By Norm Cannada

The Journal

SENECA — In the late 1990s, Patti and Gary Cason were enjoying successful careers, a home in Atlanta and a cottage for weekends on the Georgia side of Lake Hartwell.

Gary and Patti Cason have had a passion for the Lake Keowee area since their first visit more than 20 years ago.

 Then someone from their church said they check out Lake Keowee.

In just a few weekend trips to Keowee in January 1998, the Casons were in love. It changed their lives and eventually their careers.

“We decided this is a beautiful place. Who would not want to be here?” said Patti, who operates The Cason Group alongside her husband, “At that point we (said), ‘What’s holding us back in Atlanta other than our jobs?’” Gary said. “We were willing to sort of take a flight risk, you might say, and bring ourselves to this area.”

The couple sold their Atlanta home and the cottage on Lake Hartwell, bought a lot at Wynward Pointe on Lake Keowee, built a home and moved into it in April 2000. For about three years they commuted back and forth to Atlanta. Gary operated a Snap-On Tools franchise and Patti was a CPA who would get assignments that would last about 16 months to two years.

Patti began to feel an initial nudge toward real estate in late 2003, when three lots in Wynward became available at “deeply discounted” price.

“I told Gary, ‘I think we should buy those lots and if we buy them we have to sell them,’” she said.

Around the same time, she was facing work assignments that would put her either in Charlotte, N.C. or Birmingham, Ala., for two years.

Instead, she decided it was time for a change.

“I said to Gary, ‘This place is so beautiful I am going to reinvent myself and I’m going to figure out how to sell real estate,” she said. “I quit my job. We closed on the three lots. Two sold immediately and one took about 10 months to sell.”

By February 2004, Patti met Michele Davies, who also lived in Wynward Pointe. The two hit it off and worked together until Michele retired in 2012.

“We had a blast,” Patti said. “In 2005 we discovered (a website for lake properties). No other agent in this area was on it. All of a sudden the two of us had a very large business.”

Later that year, Gary joined Patti and Michelle fulltime, and received his real estate license.

“She kept sort of dragging me into the real estate business more and more,” Gary said of his wife of 46 years. “I got my real estate license in 2005. That’s when I started partnering with them. I thought that would be a good partnership. It really has worked out better for us. We can drink together or shed tears together.”

Patti’s initial interest and proven success was enough to bring Gary on board.

“I just thought it was fascinating and I said, ‘I think we can do this,’ and he decided to go along with it,” Patti said.

Gary said he made the right decision.

“I would never want to go back to doing my old business,” he said. “You meet so many people all the time. Your name is everything in the business. So you try to keep your name and reputation in good standing regardless of whether it’s costing you more money or not in the transaction.”

Patti agreed.

“We value honesty,” she said. “We would rather lose a commission than make a commission if somebody wasn’t happy — if something went wrong, even if we had not had a hand in it. If we could fix it, we would rather do that to maintain our reputation.”

The Casons have been independent brokers with Keller Williams since December 2013. Other agents on the staff are Dean Bare, Renee Baxter, Cindy Johnson Andrews and David Vandeputte. Nancy Segars and Heidi Perdelwitz work as support team members.

Their strategy during the recession has kept the team going strong, and they’re proud to be adding their daughter to the team on March 1. While times were tough in the housing market, during the downturn in the economy about a decade ago, the Casons said they survived doing something most others stopped doing — advertising.

“It was like the light bulb went out,” Patti said of the drop in the housing market that began in 2008. “Michelle, Gary and I we were all sitting together in our office and Gary said, ‘We have to increase our advertising.’ Pretty much everybody else literally stopped. We survived the downturn because we increased our advertising.”

While they work with the properties throughout Oconee and into the Clemson area in Pickens County, the couple said 98 percent of their business is in the area around Lake Keowee, which encompasses about 26 miles.

“We have always made our focus on Lake Keowee,” Patti said. “You come up (S.C. Highway) 130 and you just see those mountains and water — it’s beautiful.”

But it’s not just the beauty of the lake that drew them to Keowee.

“I think living on Lake Keowee is just very comforting to anybody’s lifestyle,” Gary added. “Most of the time, people are real generous and forgiving and caring for one another. It’s a community that once you’re plugged in, you’ll see it’s real.”

Patti agreed people make the area special.

“You can sell a $50,000 condo in Keowee Key and meet fabulous people and you can sell a $3 million house in the Cliffs and meet fabulous people,” she said. “You just don’t get that opportunity any other place. This market here is just amazing. There’s just every variety of people. It’s very cool.”

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