If Time Value Real Estate realizes its goal of becoming one of Colorado's 10 largest real estate companies in the next five years, you still likely will find Tom and Dwight Willman working out of their discreet basement office.
Simplicity, modesty, efficiency, technology and volume are the tools the brothers are using to expand their company.
"It would be contrary to our business model to have a storefront -- unnecessary waste of money that needs to be passed on to the customer," said Tom Willman, who started TVRE in spring 2004.
Although the company's headquarters are in the basement of the Wells Fargo building in Steamboat Springs, the brothers have concentrated on other parts of Colorado including Summit County, Willman said. That is about to change, though, as TVRE plans to launch a heavy marketing and advertising campaign in Steamboat in the next month.
Tom Willman's marketing strategy typically has involved advertising on the Internet, but he will use some traditional media in Steamboat.
"The digital exposure is more bang for the buck, and part of our trade secrets is knowing how to get that done," Willman said.
The idea behind TVRE is to sell and buy more properties than the traditional real estate companies by offering lower commission rates. The profits might not be as high per sale, but they do not have to be when you run a bare-bones operation, which Willman said did about $20 million in volume last year.
"We have people that stand there with a calculator and calculate how much money they have left on the table using traditional Realtors," Williams said.
They offer full-service brokerage services and strive to keep their costs down.
"We don't need to have personnel running all over the place running into each other," he said.
In real estate, about 6 percent in commissions is built into the selling price of property. The commission is then split between the buying and selling brokers.
TRVE brokers represent buyers but also list properties for sellers on the Multiple Listing Service. When a buyer purchases property, the buyer receives as much as 1.5 percent of the purchase price as a rebate. If the property is listed by TRVE, they receive the full 1.5 percent. Otherwise, the buyer will split the "co-op" commission with TRVE if the property is listed with another Realtor. "Co-op" commission is a rate negotiated between buying and selling brokers.
Most times, the rebate is taken off the purchase price and noted on the deed so it cannot be considered taxable income.
TRVE builds 3.99 percent commission into the price of property that it lists for sale. That allows the standard 3 percent to be given to the purchasing broker, and TRVE takes just less than 1 percent.
"This past year, we've easily saved tens of thousands of dollars in transactions," Willman said.
TVRE's Web site allows users to search the MLS listings in Routt, Summit, Douglas and Elbert counties. For March, the site has attracted an average of 354 different visitors each day who have stayed on the site for 15 minutes or more, Willman said.
A recent CNNmoney.com survey found that 89 percent of people thought brokers take too much commission. Steven Levitt, an economist and author at the University of Chicago, has been highly critical of the real estate commissions. He has said the Internet will continue to have a huge effect on the real estate market and it will have the same business-busting effect on brokers that it did on travel agents.
Although Willman thinks access to information has created an educated buyer's market, and he uses the latest electronic tools, he does not totally agree with Levitt.
"Because real estate is about relationships," Willman said.