Loyalty and Creating Clients for Life

Karen Detwiler of Help-U-Sell Detwiler Realty wants you know that she saved home sellers a total of $203,000 in commissions last year. Impressive, right? So is she.

Karen had worked as an executive secretary and made a career change to a transaction coordinator for a traditional real estate company. As often happens in these scenarios, Karen naturally caught the real estate bug herself. When Karen and her husband moved to Pennsylvania, she enrolled in a real estate course so she could pursue her license. More importantly, she wanted to be in charge of her own future.

When Karen decided that she wanted to break out on her own, she sold 15 homes during her first year and she has been blazing a trail ever since. “I worked with a great mentor who had a Help-U-Sell office in Camp Hill. He encouraged me to open up my own franchise. So I opened an office in Carlisle and eventually took over the Camp Hill office when my mentor retired. After a while it didn’t make sense for us to have two offices, so we consolidated into one. However, because we had already established ourselves in both towns, we still get a lot of current business from past clients in both areas,” Karen explained.

Now, with a staff of four full-time and four part-time agents (and one incredibly busy office manager), last year Karen’s team had 95 transactions to stand proudly behind. Over the years many potential clients that Karen encountered expressed doubt over the set-fee system for which Help-U-Sell Real Estate pioneered and is known. “I explain our system by saying if my husband and I had used Help-U-Sell ourselves over the numerous times we’ve moved, the amount of savings would have been amazing. Unfortunately, we lived in areas where there were no Help-U-Sell offices.”

Like so many others in the real estate industry, Karen’s office was no exception when it came to being hard hit by the economic depression of 2008. “Of course we went through some tumultuous times, but you find ways to work through those. You up your game to stay competitive. Part of what drives you are the webinars that Help-U-Sell puts on, and the weekly coaching groups. The other part is fine-tuning your marketing. Help-U-Sell makes that easier than ever by constantly bringing in different programs from new vendors so that we can simplify and streamline a lot of our daily processes. For example, they just started a FSBO program that we’re very excited about. There’s other programs that are beneficial, too, such as the new expired listing program and predictive analytics. Last year they improved all the franchisee websites. They look fresher and are now more functional for any device. Overall, it’s a great system,” Karen shared.

While there is some local competition, it’s not impacting Karen’s business that much. She has noticed that homes are taking a longer time to sell, primarily if they are not priced appropriately, but overall her market is seeing low inventory. “Homes that are priced right, sell fast! The driving principle behind the Help-U-Sell model is that our clients are so pleased with both our service and how much money they saved, they become our clients for life,” Karen said. “You can’t buy that kind of loyalty, you can only earn it. This has been proven over and over for me, especially now that we are currently selling homes to the grown children of our previous clients, too.” As far as additional marketing outreach is concerned, Karen shared that they use a little bit of everything to get the word out: Billboards, radio, newspaper advertising and online advertising. “We also keep in touch with our clients regularly and make them feel appreciated,” she added.

When she is not busy running her business, you can find Karen in her flower garden, spending time with her grandson, or co-chairing the local Thanksgiving food drive. “I’m pleased to say that last year we served 800 families. This coming year we are aiming for 1,000 families. One of my agents, Kelly Spasic, co-chairs that drive with me. Ultimately, this business is about so much more than just real estate. You need to make the people in your community a priority to succeed and I believe we’ve achieved that. I’ve been doing this for 18 years now. Choosing Help-U-Sell was a no-brainer for me, and I’ve really enjoyed my career thus far. I’ll probably be doing this until I’m 90,” Karen said laughing.

Real Estate Disruption and Passing the Torch

John Powell, a long-time Broker/Owner at Help-U-Sell Real Estate with several decades of experience, now the Chief Development Officer, weighed in recently on the current trends facing and affecting today’s real estate industry. He also serves as a coach and mentor.


What’s Going On Now

Trends in today’s real estate market tend to validate the business model that Help-U-Sell Real Estate invented more than 42 years ago. The industry has been in turmoil for some time, and we’ve reached a tipping point. There are many “new” business models coming into the fray with options like instant offers from well-funded groups who will buy a house from the seller for cash with a quick closing and then flip the house for a profit. Several other companies have emerged mimicking Help-U-Sell by charging a single flat fee. While their fee structure may resemble what we do, these new competitors have little in common with Help-U-Sell.

