Grow Houses No Problem for REALTORS® to Sell

Nov 7, 2018 by

There are burgeoning housing implications of the legalization of marijuana, from demand for dispensaries to an influence on property values, according to a new report.

According to approximately 10 percent of REALTORS®, in areas where there’s a dispensary, homes have increased in value, a National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey uncovered. More than 75 percent of REALTORS®, however, have not seen any shift in values, and 12-14 percent have seen a decline.

On the commercial side, the impact of the legalization of marijuana seems to be significant. According to the survey, close to 25 percent of commercial REALTORS® have seen a boost near growing land, and 20 percent have seen an increase on properties in proximity to a dispensary.

“Members in states where marijuana has been legalized to some extent have been asking us to conduct this kind of research because it is directly affecting their business,” said Jessica Lautz, director of Behavioral and Demographic Trends at NAR, during the 2018 REALTORS® Conference & Expo, where the findings were shared.

“Whether it is influencing property values, the number of all-cash purchases or demand for various types of commercial properties, it is clear that this billion-dollar industry is making an impact,” Lautz said.

Importantly, agents with grow house listings have had no problem selling them, according to the survey—both where marijuana has been legalized for medical purposes, and where it has been legalized for medical and recreational use. Of those REALTORS®, 90 percent had no issues with the title.

Still, there’s stigma.

“While less than 10 percent of members indicated there is an increase in actual crime around dispensaries, 16-18 percent indicated that there is an increase in the perception of crime,” said Lautz.

Continuing coverage of the REALTORS® Conference & Expo to come.

For more information, please visit

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate JF Finnegan REALTORS®: Advancing a Legacy in San Francisco

Oct 6, 2018 by

(L to R) Co-Owners/Partners Rick Whipple, Debbie Wong and Steve Belluomini

Oct18_BHG_JFF_Cover_300x420_300dpiDebbie Wong, Rick Whipple and Steve Belluomini all followed different paths in real estate, but landed at the same destination: Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate JF Finnegan REALTORS®. After developing rich careers at the brokerage as sales associates and then managers, the trio became owners when founder John Finnegan retired three years ago. In that short time, they’ve expanded the firm’s reach to cover the entire San Francisco Peninsula, all while staying loyal to its family-oriented culture of caring and support. In this interview, Wong, Whipple and Belluomini share their insights into what’s made the company such a longstanding success, and how they intend to keep the momentum going.

Maria Patterson: Tell us a bit about the firm’s history and where it stands today.
Debbie Wong:
John Finnegan founded the firm in 1973. He started in Daly City and built a thriving business in Northern San Mateo County that trickled down into Burlingame and San Mateo. He had three offices when he retired and offered Rick, Steve and I the opportunity to purchase the company. At the same time, there was another Better Homes and Gardens broker retiring in San Francisco and San Jose, so we also picked up those two regions. With seven offices total, we now cover the entire San Francisco Peninsula, from San Francisco south to San Jose and Campbell. We’re running at about 400-plus agents, and we’re the seventh-largest member of the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate family.

MP: What is your personal history with the firm?
Rick Whipple:
Before real estate sales, I was in general contracting, and that’s how I met John Finnegan. In 1982, I developed 25 units in Daly City, and I hired John’s firm to market them. After working together, he talked me into joining his brokerage in 1985. My successful career in real estate was founded on the mentoring, coaching and friendship he provided. I’ve been learning from him ever since. By 1998, he had branched out to San Mateo, and he approached me to manage the Daly City office. Three years ago, he approached Steve, Debbie and me with an offer for us to purchase the company.

Steve Belluomini: I started back in 1998. I was an agent with John Finnegan, and four years later, he made me the manager of the San Mateo branch, and I grew it into one of the top offices in the market. I started with 25 agents and recruited it to 125 agents at the peak in 2015.

DW: I’ve been with the firm for 28 years. Rick actually sold me my first house and was instrumental in hiring me. It’s unusual for a real estate business to have the sincere family connection that we all feel.

