After trying her hand at a pair of national real estate firms, a second-generation broker is scaling back with the opening of her own, smaller-sized agency.
Patti Hornstra has launched Premier Realty of Virginia, a brokerage she described as a response to her experience over the past six years with national firms Re/Max and Keller Williams.
“I saw the writing on the wall that that really wasn’t, in my perception, the wave of the future in residential real estate,” Hornstra said. “The big national and international companies, they just seemed to be losing something.”
Hornstra, whose listings with Keller Williams included the former home of U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, said she saw agents paying large sums of money to be affiliated with those firms but not utilizing their services, including those she was providing as a productivity coach for Keller Williams.
“It’s an expensive business to be in, and part of that is the brokerage split,” Hornstra said. “I said there’s got to be something better out there, so I decided to go back to the boutique model.”
Hornstra distinguishes her brokerage from others for providing two compensation options for agents: a flat-fee model tailored to higher-volume producers, and a percentage-rate option for those who sell less.
She said agents who average about one sale a month would typically go for the percentage model, paying the brokerage up to 20 percent of their commission. Agents who sell more can pay the flat fee: $500 per transaction. Both options have an annual cap.
“I’m really more concerned in units rather than volume,” Hornstra said. “Agents who sell a higher number of units pay me a flat $500. If they make a $10,000 commission, they’re going to pay me $500 – versus that broker who keeps 30 percent, they’re going to pay them $3,000.”
The daughter of two brokers who owned their own firm, Hornstra, who started selling houses in 1988, said she modeled her brokerage to have a brick-and-mortar presence, as opposed to online brokerages that she’s seen popping up.
“I’ve watched the evolution of ‘virtual’ concepts, and as a broker the last nine years, what I see is very frustrated agents who can’t reach their broker.” With her office, she said, “There’s a broker people can see face-to-face, and there’s a place for (the agents) to bring their clients.”
Since launching in April, the firm has grown to a dozen agents, outgrowing the 1,000-square-foot office Hornstra is leasing at 5400-A Glenside Drive, just off West Broad Street in Henrico County. The space was recently expanded to include an adjacent 500-square-foot unit, providing additional flex space for agents rather than dedicated offices.
Hornstra worked with Rupesh Bharad with Transworld Business Advisors to find the space near the intersection of Glenside and Bethlehem Road. She said her self-funded startup cost was in the range of $50,000.
She said she expects her agent count to stay below 25.
“That’s probably the comfort level,” she said. “I can’t see us getting much beyond 25 agents.”
Hornstra is among several brokers choosing to strike out on their own. Fellow Keller Williams veteran Rhonda Howlett launched Clocktower Realty Group in January. Paul Collins, formerly with Jefferson Properties, is nearing the one-year mark with Coach House Realty, which he said hired its 30th agent last month. And a team of local Long & Foster defectors launched their own brokerage in May.