In the world of real estate, 2021 was one for the record books. Unquestionably, this past year proved to be one of the most dramatic in the real estate market. With an estimated 6 million homes sold nationwide, home sales hit a 15-year high and home prices rose at an unprecedented rate.
Selling a house in mere days after putting it on the market, with multiple offers for well over listing price, was not at all uncommon this past year. The story for buyers was a different tale, with demand creating a highly competitive market that left many nervous about their home search. The supply chain and labor shortages were also a factor, with builders waiting for materials, causing major delays in new construction inventory hitting the market.
Home prices are expected to continue rising this year, but not in the double-digit percentages experienced in 2021. While no one can predict the future, the Midlands region is blessed with real estate agents who successfully navigate the market, ensuring that their clients will be in good hands for 2022.
Home Advantage Realty
Jill Moylan established Home Advantage Realty more than 30 years ago. From its beginnings around Jill’s dining room table, Home Advantage Realty has grown to 90 agents in offices located in downtown Columbia, Irmo, Chapin, and Blythewood, creating an all-local real estate boutique with worldwide exposure.
Looking back over the past year, Jill says that the 2021 market was like no other. Negotiating a record number of successful sales and closings despite historically low inventory challenged her in unique ways.
“For example,” Jill says, “I assisted an investor client to compete strategically and win a nearly $3 million house with multiple offers. This satisfied client viewed the property only via detailed videos and closed remotely, a purchase process largely unheard of during pre-COVID days. I fought for first-time buyers who were confronted with an extremely difficult market to find and win homes. Offering guidance and comfort, I guided these buyers and explained such hair-raising terms as appraisal gap contingencies, escalation clauses, and ‘as is’ terms in offers.”
With inventory drastically down, Jill matched buyer clients to ideal homes before the homes hit the market. For her seller clients, Jill kept meticulous spreadsheets to track dozens of offers on a single listing, and her team advised her clients on the relative merits of each offer, ensuring that they negotiated the best terms possible for the sellers.
“I led informal counseling sessions to keep buyers and sellers immune to the stressful situations that we agents encounter daily in such an unprecedented market. By embodying a philosophy of empathy and constant improvement and by keeping a focus on client satisfaction, we rose to the challenges of the 2021 market, breaking sales records while providing our clients with the award-winning service we have provided for over three decades. We are grateful!”
Bhavna Maker Vasudeva
Born in 1968 in New Delhi, India, Bhavna moved with her family to the United States when she was 4 years old. An alumna of the University of South Carolina, Bhavna majored in advertising and public relations, with a minor in marketing.
Now a licensed Realtor with a wide range of experience in both the public and private sectors, Bhavna has had specialized training with luxury homes and is currently an agent with United Real Estate of Columbia. Her continued faith in the market is evident, as she maintains a rental property portfolio with investments in Columbia and Charleston.
“I got into the real estate game for myself, and it has been a 35-year journey,” says Bhavna.
Bhavna Vasudeva believes in her community, and she views her passion for trying to improve the community as an extension of her real estate career. “Whether I’m helping with a fundraiser or relocating a new client and making them feel like part of the community, it’s about bringing them into the fold and introducing them to people with the same interests,” she says.
“Finding the right fit in the right neighborhood takes knowledge of our community and a good sense of what would be a good fit for somebody. It’s how people stay happy. People are not numbers to me. I’m not trying to achieve high-volume sales. My goal is to do what is best for my clients, which fosters long-term relationships. I have a depth of knowledge regarding real estate, and successful relocation to me is putting my clients’ family first.”
When asked about her most hair-raising moment in real estate in the past year, Bhavna replies, “I don’t do stress or hair raising. I am the Zen, the calm influence, and I do not do high pressure sales. Good things come to those who wait. I push and advocate for my clients, but sometimes you have to sit back and help them see the big picture.”
Her calm approach to real estate coexists with a proven ability to get things done. Looking back on her highest bid over asking price for 2021, Bhavna says, “$200,000 over asking on a sight-unseen property that was going to be a tear-down to the tune of $2.9 million.”
Bhavna describes her quickest sale of 2021, which happened during the summer, “I listed a property and had three offers the first day. Two were blind offers, meaning that the buyers had not seen the house, but they put in offers. The showings for that house were scheduled every 15 minutes for the first day from 9 in the morning to 9 at night. The house sold for $35,000 above the asking price.”
