Miami-based Realty pillar Keyes starts new year with new business plan
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Florida's oldest privately-owned realty firm wants to lead the way in 2011 with a new client-centered business model, a more diversified team and a new local leader.
As part of a multi-year renaissance, Keyes Co. has been making key changes to position itself as the leader in Florida's real estate market.
The regional family-operated business began making critical changes about five years ago, including renovating its offices, improving its management staff and bringing onboard new professionals, said Keyes President Michael Pappas.
In the next chapter, the firm plans to transition from the transactional model most commonly used in the market to a consumer-centric model, with the aim of having clients build a relationship with the company, not just the agent.
The firm hired Carlos Villanueva last week to lead the next phase of Keyes's transformation.
"Most realty companies embrace that transactional model…," Mr. Villanueva said. "Being the oldest real estate firm in Florida, we have deep-rooted ties in the community, and we want to leverage that platform and take care of our customers better than anyone."
Kenneth Keyes opened Keyes Co. in 1926 on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, growing the business from a one-agent operation to today a large company with 1,600 agents and 24 offices throughout Florida as well as in Panama.
Dubbed the architect of change, Mr. Villanueva brings to Keyes 17 years of realty experience, including the past five as manager broker of Prudential Florida Realty's Coral Gables office.
The gradual transition is to start with a selected group of Keyes agents, who are going to begin adopting the new model in its Coral Gables, Kendall, Palmetto Bay and Homestead offices.
A year of search led Keyes to Mr. Villanueva, who said he was seeking the opportunity to implement more progressive ideas in the residential market.
In the role of district sales manager for Miami-Dade, he's to assist in executing the new client-centered model by training associates and departments.
He's to also lead a search for 50 agents the firm plans to hire in 2011.
Throughout this year, Mr. Pappas said, Keyes has added 300 agents to its team.
Mr. Villanueva said Keyes is looking to hire agents from competing realty firms, college graduates with potential and executives from outside the real estate industry who would be a good fit.
The progressive client-centered business model the firm seeks to adopt is to focus on contact, care and community.
The 85-year-old company aims to unite its residential and commercial services to advise clients on all their real estate needs, Mr. Villanueva said, and maintain contact with them to make sure its delivering top expertise.
For example by "talking to the customer about developing a real estate investment portfolio geared towards their retirement, and looking at strategies like using a self-directed IRA concept to invest those funds in real estate," he said.
Larry Gautier, Keyes's regional vice president, said the model centers on putting customers first and developing a direct relationship with them.
"The company, not the agent, wants to take the responsibility to get to know the customer," he explained. "The agents will be responsible for the implementation, but the company will be responsible for the execution."
The Keyes executives cited a study from the National Association of Realtors that showed about 85% of consumers do not use the same Realtor twice.
"The reason is not because they had a bad experience, but they don't remember who they are," Mr. Villanueva said, adding these statistics demonstrate the need for clients to develop a relationship with the realty brand, not just the agent.
As part of the care component, agents are to educate clients on market conditions using solid market statistics and discuss with them programs that can save them money in home insurance and other expenses.
For foreign nationals, Mr. Villanueva said, the idea is to pull together a team of experts including attorneys, public accountants and Realtors who can advise them on their real estate investments.
Under its community outreach, the company plans to inform the public on the important role homeownership plays in building communities.
"One of the things Keyes is taking leadership in is the concept of responsible ownership," Mr. Villanueva said. "We are working with our partner Wells Fargo through our mortgage affiliation to ensure that buyers are spending what they can afford in buying a home."
Keyes is also close to launching a personalized Web site in February that is to allow its associates to handle more leads and a large quantity of information, said Mr. Pappas, the president.
The realty firm has been expanding its Web presence, he said, adding that so far it has gotten 50,000 leads online.
"We have been able to grow and expand our company in a difficult market."
Miami Association of Realtors expands facilities. Read the full story in e-Miami Today.