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Written by Riezl Baker

 

The pandemic has made “staycation” increasingly popular. Families are investing more to create an enjoyable outdoor living space and personal resort in their backyards. Pools and hot tubs have taken center stage and companies are scrambling to meet the wave of demand. When I started in the real estate business 20 years ago, buyers were reluctant to purchase homes with pools as they were considered maintenance nightmares. Today, pools continue to move from the wish list to the “must have” list. Pool contracts are booked out to late 2021 and even early into 2022. There is no doubt that it is one of the biggest trend in real estate these days.

 

The Era of “Spools” – small swimming pools are taking the world by storm especially for smaller backyards. As long as you have some yard space, there is a good chance you can install a “spool” and they now come in a variety of designs. They can also be cost efficient and easier to maintain.

 

Saltwater is In– another pool trend I’ve seen is the use of saltwater systems. Saltwater pools have been around for a while but are now more popular than ever. There is something different about swimming in a saltwater pool -it is gentler on your body than traditional chlorine pools and cost less to maintain.

 

 

Luxury Features– pool ledges, tanning ledges play into the resort theme creating the staycation features in your backyard. Adding the “fire and water” element has also become popular. And what better way to relax than to have a built-in bar to enjoy drinks with your family and friends.

 

 

Let There Be Light…and Colors!- advanced pool lighting option is another trend I’ve seen giving you the ability to change the colors of the pool anytime and allowing you to enjoy it at night. With the LED lighting, you can see better at night and set the mood in your backyard.

Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate is pleased to announce the addition of Ben Northrop to their team as a licensed Realtor. Prior to moving to Lake Oconee, Ben spent many years representing clients in luxury real estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Originally from San Francisco, Ben lived in Manhattan for 25 years, and travelled to the Far East while working as an executive in the fashion industry. He moved to Florida and worked on the development of a major regional restaurant group, and was involved in the sale of the company. Ben spent over eight years helping real estate clients in the Palm Beach area. “I spent over 40 years of my career making a distinctive difference by consistently delivering a high level of service,” stated Ben.

Ben fell in love with Lake Oconee when he and wife, Beth, visited in early 2019, and moved to the area full time last year. An avid golfer and fisherman, Ben enjoys the lake and the variety of first class golf and amenities that the community offers. He starts his day with an early morning swim at the Lake Club.

Ben and Beth are active members of Christ Our King and Savior Catholic Church. Beth recently retired after a long and successful career specializing in interior design. Ben believes in giving back and a staple of his community work includes serving as the Board Chairman of Alliance for Kids, a nonprofit organization designed to provide innovative programs and resources to enhance healthcare specialist services for hospitalized children and their families.

“We are excited to have Ben on our team. He is an experienced real estate professional and will be a great addition as we continue our commitment to provide luxury service to our clients,” said Ted Baker, Managing Broker.

Ben and Beth have three children, two in Florida and one in California, two grandchildren (4 and 6), and a White German Shepherd fur baby.

Luxury Lake Oconee is a full service real estate group of professional, knowledgeable and experienced realtors committed to helping clients navigate any size transaction in residential and commercial real estate. The firm consistently seeks to raise the bar in customer satisfaction. Luxury Lake Oconee was launched by Ted and Riezl Baker in January 2020 and had an impressive year closing over $80 million in sales. The brokerage has received numerous awards including “Experts in Vacation and Second Homes” by The Atlantan, “Leading Luxury Real Estate Professional,” by Modern Luxury and was recently awarded affiliation with The Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and Luxury Portfolio International. For more information, contact Ted Baker at (706) 340-5554.

 

A Special Article written by Riezl Baker

As a Foundation Board Member of St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital, I was recently asked why we continue to raise funds for the facility. My answer was that continuous fundraising is essential to ensure that we have the best facilities available and keep up with medical advances and latest technology that can help save and change lives.  Fundraising helps ensure that our hospital can deliver the sophisticated, high quality care you need right here, close to home, today and for years to come.

The pandemic certainly magnified the critical role of Good Samaritan Hospital in protecting the health and safety of our community. We often associate hospitals with illness, but the impact of having a good hospital facility goes beyond the walls of its building. It extends beyond patient care. It is also a critical component to the economic viability of our area.

