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A gorgeous sunset on Mitchelville Beach on the north end of Hilton Head Island

LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE

Sometimes one feels the need for a new adventure! So last year in Feb. 2019, I drove cross country with my two cats and dog to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to buy a cute little condo not far from the beach! I figured, hey, check it out! The prices for real estate and gas are much less than here in California, and I thought that I’d love to live near the beach for a change. Yes, I had heard of the hurricanes and alligators there, but…well, I decided I’d check it out, just the same.

I had also planned on getting my real estate license there, as well as keep the one I have in California, and so I accomplished that goal with not a lot of hassle.

Boy, oh boy, what a culture shock I felt after immersing myself in life in Hilton Head Island!

I had thought I might possibly stay in South Carolina for maybe even the rest of my life, but as the months went by, I sorely missed home sweet home: California!! In spite of all its problems, like some of the high living expenses such as housing and gas, the wacky politics, the homelessness problems, the sanctuary cities, frequent devastating fires and occasional earthquakes!

REAL ESTATE PRACTICES IN SOUTH CAROLINA VS. IN CALIFORNIA REALLY DIFFER

First of all, the way they do real estate there is completely different than the way we do it here in California!

It’s very much a “Buyer Beware” kind of a state, where once an Offer is accepted, basically, you bought it! No easy way to back out, like here in California, where the contingency period is 17 days, and you don’t even have to give a reason for backing out, and you don’t lose any money whatsoever if you do.

Over in South Carolina, there are only a few pages of real estate documents you need to close a deal, whereas here in California, the stack often reaches 2 inches high or more! In South Carolina, buyers sometimes do not receive any disclosures other than one Seller Disclosure, IF they are lucky! Many times sellers do not bother to provide one, and a deal cannot be voided if none is provided. In California, buyers receive a Seller Property Questionnaire, a Real Estate Transfer Disclosure (with even more details and disclosures from the seller), and the Natural Hazards Disclosure. In South Carolina, home owners association documents are not current and you may not receive full documents until AFTER you close escrow. In California, HOA-related documents are provided usually within 10 days of acceptance of the offer.

While there are many more documents that California realtors must process in order to complete a real estate transaction, I think it’s worth it, because it truly protects the buyer, which is only right, since the buyer is often making the biggest financial decision of his/her life! In the end, I think it benefits everyone. It makes for fewer surprises, and let’s face it, when it comes to buying a home, no one wants surprises! Here in California, it’s best for sellers to “disclose, disclose, disclose” to avoid problems down the road.

In California, we use escrow companies that are very customer service oriented to handle the closing of the real estate transaction. The escrow company can be selected by the buyer or the seller, but both must agree on using the same one. Usually the seller is the one who selects the escrow company, however, occasionally it is the buyer who does. On the other hand, in South Carolina, they use attorneys. I found that to be very inefficient because it added an extra layer to the process. Having just one escrow company to deal with is far more efficient and saves time. The lawyers I encounter did not seem at all customer service oriented, and were often unaccessible. Generally, there is no need for a lawyer when it comes to closing a deal in California, and all the various disclosures that are mandatory help keep everything above board and on track.

As for real estate documents, in California, they are all standardized CAR (California Association of Realtors) forms. On the other hand, in South Carolina, they have a variety of options and ways to write up their contracts, which makes the process more confusing. They don’t typically include expiration dates which makes things seem so open-ended. In California, the documents are much more concise and detailed in the language. Again, I believe this takes out the guesswork and, even if there are more pages to a document, such as an offer to purchase, I believe it’s actually a much more efficient and clear, transparent way to practice real estate, that benefits all involved, especially the buyer.

I could continue on with this topic, but I think you get the idea! They really do things differently in South Carolina than in California with regards to real estate, and I am much more comfortable with the California way!

DISAPPOINTMENT WITH THE CLARITY OF THE OCEAN WATER DETRACTED FROM THE ENJOYMENT OF THE BEACHES FOR ME

While I love the long, sandy beaches of Hilton Head Island, I was very surprised that the water is very murky due to the sediment of nearby rivers and marshes. You can’t see your feet even in a few inches of water! This is particularly troublesome if you, like me, are afraid of being stung, either by stinging jellyfish or stingrays, or bitten by sharks! I found that very disappointing because one of my favorite things to do is to snorkel and look at fish underwater, which is not possible there. Oops! I guess I should’ve researched that! Also, during the summer months in particular, there are a lot of biting bugs, such as “no see ums” (gnats so little that you can’t see them). So you had better have your bug spray handy at all times!

On the bright side, sometimes I almost felt like I was in St. Bart’s on the beach, because of the airplanes flying low over the beach on Mitchelville Beach, an incredibly beautiful and natural beach. I spent many an idyllic afternoon reading and studying on that beach, with Cupcake in tow. Dogs area allowed to roam freely on the beaches except during peak hours during the summer. I never tired of the gorgeous sunsets from the beaches and restaurants such as my favorites Skull Creek Boathouse, on the north end of the island, and The Ocean Club, at Sea Pines at the south end of the island, and Poseidon, in the middle of them.

