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A Commitment to Community and Professionalism: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties

Ramping Up for the Next Generation of Real Estate

For the ownership team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties, it’s all about focused growth—and maintaining a company culture that thrives on performance and professionalism. The company, which reported volume last year of over $1.5 billion, has grown its agent population by nearly one-fourth in the last three years alone, from 650 to more than 800. “Our approach to building the company is to focus on people who can make a full-time commitment to the industry, their customers, and our company,” says Chairman and CEO Bill Keleher. “We excel at helping this type of individual reach the next level of growth both personally and professionally.” In this exclusive interview, Keleher and company President Chris Brown discuss the team’s singular strategy: a collaborative, people-centric culture that inspires ongoing quality, performance and innovation for the next generation of real estate.

Barbara Pronin: Let’s begin with a recap of your individual career paths, and how you got on this present road together.
Bill Keleher:
I grew up in Kansas City, Mo., went to college in Virginia and then came to New Jersey for a month to visit my two best friends in Westfield. When I decided to stay longer, I got a temporary job in a clothing store where I met a couple of young men who were in the real estate business with a local firm. After getting to know them, I made a decision to try real estate, as well, and 48 years later, I’m still in New Jersey and still in the real estate business.

I began in sales in a small office in Westfield, went on to become a manager, sales trainer, regional manager and finally president of the 12-office company that I ultimately purchased. I sold that company in 1986 to Schlott REALTORS® and worked for them until I had the opportunity to purchase Prudential New Jersey Realty from Prudential Real Estate in 1991. In the ’90s, I acquired numerous other small Prudential companies in New Jersey, and in January 2001, I merged the company with Prudential Pioneer (Seymour and Nancy Litwin’s company) and Prudential Brown-Fowler (Chris Brown’s company), forming Prudential New Jersey Properties. Steve Janett joined our ownership team in November 2006 when we acquired his company, Prudential Janett Real Estate.

Chris Brown: I, on the other hand, grew up in real estate, but swore I’d never get into this hectic business because I saw my dad always running out to his next appointment. So, in 1980, I graduated with a business and forestry degree from the University of Vermont and went to work for the Aspen Ski Corporation in Colorado. Returning to New Jersey that summer, but on my way to Norway to pursue a relationship with Brit, a girl I had met there during my junior year of college, my father convinced me to get my real estate license. I actually did, and soon after, sold my first house for $350,000, making more in that one transaction than I had made the entire year living in Aspen. Not a bad start in 1983, and it convinced me to stay East and launch my real estate career at my dad’s company, where I sold houses for many years and took on ever-increasing responsibilities. Brit and I married in 1984, and I was appointed manager of our Summit office four years later. I held that position until the untimely death of my father in 1994, when I purchased the company from his estate. In the mid-’90s, Bill, Seymour, Nancy, Steve and I came together to form a successful mortgage joint venture, which gave us the working relationship needed to later form our current company and ownership team.

BP: When and why did you become Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and how does the brand help support your success?
BK:
At the end of 2011, Brookfield Residential Property Services, now BGRS, acquired the Prudential Real Estate Franchise Network and subsequently sold a controlling interest in the network to HomeServices of America. In 2014, we had the opportunity to join the new brand that HomeServices had created, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. It was a natural fit for us to align with the prestigious Warren Buffett brand. It’s unique in the real estate space, one of the most widely recognized and respected brands on earth, and it gave us, among other things, a tremendous opportunity to grow our company through recruitment and acquisitions, and also expand our footprint in the luxury home market.

CB: There’s a distinct energy inherent in the Berkshire Hathaway brand, and it delivers on every level in terms of innovation and support.

BP: How would you describe your positioning in the marketplace today? What is it that sets you apart from the competition?
BK:
We are one of the leading real estate companies in the New Jersey marketplace, the largest independently owned and operated Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices affiliate in the state, and a member of the prestigious Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Circle—and its predecessor, the Prudential Real Estate Gibraltar Circle—since their inception. Our overall closed volume last year was over $1.5 billion. The key to that kind of success, I think, is really what sets us apart: our total commitment to the professionalism of our agents, and their total commitment to excellence.

CB: Communication is a good part of that. We see ourselves as being large enough to provide our people with everything they need to succeed, but small enough so that every voice counts. Our ownership team is never up there in an ivory tower. We’re all accessible, involved in the day-to-day, and we build relationships with each and every agent. We have a caring culture, competitive in the very best sense, and that’s a valued and motivating asset.

BP: How, specifically, have you been able to grow the company as you have?
CB:
It starts with the people we hire. Whether new or experienced, we are only interested in full-time, professional commitment—and because of our reputation as a company of achievers, many new and experienced agents seek us out. We are willing, able and happy to provide personalized training, coaching, and support, but only to those with an unwavering commitment to be the best.

