Leaving an established franchise to start his own business is a tough decision to make, but that’s exactly what Shaun Peens did in 2017. And he hasn’t looked back.
As CEO of Re/Max Fine Properties in Bradenton for three years, stepping away wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.
“It’s not an easy thing,” Peens says of quitting a national brand brokerage franchise. “You need to think long and hard before you do this.”
But he wanted to pursue a hyperlocal brokerage model. It was then that the South African native founded Fine Properties. The model followed by his Lakewood Ranch-based company relies on experienced realtors in a hyperlocal or micro market. While the big brands have a global presence, he says, Fine Properties focuses more on local customers in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
While at Re/Max, the pattern was to find the most experienced agents. It’s a model he adopted with Fine Properties. While most new brokers hire new or inexperienced real estate agents, Peens has been a broker for 20 years in this market, which is why he was able to bring in more experienced agents. In five years, agents have closed over 10,000 home sales. That volume isn’t something you’d get with less experienced agents, he says.
But even with his current brokerage, he hasn’t completely closed the door on franchising. Although it is currently a private company, Peens says he may consider licensing deals in the future with the right partners.
In March 2017, when the brokerage opened, Peens set an ambitious goal of becoming the #1 brokerage by sales volume in the region. At the time, he only had six real estate agents. Today, the company is approaching 300 real estate agents. “I think we got it right,” he said.
An example: The company is the No. 6 real estate brokerage by sales volume in 2022 in Manatee and Sarasota counties through April 10, with $160.53 million in closed sales volume, according to MLS data. . In five years, the company has managed over $4 billion in sales volume.
Peens has also recently added a title company, which operates as a separate entity from the real estate business but in conjunction with the agents. The title company grew to 15 full-time employees, including an in-house attorney, lender, and marketing department. Fine Properties has up to eight full-time employees. “We made the decision to add an administration position for 50 to 60 agents,” he says.
This isn’t the first company Peens has owned. After moving to Sarasota with his family in 2004, Peens began a short stint with Re/Max before launching his own brokerage, Peens Property Group, later that year. He ran this business for 10 years, before returning to Re/Max.
Getting back into owning a brokerage came naturally. He originally invested millions of dollars in Fine Properties and continues to reinvest most of the profits back into the business, he says.
“We may be young, but our results exceed those of any five-year company,” he says. In 2020, the most expensive home sold was an $18 million property on Longboat Key. “It’s not uncommon for agents to sell homes for $5 million to $10 million,” he says.
The full-service brokerage revenue stream comes from a monthly fee that real estate agents pay for Fine Properties’ services as well as a fixed fee levied on each sale. “The goal is to give (real estate agents) the best experience,” he says. Using Peens’ model, he says agents are able to allocate more money to market each property than if they were on a commission-based model.
Instead of taking a percentage of the commission, Peens’ company is set around a fixed rate based on the membership chosen by an agent. Fine Properties offers three different membership plans which determine the flat rate an agent will pay after each transaction. So he says the average Fine Properties agent will pay $5,000 to $10,000 a year, compared to $40,000 to $100,000 a year with a commission-based company.
“We get the cash flow,” he says, “and the agents make over a million dollars a year.”
He hopes this model will attract more agents. Over the next 18 months, Peens’ goal is to have a surplus of 500 agents. With such a lofty goal, Peens takes the time to get it right.
“Corporate culture comes from the top and trickles down,” he says, adding that culture really depends on how registered agents interact with each other.
He has spent time over the past five years cultivating an inclusive culture where everyone supports each other. Part of this comes from a Facebook group that Fine Properties agents use to communicate and seek help from other agents. But it is also rooted in the educational and social events that the company organizes. While the past two years have put a damper on social events, Fine Properties has planned a social event this year.
“It depends on what you stand for,” he says. “We distinguish ourselves by the people we hire.”
In addition to providing in-house services, Peens also provides real estate leads to agents. The company is contracted through realtor.com and other similar real estate sellers. Fine Properties also has a form on its website with which it captures leads from information provided by potential buyers.
With the infrastructure and business engine built, Fine Properties plans to expand beyond the Sarasota and Venice areas soon. The corporate headquarters, associated with the title company, is in Lakewood Ranch.
The next step is to open offices in Orlando and Tampa. This year, in the third or fourth quarter, he hopes to secure a location in Tampa and then buy the Orlando office in the first quarter of 2023. Or vice versa. Either way, he won’t be renting any office space. “We want to be masters of our destiny,” he says.
The company is also working on creating more video content to appeal to the general public as well as agents. Peens budgeted six figures to do it. “We will prove how powerful we can be,” he said.