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6 homebuying 101






renovations | 1534 Main St. Columbia, SC 29201 | 803.765.0707 Published by Portico Publications, LTD.

Avoid Typical First-Time Buyer Mistakes

Educate Yourself Before You Buy

Nine Homes You Could Own for $150,000 or Less

A Snapshot of the Columbia Market

Design-Build Project Adds Form, Function

EDITORIAL EDITOR: Dan Cook | | x133 CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER: Jonathan Sharpe CONTRIBUTORS: Kristine Hartvigsen, Anna Gelbman Edmonds, Katie Alice Walker, Jonathan Sharpe PRODUCTION PROD. MGR.: Lisa Willis | | x121 DESIGNER: Wilbert Fields | | x145 DESIGNER: Joey Ayer | | x150 ADVERTISING CLASSIFIEDS MGR: Cale Johnson | | x131 Katie English | | x141 Jason Stroman | | x132 ASSOC. PUB.: Kerry Powers | | x128 DISTRIBUTION CIRCULATION MANAGER: Tammy Figurski | x152 DOCK MANAGER: David Alexander DISTRIBUTORS: Nelson Baker, Travis Bland, Tripp Bolius,

Leverne Commander, Bob Folts, Jerod Hunter, Chris Kammer, Dan Lucas, Davey Mathias, Don McLane, Chess Moorer, Richard Shirah, Dave Shuler, Don Turner, James Williams BUSINESS OPERATIONS MANAGER: Jen Coody | x124

Plus: Landscaping Questions Answered


Tackling Home Renovations

Advertisers in Free Times assume responsibility for the entire content and subject matter of all advertisements. In case of error or omissions in advertisement, the publisher’s sole liability shall be to publish the advertisement at a later date. Notice of error must be made within ten days of first insertion. Views expressed in Free Times reflect the opinion of the individual writer or artist and are not necessarily those of Free Times. Unsolicited submissions are welcome, but may not be returned. © 2012 Portico Publications, LTD. All rights reserved.

Early Planning, Prioritizing Are Key

Galloway Family Homes Providing the “Home Feel” Advantage

Galloway Family Homes is a local, family owned company, run by two brothers with over 35 years of experience in the home construction industry. Galloway Family Homes builds affordable homes with distinct southern style and charm. Their innovative home designs maximize space to provide the most value. Homes start in the $250’s.

ALEXANDER POINTE Southeast Columbia - From the $150’s CINNAMON HILLS Lexington – From the $120’s SCARBOROUGH PARISH Lexington – From the $200’s

HEATHER GREEN Northeast Columbia – From the $120’s FARROW POINTE Northeast Columbia – From the $150’s RIVERS STATION Northeast Columbia – From the $130’s

6 Neighborhoods throughout the Midlands • Homes start in the $250’s


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2012 | | 2012




File photo

Avoid Typical First-Time Buyer Mistakes

Educate Yourself Before You Buy By Anna Gelbman Edmonds


ou can’t return a house like you can a pair of shoes or a blender. While caught up in the excitement of making one of life’s biggest investments, many first-time buyers are susceptible to making mistakes with lasting consequences. Educating yourself about the home-buying process and working with trusted professionals are the best steps you can take to avoid preventable pitfalls. Choosing an Agent Many new buyers don’t realize that not all real estate agents are created equal. Some agents are specialists in certain parts of town; others have a better sense of the overall picture. Asking your friends


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for a recommendation is a good place to start in finding an agent. Looking at the for-sale signs in the neighborhoods you’re interested in can be helpful, too: If you see an agent’s name pop up over and over again in Rosewood, for example, that’s a strong indication that the

agent has a high level of familiaritay with the housing market in that neighborhood. Another point to keep in mind is that there are buyer agents and seller agents, each representing the interests of their respective clients. Some buyers prefer to be represented by an agent who’s working just for them. However, many agents are willing and able to represent the buyer and the seller, but they must disclose this to both parties. “In most of my transactions I represent both, but you have to trust and have confidence in your agent to represent both sides,” says Jennifer Harding, a realtor with Coldwell Banker United. A certified realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors and is pledged to abide by strict code of ethics. A realtor designated as an accredited buyer’s agent has a higher level of certification and focuses on working directly with buyer-clients. This information should be clearly reflected on an agent’s business card.

