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of the most recognized names in Real Estate.

“To those who recognize the potential in owning

a great real estate franchise , consider the many reasons I believe

you should choose RE/MAX.”

• Seasoned Pros – Our

Agents average 13 years’ experience in the industry and also hold more profes­ sional designations than anybody else. For the Agent ready to take their business to new levels –

We are a famous, trusted, international brand with thousands of franchisees achieving profitability and success. With the support, training and proven business operating system that RE/MAX provides, you will have every chance to join them. For the potential Franchisee or Institutional Investor:

There are so many RE/MAX Advantages offered to potential investors or businesspeople. Here is a snapshot of why RE/MAX is the right destination for you in 2011 and beyond. • Unequaled Production – Nobody sells more Real

Estate than RE/MAX. On average our Agents sell almost twice as much as our nearest competitor.

Average U.S.Transaction Sides Per Agent

Dane Ellison Chief Operating Officer RE/MAX of Georgia, Inc.

• Leads, Leads, Leads – attracts millions

of real estate buyers and sellers and is the most visited real estate franchise web site.* Our unique LeadStreet system delivers an average of over 125,000 leads every month – over 9 million to­date – directly to our Agents with no referral fees for them to pay. • Training and Services – RE/MAX University.

Design Center. Individual Agent Websites. Fee­ free Agent­to­Agent referrals. The list just goes on and on. If you are producing results, think about the greater potential and growth you could achieve with all of these resources and expertise in your corner. Qualifying Agents should call 877­345­REMAX to talk with a RE/MAX broker near you. Grab this opportunity while the time is right.

6.2 Century 21


5.1 Keller Williams



Coldwell Banker





Photography by

This chart of national franchise organizations is based upon 2010 data each organization provided to either REAL Trends, Inc., a leading industry analyst, or to the United State Securities and Exchange Commission on Form 10-K, Annual Report for 2010. Prudential data is based on REAL Trends estimates. Each RE/MAX® office is independently owned and operated.

• Brand Recognition – RE/MAX dominates national

TV advertising – more Share of Voice than any other competitor. Years of dedicated brand com­ mitment is one of the reasons why RE/MAX is one

It is easier and more cost­effective to own a RE/MAX Franchise today than you may imagine, but like the beneficial market conditions, these opportu­ nities are finite. Contact one of our Franchise Sales team at 877­495­1611 or at remax­ to arrange an appointment. I’d like to talk with you.


R E / M A X . O U T S TA N D I N G AG E N T S . O U T S TA N D I N G R E S U LT S . *ComScore, and Hitwise for 6­month period through Dec. 2010.

The Only Constant is Change Publisher Lawrence A. Cohen

Photographer David Martinez Database Administrator Lynn Paul Graphic Design/ Production Felicia Kahn Contributing Writers Jessica Arledge Todd Lemoine Board of Advisors Jim Cochran Carol Flammer Dan Forsman Kevin Levent Sandra McCrary Jenny Pruitt Walter Sanford Tom Spurlin R.E. Magazine® is published quarterly by REM Publishing, LLC., 3036 Leafwood Drive SE., Marietta, GA 30067. Phone: 770-956-7100 FAX: 770-956-7105 R.E. Real Estate Magazine is printed by Executive Press, Richardson, TX, using earth-friendly printing techniques, including FSC-certified paper, and soy-based inks and biodegradable coatings. Subscriptions are free for Realtor® Board or Association members in Metro Atlanta. Allow 6-8 weeks for new subscriptions. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: R.E. Magazine, 3036 Leafwood Drive SE., Marietta, GA 30067

from the publisher

Editorial Consultant Karon Warren

While almost all of us will readily acknowledge that change is indeed the natural order of things, when it comes to actually embracing the changes that happen in our lives, most of us experience trepidation at those oncoming waves. Ironic that we’re in a business that, in fact, helps facilitate the most major life changes for our clients! This year, we are all seeing some of the most profound changes in the real estate industry that we’ve seen in the past 20 years! Some of them, such as the opening and closing of real estate offices, and the resulting game of musical chairs that goes along with it, are easy to see. (Although not quite as easy to keep up with – just ask my circulation manager!) However, no so readily apparent are the major shifts in the way the business of real estate is done, how homes are bought and sold, and how agents conduct business and market themselves. While some of these changes have been driven by the economy, it seems an equal amount of the changes we’re experiencing has resulted from the ever-increasing effect that technology has had on the real estate industry. Larissa Benson is one of those real estate professionals who has surfed the crest of the wave her entire career. Realizing that her initial career path was not making her happy, she was able to adapt and adjust, and found her true passion in real estate. By discovering her niche and embracing the emerging REO market, she and her team have been recognized as being among the most successful in metro Atlanta. Read this month’s cover story to see how once again, this fearless agent has embarked on what would seem to be her biggest change yet, owning her own pair of real estate offices! Jack Berube is another modern entrepreneur who, rather than being afraid of oncoming changes, has recognized them as the wave of the future. Berube has taken his vision of using technology to streamline the real estate sales process to create a truly unique real estate company. This month’s company profile introduces Stages Real Estate Services, whose goal is to allow their agents to spend the majority of time working with clients instead of paperwork! Already turning heads in metro Atlanta, Savannah and Washington D.C., his vision could soon be transforming the industry across the country. So, as we once again transform from Spring into Summer, let this issue remind you that change is inevitable, and not something to be feared, but happily anticipated! May all of YOUR changes be wonderful, and bring you closer to your goals! Live Passionately!

