Summerville agent takes top accreditation for working out buys and sales

A particular Carolina One Real Estate associate has earned the chance to be one of the "go-to" pros whenever back-and-forth talks can clinch a home deal.

The Real Estate Negotiation Institute recently awarded Loren Bethea the Certified Negotiation Expert designation. She works as an agent from Carolina One's Summerville Main Street office.

According to the institute, the certification program gives Realtors and real estate professionals, "the knowledge, training and ability needed to become an expert negotiator - a vital skill required for real estate transactions."

The organization says it provides an intensive two-day course to secure the credentials, considered "one of the top new designations" in real estate.

Agency's open home fair should bring out bargain-hunting shoppers

If today's upbeat economy is any sign, then expect a fair share of serious lookers Sunday when the public gets to peruse houses across the Charleston area.

Coldwell Banker United, Realtors Carolinas Region will present its well-received Open House Extravaganza. The event will take place 1-5 p.m. Sunday across Dorchester, Berkeley and Charleston counties.

Similar Coldwell Banker United open houses showcasing "prime homes for sale" will occur at the same time in greater Columbia and Aiken in South Carolina and Charlotte and Statesville in North Carolina.

"With the housing recovery continuing to improve, and interest rates still low, now is a great time to act on your dream of owning your own home," says Glenn Niere, president and chief operating officer for the Coldwell Banker United, Realtors Carolinas Region.

Visitors to each open house have the opportunity to register for a free iPad. The more houses people visit, the better the chance they have of winning the electronic tablet provided by Coldwell Banker Mortgage. There will be one iPad awarded, chosen by random drawing, in greater Charleston.

"Our previous open house events have produced extremely favorable results and this is obviously something the public enjoys," Niere says. " It is also an opportunity to get an idea of what is occurring in your local real estate market."

Professional agents will be available at each open house to give tours of the residences and to answer any questions about the property and the state of the local market.

For more information including the open house listings, visit the company website at www.cbcarolinas.com. To get an overview on the Charleston area market, go to

www.cbunited.com/charleston.

Coldwell Banker United also provides background on the real estate market recovery. For more information, visit the company's blog at www.cbunitedblog.com/housing-market-recovery.

Coldwell Banker United, Realtors Carolinas Region has been an affiliate of the global Coldwell Banker system for 12 years.

Former ASHI president: Lack of maintenance can make decks unsafe

A local certified home inspector and one-time national chief says home decks should be checked regularly, noting that serious accidents occur every year.

"Nothing lasts forever, and any wooden structure exposed to the elements 24/7 will require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure safe usage and long life," says Bill Jacques, a certified home inspector with American Inspection Service in Ravenel.

Jacques, last year's president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, made the comments to highlight May as National Deck Safety Month.

"Each year, people are injured or killed due to faulty construction or the lack of needed regular maintenance of decks," Jacques says.

"Since the year 2000, the number of injuries and deaths related to deck failures has been increasing according to the North American Deck and Railing Association,"

he says.

According to home inspectors, the typical life expectancy of a wood deck stands at 15-20 years. There are 40 million decks in the U.S. that are more than 20 years old. "As part of a home inspection, a deck should be checked for various things, such as structural integrity, railing size and strength, hardware type and condition and staircase issues," he says.

Among specific places to check on the deck, Jacques highlights a few including:

-Support Columns. He says 4x4 and 6x6 pressure treated lumber is used in most modern decks to secure them to the ground. Decks should typically be designed for at least a 40 pound per square foot load. "If a hot tub will be added, for example, the deck's structure will need to be beefed up," Jacques says. Wooden support columns or piers can be cemented into the ground or a metal bracket can connect the concrete pier to the bottom of the wooden columns, he says. "Most older decks have the wooden support posts simply installed into the ground."

-Fasteners. "Older decks routinely had their ledger boards - the part of the deck where the floor joists connect on the home's side - only nailed to the home," Jacques says. "Modern standards require a proper and durable connection between the home and the deck, such as using lag bolts or carriage bolts."

Moreover, "An improper connection can allow the deck to fall off the home which will likely injure (or possibly kill) whomever is standing on the deck at the time," he says. "If your deck's ledger board is only nailed to the home, a qualified deck contractor can most often add lag or carriage bolts to better secure the deck to the home." A free-standing deck is another option in most cases, he adds.

"To construct the rest of the deck's various structural components (piers, girders, joists, etc.), proper metal hardware is a must to ensure strength and long life. Proper bolts and screws are preferred over nails when building a deck," Jacques says. Another thing to look out for: Settlement or erosion of the grounds around the deck could lead to a deck failure, he says.

For more information, visit www.ASHI.org or call 800-743-2744.

Ashton Woods holds grand opening event at Watermark

An Atlanta-based home builder that just launched its entry into an upscale Mount Pleasant neighborhood plans to up the pace of construction and sales in the months ahead.

"It's been fantastic," says Ryan Lewis, division president of Ashton Woods Homes, as the company unveiled its sales model at Watermark last week.

"Five neighborhoods up and running (in greater Charleston), and six more in the next six months," he says.

Lewis says this spring's an "exciting time" for the company, what with its local growth. Metro Charleston, he says, is a "great market. We think our product fits a market that's underserved."

On its website, Ashton Woods lists Watermark homes available starting at $559,990-$579,990 and sized at 2,641 to 3,106 square feet; Darrell Creek in Mount Pleasant from $559,990-$599,990 and 2,641 to 3,117 square feet; Daniel Island Park with prices "coming soon" and sizes at 3,839-4,012 square feet; Carnes Crossroads in Goose Creek at $299,990-$379,990 and 1,961 to 3,016 square feet; and Strawberry Station in Moncks Corner with prices "coming soon" and sizes from 1,618 to 2,786 square feet.

