Top Of Its Class

LEHIGH VALLEY | Sunday, August 12, 2007

Valley's Assist 2 Sell franchise is nation's No. 1 for the past 18 months.

In early July, George and Carol Krause sold their 3,350-square-foot home in South Whitehall for $350,000, $100 over asking price. It sold quickly, too, in 41/2 weeks.

Had the Krauses used a traditional broker, they typically would have paid a 6 percent commission on the sale price or $21,000.

However, on a friend's recommendation, they chose a discount broker, Assist 2 Sell, and opted for its flat-rate plan. Under the flat-rate option which Assist 2 Sell calls direct-to-buyer, they paid $3,495 to the agent at closing, a savings of more than $17,500.

Their agent was Dale Sadler, who opened his first Assist 2 Sell office in the Lehigh Valley in 1997, when the concept of discount brokerage was relatively new, especially in this area.

His original office was in a tiny building near his home in Allen Township. He since moved that office to a former greenhouse in East Allen Township and opened two more -- one in South Whitehall and one in Palmer.

Today, Sadler has 38 agents who work as independent contractors and is planning to open a fourth office in New Jersey.

For the past 18 months, Sadler's has been No. 1 in sales among the 615 Assist 2 Sell franchises in the United States and Canada. Recently, he even topped the company-owned office in Reno, Nev., where Assist 2 Sell was founded and is based.

''Dale was No. 1 for all of 2006 and is consistently at the top of Assist 2 Sell's Top 10 each month,'' says Erin Campbell, spokeswoman for Assist 2 Sell.

''Results for May 2007 just came out, and he ranked No. 1 again,'' Campbell adds. Office rankings are based on the number of sales for each individual office.

How is Sadler's discount franchise able to sell so many homes? Campbell points out that Sadler's is one of the larger Assist 2 Sell offices. ''In general, offices have anywhere from two to 10 agents once they get established. The Assist 2 Sell system is designed to operate with smaller offices,'' she says.

Also, she says, Sadler's style is a good match for the Assist 2 Sell system for running the day-to-day operations and handling a high volume of business. All franchisees are taught the system at their weeklong training in Reno.

''Mary LaMeres-Pomin and Lyle Martin, the founders and co-CEOs of Assist 2 Sell, have known Dale for a very long time. He is a very good business man. Dale has succeeded because he uses the system he learned at training, and gives his clients good service,'' Campbell says.

At training, the franchisees learn all aspects of operating an Assist 2 Sell franchise from setting up back-office systems, running the office, recruiting agents, attracting customers and marketing homes to working with other real estate companies and handling customers.

Sadler also credits his agents and their productivity. Even months that aren't that great, Sadler says, they average more than two sales a month. ''We're [doing] at least double what the National Association of Realtors says is the average production of a real estate agent,'' he says.

Sadler believes, too, that Assist 2 Sell offices get more listings because they offer sellers different options when it comes to compensating the agent who handles their transaction.

One option is direct-to-buyer, which the Krauses used. The seller will pay the flat rate of $3,495 when the home sells. When Sadler started the franchise 101/2 years ago, the direct-to-buyer fee was $1,995.

With direct-to-buyer, Sadler says, the listing agent does everything a traditional broker would do to market the home including help determine an asking price, show the home or arrange for other agents to show it, negotiate the purchasing agreement, meet with appraisers, arrange inspections and supervise the closing.

However, with direct-to-buyer, the home is not included in the Multiple Listing Service, the Realtor-operated database of homes for sale in the area. Buyers and their Realtors can search the database for homes that meet the buyers' criteria including size, location and price. The multi-list is often how buyers learn of listings and thus it can lead to a sale.

While a home in Assist 2 Sell's direct-to-buyer program is not included in the multi-list, it is advertised in the local newspapers and on online, including on the Assist 2 Sell Web site, Sadler says. The Internet gives the listings great exposure, he believes.

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