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JP & Associates REALTORS®: Exceeding Expectations Nationwide

Dec 1, 2018 by

All the Pieces of the Puzzle in Place for Expansion

JP Piccinini, Chairman & Founder, JP & Associates REALTORS® (JPAR)

For the founder and executive team of JP & Associates REALTORS® (JPAR), the formula for astounding growth is as simple as the concept at its core: exceeding expectations in terms of productivity and service, for both the franchisees who embrace the model and the agents who thrive under its nurturing and generous umbrella.

“I built this brokerage with the objective of providing everything a top producer would want or need,” says JP Piccinini, a former top producer himself and an entrepreneur with a penchant for excellence.

The formula is clearly working, as the full-service company he launched in the Dallas-Fort Worth market just seven years ago with less than five agents has become the largest independently-owned company in North Texas, with more than 1,500 agents in 20 offices and over $ 2.5 billion in current sales. With over a dozen franchises sold already in its first three months, Piccinini and his top aides—COO Mark Johnson of JPAR Brokerage, CEO Frank Gay and VP of National Development Howard Ashkinos of JPAR Franchising—share their strategies and the plans for expansion at the top of their busy agenda.

Barbara Pronin: Clearly, the company’s growth has been astounding, JP. What’s driving this impressive dynamic?
JP Piccinini: The business model we have built, which offers a 100-percent commission plan to agents and a full complement of back-office support to franchisees, continues to attract the best and brightest in Texas and surrounding states. We have high productivity standards and a service-based culture that quite simply invites success, and that’s an opportunity we now intend to offer to real estate practitioners in all 50 states.

Frank Gay: You might say we’re open for business in a big way these days, poised to offer the same kind of explosive growth opportunity we’ve experienced here in Texas to prospective franchisees everywhere across the USA, beginning with a strategic focus on the Southeast, before setting our sights on the Northeast and California.

(L to R) Piccinini; Frank Gay, CEO, JPAR Franchising; and Mark Johnson, COO, JPAR Brokerage

BP: Can you expand a bit on what sets your firm and your business model apart in terms of agents, franchisees and consumers?
Howard Ashkinos: It’s very simple. For agents, we offer a 100-percent commission plan with a small transaction fee, plus unparalleled training and a mentorship program for new agents. We also provide the latest in real estate technology, marketing and management systems to help them grow and retain their business. For franchisees, we do most of the heavy lifting, providing a full suite of back-office services ranging from accounting and compliance to the technical platform, transaction coordination, and more, to simplify day-to-day operations, allowing owners to do what they do best: recruit great agents and support them.

Mark Johnson: As a result of all this, consumers are getting a committed and experienced class of agents who subscribe to a very high standard of ethics and who have proven to do more transactions. Again, the hallmark of this company is productivity and service—for everyone.

BP: Can you describe your firm’s culture and leadership philosophy?
FG: Our culture comes from our core values. In an industry known for its high turnover, JPAR has one of the highest retention rates in the industry. Over 90 percent of our agents stay and thrive here. That’s because we hire only dedicated, full-time agents who are accountable for closing at least six transactions a year. We place a high value on training, education and coaching, and we have a strong culture of exceeding customer expectations. We also believe in the value of mentorship and conviviality. We tend to have a lot of fun along the way to excellence. In fact, the Dallas Morning News named us one of the region’s Top 100 Places to Work.

MJ: By the same token, our leadership ethic is very much one of servant leaders. We want franchisees who are experts in their markets. Our leaders and staff are here to serve the needs of our agents and to help them find new and better ways to create both a successful business and a more fulfilling life.

BP: What’s your approach to training and coaching?
MJ: We offer a core base of training and productivity schools, including a unique four-session “real estate playbook,” as well as paid upgrades for team and one-on-one coaching. We produce over 100 classes a month, both virtual and on-site, and we have a cadre of 45 mentors whose sole purpose is to guide new agents through their first three transactions. We also have specially trained and experienced mentors in each of our specialty sales divisions, which include luxury homes, commercial properties and farms and ranches.

