Having accomplished their goal of being one of the biggest real estate firms, halstead property now shifts their focus to becoming the best
By Stephanie Wilson
New York City has long been heralded as the center of the universe, and this phrase is just as true today. The Big Apple is the center for all human endeavors, whether these endeavors are financial or artistic, technological or theatrical. Over the recent years, the city has become safer, cleaner, better managed and completely luminous, which has brought people with energy, ambition and success to the city in droves. The end result? A healthy and active real estate market, one that Halstead Property is taking full advantage of.
We pride ourselves as being one of the largest firms, but when it comes to our culture we maintain a family environment.”
Halstead Property is one of the most visible and fastest growing residential real estate brokerage firms in New York, and it became this way through innovative thinking over the years, the most recent of which has been a complete re-branding of a company on the forefront of the New York real estate market.
The re-branding process began almost five years ago when Terra Holdings, a company that owns and operates several real estate service firms, took hold of Halstead Property and added formidable, additional dimensions of talent, capability and capacity to Halstead’s strengths.
Terra Holdings essentially allowed Halstead Property to look to deeper pockets, and brought them to a different level of abilities never before possible. Kent Swig, owner and Co-Chairman of Terra Holdings, LLC says, “Clark Halstead had incredible vision early on in trying to grow a real estate brokerage sales firm. He had good name recognition and good vision, a truly gifted staff and good corporate structure, philosophy and dynamic. What he was lacking was emotional support, financial support and infrastructure from a parent company that would really be able to take Halstead to the next level… Terra Holdings was able to offer all that. It was a perfect fit.”
Prior to founding Halstead Property, Clark Halstead was co-founder of Sotheby’s International Realty and traveled the country representing the prestigious firm. He discovered while the rest of the country was on the cutting edge of technology, Manhattan was lagging behind. The time was right to start a new brand.
In another part of New York City, Diane Ramirez-currently president of Halstead Property -was having thoughts of starting her own company as well. The two met and realized their visions had a remarkable amount of synergy. Ramirez says, “Our idea was the same: We wanted to be very supportive of our agents, to make sure they were at the right place at the right time with the right person, so they could achieve and surpass all of their goals.”
Mr. Halstead echoes Ramirez: “[We wanted to create] a concept of a kinder, gentler company as far as the clients and the atmosphere in house are concerned… I always did the best I could with Diane’s help to create an oasis in an unpleasant [real estate] environment, and that worked. This still is the cornerstone of the company; the new owners have wisely allowed this to continue.”
Despite Halstead’s growth, Ramirez says, “We pride ourselves as being one of the largest firms, but when it comes to our culture we maintain a family environment.” This environment has been maintained because the executives at both Halstead and Terra Holdings recognize who their clients are: The brokers of their firm that represented $1.3 billion of sold real estate in 2003 alone.
“We recognize as owners and executives that we know who our clients are: Our clients are our brokers,” says Swig. “One of the things you do in business is service your clients tremendously well.” Ramirez seconds this philosophy: “Our company culture is really to empower our brokers, by enabling them to buy and sell to others more efficiently.”
Halstead has accomplished this by offering on-going training services for all of their agents. With the resources that Terra Holdings brought to the table, these services have grown into a full-fledge real estate academy that includes a two week boot camp where agents are immersed in all aspects of Halstead culture. Halstead also offers Advanced Real Estate Seminars to provide ongoing training for even the most experienced of their brokers, to ensure they have the answers and knowledge to make the real estate transaction a smooth one. Kent Swig admits that he not only attends as a guest-lecturer, but goes often to listen and learn.
From day one, Halstead knew success is all about exposure. While other brokerage companies have their offices tucked in buildings high above the busy New York streets, Halstead Property placed theirs in neighborhoods, in visible storefront locations. “We have ten offices, and except for our corporate headquarters, all of them are in a storefront and in the heart of the geographic location we are focused on,” Ramirez says.
Mr. Halstead says, “In the beginning, to attract customers, we used the usual means of newspapers and magazines. Then I brought public relations to the mix, and made a solid effort to get ink and air about the company.” These original efforts have exploded since the take-over by Terra Holdings, and the amount of exposure for Halstead just keeps growing, thanks to a new marketing division which features a 24-person team that develops and implements targeted marketing strategies for all of Halstead Property’s exclusives. Swig mentions, “We have one of the most cost advantageous advertising rates because we advertise so much as a parent company, so [Halstead] could suddenly do a lot more advertising for the same cost.”
REAL ESTATE REAL TIME
The firm was the first to make buying and selling property more efficient through aggressive use of technology. And when Terra Holdings took hold, they added an IT division, which has allowed their website to grow to host some 3.5 million viewers per month. Mr. Halstead says, “Today, 80% of the business we do comes from the Internet.” Halstead has a “live website” that updates continuously, giving users the most up-to-date information available. This year alone the site won a 2006 Official Honoree Webby Award for outstanding web development as well as The Web Marketing Association’s ‘Real Estate Standard of Excellence’ Award.
Mr. Halstead speaks to how the Internet has changed the real estate business: “It brings people to us who are very well educated before they even call one of my sales agents. Because they have educated themselves on the Internet using our site they know what is out there, what the price level is and a whole bunch of things that we used to have to teach them from scratch from telephone conversations and inspection tours. As a result, we don’t waste a lot of time on the primary education of consumers.”
Halstead has adjusted to this change in the industry with grace and poise, hiring a firm whose main focus is re-branding. After working for a solid year on the process, Terra Holdings presented Halstead to the world not with promises of what was&amp;amp;amp;lt;br&amp;amp;amp;gt; to come, but instead with a showcase of all they had accomplished in the five years since Terra Holdings took over. Swig says, “This year it culminated in a full re-branding of the company. What we did was completely redevelop the company with Clark using the foundation he had created and redeveloped the company and we brought in all these services, we expanded the company, brought in new technology, new computers, we redid the Web page, we expanded advertising, got new furniture, new carpet, and then when we really hit our stride we said to the outside world, ‘This is what we have done. And yes, we are going to take it even further.'”
WHAT LIES AHEAD
What does the future hold for Halstead? Ramirez says, “In five to ten years, I am sure we will be bigger, but our focus is not on size… Our focus is on being the best.” And with the never-ending support of parent company Terra Holdings, and their unwavering loyalty to their clients, Halstead is well on their way to accomplishing this goal.