As a local resident for 24 years, I have witnessed this wonderful community evolve. I was here many years ago when they announced the conceptualization of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. People raised their eyebrows and almost unanimously responded with “What? A Ritz in middle Georgia?” But the hotel’s opening signaled the beginning of a new transformation. People came from all over the world and discovered this beautiful gem of a place, with unparalleled natural beauty and a plethora of amenities.

The opening of St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in 2013 transformed healthcare in our community and contributed to the growth of the local economy. It has created new jobs, enhanced our quality of life and made this area more attractive to families. Many of our physicians see the tremendous value of the hospital to their practice as they can now perform not only ancillary tests but surgeries locally. A strong local hospital like Good Samaritan is vital to a community’s economic well-being and our area is positioned very well with its presence.

The Expanding Technology, Elevating Care $3 million Capital Campaign is raising funds for the state-of-the-art technology with the new 640 CT scanner, faster than the hospital’s current model. This will enable our healthcare providers to detect and diagnose heart conditions in a non-invasive manner as well as more efficient identification and treatment of stroke victims. The campaign will also allow for increased availability of MRI services.

Louie Seabolt, Foundation Board and Campaign Chair and his committees have worked hard to successfully raise funds in the midst of a pandemic and get us closer to our goal. This speaks volumes of Louie and the leaders who stepped up to undertake this, as well as the generous people of our community who are passionate about safeguarding the quality of healthcare where we live. We are so close to our goal and with your support, we can complete this capital campaign.

Many of us give back to our community through the philanthropic channels we are passionate about.

I hope that you will consider supporting this initiative and campaign that will help elevate the care provided at Good Samaritan Hospital. It is an important cornerstone of our area and beyond treating illness and saving lives, it serves as an economic engine in our community.

For more information or to make a donation to the “Expanding Technology, Elevating Care Capital Campaign,”  please contact Louie at (706) 347-1942 or Riezl at (706) 347-2625.

 

Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate was recently awarded affiliate status in Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and its luxury marketing division, Luxury Portfolio International. “All selected companies are vetted, not just for performance, but a continued commitment to quality customer experience,” said Ted Baker, Managing Broker/Founding Principal.

Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (LeadingRE) is a global real estate community comprised of 550 real estate companies awarded membership based on rigorous standards for service and performance. With 4,600 offices and 135,000 sales associates in 70 countries, these firms represent 1.1 million global transactions annually.

 

This distinction ensures that Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate clients are working with exceptional local professionals who also deliver connections to buyers and quality real estate companies across the country and around the world. The company also benefits from LeadingRE’s industry-leading national and international referral network, professional marketing resources and more.

 

Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate also earned membership in Luxury Portfolio International® (LPI), an exclusive group of LeadingRE firms that hold significant luxury market share and demonstrate a commitment to the high-end. LPI attracts a global audience of visitors from over 200 countries/territories every month and markets approximately 50,000 luxury homes annually.

 

Based in the United States, LPI is backed by the experience of the most well respected and renowned experts in luxury real estate in markets worldwide. This group collectively has wide spans of experience in the high-end luxury real estate market.

 

Ted Baker notes that selection as a member of LeadingRE and LPI represents another step in the firm’s growth and its strength in the market.

 

“Luxury Lake Oconee is thrilled about joining LeadingRE and LPI. Being a member of this prestigious organization gives us national and global exposure as a top local agency and will contribute to the company’s success in the coming years,” said Baker.

 

“We are delighted to have Luxury Lake Oconee as part of our distinguished network of premier brokerages. The company has an impeccable reputation in Lake Oconee and Georgia, and we are committed to helping the firm achieve even greater success,” said Paul Boomsma, President and CEO of LeadingRE.

 

Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate is a full service real estate group of experienced, knowledgeable, local Realtors committed to helping clients navigate any size transaction in residential and commercial real estate. With years of combined experience in Lake Oconee real estate, a strong network in the community and an extensive marketing plan, the firm consistently seeks to raise the bar in customer satisfaction. Luxury Lake Oconee was launched in January 2020 by Ted and Riezl Baker and had a very impressive first year with over 100 sold and closed transactions- a remarkable accomplishment for a small group of three active licensed agents and two staff members. The group continues the momentum this year and has closed over 45 transactions amounting to over $50 million from January- May.

