Local Ownership Considerations

[pullquote cite=” – by Geri Wietzman” align=”right”]

Sometimes you just have to create what you want to be a part of!

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Brokerages and firms are owned by every kind of entity. Ownership can be by an individual, a family, collection of investors, and various kinds of corporations. The ownership can be in the local community and part of the brokerage, or by a multi-national corporation, and everything in between. Owners do not have to be licensed in real estate nor do they need to be Principal Brokers.

Does it Make a Difference to You?

I think it does, both to your bottom-line dollars but also to the ‘corporate culture’ in the office. It also has an effect on how one does business. There are issues related to the ownership structure which must be considered. Is the company hierarchical? Is there a corporate flow chart of authority and for decision-making? Or is it a flat structure with limited power structures employing collegial consensus for decisions. Is it a dictatorship of one person or couple?

While in the past, it was easy to justify the benefits of a national company (sophistication, tools, reach, referrals) today all of those benefits are within the reach of not just a local brokerage but the individual agent! There has also been a paradigm shift in the way people search for real estate and real estate agents which obsoletes the necessity of a national brand to be successful.

Every entity will justify their own existence for their size and their corporate structure, but it is for you to think it through, learn what the differences are, and what is most appropriate for you in our evolving industry.

Bella Casa Real Estate Group is locally owned by 3 people, all in the family: Randy and Joni McCreith, and Amy (McCreith) McCormick, daughter and business partner. We make our primary income the same way all our brokers do, by selling real estate. We have a very flat organization and make most brokerage decisions by consensus of our brokers. We are a professional cooperative of independent and autonomous Realtors®. We have one designated Principal Broker, as we must (me), but we also have more than a dozen Principal Brokers and we would be glad to see all our brokers achieve Principal Broker status!

Why Local Ownership is a Benefit

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  • It is more personal. The agents and the owners know each other and interact regularly. Each understand the needs and issues and can work together for solutions to challenges.
  • It means the owners understand the local economy, current conditions, and the local markets, and can adapt the business model swiftly when needed.
  • It means that the money generated by both the brokerage and the Realtors’® commissions stay in the local communities and helps build our own economy, not the metro-plex, the region, or distant places in the nation.
  • There are not as many mouths to feed in the profit food chain. The larger the entity the more levels of management to feed and the more investors at various levels who want a good return on their money. The more takers, the less money for the Realtors® on the street who do the work.
  • The downside of distant ownership is highlighted when they need more money or are suffering through a down cycle. They raise fees and expenses and do not seem to understand or care what it does to their agents. In large firms there is a constant search for new ‘income streams’ and value-added services to improve investor profits. There is the pressure on agents to pay more for its services, and to find affiliated businesses so the company makes more money (mortgage brokers, warranty companies, home services, etc.)[/ul_list]

The Buy Local Movement

People are realizing that the mega companies of the world pool their money for their own people and in their corporate HQ area. In reaction, people are promoting the personal and exceptional customer-centric services not possible in such companies and the benefits to everyone when our money stays local. Local is not just to our metro-plex (downtown Portland), but for our towns and neighborhoods and to support the people we know in our communities.

Would you rather send some of your commission money, and the profits from other affiliated services,  to support the economies of Austin Texas, Waltham Massachusetts, Parsippany New Jersey, Denver Colorado, Newark New Jersey and the likes, or are you more interested in having your money do good in McMinnville and Newberg and the towns of  the surrounding areas?

It’s a Mentality Which Needs to Catch-On!

Bella Casa Realtors® have complete freedom to choose those with whom they do business, and the vendors they are proud to refer for their clients. We consciously chose NOT to have affiliated business relationships even though this would bring significantly more money into the brokerage and for the owners. It is an issue of principle for us. Rather than collectively promoting a few select vendors for services because we get referral fees, advertising dollars or various and sundry benefits, we want our Realtors® to find the best in the business locally and promote any and all of them. We are committed to doing this without any self-interest other than our clients will get treated as well as we would treat them. That is all we ask of them! When a company says you should sell this warranty, use this mortgage broker, have your transactions at this title and escrow company, and promote this set of contractors, (to make money off of them), then the local community of vendors is insulted, and our clients lose valuable options for their services. The only ones who win is the company and its investors, owners, and managers. Let’s support the local communities – not the chosen few dictated by some because they get rewarded. Let’s help every one of our neighbors who provides excellent products and services.

Randy McCreith, Principal Broker
Bella Casa Real Estate Group
503-310-9147

Beware of Hooks & Handcuffs

[dropcap character=”I” color=”blue”]It may feel like you are applying for a job when interviewing brokerages. Your mindset may be ‘Will they like me and hire me?’ You may feel nervous and intimidated. Fear not!

