The Bannon Law Group, LLC: Focusing on Real Estate
There are some real benefits to being a grown-up, and having the names and numbers of professional problem solvers at the ready is one of them. Over a lifetime, successfully adulting comes with the realization that interdependence is far superior to independence, particularly when building a support system of trusted people who can fix leaky pipes, who know just the tweak to keep your little roadster running, who will maintain your pearly-whites, press your shirts with the exact right amount of starch, or keep you on the legal, straight-and-narrow.
Jim and Meredith Bannon, attorneys, partners, and principals at The Bannon Law Group, LLC, have seen a shift in how clients are utilizing their services. “There was a time when people only called an attorney in a crisis,” Meredith Bannon said. “We’re very open and we’re very approachable. People are finding they can call and run an idea by us, knowing we want to help prevent big mistakes.”
With over a decade of legal practice, including extensive litigation and trial experience, the Bannons have found the focus of their firm naturally honing in on real estate transactions and litigation in response to what is happening in the local market. “Given the growth of the area, it’s kind of an organic thing,” Meredith Bannon said. “Right now, Bluffton is exploding and so real estate closings naturally grow as the market grows. As you have more people moving, more property changing hands, you’re going to have more litigation issues.”
Responding proactively to these changes, the Bannons have been reinvesting in the firm to enhance their ability to service everyone involved in the process. Expanding their office space about a year ago, the practice has added a full-time paralegal, bringing their team to three experienced real estate paralegals, and they have made a significant investment in bannonclosings.com, their secure real estate closings portal.
The portal is an online dashboard where all the information and documentation related to a specific real estate transaction is stored. “You log in and get instant status updates of where we are in the process,” Meredith Bannon said. “It allows a collaboration instead of sending e-mails back and forth.
“The focus for our portal was to collaborate efforts and make sure it was a spot where everybody can actually share information.” Access in varying degrees is granted to clients, attorneys, lenders, and the title abstractor. “It’s more of a focal point for the collection of information, versus each of us maintaining our own separate file. We saw it as not only a new thing to the market and a new way to service our clients, but a new way to add an additional service for our referral partners. We were very excited to create this, particularly for agents who might have multiple closings with us; they can get a status update on all their closings in one spot. To our knowledge, we are the only people in the state who have it.”
“Organization is such a big part of it,” Jim Bannon said. “What I think is great is, if you’re super organized, you’re really going to like it, because everything is so organized for you. And if you’re not organized, you are so thankful this is all taken care of; it’s all just right there where you can see it.”
Jim and Meredith Bannon, Attorneys, Partners, and Principals at The Bannon Law Group, LLC
Alongside the uptick in real estate transactions, Bannon Law Group is seeing more claims of adverse possession. “Adverse possession is where someone moves onto a piece of property and acts as if it is theirs, even though it is not,” Jim Bannon said. “In South Carolina, there’s a benchmark at 10 years when you can come to own that property by adverse possession.” While working to determine rightful ownership, it is beneficial having a team like the Bannons who do not shy away from the courtroom experience, however, encourage sitting down and figuring it out before the process comes to full-blown litigation.
Having legal counselors like The Bannon Law Group in your circle of trusted, problem solvers gives you the ability to proactively address personal and business legal needs. “People are being more proactive,” Meredith Bannon said. “We want to mitigate problems so that when things do go bad, we all are very clear on our rights, obligations, our remedies. I am getting more questions about contracts: contracts of sale, contracts of employment, contracts of partnerships, contracts of service. I’m seeing more people having the faith and confidence to start a new business.” Wanting to protect themselves before problems arise, they are reaching out to their legal advisors and setting everything up with the protections that good advice and well-written contracts provide.
“It’s become clear that the focus of our business is real estate and real estate litigation,” Jim Bannon said. Further making themselves familiar with the local real estate and building industry, the Bannons are members of the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association, participate in events with the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors, and provide continuing education seminars through the Hilton Head Island Bar Association.
Living in the local community, the Bannon family includes Emma Grace, their up-and-coming kindergartner at Cross Schools in Bluffton. Meredith Bannon is on the board of Hopeful Horizons, the newly formed non-profit forged from the merger of Hope Haven of the Lowcountry and CODA (Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse). “With Hopeful Horizons, we know that if you treat the whole family, you prevent a whole lot of other risk factors.”
