Realty One Group Blog

Aug. 2, 2019

New boutique hotel planned for the Vista

New boutique hotel planned for the Vista, could be boost for downtown convention center
It would be built adjacent to the Adluh Flour silo.Arnold told The State that the hotel would be a four-star level hotel with a musical theme. It will be called The Anthem.

Arnold said the hotel will have a rooftop bar and terrace. There will be a restaurant and bar in the lobby, which will be in the back section of The Depot that once housed the Groove Shack dance club.

The hotel will also have an underground speakeasy, Arnold said, without elaborating.

The hotel “will be nicer than anything down there,” he said. “It will light up the Vista.”

Document filed with the city of Columbia’s zoning department say the hotel is a $40 million project. It also shows other areas that could be developed owned by Arnold behind the hotel and entertainment complex.

The hotel would be the fifth new hotel for downtown Columbia.

Developers are also building a Holiday Inn Express near the Columbia Police Department on Washington Street, converting a former office building into a full-service Holiday Inn near Main Street and turning the former Clarion Townhouse hotel on Gervais Street into two properties — a Home2Suites and Hilton Garden Inn.

Jason Outman, head of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, has said a growing University of South Carolina, more tourists, and the steady influx of business people, state and federal workers, lobbyists and Fort Jackson parents are maxing out occupancy rates and driving up room rates.

Through the end of May, the 11 hotels in the downtown area — roughly from Blossom Street to Elmwood Avenue and Gregg Street to the Congaree River — had a 75.7 percent occupancy rate. That’s up from 70 percent last May.

Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides investment in the Vista and other areas of downtown said the hotel will augment the convention center and continue to boost downtown businesses.

“More hotels, more people, more credit cards,” he said. “Since it is right next door to the convention center, it will provide opportunities for people attending events there. We now have three hotels next door to the convention center.”

The other two are the Hilton Downtown Columbia and the Hampton Inn. There is also a Hyatt Place just across Gervais Street.

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Jeff Wilkinson has worked for The State for both too long and not long enough. He’s covered politics, city government, history, business, the military, marijuana and the Iraq War. Jeff knows the weird, wonderful and untold secrets of South Carolina. Buy him a shot and he’ll tell you all about them.
Aug. 1, 2019

Weeds, Wildflowers or Invasive Plants?

Weeds, Wildflowers or Invasive Plants?


If you have plants popping up in your yard that you didn’t plant, your first instinct may be that it’s a weed. You very well might be right; after all, what are weeds except for unwanted plants? At the same time, it’s possible that you’ve got wildflowers growing on your property. Depending on your view of wildflowers, that could change things significantly.

Wildflowers can do a lot of good for bees and other local pollinators, giving a boost to your local ecosystem and adding some beauty to boot. If the flower is from an invasive species, though, even something useful can cause a lot of harm over time. How are you supposed to keep all of this straight, so you’ll know what to pull and what to leave alone?

All About Weeds

So what is a weed? It’s an unwanted plant, sure, but it is also a plant that will compete with your existing flowers and other plant life for resources. A good example of this is clover in your lawn. As time goes by, the clover out-competes the grass and largely takes over your yard. You’ll face similar problems with any weed if it manages to become established.

One of the things that makes weeds so competitive is that most of the time you can’t just pull them up and be done with them. Dandelions are typically considered a weed, and even if you pull up a dandelion early you’ll still see more in your yard. This is because they have deep root systems that continue growing even if the flower is pulled free. Really getting rid of weeds means figuring out what the weeds are and what the proper way to eliminate them is.

Weeds vs. Wildflowers

Some weeds (including the dandelions and clovers mentioned above) produce flowers and are usually frequented by bees and other pollinators. Despite this, they’re still considered weeds instead of wildflowers. So what’s the difference between the two?

The primary difference between weeds and wildflowers is how they grow. Weeds tend to spread once established, growing to consume as many additional resources as they can and spreading their seeds as far as possible. Wildflowers are not as aggressive with their growth, instead growing densely in an area and spreading out from that area at a slower pace. This is why wildflowers are not generally considered competitive with existing plants; they aren’t likely to overrun an area in a short period of time and are much easier to contain to a single area.

