September 2010

Foundation Realty - The Search Is Over For Island Real Estate

Author: David Gignilliat | Photographer: John Brackett

There is a palatable sense of order to the layout of Rich Neste’s office, a pleasant arrangement of space and stuff that suggests more functionality than feng shui. After all, as manager and marketing guru for Hilton Head Island’s Foundation Realty, it’s important for him to have the tools of his trade within arm’s reach.

Three flat-screen monitors stand firmly at attention on one side of an L-shaped wood desk in a busy corner of his office. On his left is a multi-line phone system, and then a slide-out keyboard tray perfectly situated in the middle of his trio of screens. The rest of his desk is relatively clean, less a few loose papers, the obligatory assortment of office supplies and an empty bottle of Moet Chandon that commemorates his first sale. Pictures of his family—he’s a husband and a father of two, soon to be three—sit alone on a side table between his main desk and his black leather swivel single-seater. A pair of brown leather chairs and another modular piece of office furniture complete the room, providing a few extra spots for visitors and a turnkey workstation for his colleagues.

Just your everyday, run-of-the-mill real estate office fare, right?

Wrong.

Those liquid crystal displays, and the computer-related tendons attached to them, are ground zero for the winning combination of foresight, vision and dedication to technology-based efficiency that has helped Foundation Realty, in three short years, to become one of the area’s elite real estate companies.


Charlene Neste, Broker-in-Charge. Charlene@hiltonheadrealestates.com

“The Internet. That’s our brokerage. Yes, we have [a team of] people behind it, but the face of our brokerage is a computer, and that’s what it is,” said Neste, who helps manage a team of 20 agents from the company’s Folly Field Road headquarters. His mother, Charlene Neste, is the broker-in-charge. “All we’re trying to do is capture as many people as possible who are interested in real estate.”

According to the National Association of Realtors, 87 percent of buyers now use the Internet to search for real estate. Hoping to attract some of that massive pool of potential clients, Neste and his team have used search engine optimization (SEO) to stake a claim to an Internet beachhead for just about every conceivable Hilton Head real estate keyword. The company owns over 100 Web sites related to the typical keywords people use when searching online for Hilton Head area real estate. Their flagship site, hiltonheadrealestates.com, ranks number one on the Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines for the most popular island-related property searches.

“In the past, most of the real estate companies relied on walk-in traffic, before the Internet evolved into what it is now. So, if you had a good location for a real estate brokerage, people would just walk through the door, and then you’d go out and check [out] property. Now, most of the people are working with a realtor before they drive over the bridge, because they were sitting in Ohio or New York online,” said Neste, who has transitioned recently from being the brokerage’s top agent to its field conductor. “People are sitting in the snow, or someplace where [the setting] is not as desirable; they go online and type in Hilton Head real estate, or Sea Pines real estate, or Palmetto Dunes real estate; they find our Web site—all of the community information, videos, market trends, foreclosures, short sales—and they have all the tools, before they even get here, to know which properties they want to see.”


The Foundation Realty Team
(from left to right) Sam Mancuso, Tammy Moody, Judd Tracy, Marge McDougal, Ken McDougal, Richard Neste, Charlene Neste, Charlie Shroeder, Fran Mollica, Chris Walker, Debbie Sullivan & Liz Gillespie

At a given point in the day, Neste may use his computer hundreds of times, and often for just as many purposes. In the morning, it may be to track down information on a prospective client or to check the analytics on hundreds of island-related real estate keyword searches. In the afternoon, he may use it to update the home tour videos across his company’s legion of real estate and vacation rental sites. Or he may read up on industry trends, syndicate a property’s listings on thousands of Web sites countrywide or just shoot a brief e-mail to one of his 20 agents with links to self-improvement or business-building tips.

The point is, he’s always doing something—anything—to grow Foundation Realty, and in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible a generation ago without the cultural revolution brought about by the personal computer and the Internet.

“Our business model is based on people using the Internet to find real estate; we decided if we could make the best Web site possible, with the most features that are user-friendly and search engine-friendly, the amount of leads that we could generate would be more than sufficient for the number of agents we have,” said Neste. “And we’ve reached the point where we continue to add new agents because we just have too many leads coming our way. I know that sounds crazy in this market, but that’s kind of what’s happened.”

Even in the ultra-competitive Lowcountry real estate market, the accomplishments of Foundation Realty are staggering. While other companies are scrambling for leads (buyers or sellers), closing satellite offices or losing agents to attrition, Foundation Realty has seen its productivity increase at least twofold each year it has been in business. Though 85 percent of their business comes from representing buyers, Neste insists they are a go-to company for those looking to sell property in the area as well.

2009 was a record year financially for Foundation Realty, a milestone they surpassed with alarming speed by April, 2010. With over 6,000 people a day visiting one of the Foundation Realty Web sites and a war chest of over 300,000 prospect e-mail addresses, Neste estimates that his agents are 400 percent more profitable than the average local MLS agent as of August, 2010.


Richard Neste , Sales Manager. Rich@HiltonHeadRealEstateS.com

Four hundred percent? Really?

“The Internet,” he answers reflexively. “That’s the way of the future. It’s simply the easiest way to reach the most people. Information is power, and the more people know about the market before they get here, the less time our agents have to spend educating our clients about the current market conditions.”

Whether you’re looking to buy, sell or just to dip your toes in the water with a rental, the staff at Foundation Realty is only a phone call away. But they’re also just a point, click and a “submit” away too, and that’s really what puts them in the rarefied air atop Hilton Head Island’s swelling real estate wave.

For more information, please visit any of the main Foundation Realty Web sites: hiltonheadrealestates.com, blufftonrealestates.com and hiltonheadrentals.com. You can also reach Foundation Realty toll-free at 1-800-717-9876. Their main office is located at 22 Folly Field Road, (on the corner of Highway 278 and Folly Field Rd).

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