Judge witnesses launch of own real estate firm

A new North Charleston agency's practical knowledge, expert advice and long-standing relationships with home shoppers give it an edge.

Judge Realty Group opened earlier this month at 3236 Landmark Drive, Suite 124 in North Charleston.

The firm focuses on many aspects of residential property - notably purchasing, leasing, disposition, management and consulting. It's also lined up strategic partnerships to help clients go "beyond the transaction" to tackle interior design, staging and some renovation projects.

Vonnie Judge, president of Judge Realty Group, brings more than 15 years background in real estate. In 1999, she began her professional career as office manager with the Centex Home Team in Charlotte. She obtained her real estate license in December 2003 and became a member of the National Association of Realtors a month later.

Meanwhile, Judge has owned and managed investment properties since 1998 and uses her personal experiences to coach new investors. She's also assisted clients in renovations and decorating projects.

Judge intends to draw on her experience "to further distinguish" the new firm, she says.

The Realtor, who holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from the College of Charleston, is a licensed and certified credit counselor and a formal housing counselor. She's registered at Trident Technical College to pursue a construction certification this fall.

"Our firm welcomes the opportunity to build more confidence in the real estate market," Judge says. She's looking forward to help educate clients and to "actively support the efforts to revitalize the communities in which they live."

Judge Realty Group hosts monthly educational seminars to build clients' confidence in the market. The next home buyer seminar will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at 3236 Landmark Drive in North Charleston

For more information, visit www.JudgeRealtyGroup.com or call 843-364-3603.

Auckland Plantation in ACE Basin up for sale

An historic expanse along the Ashepoo River sporting a Japanese styled "open-air" residence and guest house went on the market recently for $1,950,000.

Auckland Plantation, situated in the Walterboro area less than an hour from the Charleston and Savannah airports, stands within the protected 350,000-acre ACE Basin wildlife preserve.

Established by Thomas Pinckney, who died in 1705, the plantation gets its name from the English town of Bishop Auckland. It was among several rice plantations owned by the Pinckney family, according to listing brokerage The Huffines Co.

Auckland Plantation covers 139 acres with 1/2 mile fronting the Ashepoo River and another 1/2 mile bordering Johno Creek. Neighbors include historic Bonnie Doone and Dawn plantations.

Auckland Plantation encompasses three buildings: the 2,000- square- foot main house, a guest house and a shed.

According to The Huffines Co., all three structures "allude to the Japanese open air temple style." At the same time, the buildings "incorporate traditional southern influences such as heart of pine milled from the historic Joanna Mills beams and v-board walls, an antique precursor to bead-board," the real estate company says.

The buildings blend tradition and modernism along the waterfront site, Huffines Co. notes.

A property "show-stopper" sits at the center of the main house - a 600- square-foot porch dividing the kitchen and living room from bedrooms and bathrooms. The porch lines up with "an old canal stretching 300 yards from the house to the Ashepoo River" while overlooking the property's boat landing.

"This is one of those really rare listings. The plantation is pristine with incredible wildlife and water views. But, it is the unique natural structure with its open air plan that makes this a true find," says Calvert Huffines, president and managing partner of The Huffines Co. "It is as if it is a natural part of the landscape and that is something any buyer of Southern land will know and appreciate," says Huffines, whose Lowcountry real estate firm describes itself as a specialist in large high-end acreage, historically significant Southern plantations, luxury estates and prestigious hunting properties.

Enriched organic soil produces seasonal crops, and persimmon and fig trees produce fruit every year. Still-present rice dikes were cleared to allow for miles of walking paths throughout the property and along the river and creek. Pastures and an equestrian area cover about 10 acres. Located in a protected area, Auckland Plantation will remain "a very private wildlife paradise," according to Huffines Co.

Auckland Plantation is at 608 Saxby Hill Road, Walterboro, southeast of the town's center. For more information, contact Hannah Amick at 678-488-2909 or hannah@huffinespr.com.

Nicklaus-affiliated agency to open office in Charleston area

Golden Bear Realty, a Jack Nicklaus family-owned company based in South Florida, plans to open a luxury real estate location in Charleston this year.

The agency hasn't made a formal announcement but included this note on its Facebook page: "Golden Bear Realty is thrilled to announce that it will be opening its newest location in beautiful Charleston!"

The company also ran a two-page advertisement in The Post and Courier's Real Estate section noting that Golden Bear Realty LLC International would be coming to Charleston in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, in signed remarks, says, "I am very excited to be expanding our luxury real estate business into the Charleston area."

Also, agency President Michael Nicklaus explains, "My family loves Charleston and the feel of the Lowcountry. My dad has designed many golf courses in this region and we believe Charleston . is the perfect place to expand our luxury real estate business."

Jack Nicklaus' iconic nickname can be traced to 1961, when an Australian writer said the budding golf star looked like "a big cuddly golden bear," according to the company. In his career, Nicklaus would go on to win more major championships than any other golfer.

Todd Vance, broker with Golden Bear Realty, will head up the Charleston location. His connections to Charleston date at least to the 1990s.

Vance, who played on the Georgia Tech football team that shared the national championship in 1990, worked for a mortgage lender in Spartanburg in the mid-1990s and was asked to open an office in Charleston. He later obtained his real estate license and moved to North Palm Beach, Fla., in 2003 to help launch Golden Bear Realty.