Jim Bannon is president of the Literacy Center, where the group’s Family Literacy 360 Program initiative assists adults and children. “People who are here who want to learn to read and write English are the kind of people we want to have here. Those are the people who want to succeed in our part of the world, and we want to try to help make that happen.”
Family-minded and community-oriented, Jim and Meredith Bannon are guiding and adapting their law practice to best serve their clients’ needs. Turning up on speed dials and Rolodexes across the Lowcountry, The Bannon Law Group is at-the-ready, building long-term relationships, preventing problems when they can, and solving problems when needed.
I help people move into their dream homes or sell their former dream homes every day. I see the stress. I do all I can to minimize the strain. I intellectually understand all the parts of purchasing and selling property. And this month, I dove in and re-experienced the stress of buying a new house, selling the old and, yes, the horror of moving. I now have a new appreciation for the emotional side of purchasing and selling property. So, I owe an apology to all of my clients that I have talked off the ledge, that I have shaken my head at when they didn’t follow my advice, to the clients I thought were mentally unbalanced but, in reality, were just moving. I get it. I am you. I am a bundle of nerves, and I am officially over it. We moved less than five miles within Bluffton, but the pain, stress and emotional shutdown all showed up. Did I mention we got a puppy too?
At the time of publication, I should be calmly holding all my possessions that bring me joy and placing them in their new, organized, clean, color-coordinated bins. Meanwhile, if you actually follow the tips I give professionally as listed below, you can avoid the heartache and wine bills I have incurred:
Find a lender you like. Don’t worry about rates and terms. If you like your lender and feel you can tell them what you want without judgment (e.g. I need to include the cost of building a pool to be my best self this summer), they will find you the best rate and terms. Sometimes, you don’t even know certain loan products exist unless your lender tells you. Thus, find one you like and who will come to your pool parties. You are paying them, and they want your business. Insider tip: Make sure you have a prequalification letter on letterhead prior to visiting those new houses—it strengthens your offer and helps you avoid disappointment.
Find a real estate agent you like and stick with them. If you are selling your house, select a Realtor at least a month prior to your anticipated “go live” date. An experienced real estate agent will tell you what to fix, what to declutter (they don’t care about the joy your possessions bring at this point—just the money!), and how to stage. This is priceless. Tiny little fixes pay big returns on the market (returns that can go toward that tiki bar at the end of your new pool). Typically, as a seller, you will be paying both Realtor commissions. Ask your Realtor how they are going to market, how they are going to differentiate your listing, and what a realistic timeline is. Your Realtor should be your truth speaker—even if it is sometimes brutal.
If you are a purchaser, a real estate agent is vital. You are not paying their commission, yet they will only represent your interest. Choose one and stick with them. A purchaser’s real estate agent will find listings you may have overlooked and help broker stronger deals.
Pick a strong team. Sense a trend here? The difference between a good and bad closing experience lies in the team you field. An insurance agent and an attorney who know the market and have to see you in Publix can save you money and heartache. Don’t skimp on services here. Do not assume that all attorneys or insurance companies are the same. Choosing the cheapest option can result in delays, frustration and inaccuracies. Your Realtor will have recommendations for both—ask them honestly who will be responsive and protect your deal.
Plan ahead. Where are you going to put your stuff the day of closing? Where are you going to sleep? Are you going to be in town to sign your paperwork? Figuring out the practical part will make the transactional part go smoothly.
Take deep breaths. Once you have a contract, there is still the stress of repairs, financing, and the actual logistics of moving. Remember that everyone wants the deal to close. Some may say it is because no one gets paid unless the deal closes, but that is just ugliness talking (did I mention I am looking at the high-end tile option for the pool?). As an attorney and a functioning member of society, I’m excited for my clients and want to protect them. They become part of my clan, and we are fiercely protective. I enjoy working with the team of lenders, Realtors, buyers, sellers, and various shaman to get the deal closed.
The Bannon Law Group, LLC is located at 10 Westbury Park Way, Suite A, Bluffton. For more information, please call (843) 865-8922 or visit www.bannonlawgroup.com
The new normal at Bannon Law Group: The husband-wife duo navigates the uncharted waters of COVID-19 to continue delivering exceptional legal representation.
Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: M.KAT Photography
October 2020 Article | https://celebratehiltonhead.com/article/6675/the-new-normal-at-bannon-law-group-the-husband-wife-duo-navigates-the-uncharted-waters-of-covid-19-to-continue-delivering-exceptional-legal-representation
If you take a large enough step back and look at the world of 2020, you’ll notice some unusual things happening. Air pollution around major cities plummeted while solar output around the country soared, spurred on by cleaner air from fewer commuters on the road. Fear of contamination from physical currency caused people to lean on the plastic more, leading to a national coin shortage. And we don’t even need to get into how hard it was to find toilet paper for a while.
All of these odd impacts have one thing in common: the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent shutdowns, shelter-in-place orders and assorted societal weirdness that goes with trying to avert a biological disaster.
And these impacts trickle further down. Luxury purchases have increased, as summer vacation plans cratered and freed up some discretionary spending. Even something as seemingly constant as the law has felt the impact of 2020’s “new normal.”
“Everyone’s had to audible,” Jim Bannon said.
“We’ve had to get creative,” Meredith Bannon added.
The husband-and-wife duo forged their dual practice seven years ago, building its foundation on their respective strengths. Both long-time prosecutors, most recently with South Carolina’s Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, each went a separate path in the legal field when they pooled together as a law firm and a couple. Jim pivoted to criminal defense, utilizing his in-depth knowledge of the law to provide legal protection for an array of clients. Meredith moved toward HOA litigation and real estate closings, finding her unique savvy and magnetic personality perfectly suited for the often-nerve-wracking world of real estate.
With COVID-19, they’re finding the impact on the respective natures of their dual practice to be as different as night and day.
“During quarantine, nobody was getting arrested,” deadpanned Jim. While that may have been a temporary lull in the number of people requiring representation, it nonetheless had far-reaching impacts.
“We haven’t had a jury trial in Beaufort Count in seven months,” he said. “With the courts closed, you would have a court date three months away, so there wasn’t any urgency to hire a lawyer.”
As lockdowns ease and the world begins to open up, Jim still faces the same social distancing and mask requirements we all do. Only he faces his in the tight confines of a courthouse, in the case of Jasper County, or the even tighter confines of a jail. “It’s part of the gig, I guess. But the train’s still moving down the track. It has to be done.”
The wheels of the law continue to turn, and on the real estate side of Bannon Law Group, those wheels are moving at 7,000 RPMs.
“We were taking in twice the normal number of closings in July. We couldn’t keep up,” Meredith said. “My email would refresh, and there would be two to three more closings.”
Between people up north looking for a way to escape the clustered confines of cities and a flurry of refinancing from low interest rates, Meredith has been busier than every during the pandemic. And by all accounts, she’s only going to get busier. “I think real estate is going to be even more crazy over the next few years,” she said.
Of the many question marks still lingering about the future under this pandemic, the question of liability continues to move to the forefront. For Meredith, it’s a question for which she’s already beginning to find answers. “As far as HOA stuff, we’re getting some very interesting questions about liability,” she said—whether opening up common areas or simply conducting neighborhood businesses, homeowners associations could be on the hook for future outbreaks. “We’re getting a lot of questions, ‘If our annual meetings are coming up, what are we required to do?’ So, we’ve been working with them to draft waivers to allow business to continue as usual.”
Of course, the greatest protection against liability is caution. And at Bannon Law Group, they’re leaving nothing chance. “We’ve had to limit people coming into the office, but it’s led to some interesting questions about how you can get documents notarized when you can’t get close to someone,” Meredith said. “We’ve had e-signing capabilities long before this, but it has been so clutch during all this.”
And if there’s a silver lining, it’s that these solutions have made the closing process easier. “It’s actually made it less stressful for clients because they can focus on moving in. We have much more flexibility in working with their schedule,” Meredith said.
When the Bannons built their law practice together, bringing together their dual talents for criminal defense and real estate law, they had no idea that one day this balance would help them weather a pandemic. But it has, and it has taught them a few new tricks that will make the firm even more capable in the future. Even if it’s just a renewed appreciation for their chosen profession.
“I can’t wait until all this is behind us,” Jim said. “I love going to court.”
For more, visit bannonlawgroup.com or call (843) 874-7419.
The Bannon Law Group, LLC: Keeping Promises
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography
August 2018 Article | https://celebratehiltonhead.com/article/5863/the-bannon-law-group-llc-keeping-promises
A business’s brand develops from the promises made to its customers. Like a living being, a brand evolves over time, changing out of necessity and by design. Bluffton attorneys Jim and Meredith Bannon find that by sharing their personal lives and professional law practice at The Bannon Law Group, LLC, they have achieved just the right formula. “It allows us to focus on the business and we’ll talk about it—probably more often than if we weren’t married,” Meredith said. “So, for us it’s almost like another family member.”
