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Renters Tired of Unresponsive Landlords Wanted a Place to Call Their Own

Posted by Kevin Stuckey on 26/01/2018
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Donna Wallace and Nick Vaassen were renters tired of unresponsive landlords and apartments where their repairs and design improvements were uncompensated and unappreciated. They envisioned a dream home to own. Well, Donna did anyway.  

One day she asked Nick, “If I can find a house with mortgage payments lower than our current rent payment, would you buy a home with me?” Nick figured chances were slim for that happening, so said yes. Within a week, Donna had a contract signed and the couple was already touring homes for sale.  

The pair looked at fewer than eight houses with Hal Cone of RealStar over a period of less than six weeks to find Donna’s dream home. That was in September. By November, they were moving in.  

It’s Nick’s first house. Not so for Donna, but this is different than all the rest – she loves it. As she describes it, it’s a house built in 1925 with beautiful oak hardwood floors that will have the perfect layout when modifications are completed. At 1495 square feet, not including the basement and porches both front and back, it’s the perfect size of cozy with potential for this couple. The current four bedrooms are being used in a variety of ways, including one that’s been converted to a closet and another to an office with a deck-view of the Mill Mountain Star.  

Donna explains, “I told Hal, the only thing I want is a foundation, roofing, plumbing and electric. Oh, and the price has to be $70,000 or less.” They paid less for a home in a Southeast City neighborhood that was move-in ready.  

Hal helped the couple identify good providers for everything from lenders and inspectors to insurance agents and contractors who offered input on the feasibility of intended renovations. “Hal brought the contractor in before we bought,” Donna explains. “He asked what we wanted, gave input on what was possible and pricing for it all before we even signed a purchase agreement,” she states.   

Hal found the right house for Donna and Nick before it went on the market. “I didn’t give Hal time to look for houses for us because I kept giving places I found and wanted to look at,” Donna admits. “Even with houses he knew we wouldn’t buy, he’d always be agreeable with an O.K., then schedule the tour as our faces registered what he already knew,” she explains.  

“Hal is a different breed,” Nick asserts. Donna adds, “Nick would not have agreed to looking for a house with another real estate agent.” 

With a prior relationship with Donna (she had been a stylist for the family for a couple of years), Hal was able to take what he knew about her to locate the home of her dreams. That intuitive and responsive approach is a hallmark of how he does business. “Hal is going to be there for you, with you, from beginning to end to make sure he can do anything he possibly can to make sure you have the right house, that it’s a good value and it’s what you want,” Donna states.  

Both shared a story of how shocked they were to see Hal in action before either knew he was working quietly behind the scenes. Donna posted a question on Facebook about carpenter bees. Apparently, the prior owners had hired a contractor to address this issue as part of the sale agreement. Before either she or Nick realized Hal was in action, the vendor who performed the prior extermination was on site apologizing for the problem and taking care of it at no cost to the new owners. “I don’t even ask things on Facebook anymore – I just call Hal,” Donna grins. “Hal keeps surprising us in how he’s willing to take care of everything. Long before a purchase is made and after, he’s focused on making sure you will be happy with a home purchase 6 months, 6 years and 20 years from now,” she states.  

Nick, while initially concerned about the small size of the house (they had toured a home double the size just prior), now truly appreciates the final choice. “It’s cozy, easy to heat and cool, plus has porches, a garage and basement in addition to the stated square footage that makes it seem bigger than it really is,” Nick states. “I feel very comfortable here now,” he admits. 

After moving in and renovating the kitchen, Hal helped orchestrate a house warming party where the couple invited 50 people including friends, family and clients. Announcing the event included Hal arranging for pictures, creating a card invitation and setting up a Facebook Page. Thirty people showed up.  

Donna said they wanted to show off their improvement achievements with a party to celebrate while also giving a nod back to Hal for how special he had been during their emotional house purchase. Hal and his mother, Linda (Hal’s wife had planned on helping but was sick), jumped in as helpers to orchestrate the event. Donna admits she was eager to point anyone there thinking about a house purchase or sale to Hal as a one-of-a-kind resource.  

Nick is a graphic designer who can be found at He does the layout for Valley Business Front, serves as the graphic designer for the Rescue Mission and sets up the Salem Times Register, Newcastle Paper, News Messenger and other related publications.  

Donna works as Donna Wallace Stylist when she’s not working full time at Francis Kahn, a high-end specialty clothing boutique.    

The couple notes they can’t adequately express how much gratitude they feel for having Hal represent them through their home buying process, but Donna’s willing to try. “Hal made us feel like we were the only job he had; we were the only people he was working with; we were his only priority. Hal is one of those people who genuinely does things for others without any expectation for something in return,” Donna states. 


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