The reality is that if you are a good sales person, then everyone wants you because you will help pay the bills and allow the brokerages and offices to make more profits. It is more about you wanting them, than them wanting you, and they hope you will choose to work for them and become successful for the good of the brokerage. Brokerages have few expenses ‘hiring’ you compared to traditional ‘employment.’

In business it is all about recruiting and retaining talent. Cynically, we could say that in real estate it is about hooks and handcuffs. Hooks entice you to choose the brokerage; handcuffs keep you bound to them when you are successful.

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Common Hooks

  • “We offer ‘state of the art’ technology including high speed internet, an intranet full of features and information, and a website ready for you to go public. We have email signatures, market data reports, scripts and templates, and property valuation tools. We will give you a ready-made database management tool, your own email address, and a ‘direct’ company phone number.” And the list goes on and on. The question for you to wrestle with is “At what cost to you?” Free? Think again. You may be paying way too much for ‘free’ bennies. These “freebies” may turn out to be worse than a “premium” service. For example, in the world of property valuation, experience and credentials like those from property valuers metro services tend to be more accurate than through the use of tools and calculators.
  • We have exceptional educational classes, personal training, and individual mentoring to help you get a quick start and develop fully.” The #1 complaint I have heard from agents thinking about a change was that this claim had no substance whatsoever. In some cases, these educational classes are not much more than a few videos produced on a shoestring budget. Your best authority: ask their agents and their former agents!
  • “We have a transaction specialist who will manage your transaction and the paperwork so you can sell more.” How will you ever become an experienced and well-rounded professional? If you always need the brokerage to do this for you then you are tethered to them for life.[/one_half]
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  • “We have a marketing person to do your ads. In fact, we will advertise you and your properties so you do not have to.” (and we know you do not have money to do so). Again, at what cost? And would you be better served to do it your way and develop your own leads? Perhaps their marketing is just providing generic leads for someone else to benefit from???
  • “We have an impressive national or regional company and brand with world-wide recognition and reach.” See the articles about the changing nature of our industry. Can you not do it better yourself?
  • “We give a lot to local charities which is good for you.” Why don’t YOU become successful, keep more of your money so YOU can give to local charities rather than giving it to someone else to do that?
  • “We provide world-wide referrals to you and have an exceptional relocation program that will get business for you that you could never get on your own.” And how much will these referrals cost you? 35-50% of your commissions and more.
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Common Handcuffs

  • Real estate law and brokerage policy allows brokerages to keep your listings, your clients, and your transactions should you try to leave the brokerage. Even your commission splits for current transactions can be changed to favor the company when you make your intentions known. That is hard to leave when you become successful.
  • Technology tools and software allow brokerages to keep your clients from the database they gave you; your calls because your ‘direct’ phone number is redirected to another broker, your emails because they are also redirected to someone else. Come to think of it, no one ever had your personal email and cell number! These are the ‘iron handcuffs’ that you cannot afford to leave behind.
  • In some brokerages, leads, referrals, and relocation clients are strategically handed out like drugs to keep Realtors mesmerized and unable to leave; these are the ‘golden handcuffs.’

Bella Casa Real Estate Group wants you to become independent and autonomous.

We want you to be free to choose to work together with us because of the professional value gained. This is in best long-term interests for your income, the breadth of your success, and your retirement years. It may be more challenging at the beginning, but we are glad to offer everyone a hand up. We all needed it, and so do you. But if that help creates a dependency on us, then you will never be free to accomplish what you might achieve. You will never become more than a dependant ‘employee,’ handcuffed to an office which does not want you to grow wings and fly. You’ll never learn to feed yourself, expand your skills, increase your knowledge, and so you remain dependent on the company for your success and you get what is leftover after more people make money off of you. The result is that you are limited by all the ‘benefits’.

All of the hooks mentioned above are available to you on the open market, and we maintain that it will cost you a lot less to get them yourself. You must learn to be a professional, to buy your own tools, learn your own software, and build and advertise your business in a way that is custom to your design and desires, not a one-size-fits-all solution.

[pullquote]Our policies treat you as a professional colleague and an equal in business. Your business and your clients belong to you and should you leave the listings and clients go with you – it is our policy.[/pullquote]

Only the in-process transactions are completed at BC. We have no tricks to bind you to us. We want you to become successful, not experience success vicariously through someone else.

Randy McCreith, Principal Broker
Bella Casa Real Estate Group
503-310-9147

Cap & Splits

[pullquote align=”right”]Commissions allow you to be rewarded in direct proportion to your ability to work hard, work smart, and become successful.[/pullquote]

[dropcap character=”W” color=”blue”]While pay is rarely the most important issue in job satisfaction, it is certainly near the top and a decisive issue! The finest sales people in the world get paid by commission and they would have it no other way!  Good sales professionals can surpass their potential of hourly pay, and they get to focus on a single profession’s duties (unlike management) and can earn more than their peers in salaried positions.

