A noon interview where all parties are stuffing lunch into their faces can prove to be a little awkward, but that wasn't the case with Hayden and Stacy Jennings.
On the contrary, the owners of Hayden Jennings Properties were fast friends by the end of the hour.
Of course, this was hardly a surprise, given Stacy and her husband like to conduct business by making friends with their clients.
"We're crazy social," says Stacy, widening her blue eyes with emphasis. "We have dinners, cocktails and lunches with our clients."
Of course, that isn't to say that just anyone can become successful in real estate after mastering the art of a busy social life. Stacy and Hayden have more than 25 years of experience combined, on both the sales and property management sides of the real estate spectrum. And their team keeps on growing; in fact, the company added about seven jobs in the last six months.
"We're expanding, bringing in new agents and creating jobs and opportunities," she says.
The Jennings' initially met in Winston Salem, N.C., where Hayden was already managing a few investment properties. Following their umpteenth visit to Charleston, the couple decided to become Lowcountry residents, and Stacy took a job with Daniel Island Real Estate.
Meanwhile, Hayden found himself growing his business from the ground up, advising friends and acquaintances on the real estate market. By the time Stacy left her job to join her husband in 2010, Hayden Jennings Properties had garnished a fine reputation almost solely on referrals.
"When we first got to Charleston, I put myself out there and talked to people in various social settings," Hayden says. "Through word of mouth, neighbors and friends, we developed our client base."
The couple recently ran into Keith Mayfield, one of Stacy's old college pals, at a mutual friend's wedding and brought him on board for the property management side of the company. Mayfield's background in customer service and managing rental homes on Kiawah made him "a good fit," according to Stacy. Currently, he is experimenting with home sales as well as managing property. Mayfield claims that working with people and taking care of tenants' needs are his priorities.
"I try to listen to what our tenants have to say and what they want," he says.
"Communication is where it all begins. I take information that the tenant gives me back to the owner, and we find out what we can do to benefit everyone involved."
Service is one of the cornerstones of Hayden Jennings Properties, and both Hayden and Stacy described their services as "customizable" for every client's specific situation. The couple concentrates on keeping clients happy by helping them weather potential challenges during the home-buying process and encouraging a positive outlook.
"You can never foresee the challenges you might face," she says. "I strive to be level and calm. We go through the process alongside our clients, and there's a good bit of privacy and trust involved."
Of course, the Hayden Jennings team has noticed a greater number of buyers willing to place their trust in the market and take a risk in the last couple of years. The second home market "is booming," they say, with folks buying beach homes and getaways in the Holy City.
So what's a typical day like at Hayden Jennings Properties?
"There's no such thing as a typical day," Stacy replied.
"We're always scattered about. Keith might be working with tenants in Mount Pleasant, I might be showing a property downtown and Stacy might be closing a house on Daniel Island," he says. "We stay in different directions."
Speaking of different, another way Hayden Jennings Properties keeps in touch with clients is through The Holy City Herald, a quirky, online newsletter in which Stacy and Hayden report on restaurants, cocktails and company news. The columns include "Hayden's Manly Eats" - since he is a self-proclaimed 'huge foodie' - "Stacy's Sips," plus anecdotes of wisdom and tidbits about the housing market. It's a surprisingly fun read and more proof that Stacy and Hayden don't just have a career; they are in love with what they do.
"The Holy City Herald has been one key to our success," Hayden mused. "We would get calls from new owners about which restaurants or happy hours to visit. It puts a creative spin on what we do and makes us a source for fun."
Denise K. James is a freelance writer who lives in Charleston.