story by Kim Souza
Real estate is the only career Nicky Dou of Bentonville has ever wanted to pursue. Her growing success year after year seems a validation of the focused desire. In 2013, Nicky Dou doubled her sales, closing $18.5 million in total sales.
“It was a record for me, sales rose from $10 million a year ago. Together my husband Jerry and I posted just under $28 million,” she said. “It just keeps getting better.”
Dou said she loves her career and the opportunities she has to use creative marketing for the properties she lists. When asked what so different about 2013, Dou said the couple hired a licensed assistant, Jerilyn Poe, in July. Then the three of them joined Keller Williams in August, jumping ship from Coldwell Banker. The Dous and Poe are part of Keller Williams’ 103 agents in Northwest Arkansas.
Paul Bynum of MountData.com reports the median sales volume per agent was $1.135 million last year, up from $1.016 million in 2012. Nicky’s sales were well ahead of the median.
Nicky has been an agent/broker in Northwest Arkansas since she graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She grew up in the region and graduated from Springdale High School.
“It was a great time to come into the market,” she said. “I joined Harris McHaney and have never looked back.”
Husband Jerry graduated in 2001 with an engineering degree and worked in that field until the couple opened in 2005 their own real estate boutique firm Element Realty.
“We have rode the market up and down and back up again,” Jerry Dou said.
Their firm Element was acquired by Coldwell Banker in 2007. The couple joined Century 21 Exclamation Realty in 2008, which was subsequently acquired by Coldwell Banker Harris McHaney Faucette in February 2013.
“Coldwell Banker is a great firm, but for us the best financial and professional decision was to join Keller Williams’ in their new Bentonville location,” she said. “We like the ability to sell our own brand and use creative marketing in the process.”
Dou said she has worked really hard over the years pushing Internet marketing and using social media to broaden her own brand.
“I don’t use the traditional marketing approaches taught by the large companies. I like to do my own thing using technology, staging, professional grade photos and video marketing for the listings I get,” Nicky Dou said. “My clients usually call me. They find me from all over the country after they have been window-shopping online for some time.”
Jerry Dou said the couple has learned volumes in recent years about what it takes to keep today’s savvy customer happy.
“We try to ensure our clients are getting the best investment deal they can make in every transaction. It’s no fun being upside down on a home. We try and make sure our clients buy with resale in mind, even if they think it’s going to be their forever home,” he said.
Nicky, a self-proclaimed Pollyanna, said even through an incredibly slow market she continued to grow her sales each year and part of the reason is because of her silver-lining outlook. She said there’s plenty of variables an agent can’t control – interest rates, foreclosure sales, or declining prices. But instead of focusing on those, she has always found it more productive to do what she can to make sure her clients’ expectations are exceeded.
“I believe in being honest with clients and if they listen to my recommendations we can usually close a sale they are happy with,” Nicky said.
She said late last year she closed a home sale for a new listing she got in just two weeks. The home had been listed with another firm for several months with no offers.
“I want to make sure every listing I have comes up in the top five buyer searches online,” she added. “That exposure will help sell a home and I won’t list it until it is ready to sell.”
NEW HOME AGENT
The couple does a fair amount of relocation business in the Wal-Mart supplier community and says it’s steady year round. But more recently they have negotiated deals with homebuilders to be the selling agent in Hyde Park, a new subdivision between Cave Springs and southwest Bentonville.
Hyde Park offers craftsman style homes with priced between $250,000 and $300,000. The homes are about 2,700 square feet with a community pool, playground and trails throughout the neighborhood. Dou said she has already closed seven new homes in Hyde Park and there are 10 more presolds under construction.
The couple is also promoting Kerelaw Castle, a new geothermal subdivision in west Bentonville. It’s the first of its kind in Northwest Arkansas with all the homes featuring energy efficient geothermal heating systems. Nicky Dou said there are 10 homes under construction, five of which are close to completion.
“The buyers will qualify for $7,000 in tax credits relating to the geothermal system. The homes are listed between $240,000 and $270,000,” she said.
The couple said they expect the momentum they have seen since 2012 to continue in Benton County. They have already closed $5.5 million in sales since Jan. 1.
“The supplier community is hiring and we are really busy with folks who want to move up now that their property values have rebounded. We think property values could move up a little more this year, but that depends on sustained demand from the buyer pool,” Jerry said.
Neither Dou is too concerned by the active building they see in Benton County. They note that supplies are still low given that lenders are proceeding cautiously.
The number one criteria the couple said they get from most homebuyers moving to the area are the schools.
“Most buyers want to look at the entire area first, but after seeing the individual towns, schools and factoring in commute time, if they work in Benton County they usually want to live here. They often want to be near the Pinnacle shopping area and they like Bentonville schools,” Jerry said.
They expect to see the growth in Benton County continue, with more retail and entertainment venues on tap to open this year.
Benton County was the top Arkansas county for home sales during the year, according to The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report. The county, with a population of around 230,000, had 4,571 home sales in 2013. Pulaski County, the state’s largest with a population of around 390,000, posted 4,499 home sales during the year.
During 2013, the number of homes sold in central Arkansas are up 10.44%, up 12.89% in the Jonesboro area, up 17.98% in Northwest Arkansas, and up 7.36% in the Fort Smith area.