(L to R) John Finnegan, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate JF Finnegan REALTORS® mentor and former owner; Whipple; Sherry Chris, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate CEO/President; Wong; and Belluomini

(L to R) John Finnegan, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate JF Finnegan REALTORS® mentor and former owner; Whipple; Sherry Chris, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate CEO/President; Wong; and Belluomini

MP: It’s particularly amazing in this business to stay with the same firm for your entire career…
What kept me with the firm is that John always instilled a family style of running the business. He truly was a master of building and retaining great rapport. We have several associates who have been with us for five, seven, 15 or 20 years. Sometimes they might leave for a shinier penny or think the grass is greener somewhere else, but we’ve seen them come back time and time again. In my mind, we have a unique environment. We provide a lot of caring support, and that keeps people with us.

RW: I agree. It’s our culture—the family atmosphere, the environment of learning. We’re always growing. There are agents still here in our organization that started not much later than I did, so we must be doing something good.

MP: How does that culture impact your leadership philosophy?
My philosophy is that leaders create leaders. We give the staff ownership of their job description; we don’t micromanage. With agents, it’s about creating an environment where they feel safe and not judged if they do three transactions instead of 20. We want everyone to do as much as they can—and that’s up to the agent. We help them develop a business plan and then they meet with us on a quarterly basis and we talk about how we can support them.

My leadership philosophy is not to give the impression that I know everything…because I don’t. I do have the resources and the systems in place so that I can find the answer. Our culture is such that we’re constantly learning. We definitely have the training, but at the same time, we have an environment of accountability. You have to be action-oriented and stay focused, then the results will come.

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate JF Finnegan REALTORS® has the highest number of award winners in the network.

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate JF Finnegan REALTORS® has the highest number of award winners in the network.

DW: You’d be hard-pressed to find a leadership team that cares as much as we do. We’ve seen a lot of other business models out there; however, I don’t know of anyone who has the type of boots-on-the-ground experience that we have, and the amount of care and encouragement we provide our agents. There’s no other place like it.

MP: What has been your approach to growth over the years, and what are your current goals in terms of expansion?
In terms of growth, we have the dream territory. Now it’s just a matter of growing the agent population organically. We’re not opposed to doing roll-ins if the right opportunity arises, but it’s more about organic growth; we look for talent and show them how their work ethic aligns with ours. Other companies might pay agents an incentive to join them, but we don’t have to do that. We’re really thoughtful about the way we’re growing, and there’s something to be said for that.

MP: How would you describe the current state of your markets? What are the greatest challenges and opportunities?
Our average sales price is between $ 1.5 and $ 1.8 million. Every property is a million-dollar property. Inventory is so tight that everything sells. It’s one of the greatest markets ever, and we just happen to be in the thick of it.

SB: But with the inventory challenge and multiple offers, agents are getting frustrated. They’re writing 4-5 offers a week and not getting them ratified because there’s so much competition.

RW: Price point is definitely a challenge. We have a robust economy in the San Francisco Bay Area. You really have to educate the buyer because rents aren’t cheap either. Real estate is the ideal investment, but you have to show them in detail, because the average consumer is just looking at the monthly payment.

DW: That’s right—and to do that, we educate our agents on how to support buyers on attaining the dream of homeownership. They may not be able to afford X, so we have to help them think outside the box. Our agents have to explain the steps buyers can take to get to the end game or the dream. Sometimes you can’t jump immediately into the house.

MP: What differentiates your firm from the competition?
It comes down to always putting the agent first, making sure we have the technology and the training to help them meet their expectations and compete out there. All the agents in the company have access to myself, Rick and Debbie. We’re not hiding behind a corporate wall.

RW: We’re known in the market as a very good training organization. We train our agents to have the systems and resources in place to grow their business. We grow our agents so that they’re equipped to handle the real estate process in the best way possible. We want to make sure every buyer and seller that works with us has the opportunity to work with a highly trained, skilled and supported agent. We want to ensure our customers have a terrific home-buying or -selling experience. Essentially, we’re transforming the lives of our customers for generations, through the power of homeownership.

DW: We’re a unique lifestyle brand that’s relevant 365 days a year. We’re highly consumer-facing. All of our marketing efforts through social media and our branding is exactly what sets us apart. Very early on, Sherry Chris (president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate) brought to the forefront that millennials are the next wave of customers. We know this generation wants to be homeowners, and we understand them and the kind of experience they want to have.