Invasive Plant Species

One thing to keep in mind is that both weeds and wildflowers can be considered invasive. For that matter, even some of the plants you buy at nurseries are considered invasive in some regions! An invasive plant species is one that is not native to the area, so other species aren’t able to compete with it as effectively as they would with plants that are native to the area.

This can be very problematic. Invasive species typically have different resource requirements than native species, so as they grow and spread, they may use resources in a way that shifts the balance of the local ecosystem. This shift can be very bad for local species, giving the invader a much stronger competitive advantage for those resources. In some cases, invasive species can actually eradicate native strains from the local area!

Identifying Unexpected Plants

If you want to promote the growth of wildflowers while getting rid of weeds and invasive plants, you need to learn to identify them. Search online to find out which weeds and invasive plants are common in your area, taking the time to search for images online so you can identify them even with slight variations in their appearances. There are also smartphone apps available that identify plants with a high degree of accuracy which you can use to identify weeds and invasive plants.

Another option is to take photos or clippings of the plants in question to your local agricultural extension office. They should be able to identify the plant for you and can also tell you whether it’s a weed or an invasive plant. If it needs to be removed, they can also provide suggestions for the most effective removal techniques.

Call in a Pro

If you’re not sure whether the plants in your yard are a burden or a boon, you might want to call in a landscaping professional to set things straight. HomeKeepr can help you to find the right pro for your needs with recommendations you can trust, so sign up today to get your yard in top shape!

July 29, 2019

Columbia, SC Offers New 50% Tax Break

Columbia offers 50% tax break to spur new offices, housing, stores, hotels: ‘A huge deal’

  • Updated 
columbia skyline.jpg (copy)

Columbia is hoping to add more major development projects as the city and Richland County work together on tax incentives. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

COLUMBIA — In a move that could spark a new wave of major development in South Carolina’s capital, Columbia and Richland County governments have agreed to offer major tax breaks to major developments. 

They are offering a 10-year, up to 50 percent joint property tax break for large commercial and residential projects that exceed $30 million in investment. Developers must spend the money saved on improvements such as sidewalks or a parking garage.

The tax break, approved by city and county councils, echoes deals that encouraged development of private student housing near the University of South Carolina campus. Four student housing projects in Columbia each worth at least $40 million took advantage of a 10-year cut in their property taxes of 50 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Aiding large development around Columbia is needed because the region’s high taxes send projects to other Southeast cities, advocates say. Two-thirds of Columbia goes untaxed because of large swaths of government-owned property, such as the University of South Carolina and the Fort Jackson Army training base. 

“A large majority of our (land) is not on the tax rolls,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said. “You wind up with this really weird concoction that puts an undue burden onto our commercial taxpayers. So this is a goal of using a county tool to alleviate some of that tax burden, if you develop the types of property that we think the city and the county want to see.”

The goal, according to Richland County Council member Chip Jackson, is to “eliminate the barriers that our crazy tax laws create.”

The deal also could spur projects in rural areas because developers would have money to spend on road and water line improvements, Richland County Councilman Joe Walker III said. 

Columbia City Councilman Daniel Rickenmann, who voted against the tax break, said he thinks the intention is good but worries Columbia is being too hasty signing on to the deal. 

“A lot of the burden is going to shift to those people who are already paying,” he said. 

Ryan Coleman, economic development director for Columbia, said the city and county want to encourage projects that contain multiple uses, like market rate multi-family housing, hotels or office space coupled with retail or restaurants.

“We’re seeing a lot more of those in other cities than what we see in Columbia,” said Matt Kennell, chief executive of City Center Partnership, a group that promotes Columbia’s Main Street District. “That’s probably what we’re lacking are those mid- to large-scale mixed-used projects.” 

Coleman said incentives are capped based on how much they spend on improvements around the project, such as streetscaping and turn lanes.

