saying: Think twice before you post your home mailing address to someone you are trying to scam.

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Beware the real estate scammer

By Will McCullough

While the modern real estate industry uses a wide range of “checks and balances” to protect individuals from fraud, the common utilization of digital marketing in today’s world has opened the door to creative scammers, con-men and all around scumbags. While I personally have seen only a few blatant attempts at real estate related “scams” over the years locally, those few could have been utterly catastrophic to the unsuspecting potential victims. I was motivated to choose this topic for today’s column because my most recent related experience took place just last week and, as this specific scumbag initiated a scam I’d never seen or heard of before, I felt it important to share.  But, before I share the details, please allow me to reintroduce you to a few catchy sayings you may have heard before:

1. Believe but verify.

2. There’s a sucker born every minute.

3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Don’t take any wooden nickels.

5. Ask no questions, hear no lies.

All that being said, here’s what happened: I had a client who was looking for a rental property to reside in on Lady’s Island.  Deena and I normally don’t handle rentals but wanted to help this person.  Anyways, we were contacted by the client last week and they, apparently, had found the “perfect rental” on Lady’s Island via Trulia.com and asked if we could investigate it for them before they sent the owner their deposit.  Upon a little standard research, we found the home offered for sale in our MLS by a reputable local agent but not offered for rent. We thought that was odd so we then located the rental listing our client had found posted on Trulia.com. The contact number for the rental listing was a Chicago area code.  This sent up a “red flag”, I know the listing agent personally and he’s not from Chicago. We then tried to contact the listing agent but were unable to reach him. As it’s not totally unheard of for a person to attempt to rent a property themselves while simultaneously listing it for sale via an agent, we went ahead and called the number on Trulia.  I mean, come on, it’s Trulia right?

And then it got weird …

When we called the number, an individual answered who allegedly spoke little English. They also had a really bad phone connection. There was enough clarity to eventually exchange email addresses and cell phone numbers for texting. I realized later that, despite my best efforts, he apparently thought I was a potential renter and not an agent.  Or he didn’t care. In hindsight, who knows? In any event, below please find an extremely condensed version of our two days of text/email conversations:

Me: I have a client interest in renting your home. I will contact your agent directly.

Scumbag: I am renting myself due to bad experience with Realtor and tenant.

Scumbag: Renting myself. You don’t have to contact agent anymore.

Me: How can we gain access to view the home?

Scumbag: Drive by tonight and look through windows.

Me: How do we get the key to see inside?

Scumbag: OK, sounds good. Send the $1000 deposit and I will send you keys.

Me: My clients will not send a deposit until they have seen inside and have an executed lease.

Scumbag: OK, understand we need to trust but other people want my house too.

Scumbag: OK, my wife says we will take half deposit then send keys.

Me: No, we will not send funds until we have viewed inside and verified ownership, etc.

Scumbag: We are a God fearing family and treat others this way. Send half deposit and we send keys.

The above communication examples continued to repeat, varied slightly, in a frustrating circle, via email, text and garbled phone calls, for some time. I then finally received a response from the listing agent whom I’d contacted earlier. As it turned out, the property was not being offered for rent, only for sale. As a matter of fact, the owner had yet to even move out and was still living in the home.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell. This individual found the legitimate “for sale” listing of the property in question online.  He then created a bogus (and tantalizingly below market) “for rent” listing for the same property on Trulia.com utilizing the real “for sale” listing’s online pictures and details and was attempting to convince potential local renters to send a deposit to his Chicago mailing address after instructing them to simply drive by and “look through the windows”. He made this seem plausible and realistic by expressing his love of “Christian values” while simultaneously feigning a lack of mastery for the English language.

It’s OK though. All was reported to the appropriate folks. What’s the moral of the story?  Always remember to apply the appropriate “protect your fiscal backside” saying of your choice listed earlier before sending anyone money for any reason.  As a bonus, we may have at least helped initiate a catchy new saying: Think twice before you post your home mailing address to someone you are trying to scam.

