Where in the World is Brian?

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Where in the World is Brian?

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Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®: Ready for the Next Stage

Apr 1, 2018 by

Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the April issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine.

April18_LRE_Cover_300x420Name something, anything, that’s of top concern to a broker operating in today’s market, and Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® has it covered. Competitive differentiation? On it. Consumer analysis? Got it. Cloud technology? Check. Global reach and luxury expertise? Done.

As the network transitions to its new, highly-skilled leadership team headed by President/CEO Paul Boomsma, LeadingRE has never been better positioned to champion independent brokers and solidify their place in a rapidly changing real estate environment. Whether it’s competition from traditional franchise brands or the new class of real estate disruptors, LeadingRE has stepped up its offerings on every level to enable its members to keep growing and succeeding.

And this was exactly the vision recently-retired President/CEO Pam O’Connor set in motion. “Succession planning was an obligation I took seriously, so I worked for some time to put the right people in place,” explains O’Connor. “They were clicking on all cylinders, the company was operating very successfully and the timing was perfect to pass the baton. LeadingRE has been very good to me. I wanted to leave it in a good place, and I believe I’ve done just that.”

Pam O'Connor and Paul Boomsma toast the future of LeadingRE.

Pam O’Connor and Paul Boomsma toast the future of LeadingRE.

MORE: The Real Deal: Pam O’Connor Builds a Network, Influences an Industry, and Impacts Lives

LeadingRE Chairman of the Board Joe Horning, president of Shorewest REALTORS®, will work with the leadership team to take the network to the next level. “Growing our network with quality independent firms around the globe remains a priority—as does expanding the services and tools we offer to help them thrive in their marketplaces and retain their competitive positions,” says Horning. “Paul’s track record and skill in technology and marketing make him the ideal leader to continue accelerating what we offer our members.”

But First, the Members
There are many factors that have been responsible for LeadingRE’s success—and many more that will be critical for its next phase—but none more important than its members. Built by brokers and run by brokers, the network’s cadre of invitation-only member firms serves as a unique competitive advantage on today’s often homogenous real estate playing field.

LeadingRE members celebrate at a recent hospitality event. Credit: Al Canaria, PlanOmatic

LeadingRE members celebrate at a recent hospitality event. Credit: Al Canaria, PlanOmatic

“Our network was created because brokers wanted to do something different, something better than what was out there,” explains Boomsma, who was formerly chief operating officer of the network, as well as president of the company’s Luxury Portfolio International® division. “We are a hybrid—not a franchise, not an old-school referral network, but rather, a combination of the best qualities of both.”

This distinction defines the members that comprise the LeadingRE network. “We look for top-ranked brokerages in their respective markets because those companies are characterized by great leaders,” says Boomsma.

LeadingRE serves as a hub to 565 independent firms in 70 countries around the world, representing 130,000 sales associates. LeadingRE’s model supports members in doing what they do best—deploying their talent in the local real estate market—while LeadingRE takes care of delivering complimentary services that enhance their business and a powerful global network connecting them to buyers and sellers around the world.

“At the top end of the market, having global reach is particularly critical,” says Stephanie Anton, the new president of the Luxury Portfolio International® division. “The wealthy are wealthier than ever, and they typically own multiple homes in many locations. They want to know that their properties will have global exposure when being marketed. And they want to work with real estate professionals who are globally-aware, sophisticated, and, perhaps most importantly, connected.”

“The depth and breadth of LeadingRE’s reach is incomparable and differentiates us from our competition,” says Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Halstead Real Estate Diane Ramirez. “Our LeadingRE colleagues are best-in-class and truly the most established, notable brokerages in their respective markets.”

Stephanie_Anton_PQ_p31“In real estate, as in so many areas of life, your network is essential,” says Lulu Egerton, senior director and head of International Strategy for the United Kingdom’s 100-office Strutt & Parker. “Our affiliation with LeadingRE and Luxury Portfolio places us alongside the leading lights of our sector, opening doors and beckoning in mutually beneficial business relationships with our peers from around the world.”

What Today’s Consumers Want
“Independent brands are sought-after these days,” explains Boomsma. “Over the last decade, corporate brands lost some of their luster in the wake of the global economic crisis. A lot of people prefer the connectivity and authenticity of the local broker and the trust that comes with knowing who owns the firm and what they’re doing for the community.”

