The Magic is Set-Fee and Great Service

Walt Hippauf of Help-U-Sell Peoples Real Estate got his real estate license in 1986. As a diverse young man, a job in manufacturing prompted an interest in design drafting. He pursued an Associate’s degree in engineering and formed a small weekend band where he played the saxophone to help pay for college.

After his engineering career, Walt started a catering and music service for weddings. While that business was not meant to be, the entrepreneurial spirit had taken root. He next turned to selling insurance, and a client invited him to join their real estate business. He did both for a while, but eventually devoted all his time to real estate. “I took to real estate like a fish to water. I discovered a new market for modular housing, and purchased buildable lots where I offered buyers the lot and designed a custom modular home. I’d built upwards of 25 homes at the time, but unfortunately lots were few, so I pursued other real estate opportunities,” he recounted.

Walt received his Brokers license in 1994 and opened an office in 1996. Catering to first-time home buyers in the inner city, Walt sold and listed homes for under $50,000. He explained, “Because of the low price, I had a $3,000 set fee, with the commission split between the buyer agent and selling agent. I was handling 70% of the real estate sales in that community and was doing great. In 2001, the economic conditions shifted so I moved the brokerage to Northeast Philly. My brokerage name was overshadowed by traditional big-name players. I looked for a franchise with name recognition and met a Help-U-Sell Real Estate regional manager. I loved the Help-U-Sell model. It allowed me to offer sellers a well-received choice and I was doing 50 to 100 sides a year.”

The Philadelphia housing market covers high, middle and lower markets. Walt said, “Home prices here are all over the map. Some are $70,000 and many average out at $300,000. Look again, and you’ll see homes that are $500,000 to $1 million. That is irrelevant to us because we concentrate on promoting full service for a set-fee. We are great at convincing people to list with us when we show them the full marketing plan and the savings.”  

As 2007-2008 revealed the early stages of the recession, Walt did not take the threat lying down. “Collapse seemed imminent, but I was not going to hang it up. The business slowed down by half, and I had to lay off staff. I kept everything simple. I looked into doing REOs, but there were many big companies already handling those transactions. Before the recession, I had a good business, so I kept doing what I know how to do. I tapped my Center of Influence contacts, and stayed afloat with referrals. I was also doing full page ads in the real estate magazines, and had leads from the internet. I stayed in a bare bones mode until June 2009,” Walt explained.

Just as the economy and home sales were picking up, Walt suffered a personal injury. He shared, “Once again, it is not in my personality to give up. I ran my business from my laptop while convalescing in a nursing home. Tenacity is everything: I quickly got three listings, three houses under contract, and three settlements. I conducted my meetings through GoToMeeting and became a master at e-brokering with the help of DocuSign. I thought, if I can achieve all that under trying personal circumstances, what can I do once I’m able? I did listing presentations online and met the client in person to sign contracts, take pictures and install signs. I’d send the buyers the contracts via DocuSign.”

Recently, Walt’s thoughts are on the next steps for his business and life. “I originally planned to be out of real estate by 2020. However, a previous client approached me with the idea of mentoring their son, who had an interest in learning real estate. Henry Rutledge wanted a career change from engineering, to which I could relate. At 30 years old, this young man is just getting his feet wet. When he is fully acclimated, he is looking to buy my business in 2022,” Walt shared.

While Henry is learning and chasing leads, Walt stays busy managing the business. “Not including what Henry achieves, my goal is to personally do 24 to 30 closings for the year. My operating costs are low, so I’ve given Henry the lead to expand our marketing initiatives. This includes blitz signs and targeted marketing. We’re looking to do more with YouTube, Facebook and text messaging. I’m not turning down any leads, and passing many over to Henry. I like the drip emails; I use them for the holidays, indicating that I’m still here and looking for referrals. All of our leads go into the drip email list immediately. I also use the Arounds postcards. Lead tracking and Center of Influence contacts are a huge piece of what Jack Bailey emphasizes in our weekly coaching group. I’ve been in Jack’s group for over 10 years now. He is a great guy and we have a wonderful group for bouncing ideas off each other,” stated Walt.

Having spent the last 33 years in real estate, Walt added, “I’ve done everything. I’ve tried everything. There is no magic – aside from the set-fee and great service. I used to enjoy golfing, dancing, and going to the casino, very often winning; those things are no longer possible. I’ve been married to my bride, Marci, since 1982. Between us, we have two sons, three daughters, 6 grandchildren and a great-grandchild. I’ve built a business I have enjoyed and a plan for passing that on to someone who is as passionate about it as I am, so I am still winning.”

