Top Cat Creative Services

Building the Foundation for One-Stop Shopping
by Daniel T. Forsman

As consumers get increasingly busy and the real estate industry becomes more competitive, one-stop shopping is becoming a natural extension to the list of traditional real estate services offered today. As the home-buying and selling public becomes more Internet savvy and begins to perform much of the legwork of finding a home themselves, they are demanding a higher level of service and accountability in other areas.

Today’s successful Realtor must be a master communicator, negotiator, mediator, and area expert. It is expected that one’s Realtor should have all the answers, whether it is successfully negotiating a difficult contract, securing a mortgage, home repairs, installing a home security system, or hiring a reputable mover. To meet these expectations, many real estate companies are broadening their menu of services and forming alliances or partnerships with outside companies.

So how will your company find a way to deliver bundled services to consumers that will both raise the bar from your agents’ standpoints and the competitors in your field? By beginning with the end in mind. What are the services most important to your clients? Will each of these services be appreciated and used by your agents and their customers?

Next, evaluate the companies in a given field. When Prudential Atlanta/Georgia Realty saw the need to form a strategic alliance with a mortgage company two years ago, we reviewed the performance and reputation of many organizations. We selected HomeBanc for two important reasons. First, HomeBanc has a customer service guarantee in which it will refund a dissatisfied customer’s application fee. And second, this lender has been #1 in the competitive metro Atlanta market since 1992.

For a real estate company to affiliate with an outside company, it has to be a comfortable fit The potential alliance partner must have the same core values as your organization and a clear commitment to customer service. Cultural compatibility with both your organization and your existing customer base is also an important factor. It is also important to consider whether the company you partner with can handle the increased business volume.

“When Realtors, mortgage bankers and other service providers in the real estate transaction team up, share a location or otherwise create one-stop partnerships, that creates numerous opportunities to efficiently cross-sell services among partners,” explained Patrick Flood, Chariman and CEO of HomeBanc. “The real estate transaction can be complex for the average homebuyer—it’s not something they do every day. So, if the customer trusts, say, the real estate office’s brand name, some of that trust will accrue to other members of the partnership as the customer thinks ‘I trust this brokerage, I feel I can trust the companies this brokerage partnered with.’ ”

When an effective title partner to help create Prestige Title, LLC needed to be found, Prudential Atlanta/Georgia Realty aligned itself with one of the city’s largest and most respected law firms, McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols & Clark, LLC. From our research, it was clear their nine closing locations could handle our 8,000 transactions a year. McCalla, Raymer had also entered into similar title partnerships with two privately held real estate companies in metro Atlanta, Harry Norman, Realtors and Jenny Pruitt & Associates, so they had the experience to form and maintain a relationship with us.

“Providing clients with ‘one-stop shopping’ services including the purchase or sale of a home, title insurance, mortgage, and homeowner’s insurance in one familiar setting benefits everyone,” said Jenny Pruitt, president of Jenny Pruitt & Associates, REALTORS. “The real estate industry must continue to provide these kinds of loyalty-building services in order to gain trust and repeat business from our valuable clients.”

According to the 2002 Real Estate Study conducted and published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, homebuyers are happy with their real estate transactions. An impressive 86 percent rated their transaction and their agent-broker as good to excellent. Viewing myself as an agent-centered broker trying to drive value-added service to the consumer, my goal is to move that number into the nineties.

To accomplish this, a look at where real estate is headed and a desire to keep my company in the forefront of these developments has resulted in numerous strategic alliances. These business arrangements offer today’s consumer access to everything needed for a successful real estate transaction---with a single phone call or e-mail. For instance, as it becomes increasingly common to own a home security system and new construction is often being built prewired to have a security system, this is another area where a partnership was needed. An alliance with ADT Security Services, a worldwide company with more than 100 years’ experience, was born as a result.

Home repairs and improvements both before and immediately after the sale are often another cause of stress and concern for homeowners. Prudential Atlanta/Georgia Realty got ahead of what promises to be a future trend by forming an exclusive alliance with a local home services company called Resale-ability, Inc. In addition to offering the services of Personal Home Coordinators to evaluate and get a home ready to be listed, Resale-ability also helps the homeowner make such selections as carpet, paint, and countertops, in the privacy of their own home and arranges for all work bids and installation. Most work is completed within 10 business days without the typical headaches a consumer experiences with finding and hiring a contractor.

Forming alliances or partnerships to offer clients additional services is not enough. These relationships must be constantly maintained, developed, and improved. Our solution is to hold a monthly meeting in which all our alliance partners—HomeBanc, McCalla, Raymer, Resale-ability, ADT Security Services, American Home Shield Warranty, and Georgia Realty Insurance Services—attend and participate.

We openly discuss how to enhance customer service and capture more business with the alliance. We also deal with any setbacks that may have developed in the last month. There is an incredible synergy in the group. Each alliance partner sees firsthand that we take this partnership seriously. Companies also have the opportunity to learn from each other in how to deal with challenges.

Flood cautioned, “Members of a partnership should never take their eye off the prime reason for the partnership—to make the real estate transaction more efficient and satisfactory for the customer. At the end of the day, if the customer is not satisfied with the transaction, it won’t matter how you structure the partnership—those customers will take their business elsewhere and tell their friends and family to do the same.”

The above examples are just a few of the areas to consider when endeavoring to build a more full service organization. Some companies have gone as far as to offer concierge services for their customers. Other areas will develop in the future. In addition to making your company more marketable to the home-buying public, your alliances will drive a percentage of cross sales in the process, helping your bottom line. A reasonable expectation is 15-20 percent at the end of the first year, 20-25 percent after two years, and 25-30 percent within three years.

Why not be the company starting or leading a new trend in your region of the country? The end goal is to make it easier for your clients to conduct one of the biggest and most overwhelming transactions of their lives. Why not turn these clients into raving fans in the process of improving your bottom line?

Dan Forsman is president and CEO of Prudential Atlanta/Georgia Realty, ranked as one of the nation’s 50 largest real estate brokers. He is the 2003 president of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, one of the largest real estate boards in the country. Prudential Atlanta/Georgia Realty has entered into numerous alliances to be more full service to its customers, including HomeBanc, ADT Technologies, Resale-ability, Inc., Georgia Realty Insurance Services, Prestige Title, LLC, and American Home Shield Warranty. He can be reached at