By Erika Webb
Realtor Maureen Kemp calls herself "the new house, old house lady."
With a new development taking shape and more than $33 million in historic and classic home sales in the DeLand area under her belt, the self-assessment seems accurate.
The fifth-generation Florida "Conch"-- originally from Key West -- fostered her affinity for historic homes early on, spending time at her grandmother's "Florida Vernacular" home.
"I have very fond memories of her house and of other family members with old homes," Ms. Kemp said.
"Florida Vernacular" is an architectural expression of folk culture in Florida; these homes also are referred to as "Cracker Houses," according to a paper entitled "American Architectural History" on the University of Florida Architecture and Fine Arts Library website.
Its author, Dorinda K.M. Buckley, further explained:
"The vernacular with its base in the 'Cracker House' ... reveals a major characteristic of this culture -- the importance of the family unit."
Sort of appropriate because matching people with lifestyles is where every transaction really begins for Ms. Kemp, who has listed and sold residential and commercial properties in Central Florida for more than 20 years.
Her license is with Total Realty, but Ms. Kemp maintains an office in a historic building at 110 W. Indiana Ave. in downtown DeLand. Ever the real-estate professional, she was quick to reveal the fully-occupied building is for sale for $1.2 million.
"I spend a lot of time with people, introducing them to everything DeLand has to offer, the lifestyle," Ms. Kemp said.
After attending Florida State University and obtaining her real estate license in Orlando, she sold vacation homes near Disney World for Landstar Homes. Marketing those homes to British visitors allowed Ms. Kemp to travel extensively to England where her passion for history and its accompanying architecture was well fed.
A shotgun house in Colonialtown, Orlando, was the first of four historic homes she and her husband have owned.
Their second home in Orlando was a 1920s Mediterranean Revival, also close to the city's center.
"Historic homes are in the core areas of a city, walkable to many things, which we enjoyed all along," Ms. Kemp said.
When her husband's job brought the couple to DeLand, she was home again. Her family moved here from Key West when Ms. Kemp was in elementary school. She said she's always loved DeLand.
The Kemps bought a Dutch Colonial n the 500 block of Minnesota Avenue that required extensive renovation, their first major undertaking since "the others were pretty well renovated," she said.
"We knew we wanted to be in the downtown area," Ms. Kemp explained. "We love to be able to walk to parades, shopping and dining downtown."
That was in 1998. Since 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Kemp have lived in a circa 1890s home, also on Minnesota Avenue, on an acre-plus lot.
"I think it's natural to gravitate to what you like," Ms. Kemp said, explaining her niche in the historic home market.
Being near the heart of things geographically and digging back to the heart of things historically is what she likes.
But she also understands individuality and enjoys catering to people's differences. What works for one person rarely works for another.
Enter Wild Acres of DeLand, a new home development featuring Atlas Homes as the exclusive builder. Ms. Kemp is the marketing agent. The subdivision has 23 lots and two completed model homes for sale.
"My motto for them is: 'in town, in style, in reach,'" Ms. Kemp said. "People can build to suit or choose from one of (the Atlas) plans."
The homes, starting at $120,000, are neo-traditional with high energy efficiency everything, and low exterior maintenance; the location is proximally ideal for buyers who want to be near all that's happening downtown.
As the sales and marketing agent for Amicorp Properties Inc.'s 37-home development, Silver Ridge in DeLand, Ms. Kemp said she "sold that one out" a few years ago.
Whether historic or brand new, it is Ms. Kemp's aim to know what buyers want. That understanding not only helps her find the right home for the buyers, but enables her to give sellers insight to "the real-time demands" of the real estate market.
Sometimes couples are divided when it comes to historic homes. One person wants the charm, but the other only sees work and potential problems. Others may want the downtown lifestyle, but not the "idiosyncrasies that come with historic homes," she said.
Vacant lots in the historic DeLand area are few these days, but Ms. Kemp has managed to find them, offering buyers newness and walkability to downtown.
A broad range of architectural styles, representing a variety of eras, adds to DeLand's unique charm. Several areas have mid-century ranch-style homes and Ms. Kemp said she has sold a number of those, too.
"I jokingly tell people not to let their kids chew on the window sills," she said.
Prior to 1978, many houses contained lead-based paint. Some older homes still have asbestos siding. But most glitches can be overcome.
A big part of her job is to be solution-oriented.
Ms. Kemp is calm and rational. There's reassurance in her manner. Years of experience and a can-do attitude go a long way toward explaining her successes.
"Some problems naturally come up; you have to be seasoned and a good problem solver," Ms. Kemp said. "That's the diplomacy part. You have to help people brainstorm ... keep the train on the tracks because things happen. How you overcome the obstacles and challenges makes the difference."
Ms. Kemp has served on Volusia County's historic preservation board, the Museum of Florida Art board, as well as the school board for St. Barnabas Episcopal School. She currently is a member of the Mainstreet DeLand Association board. These opportunities have allowed her give back to the community she loves and enhance her effectiveness as an agent working with both buyers and sellers.
She said real estate is not just selling and listing structures. It's more about working with people.
Ms. Kemp gets excited when she knows of a house and then meets the people she's certain it will suit.
"I talked to someone this morning who's going to be perfect for a historic home that's not even on the market yet," she said. "Some people play Scrabble and do crosswords, I match buyers and sellers."