There’s No Room for ‘B.S.’ in Today’s Brokerage Landscape

Aug 12, 2018 by

In early 2017, one of our upstart East Coast franchises, HomeSmart Realty Advisors in Philadelphia, adopted the phrase “No B.S.” (no broker splits) in their marketing to agents. This statement is powerful because it clearly summarizes the frustrations agents have with “traditional” models. It also explains why thousands of agents continue to look to a model like HomeSmart’s as the place where they want to grow their business.

A Transaction-Fee Business Model Is Not a Discount Brokerage

When I was an agent, there weren’t a lot of options. If you wanted to be an agent, you had to deal with broker splits—or B.S., as many agents would say. You gave up 20, 30, 40 percent or more of your commission every time you sold a house—and, you worked hard for that commission. Paperwork and file review was a slow and inefficient process. More time was spent chasing approval and signatures than getting leads and listings.

That’s why, the day I opened HomeSmart in 2000, I started building technology that, combined with brokerage business systems, would allow brokers to offer agents an alternative to brokerage splits (B.S.) by keeping 100 percent of their commissions, and, at the same time, run a profitable brokerage business.

Early on, there were dissenters and those who labeled us as a discount brokerage. Nearly 20 years later, the industry finally caught up to what I knew then. Technology, efficiency and customer service would become the recipe that enables growth for both the brokerage and its agents.

New Models, Old Problems

Today, there are new models and brokerage concepts emerging by the week, it seems. Some of them follow changing consumer preferences. Others promise ownership in various formats. All ask the agent to give up portions of their commission.

While these trends continue to get headlines, what we’re experiencing is that agents would rather have control of 100 percent of their commissions, and make their own personal decisions on how to invest in their businesses and their future.

Why the 100 Percent No B.S. System Wins

What many of today’s trending brokerages continue to ignore is balance. Some take the extreme position of being all-in on technology, but in ways, agents still end up paying heavily in commissions and extra fees. iBuyers have started to retrofit agents into the transaction, but not in a way that allows agents to be in control of their business.

Tech-enabled systems must help agents effortlessly navigate their day-to-day business and their sales transactions, so they can prioritize their relationship with their clients at every step. Balance of technology, process and people has always been the core focus of the HomeSmart brokerage business system, and, it works.

That same start-up franchise in Philadelphia adopted our model and grew from zero to just under 100 agents in one year. As our industry continues to grow and change, at HomeSmart, we’ll continue to stay focused on a business model that removes the B.S., leverages technology that supports operational efficiencies and allows our agents to provide exceptional customer service to their clients.

Widdows_Matt_85x100Matt Widdows is the CEO and founder of HomeSmart International. HomeSmart is built around technology that provides franchisees and agents with cutting-edge tools, which enable them to spend more time focusing on clients and the profitability of their businesses. Learn more about franchising opportunities at

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Anne M. Lusk: Serving the Needs of Today’s Customers

Apr 14, 2018 by

Anne_LuskVitals: Lusk & Associates Sotheby’s International Realty
Years in Business
: 4
Size: 1 office, 30 agents
Regions Served: Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin, Berks, York, Adams, Franklin, Cumberland, Perry and Chester counties
2017 Sales Volume: $ 128,431,000
2017 Transactions: 419 sides

As someone who loves serving others, and also with a deep fondness of homes, Anne M. Lusk knew early on that marrying these two passions would help her succeed in the real estate business.

The owner of Lusk & Associates Sotheby’s International Realty, Lusk was running a different business in Florida when she came to this realization after helping one of her customers find a home.

“I noticed that I had this gift of putting people’s wants and needs together to find a solution,” says Lusk. “Once an entrepreneur, you’re always an entrepreneur, and that set the stage for my becoming a REALTOR® and starting in the business.”

Today, Lusk & Associates Sotheby’s International Realty is one of South Central Pennsylvania’s premier real estate agencies, with a reputation for providing exceptional service.

“It’s not just about finding someone a house, but helping them find their doctors, helping them find a babysitter and involving themselves within organizations in the community,” says Lusk. “You really are more of a concierge, and it’s enjoyable. You’re getting paid to help others.”

Coming off a year in which she herself did 182 transactions and $ 75 million in sales, Lusk expects to top those numbers this year—and judging by the early stages of 2018, Lusk sees both positives and negatives within her market.

“The negatives center around rates creeping up and buyers’ expectations being skewed by HGTV,” says Lusk. “Buyers walk in and expect brand-new granite, brand-new cabinets and new appliances, but that’s not a reality in many price ranges.”

While land isn’t cheap in Lancaster, Lusk notes that many prospective buyers searching for houses don’t understand the difference between purchasing a new home and buying resale. For example, if someone is buying a $ 200,000 property that sits on less than half an acre, they’re not going to get a 3,000-square-foot house for $ 350,000.

“Despite the fact that a lot of people get into real estate thinking that it’s a get-rich-quick business, you need to focus on how excited your customers are, as well as how well they think you did for them,” adds Lusk.

“I seek to add agents that serve their clients well, dress professionally and take personal accountability for what they do,” says Lusk. “I want agents who do their research, work hard and are ready to serve their customers’ needs.”

