Central Virginia’s Largest Real Estate Broker, Real Estate III,

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Network Expands to 15 States

PARSIPPANY, N.J., and CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (April 8, 2010)

Gardens Real Estate LLC today announced the addition of Real Estate III, a Charlottesvillebased real estate firm founded in 1972. Real Estate III, a leader in the Central Virginia market, will now operate as Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III. With this affiliation, the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate network expands into Virginia, and the brand network now includes approximately 125 offices in 15 states.

“Real Estate III has a rich tradition of superior customer service spanning several generations while consistently embracing ongoing change in the Greater Charlottesville housing market,” said Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC. “We look for partners who are prepared to move ahead of the times, a ‘Next Generation Brokerage’ that remains relevant regardless of the market cycle. That is what Real Estate III has shown year after year.”

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III will continue to operate under the direction of Jeff Gaffney, CEO and Chairman, and Art Pearson, President and Principal Broker.

“We have always embraced change, philosophically, and we are always  looking at strategic moves that can benefit our associates and our  clients,” said Gaffney. “Partnering with a world-class franchisor that is always looking to the future is a natural fit for us. It positions us for growth and further boosts our ability to deliver the best real estate transaction experience in Central Virginia.”

The firm has 227 agents in nine regional offices and offers a comprehensive range of services supporting relocation, mortgage, senior specialists, first-time buyers and home warrantees. In conjunction with this announcement, the company launched its newly redesigned Website today at “Today is a great day in the nearly 40-year history of Real Estate III,” said Pearson, who joined the firm in 1972. “Our founder Frank Kessler was renowned for his visionary marketing and progressive strategies. This announcement today is a page out of his playbook.”

— Better Homes andhttp://www.realestateiii.com.

Real Estate Franchise is Independently Owned and Operated.




All of us with successful businesses know that the first key to success is having a strong business plan that shows a clear direction for the company.  Even in today’s market that still holds true.  As my good friend Bruce says, “Businesses are designed to have a profit; anything short of that just isn’t a business plan.”

With that being the case, the business model that every business is using today, whether you’re Angelo, the drycleaner, Billy, the landscaper and whether your business is big or small, is the survival model.  The name of the game is to cut and cut and cut until there’s a profit.  There is nothing complex about it.

While the “cut mentality” is good for the short-term, it’s not a business plan that anyone uses to grow their business, which is what I intend to do after the initial shock of our consolidation is complete.  I’ve lived through the cut model, now it’s time to develop a model around the business we do and how we’re going to grow market share and profits again.

The “new” business model won’t have all the frills that the old business model had and there are a couple of key components that it will have that just simply make sense.  I’d like to share with you today some of those “new” components that we’ve adopted into our overall “new” business plan.

First and foremost, part of our new business plan is to use more independent contractors and adjust several of our (now) employee schedules enabling them to have (1) more and expanded flexible hours; (2) a workspace which includes working from their home or other flex-space; (3) working only part time for us because they can do more in less time when working outside the office and (4) me voluntarily accepting these changes as an employer.  Jessica is a prime example in Stroudsburg.  What this has done is successfully thwart more layoffs or the need to replace key employees.  Instead, it has made our Management Team actually stronger than ever.  I don’t see the person in the office next to me, but I know they are there by the use of Skype, Instant Messaging and email.

For our valued hourly employee, the shortening of the office workweek was the second biggest item that worked for both management and our valued employees.  We were careful not to cut too much, but still maintain the workflow that was required.  We found that all of our employees were receptive to a new reduced work schedule understanding the economy that we all work in.  I compliment Rose for spearheading our cutbacks.

At Pennsylvania First Settlement Services our sister company, we release our title agents work schedules a month in advance and let them know what we anticipate will come in for business; like Billy, one of the most prominent landscapers in the Buck Hill and Skytop areas says, “When I have a job, I bring in the help.  When the job is over, we wait to hire them back for the next job.”  I think this technique is known as “growing” personnel slower than the revenue.  We adapted that same idea in our professional work place and it worked.  Craig watches the orders weekly now in the slow season and can adjust hours weekly if need be.

Another important thing that worked for us is cross training.  We found that when an employee was cross training it taught them to help in parts of the company where we didn’t realize they had a talent or that the talent was there and we never put it to use.  It was a win/win pilot program and Doreen, our Receptionist, is a great example of how it works.

