What’s in a name?
Smaller real estate companies see increased business with improved market

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

May 22, 2015

 Kris Liebe, left, of Lake Country Flat Fee Realty talks with buyer Dave Dulaney outside the home he is purchasing in Brookfield.   
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

OCONOMOWOC - With a lot of homes selling right after they go on the market, Lake Country Flat Fee President Paul Liebe said the indication is it doesn’t matter what company has the home listed.

Many homeowners, he said, opt to go with a real estate company that offers a flat fee and a smaller commission because they know their home will sell quickly, especially if it is on the MLS listing. More people are doing their own online searches to determine what homes they are interested in and not relying as much on a real estate agent for help.

“I think the consumers are becoming more educated,” Liebe said. “When they search for a home, everyone does it the same way.”

Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, said as the home real estate market has improved, the “pie of listed houses has grown.” Each real estate company can then have a larger slice of the pie, whether it is a large company with hundreds of agents or a smaller broker-owned company.

According to a release earlier in May from the GMAR, in March the metro-Milwaukee area recorded a 25.6 percent increase in sales compared to the previous year - and while April may not have seen the same significant uptick, sales were up 13.4 percent. In Waukesha County, home sales increased 22.9 percent in April compared to the year before. Milwaukee County only had a 6.6 percent increase but Washington County had a 15.8 percent increase and Ozaukee County had the highest at 31 percent.

Inventory has been tight for more than a year. Ruzicka said more homes have been listed for sale in 2015, but there are also more buyers.

Ruzicka said in a traditional home-selling market, about 15 percent are “for sale by owner.” Then, within 90 days half of those become regular broker listings.

What also benefits the smaller real estate companies is having a strong reputation. Ruzicka gave real estate broker Scott Heyerdahl, owner of Premier Properties Ltd., in Hartland, as an example.

Ruzicka always recommends getting to know your broker to determine whether you are comfortable with them, because they will learn everything about your family during the home-selling and buying process. He said it’s also advisable to learn what resources a company can bring to the transaction, with some companies being almost like a one-stop shopping experience while others may have an exceptionally strong network.  There are advantages and disadvantages to working with a small or a large real estate company, Ruzicka said.

Heyerdahl said one of the advantages of working with a smaller brokerage is its expertise.

“Some of the smaller brokerages are owned and/or operated by experienced local agents,” he said.

While a larger company may have more name visibility, Heyerdahl said the smaller companies have other advantages.

Bob Tarantino, president of Redefined Realty in Delafield, said sellers are “starting to realize they can get away with paying less in commission.”

At Redefined Realty, they are seeing a definite uptick in business, he said.

Both Lake Country Flat Fee and Redefined Realty are full-service companies that offer their services for a flat fee and a small commission percentage at closing.

“The bottom line is the MLS is everything,” Tarantino said. “Once you have the MLS, the field is leveled.”

The home seller is also becoming more confident, he said.

“In general, probably 50 to 60 percent of the properties we list are selling within in days,” Tarantino said.

Liebe said he listed a home in Pewaukee on the MLS server first thing in the morning Tuesday and by the end of the day, the home had had five showings and an offer placed. The homeowners ended up getting a full offer for the listing price of $319,900.

Tarantino said the other 40 percent or so of homes that aren’t selling quickly are generally overpriced or needing work.





Email: kmichalets@conleynet.com