The Right Choice for Julian Team

Before Gary Julian decided to get his real estate license in 1990, he spent a number of years in service-related industries such as banking and retail management. His wife, Wendy, got her license in 1998. “What you learn from public-facing work experiences like mine is how to play well with others. It also prepared me for having my own business in areas like payroll and supervision. I flourished in those jobs, but I’ve always loved the idea of being self-employed; It means I have 100% accountability,” Gary said.

Gary spent the first portion of his real estate career with a traditional brokerage. “I can tell you from first-hand experience, it’s a completely different mindset. There is no support. You are 100% on your own. In 2002, I moved from the traditional brokerage to a flat fee brokerage. Like many others during that time, that business went belly-up in 2007. I became an independent broker and offered a flat fee to my clients. After three years, I started researching possible franchise business options and decided to open my own Help-U-Sell Real Estate office,” he shared.

When asked why he chose Help-U-Sell over other franchises, Gary said, “Starting a business from scratch is no easy task. It helps tremendously going into one by having a brand name with a great, nationwide reputation. As an independent, the incoming calls coming were a bit tepid. When I ran ads as an independent, I wouldn’t get much traction. Suddenly, I add the Help-U-Sell logo, with language like ‘low set-fee’ and ‘save thousands’ and the visibility goes way up and the phone rings more.”

He added, “When you’re independent it’s hard to get noticed by anyone. I’ve gone door-to-door to bring attention to our business. With a national franchise, we have offices from coast to coast, an especially strong local presence, and an exceptionally large presence in the state of California as a whole. People started listing with us. We’ve got full service at a reasonable fee structure, and we don’t overcharge. People respond well to brand names; It gives them a degree of comfort. After opening our shop, we immediately had two sales come in from folks familiar with the name. We knew immediately we made the right decision.”

Most folks in real estate remember the traditional means of advertising was once primarily newspapers, but of course much has changed when it comes to marketing. “We found newspaper ads were not faring as well in our market as they once had, when compared to our internet marketing efforts. Figuring out your advertising spend takes time and nuance. The trick is getting people to know that we’re here. With the brand name, the logo, and a lot of signage, we’re finding there are a lot of ways to help people find us.”

Some of the Help-U-Sell in-house technology for marketing is also in use. “We do greeting cards three times a year: New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, and 4th of July. We use the ‘sold and saved’ postcards, too. Next, we’re planning on making videos for social media. As we upgrade our technology presence, we upgrade our community visibility in general. One of my recent Facebook advertisements highlights a seller savings of $45,850 in commissions. We find those get a lot of positive attention. Oftentimes, we have a tendency to overthink a lot of things and really it just comes down to figuring out who wants your service,” Gary explained.

Having spent nearly 30 years in the industry, Gary has learned to weather the tumultuous tides of the changing housing market with ease. “I never looked at this venture as just a paycheck. I ignore the commissions, because I know they’re going to kick in. We get referrals from people who trust us, because we did right by them. That’s a return on advertising you can’t buy, only earn. I recently closed two sales that were entirely internet-related. Someone else found us from the national Help-U-Sell website and zeroed in on our office. I get affirmation that I made the right choice constantly,” Gary added.

Goals for 2019 will have Gary and Wendy doubling the number of sides they closed last year. Situated in a rare lower market for Southern California, the median range of homes is $290,000, which attracts a greater volume of buyers. Gary added, “The inventory has exploded, increasing 33% more than what it was at this time last year. Pending sales are down 5%. Overall, the population has exploded for California, so it’s an exciting time for us.”

Reflecting on their time together, Gary says, “Between the two of us, we have over 50 years of experience! We are doing well as a family business. We celebrate robust times, and in tougher times, we just put our heads together and move forward. There’s always going to be people with this need and you just need let them know you’re there.”

Building Her Brand and Great Reputation

Meena Gujral

After completing her college studies in India, Meena Gujral met and married her husband, a resident of the United States, and emigrated with him to begin the next phase of her life. She worked in hotel sales, but felt a pull towards real estate in 1986.

“I got my real estate license the same year my son was born. It was clear early on that I wanted a career that would enable me to spend more time with him. Of course, what I did not realize at the time, is that real estate can be a 24-hour business. You work on weekends and in the evenings, but you can create your schedule around the needs of a family. Aside from the flexibility, one of the things that attracted me to real estate was the concept of home ownership. Helping people move into new homes and sharing in their excited feelings when they achieve that is very satisfying. You get to share in their happiness,” Meena said.

Meena’s Office, Help-U-Sell Achievers Realty in Pleasanton, California, cropped up in our year-end list of Top Producers for 2018, which highlights brokers that have the strongest sales numbers. Meena attributes her strong end-of-year close in part to being very social, with a strong push towards marketing herself. “I participate in a lot of networking groups around my city. There are a lot of social groups in my neighborhood, and I’ve built a good reputation doing short sale transactions. I also regularly publicize the amount of money I save clients on home transactions,” she added. Meena’s husband, Jasbir, is also a broker and involved with the business, primarily functioning as a mortgage broker.

Plans for 2019 have Meena doubling what she did in 2018. “I’m really looking forward to what we achieve this year. I started January with three listings out of the gate, and I am working actively with two buyers. I’ve got a great focus on my goals,” she said.

Pleasanton, California is in the Bay Area, just outside of San Francisco. “The market here is always high, with the median price of houses around $800,000. The downside of that means home sales can move a little slower because there is a smaller margin of people able to buy in that price range. It’s always interesting to watch how a house is received by potential buyers. One of my recent listings was priced similarly to a neighboring house that had a lot of expensive renovations. I had concerns my listing wouldn’t be as well received, but buyers raved about it and it ended up selling quickly,” Meena explained. “The Bay Area has always experienced a tight inventory in the housing market.”

When it comes to branding and reputation, Meena finds just the name Help-U-Sell is a benefit. She shared, “People call the office because they know someone who used Help-U-Sell and were extremely happy with the results. Other people call because they are curious to find out what we’re about. Once we explain, they generally want to list with us. With the market always being so high here, people love the fact that we save them money. When I point out some other differences between myself versus the offerings of a traditional brokerage, I let them know they’re getting the best marketing and same exposure on the MLS. I tell them exactly what is going to happen, and they are impressed.”

Social media has shifted a lot of the home buying and selling experience, and Meena has adjusted her practices accordingly. Meena shared, “Some things change and others stay consistent. I do a lot of marketing on social media, with a heavy emphasis on Facebook, as well as generous use of Instagram, Pinterest, Google My Business, and LinkedIn. My shift in strategy has resulted in my listings on social media getting 150% more views over my competition. That’s positive and different. What stays the same is people see they are saving money. They are gaining the expertise of a person with longevity in the business. They see your marketing plan and understand they are not going to be missing out anything.”

The in-house marketing that is a hallmark of the Help-U-Sell Real Estate system is something that Meena finds useful in creating awareness for her company. She said, “The marketing system that is a part of the single sign-on platform is very easy to use. I create many of my postcards in there, and it’s easy to customize. Social media, in combination with the more traditional methods of marketing like signage, have been keeping me at the right level of exposure. When people call us, I hear ‘we see your signs all over the place’. This goes for outside my typical market, too. When I meet new people, I often hear they have already heard my name. I know I’m doing well as I continue to build my reputation.”

Moving into the new year, Meena is pleased. “Working with my husband is a huge asset. With his expertise in mortgage lending, he is able to quickly share information to make buyers feel comfortable with the lending process. With the two of us working together, it makes it feel like a one-stop shop. I really love the situation I’ve created,” Meena said. Which is a fantastic goal to achieve in anyone’s book.

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.”