The market’s largest commercial real estate company has its sights on becoming its largest residential developer – as well a major home broker.
Augusta-based Southeastern Real Estate Holdings LLC, known as Southeastern Development Associates in the seven states in which it operates, has formed a residential brokerage division that – at least initially – will focus on selling subdivisions its parent company develops in the metro Augusta and Charleston, S.C., markets.
Previously, the company relied on other real estate companies to market home sites in subdivisions such as Grovetown’s Chastain Place and the Marsh Pointe luxury townhome neighborhood in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. It formalized the new division with a grand opening celebration last month.
Southeastern Senior Vice President Matt Mills said it made more sense to handle residential marketing in-house because most of its single-family home projects, including the “conservation communities” of River Island in Augusta and Charleston’s Poplar Grove, are not traditional subdivisions.
“In almost every instance, we realized the companies that were helping us were not doing things the way we might have done it,” Mills said. “We’re developing the property so we know the vision better than anybody else. It’s imperative sales agents understand that vision so they can best communicate it to the homebuyers.”
The groundwork for a residential sales division started last summer when Mills met with Augusta real estate agent Kelly Gates, who was running the on-site sales team for the Southeastern’s 288-home Chastain Place neighborhood on behalf of Blanchard & Calhoun, the nearly century-old Augusta real estate and insurance company Southeastern had amicably parted ways with two years ago. Southeastern, which operated as Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial from 1987 until 2015, has a development portfolio that includes apartment complexes, Marriott and Hilton-branded hotels and office buildings. It also is one of the region’s largest Kroger developers.
Gates had come to know the Southeastern team by selling homes in Columbia County’s Bartram Trail neighborhood more than a decade earlier. Her new-home sales team has been the market’s No. 1 for two years running, selling more than $24 million in new homes last year alone.
Mills took notice of Gates’ focus on relationship-building while she ran the on-site sales operation at Chastain Place. The neighborhood, whose sole amenity is a community pool, outsold rival “planned unit developments” with more amenities largely on the strength of Gates’ team.
“Kelly had the ability to staff the site with the right people and develop a rapport with the buyers,” Mills said. “At the end of the day, the residents there became our best salespeople because they loved the development.”
Southeastern’s residential division is based at 7013 Evans Town Center, Suite 302B, and operates online at livesoutheastern.com. Its seven licensed agents in Augusta and three in Charleston will primarily focus on new homes in the five neighborhoods Southeastern plans to develop next year. Eventually, Gates aid, they will take on listings in the resale market.
The Augusta office started with just two agents in October and is actively, but selectively, recruiting agents, Gates said.
“We don’t want to have the largest real estate company in the market, we just want to have the best agents,” she said.
Southeastern’s residential and commercial operations will be managed separately, with Mills serving as the qualifying broker, but will share a unified brand as well draw on the parent company’s multistate development experiences to explore innovative residential marketing strategies.
“We were able to take what we learned from the different companies to come up with a formula now that will best serve or investors and any buyer that comes to us looking for a home,” Mills said. “I think we’re trying to push the limits and not be afraid to try new things. Maybe it’s just our demeanor as developers and our willingness to take risks, but there’s an effort to explore new ideas.”
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.