Lawrence A. Cohen Publisher r.e.




1. Women’s Council of Realtors® National President Margo Wheeler-Willis (CRS, GREEN, GRI, PMN, SRES) was the guest speaker at the 7-chapter combined WCR luncheon March 10 at the Druid Hills Country Club. Willis, a broker with Crescent Realty in Tacoma, WA, retired as a First Sergeant after 20 years of service with the U.S. Army before starting her real estate career.


2. Over 45 exhibitors showcased their products and services at the Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors® 2011 Partners in Business Expo, held April 20 at the Gwinnett Center. Diamond Partners Georgia MLS’ Tony Stephens, Adrian Terry and John Ryan greet Southern Classic Realtors broker/owner James Hamby.


town 3.

4. Sporting the appropriate gear for the Auction’s “Game Day – Tailgate Zone” theme are ABR staff members Alicia Barras, Jackie Townsend, Nathalie Hibbert, and Amy Geddes. Kudos to the entire staff, auction committee (chaired by Jim Floyd) and sponsors 5. for another incredible event!




3. Auctioneer extraordinaire Tom Spurlin cuts up onstage with 2011 Atlanta Board of Realtors® President Wight Mixon at the ABR’s 22nd annual Auction, held April 28 at the Atlanta Realtors® Center. Part of the proceeds of the auction will go toward building the board’s tenth Habitat for Humanity home.

5. Peggy Slappey inspires the crowd at the Gwinnett Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors® (WCR) breakfast meeting on June 5 at the 1818 Club.

6. Results Realty’s Sarah Stovall explains one of the finer points of dealing with “challenging” sales at the June 5 Gwinnett Chapter WCR breakfast. Fellow expert panel members included RE/MAX Center’s Susan Kliesen, Attorney Steven King with O’Kelley & Sorohan, and RE/MAX Legend’s Larissa Benson.

7. Former City of Atlanta Mayor and current Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell was inspiring and entertaining as the special guest speaker of the Atlanta WCR Business Luncheon on June 5 at The Capital Grille.

Photos by Lawrence Cohen




contents SPRING 2011



Cover Story

Larissa Benson

Around Town


R.E. People



By not letting any obstacles stand in her way, this 5-foot tall fireball has not only become a giant in the real estate industry, she’s about to embark on her biggest, boldest move yet! Partners’ Profile

STAGES Real Estate Services

R.E. News


Inspection Section


Inspector’s Report



Using technology to increase efficiency and profits, this cutting-edge real estate company is setting the stage for its own growth.


Realtor Resource Directory 26

Visit our Facebook fan site at:

Cover photo by David Martinez

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Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Paul G. Brower of Harry Norman, Realtors to a five-year term on the Georgia Real Estate Commission. Working with his wife Sheila as a sales team since 2003, Brower also serves as a director of the Paul G. Brower Georgia Association of Realtors® as a member of the Communications and Public Relations Committee of the Atlanta Board of Realtors®, and as a member of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. Pam Santoro of the North Fulton office of Harry Norman was named the American Business Women’s Association’s 2011 ABWA Woman of the Year Award at the Crabapple Chapter’s April meeting. The 2010 Member of the Year for the Pam Santoro Atlanta Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors® (WCR), Santoro also has earned the following designations: Certified Relocation Specialist, REO Specialist and Short Sale Specialist.

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RE/MAX announced Larissa Benson as the owner of the new RE/MAX Legends franchise in Buford with a second office coming to Snellville. The youngest RE/MAX franchise owner in Georgia, Benson brings seven years’ experience of selling REO properties to this new endeavor. She graduated magna cum laude from the honors program at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. Joining Benson at RE/MAX Legends are Beverly Johnson, Jim Wells, Connie Lawson and Elizabeth Kirk. A member of the RE/MAX family since 1998, Johnson is an associate broker at RE/MAX Legends. Beverly Johnson She has served as secretary, V.P. and president of the Gwinnett Chapter of the WCR. With a marketing and Internet solutions background, Wells earned the honor of No. 1 agent for 2009 and 2010 at his former office of 70-plus agents. Jim Wells

Spain Team Joins Keller Williams Mark Spain and his award-winning team of 14 agents and staff, including Greg Wood, Lisa Wilson, John Makarewicz, Ed Combs, and Eric Morrison have joined Keller Williams Realty North Atlanta, and will be based out of the company’s Windward Parkway offices in Alpharetta. The Mark Spain Team had been with RE/MAX Greater Atlanta since 1997 and has been honored annually as one of the top-producing real estate teams in Georgia and the U.S. In addition, they have been the No. 1 team on the Atlanta Board of Realtors® for the last seven consecutive years. While at RE/MAX, Mark Spain earned every award available within the company, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and being inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame while in his early thirties. For their 2010 sales of 340 homes, the team was named one of the Top 20 Teams in the U.S. for all of RE/MAX International. Surpassing $1 billion in gross sales in 2006, the Spain Team has also received numerous industry accolades, including being named to the Wall Street Journal’s Real Estate Top 200. Mark Spain is Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) Certified by the National Association of Realtors and, in 2009, earned the prestigious Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) designation. In early 2010, he attended and graduated from the Five Star Institute Center for Short Sale Success, to better serve distressed homeowners. continued on page 8

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continued from page 7

A top producer for RE/ MAX, Lawson brings 27 years of experience to RE/MAX Legends. Throughout her career, she has garnered many Elizabeth Kirk Connie Lawson awards, including the Platinum Club and the Phoenix Award. Since starting her own business in 2008, Kirk was nominated for Rookie of the Year in 2010, became a member of the Million Dollar Club and wrapped up the year ranked in the top 10 among her office peers. At Keller Williams Realty Atlanta North – East Cobb, the company named Jim Alexander as team leader/ managing broker with the Rawls Group Leadership Team. Previously the senior Jim Alexander vice president and managing broker of the Harry Norman Cobb/Marietta office, Alexander started his career as a sales agent in 1984 and in 1994 was named the managing broker for the Sandy Springs office.