“There are folks out there interested in the Columbia market and want to do business here,” Coleman said. “We have a very real property tax issue that needs to be dealt with and we’re just trying to mitigate that.”

To receive the incentive around Columbia, a developer needs approval from both city and county councils. The breaks end in 2022.

“At the end of the day, the developer will have to come in and show the value their project provides to the community,” Coleman said.

The arrangement should clarify rules for investment in Columbia and Richland County instead of developers having to negotiate their own tax breaks, former Columbia Mayor Bob Coble said. The tax breaks also should encourage a wave of new projects to fill pent-up demand in the city.

“It’s a huge deal,” Coble said. “It’s one of the most important city-county agreements we’ve ever had.”

Kennell said the tax breaks could push forward projects that have stalled. 

One such project is a proposed commercial project on the former Kline Steel site at Huger and Gervais streets that has been discussed for years but not completed.

“There are virtually no tax revenues coming from those sites now,” he said. “To me, it’s a win-win.”

The BullStreet District at the S.C. Mental Health complex could be another benefactor, Kennell said, or if Richland County were ever to move its courthouse complex, it could spur redevelopment of that property.

“Anywhere there’s a significant amount of land,” he said.


Patrick Palmer, principal of commercial real estate firm NAI Columbia, said clients have sought new construction but found little in recent years because of the area’s high taxes. 

If a new building has to charge $5 or more per square foot to cover property taxes, they are less likely to find tenants, Palmer said.

A better tax environment could bring a surge of stores to make up for lost time.

“There’s demand for a lot more retail,” Palmer said.

Based on 2019 tax revenues to the city, Coleman said the four student housing projects together are generating $415,000 per year at the 50 percent tax rate.

Station at Five Points alone brought in $94,000, compared to the maybe $10,000 annually it was generating as a former Greyhound bus station.

This does not include the water and sewer revenue or fees the city has brought in from these projects.

With the incentives, Richland County taxes for big projects would be closer to those in neighboring Lexington County, Coleman said.

There is no cap on the number of projects that could apply for the incentive, Coleman said, because each project requires individual approval. The councils could decide to stop signing off on them before the end of the two-year period if they think the program has served its purpose before then.

“There is such a thing as hitting the saturation point,” Coleman said.

Chris Trainor contributed to this report.

July 25, 2019

The Dirt on Septic Tank Ownership

The Dirt on Septic Tank Ownership


Septic tanks are common in rural areas, though depending on where you live, you might have a septic system, even close to town. So long as things are going smoothly, it’s often difficult to tell that there is even a septic system in place. If your septic tank starts having problems, though, it may not take long for it to become very obvious that something is wrong.

Whether you’re new to septic tank ownership or are wondering what sort of maintenance your existing tank requires, here’s a rundown of what you need to know about owning a septic tank.


How Septic Systems Work

Wastewater from your home flows into the septic tank, which is a large tank typically made of concrete, steel or other materials such as plastic or fiberglass. Once there, any waste solids in the water settle out and are broken down by bacteria. As particles settle out, the water itself is able to flow out of the septic tank where it is distributed through a series of gravel-filled trenches known as leach fields where the water is absorbed into the ground. Any remaining waste materials are then broken down by microorganisms in the soil.

Some systems also separate greywater (water that comes from waste-free sources such as laundry, bathroom sinks and showers) from the “black” water that contains waste. While this water is not directly recycled as drinking water, it can be filtered and used as part of an irrigation system for non-food plants and lawns. This not only makes more efficient use of your household water but also reduces stress on the septic system as a whole.