Going Above & Beyond in Edmond/OKC

Lana Erwin is on a roll this month. As the broker/owner of Help-U-Sell Edmond/OKC in Oklahoma City, she had five houses listed, and was on the cusp of listing three more at the time of this interview. She’s been cultivating her Help-U-Sell business for 16 years now, but Lana’s background was quite varied before her career in real estate.

In the late 70s and 80s, Lana worked for several companies in various computer and accounting jobs. Oil was the primary industry in Oklahoma, and the oil bust during the 80s forced many of the top employers and banks to close. Many people left Oklahoma to seek new employment. At 29 years old, Lana sold everything except what would fit in a one bedroom apartment, and moved to Largo, Florida. She briefly sold used IBM equipment, but soon discovered a market for used CAD equipment and started a company. Relocating back to Oklahoma in 1993, she continued the company until the onset of IBM Pentium products made mainframe systems obsolete and it was time to reinvent the future once again.

“I always had an interest in real estate. After flipping a few houses, I decided to get my license and become a Realtor. A friend of mine was working for Help-U-Sell, and I worked as a buyer’s agent for 2 years. When the office was put up for sale, I got my broker’s license and bought it,” she said.

Not only has she persevered, but Lana’s presence has grown over the years. The volume of incoming calls for listings has been steadily on the rise, and her ability to close the sale has landed her on a recent edition of our Top Producers list. “Some of the people whom I served well keep coming back to me. Someone I helped years ago kept my number and just called me. One new listing was a random call. Another client I sold a home to a few years ago called because he needs to get his mom’s house on the market. Some of my business comes from people who have moved here from somewhere else, and they used Help-U-Sell in their previous city and liked the experience. My referrals keep me busy. When I bought the office there were two other offices in Edmond, one in Oklahoma City, one in Norman, one in Stillwater and one in Tulsa, but I am proud that my office still stands. I believe the longevity, brand recognition, savings, and service account for a lot of that,” Lana explained.

To push name recognition beyond referrals, Lana uses social media advertising. “I focus the most on Facebook. I regularly do a lot of paid boosts featuring houses that have recently undergone a price reduction or to advertise my open houses. That is where I get the most traction,” she shared, “When the market gets tight, there is certainly an advantage for consumers to seek us out. This is aided by the Help-U-Sell website. It is one of the things corporate does really well and it has worked great for me.”

Situated in a mid-level market, the median price range for a house is around $250,000. Last year, Lana closed 40 transactions and knows she will do at least that same this year. She added, “There are a lot of players in the real estate industry here. There’s a company billing themselves as flat fee. There’s another business that will do ‘listings only’ on the MLS. There are a few realtors who would negotiate commissions if consumers knew that they could do that. People don’t want to pay the 6% and that fact keeps me competitive in this market.”

Difficult times often spurn people towards ingenuity and streamlining their processes to become more efficient. “During slower times, I’ve been a combination of dedicated enough and lucky enough that I always made it. During the recession specifically, I did my own thing and kept the doors open. What I learned during that time is, once I started doing everything myself, I wound up preferring it that way. Initially, I followed a lot of what I was shown by the previous owner, and that has worked well for me. However, when I was passing tasks off to others, I felt like I was wasting time waiting for answers. I discovered I like knowing everything going on about a deal. If a client has a question, I like that I don’t have to call someone else to find out the answer or status of something. Since I’m handling everything, I know everything. I’m on top of everything. That streamlining became a lot easier for me when I moved my office into my house. It allows me to be home more, even though I work longer hours. I don’t mind doing it, of course, but if I’m going to, I definitely want to be comfortable,” Lana said laughing, “Besides, my dogs appreciate it, too.”

Ultimately, Lana has learned to take busy times and slow times in stride. She explained, “I call on my old clients. I keep well apprised of the market and trends. What I’ve come to realize is when people move, the market moves. That’s how you know the economy is doing what it’s supposed to do. I have clients tell me I am really thorough and go above and beyond; Then they tell other people and my business does well.”

