By Gregg Bragg, The Island Eye News Staff Writer
Patrick Bell has been one of Charleston County’s leading commercial real estate brokers for over 20 years. He won coveted Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) status awarded by the CCIM Institute, considered by many to be global standard for professional achievement in the industry. He has served on nearly every related committee in the county including; the Charleston County Planning Commission, Affordable Housing Committee, and the Short-term Rental Committee, as well as their counterparts at the state level. He now finds himself embroiled in a democratic primary after deciding to run for Charleston County Registrar of Deeds. Charlestoncounty.org describes the office this way; “The Register of Deeds…records land titles, liens and other documents related to property transactions in Charleston County. The ROD, an elected official, must assure that all recorded documents comply with the requirements of federal and state recording statutes and are available for public review.” Bell’s website, PatrickBell.com is very easy to use, an interesting example of practicing what you preach because “ease of access” is one of the things he hopes to change. Bell stated that the county’s existing site is cumbersome and not searchable in any functional way. “If you’re looking for a 30,000 foot overview of [a property] you’re in good shape,” but your search will yield hundreds of pages of results you have to examine on your own unless you already know exactly what you’re looking for and exactly how to find it. “You can hire someone, an attorney or paralegal to do it for you, but that takes time and costs residents money,” Bell said. “There was an effort to digitize the information housed at the ROD, but it only went back 25 years and wasn’t indexed in a way that facilitated searches,” he added. He also wants to streamline entry of all new information coming before the ROD, and says the upgrade won’t cost taxpayers. The example Bell used involved closing on the purchase of a house while in an office in North Charleston. Paperwork has to be filed with the ROD office located in downtown Charleston before you can officially close on the purchase. The legal requirements mean someone has to run the errand, file the papers, and come back before the seller can accept your check.
You can do this yourself while your closing attorney is on the clock, or pay them to do it while they’re on the clock, but either choice costs money better saved.
Filing papers electronically has a number of advantages, says Bell. His comments suggest a savings of attorney’s fees, as well as observing all new records coming into the ROD would then already be indexed for easy searching. Based on his long familiarity with the sort of volume experienced in the busiest county in the state, he also posits the notion electronic filing could save 10-20 thousand trips downtown, reducing traffic and parking congestion. The race itself is wide open, he says. There are two candidates in the democratic primary and two in the republican counterpart. The field will narrow to one from each party after the votes are counted on June 12, though Bell can’t understand why party affiliation matters for the ROD, and notes there is no incumbent in the race. Charlie Lybrand retired in 2017 after holding the ROD office for 23 years and acting ROD Elaine Bozman isn’t running. Consequently, this will be a fresh start for Charleston County, and Bell wants to provide long absent leadership to existing, high quality staff. Bell says he has been driving all of Charleston County’s 90 mile length because he prefers to actually shake hands during what outsiders might view as an endless series of “meet & greets.”
For more information and announcements of the next meet & greet visit PatrickBell.com.