Everything Leads You to the Next Step

Matt Kellam of Help-U-Sell Keystone Realty grew up in Virginia and graduated from Shepherd University in 1976 with a degree in speech, drama, and mass communications with a focus on radio. He met his wife in 1977 and they married in November of that year. Matt then embarked on a career in radio. He started off as a DJ, became a program director, station manager, and ultimately a general manager.

It’s well-known that radio isn’t a career that pays well, so Matt made a dramatic leap.

He was hired by the developer of the golf course community where he and his family have now lived for 23 years. Matt recalls, “The developer asked me to be the Builder Liaison and Sales Manager. I was still in radio sales at the time, but real estate seemed like a much better option. So I got my real estate license and worked there for three and a half years. The community has about 1,100 homes and two golf courses. I noticed another resident had listed their home with Camp Hill Help-U-Sell Real Estate, which was owned by Ed Owen. I did some research and requested a VHS tape from the Help-U-Sell corporate office to learn more about the franchise.”

After viewing it, Matt made his decision. “I thought it really made sense. If I was going to start my own real estate company, I would do it this way. It has a built-in competitive advantage. I convinced my wife to go all in, we got a loan and I became a Broker. We packed our bags to attend the Help-U-Sell Annual Summit, which was held in San Francisco that year. We had a great time, learned a lot, and took the red-eye back on a Wednesday. The next day, we were manning a booth at the Franklin County Builders show with borrowed signage. No one knew we were coming, it was a complete surprise. It was a fantastic and impactful start. We later opened our physical office in May of that year,” Matt said. “Our first two years surpassed our expectations.”

Help-U-Sell is known for its single-sign-on platform, which makes it easy to do a number of real estate related tasks in one place, such as keeping contacts and leads organized, sending drip emails, customizing postcards, and platforms for text marketing and adding testimonials to your website. Matt explained, “I once sold personal computers, so I have always been ingrained in media and technology. One reason I like Help-U-Sell is they are always streamlining and improving.” Matt uses the Center of Influence postcards quarterly, and the Just Sold postcards. “I’ve also been doing more Facebook advertising for properties that are just listed. We get a lot of traction there,” he added.

The Help-U-Sell Keystone Realty office landed in our Top Producers sales report recently. “That has happened twice in the 14 years I’ve been in business. Many things came together for an exceptional month. Most months for me are good, but the holidays are usually an excellent time for home transactions. According to NAR, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is the time when houses for sale are the most viewed. During that week alone, I had three inquiries from sellers, eight listing appointments, and secured five listings,” Matt said.

The team consists of Matt’s wife, a licensed agent primarily handling transactions and administration, and two other agents. Together, they reached 53 transactions for 2018, and devised a 2019 business plan with a goal of 60. The Chambersburg housing market has a median price range of $173,000 but primarily falling between $150,000 to $200,000. However, during the recession, Matt found the Help-U-Sell name was still a draw. He commented, “So many people were upside-down on their houses. Distressed folks called in, asking what to do because they couldn’t keep their homes. I became really good at short sales and jumped into them. When people think of you to help solve their problem, you know you made a smart choice.”

The built-in competitive advantage persists and thrives for Matt. “Once I give my elevator speech, I’m getting that listing most of the time. Once they understand that it isn’t voodoo, meaning they’re getting the same representation and expertise as they would from a traditional broker, they are all in. When I first opened, I got a lot of pushback from competitors, to the point where I caught them telling outright lies about my business. After a polite confrontation, I never had any more trouble. Home sellers either understand or figure out they’re going to save money and everybody wins. I get a lot of referrals from the family members and friends of clients who were happy with our services; yesterday we had a walk-in, which is a throwback to before social media took over real estate marketing. We stand out, we’ve always stood out, even when inventory is tight,” he said.

“I originally looked at real estate as a means to an end,” Matt explained, “but everything you do leads you to the next step. I knew that I could create a secure future with this venture.” Matt has been in one of the Help-U-Sell coaching groups for more than five years now. He went on to say, “One of the reasons why I like it is, we all do the same thing, just in different markets. We share ideas constantly, and solve issues as stuff comes up. Everyone is always willing to help. There’s no holding back.”

“No holding back” sounds like a great motto for Matt and his team for 2019.