Choosing a Neighborhood Finding a home that’s zoned for good public schools should be a consideration whether or not you have children. If you decide to sell the home later, there’s a good

homebuying 101

change that your buyer will have children. For first-time buyers who can’t afford to be in a top-rated school district, just be aware on the front end how that might affect your resale value later. There are a whole range of things to consider in choosing a neighborhood. Is it important to you to be downtown, or would you rather get more square footage for the money in the suburbs? How much time do you want to spend in your car commuting? How much money can you afford to spend on gas? Is new construction important to you? How you answer these questions will have a big impact on which parts of town you want to look at. When looking at new homes, it’s important to decide if ongoing construction in the neighborhood over the next few years will be an issue. In established neighborhoods, look for a strong historical pattern of sustained increases in the value of the homes. “Pay attention to the surroundings,” Harding says. If there’s a huge parcel of land near or adjacent to the neighborhood, know that it will likely be sold for further commercial or residential development. Look at the neighborhood’s access to interstates and think about future road development in the area. What will traffic and commuting look like in the years ahead? A good agent will be familiar with the growth patterns of the area and know about future development possibilities.

How Much Should You Pay? Before you make an offer, check out the selling prices of homes in the area. Your real estate agent should be able to provide you with a list of comparable homes in the neighborhood and what they have sold for. Websites such as and can also give you a ballpark figure of home values in the area where you are buying. Source:

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To find homes for sale in the Midlands, see photos, get directions or contact an agent, there’s only one app you need. Download the Russell & Jeffcoat Mobile App today.

text “rjhomes” to “87778” or go to your app store and search “Russell and Jeffcoat Mobile” 803.779.6000 803.779.6000 | 2012




How Much Can You Afford? Many people turn to online mortgage calculators when trying to estimate their monthly payments. That’s an important step, but many mortgage calculators only include principal and interest payments — omitting such expenses as property tax, homeowners insurance and private mortgage insurance. The calculator at will help you estimate all of these costs. Zillow and other sites also have home affordability calculators where you can enter your income and the amount of downpayment you’ll be putting down to get an estimate of what price range you might be able to go up to. But be careful: Just because an online calculator says you can afford a $400,000 home, only you can determine whether you could actually meet those payments.

Making an Offer Your agent should provide you with specific information before making an offer: a market analysis of the neighborhood, the current competing listings and a list of comparable sold listings in the area. “If the house is priced correctly in accordance with the market analysis, you don’t need to go in and make a low-ball offer and offend the seller,” Harding says. There is a risk in making a low offer: The seller could decide that you’re not a serious buyer and just walk away. On the other hand, remember that agents are paid on commission: It’s in their interest to keep home prices stable or rising; it’s in your interest to buy a home at a price you can afford.

Figuring Out Financing The conventional method of buying a house is backwards, according to Clint Hammond, a mortgage advisor with Mortgage

Network. Most buyers find a realtor, then a house and then look for financing. “In a perfect world, buyers would come to the mortgage officer first, put a plan in place that fits their budget, find a loan that fits their needs and then a house that fits that plan,” Hammond says. Most real estate agents will recommend that you be pre-qualified or pre-approved for a home loan before they get serious about showing you homes. Pre-qualification is an estimate of how much house you can afford. Pre-approval is a tentative commitment from a specific lender for mortgage funding. Having firm approval from a mortgage lender is the best way to start the home buying process, according to the Certified Mortgage Planning Institute. Many real estate transactions have fallen through because the buyer, seller and real estate agent counted on pre-approval letters that proved meaningless. Like a realtor, a certified mortgage planning specialist has completed a high level of training and is

Housing Affordability Index Hits Record High Housing affordability conditions have reached the highest level since recordkeeping began in 1970, according to the National Association of Realtors. The association’s Housing Affordability Index rose to a record high of 206.1 in January. The index is based on the relationship among median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate.


