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July 7, 2013

‘Exceeding expectations’ Design Realty goal

WHITE HALL — Design Realty LLC makes customers feel at home as they’re making important life decisions.

Suzanne Utt, the owner and broker, established this real estate company in White Hall about a year ago. Customers can find the office at 2801 White Hall Boulevard, Suite A, located in the Stonewall Centre next to Dutchman’s Daughter.

Utt went into real estate in 2005 after serving as an event planner for West Virginia University Extension Service. During her time with WVU, she gained a lot of marketing, computer and people experience, which she brought with her when she got a job at Homefinders Plus Real Estate.

She was employed with Homefinders Plus until 2009, and said Monica Gorrell, Mary Lou Jones and Jo Ellen Crowley served as mentors to her.

Then Utt worked with custom homes and new construction for four years. Her experience with new construction taught her what she needs to look for in a resale home and about understanding how a house functions.

She said she felt that her real passion wasn’t just new construction, but also resale and getting to meet people. Utt decided that she was ready to bring her name to the market by opening her own business.

Design Realty is always pushing “Exceeding Expectations By Design,” which is its tagline.

“We’re not just going to sell you a house,” Utt said. “We’re going to work with you on what house you’re buying; we’re going to work on the financing end. It’s an education process. I don’t want to hear in two years they got foreclosed on because they bought more house than they could afford.”

She said she likes to help first-time homebuyers and works closely with the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority and the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. She also helps teach classes at the Housing Authority to first-time homebuyers about what to expect.

In August, Design Realty will start offering free monthly educational seminars to the public on topics such as banking, home repair, the appraisal process and other tips for buying or selling a house.

The best thing potential homebuyers can do is educate themselves on what they can afford, determine if they’re ready for this purchase, and learn what they need to do, Utt said. She encourages people to get assistance from a local bank, which can provide personal, hometown service.

Design Realty shows customers the latest houses available and provides print-outs and books with information for buyers or sellers.

Utt cautioned people about doing “for sale by owner,” because individuals need to protect themselves. A licensed broker can help take care of everything related to the real estate transaction.

“When you hire a licensed broker, what you’re getting is all their experience, all their education, all of the documentation that you need, and we are insured for every transaction that we do and for every showing that we have and every house that’s listed,” she said.

Utt is also the broker for Canterbury Woods, located in Fairmont past the Middletown Mall and the area with Applebee’s and the HealthPlex, and works closely with the developers and builders there. She has met a lot of new people from out of state who have moved to Canterbury Woods.

“I want Fairmont to know about Canterbury Woods, that it is thriving, it’s a beautiful community, and if you like a neighborhood feel with lots of families, then that’s the place that you definitely want to be,” she said. “It’s Fairmont’s hidden secret, and I don’t want it to be a secret anymore.”

In addition to homes, Design Realty handles commercial buildings, manages rental properties for two different clients, and does a lot of relocation. It focuses on helping customers in Marion, Monongalia, Harrison and Taylor counties.

“You’re going to make the biggest purchase that you will ever make in a lifetime,” Utt said. “I don’t care if you’re going to buy something for $10,000 or $1 million, it’s such a huge amount of trust you’re putting in me and my company that I want you to feel like home.”

The business has coffee and cookies ready for clients who stop by, and there’s a kids corner at the front of the office where children can draw, play with toys or watch TV while their moms and dads are busy. Utt said she likes it when people bring their kids along, because she believes the home-buying process should be a family experience.

“The process is sometimes tedious, but then you get to the finish line and it’s just so awesome to see their faces and to show them houses,” she said.

“There’s nothing better than someone saying thank you, and the biggest compliment in our business that you can get is a referral from a past customer, and that’s the way to build the business.”

The company knows the importance of always being accessible to clients and is available on evenings and weekends.

All the agents at Design Realty become close to their customers and get to know them and their families. Utt continually educates her staff members and encourages them to expand their knowledge, and they work as a team.

The team is made up of agents Annette Summers, Jordan Wean and Janae Croyle and office manager Alyssa Weaver, who is Utt’s daughter. In addition, Utt’s husband Jason recently became a real estate agent and is beginning to help out. Utt said a new agent will also be starting soon.

“I’m so excited because my team is growing, and as we grow the business will grow,” she said. “I’m just thankful for everyone that works here.”

Utt is proud of the fact that her business is based around Christian faith. The staff members don’t garbage talk or get down on themselves if the market changes, but concentrate on being positive, she said. They hold weekly meetings, work on team-building and strive to learn something new every day.

“I enjoy that not one day of the week is going to be the same,” Utt said. “The best part about my job is you just never know what you’re going to do. It brings new challenges every day, but that’s the fun part.”

Growing up, Utt traveled around the country with her dad, who was in the Navy, and returned to West Virginia when he retired. She has lived in Marion County for the last 35 years. She resides in Colfax with her husband Jason, and they have two other daughters, Heather and Christyn, in addition to Alyssa.

Utt said the White Hall and Fairmont area are growing, the property inventory is moving, and business is picking up all the time.

For more information, call Design Realty LLC at 304-816-3313 or visit www.designrealtywv.com

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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