McDowell Homes — the ’boutique’ real estate agency experiencing explosive growth: Top Workplaces 2022

MENTOR, Ohio — While the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on many industries, the real estate market boomed thanks to a combination of historically low interest rates and low inventory. The demand kept real estate agents hopping through 2021.

While agents can burn out from the long hours, high stakes, and client drama, one Mentor-based “boutique” real estate agency is enjoying explosive growth while placing their agent’s well-being first.

McDowell Homes, headquartered in Mentor, was founded in 2015 with three agents and two administrative staff. That first year, they closed $16 million in sales. In 2021, the agency closed 1,700 sales totaling $360 million, and are on track to close 2,000 sales this year.

The niche agency has closed a cumulative total of more than $1 billion home sales in the last seven years. And have expanded to five offices – Mentor, Solon, Ashtabula, Little Italy in Cleveland and Portage Lakes. The McDowells are eyeing a sixth location on the west side later this year.

Business partners Chaz and Kayleen McDowell attribute their success to their experienced and dedicated stable of 150 agents and support staff. Their agents, however, will give the credit to the high standards and the attention the McDowells give to removing the competitiveness between the company’s sales teams.

This is the first year McDowell Homes has been named to the Top Workplaces list. The real estate brokerage placed second on the list for small corporations.

For the 2022 Top Workplaces list, cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer have compiled 220 stand-out Northeast Ohio employers based on employee surveys. This year we’ve focused on employee retention. Find the full list and stories on the top three winners in each category at cleveland.com/top-workplaces.

Chaz McDowell was working as a quality engineer for the Lord Corp., in Erie, Pa., when the family accountant told him his salary was only covering the family’s tax bill, gas for their cars and childcare. His then-wife’s real estate income was covering their family’s other day-to-day expenses, but she wasn’t happy at the brokerage where she worked. The couple decided it was time to start their own agency.

“I was looking for a company that operated as a true team, with a cooperative culture,” she said. “At many brokerages it is dog-eat-dog day in and day out. Agents are out there beating the bushes for any business they can get.

“I was interested in only hiring agents who wanted to start – and grow — their own team, but willing to work together and learn from one another. Everyone who works here now all have the same goals.”

Both Chaz and Kayleen refer to their company as a “boutique” agency – dedicated to serving their clients in “a more creative and less restrictive manner” while adhering to “the highest ethical standards, all the while, maintaining a positive atmosphere,” Kayleen said.

They only hire experienced agents, who are interested in working full-time. Agents affiliated with McDowell homes must be willing to support their co-workers.

“Everyone in the real estate industry is an independent contractor, but I want the agents affiliated with us to feel they work in a really positive atmosphere,” Kayleen explained. “We (Chaz and Kayleen) believe there is enough business for everyone, so we don’t allow our agents to compete against one another. if an agent is unavailable, we put it out there and another agent from our brokerage will step in to show the house and follow up. Our agents don’t have to worry they will lose business because of a scheduling snafu.”

But an agent’s work ethic isn’t the only thing the McDowells keep track of.

A hot market and demands for 24/7 attention by the client can take a toll on a real estate professional. Kayleen believes in maintaining a personal relationship with each of her agents – working hard to know what is going on in their personal lives, their likes and dislikes – as well as their business philosophy.

Chaz says Kayleen is in “on the phone with our agents every week. She isn’t just worried about whether they are working hard, she wants to know they are in a good place, personally.”

By keeping tabs on those aspects of their personal concerns, she feels it gives her better insight into their level of self-care.

“No breaks from this business causes high stress for a real estate agent,” she explained. “I try and make certain they are taking care of themselves, as well as their clients. Work/life balance is at the forefront of what we are doing,” she said.

“While we expect a full-time commitment to their business, we also expect them to take care of themselves. They are not giving the best to their customers if they are not indulging their own needs – whether it be physical or family matters. They won’t be the best they can be without it.”

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