Setting out alone to put more focus on customer service
May 12, 2009
Park City’s real estate industry is in flux and major changes are underway. Coldwell Banker is gone and the financial crisis is changing how homes are appraised and how loans are obtained. About 20 percent of Realtors didn’t renew their membership with the Park City Board of Realtors.
A few signs of the times husband-and-wife Realtors Jim and Billie Harsch noticed is that everything is going digital and third-party service providers keep cropping up.
Those trends made the couple begin pondering the need for a brokerage firm. The two have over five years of experience selling luxury and golf properties in the area so many in fact that Jim qualified to be licensed as a broker after only three and a half years.
With the market slow anyway, the couple decided to start their own brokerage and three weeks ago Mountain Town Realty Group was launched.
"The national franchise model doesn’t work as well these days as it used to in our opinion. There used to be a need for an office," Jim said.
Today, everything a brokerage office used to provide is now available online or can be provided by a third-party, he said.
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And people used to prefer particular real estate brands and would choose a Realtor after walking into or contacting a brokerage.
Today, people tend to find Realtors online and marketing to buyers is done more by individuals, Billie said.
"Getting walk-ins is now less important than having an Internet presence," Jim explained.
The freedom of running their own brokerage now allows them more independence in deciding how best to market homes and more time to spend with individual buyers.
Quality customer service is their goal. They have no intention of striving for huge quantities of transactions, and while they may eventually add agents on, they aren’t interested in building a major brokerage to rival any of those in town, Jim said.
Both have decades of experience in manager roles, and that’s the last thing they want to add to their Park City lifestyle.
Instead, Billie said, they’re interested in handling their clients the way they want to, and that means investing more time in each and marketing the ways they think will work best.
"We call our clients a lot, we spend time with them analyzing the market together and now we’re well positioned to do that," she said.
The two had major success selling golf communities and acknowledge that that market has declined. There was too much inventory built and made available and that will take a long time to recover, Jim said.
So for now, the Harsch’s focus is on buyers. There are many, they say, who are just waiting for the bottom. Twice a month the two email all of their 2,000 past, current and prospective clients keeping them abreast of what’s going on in Park City. Jim worked in the financial sector before entering real estate six years ago and he’s pretty sure the market will pick up in six to nine months.
But it would be a mistake to wait until then, Billie said. So Mountain Town Realty Group is poised to "hit the ground running." Savvy buyers know that waiting until after the bottom has been hit will be too late for many choice properties. So the Harsch’s emphasis is on attracting and meeting the needs of buyers acting now and within the next few months.
Client Pete Bollenbecker said he’s worked with Jim and Billie for a long time on several different properties. He said his favorite thing about them is their commitment to service.
"They’re very easy to work with and very responsive in calling back. They go out of their way to show a property," he said.
Some agents only spend time with you if they think the sale will be a sure thing, he said. They are willing to help all the time.
Mountain Town Realty Group