Ahead of the Curve

Not quite a year ago, Jeff Hedberg of Help-U-Sell Real Estate Masters opened his office in Port Huron, Michigan, but he did so with decades of real estate experience before opting for the set-fee business model Help-U-Sell created. Jeff chose real estate early, he was only 21 years old. “I won a sales contest in college, in a class that was taught by a broker, and the door to real estate opened for me,” Jeff remembered.

In 2013, it was time for reinvention. “I had the largest office in St. Clair County, and at one point I had 40 full-time agents. I loved working in this area, but I wanted to live in Florida. So my family moved and got settled, while I planned on setting up a real estate office there. The call of family brought us back to Michigan sooner than anticipated. I sold my previous business to a competitor, and had to wait out a non-compete clause,” he said.  

This time around, Jeff wanted to do real estate in a different way. He continued, “I think the industry has been broken for a while and brokers have gotten away with overcharging people for a long time. I started checking into Help-U-Sell, partially because I wanted the brand recognition and I liked the model, and didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Once situated, we just started with word of mouth publicity.”

An important element of success for Jeff is having associates with the same commitment to serving clients. He added, “They share that sense of loyalty and drive to do right by our clients. Whenever I meet with a potential new agent, I ask, ‘Do you believe you are worth 6%? Do you believe the industry is going to change?’ I have three agents with me, two of whom are experienced, and one is just starting out. I don’t do co-listings; I currently have 21 listings myself, with many more in the pipeline. At a minimum, I’m anticipating 50 units for the year, and I will achieve that. I am currently number two in closed units in my county and number five in overall sales and listing volume.”

While pricing and inventory are common obstacles in many markets, Port Huron is more nuanced. Jeff explained, “The challenge for us is that Port Huron is a 180-degree market. There is a river here that separates the United States from Canada. The median house price is $175,000 but it can commonly be as modest as $118,000, when compared to prices in Venice, Florida, where I just moved back from; Houses there average about $280,000. We see a lot of first-time buyers. I’ve already saved people over $128,000 in commissions in my first seven months. I am confident we can capture 30% market share in three to five years.”

Building a business takes time, but Jeff is confident sellers will catch on quickly. “I’m not short-term focused. I have not yet captured the volume I know I’m capable of achieving. When my business was here originally, I had 33% of the market share and closed $110 million in volume. After the economy crashed, the business model changed and there was a definite shift in expectations from the consumer standpoint. Home sellers wanted full service brokers at a reasonable rate. Consumers are putting pressure on the 5-6% model, and this is a fair way to do it. It’s hard to argue with that,” he stated. 

“What I like right now is knowing I am ahead of the curve, and that I will be competitive in advance of other brokers in this area. They are fighting the change. I’m here now and the race will be won in two or three years. Not offering a low set-fee is greedy and short-sighted. We can easily give people what they want once we have their attention.”

To get that consumer attention, Jeff has changed his old marketing practices also. He continued, “There was a time when I was paying for five full pages of newspaper advertising every week, but now I’m taking a different approach. I often use the ‘just listed’ and ‘just sold’ postcards from Excel printing. I made a heavy investment in signage, and it’s worth it because people tell me they see my signs everywhere. Client testimonials drive traffic back to my website and create a lot of viewings. I am also fond of the ‘good, better, best’ brochure. Nothing quite illustrates our offering as succinctly as that.”

Part of great marketing is having the presentation down. “I have perfected my elevator pitch, and have developed several tailored versions which shows the traditional fees, and people saving two or three times the amount using our services versus a competitor. When I am in front of a client, I don’t lose the listing. Sometimes home sellers will get guilted into using a friend or family member who dabbles in real estate part-time. The question I always ask those folks is ‘If this person is a friend, why are they not charging you a friendly fee?’ The savvy seller wants to save money,” he said. 

Subject to many influences, real estate can sometimes be a precarious industry, which Jeff anticipates. He said, “There are always highs and lows. When times are tough, I do what I’ve always done and more. I pray, and make it a point to give more than I take. To the victor goes the spoils.”

July Top Producers

After many months of seeing very familiar faces grace our monthly Top Producers list, July has proven to be a surprising scorcher! We present to you….a shake up!

