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Rainy Day Blues?
Posted by Ryan Swaim | Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ask most Myrtle Beach-area vacationers what brought them here, and chances are good you'll hear some variation on "The Three Ss:" Sun, Sand and Surf.  Mother Nature is usually happy to oblige, and the weather here is some of the nicest you'll find anywhere in the country.  However, if you're here for a week, chances are good that the skies might cloud over once or twice.  Luckily, the Grand Strand no shortage of options available for those looking to avoid the rain.

Movies are always a popular choice for rainy-day entertainment, and our area has no shortage of options.  Just around the corner at Inlet Square Mall, you'll find Frank Theaters' Murrells Inlet location.  No ordinary theater, this rainy-day paradise features not only 11 digital stadium-style screens, but also 16 bowling lanes, a huge arcade and even a bistro/bar!  Further towards Myrtle Beach, you'll find The Market Common... even though its outdoor "urban village" layout isn't exactly conducive to rainy day activities,  its Grand 14 Cinema has become one of the area's most popular.  If the rain is REALLY bad, a trip to Coastal Grand Mall and its Cinemark 14 cinema may be in order; the Jungle Fun arcade just around the corner from the theater and Food Court might also offer a welcome diversion.

Even though area centerpiece Broadway at the Beach is largely outdoors, you can find plenty of indoor activities there as well.  For example, the outstanding hands-on science museum Wonderworks along with the interactive fantasy game MagiQuest can both can fill several hours with family fun, and Ripley's Aquarium is a must-see on any visit whether it's raining or not.

Of course, the very fact that the movies and Broadway's indoor attractions are popular in the first place can lead to big crowds on rainy days.  If you're looking for options a little more off the beaten path, we can help there as well.  For example, did you know that Myrtle Beach has more than one indoor miniature golf course?  It's true... both Cancun Lagoon and Mount Atlanticus feature a number of truly indoor and covered outdoor holes... yes, you may get a little wet (especially at Mount Atlanticus,) but both courses are top-notch.  If putt-putt isn't your thing, try Fun Warehouse in Surfside Beach... its combination of roller-skating, arcade games, laser tag, bounce-houses and more will make your kids (and the kid in you) forget the weather.

If you're still looking, just stop by our office... we've got a huge selection of brochures from just about every area attraction you could think of, and our friendly staff is always happy to make suggestions as well.  

Fire Safety at the Beach
Posted by Ryan Swaim | Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer is here, the weather is beautiful and you're at the beach...  sounds like a perfect time to fire up the grill and then light up the night sky with legal-in-South-Carolina fireworks, right?  There's no question that flame-grilled local seafood or steaks, bottle rockets and sparklers are big parts of most Garden City and Surfside Beach vacations; however, failure to take proper precautions can turn your family's dream vacation into a very costly nightmare.
Each year, our area sees a number of close calls when it comes to fires, and occasionally the "close call" becomes a "five alarm."  A large oceanfront house in Long Bay Estates was badly burned last year to the point of being uninhabitable, and two of our rentals narrowly escaped the same fate this spring.  Fireworks acocunted for two of these (including the most serious,) while the other was attributed to an outdoor cooking accident.

How can you avoid this happening to you?  Well, for starters, never grill on decks, porches or underneath any part of the house or condo complex. Make sure all cookers or grills are at least 10 feet from any structures or landscaping (especially mulch or pinestraw!)  Make sure the heat source is extinguished or turned off before leaving the area, and never leave a grill or cooker unattended.  It is always important to have a hose handy in case something ignites, unless you're cooking with oil (deep frying, for example.)  In that case, NEVER extinguish an oil fire with water... only use an approved dry-source extinguisher. Most importantly, always be aware of your surroundings and keep children and anything flammable away from all heat sources.

