When Lisa Heindel decided to open a brokerage two years ago, the premise was simple. She wanted to work with affiliated agents who love the city of New Orleans and who shared her passion for doing right by clients.
Lisa grew up in New Orleans and has never abandoned her love affair with the Crescent City – a nickname she says tends to only be known by longtime residents. Everyone who’s come through the city for Mardi Gras and beignets knows about the “Big Easy.” But not many truly know the Crescent City.
No dual agency
One of the other pillars of the company’s mission is that agents do not engage in dual agency, the practice of one agent representing both sides of a transaction. While dual agency is a complicated topic with many points of view, it’s allowed and commonly practiced among agents in New Orleans.
Lisa doesn’t knock those who do it, but she once found herself in the situation and decided that it made her so uncomfortable that she’d never do it again. And she’s taken that principle to heart with Crescent City Living.
“Being in the middle of that transaction, I felt like I was not able to give 100% to either side,” she said. “It didn’t leave me feeling like I did everything I could’ve done for either side.”
When opening her brokerage, she felt it was important for her affiliated agents to not ever feel like they weren’t able to give full representation.
Aside from representation, Lisa and her business partner Terri Babineaux decided that they wanted to offer agents and customers a certain level of service on the marketing side of the transaction as well. For every listing, they use professional photography, create glossy postcards, a slideshow video and single-property website. The brokers take care of the costs for this marketing until the property sells.
“We’ve got all of our skin in the game by fronting the fees,” Lisa said. This enables the brokerage to create a consistent level of marketing without scaring away agents who aren’t used to spending their business dollars on collateral.
“Consistency is important for us,” Lisa said.
Speaking of agents, what about recruiting?
In addition to Lisa and Terri, Crescent City Living has six affiliated agents. To date, they’ve done no formal recruiting. Agents have come either by way of knowing the brokers or observing what they’re doing out in the marketplace and expressing an interest to come affiliate.
Lisa does have her eye on a couple of agents she’d like to recruit this year, but she’s not overly concerned with growing the company right now. She’s more focused on growing productivity and sales volume.
She also hopes to focus full-time on the brokerage and stop listing homes herself by the end of this year.
“I don’t want agents to feel like I’m competing with them,” Lisa said. In fact, every lead that comes into the brokerage is shared so every agent gets an equal shot.
When it comes to recruiting agents, Lisa says they absolutely have to love the city they live and work in. It’s easy to see her passion for New Orleans.
“We’ve been through a lot,” she said. “I want agents who affiliate with us to be ambassadors and have a positive outlook about where the city is going.”
Lisa is very excited about a series of neighborhood videos she’s started producing for the brokerage. (Watch these videos here, here and here.) She hired a professional videographer – a former photojournalist for a local news station – who interviews residents and business owners to get the true essence of life in New Orleans neighborhoods.
“We even hired someone who writes the music score. Everything is original,” she said.
This is helpful especially for people who may be moving from another city and really only know the French Quarter view of New Orleans that sets the stage for Mardi Gras.
In addition, Lisa writes and manages the company’s blog, which focuses on all things local real estate – notable listings, developments, market trends and more.
Like every broker, Lisa and her partner are hoping to grow in the years to come. But they’re doing so with an eye more toward increasing productivity of every agent who affiliates, rather than adding more.
They’re hoping to double their sales volume this year over last, recruit a couple of new agents, produce and release more neighborhood videos, and continue to cultivate a culture around their passion for New Orleans and exceptional service.