Doing Well and Creating Change

Cynthia Stevens of Help-U-Sell Central Properties in Chandler, Arizona went into real estate initially to help her friend’s business and earn extra income.

She started her career as an educator having earned a B.S. in Economics, followed by an M.Ed (Master of Education).

“I started teaching in 1989. It was fun and I loved working with my students. When I got into real estate in 1999, it was an exciting way to earn more because the real estate market was hot. I thought it was a great industry to be involved with,” Cynthia said.

Drawn by the prospect of owning her own business, Cynthia opened her own Help-U-Sell Real Estate office in June of 2007. “My timing was terrible! There wasn’t a lot of time to enjoy growing my business before the recession. Real estate prices had plummeted in my region, and throughout the United States. I worked really hard, and learned how to do short sales.

For example, if I had 20 properties listed, 18 of them were short sales, that trend lasted until 2010. Soon after, I got certified with Fannie Mae to sell REO properties (real estate owned), and primarily worked in REO sales through 2015. I did a ton of them! They are great because once you understand them, they are cut and dry; you do the task and it’s done. Prices were so good on the REOs, they were attracting many first-time buyers, which helped with my efforts,” Cynthia shared.

During the last quarter of 2018, Cynthia’s office was significantly busier, and recently made an appearance on our November edition of the Top Producers list for total sides closed. She attributes the recent growth to a multi-faceted approach that started with attending the Help-U-Sell coaching groups over the past year. After attending the sessions regularly, she focused her energies on a specific target market. Cynthia said, “Additionally, I’ve been taking what I’ve learned in coaching, and sharing those methods with my agents so they can benefit. I have two other producers aside from myself, they have been with me from the beginning. We also have a licensed agent covering administration to keep us sane and on top of all of the details. We warmly refer to her as ‘Radar’.”

The in-house marketing platform that Help-U-Sell incorporates is another reason Cynthia cites success. “The Arounds postcard program, the Sold and Saved postcards, and the Just Listed cards are what I use the most. The branded material looks great. The willingness to create custom materials that are high quality and attractive is also something I appreciate,” she added.

The targeted diligence has been paying off. She said, “We closed 45 sides for 2017. We got close to that for 2018. Because of my involvement with the coaching groups, I created a solid, comprehensive business plan for 2019. In the coming year, I am expanding our FSBO and expired listing efforts. I would love for my office to get up to 100 sides for 2019, but I’m setting my goal on paper at a realistic 25% increase, because I know that’s an attainable and realistic goal for everybody.”

Chandler, Arizona is in the East Valley, and includes Tempe, Gilbert and Mesa. Arizona boasts a fairly steady housing market, with houses in the median range of $250,000 to $300,000. “There is a lot of competition from traditional real estate companies. I’m also seeing an influx of online-only companies that pay cash. I see a lot of companies trying to copy the Help-U-Sell model. Around here there has been a consistent Help-U-Sell presence since 2004, it sticks with people as a sign of trust and a positive reputation, which is an advantage for me. I’ve been working on our messaging, which is centered around not being new or a gimmick. We’ve been here and we know what we’re doing. When people say they’ve heard of us, it validates the brand and brings us business.”

Often times, when the New Year rolls around, people think about how they might create change in themselves. For 2019, Cynthia had a different idea and wanted to help others have the means to create change. She explains, “We put together a list of vetted charities from which to choose. When people list their home with us and it sells, we will donate a portion of our fee to the chosen charity. There are organizations to help animals and children, as both are close to my heart. We’re all very fortunate, and this seemed like an easy way to do something positive. It gives our clients another reason besides saving thousands of dollars to feel good about listing with us.”  

Real Estate the Wright Way

At one time, Ed Wright had his eye on the sky as an air traffic controller but had his sights set on real estate. He became a real estate agent in 1980 and opened his own office as broker/owner of Help-U-Sell Wright Realtors in 1982. Interested in all things housing-related, he learned about mortgages, escrow, and appraisals, giving Ed a well-rounded understanding of the real estate industry, and putting him in the position to dispense expert advice on many home-related topics.