You deserve to Celebrate...

Congratulations Congratulations Larissa K. K. Benson! Benson! Larissa We are proud to be a part of your closing team! from

Dan Caserto Caserto Dan

Holding the prestigious CRB designation, he served as the 2009 president of the Atlanta Board of Realtors® and now serves as the chairman of the Board of Trustees for both the Atlanta Board and the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors®. Prudential Georgia Realty expanded its roster with two new agents: Elida Baverman and Dana Bauguss. Most recently of Keller Williams, Baverman also has enjoyed a career with Northside Realty and Harry Norman. A license Elida Baverman attorney and graduate of Emory Law School where she earned a JD degree, Baverman also has earned many certifications and awards including the Phoenix Award from the Atlanta Board of Realtors®. She will lead the Perimeter North Office. Formerly of RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, Bauguss will lead the South Gwinnett office as managing broker. After serving as 2010 GAR President, she now serves as a NAR director and GAR RPAC trustee. Bauguss also was named Realtor of the Year for NAMAR and GAR,

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served as a NAMAR past president, and was awarded the Captain of Industry by NAMAR in 2009. Making the switch from RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, The Providence Group – with principals Karen Eberson, Clax Dana Bauguss Underwood and John Damiano – has joined Keller Williams – Atlanta Perimeter as part of the Rawls Group. Together since 2002, The Providence Group consistently landed in the top 25 teams at RE/ MAX Greater Atlanta since 2003. It was honored by Communities Magazine as Karen Eberson one of the Top 100 Teams in Atlanta for both 2007 and 2008. Bringing seven years’ experience with her, Katie Milling joined the Hamilton Mill office of Clax Underwood John Damiano

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers. Named Rookie of the Year her first year, Milling then was named as a Most Dependable Agent in 2007 by Atlanta Magazine. A member of the Katie Milling Elite Realtor® Society, Milling holds the ABR, CDPE, CDRS and REOS designations. Prudential Georgia Realty recently announced Joan Arazny as the marketing manager for its New Home Division. Arazny is an awardwinning marketing and project management professional with Joan Arazny more than 15 years of experience in association management and advertising. Most recently she worked for Marketing Results, the in-house advertising agency for Morris and Raper Realtors. Arazny is also a licensed real estate agent and certified REO Specialist. continued on page 15




Larissa Ben

Photo by David Martinez

cover story

By not letting any obstacles stand in 5-foot tall fireball has not only become real estate industry, she’s about to em biggest, boldest move yet!

“Our name ‘The Service Team’ isn’t just a catchy phrase,” explains Benson. “It really describes our entire philosophy of how we treat our clients, and working with REO’s.” The team (from L to R): Valuation Specialist Judi Harth, Accounts Coordinator Shanta Kirves, Larissa, Office Manager Sarah Morra,



son her way, this a giant in the bark on her By Angela Gratz

the painstaking attention to detail that is required and Listing Coordinator Stephanie Espinosa.


arissa Benson has always been a rather early bloomer. As a precocious 12-year-old, she held her first sales job, lugging a Rubbermaid tote full of random items to sell door to door. In shades of things to come, she was considered one of the company’s top sales people, clearing as much as $45 per day. These days, Larissa is still proving that grit and determination aren’t dependent on age – or size! Now, Benson discusses annual sales in terms of millions – and at just 30 years old, she’s already one of metro Atlanta’s most well-respected real estate agents, and one of RE/MAX’s youngest franchise owners. Since 2005, as leader of The Service Team (formerly part of RE/MAX Greater Atlanta), Benson has consistently been recognized as one of metro-Atlanta’s top agents. She’s earned more than 25 awards and recognitions, including membership in the RE/MAX Diamond Club for 2010, the No. 3 RE/MAX Team in Georgia in 2010, No.1 Team for RE/MAX Greater Atlanta (Lawrenceville) 2008-2010, and No. 1 Team for the Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors®. Fueled by youthful enthusiasm and a passion for achieving her goals, the Gwinnett-native is a straight-talker with a thorough understanding of the real estate business and what it takes to succeed. It was that understanding that convinced her to take one of the boldest moves of her career. In March of this year, Benson purchased two franchises from RE/MAX Regional Services, and opened her own RE/MAX Legends offices in Buford (now open) and Snellville (opening soon). Even in the face of a continuingly uncertain economy, a struggling real estate market and the recent news that her longtime company, RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, had filed for Chapter 11 protection, she is extremely confident that buying the franchises was a great decision. RE/MAX still remains the best company for agents, insists Benson. “I look at things with a much longer view,” she explains. “I have such a long future ahead of me, so I try to do things right, treat people right. I was looking to the future, so I wanted things to be high quality. Everything is paid in full so the stability of my company is not in question. It was an upfront investment because I don’t want to put the burden on my agents.” Benson says her most important duty as owner of RE/MAX Legends is to ensure everyone who works there has what they need to be successful. It is also her responsibility to come up with fresh ideas for meeting those needs and generating business. “My job is to bring more business for them,” Benson says. Office Manager Monique Accetta worked with Benson at RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, and when Benson asked her to help get RE/MAX Legends up and running, she was eager to accept the challenge. “I joined Larissa because she was a top producer,” she explains. “It’s been an exciting challenge. There have been some hurdles, but I see this becoming an outstanding business.” Accetta has reasons for her optimism. “Our agents are the cream of the crop. Last year, those agents had over $84 million in sales,” she says. While RE/MAX Legends may consist of only 23 agents, Larissa explains that she only wanted the very best. “We are all like-minded, service-oriented individuals,” she says. Adds Accetta, “We may be small, but we’re mighty!” r.e. REAL ESTATE MAGAZINE > SPRING 2011



