How did 2019 end for The Long & Foster Companies? And what’s to come in the year ahead? Close to Home talked with Jeff Detwiler, CEO and president of The Long & Foster Companies, to get his insights on our 2020 direction.
CTH: Tell us about the company’s 2019 achievements.
Jeff Detwiler (JD): From the launch of our moving company, Tailored Move, to the nationwide expansion of Prosperity Home Mortgage, our achievements in 2019 are significant. Here are a few highlights.
We closed over 67,000 transactions and settled more than $26.5B in volume—which was $650M more than 2018.
We recruited 1,600 agents to Long & Foster—600 were newly licensed agents and 1,000 were experienced Realtors who transferred to our team from competing brokerages. That’s not counting the over 200 agents from Champion Realty, who joined our team after our merger in January 2019.
We introduced Foster, which is a marketing and productivity platform that delivers access to all the tools and programs agents use to conduct their business and is organized intuitively based on agent’s workflow.
Prosperity Home Mortgage earned honors as one of the best mortgage companies in America and was given the responsibilities of supporting all 32 real estate companies owned by HomeServices of America.
Our mortgage, title and insurance had strong 2019 accomplishments, thanks to the support of our agents and hard work of our employees. Our core service companies continue to lead the industry in delivering value to customers.
Mortgage funded over 10,500 loans, settlement had 18,800+ closings and insurance wrote over 8,700 new policies. They earned this business all while achieving best-in-class customer satisfaction ratings.
We reengineered Long & Foster’s Property Management Division to deliver the highest level of customer service, and we are now prepared to reengage our agents and add new property owners to the portfolio.
We launched Tailored Move, a moving and storage company that we built using experts insights and feedback from our agents. It provides unique offerings, competitive pricing and unmatched client service.
We introduced LF68, a signature home scent created exclusively for Long & Foster by the French fragrance house, Mane. With the launch of LF68, we became the first residential brokerage to deploy scent marketing.
CTH: That’s quite impressive. How do you plan to follow up on those achievements in 2020?
JD: First and foremost, we will continue our commitment to growing our agents’ businesses and making their work simpler—just as we have done since our founding in 1968. We provide our associates with more tools, training and support than any competitor, and we are working continuously to ensure our team knows about, and takes advantage of, these programs.
In addition, we will emphasize the all-inclusive experience our company is uniquely able to deliver to consumers and we will increase the agent’s role in providing this superior customer experience.
CTH: We’ve heard you speak about the all-inclusive experience before. Can you tell us more about what it is?
JD: It is the ability to deliver all the products and services a consumer needs when buying and selling real estate. That goes beyond mortgage, title and insurance to include moving, storage, home inspection, home warranties, maintenance and contracting support and more.
CTH: Is the all-inclusive approach new for Long & Foster?
JD: No, our company was built around this model. Long & Foster’s founder Wes Foster pioneered the one-stop shopping experience, opening Long & Foster Insurance in the early 1970s. Our mortgage and settlement businesses followed, with other services opening in the years since.
CTH: Why is the all-inclusive experience so important?
JD: Customer experience is more important today than it’s ever been. Consumers expect convenience and simplicity, as well as exceptional service, in everything they do, from requesting transportation to purchasing a home. An all-inclusive model provides that experience they want.
Lastly, Long & Foster is uniquely positioned to deliver on this approach. It’s been the foundation of our business for over 50 years, and our competitors can’t provide it.
CTH: Why can’t the competition deliver the all-inclusive approach like Long & Foster?
JD: The secret is that our companies are all part of the same family and that we have spent decades building these businesses and perfecting them. We set aligned objectives. We require unparalleled customer service. We prioritize Long & Foster customers over anyone else. You can’t promise the same level of service from a big bank that’s giving your customer a mortgage as you can when your clients work with Prosperity. Because they’re part of our family.
Other big players in the industry—from Zillow to Compass—are only just now talking about the one-stop shopping concept. It’s a new idea for them, but it’s the norm for us. We’ve practiced this for a long time, and you can’t replicate that model quickly. It takes time and experience.
And not only have we excelled at the one-stop shopping model, also, we continually evaluate ways to make it more valuable to our customers. On that front, we are focused on earning customers for life—delivering on their real estate needs throughout the future.
CTH: Tell us more about the “customer for life” model—it sounds like an ideal way to achieve your goals of growing your agents’ businesses and meeting consumer demands.
JD: Exactly—it’s about helping our agents build long-term, repeat business opportunities. Helping our mortgage consultants to do the same, securing repeat clients for refinance and purchase loans. Helping our insurance agents, our property managers, our settlement team and all our business lines to grow.
And it can be achieved by staying connected with our past clients and providing them with the resources they need, whether they are ready to buy a new property or simply enjoying the home we helped them purchase.
Consumers only do repeat business with their agents about 13% of the time. If we can continue that relationship beyond the initial transaction, we can grow that figure for the benefit of our agents and consumers.
CTH: How do you propose to develop that lifelong relationship?
JD: It requires a multi-faceted approach.
We provide our associates the tools they need to stay in touch with their clients beyond the transaction. That includes systems like MoxiEngage and its new MoxiCampaigns feature, which lets agents keep connected with their clients long after a sale or purchase.
We continue to expand on our all-inclusive model, so that we provide all the services needed around a transaction.
We deploy new offerings to provide consumers the products and services they need as homeowners. Our property management team already offers maintenance service to their clients. What if we could offer that to all Long & Foster clients, no matter if they own their home or rent it? Similarly, we could leverage our vendor relationships to secure exclusive pricing on maintenance services, appliance purchases and other home needs.
It’s about positioning us as the long-term homeownership partner. It keeps our agents top of mind with consumers, so when they need to make another move, they call us first.
It gets us upstream from the competition in terms of lead generation and future business development. We acquire the client once and then build a relationship that lasts forever, bringing more business to our agents and better supporting consumers—exactly the goals we’ve set out to achieve in 2020.