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EXIT strategy

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– It’s a scary world in business these days, particularly in the real estate business.
But the team at EXIT Hawk Realty is undaunted. They are quite positive about the outlook from their new office at 710 Pacha Parkway in North Liberty.
First, the team has the power and principles of the successful EXIT Realty Corp. International behind them. EXIT first opened in Toronto, Canada in 1996, and in just 15 years, has grown to over 3,600 brokerages with more than 100,000 agents.
Second, the economy here is strong, said EXIT Hawk Realty broker Maria White.
“Iowa is up 33 percent from last year’s third quarter in residential sales,” said White. “The numbers actually prove we’re doing better than in past years. We are moving forward.”
White draws on her real estate experience to make such assured statements. She previously operated an EXIT Realty office in Mt. Pleasant, where a chance meeting with Eric Melloy turned into a conversation about a potential new business venture. Melloy was working in a human resources position at the time, and after five years, still did not enjoy it.
“I wanted to do something besides sitting behind a desk,” said Melloy. “I knew I could do something to help people.”
“And I knew he was great in sales,” White interjected. She introduced Melloy to the EXIT philosophy, and he was sold as well.
“We complement each other,” White said. “It was a win-win for everyone.”
Melloy, who has lived in the area for six years– three of them in North Liberty– is now an EXIT franchisee, with White serving as a broker and three other agents completing the North Liberty team. While EXIT Realty is prevalent on both of the country’s coasts, it is not as well-known in the Midwest. There are only three other EXIT Realty offices in the state of Iowa.
North Liberty was a natural fit for a fourth location, said White.
“Obviously, the growth of North Liberty was a huge attraction for us,” she said. “The University of Iowa and the University hospitals and are great economic stabilizers in this area.”
Melloy agreed that North Liberty presents a great opportunity for growth of a new business, with its location in the Corridor and proximity to Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Iowa City.
“North Liberty has that great small town feel, but is still connected,” he said. “It’s a great place to start, and get our name out there, and then bleed into Coralville and Iowa City.”
“And we bleed black and gold,” White joked. The framed Iowa Hawkeye prints on the office walls, the Tiger Hawk Christmas tree in the foyer and even the franchise’s individually-chosen name– Hawk Realty– indicate where loyalties lie when it comes to collegiate sports.
When it comes to clients and agents, loyalty is a big part of EXIT’s strategy as well. The company’s founder, Steve Morris, implemented a formula whereby EXIT agents who recruit new agents into the firm are given residuals off the recruits’ commissions, paid out of the corporate till, and not the agents’ pockets. Further, residual benefits carry on into an agent’s retirement. The program is unique to EXIT Realty. According to Melloy, no other realty company employs a similar plan. It not only offers a significant financial benefit, it also fosters an atmosphere of encouragement, rather than competition, between realty team members.
“It’s a huge advantage to the office,” said White. “It creates an environment of teamwork, and the company is continually growing.”
EXIT truly is a team-oriented company, she added.
“We all work together when we bring in new agents or new projects. It builds a solid base within the office and helps develop a mutual respect between agents because everyone knows we all will be working together,” said White. “We want a family we can work with and enjoy our time together while we are here, and then go home to our own families in the evenings.”
Creating that sense of community is important for both White and Melloy in and outside the office alike.
“We both believe in giving back; it’s extremely important in everything you do,” said White. Already a member of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa City Area Association of Realtors, White said EXIT Hawk Realty is looking for different ways to connect to other businesses here.
“We want to create really solid relationships. We want to help grow North Liberty and be very active,” she said.
EXIT Hawk Realty recently took one step toward that ambition when it joined the Homes for Heroes program, a nationwide lender and real estate effort that returns 25 percent of the gross commission on a sale (whether buying or selling a home), and offers other discounted lending fees and closing costs to veterans, firefighters, police officers or other public servants.
“We are becoming familiar with the Veterans’ Administration and VA loans to make the process as easy as possible for them,” White said. “It’s our way of thanking them, and giving back to those in public service.”
And if you go to Walgreens during your holiday shopping, you may even see White ringing a bell for the Salvation Army during this year’s Red Kettle drive.
It’s all part of EXIT Hawk’s approach to making this community feel like home.
“North Liberty has that family atmosphere that we are all so proud of, as Iowans,” White said. “It’s important to feel like you can raise your children here, and make them proud of where they are from. We don’t want to just find houses for people; we truly want to find them a good home.”
And Melloy has discovered he is much more at home in his new role as an EXIT franchise owner than he ever was in human resources.
“The first clients I ever worked with were buying their very first home,” he said. “They are expecting their first child, and they didn’t have any idea of who to go to or what to do. When it was all said and done, just seeing the wife’s reaction– she was in tears, saying ‘thank you’ and ‘we’re so happy, we can’t wait to get into our house;’ it was a good feeling.”