Fredericksburg realtor Sarah Stelmok has lived and worked in the area for more than 10 years. She knew the city was ready for something new.
Stelmok has opened Nest Realty at 510 Princess Anne St. It's the fourth location for the Charlottesville based full-service, boutique real estate brokerage firm, which also has offices in Hampton Roads and New River Valley.
"I wasn’t planning to open the new Nest location so soon, but when the realty company [I was working for] folded overnight, it had a snowball effect," she said.
Stelmok initially met Nest Realty founders Jim Duncan and Jonathan Kauffman through Twitter. "Jim was one of first real estate bloggers in the country," Stelmok said.
Soon they met in person at a Virginia Association of Realtors meeting, and then served on committees together over the years. "Duncan kept asking me if Fredericksburg was ready for a boutique firm," Stelmok said. "I kept telling him I didn't think so ... yet."
"When I knew my previous company was folding I decided Fredericksburg had to be ready, because I’d been everywhere and I did not like what real estate companies are offering consumers."
Nest Realty is focused on serving customers the way they shop in the digital age. "The real estate market is not keeping up with consumers," Stelmok said. "Customers don't need a real estate office. They’re searching on the Internet to find the house they want and then an agent to work with," she said.
"The advent of the Internet changed everything. People used to hire the broker. They waned the gold jacket or the blue sign," she said.
"With syndicate MLS, anyone can sell your house. The agent doesn't have to be in the same location as you. Sellers and buyers are looking at a real estate agent's online presence. They're looking at your Facebook page, your Twitter account, especially your personal information," Stelmok said. "They're looking for a real person with whom they'd want a relationship. These people have to share very personal information they'd prefer not to tell just anyone."
Stelmok understands the importance of social media to business. In 2008 she sold 17 houses based on connections she made on Twitter.
"Most of the big brands have lots of tools and they throw them at the consumer, but they never really test those tools to see if they work or poll their agents and clients to see if they like those tools. I wanted to be with a company that was not throwing the same tools at everyone."
Virginia is not a paperless state for real estate, but consumers are going paperless. "I wanted to be with a company that had zip forms and DocuSign, because that is what consumers want," Stelmok said. "I wanted a company that had all that technology clients would use."
Nest individualizes search options, which are limited in the big companies. Traditional real estate firms search for properties based on schools, for example. In Fredericksburg, you can pay to send your children to any school, so a search by schools is not vital.
"Fredericksburg is a zip code, but there are distinct neighborhoods: Historic District, Marye’s Heights, College Terrace, College Heights, Lafayette Blvd Corridor, Idlewild, Rt. 3 Corridor, Cowan Blvd. Corridor, Fall Hill Corridor and Mayfield," Stelmok said.
"We have our own search function on Nest IBX that enables this kind of very specific search, which we can customize for each market and customer. It's the kind of search a large company is just not able to break down. One size fits all does not work in real estate."
Nest is producing a four-video "Live Where You Love" series for the Fredericksburg market. "The video has nothing to do with real estate, but everything to do with living here," Stelmok said. The first two have been released. They are:
Nest Realty had $4.1 million in revenue in 2012 and experienced 504 percent growth during the last three years, putting it at 882 on the Inc. 5000 list. The residential, commercial and property management real estate company was also ranked number 27 on the Inc. list of Top 100 Real Estate Companies and number 44 on Top 100 Virginia Companies.
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