Basic Septic System Maintenance

Ideally, a septic system shouldn’t require too much maintenance to keep it functioning properly. With that said, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your system doesn’t develop problems. Key points of septic system maintenance include:

  • Avoid flushing inorganic materials that cannot be broken down by bacteria
  • Conserve household water use to avoid flooding the tank and causing a backup
  • Don’t flush cooking fats, coffee grounds or other hard-to-break-down materials
  • Use septic-safe cleaning materials and avoid using an excess amount of any cleaners
  • Do not pour saltwater, antibiotic medications or other materials that could kill helpful bacteria into your wastewater

In addition, it’s recommended that you have your septic tank checked every 1 to 3 years and have solids pumped out of the tank every 3 to 5 years to maintain optimal function. This may need to occur more often if you live in a cold climate, as bacteria may not break down waste as quickly when experiencing severe cold or prolonged winters.


Septic Tank Inspections

Whether you suspect a problem with your septic system or just want to stay on top of septic tank maintenance, periodic inspections will help you avoid major problems down the road. The most basic inspections are simple visual inspections, where water is run through the sinks and the toilets are flushed to check for backups or other obvious problems. These are often performed by home inspectors but provide only a very limited amount of information about the condition of the system itself.

If you have a septic company do the inspection, you’ll likely get a much more in-depth job. These inspections check for signs of septic tank problems such as visual damage to the tank or depressions around the tank area that could indicate sagging in the tank walls. They will also check for odd odors, signs of leaks, the condition of liquids and sludge within the tank and even backflow once a portion of the tank is pumped. You should receive a report on the condition of the tank after one of these inspections, and most likely will have the results explained to you as well.


Life Expectancy

Provided that it is well maintained, a septic system can theoretically last for decades. More realistically, though, you can expect a septic tank (and the system it’s a part of) to last for between 15 to 25 years. The actual lifespan of any given septic tank depends on the material it’s made of, how well it was installed, the types of waste that are dumped into it and how often it is pumped or maintained. The more care you put into maintaining your septic system, the longer it’s likely to last.

Of course, once a septic tank starts reaching the end of its life it is important that you deal with it before hazardous conditions can form. If a tank is leaking or sagging, it needs to be collapsed or crushed and filled in around. In some cases, a new tank can actually be installed beside or on top of the old one after it has been properly taken care of.


Do You Need Help with Your Tank?

Regardless of whether you need a septic tank installed, inspected, pumped or replaced, HomeKeepr can help you find the best pros for the job. Since we rely on referrals instead of reviews, you can choose the septic professional you need with confidence.


July 23, 2019

Who Do You Call When a Water Pipe Bursts?

Who Do You Call When Your Pipe Burst?


A burst water pipe is no laughing matter. Depending on the size of the damaged area, a large pipe can lose a gallon or more per second. Even smaller pipes can cause a significant amount of water loss, not only driving up the water bill but also potentially causing a lot of water damage. When you’re dealing with a burst pipe, it’s important to take action quickly to stop excessive water loss and get the pipe fixed as soon as possible.


Depending on the pipe that bursts, though, do you even know who to call? If a pipe is in your home then you obviously need to call a plumber, but do you know who’s responsible for maintenance if the rupture happens outside of your home? As it turns out, the responsible party depends on where the pipe is located.


Is a Pipe Really Broken?

Before you pick up the phone, make sure that you know that a burst pipe is the problem. If you’re simply experiencing a drop in water pressure, it’s possible that you don’t have a burst pipe at all. Look for some of the signs of burst pipes, including:

  • Water spraying from the ground or visible section of pipe
  • Puddles forming despite a lack of rain
  • Odd colors or smells coming from tap water, or debris in the water
  • Sounds of running water even when visible water isn’t present
  • Significant increases in your water bill despite not using more water

If the pipe is located in your house, then you may also notice damp spots on the walls, blistering paint, an increase in mildew or even water stains appearing on your walls or ceiling.


Burst Water Mains

If a water main bursts, the responsibility for the pipe falls on the city or water district you get your water from. That means you need to contact them and let them know that there’s a damaged pipe near your home. Provide as much information as possible about the break, including the location and how much water seems to be coming from the pipe. If there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the break such as an accident or a worker driving a post down into the pipe, be sure to provide this information as well.

