Category Archives: Having Fun

Dining, Recreation, Boating, Hiking, Shows, Meetings

Come and Stay in Charleston for the Food

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to do is to eat good food.  It can be fine dining, or a really good burger or slab of ribs; food is way up on the list of things I enjoy.  When I go to heaven, I expect to have a body just like I have now, and I expect to enjoy the things I enjoy now, but without the side effects.  Sure, I’ll be loving Jesus and all of you, but we’re going to eat together.  (Some of the other activities, I’d still like to keep private if you don’t mind.) 

 I’ve found the best pizza I’ve had just about anywhere, (Italian Bistro in Summerville).  The best Barbecue on the planet. (too many places to mention, most of them are very, very good)  And of course, there is fine low country specialties.  Shrimp and grits.  She Crab soup.  Piles and piles and piles of steamed oysters.    And did I mention barbecue?  You know?  Pork.  I can’t do the all you can eat anymore, because I just can’t stop at a reasonable point.  I have to order a dinner portion so I don’t have to suffer so bad. 

I’ve been looking at some of the Top 10 and top 100 and all that.  Have you ever been to Suwanee Georgia?  If you like outlet stores and endless subdivisions, it’s great, but where’s a guy gonna eat if it’s not at the Outback Steak House?  What about Cary or Apex North Carolina.  What is there to do in Cary or Apex?  Not a damn thing I tell you.  There certainly isn’t anyplace to surf, that’s for sure.  OK, so we have too much crack in North Charleston and everything that goes with it.  Crack dealers are people just like you and me really.  They just need some help getting pointed in the right direction, I mean, let’s get some perspective here. 

So, before you start whining about crime statistics and state taxes and all that, bring your pocket book and a good appetite and make the rounds here in Charleston.  You can never run out of new choices.  I write the content at www.charlestondining.com although I haven’t written much lately.  I’m sure that will give you a good start and when you run out of choices there, maybe you could pick out a couple of new ones and write a reveiw for me…it’s not like I get paid for it.  This is a blog you know. 

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Events Calender is Maturing Nicely

Just a quick note.  If you’re looking for someplace online to find out what’s going on in Charleston, or if you have an event you’d like to post, try

http://www.charlestonsfinest.com/calendar/events/index.php

 It’s becoming very popular.  Also, please let us know what you think.  We’re considering adding it to the rest of our directories and we’d like your thoughts.  Have a great day!

