When John Haagenson of Better Homes & Gardens Gloor Realty asked himself, “Where is my business going to be in the next 10 to 15 years?” he immediately knew the answer. He wanted to work in the suburbs, where he had lived with family since 2005.
As Haagenson says, his decision to move his business to the suburbs was a natural progression. His brokerage, Coldwell Banker in Lincoln Park Plaza, had already been referring clients in River Forest to him. Yet, Haagenson saw time and time again that clients wanted real estate agents who worked where they wanted to live. Working in the city was becoming a detriment to Haagenson’s goals. In addition, the commute from Oak Park to Lincoln Park and back each day was becoming exhausting and limiting his time with his family.
Haagenson looked for a brokerage that had a good market share in the area he lived; he found that in Better Homes & Gardens Gloor Realty. Not only is Gloor family-owned – something important to Haagenson – but he also felt a lot of the same connection there with Rich Gloor, the managing broker, as he did with his mentor David Hall at Coldwell Banker.
“I started with Coldwell Banker because they were, and are still in my mind, the best brokerage firm in the city,” he said. “They offered me tremendous training and guidance. I owe a great deal of my success to that office, the former managing broker David Hall and many of the agents for teaching me how to succeed in real estate. (But) as the market started to change, I was looking for a change as well, wanting to spend more time with my growing family and in the community we were living in. Better Homes & Gardens Gloor was a nationally affiliated company that could provide me with a family friendly environment.”
In April/May of 2009, he officially moved from Coldwell Banker to Better Homes & Gardens Gloor. He made the transition easier by throwing a party to let everyone – including suburban and downtown clients, friends and associates – know that he was moving his real estate business into the suburbs. “I wanted all of them to recognize me as a local source in the area,” he said.
Despite his confidence in his decision, the move was not without its challenges. Haagenson says he basically started over, even though it helped that he knew a lot of people in the Oak Park area. Gloor helped by assisting him in his marketing efforts.
It was also an adjustment to get used to an office of only 40 people, compared to the 200-plus agents at Coldwell Banker. “The smaller-size office brought me back to the basics,” Haagenson said. At the same time, he felt like he went from being a little fish in a big pond to a big fish in a small pond. With fewer agents in the office, too, he felt like the environment was less competitive and more like a family, making it an easy adjustment.
Lastly, he also noticed a different philosophy in showing properties. Unlike the city, where he was expected to be at every showing, in the suburbs he could rely on lock-boxes. He sees this as an enormous benefit, as it gave him more time to prospect and grow his business. And it’s still a huge benefit – when he worked in the city, he would be running from Bucktown to the South Loop for showings. Today, he can be showing 10 properties at once, all thanks to lock-boxes. It also gives him more of an opportunity to spend time with his buyers, taking them out to lunch and networking. “I can manage my day a lot better now,” he said.
It’s been two years since he moved, and as he says, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have more balance now.” His business has grown, and he’s realized benefits he didn’t expect. He now understands both the downtown and suburban market, a trait that many of his suburban clients looking for a second home down- town love.
His advice for others considering a transition reflects why he made his own move: “It comes down to trusting yourself. Sometimes you just need to step outside the box to grow.”