Our new podcast, Sell Soda City! is officially live! You can find it in the iTunes store, Spotify, or by heading to sellsodacity.com in order to listen! Subscribe so you never miss a drop date, and a nice rating and comment would be super appreciated as well! New episodes drop on Tuesdays, so keep your eyes peeled — or just subscribe and get the alerts right to your phone!
This week, I sat down with our lead buyer agent, Stephen Rebl to have an organic discussion answering the question: Why do WE live in Columbia? We both have very different stories — he came here after growing up in Summerville, and I grew up here, left, then came back after realizing that no other place would ever feel like home. (Sorry, Florida.) So it was a pretty interesting conversation! I also asked him the question I’ll be asking all of my guests: Someone asks you why they should move to Columbia. How would you Sell Soda City?
[sick title drop sound]
I’ll be posting the transcript of our conversation here below a text cut in case you prefer to see a text copy, and you can also find it on the same website above in PDF form.
Also, Steve had a great idea that’s totally going to be A Thing where each of my guests has to pose for a picture with one of my three dogs or my cat (all of whom come to the office with me, since as stated before, I am a millennial and have Expectations regarding my work life). I have two dachshunds, one of whom I imagine will be most people’s choice, Sidney Crosby the labrador (yes, named after the hockey player, because I love him and he has a lab named Sam so it’s funny don’t judge me), and a cat that I adopted because she was adorable and I’m weak. That means you’ll finally get to see come cute animal pictures (which you could see ALL the time if you followed us on instagram, @DisharoonHomes, by the way) as well as putting a face to the voice you’re hearing while listening to our awesome Columbia-centered content.
Next week, I’ll be sitting down with the broker in charge of Disharoon Homes (and my mother, and all around most awesome person in the world), Fan Disharoon, to talk about Springtime in Columbia. It’s about time to start planning your gardens and farms, so she’ll be dropping the sweet knowledge on us since it’s kinda her thing to know more about this stuff than anyone else I know. So tune in next week for that!
With that, below is the full transcript for the first episode of Sell Soda City!
INTRO, Samantha: Hey there! Welcome to Sell Soda City!, the podcast where we talk about Columbia, South Carolina: why I think you should live here, and how to make that happen. I’m Samantha Disharoon, and today, I’m going to sell Soda City.
Samantha (S): So today I have with me our lead buyer agent, Stephen Rebl. Hello, Steve!
Stephen: Hey Sam, how are you?
S: Hello, I’m fantastic. So today, our episode — we are kind of having a more free-form episode than the ones I have in mind. This one I’m just asking the question both of you and myself: “Why do you live in Columbia?” because obviously, there are lots of other places —
Stephen: Right, for sure.
S: — that we could choose to live, but we live here. And I think it would be cool for people who are thinking about moving here, or people who just moved here, or maybe people who’ve lived here for a long time and maybe are looking to learn something new, like, why are we living in Columbia?
S: So, why do you live in Columbia, Steve?
Stephen: [laugh] Well, uh, there’s a couple of reasons. I came to Columbia transferred from CSU to start college up here. I never really had a lot of experience from Columbia. I’m originally from Summerville, which is like a little town uh, not little anymore, but up the road from Charleston. So I kind of grew up in that scene of, y’know, the beach scene, and all that stuff, and things like that, and um, you know, I just — when I came up here, I came up here for school, and I fell in love with this kind of city life, you know? It was kind of fun to walk around and see all the different places and spots and, you know, it’s the capital of the state so it felt like a big city, but it wasn’t a big city, so uh. when I graduated, I actually ended up going back to Summerville, to teach, and I hated it. And I hated it because it just, you know, it felt small, traffic was terrible, it was cramped, uh, and I know there’s that allure of Charleston, but you know, unless you’re going to go drop a whole bunch of money to do things, Charleston’s very inaccessible for that. So, when the opportunity came, I came back to Columbia. and I love it! You know, one of my favorite things about Columbia is the diversity, is the opportunity to do and see and eat and taste so many different things. It kinda gets lost in the mix and I think we kind of tend to get overlooked because of that, you know. I love that we know — i’m a musician, so there’s a big music background here in Columbia, there’s, you know, jazz clubs to go out and see, there’s live music anywhere you turn, great opportunities both as a performer and as a consumer. there’s great places to go and eat, you know, Tazza Kitchen is one of my favorites over in Forest Acres, Bourbon downtown on Main Street, Cantina 76 uh, I mean I can go on and on and on about the food. And then I can also go on and on and on about the cocktails and all that good stuff, so, what it comes down in Columbia as a whole, there’s just this wide variety of things to do and that’s kind of what drew me back to this city from you know, being in other places. And I don’t feel cramped, that’s what I love too.
