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Non-Traditional Real Estate Broker Finds Marketing 'Gold' in National FSBO Web Site

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Oct. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- If you are looking to buy a home, is your first stop the classified ads in your local newspaper? Do you scan the phonebook for a real estate agent? Or, do you simply drive around desirable neighborhoods hoping to see "For Sale" signs?

Chances are, your first stop is in your own home, at your own computer, searching the Internet. And that is exactly where Tampa, Fla.-based real estate broker and HomesByOwner.com affiliate Cary Collier wants you to be.

A student of the ever-changing real estate market, Collier is one of a growing group of real estate entrepreneurs who are leveraging Americans' reliance on the Internet.

More and more, homebuyers are turning to the Internet as the first step in their home search. According to the 2005 National Association of Realtors(R) Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, 77 percent of homebuyers began their search on the Internet, and that statistic shows no sign of decline.

Armed with this knowledge, Collier structured her business to take a progressive approach to online marketing strategies, and these strategies are distinguishing her firm as an innovator in client service and sending her sales numbers through the roof.

Collier is a 15-year real estate veteran who grew up around the industry and worked with large traditional brokerages in the past. Last year, she began looking into owning her own firm. At a time when many brokers were focusing on national franchise opportunities, she weighed her options and chose to strike out on her own. Her firm, Collier & Associates Real Estate, LLC, opened in January 2006.

Known as a reduced-rate broker, Collier and her colleagues serve northwest Florida from Pensacola to Panama City and central and southwest Florida from Hernando County to Collier County. The firm offers a variety of real estate services ranging from enhanced Internet advertising plus listing in the MLS at $499 to full Realtor services at a reduced fee of less than 1 percent, on average, which is lower than most other reduced-fee Realtor's 2 percent fees.

But, not only did Collier want to control her own destiny by owning a business, she also hoped to save money, and she wanted to pass those savings on to her clients.

I watched the market change and realized I wanted to be able to offer my clients a way to save even more. So I set out in search of the marketing tools to be able to do just that," Collier said. "After all, the best way to save my customers money is by advertising their homes to more people.

She wanted to see how her competitors -- both reduced-fee and traditional brokers -- advertised. And one particular Web site, http://www.HomesByOwner.com, kept turning up on the first results page -- often as the first listing -- in many keyword searches. Collier knew she had to get her clients' homes listed on the site.

"I contacted the company, and the rest, as they say, is history," she said.

Collier leased her first HomesByOwner.com site, http://www.homesbyowner.com/tampa_bay/, in February 2006, and her business grew practically overnight. Collier now has eight sites, including those in Pensacola, Fort Walton/Destin, Panama City, Tampa, Sarasota, Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda, Fort Myers and Naples, making her the licensee of the most sites in HomesByOwner's history.

Working with HomesByOwner is one of the best business decisions I've ever made. After just a few short months as a HomesByOwner.com affiliate, our business increased 100 percent and continues to grow. 

HomesByOwner.com has been the Web site of choice of for sale by owner professionals since 1995. It is the oldest and most established FSBO Web site in existence, according to company partner Wayne Strobel. The owners have assembled the largest network of FSBO affiliates ever, and more than half of the nation's For Sale By Owner magazine publishers choose HomesByOwner.com to display their properties.

"Our site offers national exposure for sellers coupled with the benefits of local experts -- like Cary Collier," Strobel said. "This is a knock-out punch in real estate terms, providing tailored customer service with a strong marketing tool."

HomesByOwner is not a franchise; the site is provided at a low monthly fee to licensees, or affiliates, which typically includes publishers, mortgage brokers, reduced-rate brokers and entrepreneurs. The site is present in more than 685 metropolitan areas across the country, and it has almost 200 sites locally owned and managed. That number is growing rapidly every single month.

"So many people are realizing the opportunity HomesByOwner offers," Strobel said. "In fact, in September 2006 alone, we added 25 new affiliates to our roster, which represents 25 brand-new markets for us. And the demand keeps growing."

