By Hayley Toler | December 16, 2011 9:05 AM
When 22 year-old Cameron Merage graduated from Sacramento State, knowing he was interested in real estate and development but without the finances to start his own business, he asked his marketing professor what his next step should be.
His professor directed him to Newport Beach, the hottest real estate market in California at the time. Merage jumped in his car with a U-Haul in tow and drove south. After shuffling among a few independent firms, Merage started his own company - a single office with five agents.
Thirty-five years later, First Team Real Estate is California’s top ranked independently owned real estate firm and the No. 8 company nationwide. It also last month was named the fan favorite real estate firm by Orange County Register readers.
Being able to retain a privately owned company as large as First Team for 35 years is quite a feat.
“What I experienced is that success is this business was very simple: a lot of hard work. But it is fairly simple. If ultimately your focus is on what is valuable to the consumer and you really know what they want then deliver it, in this or any other business you will do well,” says Merage about the secret of his success in business.
A strong believer in foresight as one of the necessities for success, Merage has aimed to stay ahead of the curve on industry trends and techniques.
“Wayne Gretsky always saw where the puck was going to go. He saw in his mind’s eye before he hit it. So if you understand, based on interviewing customers on an ongoing basis, what their needs are then you can innovate.”
Throughout the history of First Team, it has innovated new technologies and methods for providing the consumers with exactly what they need, and the firm continues to use new techniques in the marketing field. First Team was one of the first companies to use price trend trajectory software, which predicts whether the price of a given neighborhood will go up or down in a 6-month period given a list of contributing factors.
Now, First Team will launch its “My Story” campaign, a video campaign that shares stories of how First Team agents have made an impact on their clients’ lives by helping them overcome challenges.
To maintain cohesive and effective customer service, Merage has a few rules that he instructs his agents to follow, which have been dubbed the “New Rules of Real Estate.”
A few core tenets are that agents should have 10 or more photos when marketing a property in an MLS that showcase the best features of the house, and they should provide well written remarks on the houses they are listing.
Another guiding principle is that First Team agents are all in it together.
“We are one company under one umbrella, not a franchise organization, and independently owned. The company belongs to all agents equally. You can go from one office to another use the facilities and feel part of the same company,” says Merage.