Born in Caracas, Venezuela, John De Souza—president of Cressy & Everett Real Estate—has lived in the South Bend area for more than 24 years, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with both a BA in management and MBA in technology management. He used his education to work as a managing consultant for the better part of 14 years, even returning to his alma mater to teach a business course.
But the real estate world came calling.
“This is my 11th year in real estate, and our company’s 72nd anniversary,” says De Souza, who enjoys contributing to his agents’ success by helping them achieve the goals they could not reach on their own.
De Souza notes that the Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan markets in which he deals are like many throughout the country in that they’re currently experiencing a lack of inventory, particularly in the desirable $ 150,000-$ 250,000 range.
“Homeowners have seen a 6 percent or higher appreciation, while still enjoying short market periods and multiple offers,” he says.
De Souza goes on to explain that the firm is experiencing continued growth, as evidenced by a recent merger with a competitor in Southwest Michigan.
In 2016, the firm launched a property management division, which has grown 400 percent in its first year. The focus for 2018 will be on improving agent productivity by improving its current average of 17 sides per real estate agent—one of the region’s best.
“Although we’re home to many top-producing agents, historically, our growth has come from introducing new real estate professionals to the profession,” says De Souza. “We operate two licensing schools, have a new agent training program and a mentoring program to assure newcomers have the best odds of success when joining.”
With positive movement taking place in the area, De Souza admits that the lack of new construction in the local marketplace is a serious, long-term problem.
“The 2008 crash decimated our local new-construction infrastructure by eliminating many builders and dispersing our labor force to warmer climates,” says De Souza. “Most of this year’s new construction is focused on profitable higher-priced, custom builds.”
Keeping up with today’s consumer is another critical piece of the puzzle. In fact, Cressy & Everett Real Estate is committed to bringing in national experts to educate agents regarding the ever-changing consumer. De Souza notes that today’s agents need to understand that consumers are in the driver’s seat more so than ever before, and that they expect to be communicated with in different ways.
“We’ve also hired many millennial agents who are having a mentoring effect on their more mature peers,” adds De Souza, who goes on to explain that the firm’s commitment to education started decades ago when they created the position of director of Career Development in order to coordinate training opportunities. “Today, we see agent development as a key competitive advantage for our firm.”
For example, in October 2017, the firm conducted 17 different instructor-led courses, in addition to bringing a national speaker to a company event attended by 80 percent of its real estate professionals.
“For scheduling flexibility, we have hundreds of online courses available 24/7 through LeadingRE’s award-winning educational portal,” says De Souza. “We have a culture where learning from peers is strongly encouraged and expected.”
The firm also has a PC tech on staff who operates a “PC Spa” service where agents’ computers can be refreshed and rejuvenated.
“We know that our agents have better things to do than fight with their technology,” says De Souza. “In 2014, we were the first brokerage in the region to adopt a paperless transaction-management system (dotloop) in order to streamline our internal processes, and we haven’t stopped.”
De Souza adds that the firm has more marketing tools than any other brokerage, including a weekly TV show, print magazine, proprietary mobile app, in-house 3D tours and drone photography, automatic U.S. mail marketing and a website that gets 60,000 unique visitors per month.
“We’re in the service business, so it all begins with placing today’s demanding customer at the center of everything we do,” says De Souza. “Then, we partner with our agents to create an enabling environment and systems through which those needs are met in effective ways.”
Vitals: Cressy & Everett Real Estate
Years in Business: 72
Size: 11 offices, 201 agents
Regions Served: Northern Indiana, Southwest Michigan
2017 Sales Volume (as of Oct. 1): $ 435 million
2017 Transactions (as of Oct. 1): 2,500 sides
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