S: Yeah, I know! I’ve got a little bit of a different story, obviously. I was born here, a good almost three decades ago now.
Stephen: Getting close!
S: Getting close! And, you know, I grew up here, and I didn’t actually leave until I went to college, and then I went to the upstate for college. And I found that the culture there was not quite anything that I really fit in with, so when the time came and I was, you know, ready to go to law school, then I moved to Florida, because I thought, oh, I want to get out of South Carolina, and I don’t want to stay in the upstate —
Stephen: [jokingly] I’m so sorry.
S: — and [laugh] I don’t want to go to the coast, and I’ve been in the Sandhills area so, I guess Florida is the answer for me. And it became very readily apparent that Florida is never the answer. So —
Stephen: To our listeners from Florida, we really do love you. It’s just not for us.
S: But, be honest, Florida is never the answer. So, I did come back to Columbia, you know. I came back here primarily because I was from here, I had family here, and I guess the question for me is more, “Why did I stay in Columbia?” and, kind of like what you said, you know, there’s just a lot of things that ally with my interests. So I too am a musician, a little bit different of a musician, though, ‘cause while you grew up in the band world, I am a strings performer myself.
Stephen: Gravitas and all that.
S: Yeah, you know, have to get that pompousness going.
Stephen: You can’t see the hair flip thing that came with that comment.
S: Yeah, yeah, it was the flipping of the hair. So, you know, one thing I really like is that there are all kinds of programs in Columbia for strings players that, like, a lot of people don’t know about, and honestly, my family and I, we didn’t know about until I was a good bit later, later on in there, so there’s that. And I really like going outdoors and stuff, you know, I’ve got three dogs. One of them is a spoiled brat and does not like walks at all; in fact, I do have a little puppy baby carriage for him.
Stephen: Not surprised.
S: Not surprised. But, the other two — they love going outside, they love taking walks, pathologically, almost, and so it’s important for me to have places that they can go.
S: So, like, our real estate office is right down the road from Sesqui State Park, and I get the state park access pass, which for fifty dollars every year, I get access to all of the in-state state parks. I can just come and go as I want, so that’s really important to me, because, you know, you can pay to go, or you can just pay the fifty and then go whenever so, that’s really cool. And then there’s also, like, a lot of places downtown, there’s a lot of green spaces. I know — you know my father, he’s from San Francisco, and I’ve been out there a few times and while I love the culture out there, it’s not as green and lush. And, when I was looking at law schools, I went to Illinois, and the Midwest, and it was actually kind of terrifying?
S: That it was just so flat?
S: And I didn’t realize that something that I need and I value is that, like, rolling countryside with greenery and trees and lush, living, goodness that just was not there for me, so you know, I came back here, and just never left. So,
Stephen: Well it’s funny – the one thing I wanna talk about that you kinda just touched on too, that I really want people to kind of get into when they’re thinking about Columbia and they’re thinking about, you know, being here, moving here, staying here. I get asked all the time: what’s there to do, what’s their stuff, and that’s always fun to discuss, but what gets overlooked a lot is really how there’s this community of things and people to do with outreach. What you mentioned with talking about the uh, String Project, you know, that’s the project – that’s the result of the University of South Carolina School of Music where they have their people that are studying to teach music providing lessons to elementary kids; kids that are little guys, just starting out, instruments, and then getting out into the world to learn. But you know, there’s just — that’s just one facet of all of these things you can be a part of, you know. There really is, you know, so many things to get into in terms of like, you know, like I said, the Strings Project, the Richland County Library has awesome series and guest speakers.
S: Award winning!
Stephen: Award winning! I mean, it’s, it’s crazy, like we just had Bootsy Collins, you know, which is this bass player from the 70’s there, and that’s like — you would never think, “Oh, I’m going to go to a public library and listen to this funky bass player talk about his life story!”, but we had that. That was real. And it was open to the public to come out and be a part of. So that’s just it, like, when I think about Columbia, that’s that’s really what lured me back and has really kept me here, is like, if I wanted to get into something, I can. If I wanted to do something, I can do it. If I want to eat somewhere, I can eat and never do it over and over and over or do it over and over and over because it’s that good, it’s that great to be a part of.
S: Right, right, exactly. And one thing that I also really appreciate about Columbia is the fact that like, as everyone who ever meets me knows, I’m really big into hockey, and you know, there are two teams that are very close to us, one in Charlotte and one in Charleston [my cat’s collar jingles ferociously into the mic’s periphery] and we are beautifully situated halfway between both of them, which is fantastic so I never have to pick and choose. And another thing is, you know, like, I can’t – some people they’re either beach bunnies, or they like to go to the mountains, well I like both!
