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Real estate couple introduces cutting-edge franchise

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | April 4, 2021 12:00 AM

NextHome is the next big thing in the local real estate industry.

Lauri and Jeff Wilson recently opened a Flathead Valley franchise of the nationwide agency and are excited to introduce the cutting-edge company to the area’s booming real estate market.

“It’s new to the valley,” said Lauri, but the California-based franchise is well-known across the country.

In its first six years, NextHome has accumulated 600 franchise offices and earned the top spot for real estate franchises in a ranking of over 300 companies on Franchising.com.

NextHome already has made inroads in Montana, with locations in Billings and Bozeman, and franchises are expected to open in Helena and Missoula this spring.

In Northwest Montana, NextHome is stepping into a long-standing real estate tradition.

The Wilsons recently took over Properties Northwest Real Estate from well-known broker Larry Wakefield, and they transformed the existing brokerage into a NextHome franchise. It’s a transition that combines the couple’s years of experience working alongside Wakefield with the innovation available through NextHome.

“We want to honor him and what he’s built,” Lauri said of Wakefield. She clarified her predecessor won’t be retiring, but rather is “passing the baton” to Lauri and her husband.

Jeff has been working with Wakefield since 2004, and the Wilsons formed a professional team in 2017. Now, they want to build upon that base with a brokerage model unlike anything the valley has seen before.

NEXTHOME’S SOPHISTICATED technology, in particular, is going to impress buyers and sellers in the Flathead, Lauri predicted.

“We were attracted to NextHome first and foremost for the technology,” she said.

The brokerage offers clients a suite of advanced products, such as automatically generated marketing pieces, syndicated listings across hundreds of websites, and detailed weekly accounts of traffic to give comprehensive feedback to sellers.

Perhaps the most new-age feature in the NextHome toolkit is Studeo, a program that creates “a storybook visual tour of a listing.”

Instead of the traditional images of empty houses that have become the standard in home-buying, Studeo combines typical still images with “cinemagraphs”—short video clips of real people actively using the spaces. These imaginative displays “bring a more human element into the listing,” Lauri said.

When potential buyers see someone, for instance, chopping vegetables in a kitchen, they’re better able “to imagine themselves living in the home and utilizing the spaces.”

It’s a next-generation tool even Lauri said she’d never encountered before she got on board with NextHome.

“We just feel that we’re going to be able to provide the best technology and marketing for real estate here in the valley,” she said.

But along with NextHome’s array of new technology, the Wilsons also are committed to maintaining the traditional personal touches that led to the former brokerage’s success for around 25 years.

Wakefield had a philosophy of prioritizing a small number of high-quality agents instead of seeking to constantly grow his business, and the Wilsons want to stay committed to that model. Lauri said they’re looking to add four or five agents to their current roster of six in the next year or so.

This approach seems to mesh well with the intimate attitude that guides hundreds of NextHome offices around the country, summarized in the company motto “#HumansOverHouses.”

With that in mind, the Wilsons are making big changes while aiming to preserve their brokerage as a “small boutique office,” according to Lauri.

“Culture is huge for us,” she stressed.

NextHome Northwest Real Estate will hold its grand opening event from 4 to 6 p.m. on May 6 at 1226 Whitefish Stage Road (formerly the Properties Northwest Real Estate office).

To reach NextHome Northwest Real Estate, call 406-755-7700.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.