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An index of 100 is defined as the point where a medianincome household has exactly enough income to qualify for the purchase of a median-priced existing single-family home, assuming a 20 percent downpayment and 25 percent of gross income devoted to mortgage principal and interest payments. The higher the index, the greater the household purchasing power.

held accountable to a formal code of ethics. Look for that designation on a lender’s business card. A good lending agent will have several types of loans to offer, explain your options and help guide you in choosing which type of loan best suits your financial situation. “The mortgage has to fit your life,” Hammond says. Most new home builders entice buyers with financing through a preferred lender. A preferred lender’s loyalty naturally lies with the builder. To determine if the terms of the loan being offered are a good value, Hammond suggests getting a quote from a nonpreferred lender and comparing the two.

Closing the Deal Settlement can be the most intimidating phase of the homebuying process because it involves an attorney and signing a mound of documents. Now is not the time to call your cousin the tax attorney or the personal injury lawyer you hired for your workman’s comp claim. Choose an attorney knowledgeable in real estate law. “The rules, laws, forms and loans are constantly changing and you need someone proficient in real estate to walk you through the process,” says Gary Pickren, an attorney with Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC. “The biggest mistake I see new home buyers make is cutting corners trying to save a few hundred dollars,” Pickren says. Shopping for the cheapest attorney, home inspector, termite inspector or surveyor can backfire. Repairs can cost many thousands of dollars

For first-time buyers making small down payments, however, the affordability levels are relatively lower. Potential buyers should examine their own finances carefully and not commit more of their income than they can afford to buying a home. “This is the first time the housing affordability index has broken the two-hundred mark,” said NAR President Moe Veissi. “For buyers who can qualify for a mortgage, now is a very good time to become a homeowner.” Source: National Association of Realtors

homebuying 101

Resources for Home Buyers A step-by-step guide to everything you need to know about buying a home and choosing professionals is available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at The Federal Reserve provides consumer information on mortgages, settlement costs and much. Click on “publications” at For more first-time homebuyer tips and help choosing a realtor, visit Tips on navigating the financing process and finding a lender are available on the CMPS Institute’s public portal at

down the road if questions or problems arise about sewer lines, easements, power lines and other issues on the property. The higher fees these professionals charge is for the quality of their service and the reputation they’ve earned, Pickren says. Another big mistake is not buying title insurance, a one-time cost that protects against defects in the chain of title or ownership for as long as you own the home and when you go to sell it. Pickren has seen many buyers skimp up front and pay thousands of dollars on the back end in legal fees to clean up issues that surfaced later about boundary lines, forgeries and fraud, previous liens and inheritances. The professionals interviewed for this article agree that first-time buyers usually don’t ask enough questions about whom to hire, and wind up with someone they’re not satisfied with or who offers bad advice. They encourage buyers to shop for experienced, credentialed professionals and ask questions of everyone involved.

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$264,000 3613 Wheat Street Columbia, SC 29205 3 Bedrooms / 2 Baths 1580 SF (approx)

$119,900 205 Academy Way Drive Columbia, SC 29206 3 Bedrooms / 1 Baths 1388 SF (approx)




Real Estate Group | freetimes


Nine Homes You Could Own for $150,000 or Less A Snapshot of the Columbia Market Story and Photos by Jonathan Sharpe


ith interest rates as low as ever and plenty of homes on the market, now should be a good time to gobble up your first home, right? Well, then there’s the issue of finding financing in, you guessed it, a Down Economy. We’ve all heard reports that lending guidelines are tight right now, but I called a couple local realtors last month and asked to see some homes that would be suitable for first-time buyers, in downtown neighborhoods and suburbs of Columbia. $144,900 The Battery at Arsenal Hill Downtown 3 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,152 square feet This new, two-story, Charleston-style townhome built by Hallmark Homes has a tankless water heater, granite countertops and hardwood floors. Convenient to the Vista, USC and a short walk from Finlay Park, this home represents the lower end of downtown pricing. “You’d be hard pressed to find any new construction for less” downtown, says Watson.

