Opening Doors to New Real Estate Horizon

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RE/MAX Key Properties Boosts Presence with Major Office Expansion

Remax_021As other real estate companies retrench in the face of fluctuating market conditions, a new RE/MAX office is taking a bold step into the future with the unveiling of an extensively remodeled and expanded downtown Bend location now covering close to 7,000 square feet and soon to boast around 35 agents.

The enterprise, operated out of 431 NW Franklin Avenue, is the brainchild of principals Bill Duffey and Patricia Huber, who used the springboard of Taft Dire Real Estate Resources, the company they launched five years ago, to transfer into the franchise under the name of RE/MAX Key Properties, and grow a local industry presence.

Duffey observed, “We had taken the boutique real estate office concept about as far as we could, and we figured if we were in the agent support business, then we needed to give our brokers the best tools possible to maximize their potential and succeed.

“We started looking around for some type of franchise, and more of a retail presence and, fortuitously, RE/MAX approached us at about the same time. After a series of negotiations we were approved, and agreed to purchase the franchise in late 2010.”

As most locals will recollect, RE/MAX was in town as a corporate store until 2008, but more recently wanted to get back into the Bend market, albeit under a different scenario.

Duffey said, “When it was previously run as a corporate store operated out of Denver and Portland in conjunction with an equity group, I think to some extent such a structure – with the space and business model geared towards an escalating environment – couldn’t adapt rapidly enough to changing market conditions.

“The RE/MAX network wanted to be back in Bend, and realized that it was naturally a better fit in a smaller market to have a more nimble franchise-type operation with experienced local people.

“We saw that we were still in a transient time in terms of broker mobility, which we expect to continue into next year, and figured the broader reach of the brand and its state of the art support system would help recruit experienced

industry professionals.

“The corporate strata have been hands-off in the running of the office given that we are an independently-owned autonomous franchise, but have been very helpful in terms of helping build the culture and structure with a great tool box to help attract agents and give the opportunity to be successful.”

Huber added, “With the retail presence and well-known corporate identity, people are instantly familiar with the business, but when we combine this with the franchise boutique style we think we can offer the biggest bang for the buck.

“We launched (Taft Dire) during one of the worst real estate markets in recent history. We started small and were able to withstand the fluctuations and build our business on a solid basis.

“With the new franchise, building and more quality agents coming on board all the pieces came together and we have an energy and culture where everyone enjoys what they do and being here to make it work.”

Duffey concurred, “The real estate downturn really started in 2006, and we got our own company going at a tough time, but we knew somewhere down the road things would turn. We are positive about the future, which is evidenced by our somewhat unique position of expanding at this time.”

As they were cultivating the RE/MAX opportunity, Duffey and Hubler also decided that they would need a more prominent location to go along with the higher business profile, with a retail-type frontage in the downtown business district core being deemed the optimal direction.

When Duffey first walked in to check out the Franklin Avenue space, which was then just the vacant street frontage building – having been through various iterations since its pre-1940 construction, from an old-time burger and ice cream parlor, to more recent uses including a medical supplies outlet, clothes consignment store and frame shop – he walked right back out again, recollected Mikel Lomsky, principal of building ownership entity Mill Street Square LLC.

“I don’t think he saw much potential for the space in fitting their needs at the time, but we revisited the conversation later and posed the question, what if…?,” said Lomsky.

“When I bought the building as a distressed asset in 2009, and thought about the highest and best potential use, real estate offices was actually top of the list but that didn’t seem feasible in the foreseeable future, as it wasn’t exactly a growth industry.

“We intended to update the front of the property for leasing purposes and ‘band-aid’ the old house to the rear, and hold for a future potential redevelopment project envisaged to take several years.

“But the timeframe ended up being moved forward considerably when I talked more with Bill and Pat and the rest of the team and was convinced of the long-term viability of the business plan based on their professionalism and belief, and the company’s culture and continuing success, which prompted confidence in investing in building improvements.

“I like the business model – they have the boutique mentality which attracts people, together with the economies of scale and benefits of corporate backing, and so can grasp both ends of the spectrum.