We also believe strongly in giving back to our community. We don’t want to be defined strictly by how many homes we list or sell. Over the past 20-plus years, our agents have contributed thousands of dollars and volunteered hundreds of hours to a host of local charities like Adopt an Angel, Samaritan House and Habitat for Humanity, in addition to supporting global relief efforts through national trade organizations like AREAA, the Asian Real Estate Association of America. More recently, through New Story, our company has been involved in building homes for poverty-stricken families in El Salvador.

MP: What draws agents to your firm, and why do they stay?
We’re very much in tune with what people want to create for themselves. We offer very personalized services to help our agents achieve their goals. We help them create a business plan that will work for them and their lifestyle. I’ve had four Rookies of the Year out of my branch and a Young National Entrepreneur of the Year last year. We know how to get people up and running quickly in a way that’s meaningful for them. We’re attracting millennials because our culture is exactly what they’re seeking.

SB: We’ve had agents go to competitors out there that might be cheaper or offer better commission splits, but they come back to us. It really comes down to the relationship we can establish with agents to make them feel that we’re there to help them succeed.

MP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology and marketing?
We package all the agent services into one platform where they have everything they need right there. At many other brokerages, agents have to subcontract out for their resources. With us, it’s all in one platform, in part because of the extensive Better Homes and Gardens operating system provided to all of our agents.

DW: We’ve adopted a digital platform provided by our Zap Labs® technology group, which is very robust and features predictive analytics that savvy agents demand.

Also, people talk a lot about data these days, and, in most cases, its purchased data. However, our partner Meredith Corporation® just purchased Time Magazine (at press time), so we’re immediately at the forefront when it comes to data. We don’t pay to buy data; we own the data and have access to over 200 million consumers who are customers of the Meredith family and predisposed to work with our offices.

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate has its finger on the pulse of social media. Our agents can refer to the Greenhouse, which has 1,000-plus items they can choose from to post. There’s also an image library that’s licensed by Meredith, with thousands of photos they can use to create standout digital and print marketing. That’s a big differential for our agents.

MP: Lastly, what are your plans for the company’s next chapter?
Short term, our plan is to continue to grow the offices organically. We’d like to focus on newer agents, bring them in, coach them and lead them in the right way to do business. Long term, we’re always looking for opportunities to continue to grow. Our five-year goal is to get to 1,000 agents. This market is challenging. If we take care of the day-to-day and make sure agents are cared for and supported, I believe we’ll come out on the other end in a very good position. There will be some opportunities to grow at a faster pace. We’re also fortunate that our franchisor is willing to partner with us to acquire other firms who are seeking an exit strategy.

For more information, please visit

Patterson_Maria_60x60Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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Driving Down Car Costs Just Got Easier for REALTORS®

Aug 18, 2018 by

Given how many miles most real estate professionals drive, the cost of purchasing and maintaining a vehicle adds up quickly. Fortunately, members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) can enjoy a valuable benefit when purchasing or leasing one of the many eligible vehicles from FCA US LLC (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), NAR’s official automobile manufacturer provider through the REALTOR Benefits® Program.

This exclusive program includes a $ 500 cash allowance on vehicles popular with REALTORS®, such as the Jeep® Grand Cherokee, Ram 1500, Chrysler Pacifica, or the newly added Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Giulia, among other popular models. Even better, the cash allowance is on top of the deal negotiated at the dealership, and can be combined with most national and local incentives. The $ 500 cash allowance is also available to family members residing in the same household.

Expanded! Complimentary Maintenance Package
When a REALTOR® purchases or leases an eligible new FCA US LLC vehicle, they also receive the benefits of an exclusive member-only Mopar® Vehicle Protection package that includes:

  • Four lube, oil and filter services using synthetic oil
  • A road-hazard tire and wheel service plan that includes full repair or replacement cost for all four tires and wheels
  • Free first-day car rental and daily $ 35 rental car or taxi reimbursement, if needed, while the owner’s car is undergoing service at the dealership

Surprising Value
Many NAR members don’t realize that leveraging the savings offered through just one REALTOR Benefits® Program partner can return the value of NAR membership dues many times over. For example, the FCA US LLC benefit alone is valued at $ 1,000—the equivalent of more than six years of NAR membership dues.

Three Simple Steps
Redemption is easy. For complete requirements, instructions, and eligible vehicles (including a current list of 2019 vehicles), be sure to visit before taking these steps:

  1. Shop online, or at any Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep®, Ram®, or FIAT dealership.
  1. Make a deal, combining applicable incentives and special programs.
  1. Inform the dealer of eligibility to receive the $ 500 cash allowance, as a member of NAR.