According to Lusk, agents are attracted to the firm because of the Sotheby’s brand and its comprehensive marketing plan.

“It’s constantly improving the marketing plan, improving materials and always seeking ways to better serve the clientele. I feel that there’s no other brand with such a plan,” says Lusk. “It also has a lot to do with the power of the network. The other agents in the brand want to help one another and they collaborate well. It’s fantastic for me to be able to pick up the phone and help one of my customers buy a property somewhere globally.”

The firm offers one-on-one training to agents at the office, but there’s also group training that Lusk says many take advantage of. The office even has a designated trainer.

“We have agents from all different backgrounds and all over the world in our office, so we try to tailor the training individually to each person,” says Lusk. “For instance, if I have someone that never did sales before but has a great personality and is highly educated, the type of training that person needs is different than someone who worked as a sales manager in a different industry.”

Lusk is also proud of the fact that the firm has a high volume for the number of individuals that work at the office, recording the highest average sales price of any office in the area.

“One of the things I really love about being in real estate is the outreach and the ability to better my community by serving on different boards and even charity events,” says Lusk. “I feel it’s an important responsibility to make our community a better place.”

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Proper Pricing Key to Moving Homes in Today’s Competitive Environment

Jun 18, 2016 by

As the real estate business continues to change at the speed of light, pricing a home to sell is one of the biggest challenges real estate professionals are confronted with on a day-to-day basis. For those who are serious about becoming pricing experts, the National Association of REALTORS®’ newest course, Pricing Strategies: Mastering the CMA, will teach you the ins and outs of properly pricing properties.

The first step toward earning the new Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA) certification, the course is designed to help residential real estate agents and brokers enhance their skills in pricing properties, creating comparative market analyses (CMAs) and guiding clients through the complexities of valuation.

“We often say that the agent has to sell the house twice: once to the buyer, and once to the appraiser,” says Melanie McLane, a real estate professional with Jackson Real Estate, a small, family-owned business in Jersey Shore, Pa.

A second-generation REALTOR®, McLane received REALTOR® Emeritus status (40 years in the business) in 2015—a feat she couldn’t have accomplished without a steadfast commitment to staying current.

Understanding pricing, valuation and the entire process is critical in today’s market,” says McLane, whose agents will be taking the PSA Certification course this month (at press time).

For Lynn Madison, president of the 16,000-member Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, staying up-to-date with the constantly changing market is critical. “It’s imperative that agents stay on top of the latest issues in the business, as well as the changes in the Code of Ethics, license laws, etc.,” says Madison. “Continuing education is one of the best ways to do this.”

With 30 years of experience under her belt, Madison also teaches NAR and CE courses in over 40 states—a job she’s passionate about.

“Whether we’re representing the buyer or the seller, it’s our responsibility to do a CMA for them when they’re buying or selling,” says Madison. “If we don’t know the basics of how to price properties, we can’t do one of the fundamental duties we owe our clients.”

The course zeroes in even further by focusing on skills that are critical to finding success in today’s market. These include understanding the appraisal process, AVMs, the role of Dodd-Frank and AMCs (Appraisal Management Companies). The course also sheds light on why Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®) is a great way to combine an agent’s specialized, local market knowledge with the advantage of a cutting-edge AVM.

“Today, we’re seeing many problems with appraisals and the buyer’s ability to close, and sometimes it’s because we haven’t priced the property properly. We’re also seeing overpriced properties and properties that are selling below market value, which isn’t a problem if the seller is aware, but is a huge problem if agents are misleading sellers as to value,” says Madison.

The course also covers the appraisal side of the issue, teaching real estate professionals about their responsibility in meeting the appraiser, and what to do if the property doesn’t appraise.

But it doesn’t end there. In fact, real estate professionals who earn the Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA) certification stand to gain even more knowledge:

  • The purpose and benefits of CMAs, and how to guide clients through them
  • Terminology of pricing and valuation
  • The Code of Ethics as it relates to pricing
  • How to identify appropriate comparables, and where to find information about them
  • The role of supply and demand in pricing
  • How to adjust comparables
  • Specific challenges and special situations in making adjustments
  • How to work with appraisers
  • How to hone your pricing skills and practices

Available online at the Center for REALTOR® Development (OnlineLearning.Realtor) and in the classroom (locations can be found at, there’s never been a better time to take your education to the next level. To sweeten the deal even further, you can get 25 percent off the PSA online course price now through July 15 with the code RISPSA.

“I always urge students to get the most bang for their buck,” says McLane, who has heard nothing but rave reviews from students who have gone through the Pricing Strategies: Mastering the CMA course and the instructors who teach it.

“If you have to spend a certain number of hours in CE, make them count,” concludes McLane.

For more information, please visit


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Today’s FHA Is Not Your Father’s FHA

Mar 19, 2016 by

Last week I met with a couple who are buying a home in New Jersey with 10% down and less-than-perfect credit. The first thing we did was secure an approval for a conventional Fannie Mae 30-year fixed rate loan with traditional PMI. Then we looked at how FHA financing would […]
Mark Greene – Mark Greene – Forbes

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