Debra Schmidt and her team at Help-U-Sell Heritage Real Estate in Owatonna, Minnesota did it! They closed 18 sides and ascended to first place.  Her office has been making strides throughout the year, often popping up on this list but this is the first time in 2019 that Debra’s office is winner-take-all. Congratulations!

The ever-industrious Jack Bailey comes in second place with 14 total sides thanks to the help of hard work and his team at Help-U-Sell Greensboro in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Karen Detwiler of Help-U-Sell Detwiler Realty in Carlisle Pennsylvania, nabs a “dual” third place with her busy team of six, closing 12 sides. 

Kimberly Zelena, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate

Also sharing third place with 12 sides is Kimberly Zelena and her team of four at Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate in Waynesboro, Virginia. 

There are no fewer than four ties in this edition of Top Producers, bringing another round of evidence to the fact that the Help-U-Sell Real Estate model can still bring disruption to the industry, attract sellers, and make for a successful business to own.

OfficeBuyerSellerTotal
Help-U-Sell
Heritage
Real Estate
61218
Help-U-Sell
Greensboro
7714
Help-U-Sell
Detwiler Realty
5712
Help-U-Sell
Direct Savings
Real Estate
6612
Help-U-Sell
Metropolitan
1910
Help-U-Sell
Prestige
Properties
3710
Help-U-Sell
Edmond/OKC
459
Help-U-Sell
Mike Bowling
459
Help-U-Sell
Peoples
Real Estate
369
Help-U-Sell
San Antonio
Hill Country
279
Help-U-Sell
Options
Unlimited
448
Help-U-Sell
Select Real
Estate
358
Richard Cricchio

Moving on to our Gross Sales Volume report, we find Richard Criccio of Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties continuing to secure the top spot with $7.1 million in sales for the month of July. Must be the neighbor island volcano making real estate so hot there.

A strong second place goes to Patrick Wood of Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties in Chino Hills, California. His team closed $5.5 million in sales. 

Breaking into the top three this month Is Yasumi Davis of  Help-U-Sell Golden Homes in Martinez, California. She closed $4.3 million in sales.

What is especially noteworthy: a cursory glance at our previous editions of the Top Producers list shows clearly that smaller offices can do just as well as larger offices in terms of achieving both number of sides and gross sales volume, as evidenced by the steady presence and climb of some broker/owners to the higher echelons of this list in just 2019 alone. 


Office Name

Amount
Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties$7,198,000.00
Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties$5,546,800.00
Help-U-Sell Golden Homes$4,393,500.00
Help-U-Sell South
Santa Clara County
$3,293,000.00
Help-U-Sell Greensboro$2,912,940.00
Help-U-Sell Detwiler Realty$2,690,500.00
Help-U-Sell Heritage Real Estate$2,671,100.00
Help-U-Sell Wright Realtors$2,600,000.00
Help-U-Sell Select Real Estate$2,410,400.00
Help-U-Sell San Antonio
Hill Country
$2,335,489.00

Top Producers Q2 2019

The second quarter of our Top Producers list features folks we were expecting and a few that we were not. 

Unsurprisingly, Mario Ferrante of Help-U-Sell Metropolitan in Woodhaven, Michigan, remains in the top spot as he has been since the beginning of 2019. With a staggering 78 total sides, we can speculate safely that whatever methods Mario is employing are working extremely well.

What we were not expecting is the fairly close  competition between Jack Bailey’s Help-U-Sell Greensboro in North Carolina, and Marc Dosik of Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty in Washington DC. It’s hard to imagine two more diverse markets, and yet there are only 5 sides difference, which shows the difference the Help-U-Sell model creates. 

Kimberly Zelena, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate

We’re pleased to see Kimberly Zelena’s team here, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings in Waynesboro, VA secures fourth place with 34 sides.

