By Jason Scott, August 14, 2015 at 3:00 AM
Originally featured in Central Penn Business Journal, please read the original and complete article by clicking here
Craig Hartranft leads the top sales team at the region’s largest residential brokerage.
But more than 25 years ago, he was a Lancaster police officer and a part-time real estate agent. He sold one home in his first six months.
“My wife told me to quit. I thought she meant being a Realtor,” he said. “She said ‘no, quit being a police officer.’”
Hartranft, a Garden Spot High School graduate and veteran of the Air Force, took a leap of faith in 1990 and began selling real estate full time.
By 1994, he was up to about 50 transactions a year. To find more balance in his life, he hired his first licensed agent and started his own team within Re/Max Associates of Lancaster.
In 2000, the team moved to Manor Township-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty. Today, it has 14 members and is coming off its best year ever. In 2014, it sold 336 homes and closed sales worth a total of $71.6 million.
“We’re on track right now to close around 400 transactions and $90 million in volume,” Hartranft said.
The Craig Hartranft Team was ranked nationally at No. 114 for transactions among teams surveyed in a list produced this year by Colorado-based Real Trends Inc. and The Wall Street Journal.
The team could rise even higher as the regional housing market continues to grow or if Hartranft expands beyond Lancaster County.
The Business Journal spoke with the 50-year-old Manheim Township resident last week about assembling a real estate team and why a group his size — as big or bigger than many small or medium-size brokers, isn’t looking to make its name as an independent firm.
Q: What is the biggest benefit of the team approach, or why does it work for you?
A: It first came out of necessity for balance because I was working 12 to 14 hours a day, and customer service is very important. When you get to so many units, things were slipping through the cracks. I knew something had to change, plus I didn’t want to not know my children, not know my wife.
There is a misconception about teams. I would say 70 to 80 percent of “teams” are not. A true team has a rainmaker or leader of the team, and they provide leads to their team members. I’m spending money on marketing to bring leads into my agents so they can go ahead and work with those people.
We specialize in different parts of the transaction. We have agents that the only thing they do is work with sellers and they specialize in that. We have administrators that specialize in support of that particular side and then we have other agents where the only thing they do is work with buyers.
How have real estate teams evolved since you got started? Would you expect to see more of it and what is your growth plan?
Nationally, we’re seeing it really grow where the brokers are embracing it. That was the nice thing about Homesale. The old-style brokers sometimes did not like the team concepts. Berkshire really wrapped their arms around it, and that’s why I joined them back in 2000.
The new thing is (that brokers) may have a team in Florida and their main business is in Florida, but they are expanding the teams out to other states. And their support is still at the hub in Florida.
I’m planning to continue growing our team. The more we grow in volume and transactions, the more we will grow the team. We have to (in order) to provide that customer service.
I don’t know if the team concept will grow tremendously, and the reason for it is that most Realtors are salespeople and you need to have a business mentality behind the team or it does collapse. It causes so much stress.
Why aren’t larger teams breaking away and starting their own brokerages today?
They provide services that I may not be able to provide as a small company. They have a seven-day showing center. We’re getting hundreds of showing requests throughout the week, and they have a fully staffed group that just handles that.
“I have the best of both worlds. I have large company exposure but we provide customer service like a small boutique business.”
A lot of times these small companies are shut down for Saturday and Sunday. If there is a relocation buyer coming in and they change their mind and want to see a home on a Saturday night, a lot of times those Realtors aren’t open to set up the showings, and we never get to see those properties.
They have a legal department when we have legal questions or consumers have questions.
And third is the national exposure. Homesale has that avenue of relocation buyers coming in and out of the area. As a small company, I wouldn’t have the same exposure as they do.
I have the best of both worlds. I have large company exposure but we provide customer service like a small boutique business. We have the national exposure and we have the largest market share, but at the same token, you’re not going to get lost because our team is a small company in a (big) company where we can provide you that customer service.
As the housing market has picked up with more growth in sight, how does your team capitalize and continue growing market share in Lancaster County?
We’re always looking for innovative ways of marketing. We’re always trying to improve our systems and our follow-up system with our past clients.