It is important to note that none of these well-funded, new competitors are using the old, traditional 6% commission model. Investors are not willing to invest in an outdated business model. Instead they are impelling the shift to consumer-oriented, consumer-centric business practices. It is remarkable that, given the shift in the industry, many traditional model companies are doubling down on the agent-centric system. They are offering new technology to agents and 100% + commissions. Some are offering multi-level type schemes where agents can get a percentage of the commissions of agents they recruit to the company. These brokerages consider the agents to be their clients instead of the consumer who actually generates the revenue. In the end, the consumer will determine the model that gives them the best value for their money.

Disruption is the Model

Help-U-Sell is the original disruptor in real estate. We have been disrupting the standard idea of how brokers and Realtors do business for more than 42 years. When we started, most people were doing business the same way they do it today: list the house for a percentage commission, usually between 5 and 7% and put it in MLS. We pioneered the consumer-centric model by going directly to the consumer.  We asked home sellers and buyers, “What did you like about your real estate experience? What did you not like? What would you change?” We based our model around those answers and formed Help-U-Sell Real Estate.

Competition and Changes

Today’s technology supports our original vision of a consumer-centric real estate experience, making the whole real estate purchase and sale process easier than ever. In the past, Realtors held the key for every house on the market and controlled access. Today, consumers use online tools to control their home search. Home sellers can look up a valuation online, or area statistics on crime or school ratings. The role of the Help-U-Sell Broker has shifted over time, but our value proposition is the same: “Full service. Big savings. The experts next door.”

Other companies are currently experimenting with a set-fee. A popular new company just raised their rate from $3,200 to $3,600. As the original real estate disruptor, we are not experimenting, we are experienced. We’ve been doing this for 42 years. As a franchise organization, we offer an opportunity to entrepreneurial Realtors that they can’t get at Purplebricks, Zillow, or Redfin. In those organizations and others, all the offices are corporate owned and the brokers are mere employees. One must wonder how quickly a corporate employee can respond to a situation that arises threatening the successful closing of a transaction. As a locally owned business offering set fee pricing, saving sellers thousands and providing full service, Help-U-Sell is perfectly positioned for today’s changing real estate world.

Flexibility and Potential a Big Draw for Maria Powell

While living in Mexico, Maria Powell was working as an executive in banking but had bigger ideas for her life and career. So Maria emigrated to the United States in 1995, determined to carve out a better life. She wanted to pursue real estate for the flexibility to be more available for her children. “When I was in banking, it was difficult to leave work for emergencies, even if your child broke an arm,” Maria said.

Maria sought a real estate mentor, from whom she would learn everything about the industry: John Powell. In her first year, she closed 16 homes. “I’ve always liked sales,” Maria shared, “but one of the reasons I was attracted to real estate was because it is one of the highest-priced items and most important things a person can buy. Being in business for myself was the best possible move because you can earn as much as you want. There is no limit.”

2018 is turning out to be far busier for Maria because she is returning her focus to her business after having spent a lot of time last year caring for a friend in hospice care. “It was important to give that time and attention, because being present for someone like that is an honor. My team at Help-U-Sell Galleria Realty has done a fine job of holding down the fort for me. I joke that my office manager is my second brain. Last year we closed 35 sides. We’re on track this year for somewhere between 45 and 50. The months of April, May and June were crazy for us, we had a ton of leads coming in,” Maria explained.

Although there are many traditional real estate offices and several set-fee style competitors in the Tucson area, Maria has never had an interest in those business models. “To me, the number one company to work for is Help-U-Sell Real Estate. I’ve never been with another real estate company. The support is tremendous, the name recognition is often what gets me in the door, and the coaching is key,” Maria said.

As a matter of fact, Maria just got involved with coaching this past year. “I needed the accountability because I want to do everything,” she laughed. The coaching helped Maria to pinpoint her talents, and concentrate on her strengths while delegating the big time drains to someone else.

Help-U-Sell is bringing more to the table for Maria. She went on to say, “Help-U-Sell Real Estate is the number one set-fee real estate company in the United States. It’s a huge advantage because the possibilities are as endless as the potential. Much of what I need to get a listing is provided for me. The scripts are polished, the marketing pieces are professional, fresh looking, and easily customizable. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, leaving me time to work with clients.”

Talking about her own real estate career, Maria says, “There’s three big reasons I’m successful. One, the Help-U-Sell name recognition alone gets a lot of play; people call me because they know the name and what we stand for. Two, my own experience and expertise. I’ve sold hundreds of homes in Tucson and know my business. Three, and most importantly, we save consumers a lot of money. Home sellers get excited by the savings and tell all their friends. My past clients do most of my marketing for me!”