 

Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate Group announces that Jennifer Vaughan was recently honored by the Lake Country Board of Realtors with 2020 Rookie of the Year Award. Vaughan got her real estate license in May 2020 and finished the year with over $10 million in sales volume. “Real estate is a demanding profession requiring long hours of hard work. Jennifer is tenacious and has steel determination to get things done,” said Riezl Baker, Founding Principal of the brokerage, who introduced Vaughan during the recently held realtor board awards banquet.

 

Born in Michigan, Jennifer graduated from the University of Michigan in 1999 and lived in several cities in the Metro Detroit area and Naperville, Illinois before moving to Lake Oconee full time in 2010, where she and her husband Larry are raising their three young boys who all attend Lake Oconee Academy. Prior to real estate, she had a successful sales career in the information technology industry as an Account Executive with software companies Novell, Motorola and Symbol Technologies.  “I understand the needs of my clients because I have personally been on both sides of the real estate spectrum. I love Lake Oconee and I enjoy introducing the lake lifestyle to my clients and friends,” stated Jennifer.

 

“Jennifer is a true professional and I enjoyed working with her on finding our lake home. She went above and beyond for any details that needed to be addressed before closing. Her customer service is at the highest level,” said Jared Krumper, who worked with Jennifer last year.

 

Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate is a full service brokerage with a mission to provide maximum value and client satisfaction through knowledgeable, local Realtors delivering the highest level of professional service to customers engaged in real estate transactions at Lake Oconee.

For more information, contact Ted Baker, Managing Broker (706) 340-5554.

A special article written by Riezl Baker

Every year in April, the most prestigious golf tournament weaves a “spell” around the community, making this a fun and exciting place to be. We are fortunate that the most exclusive golf course is a short drive from Reynolds Lake Oconee, and while the Masters is a celebration of golf, so much of its magic is about the experience.

The honor of being on the course is unparalleled, but you don’t have to be a big fan of golf to appreciate the tournament and its traditions. I will never forget the first time I walked the pristine grounds and its emerald fairways. It was in 1997 when 21-year old Tiger Woods made history by winning his iconic first Masters title by 12 strokes. The emotional thrill of watching that victory unfold was a Masters “magical” moment I will always treasure.

                     

The Masters is also a celebration of traditions, and one of my favorites is the Par-3 tournament on Wednesdays, when family members caddie for the players on a 9-hole course. It is one of the few days that you are allowed to take photos, and luckily for me, I landed a clubhouse pass one year, met several golf legends, and sat next to Fuzzy Zoeller and Arnold Palmer while sipping my Azalea cocktail.

The Masters has a special place in the hearts of our many Reynolds friends:

Patty Dailey just moved to Reynolds with husband Tom after living in England for many years when a colleague generously offered two Saturday badges to the Masters. Since Tom could not go, she took a friend Carol, whose husband was battling leukemia at that time. The two hours they thought they would spend on the course, turned into an all- day magical experience. “Time stood still and it was awe-inspiring to see the natural beauty of the place and to follow the players,” said Patty. She and Carol did not want the experience to end, and savored it by playing their first nine-holes together the next day at the Great Waters Course.

For Mary and Tom Tunnicliff, one the many “perks” of living at Reynolds is being close to Augusta, where they’ve had the privilege of going to the tournament several times with friends and family. Word spread quickly amongst their friends in their former home city of Chicago that the Tunnicliffs’ doors are always open on Master week, and an impromptu introduction to a celebrity was part of the package. An avid golfer, Tom previously met and played golf with Padraig Harrington in Ireland, and ran into him at the tournament one year, much to his friends’ delight. “We love sharing the Masters experience with our visitors. We go to the tournament, come back to Reynolds and re-live the experience while playing the first-class golf courses we have in our backyard,” said Mary.