Kirves was a tremendous influence and helped Benson learn the ins and outs of her business. In a relatively short time, Benson worked her way from assistant to partner, eventually starting her own business, LKB Realty dba The Service Team. The young agent wanted to work strictly with foreclosures, at a time well before they would become such a huge part of the real estate market. “A lot of people are scared of REO’s (Real EstateOwned properties) because they think they’re all dumps, but that’s just not the case. REO’s are homes, just like any other property a buyer views,” she says. That said, there IS a lot of extra work and upfront costs involved in selling foreclosures, Benson acknowledges. Agents often have to go on a scavenger hunt to locate an address, make recommendations to the bank for repairs, order and oversee the renovations and maintain the utilities. Despite the extra work, Benson enjoys every bit of the job and is known for being incredibly knowledgeable about the entire process. Kelly Brooks, Vice President of Operations for Property Masters, describes Benson as an agent “on super, suppedup steroids.” Brooks’ company provides many of the contracting services that prepare Benson’s properties to be sold. When Benson gives a bank an estimate of what it will cost to make repairs, she is pretty much spot on, according to Brooks. “She does a lot of the work for us, and that’s why the banks love her so much,” Brooks says. “That’s why she gets so many listings, because she sells a lot of listings and she gives an accurate picture of what it takes to get the house sold.” Another important aspect that contributes to Benson’s success is her willingness to constantly analyze her Larissa was of one of the expert REO and Short Sale panelists at a recent monthly breakfast meeting of the Gwinnett Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors®. “I loved being part of this discussion, business and look for and the questions were really insightful,” says Larissa. “Agents understand a lot more lately about ways to improve or meet new challenges. how the whole REO process works.” Photo by Lawrence Cohen

hough real estate success runs in her family, it wasn’t always Benson’s career of choice. After high school, she chose marketing as her major in college. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Georgia with a BBA in marketing and a minor in French. She wanted a corporate job, and started with a sports marketing company in Atlanta just after graduation. “I was miserable,” she remembers, citing the long daily commute coupled with the long hours. While Benson began to question her decision to enter the world of corporate marketing, she quickly – although accidentally – found her true calling. Benson’s grandmother, Pat Kirves, is a 20-year veteran in the real estate business, and at the time, she needed an assistant. Benson reluctantly took the $10-an hour position with plans to continue looking for the perfect corporate marketing job. But within six months, she learned just how much she enjoyed real estate, of all things. “I thought, ‘all this time I’ve been looking for another job, and this is what I really love doing!’ My grandmother was afraid to ask me to help,” Benson recalls with a smile. “Now she laughs about it all the time.”



Photo by David Martinez

“At least three of our specialists visit each home before it is put on the market,” says Larissa describing the process of preparing each house for sale. “Our office catchphrase is, We don’t treat each house like it’s OURS, we treat it like it’s our Grandmother’s!”

“Our industry is very dynamic and always changing,” says Brooks. “She likes to keep her finger on the pulse, like I do.” The two frequently exchange e-mails to brainstorm ideas or keep each other informed of news in the real estate industry. “We kind of use each other to stay on top of things.” Starting with a client list that included only one bank, Benson now handles foreclosures for a dozen banks and steadily increases her sales each year. “When I started on my own, my sales were just under $7 million. My goal was never to sell more, it was just to do a better job,” she says. The extra work paid off.


arissa Benson has not allowed the pressure of the demanding real estate industry cause her to lose sight of other top priorities. She is sure to make time for family, friends and even a little bit of fun. Sarah Morra, office manager for The Service Team, is Benson’s closest friend. She and Benson work together most of the week and spend a lot of time outside of the office planning get-togethers and events that include good food and friendly competition. A broken foot kept Benson from the annual Mother’s Day bowling tournament that she and Morra normally host. She’s already planning a make-up tournament,

My goals have actually never been money-motivated. At the beginning of the year, I say, ‘What can I do this year that I didn’t do last year?’ I want to set myself apart. Benson reached almost $41 million in sales last year. Her most important goal however, has always been to find new ways to provide exemplary service. “My goals have actually never been moneymotivated. At the beginning of the year, I say, ‘What can I do this year that I didn’t do last year?’ I want to set myself apart.”

though. “Larissa is the organizer, always, everyday. She’s always busy – she works best in chaos,” her best friend jokes. Benson’s also an avid runner and has completed the Athens, GA half marathon, which she considers one of her biggest personal accomplishments. Her other passion is food and wine, something she enjoys at r.e. REAL ESTATE MAGAZINE > SPRING 2011


Photo by David Martinez

Family time is very important to Larissa, and the time spent with 2-year-old daughter Charlie is the highlight of her day. “We have our Saturday morning tradition of baking muffins,” says Larissa. “Charlie takes her baking very seriously!”

