With buildings all over the metro Atlanta area, WePartner Group is a successful property management and development company based in Gwinnett County. Now, with the addition of WePartner Realty, run by WePartner Group Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Broker, Hilda Abbott, the Group offers boutique commercial and residential real estate services as well.
WePartner Realty opened its first office in Peachtree Corners in January 2020 and plans to open its second location in Duluth in April. Abbott, who is a career broker and real estate expert, discussed the reasons behind opening a realty brokerage in addition to the property management and development business, the difference in the way she does business and real estate patterns she sees trending in the local market.
How does WePartner Realty fit in with WePartner Group’s overall mission and business?
What we’re doing at WePartner Realty is the same thing I was doing on the group level, just that this is a separate division that we have. I am the COO and Broker for the WeParter Group and I started this division to open up to another market. The community just thought that we were brokering properties that we owned and managed, but now that we’ve opened this division, we offer services to the outside public as well. We’re using the resources that we’ve built throughout the years at the Group level and gaining the advantage of having more outside agents to promote the company and list our properties.
What was the catalyst in creating a division specifically for real estate sales?
I’m involved in different boards and organizations, so when we were doing transactions on the Group-level, I saw a need for a brokerage firm that would not only concentrate on the volume or the sales, but also on the education of the agents who were representing these companies.
My other vision for the company is the diversity I want to bring into this market. There are a lot of agents who specialize in residential because they feel like they cannot actually perform commercial, but the real estate license for salespersons and brokers covers all real estate and that is one of the things that I want to push forward.
When one thing dries out, like on the residential side, then the agents are struggling to be successful in that area. With the agents that we are bringing on board, we’ll actually train them up to also be part of the commercial side. So, if you have a residential client who is actually a business owner who is looking to buy a commercial property or expand and lease another space, our agents will have the knowledge and expertise to serve this client in whatever their real estate needs are instead of having to refer them to others.
What makes working with WePartner Realty a unique experience?
One piece of feedback we get a lot is our diversity. How diverse our agents are – different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages – and who we serve. We have agents who are serving Generation Z and agents who are serving clients looking to downsize because they’ve retired, so we serve the whole spectrum of different life phases. We have agents that know about the Beltline and what’s going on at Ponce City Market as well as agents who specialize in the suburbs.
I think that that’s one of the biggest differences that we have as a brokerage; we embrace that serving someone on the real estate side is not just a one-time thing. You can have a client for 20 or 30 years if you follow it correctly and you see what the need of your client is based on where their life is standing at the moment.
What changes have you seen in the real estate market over the last year?
One of the biggest differences that I’ve seen throughout is with investors. These are people who had money in certain markets, like IRAs or 401Ks and retirement plans. The majority of these people thought a crash was coming and everyone took their money and started buying out real estate. Since everyone thought that the market was going to crash, people were looking for residential real estate deals and for more stabilized income based on incoming rent and dividends. I was reading in the Atlanta Business Chronicle the other day that residential sales increased by 300%.
On the commercial market, we have been very blessed that we were not hit as bad since our largest portfolio is office buildings. What I learned was that there was a lot of panic around being enclosed in a building with other tenants. We actually established a very high COVID protocol to ensure our tenants that we were going to do everything possible to keep the buildings and office settings safe. We did a lot of rent-deferral payments with our tenants; we did a lot of adding back their security deposits just to keep them stable because everyone was in panic. We do see a lot of tenants who started downsizing beginning to come back.
In 2021, I see the real estate market staying about the same. The panic has gone away. The business closings, the concerns about lay-offs and unemployment have diminished by a lot. It’s going to be a stable year. We have a lot of interest in the commercial side from prospective clients who were looking at the beginning of the first quarter last year. We are getting feedback that those clients are ready to start looking at larger spaces and relocation again. People are coming back to the workforce and back from work-from-home.
What do you see in the future for WePartner Realty?
I’m a bit aggressive. What I would like is to have WePartner Realty as a tenant in all our commercial buildings. If someone is looking at Cobb, why are they going to want to be here at Peachtree Corners? I think that would serve the masses – having different locations with different agents who specialize in different counties.
Also creating a difference with the community engagement of our agents; that they are involved and the We Partner Realty brand is involved in the community. One of the things that I am implementing is that every month we’re going to be sponsoring a different non-profit or organization that is in need. I’m asking each of the agents who are coming on-board to give a minimum of $10 per closing and then We Partner Realty will match that money and, at the end of the month, we will support a nonprofit within the community.
Why is giving back to the community important to you?
I’ve been around a lot of very successful people in the real estate environment. What I’ve seen from them is that they have been able to achieve a lot of things, but they also give back. If you are involved in the community that you serve, you will eventually make more money. These people know you, they know your name, they know that you believe in a different cause – it’s not only about the money for you. I only recruit agents who believe in this vision.
How has your involvement in the Chairman’s Club affected your business?
It’s been wonderful. The biggest impact we’ve had is how the Gwinnett Chamber is so embracing. There’s so many activities and so much networking. We’re actually doing business with several vendors who are in the Chairman’s Club. And the people who work at the Chamber have been very open and embracing. That is an experience that is second to none. I’ve been involved with a lot of Chambers that are all business-like and stuffy, but here we can talk about business but also have fun and talk about other things. It’s not so cut-throat. It’s been a great experience for me.