A low-commission real estate company based in Tampa, Fla., has expanded its reach into five South Florida counties.

Home Discovery Real Estate Services Corp., formerly known as Home Discovere, launched as a mortgage company in 2000, and the real estate brokerage operations launched in 2002. Before the latest expansion, Home Discovery had served seven counties in the Tampa Bay area.

The company also changed its logo and rolled out a fleet of blue 2005 Chrysler 300s for its real estate operations, according to an announcement Tuesday. Home Discovery sold more than 1,000 homes in 2004, and the company claims commissions savings of $7 million.

The company’s business model has not been welcomed with open arms by some traditional real estate brokerages, who claim that Home Discovery is stealing away business and offering a pittance in some cases to traditional agents who work with the company’s property listings. Home Discovery’s own agents do not receive a commission – they receive a salary and are employees of the company.

Under the company’s 2 percent plan, home sellers receive an MLS and Realtor.com listing, and buyers are encouraged to work directly with Home Discovery rather than through their own agent. Under the 4 percent commission plan, the buyer’s agent receives a 2 percent commission. Home Discovery also has a plan in which home sellers can limit the total commission to 3.5 percent if they agree to conduct their own open houses.

Home Discovery has 100 employees. In addition to mortgage and real estate brokerage services, Home Discovery also offers other real estate-related services, such as appraisals, home inspections, home warranties, termite inspections, surveys and repair services.

Last year, a Realtor filed an ethics complaint with a Tampa-area Realtor association over a Home Discovery television advertisement. The Realtor charged that the ad smeared the reputation of Realtors. The local association did not publicly announce the outcome of that complaint.

Also, Realtors have complained that Home Discovery in some cases has offered $202 in compensation to a cooperating brokerage, less a $200 administrative fee — which leaves $2 in commission for the selling brokreage office.

Traditional brokerages appear to be feeling the weight of competition from alternative business models, and Coldwell Banker placed an ad in a St. Petersburg, Fla., newspaper in October that states, “With ‘limited service’ brokers, price isn’t all that’s reduced. Limited service brokers charge less because they offer less.”

Johnson describes Home Discovery as a full-service, low-commission real estate company. In a previous interview with Inman News, he said, “I don’t refer to our concept as a discount model. We don’t offer limited service – for 2 percent I’m offering the same as a 7 percent company. I look at it as a low-commission model. This is what (real estate services) should cost. The word ‘discount’ has a negative connotation.”


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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