BP: What is it that attracts agents to you, and why do they stay?
BK:
They are attracted, primarily, by our standing in the industry as a whole and our strong presence in the many communities we serve. They know we want and expect the best from our agents, and that we operate in ways that inspire success—and they want to be a part of that. For our part, we try to make very sure that the people we bring on are truly a good fit with our culture.

CB: And they stay with us, basically, because we deliver on our promises. People enjoy and thrive when working with successful colleagues and mentors, where success is celebrated, great training is ongoing, and support is available whenever needed.

BP: What is your approach to coaching and training?
BK:
We’ve been able to augment our own effective training systems with proven Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices strategies—and as president of the company, Chris has stepped up in the area of coaching and training. He hired a vice president of Learning and Development who is building a great curriculum. It’s very personalized and goal-oriented—for example, working with an agent who’s ready to navigate the leap from $5 million in production to $10 million.

CB: And at the branch level, every one of our managers is focused on coaching and training. They are very hands-on, with specific curricula designed for agents at every level of experience. Success is a partnership, and we respect that and encourage it. With our agents, as with our customers, we understand the value of face-to-face. We’re very much into building relationships, making “warm calls,” and maximizing the value of one’s personal sphere of influence.

BP: What’s your strategy for marketing the firm to serve the needs of prospects and clients?
BK:
We have an excellent chief marketing officer who understands our core belief in building customer relationships and doing so in a variety of ways, from social media engagement across many platforms to proprietary market reports to a full luxury marketing system, and more.

CB: Part of our visibility in the community comes from our longstanding commitment to the Sunshine Kids, a national organization devoted to helping children with cancer. We “adopted” the Sunshine Kids years ago as a Prudential franchise and we support them to this day, having raised over $1.5 million from our offices’ local efforts, our annual corporate golf outing and generous donations from the community. Steve Janett, our COO, spearheads our committee and is committed to reaching our annual Sunshine Kids goal by working with and supporting our office liaisons, as well as chairing our annual golf event.

BP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology, online marketing and social media?
BK:
We provide our agents with the cutting-edge tools they need to compete in an aggressive marketplace. We are engaged heavily in digital marketing, and we empower our agents to use our tools as touchpoints to remain top-of-mind with their spheres of influence. We have e-marketing campaigns and automated systems, and tech gurus who keep us on track—but we’re also aware of just how vividly a personal phone call stands out.

CB: It is always a mix of technology and personal touch. Our top four agents last year closed some 200 transactions and did $80 to $100 million in volume—and much of that was accomplished by reaching out and staying in touch in the most traditional ways. Others have embraced our online technologies including our CRM, our back-office business center and our brand’s resource center. We also encourage agents to work with industry thought leaders, such as Brian Buffini and Tom Ferry, who both deliver different messaging and strategies for agent growth.

BP: What’s on track for the future of the firm?
BK:
Our goal is to be sure that every buyer and seller with whom we work has the best possible customer experience, because we know that is the basis for growth. So, we continue to look for the best agents to represent our banner—and we are always open to new opportunities, including strategic acquisitions, that will help expand our statewide footprint.

CB: Changes to our industry and growing demands from today’s sophisticated consumer seem to be coming at a faster and faster pace. It’s a critical balance to achieve—embracing new technologies while honoring what made us successful in the first place: integrity, trust, experience, and an overarching commitment to excellence. Millennials are the future, and there is a sharp focus on understanding what makes them tick—I know, I have two. While having great technology plays an important part in attracting them to our company, treating them with respect and earning their trust is crucial to keeping them engaged. It’s still a people business, after all. That’s why our brand is more important than ever. In this day of new and emerging business models, the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand is a promise of the highest standard, and it compels us to constantly reinvent ourselves in order to remain relevant and valuable to today’s real estate professional and our buyers and sellers.

For more information, please visit www.bhhsnj.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post A Commitment to Community and Professionalism: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties appeared first on RISMedia.

Differentiating With the Team Approach

HomeTeam Inspection Service raises the bar in a competitive industry

For Paul Spires—founder of HomeTeam Inspection Service—the idea to introduce a team of inspectors onsite came from his desire to provide a more thorough home inspection and relieve a common problem he heard about within the real estate industry: the length of time it took to get an inspection.

He created a way to speed up the home inspection process for both real estate professionals and their clients. And, for the last 25 years, HomeTeam has been utilizing this unique team concept to deliver a better client experience.

“Everything we do is centered around the team concept of having multiple people at the inspection and the benefits it brings to the client and their agent,” says HomeTeam President Adam Long.

With a greater percentage of homes being inspected today—a trend that will continue to accelerate—HomeTeam’s steadfast commitment to being fast, trusted and accurate is a true competitive advantage in today’s real estate environment.