S: So being perfectly in the middle of both of them is fantastic!
Stephen: Oh it’s wonderful!
S: So it’s like, oh, I wanna go hiking and camping this weekend? Awesome. You just go! Or, mm, you know, I went to the mountains last weekend, I think i’m gonna go to the beach tomorrow. Okay, awesome, just go!
Stephen: And see, and that’s the other thing like — and if you do that, it’s it’s hard to convey it, but it’s literally — you can do it for the weekend, you can do it for the day trip. If you wanted to get up, early Saturday morning, pack the car, you could be on Isle of Palms beach from Columbia, three hours [sic: two hours fifteen minutes]. You get up in the morning, you’re there by ten o’clock, hang out all day in the sun and do your thing, and then dip out around three or four before traffic starts getting horrible, and then you’re home in time to you know shower change and go out and grab a cocktail or something somewhere.
Stephen: And that’s, that’s the reality of it. But guess what, you’re not paying that premium of those locations, everything’s accessible and doable but it’s not just like, outrageous to live and do.
S: Right, right, exactly. So, we were talking this morning about the beautiful mid-Columbia weather here. [more cat collar jingle]
S: Despite [laugh] despite how crazy it can be in the Spring where it’s pretty cold in the morning and then boiling hot in the afternoon, like, another thing that I really love about Columbia specifically is the weather because, you know — we’re right here on the fault line and so it’s perfect because you know we get nice and hot in the summer without it being completely unbearably sweltering and you know, we have seasons. They’re not intense, we don’t get snow except – maybe, I don’t know, I can think of four or five times we’ve really had SNOW here in my life.
Stephen: That the people who live in show would actually qualify it as snow.
S: Right. And we do have the whole, oh we see a flurry and everything shuts down you know, thing.
Stephen: We get that a lot.
S: Yeah, that happens to us, mostly because we don’t have anything to take care of snow, so if it DOES snow, like, we’re all screwed.
Stephen: Yeah, we’re SOL.
S: [laugh] But um, you know, I like that, because you know we’re warm enough that we have the beautiful weather, but I don’t have to worry about my little dogs going out in the backyard because I live on a pond, I don’t have to worry about there being alligators in the pond.
Stephen: Right, right.
S: Because, we’re right literally at the level where ANY WARMER and it would be gators. But we’re perfect. Columbia is just perfect weather. And it’s also nice and humid, which, some people say they don’t like, but — I went to Vegas for a business trip and I about shriveled up and died.
Stephen: Yeah, the humid is pretty bad. It can be pretty rough once in a while. I’m the opposite when it comes to that; I will whine just on extremities, but uh, but no for real, as a whole, it is nice and temperamental, it’s nice and kind of — you can be in a park and go out and enjoy the weather, you know, like Sam said. This morning it was probably about thirty five, which is a fluke for this time of year honestly. But right now it’s like, you know, almost seventy, seventy five, so it’s like, if I wanted to go out and run this afternoon, then I could. It’s very doable and very easy you know; it’s not like I have to plan for oh, snow’s gonna be coming in between now and late, April or early May, and then all the garbage of summer or there isn’t a summer, so we do have four seasons which is nice.
S: Yeah, we have the fours seasons without having the irritation of all the things that come with…
Stephen: Very nicely said.
S: …those seasons, yes. So, we’re real estate agents. And so, one thing that I want to talk about and for people to kind of get from this podcast,
S: — is our knowledge of the real estate market and you know, kind of, demystify things a little bit.
S: To make it, you know, more accessible, especially for people who are maybe thinking about buying a house in Columbia, whether it’s from you know, New Jersey or California, or if they’re coming from Lexington, you know. [even more cat jingles] So, I’m kind of looking at, first, out of state people, which is actually a lot of people. Because — in the latest survey that I found, we’re actually the ninth fastest growing state.
Stephen: Yeah, I’m not surprised at that at all.
S: Yeah, and there’s a lot of new construction going up around, which is pretty exciting for us real estate agents, like — it’s always just super cool to see all the new houses that are popping up and so, if someone were thinking about moving to Columbia, like, what kind of things would you tell them to think about?