Julie Wright began as a bank teller, and transitioned to work for a title company. Over 19 years, she witnessed the success of several Help-U-Sell brokers, and noted they were doing more business than many of the long-time traditional brokers. Help-U-Sell had an easy-to-follow system, and owning her own business was attractive, so Julie pursued her real estate license in 1999. She had plans to open her own franchise when she met Ed while traveling to Biloxi, Mississippi for a Help-U-Sell Real Estate convention. Eventually Julie and Ed married, and Julie joined his business. “Real estate was an entirely different animal with a new language. There was a lot to learn. I was attracted to it because I am a people person, but I wanted to create a business. I also wanted to be active in my community, and have money in addition to freedom,” Julie said.

An uptick in 2018 sales placed the Wrights on a recent monthly Top Producers list, which highlights Help-U-Sell Broker/Owners who have had the most sales. Part of the increase is due to Julie’s new efforts of tracking referrals very carefully through coaching. “One of my most successful efforts was a ‘reverse pop-by’. Just before Thanksgiving, we hosted an open house and invited a certain level of clients and referrals. We served cider, wine, and hot appetizers. At the end of the evening, everyone took home a pie. Some of our clients made referrals for their business, and of course we received several new referrals ourselves,” Julie added. These efforts have been paying off, as Ed and Julie closed 35 transactions for 2018. For 2019, their goal is 50, and plan to achieve it by initiating a campaign of “low-hanging fruit” with expired and probate listings.

Homes in their area have a median price range of $750,000. Ed explained, “The concept of value from Help-U-Sell automatically attracts sellers. Home sellers everywhere, but especially here in California, love saving money off the traditional 6% Commission. On a $750,000 home, 6% is $45,000. That’s a substantial amount of equity people don’t want to give away, giving us a huge advantage over traditional real estate agents. When I make a listing presentation, I win that client 90% of the time.”

When it comes to brand awareness, Ed shared, “Marketing has changed dramatically for us. Several years ago in Orange County, there was a co-op for group marketing with the other California-based Help-U-Sell offices. Marketing is very different today and far more fragmented, especially with internet-based competition. With print media being somewhat passé, we’ve had to focus on creating opportunities that are more directed towards a smaller audience. Instead of going broad, it’s become more targeted and precise.” Julie has also been increasing her presence in a local chamber of commerce. “We’ve noticed that the ‘sold and saved’ brag cards stick with people and make a big impression,” she said.

Together, Julie and Ed have collectively sold thousands of properties over the years. “There’s nothing like the freedom of running your own business. You make your own schedule. The rewards, aside from the obvious monetary ones, are helping people to achieve their goals. When you put a buyer in a new home, that’s a great feeling,” Ed explained.  “We’ve really enjoyed the experience of Help-U-Sell ownership over the past three decades. The company is always growing and changing, it makes for an exciting future, and we’re proud of what we’ve built together.”

Showcasing Value, Building Camaraderie

While working in construction in 2006, Ryan Joyce procured his broker’s license with a hope of blending the two industries. There was a lot of competition in real estate at the time due to the recession, so he took a bank job handling secondary loans while he created a plan. “I moved on quickly because I wanted to learn how to do short sales. I became a transaction coordinator for another well-known Help-U-Sell Real Estate Broker, David Bartels, of Help-U-Sell Full Service,” Ryan shared.

Ryan Joyce, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Bakersfield Equity Savers

Looking for a platform on which to build a future, Ryan looked into opportunities in the Bakersfield, California area. He explained, “I had friends who were doing ‘fix and flips’ on houses and they were making a killing. So I moved from Ventura to Bakersfield to learn from the people I respected and were doing well. I earned a “Rising Star Award” from the local real estate association. I chased every lead, and really sunk my teeth into it. Then the market changed towards institutional investors, and the profit margin started shifting. I still wanted to be in real estate and I wanted to build my own business, buying a Help-U-Sell franchise was a natural fit.” Ryan is now the proud owner of Help-U-Sell Bakersfield Equity Savers.

A recent name on our monthly Top Producers list, Ryan has been steadily building his business and staying busy. There are two additional people in Ryan’s office, his wife, who has been working alongside him for a few years, and a new agent. “I constantly look for ways to cut unnecessary expenses while looking for ways to increase revenue,” he said.

Bakersfield, California is considered unique and Ryan believes that has a significant impact on current and future success. “Bakersfield is an hour and a half from Hollywood, and two hours from the beach, you have reasonable access to everything. This is an affordable area of California, and there is opportunity here because of the extreme price differential versus coastal homes. The price range of houses tends to be less than $300,000, and you’ll also see the opposite end – mobile homes selling for $30,000. People come because they are qualified to buy a lot more house for their money. That is the reason why investment properties have been a focus here recently, and that will be our primary focus for 2019.”

