Home Towne Heroes
Disraeli once said the secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes, of course, such preparation also requires the ability to actually see an opportunity when it presents itself. More than ten years ago, the founders of a highly successful real estate enterprise took a leap of a faith in resigning from a national firm to launch their own business in Southern Maryland. That determination has not only led to the fulfillment of opportunities beneficial to home purchasers and sellers alike, but continuing opportunities for professionals to achieve their career goals.
With its multiple office locations throughout Southern Maryland and growing network of licensed agents, Home Towne Real Estate is one of the fastest-growing independent real estate brokerages in America. From Lexington Park and Mechanicsville, to Owings, Prince Frederick, Solomons and Waldorf, Home Towne Real Estate imparts a one-stop-shop of flexible solutions for purchasing or selling homes, and its property portfolio is as diverse as its customer base, and its staff for that matter. Such diversity has attributed to the success of the firm, for as Agent Mike Benton says, all consumers are different; some may only want waterfront property while others are drawn to something more urban residential, or a short sale, or something else. “We recognized early on that we had to be flexible. At the same time, consumers pick agents to work with in different ways too … people don’t make-up their mind by seeing a name on a billboard … in many cases, it comes down to having good referrals because as people buy houses, people buy people too, they decide who they will work with based on trust and confidence,” says Benton. We knew that if we could build more relationships, and empower our agents with the tools, training and autonomy to grow, our business would grow too. Our priority has always been taking care of our customers and our agents … they come first, not the business. By focusing on the needs of our customers and our staff, our business has grown.” For that matter, Home Towne Real Estate business has grown stronger month by month for ten consecutive years.
Benton, a former U.S. Marine who enlisted at the age of 17, is today recognized as a member of the North Beach Town Council in Maryland, but is also nationally esteemed as a certified success coach who advocates philosophies affiliated with Bob Burg (author of “The Go-Giver” and “It’s Not About You”). Benton grew up humbly in Maryland and long before he emerged on the national speaker’s circuit, he toiled away at various jobs seeking to get ahead in business. His entry into real estate was aided by a friend who loaned him $200 to help secure a real estate license. Benton was among a composite of agents affiliated with a national firm ten years ago. At the time, this team was comprised by people with ten to fifteen years experience in real estate, and business was pretty good. The team had great sales, but what was not so great were the operating costs, from the mortgage fees to percentages paid to the national office, the agents began to speculate that if they took more control of their destiny, they would not only fare better professionally, but would also be able to provide better services for their customers. As Benton says, “They knew they had the referrals and ability to sell. They felt that if they had a little more freedom, they could do the job better, and make a better living too.”
Benton says there was not so much fear of leaving the seeming job security they had, but there was some fear of the unknown. Nonetheless, the team seized the opportunity and went on to open a small office, taking it upon themselves to set-up the phone lines, paint the walls, decorate the interior and do everything else to transition into a full-fledged operation. In the ten years that have followed, that small business has evolved to now employ hundreds of people in offices throughout Southern Maryland. As a testament to the employee empowerment practices embraced by Home Towne Real Estate, one need only consider the case of Kevin Turner. In the very early days of the firm, Turner was a mere staff assistant working here in between attending classes at a nearby university where he was pursuing a degree in computer science. After graduation, Turner liked the job so much he decided to stick it out, but astutely reasoned that he could integrate operations with some of what he learned in computer science.
Home Towne was among the earliest of enterprises to capitalize on the ability of showcasing housing prospect online for Internet users. Traditional processes of documenting and filling out of paperwork transitioned into digital solutions, in fact, Home Town became one of the first to walk customers through a convenient paperless process accommodated by digital technology. Turner was also integral to the firm’s adaptation of social media platforms, such as You Tube, Face Book, Linked In and more, as a means of engaging and interacting with market consumers. “We’ve benefitted greatly from technology,” says Turner, and he adds this advice for the best way to integrate technology into a business – “Never stop.”
Turner has since become majority owner of the company whose sales force now includes more than 150 agents along with staff, partners and more. Turner says technology is just one tool that offers benefits to staff as well as customers. Other benefits can be realized from having access to a range of independent financing options for first time home buyers, such as the VA Loan program as well as the USDA Rural Development Loan program which offers 100% financing. As Turner says, “There are tremendous opportunities for people looking to purchase their first home.” Those opportunities offer advantages for investors and home sellers too.
While Maryland has not endured the degree of housing impacts which confronted some states during the economic recession, Turner says it too experienced a range of foreclosures and challenges emerging from bank tightening on loan requirements. At the same time, the market has showed signs of rebound. As Turner says, “The market has reset itself … values are more reflective of reality and for those who are marketing well and pricing accurately, there are benefits even if it has become a tougher environment.” The communities served by Home Towne Real Estate are located within some of the busiest areas of America; to the north is Washington DC, Annapolis, Baltimore and Andrews Air Force, to the south are communities such as Solomons, Lexington Park as well as the Patuxent Naval Air Station. In between there is everything from tobacco farms and race tracks to rivers and Chesapeake Bay. Home Town Real Estate continues to serve home sellers and home buyers of all price points. Its ability to provide a spectrum of purchasing options, financing options and services from a growing network of dedicated professionals has empowered the company to withstand impacts posed from the recession as well as recent issues coming to bear from sequestration or the recent government shut down that stymied the processing of certain federal loans necessary for home purchases. As Benton says, “For every issue there’s an opportunity … we’ve prepared our company to handle the ups and downs, and we have zero control over what the government does … we have to focus on the only things we can control, which is our mind, and our actions.” In this case, to be sure, the operational mindset and actions undertaken all focus on equipping agents with the necessary tools, training and the freedom to deliver consistent, quality service to customers. This philosophy has enabled Home Towne Real Estate to effectively compete against national rivals and successfully grow throughout an era that saw many enterprises close-up shop. Turner believes there is yet room for more growth and he anticipates the Home Towne Real Estate brand will further expand into new markets. As Benton affirms, “We always look at what is the best opportunity for our agents and our customers … the best interest of our clients always comes first.”
For more information, please visit their website at Home Towne Real Estate
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