@properties plucks Detroit shop as first franchisee

Chicago’s @properties announced its first franchise location Tuesday – the Detroit shop formerly known as Alexander Real Estate.

Alexander, now rebranded as @properties, is a four-year-old firm with 45 agents and $120 million in 2020 sales volume that has so far focused on downtown Detroit.  

Snapping up Alexander is part of a “national expansion plan,” said Chris Lim, president of growth at @Properties, with the Windy City brokerage eying a “half-dozen” franchise announcements in the coming year.

Co-founded by Thad Wong and Michael Golden in 2000, @Properties is the biggest real estate brokerage in Chicago and 10th largest shop in the nation with $10.8 billion in 2019 sales, according to RealTrends.

For years, Wong and Golden strictly focused on the Chicagoland area. But in 2018, a private equity firm, Charlottesville, Virginia-based Quad-C Management, took a stake in the company.

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Since then, @Properties bought an undisclosed stake in Charlottesville brokerage Nest Realty as well as Atlanta’s Ansley Real Estate, headed by Bonneau Ansley.

Wong and Golden announced in September that they were shopping for franchise partners, and that they would charge a $35,000 franchise fee, plus a monthly tech fee of $50 per agent, and collect 6 percent of the franchisee’s revenue.

In exchange, @Properties is offering its marketing department, their proprietary technology @platform, and potential financial assistance in a firm’s expansion.

Eric Walstrom, principal broker of the previously named Alexander, said that his brokerage is now positioned to expand into Detroit suburbs like Grosse Pointe, and eventually Ann Arbor.

Given today’s real estate market, Walstrom said, it was inevitable Alexander would join forces with a larger shop.

“With VC and outside money coming into the space, we started looking for opportunities for partnerships,” Walstrom said.

“I literally met with absolutely everybody,” Walstrom added, stating he found @properties’ marketing and technology superior.

Few real estate brokerages in 2021 say their technology is anything less than second to none. Walstrom said @properties sold him because they have a comprehensive in-house platform, which he believed made their technology more adaptable than brokerages that acquire a customer relationship management system.

Source: housingwire.com

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Forever Changed the Process of Selling a House

In normal circumstances, selling a house involves interacting with a lot of people. In-person house tours, roundtable closings, and handshakes are all standard formalities.

But in a world rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, safety and social distancing are a must, and real estate professionals and sellers have had to adapt to a new way of doing business. That means altering how they approach open houses, closings, and even personal greetings. (We’re all too familiar with the elbow bump.)

“It has been amazing to see how quickly our industry has evolved,” says Tricia Hausler, director of sales for Lexington Homes. “We have banded together throughout the many facets of our industry to create positive solutions that allow us to continue to comfortably and safely serve our prospective clients and buyers.”

Many of these safety solutions—like self-guided house tours while wearing personal protective equipment—are still in place in states seeing surges of the coronavirus infection. But even after rates fall out of the high-risk zone and a COVID-19 vaccine has been widely distributed, experts predict some of these solutions will have staying power.

The pandemic ushered in many new methods to facilitate selling a home. Here are some of the practices experts say are here to stay.

Curbside and no-touch closings

Perhaps the most exciting part of the home-selling process is closing day. It means that your house is finally sold! But curbside and no-touch closings were enacted during the pandemic to comply with social distancing recommendations.

How does a curbside closing work? According to Chicago-based title insurance firm Proper Title LLC, a title expert walks out to the client’s car to gather signatures on paperwork that an attorney has prepared ahead of time, instead of the traditional process of completing all the paperwork with an attorney in a conference room.

And in instances where remote online notarizations or remote ink notarizations are permitted, all documents can be signed remotely through an approved online notary platform (e.g., Notarize) or audiovisual portal (e.g., Microsoft Teams).

Moving forward, experts can see curbside and no-touch closings becoming the norm.

“Everyone is looking to save more time in their lives, and that’s exactly what curbside and no-touch closings let us do,” says Kathy J. Kwak, executive vice president of operations and counsel for Proper Title LLC. “These new closing options not only reduce travel times for most parties involved, but they also help mitigate some of the scheduling challenges that surrounded the closing process before the pandemic.”

