One of Homer’s top-five real estate agencies saw a change last week when Kachemak Group Real Estate owner Terry Yager sold the business to new owner Valerie Buss.
Buss closed the sale last Wednesday, Sept. 9, and moved down to Homer from Anchorage over the weekend with her husband, Bryce Buss, a lineman with Homer Electric Association.
Yager, who founded the agency in 2014, will stay on as a broker as he helps mentor Buss while she works toward getting her broker’s license.
“We just want to continue the legacy,” Valerie Buss said. “We want to continue with the good reputation that Terry has.”
Yager, who turns 80 next week, said he’s looking forward to his semi-retirement. On Monday he moved out of his office to let Buss take over. He will be working at home mostly.
“It’s time to think about doing more flower gardening than real estate,” he said. “… It’s worked out good. I can be a mentor to Val. I call her ‘a young lioness.’”
Buss, 24, exemplifies a sometimes unrecognized dynamic of Homer’s population. While many people think of Homer as a haven for retirees, Buss’ cohort is another blip in new arrivals, the millennials who were born and raised in Homer, went off to get an education, see the world, start a career and come back to the small town they love with new ideas and new energy.
A 2013 graduate of Homer High School, Buss is the daughter of Dave and Bonnie Mastolier. She got her interest in real estate investing from her parents and then developed the passion with her husband when they lived in Anchorage. Most recently, Buss has worked as a paralegal for JDW Counsel, a legal group specializing in representing small businesses, especially those in the cannabis industry.
“It was a really fun job,” Buss said. “It was a fun law job because we were helping businesses.”
A longtime Alaskan who first came here in 1967, Yager moved to Homer in 1993 with his wife, Jonnie, and their family. Yager had lived in Anchorage and Bethel, where he ran a flight service and fish processing plant. In Homer, he first helped his in-laws run the former Smith Family Restaurant on Pioneer Avenue near K-Bay Caffe. Yager later built his home and real estate business on the lot of the old restaurant. There he ran Re/Max of Homer, a franchise of the Re/Max real estate group. In 2014 Yager and some associates from the Alderfer Group decided to create a locally owned real estate agency and founded Kachemak Group. Starting with eight agents, Kachemak Group has grown to 11 associates, including Yager and Buss.
“And now we’re passing the wand to Valerie,” Yager said.
Buss met her husband, Bryce, in Anchorage. Raised in Montana, he has embraced the Alaska outdoors lifestyle — so much that she said it’s hard to get him to take vacations Outside.
“We’re huge outdoors enthusiasts,” she said. “We have two golden retrievers. We have a cabin at Caribou Lake, do a lot of hunting. We’re always outside when we’re not working.”
Like many businesses trying to keep going and staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kachemak Group has been cautious. They require face masks for customers, and associates have to wear face coverings when in common areas of the office. They offer hand sanitizer and follow practices like sanitizing surfaces frequently.
“We’re definitely trying to stay within those guidelines so we can stay open and keep our clients and the community healthy,” she said. “It’s an inconvenience, but it’s less of an inconvenience to stay open and have everybody shut down again. It’s worth wearing the masks, that’s for sure.”
The pandemic has had an upside for the lower Kenai Peninsula real estate market, however.
“The market right now cannot keep up,” Buss said. “It’s a little crazy. Interest rates are so low everyone is trying to get into a house. There is not enough inventory for the amount of buyers we currently have.”
Some people also see Alaska and small towns like Homer as a haven from the pandemic.
“People in the larger cities are leaving,” she said. “… They’re wanting something more rural — small towns. The pandemic has changed their views on their livelihood and how they want to spend their lives now.”
Buss said she doesn’t anticipate any major changes at Kachemak Group.
“Our vision is to help grow the real estate industry in Homer,” she said. “We want to be active members of the community and give back and help the community as much as we can.”
Reach Michael Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.