Being a big fan of changing up my home and the spaces within – seasonally, the term “renovation” doesn’t scare me. Tweaking your surroundings such as painting walls, changing textural elements, upcycling old beloved furniture or pieces and even tiling your own bathroom wall can make you feel like a new person.
Renovating. Renewing. Redoing. Refreshing. They all live in the same family. It can be intimidating, especially when the task involves taking down walls or completely reinventing your home.
That’s when you call the experts. The ones who have dealt with minor and major renos – both professionally and personally – and can pass along their knowledge to make our spaces come together just right.
“We turned an abandoned shell of a building into a contemporary and sophisticated three-bedroom loft,” said Chris Anderson, Broker in Charge of King and Society Real Estate. “Working in downtown is always a challenge and working along Broad Street created additional concerns. Staging, storage, delivery of building materials and working with adjacent neighbors, while trying to minimize disruption can be challenging.”
Anderson is referring to a structure on 58-1/2 Broad Street that was built in two stages by the attorney and politician John Geddes in 1798 and in 1800. In the mid to late 1800s the 58 Broad portion was home to the Freedman Bank, a national bank for African Americans. Brick and heart of pine floor remained and these materials were preserved and carried throughout its modern design. Adding modern elements such as steel cabled and iron stairwells with heart of pine floating steps, striking lighting, tiled modern baths and a sleek modern kitchen with brick backsplash was the perfect juxtaposition of old and new. Black moldings around windows pop against the pale walls. An outdoor space with seating and dining options, plus a free-standing firepit is downtown Charleston living at its finest. Anderson said the home was for a client from Greenville.
King and Society Real Estate in downtown Charleston has renovated several historical homes, as well as newer properties throughout the Charleston area with the majority of those focused in downtown, Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.
Anderson said they work with both investor clients to renovate and flip properties, as well as one-on-one projects to help turn their properties into family homes.
“We help them make their home into one they have been dreaming about for years,” he said. “We focus primarily on full, large-scale and whole custom home renovations and remodels.”
Anderson said that most of their project take anywhere between 4 to 12 months based on scope, clients’ needs and architects’ specifications.
They are currently renovating the Colonel George Chicken house on 49 Tradd Street, one of the earliest built structures in the downtown historic district. Listed for sale at $2,964,750 million, the Georgian-style home was originally owned by Colonel George Chicken, a militia officer and a member of the South Carolina Commons House.
Local, international and personal experience
“Buyers today are looking for updated, ‘turn-key’ properties,” said Leslie Turner, Broker in Charge of Maison Real Estate. “They want a fully renovated home that they can move right into – bring their clothes and a toothbrush and immediately start enjoying the Charleston lifestyle.”
Turner said properties that have been renovated with luxury finishes command top dollar. “I represented the seller of two downtown properties earlier this year, both with wow factor renovations,” she said. “Each sold for over $1,000 per square foot.”
Mary Lou Wertz, Broker and Founder of Maison Real Estate agreed, and said that she can tell from the first conversation with a client how much work they’re willing to take on.
“The trend is for turn-key, especially downtown where folks are afraid of the reputation the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) restrictions and the time it takes to complete a renovation,” Wertz explained. “It depends on the time they plan to spend here. For many these homes are second or third homes.”
The two, along with a team of brokers and realtors, formed their own real estate firm with the knowledge and know-how of the local history, real estate industry, marketing strategies, and how to navigate complex real estate transactions.
Turner said that many of her buyers that are new to Charleston are hesitant to take on major renovation projects if they don’t have personal relationships with contractors or are not familiar with the rules and procedures of the BAR.
“This is where an experienced realtor can be the best tool,” she said. “They can introduce you to the right architects, contractors, painters, and help navigate the complex approval processes for downtown renovations.”
Wertz has been renovating homes for nearly 30 years, both in the U.S. and in the U.K. She got into the real estate industry in 2009 after tackling her own renovation project for her home on King Street. Working with architects Glenn Keyes Architects and Richard Marks Renovation, she and her husband while living still living in London, took on a full-scale reno of a c. 1800 Charleston single home.
“Our vision was to create a livable home without compromising any historic details,” she said. “We added bathrooms, a butler’s pantry, a ‘secret’ wine cellar in the cistern and connected the carriage house to the main house which allowed for a family room off the kitchen.”
Wertz said one of the most satisfying parts of the own personal experience of renovation was discovering the history of her home.
“One of the most fun facts was that the chandeliers were the original gasoliers in the house,” Wertz said. “The finished product was a perfect blend of historic detail and modern day living.”
That blend of old and new is here to stay and prevalent — whether it’s a total renovation or improving upon a kitchen or bath. Most renovate to get the best return on investment and those areas include the spaces in which they spend a good deal of time.
“I’ve also advised clients about what renovations to do in order to enjoy the best return on their investment,” Turner told me. “My advice is to focus on the kitchen and master bath, choose neutral colors and high quality finishes and incorporate what buyers are looking for such as more natural light and open floor plans.”
Turner said that she advises against “lipstick renovations,” or quick fixes. “Those are renovations that look good at first glance, but if you look at the details you notice shoddy work, poor craftsmanship and low quality finishes.”
“Stay away from those ‘flips’ as the major systems that you can see – electrical and plumbing – may not have been updated,” she advised. “Don’t be swayed by a shiny new kitchen, look closely at the quality of the fixtures and the details.”
The experts agree on doing your due diligence when it comes to renovation. Whether that’s whole house, flipping for investment or partial renovations for livability or for getting the best possible sales price for your property. Like most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is.
In the ever-growing and evolving Charleston housing market and with brand new construction nearly everywhere, your home putting its best self forward is one of the best investments you can make.