Building a New Home: The Key to a Successful Project

House Plans

Building a “new“ home, whether new construction or an extensive renovation, can be exciting. Unfortunately, such a large scale project can also come with more than its fair share of stress and at times can seem overwhelming.

With a little preparation on the front-end, you can get the home you’ve always dreamed of, and maybe even enjoy the process.

Bud Detriech, AIA and contributor, outlined his 7 steps for creating a new home in a recent article on Houzz. He offers some great advice which you can check out here. I agree with his suggestions, but definitely feel that there is one key component to ensuring a smooth building project – and that is putting together the best team for your job.

Although “do-it-yourself” is all the rage, it’s not always realistic. Being your own contractor is a lot like representing yourself in court – you will often find yourself with a fool for a client. The best advice I can offer is to hire a qualified professional to run your job.

The right team is essential to getting not only a great finished product, but also to ensuring that the process is as smooth as possible. Choose the best person for the job – don’t just consider price as you evaluate contractors, designers, or architects. Get references for projects similar to yours. If you want a “green” home, make sure your builder has experience in sustainability practices. Just because they do high-end projects doesn’t mean they are knowledgeable in these specialized areas.

Once you hire your team, remember that you hired them for a reason. Be part of the team, not a dictator. Communicate your wants and needs, and then trust them to advise you based on their experience. The process is always more enjoyable and successful when you work together.


A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words. What Do Your Listing Photos Say About Your Home?

Today’s home buyers are more savvy than ever before. And more and more are moving online to begin their home search, relying on images to give them an initial glimpse into the promise that a home may hold for their family.

While I’ve always maintained that home staging is an important part of the selling process, in this digital age its importance has grown exponentially.  And just as important as staging is quality photography that will showcase your home to online viewers. The combination of a beautifully staged home and good photography to accompany your listing can generate greater interest, more showings and a higher offer.

But, not all Realtors get it right. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the smallest details which can affect your photos. And when photography goes bad, the results are, well….hilarious (as long as it’s not YOUR home). Check out a few examples below of what NOT to do when it comes to listing photos.


banana peel

Details are important…anyone notice the banana peel IN the light fixture??


sideways photo

This million dollar listing is beautiful…just tilt your head to the left.


realtor in the mirror

Nice bathroom….is the realtor included?


fuzzy kitchen

This might be a great kitchen. Squint…maybe you can see its potential.


kitchen panoramic

Panoramic photography can be great….if done right.


Photos courtesy of

What you should know about the 2012 Flood Insurance Reform Act

In 2012, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which required the National Flood Insurance Program (NIFP) to raise rates to reflect true flood risk and make the program more financially stable.

As a result, many homeowners (but not all) may see immediate increases in current flood insurance premiums. Here is a quick FAQ to help you understand what to expect.

Which properties will it affect?

Subsidized rates for non-primary and secondary residences are being phased out now.

-  Owners of non-primary/secondary residences in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) will see 25% increase annually until rates reflect true risk

-  Owners of property, which has experienced severe or repeated flooding, will see 25% rate increase annually until rates reflect true risk

-  Owners of business properties in a Special Flood Hazard Area will see 25% rate increase annually until rates reflect true risk

 Owners of primary residences in SFHAs will be able to keep their subsidized rates unless or until:

-  You sell your property;

-  You allow your policy to lapse;

-  You suffer severe, repeated flood losses; or

-  You purchase a new policy

Talk to your insurance agent about how your policy will be affected, and actions you may be able to take (or avoid) to lessen the impacts.

For more information on the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, and a timetable for when changes will be effective, visit the FEMA website.


Why Now Is The Time To Buy


Have you been playing with the idea of buying a new home, but just haven’t been sure about pulling the trigger? It’s a big decision, no doubt. But there are a couple of  compelling reasons to buy now.

Rising Home Prices.  In the Charleston area, median home prices for the first 7 months of 2013 were 10% higher compared to the first 7 months of 2012. In addition, a recent report released by the Home Price Expectation Survey projects that over the next 5 years, home values will appreciate anywhere from 12% to 33%.  Prices aren’t going to go lower than they are right now. 

Mortgage Interest Rate Increases. After seeing historic lows in mortgage interest rates, The National Association of Realtors, the Mortgages Bankers Association, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are all forecasting that 30-year-fixed mortgage interest rates will be between 4.8% and 5.1% by this time next year.

