How to Get a Good Remodeling Contractor

Thinking about updating your kitchen to something more modern, or maybe give the master bathroom a Jacuzzi tub? The hardest part of a home renovation is finding the right contractor, someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price.

Remodeling spending is up and prices are 30% from their lowest point a few years ago. Add to that the higher costs of materials and you get the full picture of today's market. Remodeling projects require good planning, money, and great execution. Here are a few tips on how to get a good contractor for the job and manage the process:

  • Be very clear of what you want to accomplish and make sure the contract includes the work needed to be done.
  • Ask for a reference from a client who had to call them back to fix a problem with the work. to make sure  the contractor follows up until the homeowner is satisfied.
  • Verify the contractor's licenses and check them for reviews with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are legitimate. To do residential building over $200 and commercial building over $5,000 in South Carolina a contractor must be licensed.
  • Get the contractor's input on the plan and on any initial sketches your architect has put together. If the contractor has a lot of experience he might offer valuable feed back and ideas.

  • Leave the pricing conversation to the end. Discuss the technical details first and analyze carefully any add-on suggestions.
  • Never sign a contract without all of the blanks filled in. Read the contract carefully and, if the value is significant, have an attorney check it out.
  • Negotiate! Ask for bids from three different contractors if the value of the remodeling project is significant. Be sure to stoke competition by letting them know that you're gathering multiple offers. Skip any bids that are wildly high or low. But be careful, you don't want to end up with a contractor who cuts corners to stay within the budget.
  • Plan for a 10 to 20 percent contingency to cover the parts of the project that have to go over the initially allocated amount.
  • Set the schedule of the project with the contractor, but allow some flexibility. Good contractors have to work around issues and often times good solutions require more time.

Home remodeling

Communication is crucial. You may be on the phone with your contractor several times a day. You may have to work through disagreements over details so select a contractor who is not only skilled and reliable but who is someone you can get along with.  If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How much house can you afford?

How much home can you afford
Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you make. This is not a simple decision and it should be based on multiple factors. Despite its complexity, the process starts with a very simple question: how much house can you afford? This is the simplified answer: you can afford a house that costs as much as the largest monthly mortgage payment you qualify for.

Before you make any decisions and start shopping for a mortgage you should gather the financial information that allows you to do the affordability calculations. Mortgage companies use something called qualifying ratios to determine how much they will lend you. The ratio is calculated by taking your total monthly debt load and dividing it by your monthly gross income. Most mortgage companies use a 28/36 ratio. The first number is the percentage of your gross income that the lender would consider acceptable as a monthly mortgage payment ((i.e. if you make $3,000 per month, 28% of that is $840 per month).

The second number is used when all debt payments are considered (i.e. if you make $3,000 per month, but also have a $250 a month car payment, 36% of $3,000 is $1,080, minus the $250 car payment equals $830). Generally most lenders want your debt-to-income ratio, including your anticipated new monthly mortgage payment, not to exceed 36 percent.

In order to approach home ownership the right way, you have to think long term. The cost of homeownership extends beyond the monthly payment and includes routine maintenance and repairs, homeowners association dues, and additional utilities that you might not have paid while renting. You also have to consider your credit score. The best thing to do with a less-than-perfect credit score is to wait, while making changes in the spending habits to improve the score. Experts suggest, you should be debt-free and have three to six months of expenses saved in addition to your down payment and closing costs, before you consider buying a home.

If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page. Click here for real estate mortgage information.

Note: The purpose of this information is to serve as a useful guide. For more exact, personalized information, please contact a certified mortgage representative.

How to Sell a Home With Pets

Cat and dog on the couch
Most of the families with pets think of their dog or cat as a family member. Despite the affection though, pets don't help much with the sales process. A homeowner with pets need to go a few extra steps to clean the house and mend the necessary repairs before it becomes ready for the market at a competitive price.

Here are a few useful tips to prepare for selling your home with pets. Read this article and filter out the information that does not fit your particular situation. We are pretty sure you will still find some tips appropriate for you and your beloved pet.

Pets are known for not adjusting well to change, especially cats or older dogs. Have a serious conversation with a good veterinarian before making any changes. This will make the process easier while helping you identify the critical aspects you need to consider before they leave a mark on the pet.

Make sure the pet is not home when buyers arrive. The best way to handle this is by relocating the pet in advance. You need the help of a friend or relative the pet gets along with. It would be ideal to relocate the animal earlier in the sale process to allow you the time to clean the house of any traces of the pet. This way you make sure no buyer gets turned off no matter how indifferent to animals he or she is. It is also important to make sure your dog is not home during showings for liability reasons. There is always a potential risk of unpleasant incidents when a dog meets new people no matter how friendly the animal is. Even pets have bad days.