This preference was clear in the results of a LeadingRE-commissioned survey of more than 3,000 U.S. homeowners, conducted by McKee Wallwork + Co. and Decision Analyst, with more than 88 percent of respondents saying they preferred working with an agent from a “well-known, local real estate company,” while just 12 percent preferred those affiliated with a national franchise.

Ramirez explains, “One of the biggest advantages of being an independent brokerage is that our brand can be unique to us as a firm. We have the ability to define and differentiate who we are and truly own it. Our independence also empowers us to move on a dime and make nimble, autonomous decisions that will enhance our business.”

Chris_Dietz_PQ_p33Local Powerhouses With Global Reach
A critical strategy woven into LeadingRE’s DNA is the continuous development of its strong global network. Today, the network boasts members in 70 countries around the globe, including the recent additions of Monaco, Ghana, Vietnam, India, Japan and Thailand.

“We have a passion for connecting like-minded, local market leaders and have extended that reach to six continents. We are the global brand behind the successful local brand,” says Chris Dietz, executive vice president of LeadingRE’s global operations.

LeadingRE members are automatically given powerful worldwide exposure and the distinction that comes from co-branding with LeadingRE.

And the need for being part of something international is becoming increasingly evident, explains Dietz. “Foreign investment in many markets is exploding. Being widely connected is not optional anymore—it’s a must—and we are the leaders in global expansion. We facilitate 40,000 client introductions annually between members and place referrals in over 100 countries.”

To truly succeed in the global marketplace, Dietz emphasizes the need for members to become immersed in the customs and cultures of colleagues in other countries. “Real estate professionals have to be more globally aware in order to turn these connections into profitable business transactions. You have to know the nuances and how to work with them in their market. That’s why participation in events like our Global Symposium in Barcelona and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Immersion Conference in Kuala Lumpur is so important.”

When it comes to selecting firms to invite to the LeadingRE global network, Dietz looks for both culture and high performance. “We prefer people with a vision. We want to add great people to our network who share our philosophy.”

Linking to Luxury Throughout
To become a competitive global network, having a powerful presence in the high-end market is essential. Luxury Portfolio International® is a vital pillar of the LeadingRE model, with strategic channels for reaching affluent consumers, including its award-winning website,, which last year marketed over 50,000 $ 1 million-plus properties around the world.

Paul_Boomsma_PQ_p34In order to help members stay competitive in the luxury arena, Luxury Portfolio carefully monitors trends.

“We keep a really close pulse on affluent consumer trends,” says Anton. “We’re always looking through the consumer lens: What are their priorities? How are they spending money? How can we best connect with them? We know that luxury is a lifestyle—a 360-degree approach to how they live.”

To that end, Luxury Portfolio recently released a groundbreaking trend report, “The Rise of the New Aristocracy,” which tracks a critical shift in this elusive demographic.

“In the last 12 years, we knew the affluent consumer was a boomer who was born ‘middle-class’ and whose wealth was self-generated rather than inherited. They were really approaching purchasing with practical decision-making, but we’re now at a unique moment in time when affluence is flipping from the wealthy boomers to the wealthy younger buyers who grew up in affluent households.”

Anton says, “They may want a traditional Tudor on the outside, but they want contemporary spaces inside—three to four bedrooms, dedicated space for exercise, wine rooms and theaters. It’s a fun and exciting time in the high-end—there’s a whole new group of people coming into the space.”

Next-Level Technology and Training
Whether it’s the Luxury Portfolio division or the global growth of the network, LeadingRE continues to keep the network a step ahead by providing a menu of cutting-edge tools, training and resources, all designed to help members deliver the best possible value proposition to agents and consumers.

“I’ve never seen a market where an excellent agent does not add value to a transaction,” says Boomsma. “We want to make sure brokers have all the best tools to support and articulate that value.”

LeadingRE also believes strongly in offering programs à la carte. “We have so many resources members can use,” adds Boomsma. “They can be strategic in choosing what’s right for them, and they don’t have to spend money wastefully. We are the antithesis of ‘cookie-cutter.’”

LeadingRE Chief Economist Dr. Marci Rossell addresses the conference audience on global economic trends.

LeadingRE Chief Economist Dr. Marci Rossell addresses the conference audience on global economic trends.