Pipes in Your Yard

In most cases, if the pipe that breaks is in your yard then it’s considered your responsibility. Even if it’s the pipe that connects your home to the water main, there will likely be very little that your water district will be able to do about it. This means that you’re going to need to call a plumber and let them know what’s going on. Provide as much detail about the problem as you can so they’ll have a better idea of what equipment is needed to fix the burst pipe.


Household Plumbing

If you have a broken pipe inside your home, then you’ll definitely need a plumber. Some household pipe problems are easy to spot, such as a pipe that’s spraying water in your basement. Others are hidden in walls or only have small cracks and may require some work to get to. As with pipes in your yard, provide the plumber with as much information as you can so they can take care of the problem quickly.


What to Do When a Pipe Breaks

In addition to calling the appropriate party to get the leak fixed, there are other things you should do when you discover a broken pipe. If the pipe is in your yard or home, locate the water shutoff valve in your yard (usually hidden under a black or metal cover) and turn it to shut off the water flow. Clear out any affected areas, removing or relocating items that could be damaged by the water and placing them in areas where they can dry. At your first convenience, head to the store and pick up a few gallons of bottled water to serve as drinking water until the problem is fixed. Make sure that you have enough to last a few days if you had a ruptured water main, as there will likely be a boil water order to follow.


Finding the Right Plumber

If you have a desperate need for a plumber, HomeKeepr can help you find one who will get the job done right, without breaking the bank. Because we focus on referrals instead of easy-to-manipulate ratings systems, you’ll know that your plumber comes highly recommended from people just like you.


July 18, 2019

Pros and Cons of Filling in Your Pool

Pros and Cons of Filling in Your Pool                                                         


In time, you might decide that it’s just not worth keeping the pool around. The good news is that there are specialists who are experienced in pool removal that can get the job done for you. Before you rush into getting your pool filled in, though, there are a few things that you should consider.


Insurance Premiums

One big benefit of filling in your pool is that your home insurance premiums can go down. Swimming pools are considered a potential hazard by insurance companies, so removing the pool makes your home safer as far as your insurance provider is concerned. The amount that you’ll save depends on your insurer and how much they charged for pool risk, but in some cases, it could result in a substantial savings.


Removal Costs

Of course, a big con of having a pool removed is that you’ll have to pay someone to remove it. The cost of pool removal depends both on the contractor you hire to fill in the pool and the pool’s size, as well as any additional structures surrounding the pool that may be removed in the process. Depending on where you live, there may be additional costs for permits and inspections as well, as will be determined by city zoning ordinances.


Pool Safety Issues

If you’ve been concerned about accidents around your pool, another benefit of removing the pool is that pool-related accidents are no longer possible. With the pool filled in, pool-related falls, drowning risk and other possible safety issues are completely removed. Just make sure that small children and pets are kept away from the area until the removal is finished and it’s deemed safe by the removal contractor.


Land Use Restrictions

One potential con to pool removal is that some cities restrict what can be done with areas that once housed a pool. In some cases it may depend on exactly how the pool was removed, and whether it was what’s known as a partial removal (in which only part of the pool is actually removed and the rest is collapsed and filled in) or a full removal (in which everything is removed and the entire hole is filled.) If there are restrictions in your area, you may be limited to just basic landscaping and won’t be allowed to build on the area or do anything that would require digging deep in the soil.


Maintenance Cost Elimination

On the plus side, removing a pool removes all of the maintenance costs associated with pool ownership. This isn’t just the obvious things like maintaining pipes, fixing leaks and buying new chemicals each year, either. Just think about how much you’ll save on your water bill now that you don’t have to replace all of the water that’s lost to evaporation each week!


Property Value Effects

There are effects to your property value that are difficult to classify as a pro or a con because they depend so much on where you live and whether the pool was present when you bought your home. Getting rid of a pool changes your property value, but whether it’s an increase or a decrease depends on how much you paid and whether you were the one who installed the pool. It also depends on the type of removal that you choose; partial removals have to be disclosed to new buyers and may pull your resale value down. Full removals usually don’t have to be disclosed, but they can still affect your home’s value.