home in the company of family and friends rather than at a restaurant or formal setting. Her regular Saturday routine includes baking muffins with 2-year-old daughter Charlie (Charlotte), and she and husband Drew have been known to go all out for UGA football tailgate parties. It’s events like these that help Benson keep her family ties strong, and she follows the same model for creating unity in her offices. Both Morra and Monique Accetta enjoy the extras Benson has to offer, such as office lunches and regular treats. The women agree that agents and staff for both RE/MAX Legends and The Service Team feel like family. “Larissa helps to make that happen,” Accetta says. Being such a young business woman in a tough market does create extra hurdles, though, Benson admits. She meets those challenges head on, remembering a bit of simple advice from her mother, business-owner Valerie Kirves. “My mom always told me, you can do or be anything you want. You just might have to work twice as hard as the person next to you to get there. Not everything is easy, but everything is attainable!”



“I really can’t say enough good things about Larissa,” says Kelly Brooks. “If I needed an agent, she’s who I’d go to.” Which says a lot, Brooks adds, because over the last six years, she’s worked with numerous agents in seven states. “I would go out on a limb and say Larissa is one of the best agents in the nation,” she says. “My level of respect for her has developed so that I consider her a friend.” Angela Gratz is a freelance writer based in Buford, GA. Her work has been published in newspapers, magazines and marketing publications in Michigan, New York and Georgia. She can be reached at


continued from page 9

SunTrust Mortgage welcomed Audrey Armstrong and her team to the company. A former top producer of Metro Brokers Financial, Armstrong is a multiple award winner of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia as well as Top Gun award Audrey Armstrong recipient of the Mortgage Brokers Association of Georgia. A 28-year veteran of the mortgage industry as a loan officer, Armstrong ranked among the top 20 mortgage brokers in 2009.

Chuck Gates

Skyline Pest Solutions & Home Inspections added Chuck Gates to the Skyline team. With 44 years of industry experience and expertise, Gates’ primary responsibility at Skyline is to ensure that the company delivers the highest level of customer service and satisfaction available in the industry.

H.B. Gravitte Honored for 50 Years in Real Estate A After nearly 50 years in the real estate industry, H.B. Gravitte of e Better Homes and Gardens Real B Estate Metro Brokers announced E his retirement. During his career, Gravitte helped many clients, including completing almost 30 transactions for the same family, as well as serving the grandchildren of some of his original clients. Commemorating or his hard work, Metro Brokers awarded Gravitte the Outstanding Industry Award in 2005, and the West Cobb Board of Realtors® followed in 2009 by honoring him for his 45 years of work in the real estate industry. A retirement party was held at his West Cobb office on Feb. 3, when friends, clients and colleagues celebrated his career and accomplishments, including a Lifetime Achievement Certificate presented by BHGRE Metro Brokers President and CEO Kevin Levent.

Designations Deborah M. Nagel of Chapman Hall, REALTORS, earned the Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager designation from the Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers. Deborah M. Nagel

From the Stork Department Congratulations to ERA Sunrise Realty’s Toni Turner (R.E. Magazine Cover Story February 2005) on the birth of her daughter Lexi on May 16. Lexi weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces, and she and her mother are doing great!

Toni Turner

Have a piece of people-related news? Send information to Editor, R.E. Magazine, 3036 Leafwood Drive S.E., Marietta, GA 30067, or e-mail to

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RE/MAX Greater Atlanta files for Chapter 11 By Karon Warren

At the time of the filing, Klein said he testified there were 198 agents with RE/MAX Greater Atlanta; that number has been reduced dramatically, down to 81 at the time he spoke with R.E. Real Estate magazine. For any remaining agents, Klein said the firm is operating under the rules of the court and, for now, agents are getting paid as transactions close. “We paid $925,000 in commissions in the last four weeks,” he said. “We are continuing to do business and continue to pay our agents.” On May 9, a hearing was held in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, wherein RE/MAX Greater Atlanta filed a motion to reject its independent contractor agreements with all remaining agents. This potentially leaves existing agents in the same boat as former agents looking to collect commissions. RE/MAX Greater Atlanta also closed all but one of its offices, leaving just the Johns Creek office on Medlock Bridge Road in Duluth in operation.

r.e. news


n April 4, RE/MAX Greater Atlanta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under its business name, Greater Atlanta Brokerage Solutions LLC, leaving many agents wondering what the future would hold. According to Stephen M. Klein, J.D., of The Infinity Group 360 P.C., who has been appointed by the bankruptcy court as chief restructuring officer, RE/MAX Greater Atlanta did notify its agents that bankruptcy was likely, although they were not notified of the exact filing date. As a result, many agents were left holding commission checks that were no longer valid. Pursuant to bankruptcy court rules, Klein said all existing bank accounts for the firm were closed, effectively cutting off all payments from those accounts. Now those agents will have to file a claim as a creditor with the bankruptcy courts, he said.

continued on page 18

Local real estate blog grows to #5 in country “This Photographer’s Life,” an internet blog started 16 months ago by Blayne Beacham, Director of Creative Services for Beacham & Company, is now the fifth most read real estate blog in the world according to M Beacham, who is also the principal photographer for Beacham & Ms. Co Company, initially used her blog as a place to share stories about photographing lux homes in Atlanta. Ms. Beacham’s love for art and photography quickly luxury re resonated with her readers, who began returning over and over to look at the ph photographs and comment on the stories. “I share more than real estate statistics on my blog,” Ms. Beacham says, “ share my opinions and what I love. The blog has a personality and a “I s spirit, which is why so many people read it.” Since Ms. Beacham’s first post in October 2009, almost 90,000 people have visited the blog. To visit the Beacham & Company blog, please visit




continued from page 17

RE/MAX Greater Atlanta files for Chapter 11 Although a number of “first-day” orders were filed

Atlanta, according to Klein. “We are looking at the best

at the beginning of the bankruptcy case, Klein said

interests of the creditors and getting them paid,” he said.

there is no plan for going forward at this time. “We

However, it is a possibility the firm could liquidate all its

continue to review the best options,” he said. “We have

assets and close down, he added.