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Attorneys, lenders and cool shades

By Will McCullough
I only buy cheap sunglasses. I mean really cheap. We’re talking single digits. The reason I only purchase the most inexpensive shades possible is because I have a track record, which spans decades, of quickly breaking them. As a matter of fact, when I broke my last pair a few months ago, I swore I wouldn’t buy any more unless I could find a seemingly unbreakable pair for under $20.
The reason I share the above information with you is because, about three weeks ago, Deena and I were walking along the shores of the Beaufort sandbar together, and she found a pair of beat up old sunglasses buried in the surf. Broken and covered in scratches, they looked like they’d been bouncing along the bottom of the river for months. With the exception of our boat, the sandbar was completely empty and, had it not been for the friends we had with us, the sunglasses in question would have quickly found their way into our trash.
“Those are Costa Del Mar sunglasses!” our friend exclaimed. For the record, this meant nothing to me. The only time I honestly get excited about fashion is when Marvel Comics releases a new superhero T-shirt. However, the catch here was that, while I’d personally never heard of “Costa Del Whatever,” my friend had. And, not only had he heard of these fancy high dollar shades, he knew that they came with a lifetime warranty for replacement against breakage. In a nutshell, he had detailed knowledge, based on personal interest and experience, about a topic that just might prove valuable to me.
In the world of real estate, we agents often find ourselves in a comparable situation. We’ll work with a buyer who has finally found the property of their dreams, made an offer, received a contract and then asked us the inevitable questions. What closing attorney should I use? What lender should I use?  What inspectors should I use?
Unfortunately, despite the fact that we local agents work with a wide range of supporting entities and definitely have personal opinions on who is best equipped to help you, the truth of the matter is that recommending a specific lender, attorney or inspector would be a violation of our ethics standards. We simply are not permitted to recommend, or attempt to sway you, in the direction of any secondary provider of real estate related services. In short, even though I know for a fact that the real estate lender, attorney or inspector equivalent of “Costa Del Mar” rocks, I can’t recommend them to you above the real estate equivalent of “Sunglasses-R-Us.”
What I can do, however, is give you a list of the general criteria I find important in selecting supporting entities for my own personal real estate transactions.
Within arms reach: For my personal transactions, I prefer to utilize an entity where I have a specific individual, with whom I have established a trusted personal relationship, as my point of contact. In short, I want to be able to walk into their office and speak to them face to face when I have a question or problem related to their facet of a transaction. While email may be a convenient form of communication, so is a “choke-slam.” I recommend keeping your ability and options to directly communicate open.
Experienced: I’m not just talking about overall years of experience as in the case of an entity that serves at a national level; I’m talking about someone who has served successfully in the hyper-local market as well.  Do they know the Beaufort market like the back of their hand as it relates to their aspect of real estate transactions? Are they respected in the community? Do they have past local clients who would recommend them? Don’t be afraid to ask.
Reachable: This one is easy. Your transaction is important to you. It should be equally important to those who guide you through a closing. If your initial calls or emails are not returned in a timely manner, you may want to shop around.  The last few years have been tough on agents, lenders, attorneys and inspectors alike.  Don’t settle for someone who does not display their appreciation for your business via timely responses.
Frankness: Despite misguided popular opinion otherwise, the customer is not always right. Sometimes they’re dead wrong and I personally want to utilize an attorney, lender or inspector who can, in a tactful manner, explain to me that my preconceptions are incorrect or unrealistic when that’s the case. A good supporting entity exists to serve your best interests in a transaction, even in the rare cases when their opinion of “your best interests” is hard to hear.
In closing, while your agent will likely give you a list of several lenders, attorneys and inspectors to choose from, it’s your responsibility to find the entity that fits your scenario the best.
And speaking of “fit,” as it turns out, Costa Del Mar sunglasses not only fit well, but coincidentally, only cost about $19 shipping and handling to be replaced/repaired by the factory!

Will and Deena McCullough of Lowcountry Real Estate can be reached directly at 843-441-8286 or via email at RealEstate@BeaufortSC.net.

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Free: Beachfront lot with incredible views