Ready to Remove Your Pool?

After you’ve weighted your options, if you’re still ready to remove your pool then HomeKeepr can help you find the pool removal specialist that will get the job done right. Because we use recommendations instead of ratings, you’ll know that your pool removal team comes highly recommended from people that you trust.

And that’s not even getting into the legal issues, child safety concerns and home insurance rates that go along with pool ownership.

Posted in Home Maintenance
July 17, 2019

Kitchen Fires 101


Several of the biggest fire hazards in your home all live in your kitchen. The oven, the stovetop, your toaster… when you think of all of the heat sources your kitchen contains, it’s almost a wonder that it doesn’t burst into flames on the regular. Joking aside, the kitchen is usually a pretty safe place so long as you keep an eye on things. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore fire safety rules when in the kitchen, of course – knowing how to handle a kitchen fire can mean the difference between a scare and a tragedy.


Kitchen Fire Safety

There are a number of potential causes of kitchen fires. There are the usual fire hazards such as electrical shorts, but you also have kitchen-specific risks such as splashing oil or something falling onto a heating element. Because there are so many potential causes of a kitchen fire, your fire safety measures need to be a bit wider reaching than what you might use for other rooms in your house.

A smoke detector is important in the kitchen, as is a fire extinguisher that you can access easily. Make sure you choose the right fire extinguisher, though; opt for an ABC fire extinguisher if possible. These can be used on Class A (trash/wood/paper), Class B (oil and liquids) and Class C (electrical equipment) fires. Establish an area where you can put oven mitts, cookbooks and similar materials far enough away from the stovetop to prevent any of them from falling onto a hot surface. Inspect kitchen appliances regularly for damaged cords or other fire hazards and replace anything that could present a danger.


Oven Fires

If a fire breaks out in your oven, your first instinct is likely to open the oven and try to put the fire out. That’s one of the worst things that you can do, though; opening the oven provides much-needed air to the fire and can make it significantly worse. Just opening the oven door can cause the fire to explode outward, potentially burning you and spreading to surrounding surfaces.

Instead, turn off the oven and leave the door closed. This will limit the availability of oxygen, causing the fire to die down and eventually go out on its own. Keep an eye on the fire, though, since if it doesn’t start dying out or seems to be getting stronger, you’ll likely need to call the fire department to deal with it.


Fires on the Stovetop

Stovetop fires come in several forms. If something falls onto a hot burner, that can cause a fire. If oil or other flammable liquids get too hot or splash out of a pan, that can also cause a fire. Even letting a pan boil dry can cause a fire. Fortunately, the majority of stovetop fires are preventable by keeping an eye on the stove whenever there’s at least one hot burner.

If a fire breaks out on the stovetop, there are a few things that you can do. If it’s a very small fire such as a grease fire in a pan, simply putting a metal lid on the pan may be enough to put the fire out. Slightly larger fires can be doused using baking soda, but do NOT use flour… though you may have heard that flour is okay to use, flour is finely ground dried plant material and is actually very flammable. Your fire extinguisher is also an option, as is calling the fire department before things get too far out of control.


Keeping Your Kitchen Safe

One key part of fire safety is making sure that your smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment stays in good working order in case you need them. HomeKeepr can help you find the pros you need for preventative maintenance, fire extinguisher inspections and more essential fire prevention services.

July 16, 2019

Why is downtown Columbia getting so many new hotels? Here’s why

Why is downtown Columbia getting so many new hotels? Here’s why:


A new full-service Holiday Inn will go inside the former office building located on 1233 Washington St. beside the Sheraton. The Holiday Inn will feature 90 rooms, a restaurant and bar. 

A new full-service hotel is opening in downtown Columbia that promises to pump more energy into a revitalized downtown.

The Holiday Inn is going into the former office building on 1223 Washington St., a half block from Main Street next to the Sheraton. It will feature 90 rooms, a restaurant and a bar.