Kwak says most of their clients appreciate the changes made and would like to continue with these new closing procedures postpandemic.


Watch: Tips for Showing Your Home Virtually—at Its Best


Goodbye, out-of-focus photos and meager listing descriptions

Any well-informed seller knows that high-quality listing photos and a gripping listing description of your home are vital to attract buyers. But presenting your home in its best light online was more important than ever during the pandemic, when in-person open houses were limited.

“The pandemic only accelerated the need for agents to be more virtually literate and use heavy images in their listings,” says Greg Phillips, designated managing broker for Baird & Warner’s Northwest Suburban office in Arlington Heights, IL. “Many agents started to leverage social media by posting video tours of homes on Instagram or Facebook Live, which have been very well-received by buyers.”

Phillips says his company has also seen great responses to its detailed online listings.

From here on out, the more details the better! Standard marketing of a home is likely to include professional photos, virtual tours, and a compelling description of the property.

Virtual showings are here to stay

Open houses—whether limited capacity or not—will always be a part of the process, but virtual showings are truly the future of selling a home.

“Virtual showings through 3D videos have already revolutionized the way our industry does business and likely will continue to do so,” says Kirste Gaudet, broker for @properties in Chicago. “The 3D tours are so realistic that we may be able to put open houses to rest. I find that my clients now want them as part of the marketing effort.”

Phillips says going forward, virtual tours will be used to complement in-person open houses, and that buyers are using virtual tours as a way to narrow down their choices before visiting a property in person.

Buying sight unseen

For some people, buying a home without ever setting foot inside sounds insane. But the pandemic actually saw a spike in these types of sales!

“I had three sales from out-of-town buyers who purchased properties sight unseen,” says Gaudet. “I conducted showings through FaceTime and was able to capture details—showing every nook and cranny—and home in on specifics.”

Liz Brooks, executive vice president of marketing and sales for developer Belgravia Group, says even before the pandemic, they had experience selling homes sight unseen using virtual reality in their sales galleries.

“We expect that after a vaccine is widely available, buyers will embrace this tool again to help them envision their new home before they step foot in it,” say Brooks.

Source: realtor.com

Chicago brokerage fires agent over U.S. Capitol protest

A Chicago-based real estate brokerage has severed ties with one of its agents after she took part in Wednesday riot at the U.S. Capitol

The brokerage, @properties, said it took action against Libby Andrews (pictured) after she posted on social media about her presence at the riot on Wednesday. Andrews later said she did not take part in any violence, but admitted to being part of the mob that later overran the Capitol building. However, she said she remained outside and was not part of the group that forced their way inside.

“I went there to support my president,” Andrews told Crain’s Chicago Business. “I never saw anything destructive taking place.” Andrews said the group she was with was singing the national anthem and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and she didn’t even know there was a breach of the Capitol until later that evening after she left.

But @properties justified its decision to take action, saying it had received “tremendous outreach” from the public making it aware of Andrews’ actions. It said it “unequivocally condemns these actions, and the company has severed ties with this agent, effective immediately.”

Andrews, who worked part-time with @properties for around three years, earlier posted selfies from the Capitol protest on Facebook. She insisted she did not participate in any illegal or destructive activity. Another Chicago brokerage, presumably one that supports President Trump, has since offered her an affiliation, it was reported.

Several other companies in unrelated industries have tack action against employees that took part in the riot Wednesday. Maryland-based Navistar, a direct marketing firm, said last week it had fired one of its employees after they were photographed wearing their company ID badge while inside the Capitol building.

“While we support all employees’ rights to peaceful, lawful exercise of free speech, any employee demonstrating dangerous conduct that endangers the health and safety of others will no longer have an employment opportunity with Navistar Direct Marketing,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

Other companies may be struggling to determine how best to deal with employees that have shared their involvement in the Capitol uprising on social media. Inc.com reported that employers need to be cautious, as it’s not illegal to take part in protests, but obviously storming a U.S. government building crosses a line.

Attroneys say that companies can’t legally fire someone for simply for having different political views and exercising their First Amendment rights. However, state legal standards vary, and some give companies authority to act when an employee’s actions can be construed as damaging the working relationship.

Source: realtybiznews.com