For the last several months, the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors has been holding a string of luncheons and other informational sessions to teach its members about changes to the federal flood insurance program.
The goal is to ensure association members know how home sales could be affected by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act, a 2012 law that's expected to raise flood premiums for property owners.
Such educational sessions are expected to become more commonplace under the leadership of Corwyn Melette, the trade group's new president.
"I want to make sure that when there is something of importance, like flood insurance, that we make sure that our members understand the issue," Melette said.
Melette, 39, assumed leadership of the 3,900-member association this month, replacing past president Owen Tyler, a Carolina One Realtor who served his one-year stint in 2013.
Melette, founder and broker-in-charge of North Charleston real estate firm Corwyn J. Melette and Associates, also marks the first African-American president of the association, which traces its roots to the 1907 founding of the Charleston Real Estate Exchange.
Melette downplayed his being named the association's first black president.
"Despite whatever, a person can, you can and I can," he said. "I didn't set out to do this, or for this to happen. I just set out to do and operate the way that I can. My business is diverse, our association's membership is diverse, and being the first African-American of color is humbling and to me that it's proof there is nothing different."
Association nominating committee Chair Rob Woodul said Melette was chosen for the passion he has for the industry.
"He understands that being a Realtor is more than selling homes - that it includes being active in the legislative community to protect our members and industry from unnecessary regulation that could negatively impact our business and giving back to the community through our philanthropic efforts like Reading with Realtors and the Realtors Housing Opportunities Fund," Woodul said.
Melette assumes the leadership role after working on various committees and panels at the association for several years. In 2011, he received the group's Realtor of the Year award. He's also stepping into the group's top volunteer role as the real estate market rebounds sharply from the fallout of the last recession.
On his watch, the association will be looking at several issues that could affect its members, including state property tax reform.
"We have a tax system that is weighed heavy on property owners in South Carolina, and there are other states that don't have that," Melette said. "We are weighed very heavily, and not that it penalizes those for being property owners, but it does put the burden of government infrastructure and all those things on property owners."
His other marching orders include championing for delays to the federal flood insurance reforms. The Biggert-Waters law was crafted to overhaul the debt-laden National Flood Insurance Program. The reforms include new flood maps, and they also eliminate subsidies for policies and rate increases that average 10 percent.
One major sticking point for the real estate industry is a provision that eliminates any subsidies on a flood policy once a property is sold. Experts have said that would hurt home sales, especially in such coastal regions like the Lowcountry.
The Charleston association is also seeking a new headquarters since its current home within the S.C. Research Authority campus on International Boulevard was purchased by Boeing Co. as part of its continued growth in the Lowcountry.
Melette said he's always had an interest in educating people about the home-buying process, from new agents to first-time purchasers.
"I've helped people who never thought they could buy a house buy a house," he said. "Home ownership is possible for everyone, you just have to have the right circumstances and meet the right people to encourage you do it and get the right information along the way."
His hands-on approach should help the association, said Wil Riley, the group's CEO. "Corwyn's philosophy is to lead by example - in addition to running his brokerage. He is out in the field working every day, and every day, he succeeds at the challenge of providing an excellent buying or selling experience to his clients while serving as a leader and mentor to his team of agents," Riley said.
Melette learned about the real estate market at an early age, tagging along with his grandfather, who was a property manager in the Pee Dee region. He initially planned to follow that same career path roughly a decade ago when he got his real estate license.
But Melette sidelined that goal and got into sales in the Charleston region.
Melette started as an associate at Weichert Realtors/Dean-Kelby. He left the firm in 2008 to head Complete Action Real Estate Services, a for-profit subsidiary of North Charleston-based Family Services Inc. that lists and sells affordable housing in the three-county area.
"You can make real estate your ministry," he said. "I've taken that and I've set out to help people."
In 2012, Melette formed his own real estate firm that specializes in first-time buyers. Melette said he is looking to add to his firm's roster of four agents.
He also is looking to follow through with his plans to invest in income-producing property.
"I am hopeful that 2014 is my year to really get in and do it," Melette said.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 or twitter.com/tyrichardsonPC.