“People, especially real estate professionals, don’t have 3-4 hours to spend on a home inspection,” says Mitchell Rothenberg, owner of HomeTeam Inspection Service in Tampa Bay. “Not only does the sophisticated concept developed by HomeTeam cut the amount of time involved in the process, but it also lays the foundation for a better inspection.”

While the home inspection industry has continued to evolve over the years, HomeTeam has never wavered when it comes to elevating the home inspection experience through professionalism and technology—two areas the company has prided itself on from the beginning.

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on professionalism,” says Long, who notes that when Spires started the company 25 years ago, the home inspectors wore ties to be seen as reputable resources to real estate agents and their clients.

Today, with the level of professionalism throughout the industry still fragmented, HomeTeam inspectors dress in HomeTeam-branded attire and arrive in a HomeTeam-branded vehicle. “While standards have changed over the years, HomeTeam understands the importance of professional dress and demeanor in earning a client’s trust,” says Long.

Setting a high level of expectation among today’s consumers, HomeTeam uses technology to streamline each and every component of the inspection process.

Online scheduling has been a critical part of this. Not only can inspections be booked in real-time, but the team approach also makes it easy to book inspections more quickly since the company can get more inspections on the calendar on any given day.

Real estate professionals can use a HomeTeam app on their smartphone to access any reports created in the past. “The app is very sophisticated,” says Rothenberg. “It even gives real estate professionals the ability to view open time slots and schedule an inspection with the click of a button.”

HomeTeam’s future is focused on continuing to integrate new technology as it continues to advance.

“The industry as a whole has improved in the area of technology over the last 25 years, but HomeTeam has always been ahead of the curve,” says Long. “When HomeTeam started out, we used a DOS-based software and reports were printed, bound and delivered to each client. Today, the reports are created using collaborative cloud-based software and are electronically delivered to the agent and the client. Not only do our reports highlight material defects and safety concerns, but they also include a detailed summary, color photos and technology that allows the client to easily access information by hyperlinking within the report to specific items.”

Benefitting the company from both a reporting and technology standpoint, Rothenberg notes that HomeTeam’s inspection reports are another point of differentiation that make the company unique.

“Unlike other inspection companies that use a checklist, our report is written in a narrative style,” says Rothenberg, who explains that the consumer is always welcome at the inspection.

But it doesn’t end there. HomeTeam is constantly looking at what can be done to make the process easier for clients and agents. “Everything is streamlined from a technology standpoint in order to keep up with client expectations and provide a better experience for both the client and real estate professional,” says Long.

Upping the ante when it comes to customer service, the HomeTeam system automatically sends a feedback survey to each client and agent once an inspection has been completed. “We consistently hear from our providers that we have one of the highest net promoter scores they’ve ever seen, and the agent’s and client’s feedback reinforces their positive sentiment about the thoroughness the team concept provides,” says Buddy Stark, director of operations at HomeTeam.

Looking toward the future, HomeTeam will continue to raise the bar and shape the professional landscape of the home inspection industry, delivering a client experience that is second to none. And while the industry continues to adapt and change, there’s a lot to look forward to in the next 25 years—and you can rest assured that the team concept isn’t going anywhere.

For more information, please visit www.hometeam.com.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Differentiating With the Team Approach appeared first on RISMedia.

Home-Buying Challenges: Report Finds Homeownership Delays

Homeownership is considered a challenging stepping stone on the path to the American Dream—a fact that is especially true for many millennial and minority consumers. The fifth annual America at Home survey by non-profit NeighborWorks America found that down payment confusion, credit score misinformation and student loan debt are the major obstacles standing in the way.

Down Payment
Many consumers aren’t aware of the various financing options available to homebuyers, or of the varying down payment requirements. On average, millennials believe the minimum down payment requirement is 21 percent, according to the survey; in reality, down payments can be as low as zero percent for VA loans, or can range from 3 to 5 percent for some Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) also provides loans with low down payment options.

There are various loans that cater to first-time buyers or those who don’t have a large sum of money to put down. The survey reports that 70 percent of adults don’t feel they have enough in savings for a down payment, but this may be attributed to a lack of mortgage industry knowledge. Seventy-three percent of people surveyed and 62 percent of millennial participants were unaware of down payment assistance programs for middle-income buyers.

Consumers should reach out to their local bank to find out if any loan options work for them. Making a few lifestyle changes is also a quick way to amass down payment funds.

Credit Score
The power of credit in the real estate industry is widely misunderstood among consumers. While the mortgage-qualifying rate is around the 620 range, homebuyers believe it is much higher. Twenty-one percent of non-white survey participants believe credit is their biggest home-buying challenge. The median FICO score is 700, and thus many consumers may be incorrectly assuming that their credit score is too low.

