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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.

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.

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.”

Written by Riezl Baker, Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate Group

Published on October 1, 2020

The pandemic has set the Lake Oconee real estate market on fire. Activity at the lake continues to soar with no signs of slowing down. Luxury real estate boomed as a result of the migration of many who have had the opportunity to work efficiently from home, prompting them to reassess their priorities. Many have moved out of the city, where they have spent months in closed quarters, into our area where they can have so much more space, house and land. As a realtor for over 20 years, I share with you the real estate trends I am currently seeing:

 

“Big is Back”

In the midst of the pandemic, families who were stuck in closed quarters

re-evaluated their living spaces and upgraded to bigger homes with multiple offices, large kitchen, home gym and more ‘room to roam.” Lake Oconee has been a place of refuge for urbanites who spent their quarantines in their second homes. Many of them have not returned to the cities after the shelter-in-place, and are buying larger homes where everyone in the family can get comfortable together indoors and outdoors.

 

“Home Offices are In”

Before the pandemic, buyers loved media rooms where families can gather to watch movies and sports. This changed with the rise of remote working and children’s virtual learning. Nowadays, the priority is to find a home that offers quiet and dedicated spaces for parents and children to work. Google search trends for “home office”, “home gym”, “home amenities” have remained high since the start of the pandemic.

“Pool is Cool”

Customized and trendy pools are “in”providing the ultimate staycation for many families who cannot travel like they used to. Pools with built-in bars, spas and other amenities are hot trends and spending quality time becomes another important priority.

 

“In Search of Greener Pastures and… Acreage”

The desire to own a refuge away from the densely populated city has become apparent with more families wanting bigger lots to have room for outdoor spaces, amenities and bigger backyards. COVID fueled the desire for more land to build a family compound.

Multi-generational living is on the rise with grandparents moving in with their adult kids and grandchildren.

 

As the pandemic continues to shape the real estate industry, be strategic about your short and long term goals. If you are considering selling or buying, work with a realtor you can trust. An experienced realtor who has a finger on the pulse of the market and who is out in the trenches daily becomes invaluable when you are making a big decision under the current circumstances. If you are considering buying or selling, contact us at Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate. We are a group of full-time real estate professionals with proven records of success, offering a combined experience of over 40 years in Lake Oconee real estate.

www.luxurylakeoconee.com

(706) 453-9243

Written by Lindsey Moore

Ted and Riezl Baker were recently honored as “Experts in Second Homes and Vacation Properties” and “Most Philanthropic Agents” during an event held at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) hosted by Bentley, Interiors Atlanta Magazine and Modern Luxury Group. There were over 300 realtors nominated in different categories and winners were selected by an internal board and committee based on their qualifications.

The couple moved to Lake Oconee in 1997 and have been a part of the many positive changes in the area. “Our family is fortunate to serve alongside great leaders of our community and we are grateful for the chance to give back when called upon,” commented Ted, Managing Broker.  The Bakers founded the Lake Oconee Food and Wine Festival in 2010 to benefit education. What started out as a small event held at a garden center has become a highly anticipated yearly event held at the Ritz-Carlton that is now enjoyed by hundreds of visitors and community members.

Riezl was part of the first foundation board that helped raise money to open the St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in 2013. She served as Chair of the Foundation Board in 2018 and 2019. She also chaired the Heart and Soul Gala for three years at the Ritz-Carlton, one of the lake’s biggest fundraising event. Riezl believes in giving back to the industry she loves and served as President of the Lake Country Board of Realtors in 2016. Currently, she is a Board Director for the Oconee Performing Arts Society (OPAS).

Ted co-chaired the successful Lake Oconee Academy’s Capital Campaign that raised money for the new high school building. He currently serves as Chairman of the Greene County Voters and Registration Board. He is currently the President-Elect for the Lake Country Board of Realtors. He furthers his community work by volunteering to help in the youth program at Christ Our King and Savior Catholic Church.

For over 20 years, Ted and Riezl have built a strong reputation and a record of success in Lake Oconee real estate. The couple formed their brokerage, Luxury Lake Oconee this past January and continue to gain an upward momentum that they attribute to a strong marketing plan with a target of reaching a broader base of customers. They also give credit to their efficient and driven team. “We all bring our A-game every single day,” stated Riezl. “We put our clients’ interests first and believe that our job goes beyond identifying or selling a house. We also solve problems along the way and strive for successful transactions and great experience for everyone involved,” Riezl added.

“We are humbled to be recognized alongside some of the best Realtors in Atlanta,” stated Ted. Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate is a full-service brokerage dedicated to providing professional service to customers engaged in residential and commercial real estate. For more information, visit www.luxurylakeoconee.com.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 6, 2020

Luxury Lake Oconee Welcomes New Member of Real Estate Team

Jennifer Vaughan

Luxury Lake Oconee is excited to announce the addition of our newest team member, Jennifer Vaughan. Jennifer and husband, Larry, have been residents of Reynolds Lake Oconee since 2010 with their three boys, Matthew (11), Jordan (9) and Brandon (6). Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in Language Arts. Vaughan began her successful sales career in the information technology industry with software company Novell, and progressed to Motorola and Symbol Technologies. In 2006, Jennifer married Larry, and they began construction of their home at Lake Oconee.

Jennifer is actively involved in the community. The Vaughan family is a proud member of Lake Oconee Church. Larry and Jennifer are strong supporters of St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital and Lake Oconee Academy. Jennifer serves as a Board Member of the Lake Oconee Academy Foundation. Jennifer has been involved in numerous fundraiser activities for the school including the Denim& Diamonds Committee, the LOA Capital Campaign Committee and Chairperson for the Tees for Titans Golf Tournament, a role she has held since 2015.

“Riezl and I have been friends with Jennifer and Larry for over ten years. After working with Jennifer on community projects over the years, I can tell you that Jennifer is a consummate professional. She has a strong work ethic and understands the value of hard work.” stated Ted Baker, managing broker of Luxury Lake Oconee. “The advantage I had while in sales was that I spent lots of time with the engineers learning everything I could about the products prior to taking them to market,” Jennifer explains. She looks forward to applying the same principles in her role as a Realtor by learning the inventory, understanding the goals of her clients and delivering superb service.

In recent years, we have welcomed a new generation of families who gave up the urban hustle for a better quality of life. Jennifer is well poised to welcome these families to Lake Oconee. Jennifer enjoys exercise, boating and golfing at Reynolds Lake Oconee or Cuscowilla, where she and her family are members. “We are fortunate to live on the lake, a stone’s throw away from the Ritz and major amenities. I pinch myself sometimes and remind my boys to be grateful. I am looking forward to introducing the community and our wonderful lifestyle to others,” said Jennifer. Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate is a full-service brokerage with over 40 years of combined experience serving buyers and sellers in Lake Oconee real estate.

For more information, call Ted Baker (706) 347-2625.