Special Savings on Auto Insurance
While considering new vehicle purchases and current insurance policies, don’t forget that NAR members could save hundreds with Liberty Mutual* via the REALTOR Benefits® Program.

Benefits include:

  • 12-month rate guarantee
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Lifetime Repair Guarantee

Liberty Mutual also offers The Liberty Mutual Auto Insurance Referral Program™, which lets NAR members extend to their clients the same auto insurance benefits they have access to through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program—another way for agents to help their clients.

Liberty Mutual is NAR’s exclusive provider of auto, home and renter’s insurance. To learn more about the benefits and savings Liberty Mutual offers through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program, visit

Explore More Great Deals
The REALTOR Benefits® Program is the exclusive member benefits program of the National Association of REALTORS®, providing savings and special offers just for NAR members. Program partners are carefully selected and understand the unique needs of real estate professionals. Learn more and save by visiting

*Discounts and savings are available where state laws and regulations allow, and may vary by state. Certain discounts apply to specific coverages only. To the extent permitted by law, applicants are individually underwritten; not all applicants may qualify. Coverage provided and underwritten by Liberty Mutual Insurance and its affiliates, 175 Berkeley Street, Boston, Mass. ©2018 Liberty Mutual Insurance.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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Coach Realtors®: Leading the Market With Stability, Strength and Savvy

Jun 2, 2018 by

Coach_Cover_June18_300x420_300dpiNo business remains a leader in its market for almost 40 years without a strong core and a sharp eye. That’s been the key to success at Long Island, N.Y.-based Coach Realtors® since the Finn family acquired the brand in 1980.

“Coach Realtors® has been in business since 1954, so we’ve witnessed market highs and lows, paradigm shifts in the industry and many, many competitors come and go,” says the company’s COO Lawrence P. (LP) Finn, III. “Through it all, we’ve grown smartly, invested wisely and built a firm that’s stable in any market and respected by an entire industry.”

Here, Finn shares how he and his leadership team have evolved the firm to weather a constantly changing real estate landscape, and remain a force locally and a thought leader industry-wide.

Maria Patterson: Please describe your firm’s history and current positioning in the marketplace.
LP Finn:
Coach Realtors® was founded in 1954. Larry and Georgianna Finn acquired the brand from the original owners in 1980, and they remain a guiding force for us today as chairman and president, respectively. My sister, Whitney Finn LaCosta, serves as general manager and oversees the daily activity of the branch offices, and her husband, Robert LaCosta, oversees our mortgage and title operations, Coach Title Insurance Agency, and our co-owned lending institution, Academy Mortgage Corporation. We’re all involved in any major decision-making, and our solidarity is, I think, one of the things that keeps us focused. Coach Realtors® is ranked within the top 200 brokerages in the United States in RISMedia’s Power Broker Report, consistently among the ranking’s billion-dollar producers.

LP_Finn_Quote_p83MP: How many offices and agents does the firm currently have?
We have 19 offices and over 650 sales associates serving over two million residents in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. We posted over $ 1.4 billion in sales in 2017. A large percentage of those sales were multimillion-dollar properties. We’re proud to be a market leader and a member of the finest real estate networks in the world: Christie’s International Real Estate, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, Mayfair International Realty, Luxury Portfolio International® and Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate.

MP: What has been your approach to growth over the years, and what are your current goals in terms of expansion?
In one word: stability. Coach Realtors® has been in business since 1954, so we’ve witnessed market highs and lows, paradigm shifts in the industry and many, many competitors come and go. Through it all, we’ve grown smartly, invested wisely and built a firm that’s stable in any market and respected by an entire industry. We’re going strong, staying true to the principles that got us here, and will continue on this path of smart growth that benefits our agents and the brand.

MP: How would you describe the current state of your market? What are the greatest challenges and opportunities?
Our greatest challenge is also our greatest asset: staying true to our proven principles. Many newer brokerages, online influencers and even sales agents believe in rapid change or the adoption of new business practices. We feel that pressure to change, but we know these unproven ideas are often “one-trick ponies”—each looks good in a rising market, but they’re usually built upon sand and, therefore, lack staying power. Experience has shown us that longevity and continued success can’t happen without a commitment to our core values of financial stability, agent support, a focus on professional growth and brand recognition.