Park Circle for Under $200,000

Here’s the long-anticipated Park Circle Post.   “I want a home with some character where I can walk to parks, restaurants and shopping.” “Can you find me an investment property that will experience better than average appreciation?” Both of these are available in Park Circle.  Those familiar with the Charleston Market know this, but I wanted to go explore for myself.  I don’t get paid to be a reporter, but being in my third year in real estate, and having had some success of my own, I’ll be looking to gain some tax advantages and use my real estate knowledge to my own advantage.   So, I had just a couple of hours to learn as much as I could.  Investors typically want something that will provide positive cash flow, which in Charleston means that it needs to be priced around $160k and rent for $975/mo.  Here is what I learned. There are several sections in Park Circle, some of which are very nice, and others, not so much.  The homes in areas not so nice didn’t seem to priced that much lower…it’s as if they thought the “Park Circle” brand name would carry them. The homes currently in the MLS for the most part, are leftovers.  What do I mean by leftovers?  There is something clearly lacking that explains why no one has bought it yet.  Things that can’t be changed, or not very easily.  For example, one home, which was on a nice street by the way, had four bedrooms, but two of them where in an area over the garage where you had to walk through one bedroom to get to the other two, and through the second bedroom to get to the third.   In another case, the home had been added onto in such a way that it was just way overpriced.  People tend to search around for advice and find someone that will tell them what they want to hear.  So they find someone that says, “Oh, your home is 1400 square feet, we can easily get you $190,000.”  What they don’t say, is that six months later, they’ll be looking for another agent, because they picked the agent based on price, instead of picking the agent based on their integrity, and discussing price later.  A much wiser approach if you think about it. A third case, the home had been completely rehabbed, and was right across the street from a park.  They were asking $179,000 for an 803 square foot 2 bedroom one bath.  A little ambitious possibly, the owners are obviously willing to wait to get top dollar.  Someone will eventually fall in love with it, even though some of the improvements were done, “on the cheap”.   Some homes I didn’t even bother going into.  I wouldn’t want my sister or mother living there, and will let someone more adventurous take them on.  There is money to be made in blighted neighborhoods, but not by me.  At least not at this point.   So, what’s the answer?  Having driven by dozens of houses, and going inside a few in just a couple of hours,  I had a theory.  Maybe the best homes, the ones that are priced realistically and are good opportunities either for families to live, or investors to make a fair profit are sold very quickly. Sure enough, I checked the MLS, and properties in Park Circle under $200,000 were more typically under contract in under a week, and in many cases were sold before they were listed.  You have two scenarios.  First, there are about 100 (of the five thousand) real estate agents in the Charleston area that make six figure incomes, and need tax shelters.  They have access to the MLS real time, and are poised to jump on opportunities.  I’m not quite there yet, but well on the way.  The second scenario is that experienced investors who are direct clients of real estate agents that are too busy to do the down and dirty work of searching for properties.  They have agents working for them, and a plan to strike quickly when opportunities arise.   If you’re serious about finding a high demand property, you need to be prepared, and you need to have a plan to strike quickly That plan needs to have these critical components: You need an agent you can trust implicitly to help you make good decisions, that will never “sell” you.You need to be prepared to view the property the day it hits the MLS.You need to be prepared financially with bank information, or a pre-approval letter.  You need to be prepared to deliver a solid offer, that makes it easy for the seller to say yes…preferably “as-is” with a free look period.   Once you have a “ratified” contract, I suggest having the property inspected immediately, so you can clear the inspection contingency, or obtain a release from the contract.  Basically, you just want to know that the property is structurally sound, and whether or not costly repairs will be needed.   I hope this helps you.  Some of the things you learned here can apply to any home purchase.  If something online seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Investor/agents are always on the lookout for the best deals, and they area gone in days.   Your agent needs to be up to speed on technology to take care of you properly.  They also need to know the market in which you’re looking.  They need to know why properties on one street tend to be worth more than those on another and why.  The Move2Charleston Team has agents assigned to different areas so you always get someone that knows the area in which you’re looking.  I will help you sort through the different parts of town with the pros and cons of each and assign a local expert to you. 

Did I Forget to Tell You How Great it is to Have Year-Round Good Weather?

I was hanging out with a friend of mine today, and we were talking about how cool it is knocking around Charleston in Golf Shirts, Khaki’s, and no socks.  I’m not a no-socks guy, it feels clammy to me, but many are.  I do enjoy flip flops, but that’s not exactly appropriate work attire.  My friend Randy and I are both salespeople, so we’re out and about quite a bit.  It’s great not having to worry about bundling up in the winter, shoveling snow, and having extra gear in the car like boots, shovels, etc.  Most of the time, it’s just downright pleasant.  Yes, the Summers are hot and long, but it’s not so bad with khakis and a short sleeve shirt.  And it’s not like the Summers aren’t brutal up North.  We do have seasons here, the leaves fall off the trees, but we always have lots of evergreens as well as Live Oak trees so we don’t have that God-Awful Greyness in the winter. 

And for you golfers, imagine NOT having to fly down to Myrtle Beach with your buddies to play a few rounds of golf.  You can still having your getaway, but it’s a two hour drive to Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, and Savannah.  You can all climb in the car and go. 

I do like rubbing it in once in awhile. 

Charleston County Parks Make Life in Charleston Even Better

One of the things Cara and I have enjoyed over the years, and the boys as well, have been the county parks.  Whether you just want to go for a long walk in the woods, or are looking for someplace to take the kids, there are just so many things to do.  CCPRC, Charleston County Parks and Recreation also manages the beach park at Folly and Isle of Palms as well as the Folly Fishing Pier.  Visit www.ccprc.com for event calenders and a list and description of the facilities.  At the top of our list for many years was the Water park at Wannamaker Park in N Charleston.  Our son Zachary was 13 when it opened, and he pretty much lived there all summer.  One of the parents would take a car load in the morning and drop them off.  And that would be that for the day…aahhh…peace and quiet.  And they were so much more enjoyable to be with when they came home with all that excess energy burned off. 

If you’re planning a visit to Charleston, or if you’re a resident here, stop by www.ccprc.com and see what they have to do for your family.  We love Charleston because there are so many things to do outdoors, and you can enjoy the outdoors pretty much year round.  Just be careful in the Summer.  Sunburn and Heat Exhaustion are no fun, so make sure you take good care of yourselves. 

