spoleto socializing

   Much of  the Spolet mystique is the enjoyment of fabulous venues throughout historic Charleston – offering much more than an auditorium seat. Some of the highlighted hangouts aren't on the official festival schedule, but are vintage Spoleto in character. For example, Charleston Grill offers a special combination of dining and jazz with nightly three-course menu complemented by the music of the Quentin Baxter Trio. The price is $39, the time is 9pm, and the venue is classic oziness in low light and dark paneling. Call (843) 577-4522 for reservations. A number of other outstanding downtown restaurants offer early "Prix-Fixe" specials during the festival for those who don't want to go to evening performances hungry, including Carolina's, McCrady's, Circa 1886, Fish, The Peninsul Grill, and Muse.

  Among the after-performance hot spots for cocktails, cordials, and Irish coffee are Rue de Jean, Cypress, and Tristan's, and on warm, breezy nights there are few more enjoyable spots than the outdoor venues at Vickery's and Union Pier, or the enticing rooftop bars at the Library at Vendue Inn and the Market Pavilion.


Condo Owners/ Buyers – Need to Know Information!

A friend of mine sent me the infromation below regarding  condo financing.  I thought it would be relevant to a lot of people. Here are some key things you NEED to know about condo financing.
LTV ‘s – Unfortunately, there is currently no PMI available on second home condos and my lender friend was not able to identify  any bank or lender doing 2nd mortgages on them except in rare circumstances where the borrower has a strong relationship with a bank. Lenders are limited to 80% max on 2nd home condo financing right now.  75% financing gets buyers a slightly better interest rate.  PMI is available on primary home condo purchases to 95% if the borrower meets FICO score requirements.

Condo questionnaires – Full condo review forms are required on primary home condos over 80% LTV, second home condos over 75% LTV and ALL investment condos.  Lesser LTV’s are allowed to have a Limited Review where the lender calls and asks several key questions but the management company does not have to complete a full questionnaire.

Current pitfalls of the condo questionnaire ~

  • Occupancy – If the condo is being purchased as an investment property, the occupancy  status has to be at least 51% owner occupied /second home.  If it is a primary purchase or a second home purchase, occupancy percentages are irrelevant.  Foreclosure/bank owned properties should NOT be counted as investment properties on the condo docs so it would be prudent to double check with the management company if this ends up being an issue to make sure they are not including foreclosures and bank owned properties.
  • Insurance – All condos with more than 20 units are required to show proof of Fidelity Bond coverage (this coverage insures against employee/board member dishonesty or theft).  Most condo associations have this but some have had to add it which has caused closing delays.
  • HO6 Insurance – The blanket policies for condos on hazard and flood generally just cover the structure and nothing on the interior of the condo.  Borrowers are required to get interior “walls-in” policies know as HO6 policies equal to 20% or the appraised value of the condo.  If condo value is $500,000, they need $100,000 worth of coverage for the inside and so on.   Buyers – know this upfront so you are not surprised.
  • Delinquent HOA  Fees – Important information here, especially considering the market today ~ If more than 15% of the units in a condo are over 30 days delinquent on HOA fees, the property is considered non-warrantable by Fannie Mae guidelines.  In a project with 50 units, having as little as 8 of them be more than 30 days delinquent can throw the loan out of Fannie Mae eligibility for financing.  This has been huge over the last couple of months because the bank/asset managers are often not paying the regime fees on the properties they foreclose on and they only get paid once the property sells to a new owner.  HINT – A Limited Review does not ask this question buyers can potentially avoid this obstacle by putting down a little more money on the property if it is a primary or a second home purchase and avoiding the full condo questionnaire.

Apparently condo financing issues are impacting purchases and those looking to refinance all over the state.  What has been your experience? Tell us your story or add new information.

Foreclosures and Short Sales…..Cash Money is Not the Answer!

Foreclosures and short sales seem to go hand in hand with bad economic conditions. According to RealtyTrac.com there are over 1,500 properties that fall into the foreclosure, pre-foreclosure or short sale category in the greater Charleston area. WOW!