Fireworks are a whole different ballgame, but the same general rule applies: always be aware of your surroundings.  NEVER light or shoot fireworks from porches, beach walkways or the sand dunes.  Most incidents we've seen have come from violations of this policy, and it's serious enough that we can (and will) evict you from your property if we catch you doing it.  If you're using fireworks with a "launcher" or "box" that remains after the fireworks themselves have been shot, always douse it with water prior to disposing of it.  (One of the worst incidents we've seen occurred when a guest carried a spent and seemingly cool launcher back under the house from the beach by hand, only to have it smolder overnight and light one of the pilings of an oceanfront house on fire.)  Always be aware of the wind, and wait for another night if the it's blowing off the water and back towards land.   Remember to always follow local ordinances and rules, copies of which can be found inside the Dunes Realty binder in your property.  Doing this (and using some good-old fashioned common sense) will keep your family safe and ensure a great vacation.

Payments and Check-In Process FAQs and Useful Information
Posted by Ryan Swaim | Wednesday, May 29, 2013

For those of you who ahve been staying with us for years, the booking and check-in processes may be second nature at this point.  However, if you're used to a typical hotel process, our Accounting team has put together this helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions along with some suggested items to bring with you when you arrive.  Remember, if you don't see your question asnwered here, just give us a call at any time and we'll do all we can to get you the right answer!

Payments and Check In:

Q: When does my reservation become confirmed? And do I have to pay my balance 30 days prior to check-in?

A: Your reservation is confirmed once we receive your initial deposit payment, which is due within 14 days of booking your reservation. You do not have to pay your balance 30 prior to arrival, unless you plan on paying by personal check. We do send out paperwork approximately 6 weeks prior to your check in date as a reminder and to allow you the option of paying by check. Most importantly, however, if you are paid in full upon arrival, the actual check in process in our office does go quicker.

Q: If I am paid in full before my arrival â can I get access to my property faster?

A: Unfortunately, no.  Your check-in time depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to scheduled maintenance, the condition in which the property was left by the previous guest, housekeeping, etc., but not status of payment on your reservation. Please note that check in time is not guaranteed until 4:00 PM, although we do our very best to have your rental available as soon as possible.

Q: Is there anything I can do to eliminate having to come by the rental office to see if the property is available for check in?

A: Yes indeed there is. If you'll call our office on the morning of your arrival and provide us with a cell number to which you'll have access, you'll receive an automated call as soon as the property is available.  This service allows you the freedom to start enjoying your vacation even before you check in with us, and keeps the check-in process as short as possible.

Q: I am going to arrive late. What do I do?

A: First of all, if your reservation is paid in full, you don't even need to call us. (If not, please do call!) One of our final evening tasks prior to closing the office is to run a report that tells us which reservations haven't yet arrived. We then prepare a late arrival packet for each of these that includes directions and one key to the property; these are left in the victorian mail box that is attached to the Dogwood side of our office building. That's enough to get you started, and all you'll need to do from there is stop by the office the next morning to sign your paperwork and pick up your remaining keys.  (Please note that this mail box is under 24 hr surveillance for your protection.)

Useful Information:

Remember, all Dunes properties are furnished with:

Glasses, Dishes and Silverware
At least one coffee maker
Pots and Pans
One roll of toilet paper per bathroom
One bar of soap per bathroom

In addition, you may have purchased linens through us as well; if so, you'll find them in the house when you arrive.

Needless to say, you'll probably need a few more items before your vacation really gets started.  The following list certainly isn't complete, but contains a number of items you may not think of on your first visit to the grocery store.

Paper Towels/Napkins
Dish Detergent (Hand and Dishwasher)
Laundry Detergent
All Purpose Cleaner
Staple Items (salt, pepper, sugar, coffee & filters)
Garbage Bags
Plastic Wraps/Aluminum Foil
Extra Bath Soap and Bath Tissue
Bug Spray
Beach Towels
Beach Chairs & Rafts
Linen items (if you didn't order them through Dunes)

Restaurant Review: The Wicked Tuna
Posted by Ryan Swaim | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The big news around the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk this spring has been the sale, extensive renovation and re-opening of the former Spud's restaurant.  Earlier this month, the suspense was lifted as The Wicked Tuna celebrated its grand opening.

