•Local consultant named leading ‘green’ verifier by home research lab•

Just 10 professionals have met a housing inspection group’s top designation for ensuring that structures are “green,” and one is from the Lowcountry.

Robert B. Bolus of Coastal Training Consultants & Inspectors in Charleston is an “accredited green verifier” as endorsed by Home Innovation Research Labs in Upper Marlboro, Md. He was named one of the labs’ 2013 National Green Building Standard “Green Partners of Excellence.”

According to Home Innovation Research Labs, Bolus is “dedicated to supporting independent, third-party green home certification.”

For more, contact Bolus at 843-762-6316, visit Coastal Training Consultants & Inspectors at 1527 Kentwood Circle or go to rbolus@coastaltrainingconsultants.com or www.coastaltrainingconsultants.com.

Partners of Excellence certifications also went out to two South Carolina companies in the builders and remodelers category. They are CF Evans of Orangeburg, and Johnson Development Associates, Spartanburg.

In all, Home Innovation Research Labs recognized 45 of its partners for contributions to advancing green building in their communities and commitment to voluntary, market-driven certification of high-performance homes. The lineup for 2012-2013 includes 18 residential building companies, 10 accredited verifiers, three architectural firms, 10 program advocate organizations and four elected officials from across the country.

“We’ve gone through a lot of changes in this last year — changes in the industry, in our company, and in the National Green Building Standard,” says Michael Luzier, president and chief executive.

“While all the changes have been positive, we recognize it takes a lot for a company or an individual to ‘roll with the punches’ and persevere with the same level of enthusiasm and excellence in a certification program as rigorous as ours,” he says. “That is why this year we were compelled to recognize the significant commitment to innovation and leadership in the residential construction industry that some of our NGBS Green Partners have displayed.

“We are impressed and inspired by what these companies and individuals are achieving in the field and the market transformation they are helping to accomplish,” he says.

Winners were chosen in light of their leadership, innovation and excellence in green home building, according to the labs. That’s the case despite a volatile, though steadily improving, housing market; a brand rebirth for the Home Innovation NGBS Green Certification Program; and a transition from the 2008 to the 2012 National Green Building Standard, the organization says.

The National Green Building Standard became the first residential green building rating system to be approved by the American National Standards Institute in January 2009, the labs notes. Since then, Home Innovation Research Labs has certified more than 6,200 single-family homes, nearly 600 multifamily buildings representing more than 12,600 apartments and 19 residential land developments representing close to 1,300 lots, it says. For more information on the NGBS or the Home Innovation certification program, visit www.HomeInnovation.com/Green.

•William Means rolls out high-tech web site for people on go•

Home searchers both serious and curious have a gadget to check out: William Means Real Estate’s new mobile location online.

In May, the Charleston-based company launched a website and Quick Response (QR) code system directed at smart phone users. According to William Means, the site contains information that someone out in the city searching for real estate would find interesting. By being all-access, the mobile tool is that much more valuable in real estate, the company says.

Often, home shoppers discover places of interest while they’re out walking or driving around and want to know immediately what’s available for sale. With the William Means mobile site, they can flip onto “Search Homes Near Me” and the site will find the homes for sale closest to them by using their Global Positioning System (GPS) location. Or, lookers can punch the “Search All Homes For Sale” function to accumulate all the listed properties in an area and then narrow their search, including by newly listed homes and recent price drops.

The site can be called up through any smart phone by visiting www.charlestonrealestate.com or scanning the black, squiggly-lined QR codes stamped on the company’s for sale signs around town. The codes will be showing up in the next few weeks, the real estate firm says.

“The mobile website is important in order to connect our different information channels — the full scale website, active listings and social media — in an efficient manner,” says Helen Geer, president of William Means Real Estate.

“We are very excited to provide this service to our clients and prospective buyers. We truly believe this will make the home searching process more enjoyable,” she says.

The William Means development team worked with Blue Ion, a leading local website design and interactive marketing company, to craft a user-friendly mobile connection. Founded in 1933, William Means Real Estate is a leading luxury real estate broker in Charleston with more than 25 agents and two area offices. The company is also an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.

•Keller Williams mountain team branching to South Carolina coast•

After six years in western North Carolina, a real estate group tied to a national company is expanding to the Charleston area.

Patton Property Group at Keller Williams, a leading player in the mountainous Asheville, N.C., area after a half-dozen years in business, has opened up in Black Mountain, N.C., as well as greater Charleston. Brandy Keener, a Charleston area native, is heading up the local office.

According to Keller Williams, she grew up around the island and beaches, and “treasures the landscape and character” of Charleston.

Keener was a computer analyst and programmer before switching to real estate as a career.

Patton Property Group was founded by Rowena Patton, a former management consultant. She is a member of the Keller Williams luxury, commercial and global property specialist divisions.

•New lots becoming available at Tributary in Mount Pleasant•

After strong initial sales, FrontDoor Communities is set to release lots for purchase in its second construction phase at RiverTowne Country Club.

FrontDoor Communities says buyers can reserve new lots at its Tributary community.

Thus far, the builder has handled 23 lot reservations, including 15 with wetlands views, in its first phase.

FrontDoor Communities plans to release its second-phase properties in July.

Interested buyers can visit the model home to reserve a lot. If interest exceeds availability, a lottery will take place, the company says.

According to FrontDoor Communities, the Tributary homes cover 2,000- to 3,100-square-feet in size showcasing “generous porches and careful siting to take full advantage of views, breezes and access to green spaces.”

