By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
He can’t pinpoint exactly when, but Owen Tyler recalls the circumstances that lead him to take a keener interest in Lowcountry real estate matters.
The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors had launched RHOF (Realtors Housing Opportunities Fund), an endowment to help bankroll housing repairs and the like for underprivileged families struggling financially due to rising homeownership costs.
Tyler sat on the group’s committee that regularly selects metro Charleston housing nonprofits to receive distributions. Those funds are earmarked for maintenance, development and fix-up projects.
In a Tuesday interview, Tyler said poverty in the Charleston area, while often overlooked, is glaringly real. It’s gratifying, then, when the membership “gives $5, $10, $1,000,” he said.
“When I saw what a small group of people can do,” it struck a chord. He remembers thinking, “I want to be more involved with this.”
Tyler, born and raised in Mount Pleasant and a Clemson graduate, took on leadership roles. They included two years as chairman of RHOF (pronounced “roof”) when the fund raised $260,000.
Earlier this year he reached a pinnacle of sorts in terms of association volunteer efforts. Still in his 30s, Tyler is the 2013 CTAR president, overseeing a 3,600-member organization founded 106 years ago.
“We have a large organization,” says Tyler, an agent with Carolina One Real Estate in its Broad Street office. The president’s job is to help the various members gain access to information they need to be successful. That used to mean providing figures and updates on the Charleston area as a whole. But markets and technology have changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Now agents and brokers need to know what’s going on at the ground level, from happenings north of S.C. Highway 41 in Mount Pleasant or the Highway 61 corridor in West Ashley to the exact route of the proposed I-526 extension on Johns Island.
“In Charleston, we have so many great agents,” he says. “My goal is to serve a more informed Realtor right off the bat.”
One place where Tyler makes his presence known is governmental affairs. The association not only takes sides occasionally on key community issues but brings Realtors up to speed on local real estate news. Case in point, Tyler says: The city of Charleston in late February raised property taxes — the hike would be $35 a year on a $250,000 home — to pay for police in schools and new fire stations.
On the state level, “We would like to see comprehensive tax reform,” Tyler says. The group is also “working hard (on a statewide basis) to make it a higher standard to be a real estate agent,” he says. “Our membership has added requirements the state doesn’t have.” State standards require that agents tally 12 hours of classroom instruction; the Charleston association mandates 18 hours, he says.
The local Realtors association is keeping tabs on the federal government as well.
“Every time Congress and the President don’t work together, it creates concern in the market,” he says. The federal sequestration hasn’t affected the metro Charleston real estate scene, “but it’s just started,” he says.
On the local level, the association disclosed a new initiative last month that should help Charleston area Realtors when it comes to interacting with prospective homeowners from other countries, Tyler says.
The group introduced a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation. Tyler says many local businesses have international ties. “When you see Charleston as #1 everywhere,” –— the Conde Nast Traveler survey last year placed the Holy City as the world’s top destination — “we want to work with people from all (over) to make sure they are comfortable.”
While the information is anecdotal, Tyler says, “You are seeing a huge influx of people” from overseas visiting or looking to move to Charleston. “It’s hard for us to track it. We rely on what the membership says.”
Tyler’s interest in real estate started at Clemson, where he was involved with a hotel management business that was building new lodging places. He graduated with a degree in accountancy, and worked for two years in the Charleston area for a public accounting firm. His real estate fervor, however, lead him to change careers. He started as an agent in 2001, joining Carolina One seven years ago.
“I really see this as a way to help people,” Tyler says. “For many people, it (buying a home) is the biggest purchase they will make in their life.”
Tyler is one of the first Realtors to head the association in some time who is a day-to-day sales agent rather than a broker or similar-type associate that spends more time in an administrative role.
But he says the association president’s role will stay separate from his agent’s duties. “I think my clients appreciate that my volunteer work doesn’t affect my business. My clients, they come first.”
Tyler lives in his home town, in the Rice Hope neighborhood of Long Point subdivision. He attended Whitesides Elementary, Moultrie Middle and Wando High schools growing up.
“My family is here,” he says. “I have a wonderful support system.” In his free time, he enjoys taking in special events such as the recent Wine and Food Festival and also likes to travel.
But the vacation trips are just that; he has no plans to move. “I’m settled,” Tyler says.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.