By Will McCullough
As someone who supports his family solely via the selling of property in the Beaufort area, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone this time in order to focus on a local piece of real estate that, while exceptionally beautiful and offering a location that puts most others to shame, is not available for purchase. This one-of-a-kind deepwater parcel offers a sandy beach and breathtaking 360 degree views of the waterways surrounding downtown Beaufort, Lady’s Island, Port Royal and Parris Island. Under normal circumstances, one would expect only a few to be able to afford unrestricted access to such an incredible property. But, here in the Lowcountry, we can all come and go as we please. Well, as long as you have a boat.  Or, maybe better yet, a friend with a boat. Oh, it also needs to be around low tide.
By now, most local readers already knew the parcel of real estate I was referring to, but, for those of you visiting the area for the Water Festival, please allow me to introduce you to the Beaufort Sandbar. The Beaufort Sandbar is an island that appears just offshore from the Waterfront Park in the Beaufort River when the tide is low. Many visitors to the area are surprised to learn that the local deviations between our high and low tides can vary as much as 9 feet. This significant drop in water level can reveal sandbars, or little islands, that make excellent locations for waterfront fun, socializing and relaxation.
While there are many popular sandbar “hang outs” in the area, each with their own merits, the Beaufort (or “downtown”) Sandbar is unquestionably the most popular and iconic. Finding it is quite easy if you are in the downtown area. Simply walk out to where the swings front the river at the Waterfront Park and look out a few hundred yards in the rough direction of 2 o’clock. If it’s within a few hours of either “side” of low tide, you’ll see a collection of boats encircling a sandy little island in the middle of the river.  Yep, that’s it.
One of my personal favorite aspects of the Beaufort Sandbar is, as I alluded to earlier, its utter lack of exclusivity. Beaufortonians of all ages, backgrounds, income and occupation arrive on its temporary shore via paddle boards, kayaks and boats of all size and shape. This eclectic mix of folks enjoy a relaxed sense of freedom seldom found on public beaches, with both dogs and kids running freely while grills are fired up, horseshoes are tossed and footballs are caught.
I’ve lived in the Beaufort area since I moved here in 1993 to serve as a Drill Instructor at Parris Island and I’ve always considered the Sandbar to be one of my favorite places.  For me, it has always induced a pleasant and surreal feeling of being surrounded by “all things Beaufort” while seeming a world away.
Best of all, this year, the Beaufort Sandbar has finally been given its Water Festival recognition, being immortalized by local artist William Rhett III as the festival’s 2012 official logo appearing in print, online and across the back of scores of T-shirts. It’s a beautiful piece and, if you’re lucky, you might be able to pick up a print at his gallery located at 901 Bay St.
In closing, if you are visiting and considering a potential move to the area, feel free to swing by a local real estate office and pick up some information on what’s available. Just know in advance that one of the nicest examples of local real estate is not available for sale. But you’re welcome to visit it at any time.

Will and Deena McCullough of Lowcountry Real Estate can be reached directly at 843-441-8286 or via email at RealEstate@BeaufortSC.net.

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The (extra) cost of doing business

By Will McCullough
Have you ever planned to contribute to the local economy by purchasing something you really wanted only to be surprised by extra, seemingly unexplainable, expenses? No, I’m not talking about feeding the parking meters while shopping along Bay Street; I’m talking about the closing costs associated with purchasing a property in the area. While experienced real estate buyers are stereotypically fully aware of exactly what closing costs consist of, most first time buyers are not.  So if you’re a potential first time buyer of real estate in the Lowcountry, please read on.  On the other hand, if you’ve already “been there, done that,” I’ll understand if you choose to stop reading now and skip forward to Terry Sweeney’s “Happy Winos” column. (For the record, I’m still waiting for him to review one of my favorite wines but he’s apparently prejudiced against the whole “volume meets cardboard box” packaging concept.)
Now that we’re left with just the first time buyers, please allow me to explain, in general, what closing costs are. In short, closing costs are not a single individual fee paid to some nameless entity when you buy a home. Instead, the term refers to the combined accumulation of multiple fees due to multiple sources for services rendered on your behalf during the transaction.  In other words, instead of one big charge, it’s a whole bunch of smaller charges added together. The following are a few examples of some of the individual items that, when combined together, make up some of what we refer to as closing costs.
Home Inspection: While a buyer is not normally required to have a home inspection before a purchase, it is my strong recommendation that you do so. A good home inspector can discover a wide range of “latent defects” or “problems nobody knew existed” before a sale is finalized. As the saying goes — “An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.” The cost of the inspection depends on many factors but, in a nutshell, one can expect to pay an average of between $250 to $400. This charge is often paid at the closing as opposed to when the actual inspection is conducted and, thus, becomes one of the fees that make up part of the closing costs.
CL100 Inspection: Normally required by lenders and commonly referred to as the “termite inspection”, the CL100 inspection checks for just about anything that would degrade the stability of a wooden structure.  While this obviously includes termites and other timber destroying insects, it also includes excessive rot, moisture in the wood and certain fungi. Like the home inspection above, payment for the CL100 is normally deferred until closing.
Appraisal: If, as opposed to paying cash, you are getting a loan on the property, an appraisal will likely be required by your lender. Basically, the appraisal’s purpose is to ensure that the sales price agreed upon does not exceed the actual current market value of the property. This protects both the buyer (from over paying) and the lender (in case you default and they have to foreclose and re-sell).
Attorney Fees: If you are purchasing a property in the state of South Carolina, you will be having an attorney represent you in the transaction. In short, the job of your real estate attorney is to ensure that all the contractual “T’s” are crossed and “I’s” are dotted, that you are receiving a clear and marketable title free of liens and that you fully understand the wide range of documents, fees, etc., associated with the closing.
Lender Related Fees: This is a topic that warrants a detailed column of its own but, in general, there may well be fees or up front costs associated with the type of loan you have secured for the property and, if so, these costs will become closing costs as well.
While the above list represents some of the services that, when combined and paid for at closing, make up what we call “closing costs,” it is by no means complete. Actual costs will vary from transaction to transaction, so I highly recommended that you discuss the topic in detail with your agent before you make your first offer.
Oh, and try out the boxed wines too. I’ll take the convenience of that little plastic spout over those annoying corks every time.