Another concern with mortgage rates is the potential end of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs, which is being currently being considered by a group of senators. These government run agencies were involved in approximately 90% of new loan originations over the past several years. Should Fannie and Freddie cease to exist, experts expect rates could return to the 6 – 6.5% range.

There are lots of reasons you may want to think about buying a new home, but if cost is one of them you could save a lot of money by making the decision to buy now.


* Source: KCM Blog, Charleston Trident Association of Realtors

Exploring the Lowcountry: Simmons Seafood



There’s nothing quite like a dinner of fresh, local seafood. And if you are in the Mt. Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms area don’t miss Simmons Seafood.

This family owned business has been around since 1947 and has consistently provided Charleston residents and vacationers with exceptional service, the best local catches, and believe it or not, the most incredible key lime pie you have ever tasted!

I’ve been a fan and patron of Simmons Seafood since coming to this area 23 years ago, and frequented their store on Ben Sawyer Blvd. Entering the small, unassuming shop you are always greeted with a smile and find yourself engaging in a friendly chat with the fun staff or another patron.

And with their storefront on Palm Boulevard on Isle of Palms (just a hop and a skip from our Dunes Properties office), it’s a convenient stop for vacationers and residents alike.

So whether your just visitin’ or you are fortunate enough to call this place home, swing by for a chat and the days catch. Treat yourself to a delectable experience and support a classic, local business. And don’t forget the Key Lime Pie… the absolute best north of Key West!!!


*Photo credit: Simmons Seafood


How Important is Curb Appeal?

We all know that old saying “ you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” And when it comes to our homes, the same adage holds true.

Curb appeal, or the attractiveness of your home from the street, is critical if you are selling or renting your home. Many buyers associate the condition of the exterior and landscape with the condition of the interior. In fact, studies show curb appeal is so important that if a potential buyer thinks that the exterior is unattractive they won’t even look at the inside of a home.

As you begin to evaluate your home’s exterior, consider the following:

- Does your home need repairs or repainting? Pressure wash your house and decks to clear away any mold or mildew and fix anything that’s broken.

- Is your yard well-maintained? Keep the grass mowed, bushes pruned, and get rid of those weeds.

- Does your yard look cluttered? Remove things like hoses, trash cans, and other yard tools from sight.

- Does your home look inviting, both during the day and at night? Add color with seasonal flowers, put down fresh mulch and add lighting to poorly lit walkways and porches.

Want to take it a little further? Add some color, texture, and finishing touches that will make your home even more attractive to potential buyers or renters. Take a look at this recent Today Show segment, where HGTV’s Genevieve Gorder provides examples of some simple changes that can have a major impact on your home’s curb appeal.

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Designing Across the Globe: My Trip to India

I’m back in the U.S.A after spending 2 weeks on a design project in India. What a journey it was!

If you’re just tuning in my latest project began when my client decided to build a home in India. In April, construction was far enough along to begin choosing paint colors, buying furnishings, and selecting appliances and fixtures and I headed halfway around the world.

I knew I’d be awe-struck by the beauty of this country. The incredible vistas and vegetation were vibrant and lush. The colors of the country are truly inspiring and influenced many of our selections for the home.

Clockwise from top left – view of the backyard; banana tree flower; nutmeg flower; cashew tree


The client wanted the home to have a traditional Indian look and feel. As we began our selection process we were cognizant of colors, textures, and craftsmanship. Most of the construction in the area is old-world style with a lot of attention to detail, a lot of handwork, and very high quality – things are built to last. We wanted the interior of the home to reflect those ideals as well as provide modern conveniences.


A sampling of some of the beautiful furnishings and fixutres we saw on our shopping excursions


Overall, we had a great experience through the selection process and we found the people to be very helpful, pointing us to resources we may not have otherwise found on our own. But, the process of doing business in a foreign country also has many challenges and we were met with a few surprises along the way.

Aside from the obvious communication gaps that we learned to work around, we found that occasionally items we had selected months ago simply weren’t available. Even in large “big box” type stores, although we had ordered appliances 6 months or more earlier, the item wasn’t “held” for us. If they didn’t have it in stock when we were there, we weren’t going to get it. In fact, four of the appliances we had previously ordered had to be reselected.

