Real estate company uses flat fee to save millions for homeowners AND grow business

NASHVILLE, TN — Several unexpected events disrupted the real estate industry in Nashville this year including tornadoes and COVID-19 but the growing trend of flat fee realtor services is disrupting the way people sell their homes forever.

A year ago, Jonathan Harris, founder of Scout Realty, began working with an elderly couple who needed to sell their property and recoup as much equity as possible. He tested an idea of charging a flat fee for his real estate services instead of charging the standard 6% commission. This would help the couple keep more of the equity they built up themselves over the years. Harris did not change his service model, just what he was charging for it. The idea worked well, so he offered a flat fee to more clients and business volume increased as a result. This May, Scout Realty launched the flat fee model as a standard for the company and is working toward expanding regionally.

 “We have a vision that by the end of 2025 we will have served 10,000 families and saved them $100 million in equity.”  

Jonathan Harris, Scout Realty Founder

“It is a disruption inside the real estate industry,” Harris said of the flat fee. “It threatens how real estate agents have traditionally made their money. But it gives homeowners the opportunity to benefit more from the sweat equity they have put into their homes.”

“This is needed in our community now more than ever,” he added. “Homeowners need to keep more of their equity and get more of their own money out of their homes.”

The idea is not new, Harris said. It is commonplace in developed countries outside of the U.S. But inside the U.S., the model is not popular with real estate agents because it runs against the traditional commission formula which generally charges homeowners 6% of their total home sale. Using a fee model (Scout charges a basic fee of $5,000) Harris estimates he has saved clients $2.8 million in commission charges since the beginning of 2020.

“What gives meaning to this way of doing business for us is the stories we are hearing from our clients,” Harris said. “One homeowner saved more than $18,000 using our fee system instead of a traditional 6% commission and used the money to pay for his daughter’s wedding. Another client told us they used the money to make their last tuition payment to the University of Tennessee and another paid off their minivan.”

The Suggs family worked with Scout and saved $64,412 using the flat fee model instead of a 6% commission. “That pays for a lifetime of travel baseball for our kids,” the family said.

Harris said he sees the fee model as the future of real estate because it more evenly distributes the equity in a home. But he has gotten pushback on the idea from other agencies and realtors. Yet, his team of agents have seen their book of business steadily increase and that is proving his point.

“It’s given us a renewed sense of purpose and made a tangible difference in our business,” he said. “We’ve made up the monetary difference (when calculating revenue that would have been generated under the commission model) and a whole lot more. We are winning new clients every day.”

“For me, it is an act of fiduciary responsibility. At Scout, our focus is people over profits,” Harris said, adding that Scout Realty is currently working with several interested parties throughout the United States to replicate the model.

“Clients felt like their hard-earned equity was eroded away during a sale and I started to see a better way to do business,” he said. “You have to be willing to go down to go up. So, in the short term, as an agent, you make less, but we’ve come out on the other side of that and it’s a good side.”

Female entrepreneurs don’t let COVID-19 stop merger

Its Arranged founders Amy Delaplain and Cynthia Lindsey

FRANKLIN, TN – Two local business owners are combining their solo projects to form a new partnership capitalizing on their individual strengths – one as a veteran entrepreneur and the other a successful newcomer – to create a new life and home organizing model that focuses on helping clients find a sense of clarity, balance and control in their lives and homes.

Cynthia Lindsey, owner of the 14-year-old Organizing Ease company, is partnering with Amy Delaplain, owner of Project Organize 615 which opened in 2017 and quickly expanded in the Middle Tennessee home organizing market. The two women are blending their businesses into the new venture, Its Arranged, and bringing their seven employees along.

I was ready to take my business to the next level and this partnership allows me to do that.

Amy Delaplain, co-founder

“The industry as a whole is very solopreneur-oriented,” said Lindsey who is a long-time member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals™ (NAPO®) and currently serving on the Board of Directors for the national association. “Over the past 10 years or so the growth in the industry, however, has been multi-person businesses and the partnership model is fairly new to our field.”

Lindsey said when she met Delaplain at a NAPO meeting she saw the strengths the PO615 owner brought to the table, which complemented her own. After 14 years of running her successful business alone, the idea of forming a partnership appealed to her.

“I felt like this trend of a veteran organizer partnering with a newer organizer in the field who has had great success with new energy and fresh ideas would be a powerhouse in our industry,” Lindsey said. “I was not ready to retire but was looking for some way to pivot. Combining with a partner who is younger can really extend the life of my company.”

For Delaplain, who currently serves on the NAPO Nashville board after joining in 2017 when she started her Franklin-based business, the partnership is a way to continue expanding. Coming from corporate project management, Delaplain followed her passion for organizing when she began her solo project. It quickly grew from just Delaplain to a team of five employees within the first two years.

“Cynthia has done a lot of self-reflection and studying of her strengths, which appealed to me,” Delaplain said. “I was ready to take my business to the next level and this partnership allows me to do that. While I continue to use my strengths in the areas of marketing, finance, and operations, I will have Cynthia to handle the business development, HR and legal aspects of running a business.”

Its Arranged is the result of months of planning and developing an ethos around the mission and vision for the business. Both even managed to push through with planning despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The life and home organization concept comes out of their desire to help individuals and families find calm tranquility in their living space and a fresh start. It mimics what the two women are doing with their new partnership. The concept may be needed now more than ever.

“We want to help people bring things back to the basics, … which is simplifying your life, finding calm in your surroundings and eliminating things and thoughts that are scattered and manic,” Lindsey said. “We work with people to organize their homes and their lives. During times like a move when things can really become chaotic, we can organize the process.”

“We believe in living life to the fullest and inspiring others to do the same,” the two spelled out in their business mission statement. “Our clients are our focus and improving the quality of their lives is our mission. In the office or in the home, our commitment is to create spaces where our clients can thrive, and to manage move transitions and remodel projects with ease.”

Its Arranged offers home and life management, professional organizing and move management executed with years of strong project management experience. The team is ready to take new clients and continue working with the clients who have supported Organizing Ease and PO615.

Language lessons

Ms. Hollahan's students

Amy Wieck Hollahan taught for 17 years before she found her calling as a teacher.

This week she met a new group of students, most of whom don’t speak English. She can’t stop smiling when she talks about these children who come into her classroom each fall having just been torn from their former lives and “placed” here in Nashville. She will help them learn English this year, teach them about classroom rules and even get in some math lessons. But they have taught her so much more.

Hollahan spent 15 years teaching in a private Catholic school before she decided to move to Metro. Her daughter was teaching at Haywood Elementary and she decided to apply. She taught fourth grade for two years at Haywood before she was asked to get her English Language endorsement and teach English Language Learners (ELL), or as they are also called, SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education).  The first year she taught she had 19 children in her class from seven different countries.

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