For more information, contact Vance at 843-743-4380.

Connell signs on with Charleston area real estate firm

A real estate agent for the past decade in New Jersey and South Carolina recently joined Carolina One New Homes at an emerging Mount Pleasant village.

Patty Lynn Connell is based in the Carolina Park master planned community. She formerly worked with Weichert Realtors in New Jersey and Beazer Homes in the Charleston area and has been selling real estate since 2004.

Born in New Jersey, she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at Bloomsburg with a business administration degree. She spent 12 years as a systems engineer with AT&T before turning to real estate. Connell has regularly been a top producer over the last nine years, according to Carolina One.

Connell joins Community Site Manager Haley Cuzzell in handling sales for the builder team at Carolina Park.

She lives in Mount Pleasant with her husband of nearly 25 years, Michael. They have three daughters: Shea, 22; Riley, 20; and Maggierose,15.

Carolina One describes Connell as a hunger advocate and community activist who enjoys reading and relaxing at the beach.

Carolina One New Homes started 20 years ago as a division of Carolina One Real Estate, the local real estate market leader. The unit represents new-homes sales and marketing in more than 30 communities.

Daniel Island Real Estate marks upbeat 2013

Sales activity was the rule last year at Daniel Island's largest realty, which posted its best count in the past five years, the company says.

Daniel Island Real Estate says it benefited from a "thriving" Charleston economy and island real estate market. Sales associates "were busier in 2013 than they have been in years," the agency says.

According to the company, last year was its best season since 2008. Daniel Island Real Estate closed 257 properties for a total sales volume of more than $136 million.

The agency remains the No. 1 listing office for new and resale properties for the 18th consecutive year.

Among other highlights:

- Transactions and dollar volume of sales each increased 27 percent last year from 2012.

- The majority of sales transactions in 2013 were resale properties.

- Single family homes made up the lion's share of properties sold by Daniel Island Real Estate last year with 136 deals closed.

- Median prices of single-family homes jumped to $603,387, including $1,047,500 in Daniel Island Park and $568,950 on the south end of the island.

- Single-family home listings averaged 74 days on the market, a 33 percent drop from 2012.

Based on all property sales on Daniel Island, agencies and owners combined in 2013 sold 384 residences totaling $198.4 million, up from 334 deals and $162.9 million in dollar volume a year earlier.

For more information on Daniel Island Real Estate, call 843-971-7100.

Jacques picks up valuable tips at major home-inspection conference

Absorbing ideas and networking with peers were highlights of a national expo for professionals who thoroughly check houses to make sure they're safe and healthy.

That's according to Bill Jacques of Ravenel, last year's president of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Jacques, an ASHI certified inspector with American Inspection Service Inc., attended the yearly InspectionWorld conference Jan. 12-15 in Nashville.

He described InspectionWorld as the premier conference and exhibition for the home inspection industry.

"ASHI remains committed to offering us the resources and essential tools so I can provide my customers with the services they want and need," says Jacques, the society's 2013 national president. The society, he says, is the only home inspection group with a certification program recognized by The National Organization for Competency Assurance.

Conference attendees were able to acquire new skills, enhance their professional knowledge and network with top industry pros, he says.

This year, the society offered 45 educational sessions along five different tracks. They ranged from the "inspection essentials" track designed for beginning home inspectors to the "advanced learning" track, which delved into business management, specialty inspections and building science topics.

Founded in 1976, the more-than-5,000-member American Society of Home Inspectors is "the oldest and most widely recognized non-profit, professional organization of home inspectors in North America," according to the group.

The society's industry standards include its "Standards of Practice" and "Code of Ethics."

For more information, visit www.ashi.org, contact Jacques at 843-556-3755 or go to www.aishomeinspections.com.

Three agents join Carolina One Real Estate in Dorchester County

A jewelry store owner, Naval reservist and former employee of a defense contractor are new agents at a real estate firm's downtown Summerville office.

Cal Griffin, Linda Masullo and Willona Torres were recently welcomed to Carolina One Real Estate's locale on Main Street.

Griffin, a real estate agent for the past eight years, was named Realtor of Distinction in 2007.

He holds designations as a Resort and Second Home Specialist and Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource. He's also a National Association of Realtor "e-PRO" for online skills and Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) certified.

Born in Columbia, Griffin attended the University of South Carolina. He has spent much of his life in Walterboro.

The Realtor and his wife Prissy own and operate Griffin Jewelers, MoonShine Outfitters and Griffin Trophies & Awards, all in Walterboro. His hobbies include learning and mastering business, reading and travelling.

Masullo, a Richmond, Va., native, moved to Charleston a year ago.

She graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor's degree in Philosophy and a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and Bioethics. She previously worked for Northrup Grumman Corp. in Philadelphia.

Masullo lives in Summerville with her husband Pete and their three children ages 8 to 19.

Originally from Kingstree, Torres has resided in the Charleston area for the past three years. She spent five years as a Corpsman in the Navy and remains a member of the Naval Reserve.

Torres lives in Summerville with her husband Victor and their three children. She likes to cook, target shoot and ride her Suzuki motorcycle.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Carolina One Real Estate cites itself as the leading real estate services firm in metro Charleston. The company handled nearly 30 percent of residential sales transactions as of the end of 2013.

For more information, visit the agency's website at www.carolinaone.com.