The realtors I met with, Tom Watson of W Realty in Irmo and Janice Dinkel of the Trenholm Road office of Russell & Jeffcoat, were both upbeat about the current prospects for first-time buyers in Columbia, saying that’s a major segment of their business lately. And they were both in agreement on what the first step for first-time buyers should be: getting prequalified for a loan, so you know your price range and narrow down which neighborhoods you can afford to look at. Watson mentioned some Fannie Mae-backed programs for community banks that can help

with the down payment, as well as other city, state and federal programs available now for first time buyers, some of which have income limitations. “I’ve sold first homes in the Northeast to a lot of soldiers returning from Iraq, who are qualified with the VA for 100 percent financing,” says Dinkel, a realtor since 1996 who knows the northeast side of town very well, having graduated from Spring Valley High School. So without further ado, here are 10 homes in and around Columbia for $150,000 or less.

$100,000 Keenan Terrace 2 bedrooms, 1 bath 1,008 square feet Updated in 2008, this bungalow is fully insulated with newer windows and HVAC, as well as a beautiful kitchen with granite counters, subway wall tile and a large prep area. Privacy fencing around the back yard and close proximity to the NOMA Bark Park make this house a good choice if your children have four legs and a tail. A short drive to USC, the Vista and I-277.

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$94,900 St. Andrews 2 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,210 square feet Located in the gated Springhaven neighborhood off Piney Grove Road and convenient to I-26 in Irmo, this fouryear-old patio home has an open living/dining area, a one-car garage and a modest backyard with privacy fencing. Also comes with appliances.

$89,900 St. Andrews 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths 1,320 square feet This two-story, bank-owned home is only five years old, which means it has all the modern insulation and conveniences you’d expect from new construction, but at a steep discount due to the foreclosure. It’s in great condition, though, with shiny, wide-plank hardwood flooring throughout the open floorplan on the main level. Comes with appliances.

$109,000 Northeast 3 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,470 square feet You might never know the gated Angel Garden subdivision exists, if you didn’t live there or weren’t reading this article. Tucked down a winding, bumpy road behind a shopping center, this fiveyear-old, two-story home has a one-car garage and a small, privacy-fenced back patio. Convenient to I-77, Columbia Place Mall and all the international dining and grocery shopping you can find on nearby Decker Boulevard.

$100,000 Northeast 3 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,327 square feet This six-year-old patio home with a one-car garage is located in the

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$89,900 Northeast 2 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,272 square feet Built in 2001 in the Summit Townes development, this brick-and-vinyl patio home has new paint and carpet in neutral tones, and comes with all appliances. The master bedroom has a tray ceiling and a sizeable walk-in closet. Located near the Village at Sandhill and zoned for North Springs Elementary, Summit Middle and Ridge View High School.

Patriot Park subdivision, convenient to BlueCross BlueShield and I-20. The neighborhood was annexed into the City of Columbia, and is zoned for Windsor Elementary, E.L. Wright Middle School and Spring Valley High.

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$180’s $160’s Photo serves as representation only. All information is believed to be accurate but not warranted. Prices and specifications are subject to change without notice. Not all options are available on all homes and vary based on plan and plan pricing. See agent for compete details. © Copyright 2012, Crown Communities | 2012




Morgan & Associates, Inc. Sandy Morgan, CPCU, AIC Lexington: 803-996-2910 Chapin: 803-345-3452





$142,500 Rosewood 3 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,164 square feet This charming brick home in Rosewood is larger than it looks from the curb, owing to a complete renovation in 2007 that included energy efficient windows, insulation and HVAC, a stylish kitchen and dining nook, and the addition of a master suite that opens to a pergola-shaded back deck and a beautifully canopied back yard full of trees. Located near Valencia Park, this home is zoned for Kilbourne Elementary, Hand Middle and Dreher High.

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$139,900 Rosewood 3 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,689 square feet Low-slung in gray stucco and surrounded by tall pines, this 1950s rambler is just waiting for the right retrofile or Mad Men fan to come along and fill it with mid-century modern furnishings. Zoned for Rosewood Elementary, Hand Middle and Dreher High, this house comes with a carport, workshop building and a fenced back yard large enough for a tiki party.

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Hay Hill Services turned a barren front yard into lush greenery. Photo by Kristine Hartvigsen

Design-Build Project Adds Form, Function to Corner Lot

Landscape Architect Tackles Yard in Two Phases By Kristine Hartvigsen


arren.” In a word, that’s how Hay Hill Services landscape architect David Stack describes the front yard presented by one of his first design-build customers several years ago. Situated on a large corner lot in a stately downtown neighborhood, the yard itself initially held little visual interest, with the exception of some thoughtful bedding flowers and potted plants huddled close to the home’s façade. And the treeless yard’s expanse of dying St. Augustine turf badly needed help; you could almost hear the screech of vultures echoing across the distance. 18 freetimes |

The owners, a married couple who have lived in the large Colonial home through 28 years and three renovations, were ready for a change that not only added style but also function to their generous yet under-utilized space.