There are downsides, of course: you get paid only when you complete a sale, the industry is cyclical (good and bad times), some people can cheat you out of your pay, and the competition can be formidable. Most ‘normal’ people also cannot handle receiving irregular paychecks and unpredictable income. But the ones who can will make more money.

In the real estate industry there are many factors in how much money you take home. To evaluate an opportunity and compare with other brokerages, a Realtor® should consider all of these issues:
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What is Commission Split?[divider]

  • The commission is paid by the seller and is divided between the listing and selling brokerages. A common example might be 6% of sale price with a 50/50% split of the commissions between the listing brokerage and the buyer’s brokerage.
  • Inside each brokerage, there is another split – between the brokerage and the selling or listing agent. This can vary widely from office to office. Some can be 50/50% or worse! Some may be as good as 80% to the agent and 20% to the brokerage. At Bella Casa, our Brokers’ commission is split 70% to the Realtor® and 30% to Bella Casa, every time a commission check comes in from a sale.

The crucial issue here is how much of each commission check from your sales will you be able to keep? Obviously the more the better, right? Maybe not…[/one_half] [one_half_last]

What is Commission Cap?[divider]

Not every brokerage will offer a commission cap! The cap is the point at which the brokerage will no longer take a commission split and the Realtor® receives 100% of the commissions. Caps are usually restarted annually, either the calendar year or the contract year (anniversary of joining the brokerage). Obviously a broker will want to ‘cap’ as early in the year as possible in order to make more money during the year. An agent who has capped has seemingly unlimited income potential.

The ‘cap’ is a more important factor than the ‘split’ to a successful professional. Those who do not sell much will make more money with a better split (80% vs. 70%). However, those who are successful in sales will make much more money by enjoying 100% of their sales after fully satisfying their share of the brokerage costs.[/one_half_last]

Royalties and Fees

Brokerages can be creative in finding ways to nickel & dime you to death. Most brokerages are money-making operations and naturally look for as many ‘income streams’ as possible. You must look at every service and product they give you as a profitable center for them.

If your brokerage requires you pay a royalty to the national or regional office/brand, then it costs you a lot more than nickels and dimes. Royalties commonly are 5-6% of the gross commission on each and every transaction (although I have seen 8%!). Only one that I know of will cap the royalty at a certain number, $3,000 per year, for example. The value of the royalty (having a national brand) can be debated and is discussed in other articles.

Investigate and be alert to fees and other charges which will come out of the gross commission for each transaction:

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  • Is there a fee for mentoring or training (or is it taken from your split as a certain percentage)?
  • Do you pay for Errors and Omissions Insurance per side of transaction (or how is it paid)?
  • Do you pay a transaction fee in each sale for its paperwork being processed?
  • Is there a marketing fee for assistance with advertising or marketing, for you individually, or for what the brokerage does generically?
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  • What advertising do you pay for? How much is it and does it promote you or the brokerage?
  • Is there a minimum sales fee? If you do not sell enough it might cost you to ‘hang your license’ there. Sometimes this is called a monthly minimum desk fee.
  • Is there any specialty fee; perhaps a special assessment to help the brokerage when times are tough as it has been since 2007?
  • How much do they charge for desk space?
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  • How much for a private or semi-private office?
  • How much are copies, both black & white and color?
  • Are you required to purchase home warranties or other affiliated business services (some of which have rebates to the brokerage)?
  • Do you pay for your own signs, lock boxes, sign posts, etc?
  • Do you pay for eFax service or other technology services?
  • Is there a technology/website fee?
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Bella Casa Offers Two Compensation Plans:

Plan 1: Most agents get 70% of the commissions until they cap at $15,000. After this they receive 100% of the gross commissions until the end of the contract year.

Plan 2: Realtors® confident of their sales for the coming year can receive 100% of their commissions for every sale. They pay their share of the brokerage expenses by paying $1,000 monthly as a normal bill. For these agents their total commissions paid (cap) is $12,000! Additionally, when the brokerage is profitable, these Realtors® can have their cap lowered based on the profits made for each year.

Because the cap is designed to satisfy the full needs of the brokerage, we are excited when our Realtors® cap very early in the year and enjoy all the fruits of their labor for the rest of the year.

