All posts by dsteeleRealEstate

I'm a former CEO turned realtor. My professional approach sets me apart. I get results and I get them quickly. If you are selling a home or you're relocating I assure you you will have my full attention. I will respond quickly, keep you updated and apply every ounce of wisdom I posses to help you achieve your goal.

Sold in 3 Days: The Rest of The Story Part 1

Coaching, preparation, staging and patience played an important part in how this home looked on day one of the listing.  Patience is required when the standard is to remove all objections before they’re asked.  Professional photography, a virtual tour and a broad marketing campaign got the listing noticed.  These items set the table and created the ambiance that whet the buyers appetite.

House photos 01 House photos 02 House photos 03 House photos 04

Pricing the home required finesse.  My advice to the seller was to wait until the day we listed to set the price.  I’m glad we did.  Statistics provided by Blanchard & Calhoun’s guru of all things mathematical, Doug Reese, demonstrated that the inventory of homes in this area, in this price range, were equal to or slightly less than 3 months.  An evaluation of other comparative market data suggested a lower list price than I preferred.  The fact that there were no other homes in this ideally located neighborhood, the house was immaculate and inventory was low led me to suggest a price significantly higher than we anticipated a week earlier.

Coming soon:  The final installment

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I wish you peace…..


Flood Insurance Conundrum Resolved

I’d no sooner posted the previous blog when another hurdle was placed in our path.  Just when we thought the last barrier had tumbled.

Several weeks work resulted in the establishment of a “Base Flood Elevation” (BFE).  Then, we successfully managed to get a “signed and sealed” certificate of elevation from a certified engineer. Breathing a sigh of relief we sent the “signed and sealed” certificate to the insurance provider.  Imagine our disappointment when the underwriter said it “wasn’t sufficient”.  To our dismay we were told we had to send everything to the “flood community” of Columbia County and get them to write a letter that contained six or seven provisions.  Any hope of closing the loan last week was dashed.  Thankfully Shari an overworked employee of Columbia County was able to review the paperwork and visit the property two business days after we contacted her.  She wrote the letter we needed and the underwriter accepted it.

Our take-away: Don’t give up, don’t let a deal fall apart if it can be saved.  Some counseled that it was pointless to “fight FEMA” but it turned out that the fight was winnable.

Closing is set for Friday afternoon.  God willing there will not be a third post on this subject.

Flood Insurance Update

A surprised buyer was recently shocked to receive a quote of $1,800/yr on top of his standard home insurance policy.  As the seller’s agent I’d disclosed that the property was in the flood zone according to the published FEMA map.  Nonetheless, reliance on knowledge of past flood insurance costs led to an assumption by the buyers agent that the cost would be no more than $400.00/yr.  The yard, not the home, was within the FEMA flood zone.  The back yard abutted a dry ditch so no one thought the cost for flood insurance would be significant.  The actual cost ($1,800/yr) led to the all too familiar “oh s*#t” moments we dread as agents.  To keep the deal in place my sellers immediately took it upon themselves to do whatever it took to help reduce the buyers cost.  They hired a surveyor to gather actual data since we learned that the FEMA flood zone lines were approximations only.  Our learning curve was steep and we heard as much that wasn’t accurate.  In the interest of sharing with my colleagues and home owners I hope to serve in the future, I’ll share below the key take-aways we’ve learned. 

  • If FEMA shows your property in the flood zone: it is not certain that your property is actually within the flood zone
  • FEMA relies on satellite data that is imprecise.  Using that satellite data FEMA draws smooth lines that only approximate reality. BFE data is missing almost everywhere.
  • To rectify this imprecision a surveyor must study discrete plots of land.  There is no process that is capable of affordably addressing this issue on a larger scale.  Additionally, water courses change over geologic time and Base Flood Elevations will change over decades.
  • The property owner alone must bear the cost to hire a qualified professional(s) to establish the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
  • An “Elevation Certificate” (EC) can be used by a buyer to get a lower flood insurance premium.
  • Without proof (the EC) the insurance industry to protect their interests will always default to a worse case premium.  FYI, the insurance companies and mortgage do not profit from flood insurance premiums – all of the money flows to FEMA.
  • Getting the property removed entirely is a long and tedious process that may only be worth pursuing if you intend to hold the property for a long period.  
  • No one in local government, FEMA or the insurance industry has singled out your property or tipped off the insurance/mortgage that you are “in the flood zone”.  The mortgage holder discovers that your property is in the flood zone when a real estate transaction in your area triggers their computers to send a letter to every home owner in a neighborhood whose property is within the smoothly drawn, but often inaccurate, FEMA flood map. 
  • Homeowner’s who never had flood insurance may be getting a letter, as many have, telling them that they must buy Flood Insurance, if the homeowner doesn’t purchase the flood insurance expect the mortgage to buy it and charge you the full price.
  • Cooperate with your neighbors: If several homeowners border a flood zone area it makes sense to share the cost of hiring a surveyor. Have the surveyor start at the headlands of a drainage area and work downstream.   Remember you are guilty until you prove your innocence with a BFE you must present to your insurance provider.

