Thursday, September 21, 2000

Realtor retools with demand

Firm focuses on boom in Mason

By Jeff McKinney
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Paul Wesselkamper is gambling that there's more gold — in the form of home sales — to be found in the booming northern Cincinnati area.

        That's one reason the owner of the Century 21 Signature-Champion Realtors just merged offices in Sharonville and West Chester into a new one in Mason. His goal: Tap into the brisk residential and household growth in Butler and Warren counties.

[photo] Paul Wesselkamper, owner of Century 21 Signature-Champion Realtors, hopes to tap into the Mason-area market.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        The consolidation will leave his franchise with two offices: in Mason and Montgomery. But Mr. Wesselkamper has even greater plans to grab a bigger share of Southwest Ohio's $3 billion housing market.

        Mr. Wesselkamper said 60 agents have moved into the Mason site. More important, the larger office has new technology — including a high-speed telecommunications and data network link to its Montgomery headquarters, which has 20 agents. That will allow agents to increase sales, access internal data more quickly and serve customers faster.

        “We're going to provide consumers more services and make our operations more efficient for agents,” he said.

        The company is bullish on future prospects: Mr. Wesselkamper plans to add 2,000 square feet to the 4,600-square-foot Mason site and add 25 agents in the next six months.

        Mr. Wesselkamper said the merger will allow his franchise to grow. He predicts an annualized sales growth rate of 10 percent in the next five years. His franchise had 1999 sales of $100 million.

        “We're looking to grow, particularly to the north and west,” he said.

        He also expects the consolidation to reduce annual expenses by $120,000. Mr. Wesselkamper's franchise is not affiliated with 10 other Century 21 franchises in Greater Cincinnati and southeast Indiana that are independently owned and operated.

        But industry observers say Mr. Wesselkamper's task won't be easy, particularly as competition heats up and higher profitability gets tougher.

        Several factors have forced real estate firms of all sizes to re-examine operations in recent years.

        Among those: More demanding and savvy home buyers, new technology, consolidation fueled by mergers and acquisitions, sales agents demanding higher commissions and the Internet offering potential home buyers more alternatives to shop for homes.

        That's also why two of Mr. Wesselkamper's largest rivals are retooling their operations.

        • Coldwell Banker West Shell is merging its Cold Springs office into its Crestview Hills office and its Cross County office into one in Village Square, in Montgomery.

        Bob Stanley, president at Coldwell Banker West Shell, said the consolidations will allow agents to centralize operations for market ing and training support. The move will leave the company with 15 offices in Greater Cincinnati and about 800 sales agents.

        • Sibcy Cline, one of the Tristate's largest Realtors, is expanding by building more offices to increase its sales force. The company has expanded or opened about 10 offices the past 18 months, giving it 930 agents and 23 offices in Cincinnati, Dayton and Northern Kentucky.

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