CUSTOMER SERVICE IS LACKING IN MANY PLACES IN SOUTH CAROLINA

I love to shop at Ralph’s Grocery Store in the desert, for example, but its counterpart Kroger’s is another story altogether! While the great selection and competitive prices are there, the customer service was completely lacking! The cashiers and “baggers” would rather chat and ignore you than bag your groceries. Many of them were very unfriendly and they definitely were not trained to provide good customer service and a pleasant customer service experience! So I am so happy to be back where excellent customer service is commonplace everywhere! California seems to be a happier place in general than South Carolina to me. Maybe it’s just me!

By the way, apparently South Carolina is a so-called “Right To Work” state, where there is no mandatory minimum wage, and so many people get much less wages than people in California for the same kind of job. I heard many of the restaurant workers only make $2.50/hr and must rely on tips to make any money!

HOME PRICES AND GAS PRICES ARE UNSURPRISINGLY LOW IN SOUTH CAROLINA

I do miss only paying about $2.24 a gallon at the gas pumps, that’s for sure! And home prices are much less in South Carolina (and most places!) than in California. I hope that somehow we Californians can find a way to pressure our politicians to not tax the gas so much. It seems like the gas prices are unnecessarily exorbitant! There’s not pollution in many states I drove through, in spite of their low gas prices!

Home values are great in South Carolina, and it is a fast-growing state. Towns like Bluffton, for instance, are rapidly expanding in population and amenities!

WHERE EVER THERE IS WATER, THERE ARE ALLIGATORS IN HILTON HEAD ISLAND!

I knew that there were alligators in Hilton Head Island, but I didn’t know they are everywhere there is water! And there is a lot of water in Hilton Head Island: a zillion lagoons, creeks, rivers, marshes… occasionally alligators can even be found in the surf at the beach! I almost ran over a 9-footer about to cross the street at night! Apparently alligators are mostly nocturnal and like to jump from lagoon to lagoon and socialize during the mating season! About 6 months before I moved there, a lady named Cassandra Klein was attacked while walking her dog near one of the ubiquitous lagoons, and sadly, she did not survive, while her dog, whom she valiantly tried to protect from the gator, did survive unharmed. While I was there, a woman was walking her dog at night and tripped on an alligator in her side yard, and was attacked by the creature on her wrist and calf, but she survived, fortunately!

I am so glad that me and my little doggie Cupcake (and my cats!) survived South Carolina’s alligators (and hurricanes) for sure!

HURRICANES ARE PSYCHOLOGICAL TERRORS

Everyone was forced to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Dorian. It was terrifying to have to constantly watch the news and see the way the hurricane devastated the Bahamas! Hoping it wouldn’t do the same to Hilton Head Island!

So I packed up the furry family and we spent the night at a Comfort Inn and Suites Hotel in the state capital Columbia, which was full of evacuees. It really wasn’t fun because I was too worried about what might happen. It was exhausting!

Fortunately, word came early the next day that Hilton Head Island was spared, and a neighbor told me by phone there wasn’t any damage. So we rolled home and were relieved to see just a lot of branches and pinecones littering the ground. Whew! That was a close one!

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME! CALIFORNIA IS TRULY MY HOME!

It’s a well known fact, that sometimes you just don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. And, as the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”. This was certainly the case with me, and fortunately California is still here, and I am so glad to be here.

I will cherish the great times and beautiful vistas that I witnessed in and around low-key Hilton Head Island, glamorously charming Charleston and entirely enchanting Savannah, and learning about the rich history.  I love the historical buildings and architecture, especially the Greek Revival, surrounded by majestic live oak trees festooned with hanging Spanish Moss. I truly enjoyed Southern Cuisine, such as Shrimp and Grits, She Crab Soup, local fish cooked in a variety of ways, the myriad varieties of oysters, fried green tomatoes, and the libations were great too, such as the many local beers and the Dark And Stormy cocktail, so popular with sailors, made of Gosling Dark Rum and Gosling Ginger Beer. Of course, the local wines there don’t compare to California wines!

BOTTOM LINE IS…

I’m so grateful I had the very interesting experience of living in the Deep South, which has always fascinated me, and yet, to be able to come back to my beloved California! I rolled back into the desert on December, 22, 2019, just in time for Christmas and ready to begin a brand new year.

It’s so great to be back, reunited with friends and my favorite places here. And to see the mountains again! They don’t call South Carolina the Low Country for nothing!

I’m happy to be back at my favorite restaurants and discovering the new ones that opened while I was away, hiking the mountains, strolling the world-famous El Paseo of Palm Desert, and all the fun events we have here during our high season!

This truly is a great country, so full of beauty, variety and great people. Here’s hoping 2020 will be one of the best years ever for us all!

MiraVistaViews

A beautiful view of Mount Jacinto from Rancho Mirage, CA

Written Feb. 4, 2020 by Wendy Campbell