“I think that’s true of almost every family business,” Jim said. “That’s really what this is. Ask anyone who’s in a small family business, ‘When are you working?’ Well, I’m working all the time; that’s really true. Part of the joy of it is you’re not necessarily working at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, but you may be working at 10 p.m. on Friday night, or on Sunday afternoon. You just don’t know.”
Branding the Bannon Law Group includes their whimsical logo sewn onto a fleece vest or stamped on a coffee mug, tongue-in-cheek promotional marketing, along with a set of serious promises. “Our focus is approachability and practical solutions,” Meredith said. “Sometimes you go to a professional and they give you all kinds of theory. What clients really need to know is how to solve their problem. Jim and I, just by nature, are casual, talkative, and approachable. We want our clients to be informed and we want them to understand the situation and have the best options available to them. We want them to not be intimidated by the process, or ourselves, or the office.”
Bannon Law Group provides legal services ranging from criminal defense to real estate, with Jim Bannon’s primary focus on criminal domestic violence, drug, alcohol, and DUI defense, felony-related charges, and personal injury. Meredith Bannon’s attention is on real estate matters, including real estate closings and litigation, landlord and HOA/POA disputes, and providing an experienced guiding hand through real estate transactions.
Telling it like it is, is part of the process and the promise at Bannon Law Group. “You absolutely have to tell it like it is,” Jim said. “Clients don’t always know that what they want is someone to tell them how it is and what it’s going to be. The process is going to be better if they know as much as possible going in. Legal problems can be difficult, but knowing what you’re in-for on the front end helps people get down the road.”
“I appreciate that in my personal life,” Meredith said. “Being direct and having all the cards on the table really helps me, and I think about that with our clients too: Here is the situation; here are your options; here is what’s most likely going to happen. Most people are open to that and appreciate it if you take away some of the mystique of the [real estate] closing process. It’s confusing; there are so many forms, there are all these people, and you have to answer now, now, now. Ultimately, you want your client to have ownership. We’re counselors and advisors, but we aren’t the ones who have to live with the decisions.”
In the midst of their busiest professional year since opening in 2012, the Bannons’ clients find the relationship-based practice of law here to have a bit of a magic touch. It begins with talking. Meeting one-on-one, listening, and chatting about the things impacting their clients’ lives goes a long way toward successful professional relationships, resulting in excellent outcomes and heartfelt referrals. “It’s all about figuring out the client’s motivation and what makes it click for them; to be heard and acknowledged,” Meredith said.
The Bannons have approached growing their business and assembling a team very much like raising a family, working to provide a dynamic business to the local community, and setting a course that enhances well-being, professionally and personally. “What I appreciate is that everyone in our office is in a different stage of life,” Meredith said. “One paralegal is having her first baby, whereas everybody else is a mom or a grandma. It’s interesting to get the different perspectives and see how the personalities come together.”
“We have a work hard, play hard attitude, and I think they [the Bannon team] do too,” Jim said. “You can see it in our silly company photographs, in our birthday celebrations. If you can’t have fun while you’re doing it, why on earth are you doing it? It’s not all billable hours.”
As their personal and professional home, Bluffton is the third “B” in the branding of Bannon Law Group. “There’s something about this area that draws people,” Meredith said. “You can’t leave for a long period. We love to travel, but after a couple of days, nothing seems as good”
“When we moved here, Bluffton was still a real small town,” Jim said. “It’s changed so much in the last 10 years. I think we were some of the last people to know it as it was even 20 years ago, not just 10.”
Raising their soon-to-be-first-grader, Emma Grace, the Bannons have branded their lives around what it means to be from the Lowcountry, and more specifically, from Bluffton. Signed up for a summer of activities at Oldfield, Emma Grace will be kayaking, crabbing, fishing, and horseback riding. Where others sign up for camps or travel, “E.G. has signed up for the Lowcountry life,” Meredith said.
With promises to be counselors, advisors, partners in professional practice, and partners in life, and a positive force and credit to the local business community, Jim and Meredith Bannon, and their Bannon Law Group team have established a solid brand worthy of attention … with promises kept.
The Bannon Law Group, LLC is located at 10 Westbury Park Way, Suite A, Bluffton. For more information, please visit bannonlawgroup.com or call (843) 815-4505.