OfficeBuyerSellerTotal
Help-U-Sell
Metropolitan
403878
Help-U-Sell
Greensboro
202444
Help-U-Sell
Federal City
Realty
192039
Help-U-Sell
Direct Savings
Real Estate
142034
Help-U-Sell
Honolulu
Properties
141731
Help-U-Sell
Heritage Real Estate
101323
Help-U-Sell
Mike Bowling
121123
Help-U-Sell
Select
Real Estate
91322
Help-U-Sell
Central
Properties
111021
Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty10919
Richard Cricchio

Over here on the Gross Sales Volume list, Richard Cricchio of Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties dominates the top of the second quarter with $15 million in sales.

Marc Dosik of Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty in Washington, DC, makes it hard not to notice him when he is always showing up on both of our Top Producers lists. He closes here with $13.9 million in sales. Considering his 39 sides for the quarter, he has had a great three months. 

David Bartels of Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty in Westlake Village, CA, secures third place with $13.2 million in sales. 

The second quarter of 2019 clearly connotes that people were selling and buying houses, and Help-U-Sell was there to provide the expertise to make the sales and savings happen.

OfficeTotal
Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties$15,308,000
Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty$13,904,079
Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty$13,201,500
Help-U-Sell Greensboro$9,297,533
Help-U-Sell Metropolitan$7,518,604
Help-U-Sell Central Properties$6,980,982
Help-U-Sell 951 Realty$6,456,900
Help-U-Sell Select Real Estate$6,378,100
Help-U-Sell Direct
Savings Real Estate
$6,100,849
Help-U-Sell Legacy$5,757,410

June 2019 Top Producers

June was hot! Not just for temperatures, but also for home sales. Welcome to the first summer edition of Top Producers.

Mario Ferrante at Help-U-Sell Metropolitan in Woodhaven, MI, leads again this month. His team has clocked in with a total of 25 sides. He is literally setting bar for this organization in terms of success by sheer volume.

Help-U-Sell Heritage Real Estate's Debra Schmidt

Coming in at a close second is Debra Schmidt of Help-U-Sell Heritage Real Estate in Owatonna, MN. With just herself, her agent Duane Ringhofer, and a team of two administrative assistants, Debra’s office has been steadily climbing ranks here all year. We are impressed with the tenacity and progress.

Marc Dosik and his team at Help-U-Sell Federal City in Washington, D.C., brings in an impressive 17 sides.

This wouldn’t be a typical Top Producers report if there were not some neck-and-neck ties to speak of, and this month there are three.

Jack Bailey of Help-U-Sell Greensboro and David Bartels at Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate both come in fourth place with 16 total sides each.

These ties make the top ten untidy, but the competition is fun. 

Office NameBuyerSellerTotal
Help-U-Sell
Metropolitan
91625
Help-U-Sell
Heritage Real
Estate
101222
Help-U-Sell
Federal City
Realty
8917
Help-U-Sell
Direct Savings
Real Estate
51116
Help-U-Sell
Greensboro
51116
Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty6713
Help-U-Sell
Prestige
Properties
2810
Help-U-Sell
Detwiler Realty
369
Help-U-Sell
Select Real
Estate
189
Help-U-Sell 951 Realty257
Help-U-Sell
Central
Properties
167

Over here in the Gross Sales Volume portion of our report, big changes have occurred!

David Bartels, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty

David Bartels of Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty in Westlake Village, CA, has nabbed first place by a rather wide margin of 9.7 million in sales. 

Marc Dosik at Help-U-Sell Federal City in Washington, D.C., does a double turn in our top three list here, as well as above, with $6.2 million. 

Patrick Wood at Prestige Properties in Chino Hills, CA, continues to stay the strong course he’s been setting all year, coming in at $3.5 million.

A round of applause to everyone on a serious start to summer! 

Office NameAmount
Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty$9,732,500.00
Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty $6,205,501.00
Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties$3,557,000.00
Help-U-Sell Greensboro $3,514,300.00
Help-U-Sell Heritage Real Estate$3,101,900.00
Help-U-Sell Direct Savings
Real Estate 
$2,923,800.00
Help-U-Sell 951 Realty$2,895,000.00
Help-U-Sell Metropolitan $2,427,011.00
Help-U-Sell Central Properties $2,396,250.00
Help-U-Sell Select Real Estate $2,335,100.00

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.”