Batten signs on with brokerage in Dorchester County

His parents ran a real estate business. Now Jonathan "Jon" Batten will add to his own experience as an agent, joining Re/Max Main Street Realty.

Batten will work from the Re/Max office in central Summerville. According to the agency, he moves over after racking up productive years with Carolina One Real Estate.

The agent continues the business of Batten Partners, in wake of his real estate parents Glenn and Ann Batten's retirement, Re/Max notes.

Prior to entering the real estate field, Batten held posts with a number of transportation-related manufacturers. He worked for Volvo Truck, American LaFrance and Harsco - a metals and minerals, rail and industrial company.

Batten holds a bachelor's degree from The Citadel and a master's degree in business administration from Montreat College.

Cane Bay highlighted in consultant's planned-community report

Florida, Texas and California dominated a real estate tracker's findings on large, planned-out villages. But in one case, South Carolina joined the ranks.

John Burns Real Estate Consulting singled out Berkeley County-based Cane Bay Plantation in its new study.

Ken Perlman, senior vice president of consulting; and Jody Kahn, senior vice president of research oversaw the company's in-depth research to pinpoint the "Strongest Regions for Master-Planned Communities" across the country.

"In 2013, our consultants - based in nine different offices nationwide - completed more than 100 market analyses related to master-planned communities," the firm says.

Among the report's conclusions: "Cane Bay Plantation is a Southern success."

David Kalosis, senior vice president in the group's Atlanta office, notes that the top-selling "masterplans" in the South aren't just in Florida.

"Sales at Cane Bay Plantation are up nearly 60 percent this year, driven by soaring active-adult demand among its anchor tenant, Del Webb Charleston," he says.

"The Summerville area continues to be the core submarket for Charleston's housing demand, which also benefits Pulte's Centex brand, Lennar Homes and newcomer Dan Ryan Builders within the Cane Bay 'masterplan,'" Kalosis says.

Elsewhere, the report found:

- The Villages, a central Florida "active adult" community, held onto first place with 3,419 new home sales in 2013 - a 20 percent increase from 2012. Favorable demographics, a strong stock market, and "well qualified buyers with no legacy mortgage issues" boosted sales at active-adult communities nationwide, says Lesley Deutch, senior vice president in the Florida office. Other notable master-planned communities in Florida are Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota, with sales driven by retirees and family buyers; and Nocatee in Ponte Vedra near Jacksonville - the fastest-growing among the 10 largest master-planned communities in the John Burns survey.

- The nation's capital and surroundings, while tight for space, showcased several neighborhoods on the consultant's top 50 list. Three of the best-selling master-planned communities are in Loudoun County, Va., which is less than 40 miles west of downtown Washington, D.C. One Loudoun, Brambleton and Stone Ridge attract commuters to growing employment centers in Fairfax and Arlington counties and in Washington, says Dan Fulton, senior vice president in the D.C. office. Miller & Smith/North American Sekisui House LLC are developing One Loudoun, which sported a survey-high 224 percent increase year to year in sales.

- In Southern California, foreign buyers lead sales in one big community while another benefited from a blend of primary and second home buyers, seniors and younger purchasers. The Irvine Ranch in Orange County retained second in sales with 1,444 new home transactions. "Buoyed by strong local economies and a great exchange rate, Asian buyers comprised 53 percent of new home sales in Irvine," the consultant says. "Schools were the number one attraction." Meanwhile, Rancho Mission Viejo in San Juan Capistrano offers "multiple product lines" such as a common recreation center for the entire property as well as a second clubhouse devoted to "age-qualified" residents, says Pete Reeb, senior vice president in San Diego.

- The "jobs-rich" Silicon Valley triggered home sales in Northern California. Mountain House by Shea Homes, located north of Tracy, Calif., "had another great year" in 2013, according to John Burns Consulting. Other neighborhoods surged, too. "Family-friendly detached homes in places like Dublin in the East Bay are priced from about $800,000 to well over $1 million," says Dean Wehrli, vice president in northern California. "A variety of neighborhood types and price points combines with great schools and a 'there there' (sense of place) to attract buyers priced out of closer-in locales in the Bay Area," he says.

- Thorough research and precise delivery underpin great master-planned communities, according to Johns Burns Consulting. Perlman, a San Diego-based senior vice president, says the company studied more than 20 master-planned communities in 10 states last year. According to the consulting firm, great masterplans boil down to great execution, Perlman says. He cites Newland Communities, which developed five masterplans in the top 50. Cinco Ranch in Houston, the third largest by sales in the survey with 854, segmented its types of homes, buyer profiles and appropriate amenities, according to Perlman.

John Burns Consulting says its survey reached out to more than 20,000 consumers nationally. A chief finding: "Prospects indicate that amenities such as a pool and a clubhouse are nice to have but that ultimately masterplans need to have a 'personality.'"

Zerbst earns resort and second home specialist designation

A Charleston area agent with Carolina One Real Estate Services picked up one of the top classifications for handling beachside and visitor-style properties.

Tami Jean Zerbst, an associate in the company's Isle of Palms office, earned the Resort and Second Home Specialist certification. The National Association of Realtors distributes the RSPS designation. According to Carolina One, Zerbst joins "an exclusive group of 1,750 real estate professionals nationwide who specialize in buying, selling or managing second homes in a resort, recreational and/or vacation destination."

A Realtor for the past seven years, Zerbst is also an Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR) and a REO (Real Estate Owned) Specialist focusing on foreclosures.

Celebrating a half-century in business this year, Carolina One Real Estate Services touts 11 local sales offices, a mortgage division and departments keying on insurance, new homes, relocation, commercial real estate, property management, vacation rentals and title services.