LeadingRE also sees itself as a learning organization committed to elevating performance through educational resources for its members, both at the agent level and for leadership. This is evidenced by its No. 1 ranking on Training magazine’s 2018 Training Top 125 list for organizational learning and development excellence across all industries worldwide. The network’s Institute, an online learning program with more than 350 proprietary courses, its world-class conferences and its MAESTRO Leadership Program played key roles in achieving this high honor.

Horning agrees that the education LeadingRE provides is essential to the ability of its members to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging marketplace. “Strengthening the leadership bench and growing second-tier leaders is a critical challenge for many of our brokerages,” says Horning. “LeadingRE’s MAESTRO Leadership Program addresses this need unlike anything in the industry, with an interactive curriculum that develops all facets of these next-generation leaders.”

Of course, remaining competitive also means staying ahead of the curve in the tech realm. To that end, LeadingRE recently announced the LeadingRE Cloud to empower members to connect with the most innovative technology as efficiently as possible.

“We’re taking an aggressive stance to simplify access to the latest technology and integration among different systems,” says Boomsma. “Sometimes people get chained to their technology because it’s just easier to stay with what they have versus change, which can be painful and expensive. We want them to be able to embrace the very best technology, affordably and seamlessly.”

“Brokers face the challenge of competing in a world of ever-changing technology, where everyone touts their latest platform,” agrees Horning. “The LeadingRE Cloud is our answer to this issue—making it easier for independents to deploy the latest innovations, but allowing them to choose the tools that work best for their company and their agents. While a large regional broker may have different needs than a boutique firm, all of our members will benefit from the efficiencies of the LeadingRE Cloud and the competitive edge it will bring them on the technology front.”

To ensure that edge, LeadingRE is also investing in Moderne Ventures, an investment fund focused on early-stage technology companies in the real estate space, so that its members have firsthand exposure to the next, best tools for clients and agents.

Making the Best Brokerages Better
No matter what level of success LeadingRE members have achieved, an openness and willingness to share is pervasive. “When you come to our events, there’s always someone you strive to be more like, and you’re humbled,” says Boomsma. “Our people find great value in learning from one another—and it doesn’t matter who you are: a broker leading a 25-agent boutique that outsells others in an affluent bedroom community, or a CEO of a company with thousands of agents whose brokerage ranks in the top 10 in the country. There’s always someone else who’s doing something different and is willing to share.”

It is these relationships that set LeadingRE apart. “The aspect of our affiliation that I value most highly,” says CIR Realty partner Ron Stader from Calgary, Canada, “is the strong relationships with premier brokers who have supported our company’s growth with idea-sharing and advice that have sparked innovation and higher levels of performance. The connections are invaluable on many levels—from referrals to best practices—and by helping one another, we all get better.”

According to Boomsma, LeadingRE’s mantra, “Making the Best Brokerages Better,” is centered on giving its market-leading brokerages a forum for collaboration and shared business opportunities, as well as access to extensive business resources that might be cost-prohibitive on their own. “At our core, we are a community of quality-focused, highly-productive firms—and that’s by design. From there, we provide the global capabilities that help them become even stronger in their local markets. As we enter this next stage in our history, we are excited to build on our successes and chart new territory to support member growth in ways that are uniquely ‘LeadingRE.’”

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

The post Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®: Ready for the Next Stage appeared first on RISMedia.


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Welcoming the World: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Goes Global

Aug 7, 2016 by

Editor’s Note: The following is the cover story from the August issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine.

From the widespread ripple effect of the Brexit vote to the staggering investment made by Chinese homebuyers in the U.S., there’s no denying residential real estate has become a global industry. With a parent company that already has worldwide recognition, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices had global expansion planned when the brand launched in 2013. Now, heralded by a new website designed to facilitate international business like no other, the real estate brokerage franchise network readies itself for phase two of the plan: awarding Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices franchises in key markets around the world.

“Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has grown remarkably in the U.S. and we’re now extending our brand, value proposition and culture abroad,” says Gino Blefari, network chief executive officer. “Our expansion plan takes place in two phases with carefully measured steps and milestones. Our first priority is to help our domestic franchisees conduct more international business, and then add high-quality brokerages abroad that will uphold our network’s values and meet its rigorous standards.”

