Real estate professionals often are among the first connections made by newcomers to the South Carolina coastal region, and they want to be equipped with a wealth of knowledge to help their customers get settled.
Real estate agents know the roads and subdivisions in their areas. They can tell clients how long it takes to drive to the nearest grocery store or estimate commute times to work locations. They can talk about the average temperatures of the four seasons.
But most don’t have the science background to explain why so many communities have stormwater ponds, or what those ponds are designed to do. Many don’t know the details behind Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps. They aren’t experts in regulations regarding dock construction.
That’s the premise behind a new set of continuing education classes put together by S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and partners in the S.C. Coastal Information Network and offered by the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors (CTAR). The program is dubbed “Calling the Coast Home,” and the titles of individual sessions describe the subject matter: “The Land-Water Connection,” “Coastal Lifestyle for Clean Water,” “Living With Water,” and “Tidelands, Water, and Beach: Regulations & Rebuilding.”
The sessions grew out of the Consortium’s request for input from real estate professionals on how scientists and regulators could help them do their jobs. “We appreciated that they asked us for input,” says Lora Able, CTAR’s director of education. “They wanted to know the concerns we hear when we talk with clients.”
The answers shaped the training sessions. And the Realtors showed the thirst for this information by packing CTAR’s large meeting room for each of the two-hour sessions over two weeks in late January 2020. Sessions were led by experts from the Consortium, Clemson University Extension, North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, and S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Susan Lovelace, the Consortium’s assistant director for development and extension, led the “Living With Water” session, along with extension assistant Liz McQuain. They explained the three major components in the region’s increased flooding in recent years – tropical storm surge, more intense rain events, and extreme tides related to sea level rise. Research indicates each of those is likely to increase in coming years, requiring residents to explore ways to protect their homes and property from extreme events and learn how to deal with chronic road flooding.
The session also provided tips on FEMA flood zone maps, hurricane evacuation, and disaster planning. The group took breaks from the presentation to find their own flood zones on smart phones or laptops and to talk with each other about what flood-related questions clients have been asking.
The other three sessions covered topics such as seafood consumption safety, water recreation regulations, the permits required for dock repairs, and how to help filter rain runoff with rain gardens, rain barrels, and porous pavement.
The new education effort provided training as well as a test-run of the presentations, and the programs will be refined based on feedback. In general, however, the real estate professionals said the sessions help them do their jobs better and provide clients more environmental information about their new homes.