LARS HEDENBORG: The Realtor who’s no good at showing houses

By: Tony Brown, Staff Writer//August 14, 2013//

LARS HEDENBORG: The Realtor who’s no good at showing houses

By: Tony Brown, Staff Writer//August 14, 2013//

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COTSWOLD — Lars Hedenborg was up for bid at a Charlotte charity auction in 2005, which meant he was too busy at the moment being bought to bid on a woman he wanted to buy a date with in a simultaneous silent auction.hedenborg.lars(3).web

He secretly arranged with the auctioneer to automatically add $200 to whatever the highest bid for her turned out to be.

Within 15 months, the woman became his fiancée. Within four months of that, she was Julie Hedenborg. Within a year of that, they were parents. Now they have two children, son Anders and daughter Kendal.

“That’s the best story, isn’t it?” Hedenborg asked, his tall frame sprawled behind his capacious desk in a squat office building on Sharon Amity Road.

On the Level thinks it’s a telling one, too.

When it comes to succeeding at what he wants to do and sticking to it, Hedenborg — a first-generation Swedish-American — is a driven and tenacious fellow.

As the “Lars” in the Lars Group Real Estate Advisors, a Re/Max Real Estate Experts franchise, Hedenborg was the only one of five Charlotte-area Realtors recently named in the Wall Street Journal/Real Trends “Top1,000” real estate agents in the country to be listed in two categories.

The broker/owner was credited with 270 team transactions and more than $62 million in team volume.

He credits that back to the “Group” in the Lars Group, a team he says operates like few others in the country.

The rangy, short-cropped reddish-blond Hedenborg looks a decade younger than his 40 years, which is even more impressive considering that he started his real estate business in 2007, just as Anders was coming into the world — and just as the housing market was about to go bust.

He managed to make it out of the downturn not only alive but kicking as well.

He pretty much took over the following interview, which is not surprising given his drive, and which also saved OtL a lot of breath.

Listen up. And stay out of the way.

You got into this in 2007? Nice timing. I was about a year old in real estate when the market tanked. I learned early on that there are so many things involved in this business and so many facets to a transaction that I figured out that God did not put me here to do them all. That’s been the principle of this business. I hired my first assistant in 2008, my first full year in, and my first agent in 2009. I happen to own a Re/Max franchise, but the only thing in the franchise is my team. Instead of all my agents — we have 10 outside agents working on their own leads, they’re all working on my leads.

OK, hold up a second. You’re saying your brokerage is different because. . . In a traditional brokerage, all the business is generated by the agents in the field, which means they have to do everything, make the contacts, generate the leads, investigate the neighborhood, take the pictures, and on and on. That’s the fundamental thing wrong with the real estate business. We, on the other hand, have a full-time photographer, a graphics coordinator, an operations manager, etc. All that our agents need is here, which gives them an opportunity to sell a lot more, and a lot more successfully. Our agents get a smaller percentage of the sale, but they sell a lot more than other agents, and have less of all that other work to do, so they wind up making more money and working less at what they’re not good at. Less than 5 percent of agencies function this way. For most independent agents, it’s a stretch for them to even have an assistant, and even more so a sales manager. So there’s no coordination.

So what you’re saying is. . . What I’m saying is that being an independent agent is a lonely world. We have a staff of eight, with four virtual assistants, two in the Philippines and two in Nicaragua, and 10 outside agents. We succeed by having only talent on our team, and by doing for our agents all those things that get in the way of selling.

So you and your staff are like a clearinghouse, a funnel, funneling leads to the agents? That’s it. That’s what I’ve been saying.

Let’s jump onto another subject. . .Is the market recovering? It’s almost fully recovered in certain areas, where prices are almost back to where they were at the peak, north of Highway 51 in South Charlotte, basically Area 5 on the Multiple Listing Services map, and into Ballantyne. When the interest rates on mortgages went up a point in the spring, it stopped some buyers, who said “Oh, shit” when it went from 3.5 to 4.35 (percent), but now they’ve come back afraid that it might go to 6 or 7 (percent). On the flip side, there are areas, especially outer areas, where it has not recovered. If you’ve got a $400,000 house in Monroe, and you see that builders are coming in and putting up $300,000 and $400,000 houses near you in Union County, and you think you can get $450,000 for your house, you’re not. That’s the other variable — new construction, especially in areas like Lancaster and York counties. A lot of people who have been looking in Ballantyne are now going out into South Carolina to build a new home. I live in Indian Land, bought a new house there in 2008, and they’re out near me building new houses like it’s crazy. That has an impact on the market.

You got into real estate after doing what? I was actually a corporate transplant to Charlotte from New Jersey in 2002 with Curtiss Wright Corporation. . .

The airplane company? Wright, as in Wright Brothers.

Ha. Score one for Lars. I had been with them for two to three years in Jersey and came here for five or six years as a financial analyst for acquisitions and strategy in the aerospace division. I had always been interested in real estate. In Jersey I had three two-family homes I leased. I saw jumping into real estate as divine intervention. I’m definitely a man of faith. I just get jazzed about helping others succeed. I figured out pretty quickly that I’m no good at showing houses, but I could help others do that. We sell more of our listings than any other agency. Only 20 percent don’t sell. And we sell for more money. We do better advertising, better analysis, give our agents a better endgame. Single agents do all those tedious jobs. Here, we have experts who concentrate just on those jobs. We’ve built a business that provides the best service to both buyers and sellers.

Got it. Let’s jump to another topic again. That’s a great story about buying your soon-to-be-wife at that auction. Did she buy you, too? We met earlier in the evening, and we hit it off and I asked her out. I won her. Meanwhile, she was bidding on me, and she went up to $1,300. But there was a bidding war between two other ladies that drove the price up higher. She said, “I’m not going to pay that much; I already have a date with him.”

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