Chicago Agent: How long have you had your own company?
Mike Del Monte: We formed the appraisal company in 1989. We went on our own for real estate sales in the mid 1990s.
Where did you work prior to starting the company?
Eve Del Monte: Mike talked me into getting a real estate license in the early 1980s and joining the office where he was sales manager, Century 21 Full Service Realty. We moved to The Wilcox Company in 1984. After the Wilcox Company moved locations, I went to Prudential Preferred Properties on Halsted for a short time before moving to the suburbs. We learned a lot in the early days from Bob Brown, owner of Century 21 FSR, and then from Howard Wilcox. We had a great experience at both. Both offices were very different, one being a national franchise, and the other a local independent brokerage.
What made you decide to go out on your own?
E: We moved to the suburbs. After our move, 99 percent of our business was appraisals. Rather than affiliate with an existing sales office, we felt we could use our experience to develop a good business plan for a new independent brokerage. We weren’t ready to earnestly promote the brokerage until around 2003.
Did you run into any difficulties when you first began the business?
M: The hardest thing was the self motivation and personal discipline. Also, doing everything ourselves and the time it took away from sales.
What do you miss most about working with a larger firm?
E: I miss the synergy and camaraderie of co-workers in the office. However, most of our work is done “in the field.” We have to work hard to make sure that we attend enough training seminars, networking events and sales meetings to keep the “office” feeling, and to stay current with the latest technologies and trends. Involvement in the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce has given us a great opportunity to stay connected with other businesses, other Realtors and the community.
What is the best part about working on your own?
M: The best part of working on our own is just that: we are on our own. We can do things the way we want to do them, when we want to do them. We have the same tools all the larger firms have in terms of Internet web presence and any marketing materials. We have met some fantastic, creative people who we rely on for that. We answer to ourselves, not a large corporate entity.
E: We offer more flexibility than a large company. We have less overhead, which translates into more money into our sellers’ pocket at closing, and more in our agents’ pockets, and ours. Everyone is a winner! We aren’t paying extra for the unnecessary expenses of a large company. Ninety percent of buyers start on the Internet. A large brick and mortar office is unnecessary in today’s world.
Do you see yourself ever returning to a large firm?
E: I would never say never. In business, it is important to offer the best service or product for the price. If we felt there was a better way to get a better result, we would change our business plan and our strategy.
Have you ever thought about expanding and adding agents to work with you?
M: Yes, we are currently adding new agents. We added one last year and hope to add a few more this year. We learned different managing styles and strategies from our previous brokers. My personal style leans toward less is more. The successful agents, I believe, want to be left alone and do what they do best: list and sell. We do provide one-on-one training and personal and professional enhancement for all our agents. We are always a phone call away if any of our agents need help or answers. I have found that sales are an evolving process and there is always more to learn, even with over 30 years of experience.
E: We are expanding, but in a way that won’t comprise our belief that we need to keep overhead low, while maximizing money to sellers and our agents at closing.
What advice would you give someone who would like to go it alone?
M: Work hard, watch your money, make a plan, stick with it and adjust when necessary.
E: Know your business first, learn from the best and have a business plan.
Mike and Eve Del Monte are the owners and founders of prosumer real estate, a realtor and appraisal company in highland park. For more information, visit prosumerrealestate.com.