Repair any damages made by the pet on carpets, furniture, hardwood flooring, walls, doors, turf in your yard, porch, and fence. It is almost impossible to avoid these damages with a pet in the house. Any such deterioration may have a negative impact on the selling price and the value perceived by potential buyers.

On of the easiest ways to betray the existence of a pet in a house is the smell. A strong odor is in fact one of the top reasons a buyer will pass on a home. Now matter how keen is your sense of smell, you have probably gotten used with it in time. Don't think there is no odor just because you can't smell it. The best thing to do is clean thoroughly and rely on someone that does not live in the house to offer you feedback on how good of a job you have done on removing pet odors.  Extra tip: use a professional carpet cleaner. If nothing works, replace the entire carpet.

Clean the yard if you are a dog owner who gives their pets free reign of the backyard. It may be great for the pet, but it surely leaves a mark on the lawn. Improve the look of your yard by repairing the discolored patches.  A successful backyard will help your home’s outside sparkle and shine as vibrantly as the inside.

Do your best and prepare thoroughly. Sometimes though, even if there are no indications of pets living in the house, potential buyers ask anyway. Be honest and upfront. Some people may try to bargain and push the price down despite the fact that you have successfully cleaned up and removed any traces of your pet. The best approach in this case is to focus on the current state of the house. Emphasize that your house now looks as good as it did before you had the pet.

Selling a home with pets takes work, but it’s worth it in the long run! Clean your house and make the necessary repairs to make sure your home is not devalued in the marketplace. The best thing to do as pet owners is to take action to eliminate the problem before your home goes on the market. Remember, a home is only really worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

Century 21 and Google Sign Exclusive Partnership

The contract recently signed is an exclusive partnership in the real estate industry between two giants: Google, recently named the world's most powerful brand, and CENTURY 21 Real Estate, the franchiser of the world's largest residential real estate sales organization in the world.

Century 21 and Google Partnership

This partnership has the potential to be one of the most powerful programs in real estate, adding a team of professional marketing assistants available to help brokers and real estate agents with the following tasks:
  • design and personalize their myc21 site;
  • create unique property site flyers;
  • enroll sellers in the golden ruler
  • enroll customers into pcc
  • create marketing collaterals with AdMaker
  • generate publicity with PR studio
  • prepare listing presentations
  • implement the new C21 Social Exchange to schedule media posts
  • generate leads.

Century 21 - most visited real estate website

By signing the partnership, Century 21 has a national scope in view, since the company advertises in iconic national media venues and fuels the industry's most visited real estate franchise website.

Century 21 has added two new fantastic websites: and, dedicated to keep the real estate agents front and center in the conversations with customers throughout the year.

During its recent "Sell Like a Champion" 2014 Global Conference, Century 21 announced that it will be advertising in the 2015 Super Bowl.

Century 21 to advertise in 2015 Super Bowl!

For more details visit: If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How to Go Green in Real Estate and Make Your Home Environmentally Friendly

April 22 is Earth Day, observed all over the world. It is a day of action for individuals, companies, and organizations to build awareness and protect the environment. As residents of North Myrtle Beach, we aare very happy with the latest developments regarding the wind energy in the area. In 2012 North Myrtle Beach City Council approved a resolution in support of offshore wind energy in South Carolina and identified North Myrtle Beach as a "Wind Powered Economic Zone."

CENTURY 21 Thomas has been a supporter of these initiatives. Our real estate agents are aware of the importance of promoting a green economy. They are open to managing listings of eco-friendly homes or sustainably-built homes. CENTURY 21 Thomas real estate agents were happy to share a few ways to go green in real estate and help others take steps to make their homes environmentally friendly:

Improve the energy efficiency of your home - work on the key areas of the home that are common trouble spots and frequently contribute to a home's poor energy performance:
  • seal and insulate the outer walls, ceilings, windows, doors and floors
  • perform annual maintenance of your heating and cooling system, clean the filter, install and use a programmable thermostat
  • use geothermal energy to heat and cool your home by using a ground-source heat pump
  • use  energy efficient lighting and appliances labeled as energy star products
Reduce, reuse and recycle - decrease household waste:
  • use the food you already bought and have in the house instead of buying more
  • reuse items around the house such as rags and wipes, empty jars and mugs, party decorations, and gift wrap
  • return used car tires to retailers or wholesalers that recycle or retread them
  • mow higher and leaving the clippings (called grasscycling). Homeowners can reduce their mowing time by 30 to 40 percent by not having to bag clippings.
Buy a solar panel system for your home - Prices for solar panels have plummeted, and industry experts anticipate a continued decline. Most solar panels on the market are high-quality and will have a guaranteed output of not less than 90% after 10 years and no less than 80% after 25 years.

