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Firm taps industry veteran Chris Lim to lead franchise division

Chicago-based @properties announced that it is launching a national franchise brand to offer broker/owners and agents access to the firm’s technology, marketing, training and business-development systems that have made it one of the top 10 brokerage firms in the country as an independent. @properties co-founders and co-CEOs, Thad Wong and Mike Golden, made the announcement.

“The ultimate goal is to enhance the consumer experience around every real estate transaction involving an agent by offering access to better technology, marketing, value-added services, and other benefits and efficiencies, which we have been delivering on a local level and that we are now  able to deliver at scale,” Wong tells RISMedia.

“Our growth as an independent firm was always demand-driven, and our growth as a franchise will be too. There is incredibly deep demand for our value proposition, and we can be very fast growing, but we are also going to grow in a such a way that the quality of delivery of our services is never compromised,” adds Wong. “There is a huge opportunity in markets where legacy franchise brands are delivering declining value to the agent and the consumer and VC-backed companies are solely focused on growth.”

What might change or stay the same for a company that is growing from independent to franchise?

“One of the big differences between @properties and almost every other real estate franchisor out there is that for 20 years, we’ve been on the ground, engaged in the day-to-day activities of running a residential brokerage business, and we’ve been very successful at it. Our focus has been on improving the consumer experience of buying or selling a home by offering the best physical and digital tools for agents to increase exposure, enhance the presentation of a listing, create new efficiencies for clients, etc.,” says Wong. “When you do that every day, it feels very natural to maintain that and to channel it to other broker/owners and agents. So that will not change. What will change, as the result of increased scale, is the level of our investment in technology, marketing, training and coaching, and the speed with which we’ll be able to bring new innovations to market.”

According to the company, the move comes at a time when the real estate industry not only is adapting to the new challenges and opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is also being disrupted by a number of other forces including VC- and public-markets-driven consolidation, iBuyer services, and the evolving role of dominant search portals such as Zillow and Trulia.

“There is a huge unmet need in our industry for a brand that not only delivers scalable, well-designed technology and marketing, but also works hand-in-hand with broker-owners and agents to help grow their businesses sustainably and profitably—a company that is focused on opportunity and relationships. That is something we have done successfully for two decades, in good times and bad, against public and private firms, and in some of the most competitive markets in the country. We are excited to share what we know,” said Wong in a public statement.

@properties said it will offer a fresh, full-service alternative to independent broker/owners, owners with expiring franchise agreements and top-producing agent teams. Wong said its target audience is unmoved by the offerings of the “old guard” franchise networks and is struggling to compete against the aggressive tactics of some of the industry’s new, deep-pocketed players.

To help lead its national rollout, @properties hired Chris Lim as president, head of Brand Growth. Lim, an 18-year industry veteran, founded Climb Real Estate in San Francisco in 2010, and sold the brokerage firm in 2018 to Realogy Holdings.

“I know what it takes to run a successful brokerage, and the @properties platform gives today’s real estate companies everything they need to come out on top,” said Lim in a statement. “I wouldn’t have moved halfway across the country during a pandemic for anyone else. The firm’s programs are world-class, and Thad and Mike are visionary leaders with the best track record in the brokerage industry.”

@properties has built its franchise offering around five key value propositions:

Technology: @properties’ proprietary technology, called pl@tform™, is a fully integrated suite of applications enabling digital management of the entire client relationship and real estate transaction. Built by @properties’ in-house programming team, pl@tform™ includes a deal management system, CRM, marketing tools and an internal communications app.

Marketing: The firm’s marketing engine offers what Wong describes as the highest-quality listing presentation in the industry, and a full catalog of print, digital and social-media resources, as well as access to preferred advertising partnerships.

Coaching and Training: @properties’ agent coaching and training programs feature a variety of original content and exclusive partnerships. Agents can take advantage of a full curriculum of on-demand and in-person courses including continuing ed, business planning and tech classes.

Business Consulting: In an industry beset by shrinking margins, @properties will focus on helping its franchisees drive profitable growth through agent-recruiting and retention programs, enhanced business operations, and affiliated services such as mortgage, title and development sales and marketing (@properties is Chicago’s No. 1 seller of new construction).

Culture: With love as its guiding principle, @properties is known for its fun, positive culture that fosters agent satisfaction and ultimately leads to a better client experience. Programming recognizes outstanding performance, and promotes agent collaboration, work-life balance and charitable engagement.

“What has always set @properties apart is our personal approach and our commitment to our team members’ success,” said Golden in a statement. “When you put that alongside the tools we have developed, the outcomes can be very compelling.”

Golden cites the recent growth trajectory of Ansley Atlanta Real Estate, an Atlanta-based brokerage firm that @properties purchased an equity stake in, in March 2019. The previous year, Ansley closed $598 million with 134 agents. As of August 2020, the firm has grown to 250 agents and last 12 months’ closed sales volume of $1.5 billion.

In May of 2020, @properties announced an investment in Nest Realty, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based brokerage firm with 15 company- and franchise-owned locations in five Southeast states. Golden says the Nest brand will allow @properties to offer another franchise platform targeting smaller firms.

Ranking 9th in RISMedia’s 2020 Power Broker Report for highest sales volume in the U.S., @properties has grown from four agents since its founding in 2000, to over 3,000 agents today, and last year closed $10.7 billion in transactions.

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