A Commitment to Community and Teamwork

When real estate chose Kimberly Zelena, she wasn’t just seeking a career path; she wanted to make it a family enterprise. Her husband, Michael, and Kimberly Zelena, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estatea business partner had put themselves in the thick of real estate in 2001 by purchasing homes for fixing up and reselling, and she wanted to expand on that. “When we looked at opening our own real estate office, we researched Assist-2-Sell and Help-U-Sell Real Estate, and we just liked Help-U-Sell a lot better. I liked the job security real estate had to offer, in addition to a steady income and a real potential for profit. The structure made more sense to us, and what they offered to the owners in terms of support was more appealing,” Kimberly (pictured above) said.

Mike sought his real estate license, Kimberly became the company owner of Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate, and they brought on Leigh Anne Losh (below) as broker. Having come from a title and settlement real estate background, Leigh Anne was also interested in making a career change. Early on she had taken a course on R.E.O. properties so she could focus on foreclosure and short sale business alone, which now constitutes a full 30% of their overall business. Kimberly said, “A lot of people don’t like working foreclosures, it takes a lot of patience, paperwork, and attention to detail. We get a lot of referrals for this because not only does Leigh Anne like handling foreclosures, she has a real knack for it.”

Of the many benefits that Help-U-Sell offers its owners, Kimberly most appreciates the coaching groups, led in part, by Jack Bailey, a 30-year Help-U-Sell Broker/Owner whose name often populates our “Top Producers” list. Kimberly shared, “Jack taught us early on that we should send out Center of Influence cards four to six times a year, and that was well before it was automated. Now that they are automated, it makes a huge difference in keeping us in the forefront of our clients’ minds.”

Another tactic employed by Kimberly’s office is to be 100% about customer service. “We get leads in part because of our great service and our professionalism. Largely, I am all about a quick response. Our staff is on the phone seven days a week until 9:00 p.m.”

Kimberly and her team go out of their way to make clients feel appreciated. For new clients, whether they are buying or selling, she gifts them with homemade fudge for the holidays. She even acquired a food license to keep everything copacetic for the business. This year they switched it up by having a ‘Christmas in July’ at a local park, inviting all 900 people from their Center of Influence list for a cookout. “When thanking people individually, we’re also big on notes and small gifts. We receive a lot of referrals, so I love giving Outback gift cards for the referral,” Kimberly explained.

Being part of a smaller community also has its advantages when it comes to name recognition and building trust. “When people move here, they rarely move away, so people really get familiar with you. Leigh Anne is known for short sales, and has a reputation for being excellent to deal with; but she’s also a presence at local festivals, manning an ‘old fashioned’ soda wagon.  People connect with her. Mike and I do the same the thing with our Lucky Duck Kettle Corn business. Of course it’s fun, but we’ve also been able to establish ourselves in the community another way that people like and remember.”

All of this diligence and hard work is paying off for team Zelena. They closed 116 sides in 2017, and the January to June report for 2018 recently published on the Help-U-Sell Connect blog has Kimberly’s team coming in fourth for the most productive office within the franchise network. Kimberly’s team closed 63 sides, which is a good indicator of closing at least double that amount for the second portion of 2018. “We were a team before teams were popular. We all work well together, and our business model works well. We are a woman-owned, woman-broker company, and every day we’re making great things happen with that commitment to teamwork.”

The Julian Team and the Power of Two

A little over a year ago, Gary Julian wanted to get back into real estate and decided to become a Help-U-Sell Real Estate franchise owner after spending many years previously as an Assist-2-Sell owner. Today, he and his wife, Wendy, run Help-U-Sell Julian Team in Lancaster, CA.

“With my prior business, the brand didn’t have the power to draw people in and the incoming calls trickled. The moment we attached the Help-U-Sell brand to our office name and advertising, we started attracting new people and past Help-U-Sell clients from name recognition alone. We have a client right now in escrow because they found us through the Help-U-Sell office locator online. That’s the power of national brand recognition,” Gary said.

While both franchises have a flat fee structure in common, the comparison ends there for Gary. “When I purchased my other franchise, there was nothing being offered like coaching. It felt like: ‘Here’s your franchise certificate, we’ll talk to you next year.’ Not only is Help-U-Sell the original disruptor, they are bringing so much more to the table. The people in management are a lot more accessible, from general outreach to the coaching groups. Their marketing programs are always expanding and evolving for the better. I love the quick response from the folks in the tech department. They ensure everything is in working order and are on point with troubleshooting,” Gary explained.