To head up global expansion, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brought on global real estate franchising veteran Peter Turtzo one year ago this month. Serving as the brand’s senior vice president of International Operations, Turtzo has been responsible for establishing the strategy and process for growth into international markets.

According to Turtzo, global expansion was part of the brand promise Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices made to its franchisees from the outset. “This is something our entire organization not only looked forward to but also expected as part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices value proposition,” he says. “I plan to deliver on this promise.”

Phase One: Bringing the World to the U.S.
Phase one of the two-pronged plan rolled out with the May release of the new, replete with rich features to engage a global audience. Thanks to sweeping upgrades nearly a year in the making, has become the industry’s first site to showcase the complete U.S. property database—translated into 10 foreign languages—to the world.

“We had two primary goals for our website: to promote the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand beyond U.S. borders, and to connect international real estate consumers with our U.S. franchisees,” explains Stephen Phillips, COO of HSF Affiliates, which operates the network. “We addressed both goals with our site’s powerful search platform, which enables consumers to look for real estate in their native language. We offer a consistent experience for customers regardless of the language they choose. Other brands’ sites require you to jump to a different site for translation.” translates property information into: Chinese; French (European); French (Canadian); German; Italian; Japanese; Portuguese (Brazilian); Portuguese (European); and Spanish (Latin American) and Spanish (European). The most striking feature of the site, however, is its ability to bring full MLS data to buyers around the world—a feat that has yet to be taken on by other brands.

“Compliance represents a high barrier to entry into the full MLS data space,” explains Phillips, preventing brokers from making the leap to this point. now breaks this mold by presenting full MLS data in home-search results.

“By contrast, other brands’ sites show only their listings or use advertising data (IDX) to power their websites,” says Phillips. “The latter does not contain full MLS data, as many brokers opt out entire listings and others opt out pieces of information, such as street addresses. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is the only franchise that empowers its franchisees to bring full MLS data to their registered customers, international or domestic.”

The bold move is a smart one considering the significant influx of foreign buyers in the U.S. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2016 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, between April 2015 and March 2016, foreign buyers purchased $ 102.6 billion of residential property in the U.S. A total of 214,885 U.S. residential properties were bought by foreign buyers (up 2.8 percent), and properties were typically valued higher ($ 277,380) compared to the median price of all U.S. existing-home sales ($ 223,058).

“Roughly 4 percent of the U.S. housing market is consumed by foreigners, and we expect that number to continue to grow,” says Turtzo. “Our first objective was to capture those buyers who are looking at the U.S. We did that by expanding the website to be multilingual for all of the listings in the MLSs across America. So now, somebody in Germany looking for properties in Naples, Fla., would be able to see all of the listings that are available for sale translated to German, not just those available through Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. They’re not just seeing a slice of the listings pie; they’re able to see the whole thing.”

The decision to offer the full swath of U.S. listings in 10 languages was made with the consumer in mind, underscores Turtzo. “We put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer and asked, ‘If we were in Germany, what would we want to see? Only Brand X’s listings or all of the listings in the marketplace?’ We felt that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, being a consumer-focused brand, should deliver all of the listings.”

To develop the site’s global MLS platform, HSF Affiliates’ IT group worked with Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Real Estate Digital (RED). “Since providing full MLS data was important to us, we needed an ally that understood what was required to obtain and properly use that data,” says Phillips. “Real Estate Digital has a strong MLS data-aggregation team that ensures compliance with every MLS.”

Adds Phillips: “Our IT team performed far beyond our high expectations in developing the site. The group, which is led by CIO Grady Ligon, brought innovation and perspective to the year-long project at every step.”

The user experience for the foreign buyer was designed to be simple and welcoming. With one click, visitors can choose their language, and the website instantly translates. Site translations are performed and checked by linguists—not machines—so they are clean, accurate and respectful. The site seamlessly converts currency and measurements. As consumers register on the site, they unlock proprietary “Inside Access” features, including the latest pending and sold information, specialized market reports and property-price history.

“ also showcases the industry’s most accurate automated valuation model, which uses pricing data generated for banks and mortgage lenders,” adds Phillips. “When consumers enter a property address, they not only receive a highly accurate home-price estimate and compelling analytics, but also the important ‘take the next step’ prompt that connects them with their local Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices affiliate.”