JP: We believe that great agents are made, not born, and so training and coaching are a vital and integral part of our brokerage model—and the systems we’ve devised for them are provided to our franchisees free of charge.

BP: What are some of your most innovative marketing strategies, and how are they helping you connect with consumers?
FG: We provide a number of innovative marketing and lead generation strategies, including a new buy-side approach designed specifically to capture more listings. But essentially, we believe that great agents market themselves, and so we’re agent-forward rather than brand-forward. Since our agents keep a higher percentage of their commissions, we put a lot of resources into showing them how they can invest some of those extra dollars in creative ways that increase marketshare and position them as the go-to agents in their markets.

The executive team at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo (L to R): Johnson; Keisha York, Managing Broker/Texas; Piccinini; Gay; and Howard Ashkinos, VP of National Development

BP: What role does technology play in your agents’ success? How do you stay ahead of the curve?
HA: Technology is ever-changing, and while we believe relationships are what matter most in our culture and in our industry, we leverage technology to make things easier, quicker and more efficient for agents and brokers. We’ve developed our trademarked B.O.S.S.S. platform—short for Broker One Stop Shop System—a platform that brings all our best-in-class tools and resources together in a single hub, so that our agents can truly be all things to all customers in a way that cultivates long-term loyalty. As a result, especially when technology is combined with the mentorship/training we provide, experience shows that our agents can grow to be up to four times more productive than the average non-mentored agent.

JP: Our objective from the beginning was to provide everything an agent wants and needs, and we continue to adhere to that policy. If a new technology proves to be an indispensable business booster, it’ll become part of our repertory.

BP: How would you describe the current state of the market? What do you see as your greatest challenges and opportunities?
FG: We’re very bullish on 2019 and 2020. Even though interest rates are slowly rising and existing-home sales have slumped over the past year, we believe more and more agents will begin to question their archaic broker’s model and the value versus reward that it provides. We’ve flourished over the last several years in this booming real estate economy, and we believe that real growth will continue to happen for JPAR no matter the state of the economy.

MJ: Finding ways to create affordable housing is both a challenge and an opportunity industry-wide, but we believe our innovative strategies for agents and consumers will not only work to the benefit of consumers, but will continue to fuel the growth of our agents’ businesses and, by extension, the growth of our company.

ODASI App Launch Party (Proprietary technology founded by JPAR)

BP: What value do you place on community outreach?
JP: Everything comes back to our core values: productivity and service. As our productivity grows, we celebrate our success by helping to strengthen others in our communities. We donated over a quarter million dollars last year to a host of charitable beneficiaries, most notably the Better Futures Foundation, which takes in underprivileged youths and helps them turn their lives around. The foundation believes, as we do, in giving not a handout, but a hand up.

BP: What’s on deck for the future of the firm?
MJ: Sustained growth going forward, and increasing our influence in the industry throughout the country.

HA: To that end, we’re looking for successful brokers who are ready to grow and will be taking on more franchisees, in addition to taking our proprietary framework for success into markets that are ripe for opportunity in all 50 states.

JP: We trademarked the term “exceeding expectations” for those who seek higher standards. That includes new franchisees who want growth opportunity, professional agents seeking the best place to work, and consumers who want service beyond the norm. Our goal is to build a company so valuable for our REALTORS® that the value it brings to their business will be priceless. 

For more information, please visit www.jpar.net.

Barbara Pronin is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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

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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 www.nar.realtor.

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

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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…
DW:
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?
SB:
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.


RW:
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?
DW:
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?
DW:
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?
SB:
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?
DW:
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?
RW:
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?
SB:
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 www.gobhg.com.

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

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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 NAR.realtor/RealtorBenefits/FCA 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 NAR.realtor/RealtorBenefits/LibertyMutual.

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 NAR.realtor/RealtorBenefits.

*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.

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