Whether you are one of the unfortunate ones who get a letter or you are a realtor trying to move from contract to closing this post is intended to give you the information you need to fight an onerous levy forced on homeowners to fund FEMA.  Folks who build on the beach or in lowlands should pay the cost of flood insurance without relying on monies levied on a homeowner whose property abuts a dry stream bed that hasn’t flooded in a hundred years.  If you agree fight back and SHARE this post.

Wishing you all the best,

April’s First Full Week is Almost Here


The Master’s Tournament is one month away.  Busy homeowners are preparing for guests or renters.  I saw the first Redbuds in bloom today and Daffodils and Tulips are ready to burst into bloom.  In less than a month Augusta will be in full flower with Dogwoods and Azaleas leading the march to Springtime.  Living in Augusta at this time of year makes me wonder why anyone would up want to live up north.

Having fun in Augusta, GA

We’re blessed with a great climate and an abundance of opportunities for recreation, family activities and exercise. While we’re best known for Golf, Disc Golf is also huge in Augusta.  Lakes, Rivers and Ponds provide great boating, fishing and swimming opportunities.  Ancient Indian sites, Revolutionary War & Civil War History sites are all around us here.  When you yearn for the excitement of big cities; Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC are 2 1/2 hours away, as are the historic cities of Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA and mountains of north Georgia.  Here are some photographs (there are many more I’ll add to future posts) to give you an idea of local opportunities  and a few that are a short drive away:  photo-6IMG_0166IMG_0300 copyIMG_0765DSCN1142 IMG_0216Table Rock

Front Entry Tips and Trends for Every Home

Front Entry Tips and Trends for Every Home

Despite the increased prominence of back doors, mudrooms, and other alternative entryways, most visitors still enter a home through its front door. Here’s how you can help buyers and sellers set the stage for a gracious point of arrival.

With pressure to justify every square foot of real estate and conserve energy, the larger-than-life front hall is undergoing a metamorphosis. It’s not disappearing, though—rather, it’s doing its job of welcoming in a more compact, efficient way.

Design experts may use different terms to describe the space beyond a front door—vestibule, hallway, entryway, foyer. The terms are quite interchangeable with slight variations. A vestibule is generally a small, separate air-lock that stops cold and hot air from entering the rest of the house. A hallway provides entry but also links spaces and rooms—at the front or anywhere in the home, says design guru Marianne Cusato, author of The Just Right Home (Workman Publishing). Of course there are dozens of other words you can use to describe this space. And whether you pronounce the foyer as foy-yay with a French spin or foy-er (rhymes with lawyer) really depends on how grand you or your home owners want the space to sound.

Whatever you call it, it’s important to understand the potential impact the entrance to a home can have on a visitor’s first impressions, says Stephanie Mallios, e-PRO, salesperson with Towne Realty in Short Hill, N.J. “If there are too many shoes and coats strewn about and no place to put keys or gloves, many buyers will have a tough time imagining how they’ll live there,” she says.

Study these eight design details to help your clients create a welcoming space that does its job well, both aesthetically and functionally—no matter what it’s called.

Size, scale, sequence. Due to energy-efficiency concerns,an entry with a soaring ceiling and sweeping staircase is far less popular than it once was. Still, a modest entryway as small as 4 feet to 5 feet wide can convey a proper sense of arrival, says Cusato. More important than size is the scale (the space should be in proportion with the rest of the house) and the sequence (the rest of the home should flow out in a logical way), says architect Duo Dickinson, author of Staying Put (Taunton Press). Upon entering, people should be able to see other spaces and rooms and know where to go next, says architect Julie Hacker of Cohen-Hacker Architects in Evanston, Ill. In the best layouts, there may even be a view straight through to a backyard.

Height. The number of levels or floors in the structure often determines this factor, though even two- and three-story homes are moving away from entries with soaring ceilings. The location of a stairway will hinge in part on square footage and what role an architect or builder wants the stairs to play. In smaller homes, it’s often part of the foyer but off to the side, and goes straight up—being purely functional. In larger homes, the staircase might occupy its own separate hall and curve gracefully to a landing, past a window or window bank, and up to the next level. To carpet or not is a personal preference, though bare treads can be noisy; a good compromise is a runner covering painted or hardwood treads.

Millwork. To fashion a gracious entry, most design pros recommend a door that is at least three feet wide and 72 inches tall. The trend of pricey double doors is disappearing, according to Chicago-area builder Orren Pickell. Whether a door includes a glazed transom or sidelights should depend on how home owners feel about privacy and bringing natural light into the interior. The size of the glazing should be proportional to the door’s width and height. For baseboard and crown molding, simplification is the overriding trend, which keeps fussiness and costs down, except for the most traditional houses, says Cusato. Wainscoting is another way to add visual detail. Columns are helpful to screen off adjoining rooms without completely walling them off. Hacker uses two columns with space for books cut out on the back side of each on the living room side to separate areas in her home.