120 days to craft and propose a plan so no decisions have been made.”

According to Don Dowd, regional vice president of RE/MAX of Georgia Inc., the franchisor of all state RE/

However, also on May 9, RE/MAX of Georgia filed a

MAX offices, the woes of RE/MAX Greater Atlanta

motion to lift the court’s automatic stay on assets, which

are not affecting other metro Atlanta area RE/MAX

resulted in a motion by First Citizens Bank, RE/MAX

franchises, and RE/MAX continues to be a vibrant brand

Greater Atlanta’s only secured creditor, asking to restrict

in the real estate marketplace. “We are delighted to

the use of the firm’s on-hand cash. This may further

report that RE/MAX broker/owners are expanding their

inhibit the firm’s ability to pay agents.

operations with new offices and personnel,” he said.

While Chapter 11 offers businesses an opportunity

“The combination of proven experience and exciting

to restructure its operations in an effort to come out of

new talent will continue to lift the company to even

bankruptcy, this may be unlikely for RE/MAX Greater

higher levels of achievement and customer satisfaction.”

Century 21 Max Stancil Realty, ERA Sunrise Realty Merge Canton-based ERA Sunrise Realty merged with Century 21 Max Stancil Realty, which is based in Woodstock. Started in 1991 by David Moody, ERA Sunrise Realty is a principal broker in the Cartus global relocation network as well as a HUD-approved listing broker. Cristal Stancil, current managing broker of Century 21 Max Stancil Realty, which was started by Max Stancil, will continue with the firm as vice president of operations for the Cherokee/ Pickens markets.





STAGES Photo by David Martinez

company profile

Real Estate Services

The SRES corporate team makes sure the agents have all of the tools they need on a timely basis. (from L to R): President Jack Berube, Support Services Manager Krista Evans, Director of Branch Operations Tina Vliet, Georgia Program Manager Christina Vincelli, and Director of Finance & Administration Linda Hoffman.

All STAGES agents have access to a wide variety of cutting-edge centralized work tools from one master screen. This paperless platform provides them with greater efďŹ ciency, allowing them to deliver higher levels of customer service.

Charting a New Path

STAGES Real Estate S

Using technology to increase efficiency and pr real estate company is setting the stage for its By Misty Milioto

ack Berube, founder and president of STAGES Real Estate Services (SRES), has certainly seen his fair share of business models. As a long-time business strategist working with mergers and acquisitions, he’s developed a real knack for turning visions into realities. When he turned his attention to the real estate industry though, he saw plenty of room for improvement. In 2008, he created STAGES Real Estate Services, LLC with the specific goals of offering a technology-based platform that that would provide both agents and brokers with more revenue, a lower cost of doing business and higher efficiency, thereby allowing agents to spend more time on client interaction. With technology as the genesis for SRES, Berube realized how important it was to get all of the details right. As a result, he spent three full years on research and development to ensure that all systems were working right before recruiting agents. “Our approach has been to build the systems, test them, add an agent or two, insert some workflow, make sure the systems work the way they’re supposed to and then add more agents,” Berube says.

Photo by David Martinez


Founding member and charter agent, Janet Boyden, immediately saw the benefits of the company’s support system. “I acted as the beta-test agent,” she says. “I did a considerable amount of transactions and, for each one, we ran everything through the paperless system until we got it perfect,” she says. “Now, everyone from the buyer and seller to the closing attorney, inspectors and appraisers – everyone involved in the transaction – can access the paperless files. It streamlines everyone’s workload, and it’s hugely unique to our company.” This technologically-advanced company offers a fullservice back-office support system – such as database administration, and web site and social media management – all in a virtually paperless environment. “Our entire company operates ‘in the cloud,’ so that agents can work from anywhere and be highly productive while engaging with clients,” Berube says. “We have everything from our listing presentations to policy and procedure manuals to marketing templates available through our company Intranet.”

Tina Vliet and Managing Broker Gale Jamison conduct one of their regular training classes at their new Alpharetta branch. “STAGES concentrates on helping our agents constantly improve their business skills and use of the tools we offer them,” explains Berube.





rofits, this cutting-edge s own growth.

of real estate, whether it’s residential or commercial, bankowned properties or high-end luxury sales. With market conditions changing, I wanted something that would allow me to offer all services of real estate.”


