Kimberly Zelena’s key piece of advice for all agents and brokers is “answer your phone.” She says this simple tactic has secured her office, Direct Savings Real Estate, four clients from other agencies in the past two weeks. “We have our phones 24/7. We don’t use an answering service or a machine,” she says.
Zelena’s tip may be basic, but her franchise office isn’t. Based in Waynesboro, Va., Direct Savings Real Estate doesn’t have the traditional broker/owner setup. Owner Zelena handles the marketing and the bookkeeping, along with Cathy Fields. Zelena’s husband, Mike, is the listing agent, and Leigh Anne Losh is the buyer’s agent. “Our office works as a team, I would not have it any other way,” Zelena says.
The franchise has existed since 2005; Zelena joined the office in 2007 with no real estate background. Back then, people suggested to the office that it close its doors because Help-U-Sell would never survive. Thanks to all the unlimited free training, the support of Help-U-Sell Corporate and their dedicated staff, Zelena says, “We are strong and moving forward.”
She values the training offered by Help-U-Sell, including her coaching calls with fellow franchisee Jack Bailey and the other franchisees. “Coaching calls are very important,” Zelena says. “I learn something new each week.”
Losh agrees. “Without all the free education and weekly trainings offered by Help-U-Sell corporate’s office, I would have never made my goal of being the office’s principal broker in just three years!,” she says.
Zelena and Losh plan to take advantage of ProCoach-U, Help-U-Sell’s online university, when it’s completed early next year. “In my opinion, all agents need to go through university before they open their offices,” she says.
Losh’s goal is to buy the office one day. With her background in title work, she had the foresight that the REO market would be big in the area that the office serves. “She got into BPOs and REO companies,” says Zelena.“That saved us.”
She says prices have stabilized but REOs still represent the best opportunities. One of the office’s goals is to increase the number of REO companies they work with. Direct Savings also wants to increase business by 25 percent and increase sales of equity homes in 2012. The office has closed 30 sides so far this year. The biggest challenges are financing and decent offers. They also want to work on educating sellers to realistically price their homes to get ahead of the market.
While these goals are vital to her business’ success for next year, Zelena’s sights are set on a closer goal of raising enough money to pay for 4,000 meals for the hungry. Combining a hobby, favorite charities and her Help-U-Sell office, her Candles 4 Canned Goods fundraiser will benefit a local food bank and an animal charity. “I was trying to find something that the office can do to donate money back to the community,” says Zelena. “My mother received a set of candles as a gift, and I thought ‘Candles 4 Canned Goods’ is a great way for our office to give back.”
She and her mother make the beeswax candles and sell them for $6 a pair. One-hundred percent of the purchase price goes toward purchasing canned goods for humans and pets. The $6 price of a pair of candles will purchase 24 meals. She needs to sell about 167 pairs of candles to buy 4,000 meals, and she is more than halfway there. Zelena is spreading the word of the fundraiser through local events and is sending out candles to her clients with a letter of explanation about the project.
Through their prompt communication and charitable work, Direct Savings Real Estate truly serves the community. How does your office give back?