In addition, HomesByOwner boasts strong Internet traffic, ranking third in Google listings behind two other national FSBO sites. With more entrepreneurial brokers like Collier realizing its potential, the popularity of the site continues to grow. In fact, Collier believes sites like this will become commonplace in the industry.

I see more reduced-fee models and sites like HomesByOwner all the time. And as buyers and sellers begin to see the savings these can bring them, I think it will become a more common practice," Collier said. "I prefer to be on the leading edge.

According to Collier, HomesByOwner.com's longstanding presence on the Internet buoys customer confidence, and its high search rankings allowed more potential clients to see her firm's programs and how those could help them save money. And, potential savings are foremost in all sellers' minds.

In today's buyers' market, homeowners often find that in order to sell their homes, they must lower the asking price and raise agents' commissions to be more competitive, she said. Collier's approach allows sellers to keep commissions low while gaining prime placement for their property listings.

"We offer savings on our listing side of the commission, giving sellers the opportunity to make the concessions necessary in order to sell their homes and still provide services such as contract negotiation and buyer qualification," she said. "We can follow everything through to closing to make sure we take care of our clients every step of the way."

With the site, sellers have several options from flat fee, do-it-yourself arrangements to full Realtor services. Collier's clients know up front they are a real estate company, but they are unique in that they allow clients to tailor services throughout the process. Clients can try one service, and if they feel they need additional services, the firm credits the cost of the first plan toward the upgraded plan. For example, a client who starts with enhanced Internet service can choose additional help for the closing process at a minimal extra cost. Collier and her colleagues can step in and take everything from there.

"We work as a team and have experienced people working with us to offer a competitive edge in today's market, and the site is packed with features that give sellers a definite leg-up," Collier said. "Our goal is to assist sellers in saving so they can keep the money where it belongs -- in their pockets."

Buyers, too, benefit from the site as they can easily find numerous listings in desired areas with one quick search, and real estate assistance is right at their fingertips. As a result, Collier has seen her client base grow exponentially with both buyers and sellers.

"In today's competitive landscape, it certainly brings the buyers and sellers to you. HomesByOwner.com has kept my agents happy and busy even during slow periods in the market," Collier said. "The site effectively serves my clients and my agents."

Strobel agrees and commends Collier's entrepreneurial approach.

"Cary is a model for how we envisioned affiliates would utilize HomesByOwner," he said. "It was established to serve as a resource for buyers and sellers -- to help them save money while still having expert guidance along the way."

As the company's owners intended, the Web site has helped Collier grow not only her client base but also her staff.

As a new brokerage, we have found HomesByOwner to be an invaluable tool in attracting agents to our firm," Collier said. "HomesByOwner is such an asset to us because it enables the firm to set itself apart in the marketplace. It provides leads to my agents, which is one of the best perks a broker can offer an agent today.

One might think traditional real estate agents would reject her business model, but Collier says her firm has received positive responses from outside agents. Some buyer agents even discover they receive a higher commission due to Collier & Associates' reduced fees.

"We actually have great responses when agents work with us; they see we really go the extra mile to serve clients," she said. "I actually just had one agent in Sarasota tell me, 'You really do work for your customer and do your job.' Coming from an outside agent, that means a lot."

Collier has lofty goals for her company, and those goals are grounded by her true collaborative spirit. She plans to continue to grow her business and hire good people while also helping others. If people who have ambition and drive want to work with her firm, she is willing to take the time to train them and help them get their own real estate businesses off the ground.

"My dream is to eventually open in the entire state of Florida and hire people to work with us who have disabilities or are simply in need of training -- people who can do an excellent job but just need direction or assistance. I believe we can all help each other along the way."

And, HomesByOwner will play integral role in her future plans.

"I look forward to continued success with HomesByOwner.com. In fact, I'm working toward licensing every site in the state of Florida!"

It seems Collier is well on her way.



For press inquiries, contact HomesByOwner:

Lori Crossmock
901-896-0321 ext 1
press@homesbyowner.com



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