“I Love What I Do”

Beverly Sonnier, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Southeast Rita Ranch Realty, has been serving the Tucson, Arizona area with her brokerage office since 2003. She and her husband, Jimmie, received their real estate licenses in the early 90s. What makes Beverly a standout from other Help-U-Sell broker/owners is that she is part of an elite club of people in real estate who have only ever worked within the Help-U-Sell system.

Beverly got her start as a mortgage banker. She met one of our long-term pillars of the Help-U-Sell community, John Powell, back when he was running his own office. It was through John that she became interested in real estate. “I was running a little Cajun restaurant at the time, because I like to try different things. I was already intrigued by the prospect of real estate, but John talked me into it. I decided to close the restaurant and learn something different,” Beverly said. After working with John’s office for a number of years, Beverly wanted to open her own office. Jimmie was a government retiree from both the military and the United States Postal Service. He wanted to stay active, so it was an easy post-retirement transition for him to make.

Beverly’s office appeared on a recent edition of our Top Producers list, noting that she has a goal of 25 to 30 closings for this year. The median price for a home in her market is about $190,000. She shared, “Right now we are experiencing a shortage of inventory. There are roughly 5,000 homes in my market area and as of this minute there are just 26 listings on the MLS. Homes don’t stay on the market very long – about 24 days. I have an advantage over my competitors when the consumer is educated. My goal is to give sellers knowledge of the savings conveyed by selling your home with us.”

When it comes to getting the word out, Beverly has learned diversification is key. “We are lucky to be in a very active market, but I’m always looking for ways to beef up advertising. We’ve tried many methods to find the most effective outcome, and we’ve been taking more risks to find that surprise result that will grab the right attention. My most recent endeavor is handing out the cloth reusable grocery bags, because people now must pay for the plastic bags from the grocery store. We’ve been getting a lot of positive traction off those bags, and of course we add some extra goodies in there to make it interesting for people,” Beverly explained. “I tried advertising on the sanitation station at the grocery store. We advertise in our local newspaper; which has a circulation of about 12,000. I’ve been running ads there for about a year-and-a-half.”

She continued, “We do the ‘Arounds’ postcards once a month. One of the things I learned early on, is that I don’t like postcards with a lot of verbiage on them. White space is valuable, because people don’t have the time to read a lot of fine print. If you can’t get your message across quickly and efficiently, the cumbersome language is a turn-off for them.” Her advertising message centers on: “Stop paying 6% to sell your home. Pay $3,950 instead.”

She added, “Everything has a learning curve in terms of discovering what will or won’t work. We try a little bit of everything and see what takes off. The reusable grocery bags did really well for us, and we got a listing and leads off that. However, the corresponding sanitation station hasn’t done as well for a variety of reasons, primarily poor location and visibility. Our concerns are being addressed and we expect to get the contract extended since it was a substantial investment. It’s all a part of the learning process.”

Being personal gets a lot of mileage for lasting impressions as well. Beverly sends out handwritten cards, but also enjoys cooking and baking. She is known for making candy, especially around the holidays, and makes a habit of handing it out to old and new clients which is always well received.

Jim and Beverly’s strategy for working together starts with collaborating in the morning to get the details of the day in order. “I do all the listing, selling and administrative duties. I send Jim out with buyers because he has a special touch with them. He puts up all of our signage and goes out on inspections. He’s great at filling in the gaps where is necessary,” she said appreciatively.

Beverly is still learning and has no plans on stopping. “I have many friends in this industry, my relationships with them help keep me apprised of how the market is fluctuating. I work to stay on top of our market so that I can provide expertise to our clients. I’m not a person who is driven by money, real estate is my passion. I’ve been doing this for so long now I don’t know anything else. That’s why at 75, I’m still working. I love what I do.”

April 2019 Top Producers

Welcome to the April edition of Help-U-Sell Top Producers. Spring is continuing to be a strong showing for several of our top offices and yet we still have room for a few different names, too!

Mario Ferrante of Help-U-Sell Metropolitan in Woodhaven, Michigan, remains in first place for 2019, with 25 sides.

Jack Bailey of Help-U-Sell Greensboro comes in second with 15 sides. Jack’s team  continually illustrates that smaller teams can produce mighty results.

Richard Cricchio from Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties very nearly tied for second, coming in with 14 sides.

Several people that have been interviewed for broker profiles in recent months continue to show up in our Top Producers list; Perhaps talking to me is good luck! Shine on, Help-U-Sell rock stars.

