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Pantano Real Estate – Your Community Resource

Pantano Real Estate has been a fixture in Wilmington and New Castle County for over 15 years. The boutique full-service firm is known for the relationships agents forge with clients, and the pride they take in those relationships. This month we have the pleasure of introducing you to Holly Henderson-Smith and Erik Bashford, Pantano’s Certified Senior Real Estate Specialists. We think you’ll agree: it’s easy to see what makes them especially well-suited to help Vital! readers with their home buying and selling needs.

Vital: Pantano Real Estate is well-known in the community. How did your company get its start?

 PRE: Pantano Real Estate was founded over 15 years ago by Paul Pantano. Paul wanted to serve the greater Wilmington community through a real estate brokerage that exhibited his values of excellent customer service coupled with sound real estate decision-making principals. His journey started in the Trolley Square vicinity, not far from where he grew up in Wilmington, and from there his vision grew. Today we serve thousands of clients throughout the greater New Castle County marketplace. As an industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, Paul also buys what he sells. And not only is he invested in our local community, but he’s also heavily involved in community service, serving and leading numerous community-centric organizations, all of which contribute to his fresh approach to real estate.


Vital: You use the term “boutique brokerage” on your website. What exactly does that mean?

 PRE: We call ourselves a boutique brokerage not because we keep a small team, but because we offer an elevated level of service we feel is important to many clients. We start by creating a detailed plan of action for every client, tailored specifically to their needs. We include services many other agencies charge for, including custom-designed brochures, minor staging and professional photography. By offering a more personalized level of service, we really get to know our clients and, in many cases, become friends with them. We like to joke that we’re the Jerry Maguires of brokerages. We take on a lot more than just the sale or purchase of a home. We help our clients navigate one of the most important transactions they’ll ever make in their lives, in the process creating a bond that remains well beyond settlement.


Vital: How did you two choose the field of real estate?

 Erik Bashford: I was born and raised in Newark, went to Salesianum and graduated from the University of Delaware. After college, I began a career in Human Resources. Very quickly, though, I discovered I received more joy from real estate than from human resources, which led me down a different path. Before becoming a licensed real estate agent, I worked as a contractor for bank-owned properties and conducted home inspections. I began investing in rental properties in Delaware and New York and to this day, real estate is my passion.

Holly Henderson-Smith: My background is in advertising and marketing. Although I’m a native Delawarean, I worked in New York 13+ years as a vice president of advertising and marketing in the fashion industry. After moving back home and starting a family, I chose to use my skills locally and got involved in real estate. The idea of being able to use my background to help people with what may possibly be the single most important investment in their life was a game changer for me. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I haven’t looked back. I haven’t yet gotten into investing yet, but my broker’s mantra is “You’ve got to buy what you sell!” So that’s on my list in the near future.


Vital: Why are you focused on helping the over-50 market?

 Erik: I’ve experienced first-hand how difficult it can be to help a parent downsize while still working full time myself. It was overwhelming. When my parents moved to a 55+ community back in 2007, I wasn’t aware of any realtors or professional services I could lean on to help my parents move from their house into a condo. Now, with the knowledge both Holly and I have, the things we’ve experienced and the contacts we’ve developed, we focus just as much on educating people as we do facilitating their moves.


Vital: What makes Delaware attractive to so many people?

 Holly: Delaware really is a Small Wonder! There are so many benefits to retiring in Delaware, it’s hard to know where to start. Delaware has always been a popular place for people to retire, not only for people who’ve lived here all their lives, but also for retirees in neighboring states. Ask anyone who moved here from PA, New York or New Jersey and they’ll tell you our property taxes are nominal compared to their previous states. Beaches are a short commute no matter where you live, the cost of living is low, and of course, there’s the tax-free shopping. That’s why, over the past decade, we’ve seen the building of more and more 55+ communities and assisted living facilities than you can imagine, with plans to build more in the works.


Vital: Can you tell us more about your mission to help seniors?

 Erik: Nowadays, we more frequently use the term mature or active adults. People aren’t slowing down; instead they’re very actively enjoying the fruits of their labor. Our mission is to educate them on all things real estate so they can make informed decisions that help pull together a comprehensive plan of action. Many people we work with haven’t bought or sold a house in decades. The sale or purchase of real estate can be terrifying – just the thought of leaving a home that’s been familiar to them all their lives is unsettling. We understand. We think of ourselves as the backbone of their support system, connecting them with whomever they need to help alleviate the stress. Our network of contacts spans the widest range possible of services, from move managers to cleanout companies, mortgage and reverse mortgage providers to senior living referral services, home health care providers to elder law and estate planning attorneys, and everything in between. We hold our client’s hand and do a thorough job of bringing them up to speed about what’s going on in the current market so they can decide what’s best for them. And sometimes, the best decision for them is to stay right where they are.


Vital: What sets you apart from other realtors when it comes to helping clients buy or sell one of, if not the last home they’ll live in?

Holly: Aside from both of us genuinely caring for our client’s well-being, we both have personal experience dealing with the transition of loved ones and remember vividly the hoops we had to jump through to get them settled. The tasks of figuring out their options, packing up their life, moving them to a new home, and making sure they do well adjusting to the new setting are extremely difficult. We’ve been through it. We know what it’s like. It’s a process. As realtors, we’ve also been to a number of homes where the need for additional help and expert advice is apparent. To further support our mission, we spent considerable time furthering our education, and we both are proud recipients of the SRES Certification (Senior Real Estate Specialist). This better equips us with the tools we need to help our clients make life-changing decisions. After all, their needs, financial means, and available options are different than traditional homeowners. Working with an agent who has this specific training definitely has its perks!


Vital: When a client invites you into their home to talk about downsizing, what type of advice do you give them?

 Erik: Our approach and our advice depends on so many factors. It’s really a case-by-case basis. Everyone’s circumstance is different. When we first meet new clients, we spend time getting to know them on a personal level. It’s very important to us to understand their mindset, for instance, if they’re looking forward to downsizing or if they’re struggling with the concept of a move. Our advice also depends on their next home. For instance, are they moving to another single-family home, a 55+ community or an assisted living facility? Downsizing typically involves some level of selling, giving away or throwing away personal items. We understand the need to be compassionate during this process and that different people need different levels of help. In some cases, we advise on the need to hire third-party companies that can assist with the process. In other cases, the number of items to address is minimal, so it’s just about being a resource for them when it comes to who they should call to remove unwanted items, sell antique furniture, move furniture, and so forth. But, regardless of the process involved in getting from start to finish, we always emphasize the positive, knowing that many clients are downsizing because of necessity and not by choice. We’re focused on emphasizing the upside of downsizing and looking forward to making new friends. Our mantra is that saying goodbye to personal items doesn’t mean saying goodbye to the memories.


Vital: It’s so easy to see you two are not only compassionate, but dedicated to doing the right thing. That’s so refreshing. If readers are in the middle of the process of buying or selling a home, are contemplating a move, or just want your advice, how can they get in touch with you?

Holly: We’re always just a phone call (or text or email) away! I can be reached at 302-298-2836 or by email at Erik can be reached at 302-540-8048 or by email at We look forward to helping!

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