Real estate firm empowers women
Hello Homes GR’s new office gives staff more autonomy.
Hello Homes GR is working to set a model for women professionals. The small residential real estate firm, comprised of six women, recently moved into a new office space to expand its capabilities.
“I’m really passionate about empowering other women, so it was important for me to be a woman leader for our industry, so that was a big push for me,” said Ashley Dietch Schaefer, owner of Hello Homes.
Schaefer became the sole broker/owner of Hello Homes GR in November 2017. Though the brokerage is fairly new, the team has been operating under the Hello Homes name since 2015 under a different brokerage.
The new office, located at 280 Ann St. NW in Grand Rapids, is a major upgrade from the firm’s previous location, allowing the six-woman staff more autonomy.
“Because we have this wing, we can operate fully as our own company instead of sharing the space with other agents. So, this is definitely a move up,” she said.
Most of Hello Homes’ business relies on word of mouth. Even though it has a sizeable social media presence to get its name out, Schaefer said the majority of her firm’s clients are referred to her team from past clients.
“We’re pretty heavy on social media — a lot of Facebook/Instagram-type stuff,” she said. “Of course, we’d help a client that doesn’t have a connection to us, but about 80 percent of transactions that we close every year are from somebody that we already knew.”
Hello Homes has its primary footprint in Grand Rapids but has sold properties as far north as Sand Lake and as far south as Wayland.
Most of its clients are women ages 25-40 who are well-established professionally. Schaefer said she is most proud of her chance to serve women listed among the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women.
“Michele Suchovsky is the one that comes to mind … she is a phenomenal woman. She runs this huge nonprofit, owned a condo downtown. She’s incredible, and it’s an honor to call her a client.”
Schaefer also emphasized the level playing field her and her agents operate on. Even though she’s officially the sole owner of Hello Homes, she also is a full-time realtor, and everybody on the team “plays a hand” in every aspect of the job.
The staff consists of four full-time realtors, including Schaefer, and two administrative assistants.
“I think we’re all friends, but we’re not afraid to say, ‘Hey, you could do this better,’” said Nora Glahn, admin/office manager. “We all have goals and we all challenge each other to meet them.”
Glahn was Schaefer’s first employee when Hello Homes began, and she has seen the level of growth the firm has undergone.
“When I started … I didn’t know what my job was going to be,” Glahn said. “I learned a lot from Ashley about the business, and then together, just going through transactions that might be tough or ones that were successful and taking lessons from each of those … and when we got comfortable with that, we really started to grow the team.”
As a small firm competing against larger companies in the Grand Rapids market, Schaefer said her team is confident enough to run honestly and efficiently to attract and retain clients.
“People don’t really care who you work for. People genuinely want honest, reliable service,” she said. “If anything, we’re more nimble and can probably do more than a larger company. … We try to run pretty lean, so we don’t carry a lot of overhead. We don’t run huge extravagant parties.”
As a 3-year-old firm with four full-time realtors, Hello Homes manages to close between 125 and 150 transactions, totaling just under $30 million, each year.
“Obviously, our goals are always bigger, so we always want to do bigger and better, but for four women in a very heavily male-dominated industry, we’re stoked to close $30 million,” Schaefer said.
She said she wants to foster an environment where professional women can empower each other, but that doesn’t mean men are excluded from the business.
“If a male wanted to join our team, more power to him. We haven’t really had anyone inquire,” she said. “Obviously, we want to empower everybody, but I think we attract a certain caliber of women that do business like we do — that want to surround themselves with other powerful women in our industry.”