Photo by David Martinez

eanwhile, STAGES Realty meets the needs of part-time agents who may not need full-service support. Instead, they can hang their licenses here – while having access to the same paperless However, there’s much more to the company than tools and back-office systems that are used in the its stellar support system. SRES also functions as the Premier model – but with a transaction-based, 100-percent parent company to three additional entities: STAGES commission. “Maybe these agents are only doing one Premier, REALTORS®; STAGES Realty; and the SRES or two deals per year,” Berube says. “According to the National Association of Realtors®, in 2009 they had Affiliate Program. The STAGES Premier umbrella is comparable to the 1.5 million members. Of that number, less than 20 percent full-service, traditional real estate firms, except with less of those agents did more than one transaction that out-of-pocket expense and more back-office support. year. Stages Realty is for this type of agent because “If you work at a they pay a much traditional firm, you’re smaller monthly going to be on a fee, and services are 50/50, 60/40 or 70/30 provided a la carte.” s pl it, p lu s you’r e For example, going to have fees to under the STAGES take that listing, Realty umbrella, whether it’s marketing agents would pay c os ts or d atab a s e for things like administration costs,” signs themselves. Berube explains. “In However, if these our model, we agents want more underwrite all of the support services, listing expenses for they can join the agents. Therefore, company managed they can have a fixed l i s ti ng ser vi ces Premier top agent Janet Boyden has thrived in an environment that gives her the operating cost on a program and pay a flat technology and support to truly maximize her time. month-to-month basis fee of $300 per listing. and take on as many listings as they want. We provide 100 Then, on a per listing basis, these agents receive the full percent of the support services and tools they need to be support services offered by the Premier model. successful on a flat-fee basis.” One of the advantages of having these two separate In return for the flat fee, which Berube says can vary entities is that agents can transition between STAGES from market to market, STAGES Premier handles all Premier and STAGES Realty without having to completely administrative duties, such as entering information into the re-brand themselves, Berube explains “The two entities listing systems, as well as overseeing all property marketing, share the same back-office systems, tools and resources. If a social media management and web site management. part-time agent wants to become full-time and get the full“We’re unique because there’s not a company out there service support of a traditional real estate model, they that offers all-inclusive support services for a flat fee,” simply move into the Premier company and log into a Berube says. “Our ability to do that is enhanced by the different system. Then, they pay the flat monthly fee and technology we have developed.” they can take on as many listings as they want.” According to Boyden, who also was the first full-time real Appropriately, it all just depends upon the stage of an estate agent to join STAGES in August 2009, this business individual agent’s career. model allows her to venture into all areas of real estate. “I While STAGES Premier, REALTORS® is corporately was looking for something that offered more in terms of a owned, STAGES Realty offices are structured to be portfolio of services for my buyers and sellers,” she says. independently owned with service and licensing “We’re basically a one-stop shop. With the big-boy real agreements. This ensures consistency across branches. As estate firms, a lot of agents are niched into one specific area such, this model also is great for brokers who may currently r.e. REAL ESTATE MAGAZINE > SPRING 2011


Photo by David Martinez “All of this technology, all of these really cool bells and whistles, are really designed to do one thing,” explains Berube. “We want to give our agents more time and efficiency, affording them higher income and, just as importantly, a more balanced life. THAT is what this is all about!”

have their own company but who haven’t invested in the proper tools to be competitive going forward. “In our model, if you go from one office to the next, it’s the exact same infrastructure, Intranet, Web sites, logins and passwords,” Berube says. “We’re a highly technologically leveraged company.” he third branch of the company, SRES Affiliate Services, serves as a national network of affiliated brokerages. “We provide all of their back-office and administrative support systems to reduce their overhead expense, thereby making them more competitive and profitable,” Berube says. “We provide outsourced, contracted support services (on a transactional basis), including marketing, transaction management, document management and accounting.” In addition to these offerings, STAGES Real Estate Services also is starting its own luxury affiliation called SELECT Luxury Marketing Services. Unlike other “highend” companies, this model is based on individual home value as opposed to a certain price point. “For example, to have your home listed with Christie’s Great Estates, it starts at a $1 million price point and the home needs to have big-time curb appeal,” Berube explains. “That excludes an entire segment of luxury homes. Not every town has a 10-bedroom villa overlooking a vineyard with an 8-car garage. This is for the smaller mom and pop brokerages in the bedroom communities across America to be able to promote what they feel are really cool homes in their town. Other companies outside of STAGES




can belong to this program, but at a much lower price than the traditional luxury affiliation.” Currently, STAGES Real Estate Services has offices in Atlanta (Alpharetta and Buckhead), Savannah, GA and the metro Washington, D.C. area. According to Berube, plans are underway to open four more Atlanta offices this year and another five in 2012. In addition, the company is opening several offices in the Washington, D.C. area, three offices in Savannah, plus expanding into Houston; Charlotte, N.C.; and Orlando, Fla. “We’ve been successful in a down economy, and we’ve been able to establish traction in this climate,” Boyden says. “We’re so excited about what has been created so far and where we’re going. It’s inviting and fun, and that’s critical to long-term success!” Misty Milioto graduated from the University of Georgia and is a licensed real estate agent in Georgia. She has worked as an editor for real estate magazines including Shopping Center World, Heartland Real Estate Business and Communities Magazine. She can be reached at


continued from page 18

Coldwell Banker RMR Merges with 2 other companies Coldwell Banker RMR announced a merger with Meg & Company and Century 21 Simplicity/Findley, bringing together three companies with 65 years of combined experience in the Atlanta real estate market. More than 20 agents with more than $50 million in listings have joined Coldwell Banker RMR as a result of the merger. Frank Boduch, formerly with Century 21 Simplicity/Findley, is managing broker and heads the resale division of the company. He will manage the day-to-day operations for resale properties and is in charge of training new agents. Meg Thompson, founder of Meg & Company, joined the company as vice president of sales and strategic development and will work with builders, concentrating on new development and redevelopment initiatives. Also, the company has teamed up with Guaranty Mortgage and State Farm to implement The Move On Advantage, a one-stop shop for selling a home, buying a home, purchasing insurance, getting ďŹ nancing and other real estate needs all in one place.