Occupying one of the most impressive locations on the entire Grand Strand, the restaurant anchors the southern end of the Marshwalk, and offers its guests spectacular views of Murrells Inlet and Garden City Beach.  The interior features soaring ceilings with original sculpture and artwork, and nearly every table has a view.  The bar is divided into an interior and an exterior section, with the indoor section being home to an internally-lit glass sushi bar and table seating.  The outdoor bar is enclosed in the cooler months, but will remain open-air throughout the summer.  The Tiki Bar has remained from the old Spud's, but with several upgrades and improvements, and remains one of the area's best locations to enjoy a sunset.

All this is great, you say, but how's the food?  So far, I've been very impressed.  Yes, the service is still getting the kinks worked out, but has been friendly and professional each time I've visited.  The menu has a wide selection of both old favorites and creative new dishes as well as a number of daily specials.  One of the most impressive areas to me is the sushi menu, which contains more than 26 genuinely unique rolls (not an easy task in this day and age) along with a wide selection of nigiri and sashimi.  As for dinner, the Steamed Mussells appetizer was one of the best treatments of that dish I've had, and the Hogfish special was simple and delicious.  All in all, the food was top notch.

So, spectacular views, gorgeous interior, creative menu, wonderful food... surely there's something not to like, right?  Truth be told, you'll probably spend a few more dollars here than at some of the other Marshwalk offerings.  It's not outrageous by any means, and they do offer a diverse and low-priced kid's menu that will ease the blow for many families.  In my opinion, it's definitely worth a visit.



TripAdvisor names Brookgreen Gardens as one of the 2013 Top Ten Public Gardens in the United States
Posted by Ryan Swaim | Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Frequent visitors to the Myrtle Beach area don't have to be reminded just how special a place we have in Brookgreen Gardens.  Located between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield and just minutes from the Dunes Realty office, this National Historic Landmark has the most significant collections of figurative sculpture in the country and only accredited zoo on the South and North Carolina coasts.  Now, Brookgreen can add one more accolade to its lengthy resume: holding the #6 spot on TripAdvisor's list of the Top Ten Public Gardens in the United States!

For 83 years, Brookgreen Gardens has been an inspiration, refuge and retreat for residents and visitors, where art meets nature. Designed in 1931 by Anna Hyatt Huntington in the shape of a spread-wing butterfly, the 9100-acre property is a testament to natural landscapes. A thriving rice plantation in the early 1700�s is now home to over 1200 works by 350 artists.
Countless awards, honors and accreditations guarantee a most pleasant and memorable experience for its guests of all ages. Seasonal events and exhibits make Brookgreen �ever changing, simply amazing�. The Butterfly House, Nights of a Thousand Candles, Cool Summer Evenings concerts, Creek Cruises, Children�s Discovery Room, Sculpture Workshops ~ the options are endless!

Open daily, Brookgreen has so much to offer that it would be nearly impossible to see and do it all in one day... that's why the regular admission ($14 for adults 13-64, $12 for seniors 65+, $7 for children 4-12 and free for children 3) is one of the Myrtle Beach area's best values: it's valid for seven consecutive days! 
For more details and an event schedule, just visit www.brookgreengardens.org.

Replacement Schedule for Vacation Rental Fixtures
Posted by Ryan Swaim | Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First-time owners of vacation rental properties (and even some veterans) are often shocked by how quickly furniture and fixtures can wear out, even in family-friendly atmospheres like Garden City Beach and Surfside Beach.  Some are quick to point to misuse or intentional damage as the cause, but the truth of the matter is usually much less dramatic.