On another note, the biggest commodity we have in a real estate company is listings and sales.  We are starting to promote a summer stimulus package which includes our co-broking transactions and giving the other broker a larger share of the commission; unheard of in our industry.  We hope that this will produce more sales and (while our intention is always to sell in-house as opposed to co-broking) it creates camaraderie outside of the office and enables us to capture a larger percentage of that valued species…the buyer and who knows, maybe Dennis, our Recruiter, can hire the listing Agent.

Having our listings for the summer season and re-listing or extending those that expire during beginning part of the season, was another big move that the company made as a whole.  We certainly have gotten the lion’s share of inventory going into the summer time, which is our busiest time–July, August and September.  Dominick takes credit for this idea.

No one likes to pay commission, but the reality is in the real estate business that’s how we make our money.  We successfully have moved the majority of our commissions to between 6% and 7%.  In the past, fees were working their way down to 5% and we’re pleased to say that we have a good amount of inventory and also at a good price, which excites other agents who want to work for our company.

Ahhh the internet!  No broker has incorporated the internet better than Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates through (1) our corporate office in Parsippany where Sherry Chris and her team are the leaders in internet advertising; (2) The Real Estate Book online advertising which just produces a whole lot of leads for us and (3) Lead Router, a customized routing system for buyers that helps us as brokers, organize those buyers by agent and the type of real estate they want to buy.  Everyone asks me did I do the right thing by franchising and I tell him or her Lead Router is well worth the franchise fee.  Toni handles all our Relos along with her Supervisor, Jessica.  They will let you know about Relos and how CARTUS, our exclusive Relo company with BHG works.

Moreover, let’s not forget Wells Fargo.  Our Managers now review each pre-qualified buyer that calls our office or interfaces with us interested in buying a home.  You would be surprised at the number of pre-quals that they’ve done which in some cases were simply going un-attended, but not any more!  Sonia, one of their Loan Officers, is the best!

 Well thanks for allowing me the time to tell you a few of our “trade secrets”.  Overall, I couldn’t be where I am today without the great Managers, Department Heads and Staff that I have working around me; some of whom you’ve met today.

 Much success to all

 Thomas R Wilkins is CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Wilkins and Assocs. He founded the company in 1988 and at its height had 14 offices total. While still maintaining  a 15% market share and still the largest franchise office in Northeastern PA,  he has successfully consolidated his offices to two (2) with 90+ fulltime realtors. In addition to the real estate company, he is CEO of NEPA Management Assocs. and Gen. Partner of Pennsylvania First Settlement Services and a commercial Realtor at Wilkins & Associates Commercial Brokers.

Pocono Family Reunions- How easy to do

Pocono Mts. – Why should you go through the headaches of planning a family reunion in the Poconos?  Well the answer to that is

  • It’s your family, someone has to do it!
  • If it’s done correctly, it can be a whole lot of fun and the Poconos is just the place to do it.
  • If you really haven’t seen your cousin in 12 years, isn’t the time now?
  • Summertime in the Poconos is the perfect time for family members of all ages to have a good time and this summer is the time to do it.

Family reunions are great events; they’re special because they give relatives, young and old, a chance to get reacquainted and in some cases with new babies or smaller children, you may be meeting them for the first time.  Who doesn’t like to share family stories and history and preserve memories; and to be truthful about the fact….family reunions are just a whole lot of fun!

The best way to plan your Pocono family reunion is to start by creating committees.  Someone should be the Reunion chairperson, someone designated to take charge while others can be members of different committees to help organize all the events.  The biggest challenge of all is when is it going to take place and of course, where.

At Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates we have town-home communities where you can rent 3 to 15 units, and most likely, next to one another.  By being close to each other, it enables the kids to simply walk from unit to unit without the worry of crossing highways, being alone in an area that is not supervised and putting any of the children or older members in an unfamiliar spot.  Or, if you do want single family homes, we have them too!

The second thing you want to do is make a list of who will come.  Assuming family members are located in at least the tri-state area, the Pocono Mountains offers highway driving distances and is easy to get to from the New England states, Upstate New York, New York City, New Jersey, Washington D.C. or Maryland and of course, with Interstate 80 going east or west, it’s easy to get any of the family members to the Poconos with little confusion.  Once they are here, everything you want to do is just a short drive away.