“All the floor (plans) are the same, but all the rooms are unique and different,” said Lee Mashburn, of Mashburn Construction, whose company also renovated a building a few blocks away into the popular boutique Hotel Trundle. “A lot of beautiful vistas and views. It’s right in the heart of the city. You’ll be able to walk to all of the restaurants.”

But the new Holiday Inn, developed by Lexington Hospitality, is just one of four new hotels that will be opening soon in downtown Columbia. And more will likely be coming, according to Columbia tourism and development leaders.

“I continue to have discussions with others,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides investment in the Vista and other areas of the city. “In at least two cases people are talking large, full-service hotels — 250 rooms and up.”

Jason Outman, head of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a growing University of South Carolina, more tourists, and the steady influx of business people, state and federal workers, lobbyists and Fort Jackson parents are maxing out occupancy rates and driving up room rates.

Through the end of May, the 11 hotels in the downtown area — roughly from Blossom Street to Elmwood Avenue and Gregg Street to the Congaree River — had a 75.7 percent occupancy rate. That’s up from 70 percent last May.

“That’s a golden number,” he said. “That makes it tough to get a room.”

And he noted that it’s not uncommon for occupancy rates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays — the optimum days for business travel — to reach 90 percent.

“It’s the quick business trip,” he said. “And we’ve always got government travel.”

The full-service Holiday Inn is one of four new properties being built downtown.

Two of them — the duel Home2Suites and Hilton Garden property at 1615 Gervais St — are expected to open in September. The Home2Suites has 100 rooms, and the Hilton Garden Inn has 123.




The project is a renovation of the former Clarion Townhouse, which has been ongoing for about five years. Developer Seraj Patel of CN Hotels of Greensboro, N.C., said turning a existing hotel into two separate hotel proved challenging.

“Sometimes is easier to go from the ground up than to do a renovation,” he said.

Patel said that in addition to downtown Columbia’s attractive occupancy rates, the average daily room rate is also high, drawing the attention of more developers.

“If you have 80 percent occupancy at $50 a night it’s not worth it,” he said. “But at $150 a night that’s worth looking at.”

Outman of the CVB said the average daily room rate for the 11 downtown hotels in May was $159. That’s up 5 percent from May 2018’s $151. In 2013, when he began segregating the downtown hotel market from those in the region, the rate was $122.

“We’ve gone up every year in the nine years that I’ve been here,” he said.

And construction is just underway on a new five-story, 105-room Holiday Inn Express at the corner of Washington and Lincoln streets adjacent to the Columbia Police Department. The hotel, being built by Sumter developer K.C. Udani, is expected to be completed in May or June of next year, according to architect Craig Otto.

Otto said that the site was attractive because it’s only three blocks from the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and Colonial Life Arena.

And talk of an expansion of the undersized convention center could draw more interest from hoteliers.

“The highest occupancies are always closest to the corner of Gervais and Lincoln,” the nearest main intersection to the convention center, Delk said.

Posted in Commerce, Hotels
July 14, 2019

New Bill Slashes FHA Mortgage Insurance for first-time Homebuyers

New bill slashes FHA mortgage insurance for first-time homebuyers


Borrowers who undergo counseling can get a discount on their upfront mortgage insurance


The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that slashes the cost of upfront mortgage insurance for first-time homebuyers using mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration.

The Housing Financial Literacy Act of 2019, or H.R. 2162, stipulates that first-time homebuyers who complete a housing counseling program to learn about sustaining homeownership can get a 25-basis-point discount (0.25%) on their upfront mortgage insurance for an FHA loan.

Sponsored by

The Mortgage Bankers Association applauded the bill’s passage.

"MBA has long advocated for increased access to housing counseling as a means to provide a more positive experience for first-time homebuyers unfamiliar with the homeownership process, as well as for other underserved communities," the MBA said in a statement.

But the association also warned that adjustments to insurance premiums should be made carefully at HUD’s discretion so as not negatively impact the FHA’s insurance fund.