Stephen: Well, I’ll give a great example, actually. I just helped these young, young lovely couple transplant from Indiana to here, and it was a process, you know. We talked through I mean, like, over a year of just planning, and putting stuff together, but you know, the biggest thing that we discussed and we planned on, was a) do your research in terms of the different areas. That’s where, you know, me as a specialist comes in, is that if you tell me, “this is what I like to do, this is what I want to be involved in, this is kinda what my life is like now and this is what I would like for it to continue to keep doing but maybe in better weather when I come to Columbia,” then that’s where I’m gonna go okay, well these are the areas that are gonna have the activities that you’re interested in. The other thing that catches people off is our property taxes. Compared to states like Illinois and stuff like that, it’s insane — people constantly are flabbergasted when I say, you know, what’s the annual tax for you know, this house? And I say, like, something along the lines of it’s like, $1400 or 13 or 12, and they’re like a month? And I’m like, no, for the year, and they are floored by that. Because a lot of these other states have much much much higher property taxes so that’s why we get people transplanting and taking advantage of that, so there’s a lot of advantages coming here and uh. But yeah, but the biggest thing I always have a discussion with is like, you know, talk to me and be honest with me about what you want to do, where you want to be, and what you want to be a part of, and let me show you the areas, you know. When I had these other clients coming from Indiana, when they came down and visited the very first time, I literally took them in the car and we just had a tour of Columbia; took them downtown and took them to the Fireflies stadium, we ate at one of the restaurants downtown, we cruised through the Northeast, and showed them all the different neighborhoods, you know, took them up to Lake Carolina which is a big subdivision out that way that a lot of people dig into, so — just kind of explored that. And then from there, they were able to kind of narrow it down and ended up getting a beautiful home in Lake Carolina, and we got them helped out selling their home in Indiana, and got all the details put together. So, it’s not just a matter of finding the areas, doing the whole process, but it’s also a matter of putting the right people in your corner to help make it as seamless as possible, especially if you’re coming from states away to come here.
S: Right, I know we’ve got a lot of people, particularly from New Jersey, which I always thought was interesting, especially because I have a cousin who’s from New Jersey, and he married someone from South Carolina and they met halfway and now live in DC.
S: So, you know, I always do think it’s really interesting how many people come down here, and I always thought that it was because of the weather, but you know — there are so many things once I sat down and really thought about, “Why do people come to South Carolina,” and “Why do they come to Columbia in particular,” and you know — there’s a lot of really cool things here that even me, you know, having grown up here, lived here, you know, planted my roots here, voluntarily, after I had a chance to try and leave — it’s just kind of blown my mind digging into all the really cool things that we have to offer. So, to kind of close out, I have one thing that will become the staple of this podcast, I think.
S: And, what it is, is I’m going to ask you to think about someone has come to you and they say they’re thinking about moving to Columbia. How would you sell Soda City?
Stephen: Wow. [laugh] What a great question, and what a difficult one, and I’m not meaning in the sense like it’s a hard product. It’s like, how do I pick where to start? You know what I mean? Uh, if someone says you know, why do I want to come to Columbia? I would just honestly simply say, because it’s the best. It really is. It provides literally something for everybody. You know, everyone has a piece of the pie here, and I mean that 110%. You know, regardless of background, culture, job, creed — whatever, you know, Columbia really has that diversity going on and it really has something for everybody to get into. And, if you really want to get into the weeds on things, you know, it’s like we talked about earlier: you get literally the best of everything, you get great weather, you get a great city that has great opportunities, you’re easily accessible to get to anywhere — you want to go to Charlotte for the weekend and catch a pro football game? Totally doable because you live in Columbia. You wanna go to the beach for a day? Totally doable because you live in Columbia. You wanna go to Hotlanta and get away for the weekend? Totally doable because you live in Columbia. That’s the best part about Soda City is just how accessible it is to both all the different people that are here, but how accessible it is to literally everything else around us.
S: Awesome! Well, thank you so much for joining us, this is Stephen Rebl, our lead buyer agent.
Stephen: Thank you for having me!
S: Awesome! All right!
OUTRO, S: So, big thanks for Stephen for coming by to be my first guest on the show. Like I said, most of our future episodes are going to be a bit more structured, but I was kinda wanting something a bit more organic for the first run? It’s probably the philosophy degree. Anyway, you can find Stephen by going to our website, www.disharoonhomes.com and all of our buyer agents there will get you set up just right with making that minor life decision of buying a house. Or you know, if you’re just thinking about maybe, someday — sign up anyway, and they’ll be there to help you when you’re ready. Sell Soda City! is produced by Disharoon Homes here in Columbia; art is provided by Star Realty, llc, and the music is “Place on Fire” by Creo. And I’ll be posting a transcript of this podcast to our blog, which you can find by going to disharoonhomes.com and clicking the blog link at the top of the webpage. So, thanks for listening! We’ll see you next week!