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Sales up in NW Arkansas.

AS MIGHT BE EXPECTED, the largest real estate agency in Arkansas is in central Arkansas.

But Arkansas Business' annual ranking of the realty business shows four of the top eight agencies are in booming northwest Arkansas, specifically in Washington and Benton counties.

Real Estate Central Inc., based in North Little Rock, is the state's No. 1 agency. The company has 138 active licensed agents and brokers in seven cities.

Cooper Communities Inc. is second with 119 agents and brokers in its retirement towns of Bella Vista and Hot Springs Village.

The other major real estate agencies in northwest Arkansas are Rogers-based Harris-McHaney Real Estate Co. and Lindsey & Associates Inc. and Century 21 Dave Fulton Realtors, both based in Fayetteville.

Last year, home sales in Benton and Washington counties were almost $286 million, 92 percent of Pulaski County home sales, which totaled $311.6 million.

Patrick Harris of Harris-McHaney Real Estate notes that there "is not nickel's difference" between Benton and Washington counties in home sales. Last year, home sales totaled $143.6 million in Washington County and $142.4 million in Benton County.

Harris says the top three agencies in sales volume in the two counties were Harris-McHaney with $26.3 million, Lindsey & Associates with $19.3 million and Shearin & Co., based in Rogers, with $18.1 million.

Last year, Cooper Communities sold about 200 newly constructed homes in Bella Vista and Hot Springs Village. Including other contractors, about 300 new homes were built in each of the two Cooper developments.

Cooper Communities is not a typical real estate agency. About 90 percent of its new home sales are to its property owners in the retirement communities, according to Neff Basore, Cooper's senior vice president for operations.

"We concentrate primarily in retirement areas which we've developed," Basore says. "So as the retirement bubble comes through, we're building more and more houses."

Basore notes that in the 1980s, Hot Springs Village's population increased 250 percent and Bella Vista's was up 248 percent.

The firm, with $90 million-$100 million in sales last year, also sells property for home sites, usually relying on referrals from property owners for new clients.

Potential customers pay their own way to travel to Cooper Communities' four retirement developments: the two in Arkansas; Tellico Village near Knoxville, Tenn.; and Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, S.C. They pay for lodging while viewing property to buy.

Salesmen More Efficient

"We used to have a program with complimentary lodging, but we've gotten away from that," Basore says. "In fact, this is the first year Bella Vista has required the guests to pay their own way.

"We're not finding that to be an impediment, but actually our sales percentages are increasing, our sales prices are increasing and our salesmen, while touring fewer guests, are touring more qualified guests."

In years past, Basore says salesmen toured customers twice a day, seven days a week. In the 1970s and 1980s, Cooper Communities had about 100 salesmen touring prospects twice a day at each of its retirement communities. Now only 10 salesmen at Bella Vista take prospects on tours; but, because guests are better qualified, sales are up, Basore says.

The salesmen are required to produce their own prospects and do much of their own marketing.

The commission rates can be as high as 22 percent on property sales, Basore says, but the majority of the costs for generating those prospects are borne by the salesmen.

There are about 16 home salesmen at Bella Vista, Basore says. Cooper's homes division is much like a general realty agency with a home building arm, he says.

Many of the other 60 agents at Bella Vista and at Hot Springs Village don't tour customers or sell homes. They may help close sales, Basore says, or they may be staff members who may not have a direct impact on a lot or home sale.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:real estate agencies
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jun 7, 1993
Previous Article:Reaching for the Heights.
Next Article:Agency adjustments.

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