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Protect the clumsy and hide the secrets

By Will McCullough
A few days ago, I was previewing a home with another agent. (I won’t give her name.  I’ll just say that she’s one of the two people in the picture that accompanies this column and, chivalrously, leave it at that.) It had rained the night before and, as she stepped out onto the property’s dock, she slipped and fell on the wet wood leaving her with a head to toe series of bruises. In fairness, I should mention that the unnamed person in question could likely find a way to fall during a laying down contest, but the fact remains that the entrance to this dock was at a very steep angle and it would be easy for anyone, not just a gravity-challenged person, to fall and get hurt. A little “no-skid” in an area that obviously needed it could be the difference between selling a home and getting sued.
Here’s my point: We live in a litigious society and, if you’re inviting complete strangers to come in and tour your home, it is in you best interest to take a good look at it in advance from a safety perspective. In addition, it may be wise to take a few minutes and ensure that items of an overly personal nature disappear during showings. So, based on personal experiences, below please find some home staging advice that goes beyond all the standard “put out fresh flowers”, “hide family pictures” and “get a new welcome mat” guidance.
Some people are accident prone: It’s also a fact that some of those clumsy folks are going to eventually tour your home. Before you put your home on the market, take some time to tour your property constantly asking yourself the question “How would a clumsy person injure/kill themselves here?” Fix those loose steps and railings, cover those open outlets and lay down a bit of no-skid.
Some people bring kids:  As agents, we all do our best to watch over our buyer’s kids while showing a home.  The parents, obviously, do the same. But accidents can and do happen and it may be a good idea to consider stowing poisons, knives and scissors if you are opening up your home for others to tour in your absence.
Some people are stupid: OK, in this case I’m referencing the sellers. Let me start by saying I personally have no problem with guns. I grew up hunting, was a Marine for 10 years and I’m completely comfortable stating that Deena and I both have concealed carry permits. So here’s the little bit of staging advice I would have believed unnecessary earlier in my real estate career.  If you own a gun, do not leave it loaded and laying around during a scheduled showing. Three times in my career, I’ve come across a loaded gun in plain sight during a showing. One on a bed stand, one leaned against a wall and one, yes believe it or not, lying in the middle of a kitchen island. Trust me, I’m all for the Second Amendment, but if you’re inviting strangers to come in and tour your home, make it disappear behind lock and key.
Some people are thieves:  As individual agents, we often show property to groups of people. The happy potential buying couple is often accompanied by their parents and friends. We all honestly try our absolute best to keep everyone with us as we focus on showing your home but it is often inevitable that individuals will linger and split off in different directions. If it’s valuable to you, it’s probably valuable to someone else.  Make it vanish in advance before you discover, months later, that it’s vanished permanently. This also includes prescription drugs.
Some pets eat people: OK, that’s probably not true but some people think it is. Potential buyers want to see every inch of your property if they are seriously considering it and many will not tour the back yard or garage despite your advance assurances that your dog is “friendly.” I love pets too, but if at all possible, make them go before you show.  Keep in mind that you want them to write an offer and I have had buyers refuse to get out of the car for fear that “Cujo” was going to pin them down by the jugular the moment we got out.
Some people have secrets:  And you might be one of them. So before you allow your home to be shown, please ensure that your collection of porn and/or illegal drugs disappears. Buyers want to look in closets to determine if their stuff will fit and your alphabetized collection of freaky DVDs will be in plain sight when they open the door (true story). Buyers will also want to tour every inch of your 5 acre parcel to ensure that you are not growing cannabis on the grounds when they find your baggies on the vanity filled with it but they may be hesitant to do so because you are also “breeding pit bulls” on the property (yep, another true story).
So in closing, if you’re looking to sell your home in a competitive market, be sure to focus on the curb appeal and hide pictures and clutter. Oh, and the porn, drugs, valuables, rabid critters and dangerous stuff too.

Will and Deena McCullough of Lowcountry Real Estate can be reached directly at 843-441-8286 or via email at RealEstate@BeaufortSC.net.

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