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Brokerage Surviving, Then Growing, Now Thriving

Brokerage Surviving, Then Growing, Now Thriving

By Josh Salman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Staff Photo: Rachel S. O’Hara

BRYAN AND CHERI GUENTNER opened their real estate brokerage at the onset of the region’s worst housing market in decades.

But rather than grow anxious and become defeated by the inauspicious timing, the couple found a way to use the downturn to their advantage.

Over the years, the Guentners have expanded, adding four more offices and growing Re/Max Platinum Realty from just two agents to a group of more than 50 Realtors who handle transactions throughout the three-county region.

There’s no secret sauce involved in their success, said Bryan Guentner. It just took some hard work, strategic planning and a little clever marketing.

“It’s a tough business,” said Bryan Guentner, the company’s broker and co-founder. “But we have a long-term commitment to the industry and the Sarasota area.”

The Guentners are 30-year veterans in real estate.

With a focus on the luxury market, they were among the top 10 producing teams for what was at the time called Re/Max Property Group in Sarasota, a brokerage that now goes by Re/Max Alliance Group.

In 2004, the couple decided to branch out on their own and purchased a Re/Max franchise in Osprey two years later.

The Guentners originally planned to specialize in high-end and waterfront listings, but when those market segments began to take a beating as the Great Recession took hold, they broadened their approach.

Using the Internet, they located out-of-area buyers interested in good deals on Florida investment homes — from foreclosures to short sales and bargain basement listings. They also focused on keeping overhead down.

Now that the market is buzzing again, the tandem is in the driver’s seat.

The company has purchased two additional local franchises to expand Re/Max Platinum Realty to five offices, in downtown Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Osprey, Venice and St. Armands Circle.

The brokerage also employs two full-time administrators, two part-time clerks and seven assistants to run the back-office, each with different specialties.

The firm’s 50 agents — who speak a combined 23 languages — handle about 100 listings at any given time, ranging from small lots to a $15.8 million mansion for sale on Casey Key. Last year, they steered 536 transactions, worth a combined $96 million, to the closing table, records show.

“We had a really good client base ourselves, so that helped us weather tough times,” Bryan Guentner said. “We consider ourselves more an entrepreneurial culture.

“I’m a very hands-on broker,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of levels of management, so it’s still more of a boutique brokerage. That’s what makes us different.”

To generate additional business, Re/Max Platinum is now targeting foreign buyers.

To that end, the couple recently traveled to London and Paris, where they attending trade shows to market Southwest Florida and promote their local listings.

The Guentners also are focusing more on the luxury market, which led to their securing the $15.8 million listing on tony Casey Key — one of the most expensive homes for sale in the region.

The company has captured its share of press for its success, too. Re/Max Platinum is being featured in Florida Realtor for its rebranding success and, a few months ago, Florida Trend wrote about its international marketing efforts.

Thanks to the continued strength of the market, Re/Max Platinum is on track to experience a 30 percent revenue hike this year.

Bryan Guentner sees home prices rising again this year — albeit at a more modest pace than in 2013.

He predicts listings will slowly increase, and that buyer demand — especially from retiring baby boomers — will last at least for another few years.

“We’re sitting about where we should be right now,” he said.

“We’re in a trajectory where it will be very consistent over the next several years, and that’s the kind of market we want to have. It’s reasonable, and not crazy.”