Mike Masters always wanted to host a “Masters at the Masters” party, and moving from Florida to Reynolds was a dream come true. “This community is not only a golf oasis for a golfer like me, it is also located an hour away from the world’s most prestigious tournament,” said Mike. He and his wife Belva have been known to host the traditional Masters Sunday event, when local and out-of-town friends gather at their home to watch the final rounds, cheer for their favorite players, and be subjected to the “Masters” Southern hospitality, with overflowing drinks and a spread of food that include the world-famous pimiento cheese sandwiches!

RIEZL’S REAL ESTATE RAVE- MARCH

Written by Riezl Baker

The pandemic has been a catalyst of many changes and has reshaped the housing market. Lake Oconee real estate has been on fire even during the past historically slow winter months. A new breed of remote working buyers are migrating to the area and we are challenged by higher demand and low inventory, prompting many owners to renovate their homes to sell.

When I meet with clients and friends, I am often asked what home improvements reap the best rewards. My first advice is to consider how the improvements will increase the value to you and your family, and to others when it is time to sell. If you are contemplating investing on renovation, here are my suggestions on what could provide a good return without breaking the bank:

  1. Painting.  It is one of the most effective and least expensive improvements to your property. Colors can make a difference – it can change the size and the appeal of any space. Keep your colors neutral. My good friend Jim Branday, who has built and sold many stunning homes, adds colors to his accessories rather than the walls. This allows prospective buyers to see themselves in the different rooms of the home.
  2. Kitchen.  It is the heart of the house where people spend most of their time. Cosmetic updates will go a long way. Upgrade countertops, backsplash and lighting. Brighten up the kitchen by painting cabinets. Replacing pulls, knobs and faucets can add modern touches and give it a fresh look.
  3. Bathrooms. Remove dated wall paper and give bathrooms a facelift by applying a fresh coat of paint. Swapping out fixtures, replacing old shower doors and vanity mirrors can make a huge impact.
  4. Outdoor Space. Because of shelter-in-place and social distancing caused by the pandemic, outdoor amenities have become priority to buyers. With travel constraints, families are drawn to properties that offer amenities for “staycation.” Pools that used to have a negative impact because of maintenance concerns can now substantially increase your home value.
  5. Bonus Rooms. Finishing above the garage or basement will add square footage and can boost the value of your home. The extra space will appeal to buyers who need more “room to roam” with parents working remotely, and kids learning online.

  1. New Roof. You can recover up to 70% or more of its cost when it comes time to sell. Buyers appreciate a new roof and saves them the time and inconvenience to replace it. The roof is an ignored part of the house until it starts to leak or break which can hurt your home value.

When it comes to renovating, it is important to remember not to spend beyond the value that the neighborhood can bear. I will be glad give you a property evaluation based on the market, sales, history and comparables in your area.

Greensboro, Ga – Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate Group is proud to announce that it has been named the Official Title Sponsor of the Georgia PGA Senior Division for 2021. The tour started on January 25 and 26 at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta, Georgia with an all-time high 107 players from all parts of the state. Tournaments will take place throughout the year and will end at Luxury Lake Oconee’s home turf- Greensboro, Georgia.

The Georgia PGA is one of the 41 Sections of the PGA of America. Its membership includes over 890 PGA professionals working at over 260 golf courses, clubs, and ranges throughout the state. Additionally, more than 35 Georgia PGA members compete on one of the PGA Tours. In keeping with the fundamental objectives laid down by its founders, one of the Georgia PGA’s primary goals is promoting the game of golf through clinics, junior and minority golf programs, consumer programs, and print, radio and television media.

The 2021 Georgia PGA Senior Division will host 12 tournaments throughout the state this year. The most recent tournament took place on February 15 and 16 at Doublegate Country Club in Albany, Georgia with an impressive 93 players. Other courses the tournament will visit in 2021 include Sanctuary Golf Club in Waverly, Georgia, Willow Lake in Metter, Georgia, Chapel Hills in Douglasville, Georgia, Newnan Country Club in Newnan, Georgia, and Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia.

Glenn Herrel, Head Professional (left) and Michael Berning, President of Georgia Senior PGA (right) at the Georgia Senior PGA Tournament last week at Doublegate Country Club.

“Golf is an important part of the community here at Lake Oconee and we are honored to partner and put our name alongside the Georgia PGA Senior Division to help support a great year of golf in Georgia,” says Ted Baker, Managing Broker and Principal of Luxury Lake Oconee.