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

New-homes builder launches neighborhood in downtown Moncks Corner

While the threat of ice postponed a Wednesday grand opening, Lennar is moving forward with its Jacobs Cove community in the Berkeley County seat.

The builder closed a sales transaction for the first home in Jacobs Cove, located at 402 Rockville Road in downtown Moncks Corner.

According to Lennar, "Interest in the burgeoning neighborhood is high."

Jacobs Cove offers 55 home sites while showing off "a number of quality floor plans," Lennar says. Houses start in the low $100,000s.

Mirroring fellow Lennar villages, the neighborhood will provide homebuyers with the builder's signature "Everything's Included" program. Purchasers will benefit from "desirable luxury features included in the base price."

Lennar had planned a ribbon cutting ceremony and Realtor luncheon featuring Moncks Corner Mayor William W. Peagler III and fellow local officials Wednesday afternoon. The luncheon was to feature an oyster roast and barbecue served by Home Team BBQ.

Founded 60 years ago, Lennar Corp. builds homes in 18 states. The Miami-based company offers "affordable, move-up and retirement homes in communities that cater to almost any lifestyle," according to Lennar.

To get to Jacobs Cove from Charleston, take Interstate 26 to U.S. Highway 52 toward Moncks Corner. Turn right on Cypress Gardens Road, then left on Old Highway 52. Stay on Old 52 for about five miles and take a right onto First St. Johns Drive. Jacobs Cove is on the left. To learn more, visit www.Lennar.com.

Financial expert signs on with Lee & Associates

With an MBA in tow, Doug Hart recently joined a local commercial real estate firm to help clients flesh out their investment plans.

Hart's a broker with Lee & Associates Charleston, specializing in project development. He brings more than 15 years' experience of "dynamic professional success spanning start-up operations, equity trading, project management and financial analysis," according to Lee & Associates.

He graduated from Fordham University with a master's of business administration in International Finance.

According to Lee & Associates, the new broker's financial background combined with entrepreneurial experience enables him to view clients' needs on an "intimate, personal level."

The commercial real estate firm says Hart "brings honesty, integrity and a tireless work ethic to each and every relationship." As a result, he's effective in "evaluating clients' objectives while maximizing their real estate investment returns."

Analyst: metro Charleston home prices rise 3 percent at year-end 2013

Local housing costs took a breather in December, climbing at less-than-half the state rate and one-third the U.S. gain, property information firm CoreLogic says.

In greater Charleston-North Charleston, home prices increased 3 percent in December 2013 from a year earlier, according to CoreLogic's Home Price Index. Prices dropped slightly month-over-month, falling 0.5 percent from November of last year.

CoreLogic also computes price changes excluding distressed sales such as foreclosures and short sales. By those calculations, year-over-year prices moved up 3.8 percent in December from a year before while staying the same compared with November.

By state, South Carolina landed near the middle in terms of home price increases, according to CoreLogic. As of December, prices climbed 7.6 percent in South Carolina from 12 months previous. The gain ranked 19th highest among the 50 states and District of Columbia. Excluding distressed properties, the state's home price rise was 7.2 percent, which again placed 19th.

The nation as a whole had a stronger showing, with home prices surging 11 percent year-over-year in December. The yearly price growth was the highest in nine years, CoreLogic says. It also marked the 22nd consecutive month that home prices posted a yearly increase nationally. On a month-over-month basis, home prices in the U.S. dipped 0.1 percent from November.

With distressed sales excluded, housing costs nationally rose 9.9 percent in December from a year ago. Prices increased 0.2 percent month over month compared with November.

In January, homes prices should increase 10.2 percent from a year earlier and slide 0.8 percent from the previous month. That's according to the CoreLogic Pending HPI.

Excluding distressed sales, January home prices are set to rise 9.7 percent year over year and 0.2 percent month over month.

"Last year, home prices rose 11 percent, the highest rate of annual increase since 2005, and 10 states and the District of Columbia reached new all-time price peaks," says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.

"We expect the rising prices to attract more sellers, unlocking this pent-up supply, which will have a moderating effect on prices in 2014," he says.

According to Anand Nallathambi, president and chief executive of CoreLogic, "The healthy and broad-based gains in home prices in 2013 help set the stage for the continued recovery in the housing sector in 2014.

"After six years of fits and starts, we can now see a clearer path to a durable recovery in single-family residential housing across most of the United States," he says.

Brokerage tags agent with sports marketing background

Touting achievements in entertainment and athletic fields, Tiffany Vanek recently signed on with Century 21 Properties Plus as a sales associate.

Vanek, who moved to the Charleston area 16 months ago, will specialize in residential property sales locally.

"We are thrilled to have Tiffany join our team," says Tim Rash, of Century 21 Properties Plus Inc. "It's an exciting time to be with the Century 21 system, as we increase our market presence in Charleston," he says.

Vanek counts more than 15 years' experience in sales and marketing and brings a diverse background in the sports and entertainment industry, according to Century 21 Properties Plus.

She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in Sports Administration and Communications. After graduating, she worked in minor league baseball as a director of group sales.

Vanek relocated to Charleston in November 2012. She completed extensive training with the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors and Century 21 Properties Plus to prepare her for a new career in real estate, the agency says.

"We believe training supports growth and professional excellence in the real estate industry," Rash says. "Performance-based training is necessary to assure that Century 21 associates maintain their competitive edge and offer the best service possible to their clients."

Century 21 Properties Plus dates back to 1997 in the Lowcountry. Its offices are at 118 W. Richardson Ave. in downtown Summerville and in Park West in Mount Pleasant at 3301 Salterbeck St. For more information, call 843-871-2121.