Bella Casa Splits, Cap, Fees and Expenses:

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  • Our split is 70/30%
  • Our cap is $15k or $12K (approximately sales of $2,000,000)
  • We do not have a royalty or payment to another entity (save over 5%)
  • Our only fee is an Errors and Omissions assessment of $50 per transaction side. Because risk exposure is related to the number of transactions, we believe this is the fair way.
  • Our copier charges are free for black and white, and 10 cents per copy for color.
  • Our office usage and desk space is free. If someone wants private space, they pay based on our adjusted lease rate of space costs.
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[pullquote]The issue is not that many of these services come with a price tag, but that you have a right to know what you are paying and to decide for yourself whether this is a good value. [/pullquote][space10]

You also have a right to evaluate the competitive differences accurately. Of course any brokerage’s costs are subject to change but you should be able to assess for yourself whether changes are reasonable and the value is still worth it. It should not come as a surprise once you are already committed to it when it is too much hassle to change back to the better brokerage.

Randy McCreith, Principal Broker
Bella Casa Real Estate Group
503-310-9147

We Are Your Cheerleaders

[dropcap character=”T” color=”red”]The #1 complaint I have heard from agents thinking about changing brokerage is that the claim to offer excellent education, training, and mentoring was hollow. When you are new to real estate, it takes personal guidance and responsive people as well as the abyss of an intranet!  Your best authority to learn how good a brokerage is, is to ask their agents and their former agents! Make some calls and get the inside scoop.  We have successfully built a brokerage with agents willing to give a hand-up, answer questions, help with issues, and cheerlead for the success of others.

We offer you the following resources:

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  • The Owners and Designated Brokers. I answer my phone almost 24/7/365, and it is not a problem. If you are writing an offer, about to go into a threatening appointment, or are stuck on an issue, or you need a person to assist you now or very soon. Our children are grown, and Joni and I have the time to do this. Our Realtors® and our clients are our highest business priority.
  • Our business model has many Principal Brokers: We want all of our brokers to become Principals and know the value of increased prestige and credibility. We want everyone to be fully competent and be able to wear that badge. Currently we have about a dozen Principals, and 4 people who have owned their own brokerages. Each of our Principals have extensive knowledge and experience and are graciously eager to help anyone become an independent professional who in turn will one day help others
  • We have developed a culture of sharing and collaborating among all our Realtors®, and it is refreshing and satisfying to see it in action. Everyone can help someone else get at least to where they are. Bella Casa Realtors® are generous and willing to collaborate to make us all more successful.
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[pullquote]When people interview with me about a place to develop their business, after all the discussions, I ask them to call anyone (or everyone) in the brokerage and ask them questions.vWhat is the good, the bad, and the ugly? Are they who they claim to be? Do they deliver what they say they will?[/pullquote][space5]

This is the test of validity. “If I had to do it all over again, what would I have liked to help me make it?” That was our intention and our design 6 years ago, and we have not stopped doing what made us the fastest growing office in Yamhill County. Check us out!

Randy McCreith, Principal Broker
Bella Casa Real Estate Group

I Need Help! Education & Training

[dropcap character=”W” color=”yellow”]When you first get your license, you know very little about ‘how to do real estate.’ You likely have never seen an earnest money agreement, do not know where to find any forms, and wonder how you will find leads, prospective clients, and what to do to convert leads into clients. You have likely just spent more than $2,000 for your licensing education, your license, your Association dues, MLS membership and your Realtor® key, some clothes and equipment. You wonder how and when you can make that money back. You may feel weak on technology, have never received professional sales training, do not know a great deal about the area you are selling in, and you feel terribly alone in this industry. You wonder what you would even do if someone asked you for a valuation on a property or how you would show properties if someone were to ask. It is a vulnerable, and sometimes terrifying feeling.

We have all experienced this and will likely never forget it. No one becomes successful in real estate on their own. We all owe gratitude to many people for how we were treated, assisted, and for the examples we had. Our inspiration likely came from someone else, and realistically, we all had a person or two who became our backbone and kept us persevering in spite of our apprehensions and frustrations.

Continuing Education: What You Need to Know

Education is about gaining more information. It is important that you become a life-long learner. Our industry changes significantly each year and you must never stop being informed and expanding your knowledge base. This must be a passion and a hobby. Continuing your education can be a huge bonus for your career prospects. If you are a teacher you may want to continue your education to better teach your students, to advance in your job role, or to train for additional teaching areas. There are summer courses for teachers provided online for those who may want to do this for their professional development.

Some brokerages hook you with their extensive intranet libraries of information and streams of information that they bring to you. All of that information is readily available online, in bookstores, through certification courses, by way of endless class offerings by vendors and 3rd party suppliers, and constant conferences and annual conventions. I can set you up to receive regular, informative emails that will weekly overflow your mailbox. At your fingertips is more information than you can ever read, and if you tried, you would never have time for sales. There is no lack of supply, and no one has any secret information; the question for you is at what price does a brokerage’s package of information come? I think it is too expensive since it can be yours for free!