MP: What are you doing differently to set your firm and its agents apart from the competition?
We differ from other brokerages in many ways. An important difference is our exclusive membership in world-class brokerage networks such as Christie’s International Real Estate. These networks provide our agents with a real advantage over other brokerages and truly unique market position. Sales agents with Coach Realtors® can provide their sellers with industry-leading property marketing and access to an exclusive pool of upper-tier buyers. Our agents also love the digital suite of services each network provides. These online tools allow an agent to rapidly grow his or her business by gaining new clients or increasing their average selling price. The networks also offer unsurpassed support, training, and, above all, brand awareness.

LP_Finn_Quote_p84MP: What most attracts agents to your firm, and why do they stay?
Sales associates are attracted to Coach Realtors® because of our unwavering dedication to their careers. A real estate salesperson flourishes when he or she has a strong, successful brokerage behind them—a brokerage with vision, meaningful training, great marketing support, a success-oriented company culture, and a full suite of market-leading sales tools and resources. I also cannot say enough about our management team. These talented individuals are the backbone of the Coach organization. The branch managers within Coach are amazing people filled with professionalism, integrity, caring and a desire to see the sales agents succeed.

MP: How are you helping agents stay ahead of the curve on technology?
We just re-launched The new website offers consumers a truly wonderful online experience and also provides our agents a robust intranet. The new intranet helps agents manage all aspects of their business while automating many daily activities. There’s way too much to list here, but I can assure you that it’s really amazing!

MP: Please describe your firm’s culture and leadership philosophy.
We understand that every agent at Coach Realtors® is a valuable business partner. They’re the people out there representing the Coach Realtors® brand, and we take seriously our longstanding commitment to provide them with a workplace that’s supportive, fair, friendly and fun—not to mention technically advantaged.

Coach agents showing support for The Best Week Ever (Feb. 2018)

Coach agents showing support for The Best Week Ever (Feb. 2018)

Speaking of fun, in February of 2018, we hosted The Best Week Ever, which consisted of 18 events over five days that focused on body, mind and career. Events ranged from yoga to rock climbing, from financial planning to building listing inventory, from our awards dinner to an early morning inspiration breakfast featuring Mount Everest summiter Gary Guller. This is just one of the many reasons we have agents who have been building and sustaining successful careers with us for 20 or 30 and even 40 years.

Reaching new heights at the Coach Realtors® rock climbing event (Feb. 2018)

Reaching new heights at the Coach Realtors® rock climbing event (Feb. 2018)

MP: What is your approach to coaching and training?
We’re proud to provide each sales agent at Coach Realtors® with unlimited, no-cost access to Institute, powered by Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®. Institute, which is both online and mobile-device compatible, is an on-demand real estate learning center with hundreds of courses and direct access to the creative thinking of some of the top real estate minds in the industry. We cannot say enough about this comprehensive learning platform. It’s filled with engaging, role-based, just-in-time learning modules with distinct, relevant content tied to specific agent needs and objectives. Institute helps our agents to be better at every aspect of the business, whether it’s negotiation, luxury marketing, investor relations, home staging, prospecting, or effective use of social media, to name just a few. In fact, in January 2018, Training Magazine ranked LeadingRE’s Institute No. 1 among the Top 125 learning and development programs across all industries throughout the world.

MP: What are some of your most innovative marketing strategies? How are they helping you connect with consumers?
Our firm’s Director of Social Media Shannon Heyman is really doing some impressive work. Social media is more than just “posting stuff” online—there’s a science to it and each action is measurable. Our social media program is reaching a large number of online users each day, and we’re seeing large-scale engagement, far above the competition. That positive engagement is driving buyers and sellers straight to Coach agents each day.

MP: What’s on deck for the future of the firm?
We’ll continue to grow vertically, adding to the sales teams in each branch office as our marketshare continues to increase. To do that, we’re actively recruiting new and experienced agents who are a good fit with our company culture. We especially look for candidates with excellent people skills and the desire to learn and grow. We’re also open to timely and strategic acquisitions and to new partnerships that help us do an even better job of what we do best.

For more information, please visit

Patterson_Maria_60x60Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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