Lighting. Good lighting is essential for safety, but it also sets a welcoming mood. A chandelier or large pendant is the obvious choice, while ceiling cans or sconces also work well. Whatever fixture home owners prefer, advise them to install dimmers. Not only will this allow them to save energy, but options for differing lighting intensity and color can also help set a dramatic mood for a party, a bright feel for an open house, and a low-light one for romance.

Flooring. A visually rich, substantial looking floor will reward visitors, says DickinsonBut due to the wear and tear common for front entryways, it should also be practical. Slate, stone, and porcelain meet that criteria, though they can be cold on bare feet in winter. Avoid soft woods that may dent and scratch; don’t use carpeting since it will become too dirty with traffic; and avoid vinyl unless it’s one of the more expensive, newer-looking versions. Home owners may wish to set off the area in a different material than adjacent rooms and hallways. But choosing one common material for several rooms produces a feeling of continuous flow and makes smaller rooms appear larger.

Furnishings. Depending on the entry’s size, home owners might consider adding a table to place mail, gloves, hats, and keys. Also, a mat or rug to wipe off feet and a chair or bench to put on and take off footwear can be helpful for maintaining tidiness. Finally, a mirror to check one’s appearance before heading out the door—or joining a group when entering—can be a welcome sight.

Wallpaper vs. paint. This choice is highly personal. If home owners love color, they should go for the paintbrush, with the knowledge that darker palettes can add drama and romance. Of course, not all future buyers will have the same taste, but repainting is an easy home repair in smaller areas. If your clients are into patterns, the same rule applies, though today many wallpapers are quite easy to hang and remove. The key is for surfaces to appear clean and not look dated, which may mean banishing that old-school floral style.

Bells and whistles. A coat closet is a nice extra, as is a powder room, though newer construction may feature such conveniences at the back of a domicile where they’ll be used most frequently. An umbrella stand can hold a variety of other items—canes, tennis racquets—neatly, and niches or shelves can display collectibles. A doorknocker outside, even if rarely used, is a classy touch akin to wearing one great piece of statement jewelry. It can really give the front door a Downton Abbey feel.

If your buyers and sellers take away just one lesson from you, it should be that a well-planned front entrance—no matter the name, size, or style—will add value to their home.

Perkin’s Closing January 30, 2015

Beverly Dye and I were honored to help Vance and Lauren select and purchase their first home.  Everything went thru without a hitch.

This newly married couple looked at a wide range of houses in person and on-line before deciding on a new home in Riverwood Plantation in Columbia County, Ga.  As Vance settled in to his new job and Lauren graduated from the Medical College finding a new home often had to take a back seat to higher priorities.  Once they were settled in to two new jobs finding the perfect home at the price point that fit their budget became a priority.  Thankfully, they found a home that had most everything they wanted that was just a short distance from Lauren’s parents.  My partner in this transaction, Beverly Dye, deserves the credit for finding the home that met their needs.  We all regret that Beverly could not join us today but pneumonia care determined that she get well soon.

Closing Perkins Closing Perkins Home

Can Home Staging Really Win Over Buyers?

Eighty-one percent of REALTORS® who represent buyers say that staged homes make it easier for their home buyers to visualize a property as their future home. Forty-six percent of buyer agents also reported that staging makes their buyers more willing to tour a home they viewed online, and 45 percent say that buyers tend to view the value of the home more positively if it is decorated to buyers’ tastes.

Twenty-eight percent of agents said their buyers are even more willing to overlook other property faults if a home is staged, according to NAR’s survey.

Buyer agents also say that staging can potentially influence how much their buyers are willing to offer for a home. According to the survey, thirty-two percent of buyer agents surveyed say that staged homes increase the dollar value buyers are willing to offer for a home by 1 percent to 5 percent; 16 percent said it could increase offers by 6 percent to 10 percent.

However, not everyone chooses to stage a home in prepping it for sale. Forty-four percent of seller agents say they only suggest that sellers declutter and fix property faults, and they do not recommend that their clients should professionally stage the home.

Indeed, about 34 percent of seller agents surveyed say they stage all the homes they list; 13 percent stage only “difficult” homes to sell; and 4 percent only stage high-priced homes they list, according to the NAR survey.

Here are additional findings from the NAR survey:

  • The median dollar value to stage a home: $675 per home
  • Among homes that are staged, here’s how it is often paid for: 62 percent of sellers’ agents offer the home staging servicing to sellers; 39 percent say that the sellers pay for staging prior to the home being listed; 10 percent of sellers pay for staging after the home is sold; and 3 percent of agents’ firms pay for the home staging service.
  • The three most important rooms to be staged for buyers: living room, kitchen, and master bedroom.

By REALTOR® Magazine Daily News