Areas of Knowledge to Pursue

  • Required Courses: The Real Estate Agency is a State of Oregon Agency that governs the legal compliance of real estate licensees. Your license requires you to maintain a minimum of 30 hours of certified continuing education for each license period. Beginning in 2011, all classes and instructors must be certified according to specific standards. You can find out more at: http://www.rea.state.or.us/REA/EDU/continuing_education.shtml. YCAR (The Yamhill County Association of Realtors®) offers 36 hours of certified continuing education each year. Classes are held in Newberg and McMinnville on the 3rd Thursday of each month from 8:45- Noon. They are free with your membership! For more information: http://yamhillcountyrealtors.org/education/
  • Forms and Documents: This is a core competency you need to learn quickly. This is a massive assignment you will have to master quickly. This requires systematic reading and then interacting with those who have learned how to communicate this well. Our Principals will help you until you are comfortable. We also have systematic discussions in our workshops and in MP3 format.
  • Sales Training: If you are a good sales person, then you are adept in psychology. It is not about teaching you how to manipulate people to do what you want, but how to serve every kind of person well and help them to make the best decision and accomplish their needs and desires. It is about communication and connecting with people. It is about seeing through the clutter and understanding the mechanics of the process, and operating efficiently and effectively. It is about creating leads, who become prospects, who become clients for life. This is both a science and an art. While some people intuitively understand this, many of us need to learn from the best in the business through sales training courses like those offered by Impel Dynamic. Whether you use your skills for good or not is an issue of your character, not an inherent weakness of sales training.
  • Basic Technology: We are in an increasingly sophisticated technological environment. Without adequate knowledge, you limit your potential. When you decide you are done upgrading your skills you are slowly killing your business. You must know how to set up your computer settings for access to sites and peripherals, learn your software, and get onto directories and websites. Electronic faxing, designing informational signatures, network settings, document management, social networking, manipulating pictures, etc. are all very important. For document management, you might be using Sharepoint as this is very popular. If that is the case, then you will want to take a look at these sharepoint web parts as they allow you to tailor Sharepoint to your requirements. If this is all a bit alien to you, then you might want to take some courses to further your knowledge. The ITSM Zone may be a good place to start, as they offer different courses that will allow you to develop your understanding of service management. They will help develop your skills to manage your own technology infrastructures and control your computing elements with ease.
  • Area Knowledge: Our products are homes and properties. You must become the expert of towns and neighborhoods, of a myriad of local issues, climate distinctives, and issues you need to caution people about (like a bypass). You will be asked about schools and businesses, about shopping and restaurants. You will be selling condos and vast rural properties – each of these have amazing complexity. You need to learn property values and why two statistically identical houses have dramatically different values. Did you know the difference in rainfall between Grand Ronde and Sheridan is over 50″ per year? Might that be important to a buyer?
  • Risk Management: This is a broad area of knowledge that is right at the top. It incorporates almost every other area, and we must relentlessly pursue this. Your value is in protecting and informing your clients, but your colleagues also depend on you to know what is right and good and profitable. You must know where the pitfalls are and how to appropriately solve problems. We all suffer when someone fails, so we all have motivation to be aware of changing laws & regulations, and issues.

Training: How To Do Something

  • Workshops: Bella Casa offers practical interactive workshops on Friday mornings for any agents wanting to attend. These revolve around key issues and current questions and concerns. What we do is determined by the immediate need as expressed by our Realtors®. There is a time for questions and discussions about anything, even if it is not related to the topic of the day.
  • Our affiliated businesses like title companies and mortgage companies offer much training to all Realtors®. Many will offer free software for you and access to the kinds of data they have. Some Title representatives also train on marketing and advertising, social networking, and other practical services.
  • If you want to learn how to build a business by referral, Brian Buffini offers extensive training online and through seminars and conferences. Others offer specific real estate training on various models, wide ranging issues through books, online, dvds/mp3s, and more. Realtor.com (NAR) has a vast library of information and training to be tapped into. Our State Association and our MLSs also offer training.
  • Certification Courses: You can advance your knowledge and skills by buying certification courses offered by OAR and NAR (GRI, ABR, CRS, and many more). There are also useful 3rd Party certifications in the business and sales industries.

Our Values & Principles

Bella Casa Real Estate Group is growing, has established an exceptional reputation, and is successful because we believe in lofty values and basic principles which define us. Here is an overview of what we aspire to and practice.

1. Our most basic requirements for any Realtor®

  • You must be legally squeaky-clean. We are not looking to see how close we can get to the line without transgressing it; we are trying to see how perfectly we can meet the legal requirements in the letter of the law and in the spirit of the law.
  • You must uphold high ethical standards. We are Realtors® because we belong to the National Association of Realtors®. We belong to NAR because we subscribe to a carefully delineated Code of Ethics for our practice. At the core of the NAR Code of Ethics is the Golden Rule. We also want people who will uphold the highest level of business ethics, exceptional standards of conduct, and employ the industry’s best practices.
  • You must be committed impressive levels of customer-centric service. Genuine service is first an attitude. I am a servant meeting the needs of my clients. The best Realtors® understand that those who always put the client first and work for their interests will be the most successful, benefit financially, and enjoy longevity. Reputations are built and destroyed based on the quality of customer service.

