Realty Seven celebrates 40 years
Forty years ago someone buying a home in Wilton would likely expect to do some updating, expect to find Formica countertops in the kitchen, and would not be surprised to find a blue, pink, or green bathroom. Times have surely changed.
Forty years ago is when Realty Seven was established, and while the business has changed, the guiding principles behind the independent real estate brokerage have not.
“Our culture is our strategic advantage,” said Peg Koellmer, who bought the business from founder Hank Rost 10 years ago. “The buck stops right here,” she said tapping her desk. “That’s a strategic advantage for us.”
To celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary, Realty Seven has a new logo and will host a celebration in conjunction with a Wilton Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours networking event on Thursday, Aug. 30, from 5:30 to 7. There will be live music and refreshments. For details, call the Chamber at 203-762-0567 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Realty Seven’s headquarters is the 18th-Century Joseph Platt Fitch House at 250 Danbury Road, but the business got its start in 1978 in the building that is now the Coffee Barn on Route 7. Koellmer joined as an agent about 10 years later.
“It was a completely different business,” she said in an interview last week. “There was very little paperwork compared to the 16 pages [typical for an offer to purchase]. We didn’t have disclosures.”
Prior to 1997, Connecticut was a seller-broker state. That meant that even an agent who helped a buyer find a house owed a fiduciary responsibility to the seller. In 1995, a state law was passed enabling brokers and agents to work for a buyer or a seller.
“That was a paradigm shift,” Koellmer said, although she estimates that 70% to 80% of today’s agents were not working then.
“People dressed differently. We wore suits, skirts and heels. Now it’s very casual,” she continued. “There was no staging, no professional photographs, no aerial shots with drones.
“Now it takes a long time to prepare a house for a market.”
With homes following trends like fashions, agents give more advice than ever to help sellers put their home’s best foot forward. At Realty Seven, that becomes a group effort.
“We work as a unit,” she said of her 25 or so active agents, up from about 15 when the company started. That ranges from helping a seller clean out their cabinets to filling in for one another when someone goes on vacation.
“We have a camaraderie that’s not just different from other brokerages, but different from other companies,” she said.
Koellmer does not sell, preferring not to compete with her agents. She is busy wearing many other hats including serving as chair of the Ethics and Professional Standards Commission of the Connecticut Association of Realtors. She is also immediate past president of the Mid-Fairfield County Board of Realtors. In Wilton, she is past president of the Chamber of Commerce, past chairman of the town’s Commission on Social Services, and has also served on the boards of the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Wilton Library and Wilton Go Green, among many other affiliations.
Koellmer isn’t the only one who’s “everywhere.” Realty Seven’s agents are told they are expected to volunteer in town. After every closing, agents put a percentage of their commission into a charitable fund which is then used to fill a local need. In the past money has been donated to buy chairs for the fire department’s meeting room and the first wave of body cameras for police officers. A number of agents are also active in local groups like A Better Chance and the Wilton Woman’s Club.
While commercial real estate in this area is dominated by men, women hold sway in the residential market.
“Historically, it’s been considered an extra income,” Koellmer said, adding “it’s definitely a second career.” She herself was an operating-room nurse before turning to real estate. Agents have been teachers and advertising and marketing professionals.
“It’s a people business. You have to provide great service,” she said. “It’s all about making connections.”
Wilton, she added, “is an easy town to sell.”
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that all buyers are different in what they want and don’t want. Most tend to be young families moving in.
“I feel strongly this is the biggest financial transaction most people will make in a lifetime,” she said. It is too complex, she warned, to try to do it yourself. “You can actually save money by having a good agent and a good attorney.”