Luxury Lake Oconee is a full-service real estate group of experienced, knowledgeable, local Realtors committed to helping clients navigate any size transaction in residential and commercial real estate. With years of combined experience in Lake Oconee real estate, a strong network in the community and an extensive marketing plan, the firm consistently seeks to raise the bar in customer satisfaction. Luxury Lake Oconee was launched in January 2020 and had a very impressive first year despite the pandemic with over 100 sold and closed transactions. For more information, please contact Ted Baker at (706) 453-9243 or visit luxurylakeoconee.com.

Written by Riezl Baker, Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate Group

 

To say that 2020 has been an unprecedented year is an understatement. The pandemic has impacted every industry including real estate in our area where a surge of activity resulted in a record-breaking year with over $892 million in sales volume (per Lake Country Board MLS data)

The key trends we saw this past year were:

 

  1. The rise of remote working that fueled a migration from urban areas into our community.
  2. Bigger is better. Families who were stuck in closed quarters upgraded to larger homes with more room to roam.

  1. Vacation homes have become primary residences providing the ultimate “staycation.” Pools, outdoor kitchen and amenities became hot trends as the pandemic drove the emphasis to spending quality time together.
  2. From cabinets to cubicles. Home offices and virtual learning spaces for children have become priorities.
  3. COVID fueled the rise of multi-generational living and family compounds.

 

According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, US home prices “are in no danger of declining” in the new year as buyers compete for inventory.

“More companies will allow their employees to work from home and the demand for larger homes will continue,” added Yun. He predicts prices to rise 3% this year following a 6% gain last year.

Here at Lake Oconee, we continue to see sales activity even during these historically slow winter months, with buyers having more time and freedom to continue their search.

There is no crystal ball to tell the future as we learned last year, but if the economic predictions are accurate, how will the market affect buyers and sellers? First, fewer listings and record-low inventory will continue to create a huge advantage for sellers. If you have thought about selling your home or property, now is the time. For a buyer, you must decide fast should you find your dream home or you could find yourself in a bidding war. It is also a good idea to get your financing in order while interest rates remain low.

As real estate continues to evolve, it is important to strategize and work with a realtor who has her finger on the pulse of the market. Knowledge of the inventory and a keen understanding of comparables are invaluable when making big decisions this year. Predictions are pointing to a strong spring selling season as the market remains competitive.  If you are selling or buying, I will be glad to sit down (or zoom) to chat.

Written by Riezl Baker

I learned about empathy and compassion at home and at school at a young age. As far back as I can remember, we had class field trips to orphanages where we spent time and cared for children, or fed the hungry on the streets. One facility that we frequented was Elsie Gaches Village. Located about three miles from our school in Manila, the facility is home to 600 special needs children and adults, many of whom were abandoned as infants because of abject poverty. Here, they are provided a nurturing environment and are taught to co-exist with other members of the society through educational programs and services. Residents and patients’ cases range from autism to mental retardation, visual and hearing impairment to severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

 

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to take my kids back to the Philippines where we hosted a day event for the special needs orphans. My daughter Remi raised money that summer by selling baked goods. Seeing the happiness in the childrens’ eyes, and feeling their overwhelming gratitude was an emotional experience. Many of them cannot speak, but they waved and smiled to get our attention and be acknowledged which really tugged our hearts and lifted our spirits. Some grabbed our hands and placed them on their cheeks to show their appreciation. We invited the country’s most popular mascot to entertain  together with Stu and Remi, who rendered a few songs much to the delight of these incredibly special people. St. Francis of Assisi said that “it is in giving that we receive”, and indeed, we received bountiful gifts that day. We thought we were there to provide three hours of happiness, but instead, we received a humbling experience as we witnessed all the hope, gratitude and joy in these children’s hearts that would forever change us.

 

This year thanksgiving will be celebrated with the pandemic in mind, but as difficult as it may be for many of us, this could be the time to get re-acquainted with the often forgotten virtue of gratitude.  I am reminded to be thankful by an amazing woman I had the pleasure of knowing through her parents’ eyes, whose message resonated with me especially this holiday season..

“Be grateful for what you have, for it is so much more than many.”