2. We are professionals

That is more than a statement of our work; it is a statement of our character. The most basic expression of a professional is that you exhibit wisdom in self-control. You choose to do only what is good and right, not what you may want to do or say under pressure. If you cannot control your emotions, reactions, attitudes and provocations for the purpose of doing good, then you will not achieve what is possible.

3. We value independence and autonomy

We all need a hand up and we all benefit from the united resources of experience, education, and the gifts and talents of each other. That is why we are a cooperative and share generously with each other. But we do so as those who have grown up and developed our own businesses according to our own designs. Some people always want someone else to give them more and do things for them. People who are dependent by nature and satisfied looking to others to take care of them do not fit our business model. We each function independently and autonomously. As such, we can choose to cooperate, not because we can’t be successful on our own, but because we see the value we can realize from cooperating with like-minded professionals.

4. We value cooperation

We formed a cooperative! Our Realtors® are gracious and generous. We foster a culture of sharing and helping. We collaborate when there is greater value together than we can know on our own.

5. We are colleagues who practice collegiality

We are competitors who respect each other as equals in standing. We are not hierarchical and so our cooperation is based on shared values and commitments. We make progress through consensus. What may distinguish us is what we earn and accomplish. We respect each persons right to become what he or she imagines.

6. Creativity

Everyone is unique in some ways and many of us reflect different perspectives. We encourage you to think outside the box, to explore fresh ideas, and create your own unique identity. In no way are we a cookie-cutter brokerage of conformists. You have liberty to experiment and explore. If you maintain your values and commitments, they will keep you on sound footing.

7. Reputation

Our Reputation is the most valuable asset we have. A good reputation can take a life-time to build but can be destroyed in a day. No amount of money (or any its benefits) is worth the loss of your reputation. Carelessness and compromise are dangerous. The love of money above all else is deadly. Maintain your values and commitments and you will be spared a great deal of suffering or humiliation.

8. Accountability

If you are independent and autonomous you are accountable. No one else takes that responsibility for you. You live with your consequences, good and bad, and you experience the satisfaction of the fruit of your efforts. When we are wrong we admit it. It is better to learn from something than to assign blame. It is better to apologize and make appropriate amends than to argue and dispute a failure.

9. Integrity

Integrity means that our values, our standards, our commitments, and our morals are fully integrated into our full person. It is not an act, an image, nor is it a manipulation or a deception. You are what you aspire to be. You are for real, genuine, and sincere. Hypocrisy usually cannot be hidden forever.

10. Generosity

We contribute to the communities which allow us to become successful. Professionals are giving people. We value the efforts of all who work to create a better lives and communities. We are active in our churches, local government commissions and task forces, we support local charities and non-profits. We are members of service clubs and business and community associations. We sponsor a wide variety of community events. Our Realtors® support our Annual Realtor® Auction each October.

The First Six Years

[pullquote cite=” – by Geri Weitzman” align=”right”]Sometimes you just have to create what you want to be a part of![/pullquote]

It was early spring of 2007. There were tremors in the housing markets of California, but no one here worried much about it. Joni and I lived through the February 9, 1971 San Fernando earthquake in Southern California but we never expected anything like that when we moved to Oregon. California is home to earthquakes, even in their housing industry. Their prices routinely grow sky-high, and then get shaken back down to the ground.  We’ve learned to ignore it as an inevitable event. Little did we know, within 4 months of Bella Casa’s inception the mother of all quakes would shake the nation’s housing industry.

So much for foresight and good judgment! But if we lacked understanding about the size of the sub-prime quake, we did not lack vision and direction for what we knew would be the brokerage of the future. The colonial era of brokerages was past, and the new era was to be built upon a new model, one we call a professional cooperative.

We began on the 15th of March, 2007, with Mary Jo, Tanya, Joni, Amy, Randy, and Mary. Soon Rena, Olya, and Grace made the move. By March 15, 2008, our first anniversary, Robin joined us as our 30th Realtor® making us the largest brokerage in McMinnville, and among the top three for size in the County.  But while size may be a commentary on the attractiveness of our model, alone it may only mean we put on a better party!

Our goal has always been to be the brand of choice for our area, the greater Yamhill County area, one of the most beautiful places on the earth! We are accomplishing this with a sterling reputation, which we value more than gold and the highest level of competent service available for our clients. Since the past is the best predictor of the future, we are very optimistic!

Why Consider Bella Casa?