The builder is framing 17 homes in its first phase. The houses sport features often reserved for custom homes; Award-winning Charleston area architects Eric Brown and Eric Moser designed the 10 floor plans.

Open layouts and “Lowcountry charm” highlight the homes, which provide high-end living indoor and outside. There’s an emphasis on local craftsmanship such as doorknockers hand-hewn by Richard Guthrie of the American College of Building Arts provided to each house, fireplace mantels crafted from discarded wood beams by Reclaimed Design Works and window protection from Summerville Shutter Co. Extras include porch swings by Island Bed Swings and blown glass cabinet pulls from Sullivan’s Island artist Susanne Harris.

FrontDoor Communities, which is also the developer, says it is committed to sustainability. New Urbanist amenities include pathways and public greenways, it says.

The neighborhood is near the entrance to RiverTowne Country Club. RiverTowne features an 18-hole championship golf course and access to beaches and downtown Charleston.

•Charleston-area rate of homes financially ‘underwater’ sinks in quarter•

The percentage of Lowcountry mortgaged residences with higher debt than value dropped from the fourth quarter and remains below the national rate.

The results are a continuing sign that the housing market is on the mend locally.

According to national analytic group CoreLogic, 16.3 percent of homes with a mortgage in Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, or 23,737, were in “negative equity” in the first quarter, down from 19.1 percent, or 27,961 properties, in fourth quarter 2012.

Negative equity is also commonly referred to as being financially “underwater” or “upside down.”

Another 5.7 percent, or 8,362 homes, in the Charleston area were in “near negative equity” — with their worth no more than 5 percent higher than the total amount owed — compared with 6.6 percent, or 9,605 properties, three months earlier.

CoreLogic compiled the analysis for the U.S. as a whole as well as states and metro regions.

The analysis shows that 9.7 million, or 19.8 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage, were upside down in the first quarter with a total value of $580 billion, or close to $60,000 a property; compared with 10.5 million, or 21.7 percent of all mortgaged homes, in the fourth quarter of last year.

At the same time, 850,000 residential properties returned to a state of positive equity during the first quarter of 2013, bringing the total number of mortgaged homes in the black to 39 million. The national “underwater” value decreased from $631 billion at the end of 2012, driven primarily by a boost in home prices, the company says.

According to CoreLogic, negative equity can occur because of a decline in value, an increase in mortgage debt or a combination of both.

About 11.2 million of the 39 million borrowers in the black at of the end of March report less than 20 percent equity, known as “under-equitied.” Those borrowers may have a more difficult time obtaining new financing for their homes due to underwriting constraints, CoreLogic notes. Another 2.1 million residential properties at the end of the first quarter reported less than 5 percent equity and are considered at risk should home prices fall.

“The impressive home price gains of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 have had a big impact on the distribution of residential home equity,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “We expect the pent-up supply that falling negative equity releases will moderate price gains in many of the fast-appreciating markets this spring.”

CoreLogic president and chief executive Anand Nallathambi says, “We are still far below peak home price levels, but tight supplies in many areas coupled with continued demand for single family homes should help us close the gap.”

By state Nevada had the highest percentage of mortgaged properties in negative equity at 45.4 percent, followed by Florida at 38.1 percent. Figures for South Carolina were not immediately available.

Mortgaged properties with sufficent equity tend to be concentrated at the high end of the housing market, CoreLogic points out. For example, 88 percent of homes valued at greater than $200,000 report equity compared with 73 percent of homes worth less than $200,000.

•Sabal Homes adds new-home coordinator, branches into custom houses•

An eight-year-old builder based in Mount Pleasant is expanding into a personalized type of construction while restructuring its new-home business.

Sabal Homes has named Jason Ray of Carolina One New Homes to oversee marketing and sales for the company’s Grassy Creek, Hibben and Rivertowne Country Club properties. Sabal is building in the three

Mount Pleasant communities.

Ray can be reached at 843-327-6281 or by email at jray@carolinaone.com.

At the same time, Sabal Homes says it is eager to team with clients to design new custom home plans or to manipulate existing ones. Homebuyers will be able to make choices, from floor plans to finishes.

“Sabal will listen to the homebuyer and help them set appropriate allowance budgets,” says Joe Welch, the company’s custom homes division manager. “They can select as many of the finishing touches as they like or they can work with our registered interior designers and we’ll build on their lot or ours,” he adds.

Carolina One New Homes is a marketing and sales leader for new homes villages in metro Charleston, representing 30 such communities.

For more information, contact broker-in-charge Will Jenkinson at 843-202-2023 or wjenkinson@carolinaone.com.

•Company buys government-leased property in North Charleston•

A Washington, D.C.-based investor has looked into office buildings rented by federal entities in the Lowcountry and Florida and likes what it sees.

Easterly Partners says it has purchased high-end buildings in North Charleston and in Jacksonville.

“The acquisitions of two government-occupied properties carries out the firm’s strategy of investing in high-quality, commercial real estate with stable, long-term federal government leases,” says William C. Trimble III, chief executive and managing partner of Easterly Partners.

The North Charleston property is an 87,000-square foot building with a government tenant focused on carrying out the mission of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The facility is class A, which is considered the top tier of commercial properties; and is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-certified.

In Jacksonville, the partners bought a 30,000-square foot, LEED Gold-certified Class A property occupied by the U.S. Department of Defense’s United States Military Entrance Processing Command.

Easterly Partners LLC says it focuses on providing strong, risk-adjusted returns to investors, claiming experience and expertise at buying and selling properties in a specialized segment of the federal government real estate market.

For more information, visit www.easterlypartners.com.