•Operation Home to benefit from Gimme Shelter event•

All too many people in the Charleston area face a troubling fate: They dwell in places that are hazards or that they can’t even get into without a struggle.

That’s where Operation Home steps in, “committed to ensuring that no person has to live in a home that is inaccessible or dangerous,” it says.

But the nonprofit group, too, needs a shot in the arm at times to maintain its mission. An April 18 fundraiser is designed to assist.

The third annual Gimme Shelter soiree, presented by Home Team BBQ, will take place at 7 p.m. at The Alley in downtown Charleston.

According to organizers, the retro party will feature a DJ, live and silent auction, raffle for a 177 Sport Scout boat, bowling, arcade games, Skee-Ball, pinball machines and “feel good” food. American classics and comfort foods are on the menu prepared by Home Team BBQ Executive Chef Aaron Siegel. Creative retro attire is optional.

“We are so grateful for all of the support of this event showing commitment to the community,” says Sandy Milliken, Operation Home executive director. Proceeds from the party will go towards building wheelchair ramps.

A host of sponsors are backing the fundraising party. They are Home Team BBQ, Southern Lumber, Scout Boats, Tiller Construction, Eskimo Advertising, The Noisette Co., 105.5 The Bridge radio station, Charleston City Paper, Marsh Contracting, West of and James Island Messenger newspapers, Computer Genie, Maga Design, Kirkman Broadcasting, OrderonSite.com, Graham Construction, Mary and David Siegel and Filigree.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. VIP passes are $100 and include open bar and extended menu in the VIP lounge. Tickets for the Scout boat raffle are $500. All tickets can be purchased online at www.operationhome.org.

Operation Home says its goal is to help low-income residents in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties stay in their homes through coordinating critical home repairs to make the residences safer and more accessible. The efforts are aimed at the most in need including households with children, people with disabilities and older adults.

Since Operation Home’s inception, more than $1 million in repairs have take place on hundreds of homes. For more information, contact Lorrie Dixson of Eskimo Advertising at lorrie@eskimoadvertising.com.

•Leahy tapped as top local Weichert agent•

A real estate veteran with additional experience managing properties and clubs was one local agency’s “best seller” last year.

Karla Leahy earned Top Producer of the Year for 2012 from Weichert, Realtors - Palmetto Coast.

She has eight years background in real estate and has lived in the Charleston area for 22 years. Annalisa Jordan, broker and owner of Weichert, Realtors -Palmetto Coast, announced the award last week.

Leahy, who now resides in Mount Pleasant, is a member of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

Leahy is active in community and professional groups, serving as a member of “Worldwide ERC - The Workforce Mobility Association” and the Hibben United Methodist Church in Mount Pleasant.

She holds both master’s and bachelor’s degrees in hotel, restaurant, tourism and administration from the University of South Carolina and an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University.

In addition, Leahy is co-owner of DJL Appraisals Inc., and of Bungalow Inc. and has professional background in property and club management, along with corporate recruiting and training.

Weichert, Realtors - Palmetto Coast is at 1035 Johnnie Dodds Boulevard, Suite 2B in Mount Pleasant with an additional office in Port Royal. For more information, call 843-375-2075 or visit www.weichertpc.com.

•Home inspection month arriving in April•

Most of the 8 million people who buy or sell a home this year — or are keeping them maintained — are wise to seek inspections from time to time.

That’s according to the American Society of Home Inspectors, which also says such check-ups get the best results when using a professional.

The trade group, headed this year by home inspector Bill Jacques of Ravenel, says that professional home inspectors can protect homeowners’ financial interests.

The society is reminding people that National Home Inspection Month is a few days away. “April is the perfect time for a home inspection,” says Jacques, the 2013 president.

“The busy buying and selling season is not yet in full swing, and it is just after the winter months when weather can be especially tough on a home,” he says.

Spring is also when homeowners begin large cleanups and start preparing for summer activities.

According to the group, consumers in the market for a home inspection need to remember that the person chosen is just as important as the inspection itself.

“Working with an ASHI Inspector is a homeowner’s best assurance of a home inspector’s proven qualifications and professionalism,” Jacques says.

He urges customers to hire an American Society inspector so they can be sure that inspections include such features as basements and crawl spaces; siding, decks and grading of soil; roof coverings; plumbing systems; electrical systems; heating and air conditioning systems; interior surfaces and components; insulation and ventilation; and fireplaces and chimneys.

The 5,000-member society is in its 36th year. For more information, visit www.ASHI.org.

Home, Design magazine scores “ace” with Family Circle Cup suites

The public gets to hang out at the site of a major national tennis tourney, eying home styles and accessories typically reserved for high-end houses.

And it’s free, if only for a day.

Family Circle Cup is again teaming with Charleston Home + Design to stage six courtside Ace Suites, drawing on talents of local interior design and furnishing companies.

The booths at the Daniel Island-based tennis center will be open to the public for no charge 1-3 p.m. today during a special open house. White wine will be available for tasting in each suite. Following the open house is another free shindig, the Family Circle Cup Draw Party at 3 p.m. on the Grand Lawn.

During the 10-day Family Circle Cup tennis tournament, the top-notch suites will be occupied by corporate executives and their guests, according to Charleston Home + Design.

