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By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, March 6, 2008-If you asked Crye-Leike Realtors CEO Harold Crye about an important decision he’s made during his storied career, he’d probably share with you the choice he made to help found what is now known as Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, a members-only collection of independently owned real estate firms.

“Because of our association with LeadingRE, we don’t need to affiliate with a large, national brand to bring in the referrals necessary to thrive in this business,” says Crye, who later this year will become chairman of the organization. “LeadingRE now has a presence in every major marketplace in the U.S., and that member is typically number one or two in their market.”

The nearly 700 firms affiliated with LeadingRE are represented by 5,000 offices and 145,000 associates. The organization’s leadership is demonstrated by the fact that its affiliates comprise seven of the top 10 real estate companies in the country and 31% of the sales of the top 500. Collectively, LeadingRE affiliates produced 1.4 million home sales valued at over $400 billion in 2005.

According to the Memphis, Tennessee-based Crye, the secret to his referral success lies with LeadingRE’s broker network, which includes the entire U.S. and has an international reach into some 35 countries. “If I didn’t have that support, we wouldn’t have any sort of national referral system,” says Crye, whose company includes more than 4,000 sales associates, over 1,200 staff members and 137 branch and franchise offices located in 65 counties throughout the South.

Crye recalls a time when his only option for obtaining referrals would be to look in an NAR catalog and choose a broker at random for his relocating clients. “That was a difficult time because without a system or network, there are no rules; another broker’s idea of referrals might be totally different than ours-nothing was standardized,” he explains. “As a member of LeadingRE, you are assured that if you make the sale, you know what’s coming from it. This network has been a strong suit for us and something that we’re very proud of.”

From the organization’s luxury arm, Luxury Portfolio, to its corporate relocation platform, RELO Direct®, Crye sees and understands the success of LeadingRE.

“There is no doubt that there’s an appeal for independence in this industry,” he says. “Real estate people by nature are independent entrepreneurs; LeadingRE gives them that vehicle to be independent and do it for themselves, creating franchises on their own.”

Crye describes them as “Super Regionals”-companies that have a large regional presence-such as his own, John L. Scott Real Estate (Pacific Northwest), Howard Hanna Real Estate (Pennsylvania, Ohio), Ebby Halliday Realtors (Texas), Long & Foster (Mid-Atlantic) and Allen Tate Company (Carolinas).

While Crye does worry a bit about the state of locally owned real estate companies, he still foresees only good things for LeadingRE and his own business. Crye-Leike is in the midst of expansions in several of its established markets, including Atlanta, Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas, Memphis and a new Midtown office in Nashville. The company is also venturing into at least one new market in 2008-Huntsville, Alabama.

“We plan on increasing LeadingRE’s coverage in all markets, growing the entity with our veteran members and, of course, increasing profitability,” he says. “Despite the market, people still want to invest in this business and take a chance. We see plenty of opportunities out there. It’s that opportunity that will feed the need for organizations like LeadingRE to help foster old relationships and cultivate new ones.”

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