Spokane Journal of Business

Windermere Services owners plan first development

Move part of expansion, diversification for Wetzels

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Scott Wetzel, who owns Windermere Services Mountain West with his wife, Tracie, says they now have 72 agents working at a couple of real estate agencies they bought last year.

Scott Wetzel, owner of Windermere Services Mountain West, of Spokane, says he and his wife Tracie are expanding into the residential development market this year, with plans to launch a new Spokane Valley subdivision.

Wetzel says the couple, along with one other unnamed partner, formed a company called Black Pearl Developments, through which they plan to create the new housing development on a 3-acre site the company has bought at 701 N. Adams Road, just west of Progress Elementary School.

Wetzel says the subdivision’s listings will be managed through the Windermere Spokane Valley office, which he and his wife bought last year. 

“The land became available, so we decided to go ahead and do it,” he says. ““We’ve had a survey company look over the land, and hope to begin moving dirt next spring.”

Wetzel says the company anticipates having home lots available for sale by late summer or early fall of 2018. 

“We haven’t yet decided on lot sizes, but we’re planning to have between 12 and 13 available,” he says. “The price range for homes there will likely be between $225,000 and $250,000.”

Wetzel became the sole owner of Windermere Services Mountain West in early 2015 when he bought out the interests of three former co-owners. Prior to that transaction, he had been serving as president and CEO of that real estate services provider.

Windermere Services, which has its offices at 25 W. Cataldo and employs seven people there, represents Windermere agency affiliates in Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. 

The business provides support services in marketing, technology, education, relocation recruiting, and business development to 55 residential, commercial, and property management offices that collectively have more than 1,000 agents. 

In addition, Wetzel assists brokerage owners in financial and business planning and is responsible for new Windermere affiliate acquisitions in the Mountain West region.

“Recently, we’ve seen a lot of acquisitions of smaller, independent brokers,” he says. “There are three acquisitions in process right now actually, although I can’t provide more details.” 

He says the Windermere franchise entity will be adding two new full-service brokerage offices in the region soon, including one in Boise later this year and the other in Kennewick next summer.

 “Windermere has done well this past year,” he says. “Collectively, our offices in the Spokane region have seen an increase of 2 to 3 percent in market share in terms of volume and revenues.”

Wetzel says that based on Multiple Listing Service data, the company is No. 1 in Spokane in terms of number of homes sold, and consistently ranks in the top three of most other area markets.

He says the company’s success is linked to its focus on agent training and to providing its franchise owners with additional tools and services to help them in their markets.

Last year, Wetzel and his wife Tracie moved into the real estate agency front lines by buying the Windermere Spokane Valley and Windermere Liberty Lake franchises from owner and designated broker Cate Moye.

“We’ve done well with those two branches. This year, we brought the number of agents up from 45 to 72 between the two locations,” he says. “Our Liberty Lake branch also has a new manager, as we decided to move the former branch manager up to serve as our new director of training.” 

Wetzel says he and his wife hope to continue to grow the number of agents to a total of 100 between the two branches, as well as adding additional services and tools to each. 

“Currently, we’re focusing on the growth we’ve already achieved,” he says. “But we would like to see more growth in agents, and bring more mortgage and other ancillary services to each office.”

Wetzel says the two recently rebranded mortgage services at each branch, creating a new sub-franchise called Penrith Home Loans, to enable agents to provide better lending options for their clients.

 “It used to be called Windermere Mortgage Services, but we’ve beefed it up a bit, and changed the name,” he says.

In addition to reorganizing their mortgage company, Wetzel says the couple is considering adding mortgage-related insurance services and possibly a lead generation service to assist agents in finding new clients who’re looking to buy or sell homes. 

Looking ahead, Wetzel says that although today’s real estate markets are operating at a fast pace, he anticipates they’ll slow down over the coming years. 

“I follow the insights of Windermere’s chief economist, Matthew Gardner,” he says. “He suggests that while this year and next will remain strong, we’ll likely see markets begin to slow in the last quarter of 2018, with a slight recession going into 2019.”

Wetzel says that a slight recession might give the markets a break and could provide room for more inventory to accumulate, with homes remaining on the market longer, although interest rates likely will remain steady.

“It should be a good cooling-off period, more of a buyer’s market again,” he says. “And it’s times like that when people see the value in working with full-service brokerages like ours.”

In preparation for a potential market slowdown, Wetzel says Windermere has added more technology and marketing tools to its agent training curriculum. 

“We’re working to help our agents stay relevant, as well as educating them on their value as experienced professionals,” he says. “Our goal is to prepare them now, so that they continue to stand out as experts in the marketplace.” 

Wetzel says because of this preparation, he’s anticipating that any softening of the markets will have little effect on his businesses and the brokerages that Windermere Services Mountain West serves.  

“I don’t expect we’ll experience any hiccups, because we’re well educated and aware of what’s coming,” he says.

Wetzel joined Windermere Services/Inland Northwest Inc., which later changed its name to Windermere Services Mountain West, as vice president of business development in 2004. He was named president of the company the following spring and took over operation of the company entirely in 2006.

Before joining Windermere, Wetzel served as CEO of Contineo Technologies Inc., a Spokane-based technology and financial services consulting company that he and Craig Sanders formed in 2001 and developed into a multimillion-dollar concern. 

Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate describes itself as the largest regional real estate company in the western U.S. with over 300 offices and 7,000 agents in nine Western states, plus Hawaii and Alaska.

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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