Southeast Mortgage Expands Southeast Mortgage, a full-service Georgia mortgage lender and one of the largest non-bank lenders in the Southeast, continues its growth with the addition of Citizens Fidelity Mortgage Corporation, Prestige Mortgage and Pro Lending. Founded in 1992 by John Gibson, Citizens Fidelity Mortgage currently holds a professional license in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina. With more than 28 years of experience in the mortgage industry, Allen KenKnight, former president of Prestige Mortgage and more recently of Main Street Home Loans, brings a wealth of knowledge along with 25 employees to Southeast Mortgage. As a result of the acquisitions, Southeast Mortgage now operates 14 ofďŹ ces in Georgia. Have a piece of real estate-related news? Send information to Editor, R.E. Magazine, 3036 Leafwood Drive S.E., Marietta, GA 30067, or e-mail to







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resource directory

resource directory

Realtor® resource directory advertising

Murphy & Shank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-517-9300

The Real Estate Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 678-910-0347

Morris|Hardwick|Schneider . . . . . . . . . . 678-298-2100 Exceeding Expectations. One Closing at a Time (see display ad page 8)

alarm systems

O’Kelley & Sorohan, LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-497-1880 18 offices across Georgia for your convenience

Ackerman Security……….770-552-1111 residential, small business, commercial

associations Atlanta Board of Realtors® . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-250-0051 Cherokee Association of Realtors® . . . . . . 770-591-0004

Shafritz & Dean, LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-255-8183 Now 7 offices for your clients’ convenience Thomas & Brown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-591-5200 East Cobb Office 678-337-3223

home inspection services Atlanta Property Inspections . . . . . . . . . . . 770-932-8634 DRC Inspections and Consulting. . . . . . . . 770-794-1494 IHI Home Inspections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-788-2581 (see banner ad page 24) ProTech Home & Property Inspections . . . . 770-277-5655 (see display ad page 24) RIA Solutions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-476-4963 (see banner ad page 24) Skyline Home Inspections . . . . . . . . . . . . . 678-432-5464 (see banner ad page 24)

Weissman, Nowack, Curry and Wilco, PC . 404-926-4500

home furnishings


Cobb Association of Realtors . . . . . . . . . . 770-422-3900 DeKalb Association of Realtors® . . . . . . . . 770-493-6100

basements and waterproofing

Empire Board of Realtists® . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-755-5575

Aquaguard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-419-9111

Iron Accents………… . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-593-9093 Interiors – Gifts – Antiques – Architecurals (see display ad page 9)

Metro South Assoc. of Realtors® . . . . . . . . 770-477-7579 Northeast Atlanta Metro Assoc. of Realtors® . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-495-7300

franchise opportunities insurance RE/MAX Regional Services . . . . . . . . . . 678-802-5728 Outstanding Agents. Outstanding Results. (see display ad page 2)


Don Johnson State Farm Insurance . . . 770-973-8545 E Cobb Good Neighbor Insurance & Financial Svc

Carol Clark Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-250-3300

graphic design Dickenson Gilroy, LLC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-518-5515 experience. service. excellence. (see display ad page 28) Law Offices of Sam Maguire Jr., PC . . . 404-257-8885 Where Real Estate Meets Real People McCurdy & Candler LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-373-1612 (see display ad page 6)

Felicia Kahn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-326-7173

hardwood flooring Flesher’s Hardwood Flooring . . . . . . . . . 678-469-2964 Quality Wood Floor Installation & Refinishing

investment properties Bluefields Capital, LCC….. . . . . . . . . . . . . 678-502-5000

management companies PEMCO Ltd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-995-7111

For advertising information, call Lawrence Cohen at 770-956-7100.




resource directory

resource directory

Realtor® resource directory mortgage companies

pest control All Exterminating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-887-2571

Brand Mortgage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 678-758-3807 (see display ad page 6)

Skyline Pest Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 678-432-5464 Trademark Pest Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-614-6534

moving and storage photography Atlanta Peach Movers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-270-5586 Buckhead Movers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-603-0234

David M Photography……………404-432-1517 Portraits, headshots, family & yearbook

John Clemmer Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-428-1658


security systems Ackerman Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-552-1111 residential, small business, commercial

Plumbing Express . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-452-8636 Your Solution to Polybutylene Plumbing

Right Choice Plumbing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-480-3835 (see display ad page 15)

utility protection Georgia 811 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 811 Know before you dig – Call 811 (see display ad page 16)

radon testing and mitigation multiple listing services Georgia MLS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-493-9000 “More Prices, More Places, More Possibilities” (see display ads pages 7 & 23)

Cooks Construction Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-652-1101 (see banner ad page 5)

video productions Reel Productions TV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 678-571-5728

virtual tours renovation and new construction Glide Tour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-560-9658 Glazer Design & Construction. . . . . . . . . . 404-683-9848

HomeScenes Virtual Tours . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-594-1193

window services

painting & drywall roof repairs M & M Painting and Drywall . . . . . . . . . . . 770-527-7335

Peachtree Roofing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-579-7663

Sunshine Window Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . 770-422-8105




R.E. Real Estate Magazine Spring 2011  

The Journal of Real Estate Sucess Cover Story Larissa Benson Company Profile: Stages Real Estate Services

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