Compare your home's energy use to similar sized homes and climates across the country with the Home Energy Yardstick (home utility bills needed) to see how you measure up with your neighbors. Going green is not just a fad–it’s an important element in our fight to save and preserve our planet for the future.


Social Media for Real Estate Agents - LinkedIn (Part III)

Linkedin for Real Estate
LinkedIn is probably the best social media channel for testimonials and referrals. Even though little adopted by realtors, LinkedIn presents great opportunities for real estate agents. LinkedIn might not help you directly sell a home, but it will definitely help you create useful relationships.

Recent studies show that more than 70 percent of people would recommend the real estate agent they worked with. LinkedIn helps leverage this potential and makes it so much easier to get back in touch with previous clients. If most agents miss doing one important thing, that is contacting previous clients! The research shows how much those people are ready to recommend the agent, yet agents forget to reconnect with them. A good profile on LinkedIn with a good number of people in the network might be the solution.

Real estate agents can use LinkedIn to get referrals almost effortlessly. A profile on LinkedIn where you add a good presentation of yourself, with all the professional details and a good resume,  will help others discover and contact you. Your LinkedIn profile will help you expand your professional network while making it easier for people interested in your expertise and knowledge of the local real estate market learn more about you and get in touch with you.

real estate linkedin
One of the biggest strength of LinkedIn is its embedded tool for recommendations. Once you bring in some of your past clients, it is very easy for them to write a good recommendation for you and emphasize your professional qualities. These testimonials and recommendations will help you build your reputation and boost credibility. The recommendations will be posted on both your profile and the person who wrote them so this gives you exposure to your past client's network, increasing the chances for other people to want to work with you. LinkedIn is one of the best social media tools to tap into the power of peer review, the best component of effective marketing.

Here are some good articles and resources on using LinkedIn for real estate:

It is time to adopt LinkedIn, the social media channel that can best help you capitalize on testimonials and build your referral database. As always, if you are not a realtor but you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

Social Media for Real Estate Agents - Pinterest (Part II)

The real estate market is becoming more and more competitive. New people turn real estate agents every day so you have to find ways to stay ahead or else... Social media is one of the new marketing paradigms that can be turned into an extremely powerful strategy, tactic, tool, and everything in between. We have started in our previous blog post to present various  social media channels and tools useful to real estate agents. Today we will talk about Pinterest and how real estate agents can use it to make a difference.
If you want to understand Pinterest you need to understand its three main components: Pins, boards, and repins.

Pins are images that are added to Pinterest via the Pin It button  or uploaded from your computer.

Boards are are sets of pins that real estate agents create, usually around a certain topic (interior design, cleaning and organizing ideas, elegant dinnerware, etc).

Repins means adding to one of your own boards an image you find while browsing other Pinterest accounts. It's very simple: you like the image - you click repin - you choose one of your own boards you want to put it on - it gets displayed on your Pinterest board. Repining is the way to share someone else's image on your own board. But this is also the way someone else can post YOUR images on their boards! This can give real estate agents exponential exposure.

We live in a highly visual world. Don't forget that 80 % of the signals we process are visual. That's probably why Pinterest has gained tremendous success recently and people spend more and more time browsing boards on Pinterest besides catching up gossips on Facebook. When people repin an image from your Pinterest account, that image automatically gets a link back to your board. That makes it a great way to get back links, valuable for SEO and traffic building.

Here is an example of the "Real Estate Tips" board on Century 21 Thomas' Pinterest account:

Also remember that you can add a link to any image you upload on Pinterest so people who click on your image are directed to the destination of that link. So if you post a picture with a great view of one of the properties you handle, you can drive people who click on it to your listing.

The main social media for real estate opportunity with Pinterest is to promote great real estate images of the properties you manage with the goal of having other people repin them on their own boards. This gives you exponential exposure on the internet and increased chances to build traffic to your listing.

In one of our previous blog posts we emphasized how important it is to make sure you use great photography for the properties you list. Now that you have those great pictures, why not use them on Pinterest to capture more attention and traffic to your listings? Re-purposing existing photography is one of the best ways to effectively use Pinterest for real estate.

Good luck with using Pinterest for real estate. Hopefully you found these simple recommendations helpful. As always, if you are not a realtor but you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.