The arrival and rapid growth of agents at a new real estate venture is speeding the demise of a longtime company in the industry.
Art and Alisa Maxwell exited Coldwell Banker Vanguard earlier this year to open AMax Real Estate. The new agency opened May 15 and most of its now 50 agents came from Coldwell Banker.
AMax, which is named after the owners’ first initials and an abbreviated form of their last name, currently has five employees, Art Maxwell said.
“There’s always that desire to actually do it yourself. I think almost everybody has that,” Art Maxwell said of starting his own business.
Maxwell has around 20 years in real estate experience, while his wife has 18.
“It was just time,” he added.
Coldwell Banker Vanguard had 52 agents last year but is now down to a half dozen after the arrival of AMax, said owner and President Judy Huntsman. She said the local office she purchased in 1984 is set to close by the end of July, and she intends to retire by year’s end.
Both she and the Maxwells declined to discuss the circumstances leading to Huntsman’s retirement and closure of the office.
Huntsman is in her 50th year in the real estate industry after founding Huntsman & Co. in 1969. She’s a past president of both the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors and Springfield Multilist Service Board of Directors.
Coldwell Banker Vanguard was still productive in 2018, she said, noting it closed the year with over $212.2 million in gross real estate sales and 1,235 residential transactions. The average home sales price was $195,109. The company did not respond to Springfield Business Journal’s survey of the area’s largest residential real estate firms in 2018. It ranked No. 4 on 2017’s list, with $151 million in residential sales for the first six months of that year.
“It’s been a great career and I hate to see it end,” she said. “But I’m 74 years old and I’ve got some traveling I’d like to do.”
The Maxwells say they had modest expectations when making the plan for their company at the beginning of the year.
“We thought we were going to have to build it from the ground up,” Alisa Maxwell said.
“When we opened this building, we didn’t know how many people we would have,” Art Maxwell said of its 4,100-square-foot main office at 1324 E. Kingsley St. The couple originally projected having 18 agents by the end of the first year with the hopes of hitting around $70 million in sales volume. He said an alternate sales projection hasn’t been calculated since opening its doors.
The influx of agents, which started a few weeks after the company’s opening, has resulted in the need to open another office at 909 E. Republic Road, Ste. 200. The 5,300-square-foot office opened June 1.
The Kingsley Street property is leased through Great American Property Holdings LLC, according to the Greene County assessor’s office, while the Republic Road office is leased from Tom Mullen, the Maxwells said. Lease terms were not disclosed.
“We weren’t looking at having 9,000 square feet,” he said. “We just had to react to what was happening.”
Maxwell said he thought they’d have to recruit agents to work with the company. But he said his strong relations with others at Coldwell Banker, for which he served as a sales manager since 2008, boosted AMax’s chances to add agents.
“This is humbling that they wanted to come,” he said. “They could go anywhere and any brokerage would be happy to have any of the people who decided to come.”
In the industry, a lot of people have home offices now, Alisa Maxwell said. She said of the 50 agents, approximately 15-20 of them work from home. Still, the need to provide space for 30 or more agents necessitated a second office.
The couple declined to disclose their investment in the venture, although Art Maxwell said anyone seeking to start a company of this size should expect to invest $50,000-$100,000 to get the doors open.
Take your shot
Prior to opening AMax, the couple’s entire real estate experience was tied to Coldwell Banker. Art Maxwell started out in southern California working for a Coldwell Banker agency in Rancho Cucamongo. Each originally started in the U.S. Army, and they’re veterans of Operation Desert Storm, he said.
They moved to Missouri in 2007, and Maxwell said he began the next year at Coldwell Banker Vanguard. His wife, who got her real estate license in 2002, generally was a stay-at-home mom from 2008-11 until their two children were school age.
Declining to disclose any personal discussions they had with Huntsman in the months before forming AMax, the Maxwells said by January they were ready to go out on their own. By April, the Kingsley Street building was leased, and Art Maxwell said they set out on making renovations to the space formerly occupied by Overland Park, Kansas-based HMN Architects Inc.
Historically, Alisa Maxwell said real estate firms needed franchises to lean on for websites and information. That’s not the case now, she said.
“The technology has changed so that you don’t need to pay a franchise for their name anymore,” she said. “You can do it on your own, as effectively – and probably even more effectively – because we’re not restrained by somebody else’s rules.”
The latest Health of Housing Markets Report from Nationwide Economics, released in June, notes positive, sustainable trends in the housing sector for at least the next year. David Berson, Nationwide Economics senior vice president and chief economist, said in a news release that slower house price growth and lower mortgage rates have helped affordability, while job gains and faster income growth sustained demand.
Results were a bit more mixed on the state level. According to Missouri Realtors’ monthly statistics report, residential properties sold were down 8,555 in May compared with May 2018, a drop of 18%. However, the average residential sale price was $212,190 over that same time period, an increase of 5.7%.
“If you’re going to take your shot, this is the marketplace to do it,” Art Maxwell said. “There will be a recession. It’s cyclical. There’s going to be a time. But I’m betting it’s not going to be in the next few years. If it is, it’s not going to be severe enough to detrimentally impact the operation of the company.”
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