What’s Your Story? My wife and I started out in the internet information business and then moved into residential real estate.

Today, www.charlestonsfinest.com receives over 3500 visitors every day and points hundreds of visitors every day to our real estate sites.  When my wife Cara and I first came to
Charleston, her first job was as a Retail advertising sales person for the Post and Courier.  She was salesperson of the year her first, and only year with the company.  It didn’t take long before the good ol’ boy culture got to her, and she decided to move on.  Cara had a very unique approach to selling advertising.  She took the time to talk to her clients about their businesses, and the message that they wanted to send, and then develop with them advertising that would actually make the phone ring, can you imagine that?  So naturally, when her clients began actually making money from their advertising, they would want to do more.  If you’re not in the business, it sounds pretty obvious, but I can assure you, many inside the advertising business are quite perplexed when their small and medium size business clients actually expect their advertising to produce direct results.  Her employer was not used to paying the kind of commissions they were paying her, and before too long, she became discouraged, made her feelings known to management, and the rest is history as they say.
 

Cara was earning a pretty good income, and to say the least I was quite concerned when she wanted to leave her job and start her own business.  Initially, she wanted to start an advertising company, and she did some work for some small businesses in Summerville.  But she really wanted to do something much bigger.  She thought there was a need for an online guide for
Charleston and that she was the person to do it. 
I wasn’t so sure, but she was undeterred by my lukewarm support.  And off she went.  So in 1995
Charleston’s Finest Online Guide sprang to life. 
Since part of her background was in the hotel industry, she first approached some of the local hotels and inns, but the idea was a little before it’s time.  At this time, many businesses were just starting to design their own websites, and online commerce had just begun.  She started out designing a few websites around town and linking them to www.charlestonsfinest.com.  At first, she had someone else doing the code and design work, but eventually learned how to do it herself, so she could create and implement her ideas on the fly.  Early on, the two needs we addressed were web site design, and then online accomodations information.  Having been unsuccessfull at convincing hotel managers and owners to invest in the internet, they were more than happy to pay a commission if Cara could bring in the business.  So she designed basic sites for the different hotel and inn properties, with her contact information.  They would contact Cara by phone, email, or filling out an online form, and she would book the reservations into the hotels, and then be paid a commission.  Travelers from out of town were looking for information on the best places to stay to suit their requirements, and so Cara and her time provided for that need.  It wasn’t too long before she had her hands full with her own sites and the resulting activity, and so only designed web sites only from direct referrals. 
 

My story begins to intersect in 1999 when I went to work for George S. May International Company as a Staff Consultant.   As a full time management consultant, I left home on Sunday and stayed out in the field all week, returning on Friday, if at all.  It turned out, somewhat to my surprise, that I was able to help small business owners considerably by helping them identify and implement what usually turned out to be pretty obvious changes.  Sometimes, I’d be out for weeks at a time and after about a year had had enough.  It took me another year or so to plan my escape, so I could get off the road.  I tried a couple of things on my own, including trying to start my own independent consultancy, and finally, we came to the obvious conclusion that the best thing was for me to apply myself to improving the business Cara started.  The short of it is that in 2003, Cara and I decided that the best course was for us to work together.  In January 2004, I started working the reservations desk, and began optimizing our websites.  We would tour downtown
Charleston together, conducting site inspections on the different properties, so we could report based on first hand information.  Some of the properties we toured were quite beautiful.  Others were pretty run down.  In between phone calls, I’d study different sites on the web and learn how to increase our search engine rankings and positions.  We had two ends in mind at this time.  We wanted to increase our reservations business enough to allow us to hire a reservationist, and build our traffic to a point that we could sell advertising space and links on the site.  By June, we started calling on businesses to sell advertising, wedding and travel related mostly.  And about that same time hired a full time reservationist to help us with the call volume.  It was that summer that we began speaking to Bob Brennamen with The Group, LLC, a small real estate brokerage firm in

Mt.
Pleasant.  Bob had experienced some success in real estate through the internet, and helped us realize the obvious conclusion that we needed to get more directly involved in real estate.  As it turns out, over 80% of people looking for homes start their search on the internet.  We already had people contacting us for information, and found that there was a need to help people find their new neighborhood that didn’t know the area.  From our own experience buying and selling our own homes, we learned that their was also a need for more honest, thorough, and straightforward help for people trying to get their homes sold and find a new home.   