One of Ryan’s favorite aspects of Help-U-Sell are the coaching groups. He appreciates the camaraderie, both with people from around the country, and with the many other Brokers from within his own state. “There’s an opportunity to bounce ideas off other people in the group. You can ask how they would handle a situation or what they have been testing in marketing efforts. There’s a strong sense of accountability to one another. They help to drive each other forward. I also consistently track leads, and take the advice of people like John Powell or Jack Bailey on following up,” Ryan added. “The advice is clearing working, we are on track to close 40 sides this year.”

Ryan makes keeping in touch digitally with clients a priority. He becomes friends with clients on Facebook and reaches out with holidays cards. He also appreciates the advantages of a company with over four decades of experience. “Help-U-Sell has great brand name recognition in Bakersfield. It was well-established before the crash and I owe a lot of my early success to the brand recognition. I do have some competition, but there are many people I’m just not competing with because they can’t offer the same service and price,” Ryan said. “I learned in coaching that it’s not about price. If you provide as much service as possible, they will see your value, not just your price.”

A Son Expands a Real Estate Legacy

Nate Douglas, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Santa Maria, is one the rare individuals who has always been in real estate. Since he was 17 and fresh out of high school, he had an early introduction courtesy of his father, who owned a mortgage broker business. “I learned everything about the mortgage industry naturally from being around my father. I started out in loan processing and eventually bought his business. I then worked closely with Ken Kopcho, who owned this Help-U-Sell office before me. In 2017, Ken was ready to retire and I had the opportunity to buy his business, so I got my broker’s license. I have a property management company as well,” Nate shared.

Like many people right out of high school, Nate attended college and sought a degree in Business Administration. He explained, “The real estate market was starting to boom and I was influenced as a product of circumstance. I’ve always been good with math, so mortgages and real estate clicked with me. It made sense to go ‘all in’, so I left college. Everything I was being taught in the classroom, I was learning in real life working side-by-side with my father. He was an excellent instructor, and he invented work-life balance for me. He taught me to work smarter, because working excessively long hours lowers your value. I was making more money than my professors and bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Most people rent when they leave their parents’ house, so I was ahead of the curve. Nothing beats being your own boss.”

Nate is still handling mortgages, and shares the office with another broker and a buyer’s agent who spearhead most of the transactions. “We are on track for at least 30 transactions this year. I’ve owned the office for a little more than a year, and fully expect we will be transitioning to a stronger year for 2019. Santa Maria is one of the least expensive places to live on the central California coast. It’s the biggest city between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, and with the median house price being $360,000, we see a lot of population turnover because we deal with a lot of entry-level homes – which is great for business,” Nate said. “In recent months, inventory has been shrinking, but we’re seeing more properties under contract at a higher price. If our efforts snag three to five of those per month, we’re doing very well.”

Aware of the long Help-U-Sell history, Nate has witnessed the brand grow both locally and nationally over the last several years. He added, “We get many transactions from people who used Help-U-Sell in another area of the state or country, 25% of our volume comes from that alone. This office has been around for a long time, so we garner repeat business from that pre-built great reputation in the community. These folks already understand that a set-fee translates into big savings. Our past clients boost our business with word-of-mouth referrals, which is pure gold. When you’re established and do good work, you make happy clients. People will find you.”

With fly-by-night real estate models popping up and disappearing just as quickly, Nate sees the Help-U-Sell brand gaining traction. “We definitely have a competitive advantage over the sea of local, traditional agents. Many people – and I mean the general public – don’t know that commissions are negotiable. This is partially because big-name real estate establishments require properties to be listed at a certain percent. Since that is a franchise rule, many people are fooled into believing that is what they must accept. The mentality of what you must pay for a real estate transaction is shifting, and points to the growing success of a company like Help-U- Sell.”

To grow a different source of business leads, Nate purchases zip code leads but concedes referrals are always the way to go. “Much of the new business is done the old school way: Flawless presentations, treating clients with respect and guiding them through the process. They have to get in front of you to see who you are,” Nate explained.

When he’s not running a three-in-one real estate business, Nate is taking trips with his girlfriend who loves travel. With a trip to China on the horizon, his father’s advice of working smarter continues to pay off.