We've seen just about everything in our almost-45-years in the business, and the single biggest cause of faster-than-normal wear and tear isn't partying teenagers, bikers or the Beverly Hillbillies... it's simply the environment in which your property is located.  Salt and sand are enemies of almost anything man has ever invented, and both are found in abundance at the beach.  Whether it's a wet head on a couch, sandy toes on carpet or salt spray on an air conditioner, these two items find their way into, onto and under nearly everything, and the results are infallibly surprising to those unfamilar with the area.

Because of this, our recommended replacement schedules for furniture and fixtures can also come as a surprise.  While these timeframes certainly include some "wiggle room," homeowners should definitely begin the evaluation process when these dates are reached.

Upholstered couches and chairs: 3-5 years, although recovering often accomplishes the same goal
Carpet: 5 years
Dining Chairs: this depends on whether or not they have cushions; if so, 3-5 years, if not, replace as necessary

Appliances: Replace as needed, but expect no more than 10 years maximum
Kitchen Cabinets: 10-12 years
Laminate countertops: 5-7 years; granite, Corian and other materials may last significantly longer
Cookware: Good quality (Calphalon, etc.,) 5 years, otherwise as needed

Kitchen Inventory/Utensils: Annually as necessary

Bedspreads or comforters: 2 years
Mattress and Box Springs: 5-10 years maximum

Shower Liner: Annually or as needed.
Bathroom Fixtures: 10-15 years or as needed.

Vinyl Flooring: 5 years.
Color Schemes: Review every 5 years
Paint: Touch-up as needed, complete re-painting every 3-5 years.
Soft Goods: 5 year maximum
Case Goods (furniture, etc.:) 7 year maximum

Following these guidelines will ultimately result in happier guests, higher incomes and fewer hassles: three things that certainly rate high on any vacation rental homeowner's list.

Surfside Beach Parking and Traffic Changes in Effect for 2013
Posted by Ryan Swaim | Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If you've been coming to the Myrtle Beach area for many years, you probably already know that what we call "The Grand Strand" is actually a conglomeration of nearly a dozen different municipalities, counties and jurisdictions.  Down in our neck of the woods, we deal primarily with three: Horry County, Georgetown County and the Town of Surfside Beach.  As you might expect, the differences in rules between these three can sometimes get a bit confusing.  We do our best to keep you up to date on where you can (and can't) do what, and the Town of Surfside Beach has recently made some changes to its parking and traffic flow policies that could have an effect on your vacation.

First of all and most noticeable, the town has recently installed parking meters in several locations along Ocean Boulevard and Seaside Drive.  At the same time, the town has instituted a "No Parking" policy along both of these roads in any location without a meter.  While the meters are located in the road's right of way and on town property, they may in many cases sit directly in front of rental properties.

What does this mean for you as a guest?  Well, we're still trying to figure that out.  Because the town has granted a "free parking" courtesy to town residents, we've asked if the same privelege will apply to rental guests, especially those parking in front of their properties.  We haven't yet heard back, but we'll let you know as soon as we receive a definitive answer.  We've also asked for the same courtesy to be extended to trailers during the area's three "Bike Week" festivals; while the town declined, they did offer free parking for trailers in both the 13th Avenue South and 16th Avenue North pay parking lots for those weeks.  (Dunes will also continue to allow trailer parking on our properties as well, including overflow capacity on the lot adjacent to our laundry on Highway 17 and Patrick Avenue in Garden City.)

In addition to the parking meters, the town has also changed the traffic flow on South Seaside Drive to a one-way pattern.  If you're familiar with the area, you know that Seaside runs between Ocean Boulevard and the beach in a few locations near the town's center, and its southern run consists of two two-block sections which are separated in the middle by Portofino III.  The new flow, which you can see on the map, consists of a "converging" pattern in which the northern and southern avenues head east, then towards each other on Seaside before meeting and heading back towards Ocean Boulevard on the middle avenue.  While this may present a minor inconvenience for a few properties, we'll provide new driving directions and don't think it will become a major issue.

For more information, you can visit the Town of Surfside Beach's website or give us a call at any time.

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