[dropcap character=”T” color=”blue”]The last time I checked, only half of the real estate agents in America were Realtors®, and only half of those were members of a recognizable national or regional company brand. I suspect that the latter number is substantially less after the decimating recession we’ve experienced. Witness many  independent brokerages emerging and the multiplication of personal or boutique brands.  Realtor® teams – functioning like mini-companies – have exploded onto the real estate landscape. Sole proprietors have become common.  Something is fueling this decentralization trend. What is it?

[pullquote]The old models are dying, conventional thinking is being challenged, and the handcuffs of large brokerages, be they golden or iron, are not effective anymore. [/pullquote][space5]

We have shown that technology has leveled the competitive landscape. Now every Realtor® can access all the knowledge, tools, and sophisticated business methods that were formerly reserved for the big brands only. The individual has been set free.

Admittedly, it is a bit of a mess in our industry right now, as all transitions and paradigm shifts are. Some of this change is ugly, embarrassing, and threatening; some novel ideas will die for good reason. Change is unsettling to most people; it stirs-up insecurities and fears. But much of this will improve life for many brokers and provide finer services for the public. True professionals have opportunities to flourish and entrepreneurs can craft their magic. There are so many new opportunities in the marketplace right now. It is amazing to think about it!

Bella Casa Real Estate Group embraces much of the change in our industry.

Our brokerage is built on a principle of the independence and autonomy of professionals.  Ironically, we want people who do not need us! Why then join a brokerage at all? Because those of us who can function successfully alone know that there are good reasons and valuable benefits for cooperating together.

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  • Together we will fare better in the marketplace by building a powerful, attractive, and ubiquitous brand with a stellar reputation

  • Together we can afford a more professional and visible office to meet with our clients.  We share costs of higher quality equipment and products like a comprehensive, local, and powerful custom website.

  • By working closely with the finest Realtors® in the area and cultivating a culture of equality and sharing, we will all mature professionally, solve problems with better knowledge and experience, and reduce risk for our clients.

  • Some of us need professional assistance, training, mentoring, and apprenticeship. We all did at one time and we are glad to help each other with a hand-up. But we will celebrate the day each broker becomes an independent and autonomous broker no longer dependent on the brokerage.

  • When brokers stay because they choose to, then we are truly successful as a cooperative.

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I am more than happy to speak with you and share all that Bella Casa has to offer. I truly believe that we offer the best professional opportunities and compensation package around. Give me a call anytime.

Randy McCreith, Principal Broker
Bella Casa Real Estate Group
cell: 503-310-9147

Our Evolving Industry

[dropcap character=”H” color=”red”]Historic revolutions, which overturn social order and radically change the way people live, are often initiated by conquest (The Roman Empire), by political Coup d’état or civil war (our Revolutionary War), or by new technology (the printing press). Technology peacefully but fundamentally changes the status quo and is the great leveler of people in our world. Knowledge, tools, and privileges formerly reserved for the elite, the wealthy, and large corporations, is made available to the masses. The printing press fueled the expansion of the Reformation and the Renaissance, the development of nationalism, and the ability of the common person to know more and affect more individually.

If everyone is affected; who gains and who loses?

The technology revolution of the past few decades has radically reshaped the competitive business landscape. Some think this trend will make obsolete the need for real estate agents. We do not think Realtors® will become unnecessary, especially if they attempt to stay up to date with technological developments and make use of social media marketing for realtors for example. However, we do believe that technology is obsolescing, or at least minimizing, the power of the national brands or large regional firms. The riches which used to be their exclusive domain are now in the hands of any broker! The individual Realtor® today is empowered with limitless information and resources, and immediate accessibility to anyone on the planet. You can also utilize marketing tools like offerwall ads to market yourself on people’s phones. Who could have guessed even just a decade ago that you would be able to advertise yourself in the palm of someone’s hand?

What do I gain with a national brand or a large real estate firm?

In our industry, national brokerages and large real estate firms used to provide valuable and necessary services that were beyond the individual’s real estate agent’s reach. They had national and world-wide reach. Their deep pockets could provide expensive national advertising, sophisticated business systems, and impressive marketing collaterals. They could amass extensive resources for agents while providing unifying and confidence inspiring branding. In exchange, they had large numbers of agents working for them and a significant income from their commissions.

The fruit of independence and autonomy

Equipped with today’s technology, Realtors® have the ability to be fully independent and autonomous in a way that was unimaginable to former generations. Yes, it does require the need for load testing from time to time, but the benefits outweigh the negatives considerably. Not only can we reach the entire world directly, but we can be found by anyone on the planet with a few clicks of a mouse or a message sent from a phone. Direct and instantaneous communications worldwide by cell, text, instant message, email, social networking sites, or live video stream have set us free from offices and unnecessary expenses. Today we can utilize virtual assistants in Australia for our marketing alongside the advice given in this article, buy industry products world-wide, find web-based training and knowledge from our laptops or phones, collaborate with the finest business resources available, and use the most powerful software applications.

