As I’m speaking with Phil Bennett, the cheerful owner of Real Estate Repairs, he explains to me what has made his business so successful: He has spent the greater part of 30 years getting to know his staff and customers and has established the kind of rapport with them that lasts a lifetime.
“Relationships are the key to anything when you first come into someone’s home and they don’t know you,” he explains. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. We have heard all the remodeling and repair horror stories, and we want to take the worry away and leave you with a beautiful project and peace of mind.”
Bennett spent his time in college studying advertising, marketing and graphic design. To help pay the bills, he did remodeling work. During the week, he designed logos, laid out ads and wrote copy; on the weekends and in the evenings, he renovated houses.
Real Estate Repairs started as a resource for Lowcountry real estate agents whose properties had to be inspected and whose termite repairs had to be made prior to closing. Bennett found that many recently purchased homes needed lots of work. This led him to establish a remodeling division, fueled by his desire to turn clients’ dreams into works of art. The company now serves more than 200 agents in the Charleston area.
He describes a library he recently completed in Mount Pleasant’s I’On neighborhood. It features cherry shelves, teak floors and vaulted ceilings. “It all began,” he says, “when I was troubleshooting a porch light during a walk-through the day before closing.” Another of his projects involved making a kitchen island from rough-hewn beams of antique heart pine, which were scavenged from a restaurant. “I love taking junk,” says Bennett, “and turning it into a work of art.”
Real Estate Repairs has been operating since 2000 and at its current location in Mount Pleasant since about 2008. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Bennett went to college in Atlanta. Eventually, the rapid growth of Atlanta led him to the slowerpaced Lowcountry in 1989. “I moved here to help with Hurricane Hugo; it was one of the best decisions I ever made,” he explains. “I did leave for a while in the mid-1990s, when the Navy base closed. I spent two years writing songs in Nashville, feeding my artistic side, but I needed to be closer to the ocean and returned.”
His company has prospered and grown steadily during the ups and downs of the local economy, mostly due to the fact that Bennett and his crew of nine gentlemen craftsmen are diligent about the work they do on jobs large and small.
“I’m blown away by how good my people are,” he says. “And, honestly, I don’t hire anyone I wouldn’t invite to dinner. They’re responsible and caring individuals who reflect our core values. You can teach skills and craftsmanship; you can’t teach integrity, compassion and caring.”
Sure enough, by the time I tell him goodbye and head for the door, I feel more like a friend than a writer. “Whether you’re driving a cab or putting a man on the moon, business is all about people and relationships,” Bennett says. “I rely on so many people. I didn’t get where I am today alone.”
Marie Sebastian is a writer in Charleston.