Designing a Vision Having an active family with grown children and multiple vehicles to maneuver, the couple wanted to install a wide circular driveway that was tasteful but not completely obvious from the street. “The function of the driveway was very important to them,” Stack


says. “They also wanted to present a pleasant view from the street because they are on a very visible corner.” Stack listened to his customers’ vision for the project as well as their likes and dislikes in terms of design features and plants. “I take the customer’s goals and interpret what they say and apply it to the design,” Stack says. “I usually come up with a base map. We generate our final drawings on computer, but I try to sketch most of my stuff on site. I may develop several options for the customer to choose from. They may choose one or even mix and match.” The couple wanted to keep the St. Augustine grass, so Hay Hill replaced all of it with fresh sod of the same variety. They also wanted to add trees and incorporate some favorite plants — hydrangeas, fragrant tea olive shrubs and autumn fern. “David is so easygoing,” says the lady of the house, who prefers not to be identifed. (This is not uncommon: Few of Hay Hill’s clients want media attention on themselves.) “He is delightful to work with. I felt like he listened to what my husband and I both liked, and he helped us make the best continued on page 21

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implement it as your finances allow.

Landscape architect David Stack’s finished project. Before, the front yard was treeless (below). Photo by Kristine Hartvigsen

Landscaping Questions Answered Interview by Kristine Hartvigsen Free Times: What are some misconceptions people have about hiring a landscape architect? David Stack: There is a perception that the upfront costs will be unaffordable. There is an initial design fee, but we can work with you on some things, like materials and installation, to keep your costs within budget. Where the big money comes in is if there is construction.

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FT: What is the most important thing homeowners should keep in mind in considering a landscape makeover? DS: To me, the most important part is the design. You can adjust the materials to suit your budget. But the design is critical. You have to have a plan. It’s worth it. FT: What should people do in preparation for a meeting with you? DS: Bring pictures clipped from magazines. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Think about plants that you like and don’t like. Do you want shade or sun? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you going to do in the landscape? Will there be children playing? Do you have dogs? Do they dig? Do you want grass or a hardscape? What you are planning also should work with the surrounding environment. And, of course, you need to consider any homeowners association restrictions that may apply. Do they have a design review board? We can provide plans for their approval.

Q&A with David Stack

FT: When people want to update or freshen the look of their home, paint is one of the quickest, least expensive choices. What is a landscaper’s “paint” for folks on a modest budget? DS: Sometimes less is more. You can spend a lot of money and put in a lot of plants, but if you don’t keep it up, it’s for nothing. Maintenance is the easiest thing. You may not have to change anything.

FT: Tell me about mulch. Does one size fit all? DS: The goal with mulch is to hold moisture and keep weeds out. Most all types of mulch accomplish that. A lot of people love pine straw. It’s the most economical choice. It’s a natural resource here and very abundant. I like hardwood mulches. I use a lot of chocolate mulch. It’s a deep brown and has UV inhibitors in it. It is more expensive than pine straw. What do you like to see in your yard? You can combine types of mulch in different areas and get the effect you want without a big price tag.

FT: Do you have any print or online gardening resources to recommend to our readers?

If you have just a beautiful lawn that is well-maintained and nicelooking, it will make a big impact. It’s as simple as it can be. Keep it clean and green. That is as close as I can get to putting a ‘coat of paint’ on it. FT: What if I’m afraid my budget won’t be enough to ac-

complish what I want? DS: Some people don’t want to share a budget amount. That is where estimates come in. We give a very detailed budget estimate ... Most of what we do is conceptual design. There is a nominal fee up front for that. And you may choose to do it in phases and


DS: I like Garden Design and Southern Living magazines. There’s also this great book,

Month-by-Month Gardening in the Carolinas by Robert Polomski. It has the ABCs of maintenance. I also recommend the website It has lots of great information.