The only way to know for sure is to find out what their credit score is. Plenty of credit card companies provide free credit report monitoring, or consumers can look up their score on one of the three top credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian or Equifax. If consumers’ credit is, in fact, too low for lenders, they can improve their score in a variety of ways.

Student Loan Debt
High monthly payments incurred from student loan debt are largely to blame for the millennial generation’s delayed entrance into home-buying. The survey reports that 26 percent of American adults and half of all millennials have student loan debt.

Not only is this debt making saving for a down payment impossible, but it can prevent buyers from being able to afford monthly mortgage payments—or, if they can afford them, living paycheck to paycheck can become a startling reality. NeighborWorks America reports that half of millennials are constantly worried about their student loans. While some programs can help deal with the debt, consumers may not be aware that the assistance exists. Seventy percent of the surveyed millennials did not know about these organizations.

View the entire NeighborWorks America report.

Source: NeighborWorks America

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her you real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Home-Buying Challenges: Report Finds Homeownership Delays appeared first on RISMedia.

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John Becker / Bald Head
Bald Head Realty

33 Pine Lane
Franklin, NC 28734

Phone: (828) 506-3719 Mobile
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Macon County NC Real Estate with Specialty in Franklin & Otto
"Offering Solutions to My Clients"
Your gateway to Paradise in the Smokey Mountains of Franklin, NC.
John Becker / Bald Head, provides a superior level of informed, professional real estate service to Buyers and Sellers.

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January 4th, 2013 Our first real estate dealing with John Becker (aka Baldhead) was when selling our primary residence in Franklin, NC as he was the agent representing the buyers. Not only did he present a successful contract but the offer exceeded our asking price! Since we were so impressed with his process expertise, responsiveness, and negotiation skills, in 2012 we listed and sold our second home with him. John doesn't just wait around for the "right" buyer to walk in the office he aggressively pursues perspective buyers through professional contacts, extensive Internet exposure, and local advertising. The video John produced of our home was HGTV worthy and initiated immediate interest. Just a few weeks after listing John presented us with an acceptable offer and handled all the details of the process through closing. We were very impressed with his support and communication and would highly recommend his services. If you are truly serious about buying or selling a home in this area you need a full time professional agent with local knowledge, and John Becker is by far the best choice. Graydon & Susan Smith
Sep 10, 2011 John Becker was fantastic as our realtor. He helped us look at houses for over 2 years before we finally found the house we wanted and helped us navigate the short sale and foreclosure process perfectly. At all times he was professional, honest, and responsive. Thank you John and we look forward to having you as our realtor in the future. Thanks Chip & Mary Ann Godwin Chip & Mary Ann Godwin
Wendell & Karen ‎ - Sep 4, 2011 One Saturday on a whim I told my wife I was going to talk to John “Bald Head The Realtor” about some property I come across. After a short conversation with John he had formulated a plan. I was amazed that in less than a week we were on the fast track to owning the property. During the course of the negotiations John helped us overcome many potential obstacles to owning our first property in beautiful Franklin, NC. He always responded quickly to our questions. I soon became aware that this was a man I could trust - a rare find. My wife and I will always be grateful to John for helping us realize our dream of owning our own piece of this majestic land. Wendell and Karen, Franklin, NC Wendell & Karen
Kathryn P ‎ - Sep 28, 2011 Thanks so much John for being you as you are SUPER! My Dad and I were blessed that you were the listing agent on the home we first looked at as that led us to you. And you made our whole experience one that was so darn easy and pleasant. Working with you through the whole experience of looking at both homes was a total delight. Not only do you listen, you make the rather grueling process of home shopping to be fun. Thanks so much for your good humor and grace under pressure. Your smile alone made the paper signing go faster. You surround yourself with great people, too. From your assistant to your real estate attorney...all top notch and the nicest of folks to work with in the home buying process. I know I will certainly be recommending you to others and if I ever have to do this again.....you will be the first person I call. Kathryn Kathryn Pickens
Aug 22, 2011 "We have to admit that all of this "Bald Head" business seemed a bit much at first, but it took very little time with him to come to the realization that John "Bald Head" Becker is a very serious and effective real estate broker who in our experience and opinion is simply the best. Not only did "Bald Head" give us focused attention, maintained very active and prompt communications with us but also went way beyond our expectations in anticipating and filling practical needs. We would use him again in a heartbeat and only lament that we cannot also employ him to sell our house in Raleigh. We highly recommend "Bald Head The Realtor" to you and without reservation." Bill & Pam Peterson
Hey John, What a job you did! Listed in June and sold in August, in this economy ! Thanks for all the follow up work getting it closed in such a short time. Thanks again, James and Barbara Frank Aug. 13th 2011 Jim & Barbara Frank
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