She shares that her secret to success is her reputation and network of connections. “Other Realtors ask me how I get my clients, and my answer is always the same: They come to me. I am at times a referee, a financial advisor, and mostly a consultant. I bring in the professionals that add value for high net worth transactions to close.”
For Bhavna, her comprehension of the growth in Columbia has been an integral part of her success. “Being a landlord myself and running my own short-term vacation rentals gives me real world experience. I put my own money into the market, so I know what it is to have skin in the game. I would not advise my clients to do anything that I have not tried or am willing to try,” she says. “My job is to run point for my clients. Placing my clients with a team of lawyers and accountants that can guide them through the process is very rewarding. I am the quarterback, only as good as my teammates to get that touchdown.”
Looking to the future, Bhavna says, “I see at least three more years before supply catches up with demand, the demographic changes settle, a generational wealth shift materializes, and our supply chain issues get resolved.”
Mary Lane Sloan, The ART of Real Estate
For Mary Lane Sloan with The ART of Real Estate, her daily focus is to better the lives of others. “I know firsthand that buyers and sellers are looking for not only a sharp negotiator but also a professional who can offer sound guidance, a patient ear, and the ability to stay level-headed under pressure.”
Mary Lane’s description of her most surprising sale of 2021 reflects that ability to remain unflappable in any circumstance. “I was representing a buyer who had a property under contract, and two weeks prior to closing she got a job offer she could not refuse and had to back out of the contract. That is never a fun phone call to make to a listing agent — but I had another buyer client who loved the house and was able to get it under contract. It was just one of those moments where you felt really bad as an agent when your buyer backed out but then felt like a superhero when you could bring them another buyer to get the house actually sold.”
With the high bids and quick sales of 2021 also came complex real estate moments that test the bounds of the profession. Mary Lane describes her most complicated purchase of the past year: “I was helping a family move here from Hawaii, so obviously all of our showings had to be virtual. With the fast-paced market and a huge time difference, it was really difficult to get an offer to the table quickly. I think I wrote 16 offers for them before we finally got one accepted. It took a lot of patience and working with the other agents so they could understand this family’s story in order to put us finally in a competitive position as buyers.”
Coldwell Banker Midtown Office
For Coldwell Banker Midtown Office, 2021 was a remarkable year. Describing one of their most unusual sales of 2021, Coldwell Banker agents Jessica Milligan and Patrick Hawkins say, “Friends asked us back in February 2021 to provide a comparable analysis of their home because they were job hunting out of state and wanted to put their home on the market. As things turned out, they ended up not listing their home and staying in place through the summer. In September, they called us again and said they had decided to sell and asked if we could refresh our market analysis of their home. The numbers were astounding! In just seven short months, their marketable value went up by $75,000, and the home sold in one day for $10,000 more than the list price.”
From a buyer’s perspective, although 2021 was a challenging year to purchase a house, it was far from impossible with the help of the right real estate agent. Another Coldwell Banker agent, Jack Stewart, describes helping his out-of-state client relocate to South Carolina:
“In May 2021, a woman moving from New York state reached out to me looking for a rental in the Lexington area. After meeting her, we looked at several rentals that looked promising online, priced between $1,500 and $2,000 per month, but upon viewing the homes she didn’t see anything she really liked. While we continued to look on her behalf, she spoke about her love of horses and how eventually she would like to purchase a horse farm and bring the horses she currently had stabled in New York down here to South Carolina.”
Their conversation later moved on to whether purchasing a home that was capable of accommodating her horses would be more advantageous than paying rent plus the cost to stable her horses up north, and she then changed her mind about renting. The next week, she viewed and purchased her dream 32-acre horse farm in Aiken.
Coldwell Banker agent Gwen Rawls describes bumping into an old friend at a popular local restaurant. “The restaurant was relatively full, and I was just about to leave, so I suggested he take my table. As we quickly caught up, I told him I was in real estate, and he mentioned a property he was interested in that wasn’t currently on the market. I told him I’d be happy to reach out to the owner and see if there might be some interest in selling it. He then said he’d let me know if he ever got really get interested in purchasing it.”
