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Lake Homes Realty is a licensed full-service real estate brokerage focused on lake homes and land across multiple states. As CEO Glenn Phillips describes the company, “we provide the largest selection of lake property for sale,” nationwide.
The company has their own licensed real estate agents who focus specifically on lakefront properties, but you won’t find a local office. Lake Homes Realty offices are virtual, online only, across nine states.
“We have taken the inefficient model of redundant operations, and built a more efficient, yet highly virtual, office operation for compliance and financial tasks. We take our savings and invest it back into marketing for our agents,” Phillips says. The company was founded in 2009. Phillips was brought in by investors in 2013, and the latest iteration dates to 2013, when the company overhauled their systems.
“Buyers are often located more than two hours away [from lake properties], so between our website and local agents, we are uniquely able to help connect lake homebuyers and sellers,” Phillips says.
1. What hurdles have you overcome in running your business?
When you bring a new business model to an existing industry, there can be some challenges to getting the first few agents to join.
Since we started, to know our market well, I've spent 55,000 miles in the car across multiple states so I could have long, face-to-face meetings with more than 350 real estate professionals, plus another 350-plus individual meetings at trade shows, conferences and other events.
As we opened our first state's operations, a number of agents had to spend a lot of time with us, and then bet on us and our concepts.
While in many ways we are incredibly traditional (full-service, full-commission) with our business model, other aspects, such as limited number of agents per market and no reliance on storefront real estate offices, made a number of potential agents unsure about joining us.
Fortunately, we found a group of agents who had vision. We took our time, explaining how we were not "just another web company."
2. What sets your business or business story apart from your competitors?
We've built a truly unique business model, with a foot still in highly traditional, broker/agent-based real estate that is full-service and full-commission. Yet we've abandoned the brick-and-mortar model of real estate that just looks for more and more and more agents.
We believe we are the Special Forces for real estate, not the old infantry model.
Armies don't fight wars by just sending masses of troops any more. They use more skilled soldiers with better technology, and a greater focus on using both to find the exact targets.
This is what we are doing in real estate. Our agents don’t buy an ad on our website. We are not built to have a massive army. Our agents are the experts in their market and we use technology to allow them to better help homebuyers and sellers.
Our model is scalable, and while we have started in the niche of lake real estate, we know we can serve other areas of real estate too.
3. What would you want other business owners to know about starting or running a business?
- Have a unique business that can be defended from competition, meets a large need (else you can't scale) and solves a real problem.
- Make sure that once you scale, the unit level economics can create a profitable business.
- Hire for attitude and intelligence, as skills can be taught.
- Know your market better than anyone else, and know your numbers (yesterday’s, today's and tomorrow’s).
- Know your real market and competition, not just what can be read online or in the news.
4. When did you first realize your company was successful?
We realized we were getting market traction when real estate agents began asking if they could join our company, instead of us always initiating that conversation.
5. What has been your most memorable moment as a business owner?
In an annual review meeting with investors, they gave our management team a spontaneous round of applause for our work growing the business.
Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Phillips