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Design, continued from page 18 choices ... he knew our lifestyle; we are not master gardeners, so he knew we didn’t need a highmaintenance yard.”

Communication is Key Stack can’t say enough about the importance of communication and customer input in a designbuild project. “My process is as collaborative as you want to be,” he says. “It’s not my design; it’s our design.” In this project, Stack’s customers knew pretty much what they wanted, and he turned it into a workable plan. “They like cherry trees, so we put those along the street, along with some red maples,” he says, adding that they contributed to a nice landscape buffer between the house and the street. The plantings both frame the house but also soften the look of the corner. “The classical design of the house led to the formal layout of the driveway, creating a relationship between the house and the street.”

Photo by Kristine Hartvigsen

Delighted with the result, the couple once again called on Stack and Hay Hill Services to return and work their magic on the back yard a few years later. “The back yard was a project we did last year in response to an addition to the house,” Stack explains. Unlike the sunny front, the back yard was extremely shady. “And they had a drainage issue, so that was a big concern.” Stack proposed installing a circular wall, built into the slight hillside along with drainage systems under-

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taining what has been installed. And, while not a master gardener, the lady of the house adores plants and loves to add color with potted flowers and unusual flora.


“This is just a comfortable yard; it’s nothing elaborate,” she says. “I love to stand in the yard and just visualize what I am going to do next.”

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©2012 The Mungo Companies

Phase Two

ground, which not only would be functional but also contribute to the courtyard-like effect the couple was hoping to achieve. “At first, they weren’t sure they wanted a wall in the back,” Stack says. “But it was really a mudbog back there.” It didn’t take much to convince the couple. “The wall created an edge to keep the water from entering the grassy yard,” Stack says. “It’s also a great design element.” The project also added an iron-gated entry on the side of the house leading from the original driveway. It is a favorite feature, visible from the family’s bright and informal off-the-kitchen dining area. Stack commends the couple for doing an exceptional job main-

4522 St. Andrews Rd • 803.772.3330 | 2012





Early Planning, Prioritizing Are Key

builder, negotiating our way to the end,” Strevens says. He recommends this approach so that the builder, who works with the cost of building projects each day, can make suggestions such as shifting a wall slightly or simplifying a roofline to keep the project within the client’s budget. “The design should be critiqued early by the person who’s building it, so that you don’t get emotionally attached early on to something you can’t manage,” Strevens says. If you’re comfortable with the cost of the project, Strevens mentions a few other helpful tips to be sure they project runs smoothly. After all, if you’re living in the home during the renovation, you’ll get to know your builder well. “Even if you have a recommendation for a builder, ask for a comprehensive list of the builder’s past clients,” Strevens says. “The list should date back several years. You want to know about experience. Ask to visit current job sites and current clients and see how comfortable you feel on the job site.”

By Katie Alice Walker

Stick to Your Timeline

Tripp Riley, vice president of Studio 2LR (left) and John Stevens of Celtic Works. Photo by Jonathan Sharpe

Tackling Home Renovations


hen it comes to buying a home, there are plenty of decisions to make. Thinking about neighborhoods, school districts and resale value can be dizzying. And when you find the home of your dreams, but the bathroom features a “charming” turquoise and teal tile pattern or the kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, renovations may be in order. This scenario is an even more likely if you’re looking at an home in one of Columbia’s established downtown neighborhoods.

We spoke with a contractor and a custom cabinetmaker who gave us tips on keeping your potential renovation on budget and schedule.

Make Plans If you think renovations are costly, you’re right — but maybe they aren’t cost-prohibitive. In the long run, adding value, updating or adding needed square footage to your home is appealing, both for you and for a buyer in the future. If you’re buying a home, chances are you’re getting more and more comfortable with spending large amounts of money, but it’s important to spend

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in ways that make sense long-term. “The biggest fear around the building process is money,” says John Strevens, an owner of Celtic Works, a residential building company that builds everything from custom homes to historic renovations. “Most people really want to know what they’re getting into before they start, and we get a lot of clients that don’t know where to begin,” Strevens says. “Younger clients, in particular, often think they should engage a builder after they have plans drawn up, but that’s a mistake. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money having

plans designed and realize you can’t afford the project.” Strevens says it’s best when there’s a plan built around the client’s budget. “We work as a three-prong team: owner, designer/architect and

Everyone’s heard a story of a construction project that took twice as long as originally estimated. And of course you want to avoid that scenario. Randy Schrader has some advice. He’s the owner of Schrader continued on page 24

Renovation Tips First Things First “Most people want to get to work on the interior of their homes,” ,” says John Strevens, an owner of Celtic Works. “If the roof is falling in or the siding is peeling, take care of those things first. Make sure the outside of your home is protected.”