Are you becoming obsolete?

Real estate remains essentially local and personal. Home buyers and sellers today are more educated and sophisticated about real estate because of technology, but they still need “field guides” and expert information specialists. There is a greater need for protective representation and expert counsel to help clients build wealth and make good investments. We still need boots on the ground to execute all the logistics. Real estate is not like researching and buying commodities, financial products, or travel reservations. It is personal, geographical and local. We maintain that as the real estate industry continues to grow in complexity, the local Realtor® becomes all the more important.

Why We Recruit

[dropcap character=”I” color=”gray”]It is common in business to recruit the best talent or those with the potential to be among the best. It is part of the competitive nature of the free marketplace, and it forces everyone to make better products, offer better services, and provide a better work environment for people. This is something we pride ourselves on; we believe we offer a fantastic package which is why we demand the very best from our employees. Before we hire anyone, we even pay for an afp police check, such is our commitment to making sure we only ever employ those who will benefit the company. These are the many benefits of what a competitive nature in some people can do, however, if this the type of environment at the moment there are plenty of opportunities for you to improve. One of the ways you could work towards a better work environment is by participating in team building exercises, whether you’re looking for team building in Denver or somewhere more local to you, there are plenty of guides out there for you to take advantage of in order to become a more successful team. Recruiting is not meant to be a hostile act! Sometimes Realtors® come to us from offices where our respect for the owner is high, and we are friends. There are good reasons to recruit; here is what motivates us to do it.[space5]

[pullquote cite=” – by Geri Weitzman” align=”right”]Sometimes we just have to create what we want to be a part of. [/pullquote]1. Everyone does it.

In one sense, it is defensive. A basic principle of business is, “if it’s not growing, it’s dying.” No business lives forever, some just live longer than others. We know other brokerages are constantly trying to lure our brokers away. If we did not promote our brokerage’s features and benefits, then we could find our business in decline. If our Realtors® are successfully recruited away, that may be a barometer something is wrong and we need to improve our competitive position. We are grateful that our work environment and our financial arrangements are attractive.

2. At any given time Realtors® are looking for something better.

We believe we have something better to offer many brokers. As business people develop, what was good for them at one stage of their growth later becomes a hindrance. A new agent may like a dependent environment where there are lots of benefits. However, this usually comes at a high cost. As they become more independent and wish to retain more of their commissions, they look for better business opportunities. We all do it – for most people it is called ‘looking for a new job’ or looking for a better position with a competitor. Recruiting is our way of communicating with Realtors® in our marketplace and letting them know what their options are.

3. There is exceptional power in collegial synergism.

When the best are assembled, they become both an inspiration and a resource for future great Realtors®. If we can attract and retain the finest in the industry, then the reputation and credibility of all our Realtors® is enhanced. If our brokers can see the various models of success vividly and close up, they can find their own fit quicker and gain a detailed road map to success. If we are successful in assembling generous and gracious professionals, then together we can do so much more than the sum of the parts or that anyone might be able to do alone.

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  • A collective knowledge base and library of experiences will help us all solve problems better

  • The practical wisdom arising from a group of professionals is priceless

  • Developing deep professional relationships adds richness to our lives

  • Newer or younger Realtors® bring fresh ideas, methods, perspective, and creativity to entire brokerage

  • Each contributes to others success in a variety of ways

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We believe there is enough business for everyone, and that if we help others succeed, then we will all have the advantage of a more professional environment and the reputation of Realtors® in general will be improved in the community. That is good for everyone!

4. Competition is good for everyone.

Competition raises the bar of professionalism. Without it, people get sloppy and operations degenerate into bad service for clients, which results in damage to the reputation of Realtors® and our industry. We are all vulnerable to it, and so we wake up every morning determined to do a great job for our clients, help our colleagues, and continue to improve our costs and services making our business the best there is. When that happens, there are many rewards, both financial and non-tangible! Competition also helps cull the bad apples from the barrel. It is not illegal or an ethics violation to be a nasty and miserable person to work with. With competition, the good Realtors® are floodlighted and receive the business while the bad look bad and lose. We can be more professional, do a better job, raise the awareness of those who are a credit to our profession, and let the market cull out the others for everyone’s benefit.

5. Growth of the brokerage provides more income to cover the shared services of our professional cooperative.

The optimal size allows our Realtors® to pay less individually, and when there is more growth, it allows for new opportunities in areas where our brokers want to work and expand their businesses. The end of our business plan is driven by our Realtors®; after all, it is a professional cooperative!

Randy McCreith
Principal Broker, Bella Casa Real Estate Group
Cell: 503-310-9147