There are many behind-the-scenes marketing technology systems in place that simplify daily activities for the Broker/Owners at Help-U-Sell, such as drip email campaigns and the Arounds postcards program. However, what Gary most appreciates are the more public marketing pieces, such as the website, catchy videos to share on social media sites, and powerful national branding efforts. Mr. Julian went on to say, “When it comes to overcoming a tight inventory, the impact of the national branding makes your business so visible that home sellers come looking for you. When I get to conduct a personal visit and make the listing presentation, I get the listing almost every time. When people search you out AND you get the listing, that’s a pretty great combination.”

When it comes to handling competition, Gary is confident about his business stacking up against other local realtors. He said, “When people do the math on the median price of a 6% commission on a home here, it sticks in their throat because they’re likely to spend about $16,800. Our flat fee is $4,400, so saving $12,000 while not sacrificing service is a big deal to people who want to save money. With traditional real estate, brokers and agents have to stalk potential clients in an effort to get their business. My experience with Help-U-Sell is that people go out of their way to find you. It’s a complete 180.”

Most important to Gary is how the Help-U-Sell Real Estate program is exactly the right fit for the “lean and mean” Julian team. Gary Julian shared, “I like the Help-U-Sell concept of a tight team to service clients instead of a large office of dozens of agents. If you’re looking for a way to build up your business without peripheral people who are not making you money, or a giant office full of people that don’t know who you are, then Help-U-Sell is the way to go. It’s a great business to own. I love this company.”

In a League of Her Own: Yasumi Davis

Yasumi Davis, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Golden Homes in Martinez,California, originally came to the United States as a young woman in 1990 to attend graduate school on a Rotary scholarship to complete her MBA. Upon completing her studies, she was planning on returning to her home in Matsumoto, Japan, when she met her future husband, William, leading to her work for a high-tech software company as a project manager. However, without an engineering background, she didn’t think the industry was the right fit for her. In 2003, the high-tech industry was not doing so well either, and in a third round of layoffs at her company, Yasumi found herself without a job.

The year previous, Yasumi and William had purchased their first home together. She paid careful attention to the entire process and thought real estate seemed like a really good fit for her, so she pursued her real estate license. William is an attorney who concentrates on tax and real estate law, so they decided to share an office. “I was a little worried when we first started sharing an office that it might not be a good idea, but we quickly found our work schedules didn’t interfere with one another at all,” Yasumi said. In 2003, after looking around at various options, Yasumi and William purchased a Help-U-Sell franchise.

Last year, Yasumi wanted to take her business to the next level and became involved with the coaching groups at Help-U-Sell Real Estate. “Before I started coaching, I was just by myself figuring out ways to improve and better organize on my own. Since I made it a part of my weekly routine, I feel connected to everyone, and the ideas shared have helped me streamline things I do every day. Also, the motivation is a real boost.”

“In recent years, our housing market has tended toward a higher median price range, usually between $650,000 – $700,000. With the market inventory being tighter this year, it’s getting more common to see million dollar homes,” Yasumi said. “However, if I can get a listing presentation, I’m going to get the business. There may be competitors out there, but I don’t worry too much about them because I’m offering negotiation skills, the experience of having sold a large number of homes, and evidence of the thousands and thousands of dollars I have saved home sellers over time. What I do is get homes sold.”

In fact, Yasumi has been so busy selling homes that she ranked 17th out of 3,800 agents last year in the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. She has an assistant who is helping with the marketing efforts, such as the new updated Automated Arounds postcard program, which makes it easier than ever to set a budget and pinpoint an audience with the right message at the right time. She is also getting ready to train a new transaction coordinator and a buyer’s agent. “I am at maximum capacity in terms of how busy I am, so it’s really time for me to start delegating tasks to other people,” Yasumi shared. “I am trying to eventually set this office infrastructure up so that I can leave it in capable hands to run on my behalf.”

Part of that desire to expand the number of people in the office is so that she can visit her family in Japan more frequently and spend more time focusing on her 11-year-old twins, a daughter and a son. Both children are avid baseball players, and both often play the shortstop position, making the All -Star team. Shortstop is often considered the most hard-working position in baseball, so it came as no surprise to us that Yasumi’s children take after their mom by excelling in the position that requires fast thinking and covering a lot of ground.