LAS VEGAS — If you blink, you might miss the launch of another real estate technology company.

Steve Ozonian, who joined flat-fee pioneer Help-U-Sell Real Estate in January as CEO and chairman of the board, told company employees Tuesday, “We all know there has been a proliferation of new business models over the last few years. There have been more new things happening in the last five years than in the last 50 years.”

Speaking during a national Help-U-Sell convention in Las Vegas, Ozonian said that technology is giving more power to real estate consumers, and the company must evolve quickly to stay ahead of the curve.

“Everything has changed,” he said. “All of us know that the Internet has forever changed the way people buy and sell real estate. People feel more empowered because of the Internet. More questions are being asked about the service levels that real estate professionals provide than ever before.”

Multiple listing systems are in a state of flux — they are “under more stress than they’ve ever been,” he said, there are fierce battles being fought over Internet lead generation, the focus of the industry is shifting more toward consumers, and the national real estate market is definitely slowing down.

The company, which launched in 1976, needs to maintain its focus on consumers, grow its market share as the market slows, and become “the premier organization in the set-fee world.”

He added, “We’re going to have the most successful marketing platform. And we’re going to have the best lead-generation expertise. The war over attracting consumers and getting leads is only going to heat up.”

Also, the company must do better at offering real estate-related services other than brokerage services, Ozonian said. While some people refer to mortgage, title and homeowner’s insurance as “ancillary” to the real estate transaction, he said that they are vital and necessary services that Help-U-Sell offices should pursue.

Federal rules may shift to allow more bundling of services in the real estate industry, he also said.

“The press is hungry right now for what we’re about,” Ozonian said, noting that there has been public interest in the discussion of the cost of traditional real estate commissions.

When representing home sellers, Help-U-Sell brokers offer listing services for a flat fee as opposed to the traditional commission rate, which is based on a percentage of the home’s selling price.

“Our job is going to be to get the word out, more than ever,” he said. “There is a tremendous opportunity to blow that (commission) issue up.”

He also blamed the media for reporting on the potential for a national housing market crash. While rising or flat interest rates, job losses and price increases in a given real estate market can lead a market to decline rapidly, this scenario is not representative of the national housing market, Ozonian said, which he expects will continue to perform well for at least the rest of the year. “Nothing out there says that everything is falling apart.”

The company still has a long way to go, he remarked. “We certainly don’t have 90 percent market share in this business. In fact, we don’t even have 5 percent. I don’t care if the market’s up or down. We have a long way to go and the odds are in our favor that (this) business model is going to grow in popularity. We ought to be on the edge — and one step ahead of everyone else.”

Ozonian announced that the company is changing the look of its logo on for-sale signs. The new design sheds the “for sale with owner” text that was formerly printed on the signs, and provides a more basic color scheme. Ozonian said the change will “make us stand out more … make us more contemporary.”

Also, Help-U-Sell is working with Fidelity National Information Systems to build new technology systems for affiliates.


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