The best time to plan a family reunion is when the children are out of school, which is typically the third week of June; so any time after that through Labor Day is what’s called “prime time” in the Pocono Mountains.  All of the Pocono attractions are open and in full swing and our weather is very cooperative.  Some times it may be cool at night for fire in one of the log burning fireplaces but during the day, it’s warm enough to swim in one of the many pools, lakes or water parks scattered throughout the Pocono Mountains.  “And what if it rains” you say….some of the best shopping around is in the towns of Jim Thorpe or Milford, at The Crossings outlet center, located in Tannersville and at Great Wolf Resort and Split Rock Lodge, the waterparks are indoors, which allows you to still keep the kids happy if it rains.  And the time to book that vacation is now!

To get the number of units that you need, don’t wait too long.  Vacations in the Poconos are typically booked in advance and you don’t want to choose a weekend that is the same as the Pocono 500 Race weekends (which take a lot of rooms in the Poconos).  Don’t count short that it may book up before you are able to get in your reservations.

Having a family reunion “theme” is another way to have fun.  Activities and games can be held at any of the parks in the Poconos including the Delaware National Recreation Area, Beltzville Dam, Big Pocono, and Sun Mountain Recreation Area if you choose to stay at Northslope II.  All short driving distances once you are here in the Mountains.

Why not plan a barbeque or a clam bake? All of the vacation units that Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates rent are fully furnished and able to accommodate you.  But, if you’re planning a meal or something that’s a little bit bigger, it may not be a bad idea to pack away and bring with you certain pots and pans that may not be available in your unit.  Always better to be safe than sorry.

Anything that can be cooked on a grill is fair game for an outdoor party and potluck works; we’re sure each of the family members has their favorite recipe that they want to share.  A lot of times, there are even traditional family favorites.

Don’t worry about things to do either as a group or if individual families may want to just get away on their own for an afternoon.  The Poconos includes such family attractions as Callie’s Candy Kitchen and Pretzel Factory, S & S Speedway, Bushkill Falls, Claws & Paws, Country Junction–the World’s Largest General Store, Quiet Valley Living Museum and many more.  You can go online to 800 Poconos and see a list of members on the Pocono Mts Visitors Bureau’s site.

But, if you prefer to plan an entire day and take the group somewhere, group rates are available and one of the committee members can take the time to get the best rate possible through group rates.  Some of those amenities in the Poconos to consider for a day trip would be CamelBeach, located in Tannersville where there’s a full day’s worth of fun and if it’s raining, Split Rock Lodge has H2 Ooh, an indoor waterpark so you don’t have to be discouraged if you get a rainy day.  A great day adventure is witewater rafting.  Whitewater rafting is not as scary as the name may suggest.  Proper ages for rafting is something you’ll have to check into, but, it may also be not a bad idea to send the Dads and the teenagers out for a day while the oms and the younger ones spend a quieter time at maybe Bushkill Falls where they can walk and see the water falls as opposed to rafting down them.

Photos are a must, and bringing you camera is one of the most important things to pack when you come away on a vacation. 

While old fashioned vacations used to be Friday to Friday, at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate we offer stimulus weeks to accommodate your pocketbook and still get in the most fun.  They are 5 day, 4 night stays attractively priced.

Once you’ve got your budget, and your location has been chosen, the rest is easy to do.

Well, that’s about it; the next thing to do is call up your cousin Cathy and Uncle Bob; get their okay, start your committees and then, most importantly, call Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates at 800-252-4601 and let us book that Pocono Family Reunion for you today!

Thomas R. Wilkins is CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates, the one of the largest real estate broker companies in the Pocono Mountains.  Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate rents furnished vacation condos, town-homes, and individual cabins throughout the greater Pocono region.  Packages are available from 3 days, 2 nights to 8 days, 7nights. 

Patricia Blank-Toombs, Vice President Sales and Vacation Rental Manager contributed to this article and is head of the Vacation Rental Department 

Thinking about a family reunion in the Poconos, give us a call today or visit us online at www.wilkins1.com