So, by March of 2005, I had my South Carolina real estate license and was able to respond to the many people contacting us about finding their home in
Charleston.  By the end of the year, we had completed 9 transactions and chose our current brokerage firm, Keller Williams Realty.  Our first full year, 2006, we completed 27 transactions, mostly with buyers, totaling over $5 million.   Out of about 5800 Realtors in
Charleston and rising, we were ranked at 279 our first full year putting us in the top 3%.  Cara earned her license in early 2006, just so we could keep more of the money in the family to help us grow.  Late 2006, early 2007, the real estate market in
Charleston took a pretty sharp downward turn, with more competition than ever.  But we’re still plugging along thanks to my brilliant, beautiful and industrious wife, Cara. 
 

In October, 2006, we purchased www.Move2Charleston.com from a couple that was leaving the state.  We still have our original real estate site, www.CharlestonNeighborhoods.com and just created www.CharlestonsFinestRealEstate.com.  Cara spends most of her time improving the directories, and shows a few houses from time to time.  She’s so excited, she wrote her first contract last weekend.  She gets a nice sum every month from Google, who advertises on our site as well as from online hotel reservations.  We closed the call center as consumer trends migrated toward online booking.  Cara attracts and manages some group hotel business, generated from www.CharlestonsFinest.com and www.CharlestonMeetings.com.  Because of her experience handling hotel and convention sales, her clients appreciate her knowledge and thoroughness.  We recently launched a blog on Living and Working in
Charleston, www.AllThingsCharleston.com and are working on an approach to help For Sale By Owner (FSBO) clients with our online presence, as well as those that would hire us to advertise their homes on our well trafficked websites. 
 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our little story.  I’m so glad Cara didn’t listen to me when I tried to tell her there were just too many things working against her, that she was undeterred.  There are literally thousands of businesses that benefit from traffic from www.charlestonsfinest.com As we watch our traffic increase, we hope it’s because people are finding the sites helpful in finding the information they’re looking for.  We continue to take many of the dollars that come in and re-invest it into new tools and interactive content.  Most recently, Cara added an interactive events calendar that is very popular.   

We hope that we can find a way that our little internet business can help you.  Maybe we can help you find your home, get your home sold, or get your business to the next level through effective internet marketing.  We’ll find out together where it takes us next.   

 

Sometimes, dinner can be very dissappointing

One of Cara and I’s favorite things to do is go out on dates, just the two of us, which usually involves food.  We have a couple of regular spots, one of which I’m only a little embarrassed to say in Quizno’s.  Ours near Coosaw Creek is especially good.  There’s something about the way they toast the sandwiches, and I especially enjoy their prime rib selections as well as the beef brisquet.  Cara usually gets the tuna salad sandwich, and she enjoyes the sesame seed rolls.  It’s less than $20 with chips, a drink and a cookie, and we’re always satisfied about getting what we paid for. 

When we go out to a nice restaurant and pay $20 plus for one main course, we expect it to be delectable.  On Friday, we went to Old Village Post House in Mt. Pleasant, and it was a dissappointment.  I’ve been in the South my whole life, and never picked up my Dad’s New Yorker delight in such situations.  So, in true Southern form, I’ll talk about them  behind their backs.  I don’t like to complain, and I was hungry.  Anyway, I regret not sending the food back.  The salad was a little confusing.  I normally enjoy vinigrette dressing, and there was something just not quite right.  I’m not sure if it was too much salt, or too much vinegar, it just didn’t taste right.  Then, my scallops came out luke warm.  And the concoction of onions, tomatoes and greens just didn’t work.  The cold scallops tasted good, even though they were cold.  And I didn’t send it back.  I love scallops.  My mistake.  I told the waiter the meal was so-so and he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m sorry” but he didn’t offer to take anything off the bill send over the manager, whatever.  I was more interested in enjoying Cara than dealing with performance issues with the restaurant.  We ordered dessert, which was also dissappointing.  I’m not sure how you ruin apple and strawberry cobbler, but they found a way, probably by leaving it under the heat lamp for too long.  So, all three of my courses were dissappointing.  I also commented that the dessert was not that great.  Cara enjoyed her pork chop.  Next time, it all goes back, or we’ll just leave and go to Quizno’s.