The one experience that both frustrated and impressed me all at once was the process of selecting paint colors. We went to the paint store and asked for color charts. We were given a Sherwin Williams chart as well as a chart from another paint company. We took our charts and went about the business of selecting colors for the house. After much deliberation we returned to the store with our selections in hand (most of which ended up being from the “other” paint company) and feeling confident in our choices. Unfortunately, we soon learned that even though they had provided us with this paint company’s color chart, they didn’t carry that brand of paint. So, we had to begin the process again – trying to find comparable Sherwin Williams colors that were available for us.

Matching our paint selections to available Sherwin Williams paint colors.


We then came to the issue of metallics. Several of our selections were metallic paints and this store, again, didn’t carry them. However, after some discussion the manager of the store offered to connect us with a local faux finisher who also happened to work with metallics. So 7 of us – including the manager of the paint store – piled into a small car and drove into the middle of nowhere. We finally reached this small, isolated studio and were met by two humble, unassuming and very cool guys who did the most incredible faux finishing I have ever seen. In fact, they were so good that they had been commissioned to work on the Louis Vuitton building in Dubai. It just goes to show that incredible beauty and talent can be found in the most unexpected places.

Our metallic experts


Over the course of my 2-week stay we were able to complete a majority of our selections for the home and I remain in email contact with several of the vendors to try and complete the rest. The home will be complete in October and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

Aside from our work we also saw some amazing sites and had some very cool experiences that I’ll be sharing in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!






Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder: The Importance of Good Home Staging

If you are ready to sell your home, your agent may suggest that you stage it for prospective buyers. The theory behind home staging is that by depersonalizing and decluttering the space you allow buyers to more easily visualize themselves living in the home. Often, a well-staged home will sell faster and fetch a higher sales price than one that either isn’t staged or is poorly staged.

Remember, decorating and staging are two very different things. In order for staging to be most effective, it has to be done right. A professional stager knows how to showcase your home’s potential to prospective buyers and doesn’t have the emotional attachment that may cloud our objectivity when it comes to making a home look it’s best.

Click here to learn more about some common staging mistakes. Any of these scenerios hit close to home? If so, you may want to call in a professional….

House-hunting? Six Questions to Help You Find an Accredited Buyer’s Representative

ABR Logo

If you are thinking of buying a home there are lots of factors to consider. Local market conditions, the economy and new mortgage regulations are affecting many people’s ability to enter the buyer’s market.

First, I would suggest that you seek out an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR). Agents with the ABR certification have proven experience working specifically with buyers. In order to receive the certification, they must complete specialized training that helps them understand a buyer’s perspective and how to protect and promote their buyer-clients’ interests. Any agent can “sell” you a house, but an ABR certified agent is really there to serve you and guide you through the buying process.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask as you interview your ABR agent:

Services provided. Ask the agent to explain how they will assist you through each stage of the buying process. They should always provide you with a written buyer representation agreement that details any obligations you have to each other.
References. Ask your agent for contact information for at least 3 past buyer-clients who can tell you about their experience working with the agent.
Knowledge. Find out what areas of specialized knowledge your prospective agent has. What types of housing or neighborhoods do they  know best?
Compensation. Be sure you understand if any additional costs will be included in your transaction for the agent’s compensation.
Finding properties. Make sure your agent has full access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and ask if they will look beyond the MLS for suitable properties if necessary.
Related service providers. Ask if they can provide referrals to other services related to your home purchase, including inspectors, surveyors, movers, etc.

For more information on the ABR certification and how working with an ABR certified agent can benefit you, visit the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council’s (REBAC) website .

An Exotic Journey: Designing Across the Globe

Over the years, my career has taken me to interesting places and introduced me to some wonderful people.  Several years ago, I did a design project for a client on Johns Island. Through that project we formed an amazing friendship and often traveled together, including a trip to Africa.

Not long ago, my friend visited India and fell in love with the country and its people.  She felt a strong desire to spend more time there working with impoverished and orphaned children in the area.  She purchased a lot and started building her new home. When she asked me to help her with the design, I was thrilled by the prospect of this new adventure!

We’ve begun sourcing and specifying materials and as the project has progressed I’ve been surprised by many things in the building process. Doing business a world away hasn’t been as overwhelming as I thought it might be.

I’m planning a visit to India this April for a period of 2 weeks, when we’ll finalize the selection of furnishings, textiles, and rugs. We are going for a very traditional Indian flair – using bold colors, silks, and rich textiles.  I’ll be documenting my trip and look forward to sharing my photos and experiences!

Until then, check out the progress being made on the construction.



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