What does this mean?  Yes, it means people have lost their homes. It also means that banks are holding property and that there are an inordinate amount of great values in the marketplace.  As with any bad economy, the way to get it jump started is for people to start buying again.  Right now, interest rates are low, inventory is plentiful and the prices are right.

So now you have to know ~ what is the difference between foreclosure and short sale?  Believe me, if I had  a dollar for everytime I've been asked int he last 6-months, I would retire.  Many people and unfortunately agents alike are not versed on the benefits, pitfalls and process in dealing with either.

So here we go? Foreclosure means that a bank or lender has taken over ownership of a home because the homeowner couldn't make the mortgage payments.  Real Estate Owned (REO) is another term used for foreclosure.  In a  short sale scenario,  the homeowner can avoid foreclosure by selling the home for less than is owed on the mortgage. Let me tell you up front, the short sale process in not an easy road to travel and banks and lenders usually take their sweet time.

Given that in a short sale a portion of the amount owed is forgiven, certain conditions must be met for the short sale to move forward.

  • The lender has to agree to accept less money.  (A banker agreeing to loose money – hmmmm?)
  • Owner must have to prove he/she simply can't pay.  Break out the documentation becuase without it, well, you have a better chance of seeing snow in the tropics.

One thing to note, a short sale is an easier pill to swallow as it reflects on your credit score compared to a foreclosure.

Of course,  buyers of short sales get great deals. The local real estate market gets some much needed relief on negative pressure on home values if the home is sold through a short sale process rather than being foreclosed.

Here is the catch, short sales require patience and a realistic approach to how low an offer should be made.  There are enough sources of information throughout the web and of course through your realtor to do your homework. Offer the right price and get a great deal!

Bargain hunters beware, CASH MONEY doesn't mean the bank is going to accept an unrealistic offer. If you are looking for a quick deal, short sales are not for you. Sometimes it could a few months before you hear back from a bank.  If you are emotional and impatient maybe a foreclosure is better suited for your personality.

What has been your experience?  Good, bad, frustrating, smooth? 







gardens galore

People frequently ask me what gardens I recommend in Charleston, and my reponse is usually, "just wander the streets of the historic district". There are many wonderful "peek-a-boo" gardens in small spaces beside and behind homes on the peninsula that are worth strolling by. Among the best areas is Church Street south of the intersection with Tradd, where gateways and driveways often open to manicured plots of blooms and greenery. Residents are obviously very proud of these gardens, and welcome views from the street, but please be respectful of privacy and enjoy the gardens from the sidewalk. As plantation gardens, Magnolia Plantation Gardens would be my pick. The main gardens were created from colonial rice fields, and feature sparkling ponds with arched pedestrian bridges surrounded by flora and fauna. Magnolia also offers walks through its Audubon Swamp Garden, with paths taking visitors through the stunning beauty of indigenous cypress swamp.

walking or driving tours

Local author and seventh-generation Charlestonian Michael Trouche offers an entertaining way to discover the historic city with his personable and informative walking and driving tours. Michael grew up in the historic district, and his knowledge of the area's fascinating history, architecture, and legends is unsurpassed. His two-hour group tour features a mesmerizing route along cobblestone streets, through historic alleys, past hidden gardens and overlooking stunning views of architectural gems and glorious Charleston harbor. Michael also offers private driving and/or walking tours for couples, friends and families that add many of the often-undiscovered treasures of Charleston. Information and reservations can be found at www.charlestonfootprints.com or by calling 843-478-4718.   

Bay View Acres

Bay View Acres in Mount Pleasant is one of the lesser-known but more desirable neighborhoods in the Charleston area. Nestled between the Patriots Point Naval Museum and recreation complex and historic Shem Creek, Bay View Acres is less than five minutes to downtown Charleston. Many of the stylish homes in the nieghborhood feature private docks and views of Shem Creek an Charleston Harbor, and with no through streets to other neighborhoods, the area is a have of peace and quiet right in the heart of Mount Pleasant.