Business As Usual

Upping the value of real estate (brokers)

Kap Maceda Aguila - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - For most us, the biggest of big-ticket items we can hope to acquire is a home. Understandable then that we are extremely careful when in the market for a piece of property. It’s no surprise either that the entire process is a source of anxiety – exacerbated by a general distrust of real estate brokers.

“To be honest with you, the perception of real estate practitioners in the country is kind of negative, because a large portion of them are either non-licensed or practice freelancing,” underscores Michelle Perlas, Re/Max country manager for the Philippines, in an exclusive interview with The STAR.

Based in Denver, Colorado, Re/Max International was founded in 1973 and has re-cast the practice of realty through its franchise system.

Today, it is the world’s leading real estate brand with largest network of brokers and agents in 100 countries.

In its literature, the company boasts “end-to-end real estate business solutions” that address industry concerns such as “recruiting, retaining, and training agents; controlling expenses; and managing the bottom line.”

In his speech at the formal local launch of the brand, Re/Max  International director for global development Chip Brekken says that contemporary times “demand a better way to do business,” and the company presents itself as a global brand seeking partners for local presence.

“We want to revolutionize how real estate practice is done,” says Perlas. “The practice here is very loose. It’s a different kind of culture. Surprisingly, I’ve met with a lot of countries, and they have the same kind of problem… Everybody really needs to level up. If you look at the practice in the United States or Canada or Europe, we’re way way behind on how they do things over there.”

She observes that it is a mistake for brokers to push a property to a buyer. “A certain property may not be a fit,” continues the Re/Max executive. “In the US, the practice is to look for an agent first, not a property.”

Re/Max, Perlas insists, is here to uplift the level of realty practice. “We have a lot of education and training programs for real estate agents (of franchisees). We call it the Re/Max way… in the same way real estate is being done in the US and has been effective toward serving customers,” she explains. “We teach them to become first-rate, competent, trustworthy agents — something that’s kind of fuzzy in the way presently we do it.”

The outlook for the country’s property sector remains bullish, says Re/Max Philippines region owner Eddie Santos. “We are in the “fast-growing” Asia Pacific region, and our 100 million population, with 10 million remitting funds from overseas, will continue to drive growth.”

Santos also says that Filipinos’ median age of 23 shows potential because this segment will soon seek their own living spaces.

“It’s a perfect time for Re/Max to be here,” stresses Perlas. “(And) we advocate licensed real estate brokers. Before they join, we encourage them to be licensed. If they’re not, they have to go through a Re/Max program… before taking their board exams.”

Franchisees need not be board-certified, but it certainly helps. Among the minimum requirements is a 65 square-meter office space, although Re/Max accommodates a so-called “micro-office” setup in as little as 30 square meters of space.

Aside from the globally recognized Re/Max brand, Perlas explains that franchisees will have access not just to the considerable network of the company (with some 100,000 agents and counting) and its proven tools and practices: recruitment tools and support, marketing support, technology suite to access its “powerful platforms,” and education and training (live and online).

“We want to bring up the standard,” she declares. “How real estate agents render service, how they behave, what the process is when serving a client… and we don’t only teach them how to be very good sellers but very good businessmen. The core of the support structure is really about developing these agents to be up to standard and to operate a real estate franchises business, not a fly-by-night operation.”

The profile of the initial franchisees in the Philippines are encouraging. Reveals Perlas: “A lot of our first 20 franchisees are seasoned brokers. They are those who have realty offices for the past 10 to 15 years already, and they have been very successful.”

The reasons? “First (the franchisees) recognize that as they continue to grow, so do their clients. They become global. Then they’ll need a global backup. They don’t need to contain themselves within a certain network.“ Perlas also cites a study showing that 70 percent of people buy based on brands right off the bat. In that way, the Re/Max brand provides very significant leverage.

Perlas stresses that Re/Max doesn’t play favorites when it comes to property developers. “We’re the country’s only neutral aggregator of these brands – much like a supermarket. You’ll be missing out on something if you’re not in our shelf.”

And unlike property search engines, Perlas assures that “an agent will vouch for each piece of property… the listing is just an enabler. With ReMax there’s an agent attached to the property.”

Re/Max is also espousing a rating system for agents in the name of transparency. Brokers submit a full online profile, and earn badges as they participate in seminars and training. Reputation is thus earned so that customers will naturally seek these individuals. This merit-based system reflects “the kind of culture we want to bring here,” says Perlas.

She concludes: “We are not just after a sale, but a happy customer.”


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