Real estate agency tries to win business by teaching buyers rules of the game
Large agencies may dominate the residential real estate game, but Indianapolis-based Merry Realty is trying to prove a small player still can make a big name for itself.
For years, Merry Realty has focused its efforts on properties in Indianapolis, but it is rapidly expanding into a more diverse market, targeting booming areas like Hamilton County while staying loyal to its inner-city roots.
Real estate broker Mary Davis started the agency in 1985, and her sons Timothy and Mark joined her two years ago. Now they share ownership of the company, which Timothy Davis runs.
A life-long Indianapolis resident, Davis lost his job as a business systems analyst after the insurance company he worked for was acquired in 2001. After a brief stint as an independent Web site designer, he decided to take advantage of the real estate license he'd had since 1990.
Breathing new life into the aging firm presented both opportunities and challenges.
Since Mary Davis was ready to retire, the agents who worked for her had moved on to other agencies or started their own businesses. And their efforts to secure outside funding for the firm went nowhere.
"We had to do it the hard way," Timothy Davis said, citing the $20,000 family members contributed from their own savings. "That turned out to be a blessing. We don't have that kind of debt load now."
Other advantages include the community connections and relationships Mary Davis already had in place. Timothy Davis has made it a top priority to expand on that base-and on the company's good name.
"If you're a small business, your reputation means a lot," he said.
Indeed, many Merry Realty clients are referrals from other customers.
"We do a good job, so people refer us to their friends," Davis said.
The biggest obstacle Merry Realty faces now, he said, is convincing potential inner-city clients they can buy a house or condominium. Some residents think they have been discriminated against in the past, he said, and some don't believe they can get a mortgage.
To help battle that perception, Merry Realty offers educational seminars several times a year, often at churches. Davis said he brings in representatives from major lenders to explain the mortgage process and make it less intimidating. On average, about 50 people attend each event.
While still centered in Marion County, Merry Realty has been expanding its range, handling properties in upscale Carmel and Fishers.
"We have clients up north who are spending $800,000 on a property," he said, quite a leap from the more typical $40,000 to $150,000 transactions.
Davis said he expects the company's growth to continue. Long-range plans call for five offices with 20 brokers supported by 150 sales representatives. Now, Davis and his mother are the only brokers; Mark Davis is one of the firm's halfdozen sales reps. Diana Rice-Wilkerson, a loan officer for Charter One Mortgage, has worked with Merry Realty for several years.
"They are dedicated to their clients," she said. "They want the best programs and products for their clients."
Client Deborah Schonbak concurs. The Carmel woman, a partner in the Lisden group development firm, has a high opinion of Timothy Davis.
"He seems like he's always on the ball," she said.
Timothy Davis runs Merry Realty, which his mother founded 20 years ago. Once focused exclusively on the inner city, the independent agency is looking to the suburbs for growth.