Will Renovating Pay Off? “We’ve seen a drastic change in the way appraisals are made,” says John Strevens, an owner of Celtic Works. “Get comps in your neighborhood and see if it’s worth the investment to renovate.” Spending $50,000 to renovate in a neighborhood where homes sell for $100,000 might not make sense.


How Long Will You Be in the Home? “Ask yourself how long you’re going to stay in the house,” says Strevens. You may need time for the home’s value to appreciate to make the renovation a smart investment.

Know the Rules “Be sure you’re aware of any potential zoning issues,” says Strevens. “Make sure you know if you live in a neighborhood that has a historic overlay where plans will have to be approved to the neighborhood or some other party. I’ve met with couples who’ve spent a huge amount on plans, simply to find out that what they want isn’t allowed.”

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Prioritizing Home Projects: Where to Start? Make a List Make a list of every project on your mind — from changing a doorknob to replacing a roof, HVAC system or landscaping the backyard. Next, put those projects into categories of needs versus wants: (1) urgent projects; (2) necessary but not urgent; (3) cosmetic or optional. Maybe you’d like to replace your roof, but it’s not causing problems right now. Your HVAC, on the hand hand, isn’t working at all. Clearly, HVAC replacement needs to go on your urgent list.

Make a Plan Now that you have a prioritized list of projects, it’s time to make a plan. Replacing that HVAC needs to happen soon, but maybe the roof can be part of your three-to-five-year plan. Not everything on your list is as intimidating and expensive as an HVAC system or a roof replacement, however. Tackling smaller projects such as changing that doorknob or painting a room


continued from page 22

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Kitchens + Furniture, which specializes in custom cabinets and even furniture for kitchens, bathrooms, built-ins and closets. “When considering renovating a kitchen, it is important for clients to understand how long the project will take,” Schrader says. “Come into the process with as many ideas and inspiration as possible. Knowing what you want is helpful in speeding up the process. I’ve seen many jobs stall out when a customer can’t decide on tile for three weeks in the midst of a project.” “Preplanning is critical in a smooth renovation,” says Shcrader. “An average kitchen, a simple replacement, can take as little as four weeks, where an addition or gut can take sometimes six months or more, depending on the complexity.” Strevens also notes that a construction timeline and schedule should be included in a renovation contract.


is important, too. And if you’re putting your home on the market anytime soon, you’ll want to have as many of those small projects out of the way as possible.

Make a Budget Kitchen or bathroom renovation? Those projects are expensive — but they can also pay off in the resale value of your home. If you plan to be in your home for 15 years, maybe those projects can wait. But if you want to move in the next few years, you might want to consider a home equity loan that would allow you to take on a couple of major projects at once. Be careful, though: Look at what homes are selling for in your neighborhood and be honest with yourself about how much a renovation would add to the value of your home. If you don’t know, call a real estate agent who sells in your area; they can give you real-life feedback on how renovations have affected selling prices in your area.

The Bottom Line Cost is the dealmaker — or breaker — when it comes to renovations. Before beginning a renovation, it is imperative that the client is comfortable with the cost of the project. “There’s a cost-plus model of pricing where a contractor will charge a percentage on top of material and labor,” says Strevens, who warns this isn’t an ideal pricing model, as the burden isn’t placed on the contractor to keep within budget. Instead, he recommends working with a contractor who will offer fixed-price, line-item calculating, which not only keeps costs under control, but also speaks to the contractors’ background and experience in renovating. Schrader, whose projects include contemporary and traditional kitchens, even wood-fired pizza ovens, says, “Be flexible. Things can change in the process. It’s important to understand that if everyone works together, it can be a much smoother, enjoyable process.”

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