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By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, June 13, 2008-Talk about getting noticed. Over the past several years, Mehdi Belhassan was courted by all the major real estate companies-Century 21, Coldwell Banker and RE/MAX, among others-who hoped to entice his respected independent real estate firm in Tampa Bay, Florida, to join their ranks.

No thanks, Belhassan told them all. “We had a very good presence in our market, and I just wasn’t sold on the need to franchise,” he says.

Then GMAC Real Estate came calling-and Belhassan discovered some intriguing things that had been missing from all the others.

“GMAC Real Estate came in and said some things that were different,” Belhassan explains. “They wanted a partner they could help grow in the Tampa market. I flew to Chicago to meet with (GMAC Home Services’ President and CEO) John Bearden and others, and was sold. They really did want a partnership founded on customer service. I could tell I would be surrounded by people interested in helping me increase my market share. That’s what sold me on becoming a franchisee.”

Belhassan finalized the agreement in November 2007-a process he says “couldn’t have gone more smoothly”-and his company has since operated as Casa Fina Realty GMAC Real Estate.

While many broker/owners throughout the nation are unsure what impact the tough market will have in the short and long term, Belhassan sees the current real estate environment as “a good time to position ourselves for success over the next five to 10 years. We’re doing this by using the tools GMAC Real Estate has created,” including those designed to provide superior customer service and assist with recruiting.

“Joining a national company that measures its customer service is something that was incredibly important to us, and with Premier Service®, we now have an amazing tool that differentiates us and commits in writing to what we will do,” Belhassan says. “We are the only company in the market to do this.”

Through Premier Service, GMAC Real Estate asks its sales associates to put in writing-upfront-the services they will perform on their customers’ behalf. Following the transaction, agents ask their customers to honestly rate their performance through a survey conducted and tabulated by an independent, third-party company.

Through Premier Service, Casa Fina Realty GMAC Real Estate has received an unprecedented 100% customer satisfaction rating since joining the franchise.

Another key selling point for Belhassan was GMAC Real Estate’s Elegant Homes program, which he says has already helped his agents win listings and increase market share in the luxury homes niche.

By using the comprehensive marketing tools and programs made available by GMAC Real Estate, Belhassan says his agents’ productivity has increased by as much as 25%.

And through his company’s new partnership, Belhassan sees much more of the same in the months and years ahead for Casa Fina Realty GMAC Real Estate.

“We’re interested in adding quality agents who are focused on productivity and service, and we will continue to grow our company using that philosophy,” he says. “We also expect to grow through acquisitions and through recruiting in the coming years, and we’re very confident that GMAC Real Estate will be there to help us as their partner.”

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