It takes a team

Super salespeople: Solo acts no longer, real estate agents are finding that working together brings greater success.

January 28, 2001|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Real estate and football. On the surface one would think the two wouldn't have anything in common. But then again ...

In football, teams strive for good field position. In real estate, it's location, location, location.

In football, it's the contact. In real estate, it's the contract.

In football, there are special teams. In real estate, to be part of a team can be very special.

Much like the Ravens in their first Super Bowl today, many real estate agents already know that teamwork is key to being a success in a competitive environment.

Historically, real estate agents, as independent contractors, have been solo acts, handling all aspects of the transactions under the umbrella of a larger brokerage.

But in the past 10 years the industry has changed considerably. Contracts, once a couple of pages, have turned into time-consuming novelettes. Sophisticated buyers and sellers today are more demanding and expect "24/7" service. And competition among peers for listings is requiring more time to develop innovative marketing campaigns.

The demands can be overwhelming. The answer for many has been to consolidate the efforts of two or three agents. It's a strategy of "I'll cover you. You cover me. And we all succeed."

A survey of top producers around the country, conducted in 1999 by Real Trends, an industry publication, and the National Association of Realtors showed that 28 percent of highly successful agents worked in teams with other agents. Of those, 55 percent were related to their partner by blood or marriage.

"I think you have to say the trend of sales teams is growing substantially," said Dale Mattison, an associate broker in the Washington area and past vice president of the National Association of Realtors. "The need to give a level of service that is above average is paramount and ... to do it singly will limit the amount of business you can do."

P. Wesley Foster Jr., president and owner of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., has seen the number of teams grow throughout the mid-Atlantic area covered by his company and feels it's a positive trend that enables top sellers to expand to another level.

Partnerships help agents "be more productive and not beat themselves to death," Foster said.

Here are 10 teams in the Baltimore area, chosen through recommendations from company representatives and other industry professionals, who have come together in various ways, giving insight into what makes a team tick:

Strictly business: Goldstein, Wasserman & Desser

Marc Goldstein, Harriett Wasserman and David Desser, at Prudential Carruthers Realtors, have built an extended team atmosphere at their Pikesville office.

Goldstein and Wasserman have been a team for nine years, first at Merrill Lynch Realty and then at Long & Foster. There they got to know Desser and the three joined forces after negotiating a move to Prudential Carruthers.

Now they share leadership of a group that includes nine other licensed Realtors.

Advertising costs are now divided and the support staff is shared as is the increased volume of business that comes with greater efficiency.

"With a larger team somebody is accessible immediately at all times," Goldstein said.

Other advantages are personal.

"Doing this, when you work, you work harder, but when you are off, you are really off," Desser said. "You know your client is being treated as well as if you were there," Goldstein said, adding that they are three people who "when pulled together can be greater than the sum of us individually."

Yerman, Berman & Witman

Michael Yerman's and Libby Berman's friendship started in high school, but their formal business partnership began in 1994 when they decided "one and one would make four" in terms of benefit to their business,

Both already had established careers in real estate and had returned to sales after Yerman sold his real estate company -- where Berman was a manager for over a year -- to Prudential Preferred Properties in late 1990.

By 1998, they believed a third partner would increase their business at Long & Foster even more. Witman, as a friend and successful colleague who served as president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, was a natural choice.

As a trio that splits expenses and profits equally, the three have embraced the model of creating their own business within the larger company. Three associates, all licensed Realtors, handle buyer representation, appointments, listings, inspections and other issues, and three assistants deal with administrative work.

"People want to go to big agents, but they want the same service as if you had nothing but their case in mind," said Berman.

There may be a perception of the team as serving a luxury niche, said Joan Solomon, sales manger of the Long and Foster Greenspring office, but the fact is they have three large and diverse groups of contacts.

"They bring an interesting mix," Solomon said, "from land to farms to multimillion-dollar homes to $150,000 townhouses."

DeLeaver and Mosby

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