For more information, visit www.ashtonwoods.com.

Olson relocates to May River Preserve property

An agent whose biggest excitement involves witnessing the pleasure customers show in buying a house has switched to a new David Weekley Homes village.

Rachael Olson has joined the builder's May River Preserve sales team in Hilton Head Island. She signed on with David Weekley Homes two years ago as a sales consultant in the Hampton Lake community.

"When my clients and I walk into their brand new home on their closing day, it is such a fulfilling experience for me," Olson says. "I know that I have done a job well when I see the facial expressions, comments and sometimes tears from clients knowing that the next chapter of their lives has been opened," she says.

May River Preserve stands out as a natural gas community with David Weekley homes on "park-like home sites." It's situated in an alluring, historic location on the majestic May River Road corridor, the company says.

Founded 38 years ago, David Weekley Homes showcases water view home sites and houses with high-end "design, choice and service."

The builder says that May River Preserve features "spacious half- to one-acre yards, a convenient location to everyday conveniences (and) renowned beaches."

Also, the community shows off a nature preserve, pool, recreation center, hiking and biking trails and energy-efficient EnergySaver homes with a "heating and cooling energy usage guarantee backed by Environments for Living."

For more information about May River Preserve, contact Olson at 843-757-7033.

For more about Houston-based David Weekley Homes, visit the company's web site at www.davidweekleyhomes.com.

Three Prudential Southern Coast agents honored

Yearly, real estate companies and agencies single out their associates for top sales awards.

Prudential Southern Coast Real Estate is no exception. The local firm this spring congratulates its 2013 Prudential National Award winners.

The winners are:

-Jana Bantz, Chairman's Gold and 5-Year Legend. She can be reached at 843-261-5262 or jkbantz.pscre@gmail.com.

-Marianne Stabenau, Leading Edge Society. She can be reached at 843-813-0085 or marianne.pscre@gmail.com.

-Cary Collins, Leading Edge Society. He's available at ccollins.pscre@gmail.com.

Wells Fargo top commercial, apartment lender in U.S.

A coast-to-coast bank with ties to the Southeast, Carolinas and metro Charleston leads the nation in mortgages for multifamily and related commercial properties.

The findings for 2013 stem from information compiled by the Mortgage Bankers Association, a noted trade group.

Also among the major players in the commercial-multifamily lending arena were Wells Fargo, which placed first overall; and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a prominent banking group with its parent's headquarters in Charlotte.

Rounding out the top lenders were J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; Eastdil Secured; KeyBank; PNC Real Estate; HFF L.P.; Meridian Capital Group LLC; CBRE Capital Markets; and Prudential Mortgage Capital Co.

According to the MBA report, Wells Fargo topped the list of total origination volume.

Leaders in commercial mortgage-backed securities were J.P. Morgan Chase and Eastdil Secured, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch and PNC Real Estate were the top originators for commercial bank loans and MetLife Real Estate Investors and Prudential Mortgage Capital lead in life insurance company lending.

The Washington, D.C.-based Mortgage Bankers Association describes itself as a national trade group representing the real estate finance industry - which employs 280,000 people across the country.

For additional information, visit the association's website at www.mba.org.

Family Services tackles vet homelessness in Charleston, elsewhere

Noting that close to half the homeless in the Charleston area are veterans, Family Services Inc. has joined in a fundraising effort to help out.

The organization says it supports veterans and families in various ways while "seeking to educate the local community about ways to improve the quality of life for the people they serve."

Family Services notes that there are more than 80,000 people involved in the Armed Forces locally, including active duty and reserve military, family members, retirees and civilian contractors attached to Joint Base Charleston.

The nonprofit helps veteran clients "achieve financial independence and sustainability" through the One Less Homeless Vet program. Family Services launched the initiative in 2009 "to help veterans identify safe, affordable housing and rebuild a successful civilian life through financial education."

The program helps relieve the stress of financing a move and furnishing a home, thereby permitting veterans "to concentrate on going back to school or finding employment."

The problem spreads nationwide with veterans accounting for 23 percent of the homeless population, Family Services says.

Homelessness currently ranks as "one of the most urgent matters" for the Veteran's Administration, which is taking steps to eradicate veterans' homelessness by 2015.

Family Services says the One Less Homeless Vet program needs help from the community to reach its goals. It depends on donations such as those from Daniel and Elizabeth Estrella, owners of the Little Star of the Caribbean food truck and former members of the Army Reserves. In March, the Estrellas coordinated an effort to bring "an army of local food trucks" to the official One Less Homeless Vet fundraiser.

Daniel Estrella, a retired 1st Sergeant after 27 years of service, says, "We've been so blessed in life, but we know the hardships our (military) family experiences and the sacrifices they make. We feel the need to support our family and help this program do that," according to Family Services.

The program recently completed its Springs Giving campaign, which gave donors the chance to win "delectable morsels" from Charleston food trucks in return for helping to support homeless and low-income veterans.

To learn more about the program, visit www.onelesshomelessvet.org.

Family Services Inc. describes itself as a human service nonprofit group "providing professional financial, housing and health counseling services to residents and businesses of South Carolina for 125 years."

The organization can be reached by phone at 843-735-7862, online at www.fsisc.org or via email at info@fsisc.org.