Participating interior design and furnishing companies are Duvall Catering and Event Design for suites one and two, Coralberry Cottage in suite three, Showhomes Home Staging for suite four and Zimmerman Interiors with Furniture Rentals Inc. in suite five and with Select Corporate Housing in suite six.

For more information, contact publisher Tim Barkley at 843-577-7652, e-mail him at tbarkley@newhomecharleston.com or visit www.CharlestonHomeandDesign.com.

•Agent group moves to local Keller Williams Realty office•

The three-person Jim Mills Team has aligned with a national company’s greater Charleston business.

Jim Mills, Debra Heiney-Rasnick and Tami Gordon are joining Keller Williams. Mills and his wife Pam are long-time residents of Berkeley County.

“After a considerable amount of thought, hundreds of discussions and a tremendous amount of prayer; Pam, Debra, Tami and I have come to the conclusion that we can offer better services for our clients through Keller Williams Realty,” Mills says.

Keller Williams boasts more than 76,000 associates across the country. J.D. Power and Associates two years in a row named the agency “highest overall satisfaction for home buyers among national full service real estate firms.”

The Jim Mills team is among the more active locally: According to Keller Williams, the team has sold more than 900 homes in metro Charleston in the last few years. It is also knowledgeable about marketing homes and getting top dollar quickly and with few if any problems.

“Most buyers are starting their home search online these days and the Keller Williams web presence is positioned to capture more buyer traffic by offering the most comprehensive property search (on the Internet),” Jim Mills says.

According to Keller Williams, its website at www.KW.com gives consumers access to search more than 5 million listings.

The team, meanwhile, is focused on Realtor education with agents earning various designations such as the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist).

“Our move will make your move easier,” Mills says.

The Mills couple live in the Pimlico neighborhood and have four children and five grandchildren, all residing in the Charleston area. They are long time members of Salem Baptist Church in Summerville.

For more information on the team, visit www.YourPathHome.com or call 843-737-6787.

•Study: Educated borrowers less likely to default on mortgages•

Making sure home shoppers get advice upfront is an indicator they will stay current on home loans, cites a group with ties to a local resource center.

North Charleston-based Homeownership Resource Center, a division of Family Services Inc., released details of a national survey on homebuying and mortgage defaults.

The study found that homebuyers who received pre-purchase housing counseling and education from national nonprofit NeighborWorks America were one-third less likely to fall behind on their mortgages by 90 days or more compared with homebuyers who didn’t receive similar counseling and education. The findings held up for homebuyers two years after taking out the loan.

Neil Mayer and Associates and Experian performed the research for NeighborWorks America, which is affiliated with the Homeownership Resource Center. The nationwide study is based on 75,000 mortgage loans originated in 2007-09.

“Mortgage delinquency and foreclosure continue to be stubbornly high here in Charleston and throughout the country,” says Debbie Kidd, the center’s director.

“This new research clearly tells us what works to help families with their housing issues ahead of time, preventing family stress, financial difficulties and costs that are born by neighbors and the city,” she says.

According to Kidd, South Carolina ranks ninth in the nation in terms of most homes in foreclosure, with 1 in every 60 South Carolina homes faced with being taken back by the lender.

Despite declining unemployment and rising home sales, South Carolina still had one of the higher jobless figures in the country as of November 2012 at 8.3 percent.

Meanwhile, foreclosure activity increased 18.9 percent in South Carolina between 2011 and 2012, compared with a 2.7 percent decrease nationwide, she says.

“The research could also become an important tool for lenders in the Charleston area,” Kidd says. “Because homebuyers who receive NeighborWorks pre-purchase housing counseling and education are less likely to be three months or more late on their mortgage, the likelihood of foreclosure or other default-related costs are reduced, helping a lender’s or servicer’s bottom line.”

Estimates vary, but losses borne by local governments, servicers and households can exceed $50,000 per foreclosure, according to a report from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, the resource center says.

The percentage of residential mortgage loans 90 days or more past due across the country was 6.78 percent, and 3.74 percent of homeowners nationwide were in foreclosure, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Delinquency Survey for fourth quarter 2012.

Programs such as the NeighborWorks pre-purchase housing counseling and education could have lowered the figure of 1.5 million homeowners who received a default notice in 2012, according to the resource center.

Family Services Inc. says it has saved nearly 4,000 homes in 2008, educating more than 600 people in homebuyer and credit counseling last year alone and helping to create more than $7.5 million in direct community investments through first time home purchases.

“Our ultimate goal is to create stronger neighborhoods,” says Jenna Johnson, marketing and development director with Family Services.

“Many do not know where to turn to receive help, and some are in denial. We reach out to our community in order to educate, assist, and empower our neighbors. And we have a strong record of doing just that,” she says.

According to the NeighborWorks America-backed research study, repeat homebuyers likewise benefit from the pre-purchase housing counseling and education and are one-third less likely to fall 90 days or more behind in their mortgages than repeat homebuyers who didn’t receive the counseling and education.

“More analysis of the data is required to determine the factors for the repeat homebuyer results,” NeighborWorks America chief executive Eileen Fitzgerald says. “But one thing is clear from the data: housing counseling is effective, even if you’ve been a homeowner before,” she says.

The Homeownership Resource Center, as a division of Family Services, provides financial literacy education, homebuyer education, and foreclosure prevention services.

For more information, call toll free 800-232-6489 ext. 7862 or locally at 843-735-7862, visit www.fsisc.org or email info@fsisc.org.