Gwen contacted the owner of the property the following morning and discovered that homeowner was willing to sell but was unwilling to negotiate. “So, I immediately started searching the MLS for a comparable property for my client. I located something, we went out to take a look at the property, and about a week later, my client made an offer. I’d only been in real estate for a few months at this time, and the offer was on a $1.5 million property. Our offer was subsequently accepted.”
Gwen found that in talking with the listing agent, many other deals had fallen through previously on this particular property. The seller was very attached to it and thus a bit hesitant about selling. “He had made it quite difficult for all the other prospects so that they just decided to move on. The seller tried to make it difficult for us also, but my client and I persevered. Ninety days later, my client closed on this magnificent property, and, as his agent, I was ecstatic for him.”
Looking back upon this year, Michel Moore says, “It is important to realize that selling houses is not about metrics — it is about people, their homes, and their lives. How do you measure someone’s happiness? A real estate contract has many components, and price is only one part of it. Selling a house is about people’s hopes and dreams, their futures, and their past memories. The hairiest moment is getting it right and doing the best for everyone; when you care about everyone, it is a good sale with buyer and seller both getting what they want.”
The Wheeler Group
The Wheeler Group’s father-and-son team of Jeff and Zack Wheeler has more than 50 years of combined experience in working with buyers and sellers, as well as the innovation and technology needed in today’s market.
Zack Wheeler began his real estate career in 2007, when he was named Rookie of the Year. In 2021, Zack achieved President’s Elite designation – putting him in the top 3 percent of all Coldwell Banker agents worldwide. He also achieved the Diamond level with the CCRA Circle of Excellence. Jeff’s career has spanned 40 years; he is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Club and has been recognized at the Real Estate Person of the Year in both Columbia and Charlotte.
Looking back on 2021, Zach says, “Everyone knows how hot the market has been throughout the Midlands during this past year — there are stories everywhere! We listed a home for one of our seller clients on a Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning we had 14 offers, four of them cash. By the same token, we represented a buyer client who was interested in a house in Shandon, and quickly the price got ‘out of control,’ and we advised him not to make an offer. That was a wise decision, as two days later another home came open that he was able to buy as the first offer, preapproved, and ready to close.”
“We recognize that knowledge and communication equal success for homebuyers and home sellers,” Zach says. “So, the bigger question is not to just look back at what happened in 2021 but to look forward and see what will happen in 2022. We encourage our clients to ask themselves if this is the right time to sell their property, and if so, what price range can they expect? Has the overheated buying cooled off or will it continue? And if you are buying a home, what parameters should you set so you don’t overpay?”
Maldonado Miller & Associates
Jenifer Maldonado Miller and her husband, Donavon H.M. Miller, operate Maldonado Miller & Associates at Lake Murray’s Coldwell Banker Global Luxury office in Chapin. This master-marketing couple sets a new standard for which some of the lake’s finest estates are sold and purchased. Leading with the motto “clients go first,” this duo exceeds expectations while creating exceptional experiences. They share, “Not only do we love what we do, while working together, we’ve made genuine friendships that have brought the ultimate value to our life.”
Distinguishing themselves with international brand power, expansive online syndication, and top tier professionalism, this Lake Murray team earned global recognition in 2021 with the International Presidents Award. For anyone thinking about lake life, “meet the Millers,” leaders in luxury real estate.
Law Offices of Talley A. Lattimore
A vital part of ensuring that real estate transactions go smoothly is addressing the associated legal issues. The Law Offices of Talley A. Lattimore has more than 25 years of experience helping Midlands clients with their real estate closings and other real estate legal needs.
“Regardless of your type of loan we can get it closed for you,” says Gloria Lattimore, Lattimore Law’s closing coordinator. “Our firm has handled hundreds of relocation closings for many companies over the years. Many of the lenders we work with are local, and we have developed a solid relationship with them and their staff. We also work smoothly with out-of-state lenders, as the process is the same. South Carolina law allows the borrower to select his or her attorney. It is your choice. The lender cannot select your attorney for you or make you use one particular attorney. South Carolina law does require that a licensed attorney handle all real estate closings here in South Carolina.”
With so many highly skilled and truly caring individuals working in and supporting the real estate profession in Columbia, it’s no wonder that dreams come true, even under highly unusual circumstances in today’s market.