Whether city or suburbs, developers still rely on brokers to sell

by Andrew Morrell

Whether city or suburbs, developers still rely on brokers to sell

Jeff Benach, principal of local homebuilder Lexington Homes, has as keen an eye as any real estate professional when it comes to spotting local expertise.

“If I were selling my home in the suburbs, I wouldn’t use a broker from the city,” he said, explaining the importance he places on an agent’s market knowledge.

Agents specializing in Chicago may be attracted to some parts of the suburbs as they become more desirable and livable for the newest generation of homebuyers. But while it can be difficult for a listing agent to make the switch across county lines, it is pretty straightforward for the buyer’s side.

Lexington Homes works throughout the Chicagoland area, from up-and-coming city neighborhoods like Avondale to more typical commuter towns like Warrenville. While brokers are a key business driver for Lexington Homes, the success of their core business depends on simply building homes where people want to live. Increasingly, that means building where the local job market is strong. This is something of a departure from the way things worked more than a decade ago.

“The suburbs are not what they used to be,” he said. The major economic centers, like Naperville, are increasingly growing while towns further from major employers are stagnating. That stands in contrast to how suburban growth was playing out a generation ago, when a town’s proximity to the interstate was more instrumental in attracting residents.

Even though Benach wouldn’t hire a city dweller to sell a suburban home, he did make clear that brokers who bring clients to one of their new construction developments are treated the same regardless: They still receive their standard commission on the sale and basically can let Lexington take the process from there.

Benach said it’s a system that pays off for everyone in the end. “It’s not like in the old days, when everyone went to the newspaper,” he said, acknowledging all the many ways buyers and their agents now have to find homes for sale. Benach said that this has actually led broker commissions to trend higher. After all, the home construction industry doesn’t benefit from brand name recognition the way that automakers might, for example.

“I’ve never heard someone say, ‘I want to buy a Lexington home,’” Benach said. He’s not being self-deprecating, though. The biggest U.S. homebuilding corporations face the same challenge of convincing buyers that their brand has value in and of itself.

Benach said Lexington is growing its presence in Naperville and other rising stars in the greater Chicago area, but that he’s still on the lookout for the best way to attract brokers along with buyers.
“Different brokers have different styles,” he said. “It’s all about accommodating everyone who wants to work with us.”

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