"While MBA conceptually supports the goals of this bill, including improving financial literacy and making homeownership more attainable, MBA also recommends that any legislative change to FHA's premium structure maintain HUD's discretion to set insurance premiums that are consistent with actuarial evidence accepted by HUD,” it stated.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-OH, who presented the bill alongside Rep. Steve Stivers, R-OH, said enhanced financial literacy has proven to be effective.

“Whether you are managing your credit, creating a budget, saving for retirement, or purchasing a home, understanding the basic principles of planning, saving, and investing for the future is vitally important,” Beatty said. “Studies show that pre-purchase housing counseling equips first-time homebuyers with the much-needed financial skills and tools to make informed financial decisions that ultimately benefit not only their families, but also the surrounding neighborhood and our entire economy.”

The bill will now move on to the Senate for a vote before it can make it to the president’s desk.

“I urge the Senate to support this common-sense bill that incentivizes first-time homebuyers to take greater control of their financial futures and provides greater opportunity for more Americans to realize the dream of homeownership in a financially responsible way,” Beatty continued.



July 12, 2019

What Do I Need to Know About Mold

There are few things that homeowners dread more than mold in the house. You’ve likely heard horror stories about people living with mold infestations that made them seriously ill. Is this just hype, or is there a real danger to having mold in your home? More importantly, what can you do if you find mold growing somewhere in the house?

What Is Mold?

Mold is a broad group of fungi, with thousands of species and subspecies around the world that typically prefer dark and damp habitats. Often fuzzy in appearance (though occasionally slimy or cottony), molds spread across materials and break them down to get the nutrients the mold needs to survive and thrive. Instead of seeds, molds release single-celled spores that in many cases are too small to see with the naked eye; these spores float through the air to land on a variety of surfaces, beginning growth once they find themselves in a suitable habitat. Though molds are made up of a number of individual stalks fibers, a connected clump of mold is considered to be a single living entity.

Types of Mold

There are several common types of mold that you might see around the house. While some of these may not be inherently dangerous, any mold can trigger reactions in anyone with an allergy or sensitivity. The five most common of these molds are:

  • Aspergillus: One of the most common indoor molds, it often appears green, blue-green or gray but can also appear white or even yellow.
  • Cladosporium: A black or green mold that has an appearance like ground pepper, it commonly grows on smooth surfaces like toilets and painted walls but can also grow in fabrics and rugs.
  • Ulocladium: A black mold that grows in wet areas, especially in cracks and corners; it is most common in homes with water damage and active leaks.
  • Aureobasidium: Varying in color from pink to brown or black, this mold most commonly grows behind wallpaper, on painted surfaces and on wood.
  • Stachybortrys: The infamous “black mold”, it features a slimy dark green or black color and thrives in areas that are damp and maintain high humidity for weeks.

Is Mold Actually Dangerous?

While many molds are allergens, most will not cause severe reactions unless you have a mold sensitivity or have other health problems that make you more prone to infection. However, some molds (such as black mold) actually are toxic and can make you very sick if you’re around them for too long. Symptoms of a mold allergy or toxic mold exposure can include a chronic cough, skin rashes, fatigue, difficulty focusing and even pain or infection in your sinuses, eyes and ears.

Mold Testing and Removal

If you suspect that you have mold problems, there are home tests available to help you identify the type of mold in your home. These should only be a first step, however, as they often aren’t enough to definitively show you the scope of your mold problem. Call in an expert to confirm the results of your test or take a scraping of the mold and have it analyzed. Be sure to wear a dust mask or other breathing protection if you aren’t sure what type of mold you’re dealing with until the problem is taken care of.

For many mold infestations, getting rid of leaks or other sources of humidity is a great way to slow or even stop mold growth. Mold can cause serious damage over time, however, so you may need professional mold removal and repair services if you can’t get the problem under control early.

Is your home in need of some serious mold removal? HomeKeepr can help you find a mold remediator to get the mold out quickly and at a price you can afford. Because we utilize references instead of reviews, you’ll be able to rest assured that the expert you choose can really get the job done.

Posted in Mold