Rosalee Alexander Rockafellow has sold her company, Carnegie Realty, to Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate. She will work under the Nilson GMAC name at her current location, 826 Alexander Road, where she has 60 agents in a new, 6,000 foot building opposite the Vaughn Drive entrance to the train station. She will be joined by about 25 agents from the Nilson GMAC office now on Princeton-Hightstown Road.
At the same time another long-time residential broker, Tod Peyton, is reportedly retiring and closing the doors of both offices of his brokerage, Peyton Associates Realtors — one on Nassau Street at Harrison Street and one in Pennington — by December 31. The Pennington office may stay open under another name, and the Princeton agents are expected to transfer to other firms.
Rockafellow says that though she has sold the company she has no plans to imitate Peyton and retire. “I love what I do and have never gotten tired of it,” says Rockafellow. “I have always said the day I don’t want to do it any more, I won’t. A little time off wouldn’t hurt but I am not in retirement mode.”
A native of Burlington, North Carolina, where her father worked for Southern Railway and her mother raised four children and worked in a hat salon, Rockafellow attended Women’s College at Greensboro. She is married to a Morrisville-based trial attorney, Lee David Rockafellow, who belongs to the less famous side of his family. “The ‘ers’ went to New York and had the money,” says Rockafellow. “The ‘ows’ live in Pennsylvania.” She has two children and two school-aged grandchildren.
Rockafellow has spent nearly 30 years in real estate, starting out with Century 21 Kroll and moving to Fox & Lazo, where she became senior vice president and general manager of Fox & Lazo Central Jersey. She bought the Century 21 franchise from Mary and Ken Ostein in 1991 and moved into the property next to Princeton Baptist Church at Route 1’s Washington Road circle. “After the first two years, we were top in the northeast,” says Rockafellow.
Pat Bell has been managing the office at 54 Princeton-Hightstown Road in the short term, but Bell is also president and CEO of the corporate entity, Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate. Rockafellow says she and Bell have been talking since August about a potential sale and is convinced it was the right move. “In all my years in the business I have never had this level of support and structure,” she says, pointing out that Century 21 offices are independent franchises. In contrast GMAC’s corporate structure — 1,300 offices and 22,000 agents nationwide, with 17 offices and 700 agents in New Jersey — is very personalized when it comes to support, agent materials, and the attention to detail.
Because the market is so challenging now, Rockafellow expects that some of Bell’s 36 GMAC agents may join the referral network, which means that their licenses go temporarily inactive. “I’m a strong believer in full time real estate agents,” she says. “That is part of our responsibility to the public. If we are going to be in the business we should do it on a full time basis.”
Rockafellow says she might have stayed in her old office, with all the visibility that it offered, but she would have had a hard time expanding there. The new furniture she chose happened to be the same styles ordered by the infamous Menendez brothers for a business they planned to open. A friend of a friend told her about the duplication, so she bought the high quality cherry wood furniture from where it had been in storage and augmented it by pieces provided by Nancy Dudas of ICI Interiors. “We will end up with 85 people here, each with a desk or sharing a desk.”
Says Rockafellow: “You analyze the market, figure out what you need to do to make your associates successful, and the bottom line is service.”
— Barbara Fox
Seller’s Realty Group, 212 Carnegie Center, Suite 206, Princeton 08540; 609-799-4600; fax, 609-613-5566. Edward Aretz, CEO. www.weonlysellhomes.com
More real estate agents than any time in history are chasing the same number of transactions, so broker production has declined, says Edward Aretz, CEO of Seller’s Realty Group at the Carnegie Center. Aretz hopes that with his firm’s plan, brokers will increase production and still deliver services that sellers require.
A native of South Bend, Indiana, where his father was a small business man, he majored in finance at Indiana University, Class of 1980, has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, went to Case Western Reserve Law School, and has a PhD in economics at the University of Maastricht.
Seller Realty reduces the usual 6 percent or 5 percent commission on a sale. It charges 4.5 percent commission but awards the biggest share, 2.5 percent to the buyer’s agent. With a lower commission, the agent would have less incentive to show the house. “And being a buyer’s agent requires more work,” he says.
Sellers Realty gets just 2 percent but aims to make up the difference with higher productivity. “By making brokers more productive, we believe we can make up on volume,” Aretz says. “Selling homes is our only business. Others make money through title insurance, mortgages, and home warranties, and we think that is a conflict of interest.” Instead of six-month listings, his brokers sign three-month contracts.
Real Estate Essentials, 812 State Road, Suite 223, Princeton 08540; 609-683-8080; fax, 609-683-8083. www.reeonline.com
Real Estate Essentials, which opened on State Road earlier this year, offers residential real estate services on a menu basis — separately priced. The idea came, says cofounder Jesse Bonnice, when he and some colleagues “started looking at the way real estate was heading for the future.” With so much information available on the Internet, he say, “it is not going to be the way it is now forever. People are looking to spend less when selling their home and to have more flexibility.”
A business administration major who graduated from Kings College in Wilkes Barre in 2004, Bonnice prices each item separately. A mother working at home, for example, may want to show her own house, and a lawyer may be able to negotiate his own deal.
Other services include customized signs, listings on the multiple listing services, a call center, virtual tour, lock boxes, comparative market analyses, property salability consultations, an 800 number that potential customers can call to find out more about a house, open houses, advertising, and brochures.