Matchmaker for Masters homes draws on experience

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Diane Starr could probably rent someone's house for the Masters Tournament with her eyes closed.

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Diane Starr matches Masters visitors with homes to rent. Many factors determine the rental price a house can demand.  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Diane Starr matches Masters visitors with homes to rent. Many factors determine the rental price a house can demand.

The owner of Corporate Quarters Inc. at 332 Baston Road has been in the Masters housing business for 32 years.

"Nobody in Augusta has actually handled housing that long, so I feel like I've gotten pretty good at it," Starr said.

Corporate Quarters, which Starr opened in 1989, rents houses for the Masters, mostly in west Augusta but also in North Augusta.

"The majority of our business is corporate clients and golfers who play in the tournament," she said.

The housing rental business starts to wind down during Masters Week, but business picks up at her second venture, Masters Kitchen Kaddies. She and two partners in the catering business bring in chefs from all over to prepare meals that include steak, lobster, barbecue and fried chicken.

She used to operate the business full time, but now she mostly does catering jobs during Masters Week.

"It's absolutely the most wonderful job there is. Every request is different; every day is different," Starr said. "I feel real blessed that I kind of fell into it, and then I made the right decisions at the right time to expand."

Starr's daughter Traci Ratley has worked at the business for 15 years and serves as vice president. Corporate Quarters also has two part-time employees.

People often tell Starr they would love to have her job, but not everyone can handle this business, she said. Before starting her own company, she ran the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce's Masters Housing Bureau. She never had one person agree to come back the next year.

"It's consuming, and it's difficult. They just couldn't take the pressure of trying to make two people happy on the same property. It was a lot of pressure for a short period of time. You have to be good with people, you have to be a problem solver and you have to think quick. It takes a special personality to do it and be good at it," Starr said.

Jean Crabtree has rented her home through Starr for seven years.

"We have always known that we could rely on her to treat our home as her own when she's renting it out. We never worry about going off and leaving the house," Crabtree said.

Starr knows her renters' personalities and which clients they can be happy having in their home, said Carol Walraven, who has known Starr for 20 years. Starr is also a talented cook, and she's very creative, Walraven said.

"For someone who's so accomplished, who's so talented, who can do everything, she is so down to earth and fun. I've always just admired her," Walraven said.

On the move

Starr's father, John Evers, was a colonel in the Air Force, so she and her two siblings moved often. Her mother, Betty Evers, was a stay-at-home mom.

"It was a fun childhood because I had a lot of experiences that I wouldn't give up for anything," Starr said.

Her family moved to Augusta as Starr was about to graduate from high school.

She wanted some stability, so she decided to stay in Augusta.

"I was so anxious to get in the work field, so I immediately started working. I think getting an early start in the working world was a great experience for me," she said.

After several small jobs, Starr took a position at the Chamber of Commerce, where she ran the Masters Housing Bureau for 15 years.

In 1989, she left to open her own company, becoming only the second business in town to handle Masters housing.

"A lot of the clients wanted to stay with me. We started off with just a few, and every year it doubled -- not only doubled with the clients I had, but homeowners that wanted to go with me. It was just a blessing how it all kind of came together at the right time," Starr said.

Her husband, Travis Starr, decided to open a building company, so he had the flexibility to be at home when their four children came home from school. In November, they will have been married for 41 years.

Corporate Quarters started on Washington Road, but Starr wasn't getting the visibility she wanted. After four years, she found her current location on Baston Road.

"We did a few renovations, and it's been the perfect location for me. I'm close to my neighborhoods, West Lake, Jones Creek and River Chase." she said. "It makes it convenient for them to come in and do business with us."

Matchmaker

Starr said it's her job to find the perfect home for her clients' needs.

"We pride ourselves in being really good matchmakers. We definitely take into consideration if they've got kids coming. If they're an older couple, they might not want a two-story home. If it's all men, it's a different house than if it were couples."

Golfers cook meals in the homes and bring their families, so they need child-friendly homes.

A company's guests might not all know one another, so it's uncomfortable for them to share a bathroom, she said.

"But I've seen that Augusta has stepped up to the challenge of now building houses with a bath for every bedroom. That is becoming more and more of a demand," Starr said.

Hole-in-one

People often ask Starr how to prepare if they want to rent their home during Masters Week.

"The No. 1 thing is for the house to feel as adult as possible because most of our clients are men," she said.

Children's bedrooms need to appear mature. The walls should be a neutral color, not pink.

Homeowners don't have to buy new linens and towels, though they must have two sets of sheets and towels per person. If they need to buy new linens anyway, they should buy white to make things simpler for housekeepers.

Every house is different, so the amount people can earn on a home varies.

"It is adjusted for every home," Starr said. "It's based on the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, the location, the quality of your furnishings and the amenities.

"Once you've done it, you're hooked. It's the easiest money you'll ever make."

Diane Starr

TITLE: Owner and president of Corporate Quarters Inc.

BORN: June 16, 1949, in Montgomery, Ala.

FAMILY: Husband, Travis, and children Traci, Kelly, Morgan and Travis

CIVIC/EXTRACURRICULAR: West Lake Woman's Club, Augusta Junior Woman's Club (past member), Warren Baptist Church

HOBBIES: Boating, reading


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