OfficeBuyerSellerTotal Sides
Help-U-Sell
Metropolitan
121325
Help-U-Sell
Greensboro
7815
Help-U-Sell
Honolulu
Properties
6814
Help-U-Sell
Federal City
Realty
3710
Help-U-Sell
Mike Bowling
549
Help-U-Sell
Direct Savings
Real Estate
347
Help-U-Sell
Legacy
437
Help-U-Sell
Central
Properties
426
Help-U-Sell
Keystone Realty
246
Help-U-Sell
Peoples Real
Estate
156

On the Gross Sales Volume list, April showed strength in savings.  

We normally find Richard Cricchio from Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties at the top of this list, and his April performance is no exception.  Gross sales volume for Richard’s team was $7.4 million.

Marc Dosik of Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty clinched 2nd place, closing $3.2 million in sales.  Mark’s team serves the tri-state area of Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.

In a very close third place is Danny Kettle and his team at Help-U-Sell Legacy in Layton, Utah. His team closed $3.1 million in sales.

The total sales volume for our top ten is $28,554,097. A traditional six percent commision would have been $1.7 million dollars, so there are a “boatload” of happy Help-U-Sell clients who banked a whole lot of savings last month. Thanks to our hard working broker offices for making people happy and saving them money, too.

Office Gross Sales volume
Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties $7,456,000
Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty $3,294,189
Help-U-Sell Legacy $3,129,808
Help-U-Sell Greensboro $3,015,400
Help-U-Sell Metropolitan $2,571,900
Help-U-Sell Silicon Valley Properties $2,030,000
Help-U-Sell 951 Realty $1,978,900
Help-U-Sell Select Real Estate $1,805,000
Help-U-Sell  Direct Savings Real Estate $1,641,000
Help-U-Sell Central Properties $1,631,900

Top Producers: Quarter 1, 2019

The first quarter report is always the most anticipated. The first landmark of the year, it serves as a  comprehensive piece with which to forecast how folks are doing against the business production goals they set for themselves when the year was new.

Mario Ferrante of Help-U-Sell Metropolitan in Woodhaven, Michigan, is still the front runner for 2019 with a total of 60 impressive sides. He is beating the competition by more than double and we can’t imagine a stronger beginning.

Kimber Regan of Help-U-Sell Hanford/Lemoore in Hanford, California, locks in second place with 26 total sides. The hard work of her team has made her office a feature of our Top Producers last year.

Then we have our “stair steps”!

Jack Bailey of Help-U-Sell Greensboro comes in third with 24 sides. Patrick Wood of Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties nets 23 sides. Richard Criccio of Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties closes 22 sides.

As mentioned in the March report, Mike Bowling of Help-U-Sell Mike Bowling in Yuma, AZ,  is our newcomer making a big splash. He appears here, too, with 16 sides for the first quarter. Way to go!

OfficeBuyerSellerTotal Sides
Help-U-Sell
Metropolitan
233760
Help-U-Sell
Hanford/
Lemoore
131326
Help-U-Sell
Greensboro
61824
Help-U-Sell
Prestige
Properties
41923
Help-U-Sell
Honolulu
Properties
81422
Help-U-Sell
Direct Savings
Real Estate
8917
Help-U-Sell
Mike Bowling
7916
Help-U-Sell
Federal City
Realty
41014
Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty7714
Help-U-Sell
Heritage Real
Estate
6814

Over on the Gross Sales Volume list, quarter one is still serious business with the top three names matching our March report in the top three spots exactly. How cool is that?

Richard Cricchio

Richard Cricchio from Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, remains in first place with $16.3 million in sales. The savings of the home sellers in Hawaii must be huge (or “nui” in Hawaiian).

Patrick Woods and Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties comes in second place with $13.9 million.

David Bartels and Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty came in with $9.2 million dollars.

Together, our top 3 grossed $39.5 million in sales in quarter one. Just the top three! From the offices of Sarasota, we at the corporate headquarters congratulate everyone on the top ten list for the quarter.

Office Gross Sales volume
Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties $  16,356,888
Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties $  13,934,175
Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty $    9,221,000
Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty $    6,947,600
Help-U-Sell Metropolitan $    6,638,925
Help-U-Sell Hanford/Lemoore $    6,064,900
Help-U-Sell Greensboro $    5,022,355
Help-U-Sell Town & Coastal Properties $    3,410,000
Help-U-Sell Golden Homes $    2,818,000
Help-U-Sell Sims Realty $    2,726,653