The big picture


From helping a homebuyer make a well-rounded decision to lobbying for economic vitality, a good real estate agent is committed to the big picture.

That is what landed a handful of Wilmington Realtors in Raleigh June 18 to speak to Reps. Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover, and Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover, about issues ranging from homeowners insurance to film incentives.

“The Realtors association represents a huge economic sector in New Hanover County,” Hamilton said. “[They] have really fought in recent years to push back on policies that are bad for North Carolina and North Carolina homeowners.”

Shane Johnson, government affairs director for the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors, praised Davis and Hamilton for their historical support of the industry. 

“I would call both of them Realtor champions. They feel strongly about homeownership and they understand the importance of … real estate transactions, both commercial and residential, and how important that is as an economic engine,” Johnson said.

The industry both shapes and is shaped by economic growth. Jody Wainio, president of the association, introduced herself to legislators as a resident of Filmington. She said the organization supports film incentives because the film industry is essential to economic growth, allowing homeowners to afford and buy houses.

“It’s about jobs. If our community isn’t healthy with jobs, people can’t afford to buy houses. The film industry brings a lot of money into our community, anything from buying houses to buying sandwiches,” Wainio said.

Wainio has helped Cindi Castles and her husband Neil buy and sell three houses in the 14 years they have called Wilmington home. Neil started his film career in Wilmington when he worked as a driver for “Matlock.” Now he has advanced to transportation coordinator. Cindi said the couple put roots down here because of the strong film base. 

“This is where we chose to raise our children because it was a steady career. We had a studio, a great film crew base, vendors that worked with shows that came in. It was a very well-oiled machine,” Cindi said.

Neil has already decided if the industry relocates to another state with incentives, he will follow. Cindi works as a nurse and medical coordinator in the industry, but she also owns and operates Pizzazz, a florist and gift shop in Porters Neck, which she would close if the couple moves.

“After giving 28 years to the business, we’re not going to give it up,” Cindi said. “We’re among hundreds here in Wilmington that have families in the same shape.”

Some of the issues the Realtors discussed are more directly tied to the real estate industry, like their support of House Bill 519. The bill, co-sponsored by Hamilton, would expand the North Carolina Rate Bureau’s rate-making process to include more than one projection model when determining risk associated with homeowners insurance.

Coastal areas carry the highest risk, and consequentially the highest rates, under the current system that uses one model to determine risk. Wainio said that method results in unfairly high rates for coastal communities.

“Right now, they don’t necessarily look at historical data to determine what counties should pay more for insurance. They look at this model that says, ‘Oh the storms that are coming in the next two years are going to hit here and here, so those are the counties we need to raise rates on,’” Wainio said. 

Wainio said if the bureau considered historical data, which HB 519 would require, it would see cities across the state are affected by storms. 

“When we had Hugo and some of the other hurricanes, they paid more in claims in Charlotte and Raleigh than they did on the coast. But Charlotte and Raleigh’s insurance rates never went up. They penalized those of us on the coast because that’s where the hurricane first hit,” Wainio continued. 

Hamilton said the reforms were intended to show rate makers that areas west of Interstate 95 are also impacted by hurricanes.

“We believe that it would demonstrate that North Carolina is a coastal state, that storms that come along the coastline also affect interior portions of the state,” Hamilton said.

The bill passed on the House floor with a unanimous 116-0 vote during the 2013 session, moving to the Senate Insurance Committee for further consideration. If the bill is not revisited during the 2014 session, it will die. 

Hamilton said the legislation will be reintroduced if it dies. 

“We’ll continue to introduce this until we get heard,” she said.



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