Inman is interviewing independent brokers. Here’s Mary Maloney, founder/owner at Hometown Realty.
Why do you stay independent when there are so many great franchises to join?
There are some really smart people doing great things in our industry right now, but I believe the future is in teams and small offices. Delivering value to sellers and buyers will be virtually impossible for a single agent.
We set out to do real estate differently, and that will keep us independent. Bigger real estate isn’t always better real estate.
When did you decide to launch your independent brokerage and why?
The opportunity to acquire the independent brokerage I was managing presented itself in 2008, and I jumped at the chance.
What factored into that decision?
Not much; it was a gut reaction. My gut is usually right on, and I haven’t looked back.
Why did you think it was the right time and the right move for you?
It was 2008, the recession was upon us and everyone thought I was crazy! We anticipated shifts in the market and grew our business each year.
Now, as the market has readjusted, we are prepared to capitalize on the growth.
How old is your brokerage?
Just celebrated lucky No. 7! (Seven years, that is.)
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting your brokerage off the ground?
People. In every industry, people are the biggest capital investment and have the largest impact on your company’s success.
Being a boutique brokerage was new in 2008. Too many agents were just focused on splits and not really building something unique. Attracting the right talent continues to be our focus.
What was the easiest part of getting your brokerage off the ground?
Because we were an already established company and I had a proven track record of success as an agent, we were able to make an easy credibility transfer to the new brand.
What’s your approximate agent-to-staff ratio?
Are you part of an independent brokerage network?
Not at this time.
What’s the quirkiest thing about your firm?
Our people. We have a lot of personalities and laugh a lot! We love hashtags, breakfast burritos and Fireball!
Describe your office. Where is it located? What does it look like?
We are located right in the heart of our geographic farm area with a storefront location. Brick walls, comfortable furniture and a good coffee machine.
People tell us all the time it doesn’t look like a typical real estate office but more like a living room. The pool table is a big hit, too!
What kind of floor plan do you use?
We have a large lobby area perfect for parties and meetings, which we do allow nonprofits to use, such as the local homeowners associations, school parent/teacher organizations, soccer — we are even the polling location for our area during elections!
We have offices on the perimeter where all of our client information is kept under lock and key and an open agent area with “production stations,” as we like to call them. The agents can stand and make phone calls or sit and take care of transactions. They are all mobile with iPads, iPhones and laptops.
How many agents and offices do you have?
Six full-time, rock-star agents and one office space.
How do you recruit new agents?
It has been by natural attraction and referral up to this point. As our business has grown, we are in need of more agents, but our culture is extremely important, and we are taking our time to find the right people who fit our core values.
Where and how do you market your brokerage?
We have a very dominant presence in our local area. Our physical location is smack in the middle of it. Our “click-and-mortar” approach includes traditional and new mediums for advertising and marketing.
One of our most important core values is giving back to the community. We host events such as National Night Out and a Backyard Tour, as well as support our local food bank with a food drive every year.
Do you have office parties? What are they like?
We love to party!! It’s real estate — there is always something to celebrate. We also take our team on a yearly retreat and fun team functions like a spa day or a party bus to the wine country.
Describe your brokerage’s digital presence.
Our marketing plan is multifaceted and diverse. We currently use an online search lead generation platform website. We are on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. We also have a Pinterest account for showcasing the pictures of our beautiful homes and are experimenting with Periscope.
What would you say are the biggest advantages to operating as an independent brokerage versus as a franchised firm? What are the biggest challenges?
As an independent brokerage, we can make decisions quickly and deploy new technologies or ideas to stay ahead of the competition and build points of differentiation. The industry moves fast, and being able to pivot is critical to supporting your agents to better serve the changing consumer.
Having deep pockets like some of the big franchises would be nice to implement on a larger scale, but we are happy with our pace.
What sets your brokerage apart? What makes you different from your competition?
Not to brag, but OK, I will … we have the best agents and staff on the planet! Our people continue to set our brokerage apart, not only with consumers but within our peer community.
Quality and professionalism in everything we do are our guiding principles, and our people exude it.
What’s the biggest business improvement you made last year? What’s the biggest improvement you have planned for this year?
This past year we added an online lead generation platform to our mix with Boomtown as well as joined Tom Ferry’s Team+ coaching program, where all of our agents and staff are in coaching.
These two have been game changers for us. Our production has doubled year over year. In looking ahead, refining our workflow processes and streamlining for a better consumer and agent experience is at the top of our “Make It Better” list!
Are you an independent broker who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email email@example.com.