To augment global business for its U.S. franchisees, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices teamed up with Worldposting to syndicate most of the network’s residential listings priced at $ 200,000 and above to 70 global websites serving consumers in 37 countries on five continents. Text and pictures are updated daily and sent automatically to many of the world’s hottest search sites.

According to Blefari, this new global reach gives Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices associates a distinct advantage at the listing table where today’s sellers—particularly in the luxury arena—are looking for the best-possible exposure. Now their homes will be brought to an international audience.

“We believe Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network sales associates have the best story to tell in the market,” Blefari adds. “Our mindset is…one world…one real estate market…one brand—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.”

Looking ahead, the technology component of the global plan will only increase. “Over time, we will add new languages to the website,” says Phillips. “As we name franchisees outside of the U.S., you can expect to see the same consistent customer experience expanded to include those franchisees and their listings.”

Phase Two: Bringing the Brand to the World
With the global website strategy well underway, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is now looking to phase two of the plan: establishing franchises in key markets around the world. Initial focus includes London, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, major financial centers where Berkshire Hathaway’s corporate name recognition runs high.

“Our plan’s guiding principle is to grow strategically and not merely in response to random opportunities,” says Blefari. “We will be disciplined in this approach.”

The network will use similar restraint in its selection of franchisees. “Our objective is quality affiliations with established, reputable real estate companies who will properly represent the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand,” says Turtzo, who expects a positive roll-out of international franchisees—and is already fielding an increasing number of inquiries.

In June, the firm gained favorable reviews among the British press after the brand announced its expansion plans to international media. At press time, Turtzo was soon to announce the appointment of a managing director of Franchise Sales for the EMEA region.

“Our managing director’s No. 1 responsibility is to identify eligible, qualified candidates in key markets in Europe,” says Turtzo. “And those franchise relationships will differ considerably from the way a lot of real estate brands have expanded globally.”

Contrary to the global franchise business model most U.S. real estate brands employ, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices foreign franchisees will operate under a direct franchise model, linking them straight to the brand’s home-base in Irvine, Calif.

The unique and ambitious strategy ensures a strong relationship with the brand’s U.S. headquarters. “We will provide direct support to global franchisees through professionals deployed locally in their respective regions, as well as from our U.S. staff,” says Turtzo. “This is a dramatic departure from most models that work with master franchisors in other countries who then have the right to sub-franchise.”

The direct franchise model also means that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices will provide customized training and tech support for all international franchisees. “We’re not simply taking American training programs and translating them into Spanish and French,” explains Turtzo. “The programs will be adapted to the local market. In many markets around the world, getting a listing is a very different process from what we’re used to in the U.S.”

For Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the investment required to facilitate the direct franchise model is well worth it as it will help ensure the brand’s quality around the globe.

“Consistent protection of our brand is our No. 1 priority,” says Turtzo. “It is my No. 1 marching order.”

All Roads Lead to Brand Quality
According to Turtzo, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ path toward global expansion will be an “inch-by-inch” process.

“Again, we are going to be very selective and very deliberate with our international expansion strategy,” he explains. “We won’t be putting ads in the newspaper that say, ‘Call us for franchises’. This will be a strategic and thoughtful process as to which real estate companies would share the values of our organization.”

With an eye to the future, Turtzo says: “If we are in 20 countries by 2020, we will be very happy.”

International franchisees, similar to their domestic counterparts at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, should anticipate a culture of growth and support from the network. “We are successful when our franchisees are successful,” says Blefari. “We focus all of our energy and passion on our franchisees’ success, whether they operate in the U.S. or abroad.”

Global-Ready REALTORS®
As Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices franchisees in the U.S. prepare to service a new pipeline of foreign real estate consumers, the brand is focused on increasing training through the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation.

“CIPS is the approved designation of NAR, and we currently have two full-time certified trainers who are delivering the CIPS program across the country,” reports Peter Turtzo, SVP of International Operations for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. “Our objective is to continue to provide that training to more and more agents to make them better prepared, and to expand their knowledge and skill set as to how to deal with different cultures.”

According to Turtzo, CIPS training is in line with the brand’s overall philosophy. “The theme is the same as everywhere else: What does the consumer need and want? Someone who understands them—not just their language, but the way they do business.”

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