“Also, they know their landlord shares the vision and is part of the team to bolster the basis of a secure, well-capitalized, supportive environment, which is more important than ever in today’s economy.”

Operations/Marketing Manager Kimberly Handley added, “It is important to establish what makes best sense to be able to recruit top professionals, and this ticks all the boxes, with everything from state of the art marketing packages to training programs and all the other tools offered under the RE/MAX umbrella, while still having local decision making.

“We also have a stronger national and international presence – just in October we had 12 leads from the UK – and a great team spirit, which extends right through the group and includes our landlord as part of a collaborative environment.”

Key Properties initially started in the front building on Franklin Avenue, but quickly moved towards expanding operations, with a third of the building being demolished to accommodate the burgeoning business.

“We had great response to the downtown location,” said Duffey. “The consumer exposure is strong and access to the office easy for clients, which achieved our goal of wanting people to slow down and feel comfortable stopping by.

“Put those factors together with the RE/MAX brand and more and more real estate brokers wanted to be here. After only being in this location a short while, we knew we had expansion needs.”

Recruitment plans were also put on fast forward when word came through that one of the most productive and respected real estate companies in Central Oregon, Steve Scott Realtors, was to close its doors by the end of the year, and Key Properties ended up accommodating some 12 brokers from that operation.

Duffey said, “When Steve decided to retire, a number of experienced and successful exponents became available in the marketplace, and we moved more rapidly ahead with expansion plans.

“It was kind of like the New York Yankees saying they did not want to play baseball any more! Many of those reputable brokers, who had the chance to go anywhere, chose us because of the services and support we can offer. We also wanted to expand the commercial side of the business, so it has been a great fit.

“The average U.S. RE/MAX agent has eight years of experience. At our office, the average is 10-11 years and this is what they do as their full time profession. We don’t have to be the biggest, but we would settle for being the best and most productive.”

Commenting on the expansion and remodel project, Lomsky said, “The building was challenging because it’s actually two structures.

“The street front two-story building worked in today’s market, but the converted house at the rear of the structure just needed too many changes to function as a professional office.

“The best solution ended up being to build new, continuing two stories back from the front building.”

The amount of office and flex space has now been boosted to a total of 6,708 square feet incorporating an urban, open feel, with the new space including fifteen offices and workspaces – able to accommodate a  mix of in-house and virtual agents – four restrooms, conference rooms, copy/work area, centralized break room/kitchen and additional space for future office expansion.

Additional parking was also able to be acquired, with the number of available spaces boosted to 25, which is seen as a major boon in the tight downtown core.

Lomsky was heavily involved in the design and construction process, with additional input from Bend’s Darren Thomas Architect & Planning LLC and local construction company, Blue Creek Northwest.

He also custom-built a 500 square foot space on the ground floor for local operator Letzer’s Deli, which will operate a New York-style deli, as well as offering coffee and morning bagels at the location.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have done this,” said Duffey. “This project is an investment in the future of Bend and an indicator of economic growth. A real estate office expanding and professional office square footage being added in downtown Bend; that’s some positive news for us all.”

Independently owned and operated, RE/MAX Key Properties will service Bend, Redmond, Sisters, Sunriver and other areas of Deschutes and Crook Counties.

In addition to Duffey and Huber, who is a licensed CPA and broker, RE/MAX Key Properties has three staff members and more than thirty agents. To serve both the office and the customer, it features diversified in-house support services including communications, marketing, financial and business management.

The RE/MAX Network: RE/MAX was founded in 1973 by Dave and Gail Liniger. From a single office in Denver, Colorado, it has grown into a leading global network of over 90,000 Sales Associates in more than 80 countries.

RE/MAX has been recognized as the leading real estate franchise in the “2009 Franchise Times Top 200,” and has also been honored as the top real estate franchise for nine of the last 11 years in “The Franchise 500 Survey,” published by Entrepreneur magazine.

RE/MAX Key Properties, 431 NW Franklin Avenue, Bend. For more information, go to www.keypropertiesbend.com or contact Kimberly Handley, Operations/Marketing Manager 541- 728-0033.

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