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Vero Beach 32963 / February 2, 2012

89

REAL ESTATE

Sorensen Real Estate has best year ever in 2011
BY STEVEN M. THOMAS Staff Writer

In a year when national prognosticators continued to talk – sometimes with good reason – about how bad the U.S. housing market was, one island real estate company achieved astounding counter-intuitive success, increasing sales by more than 65 percent, from $181 million in 2010 to more than $300 million in 2011. Founded 34 years ago in what Matilde Sorensen calls “a teeny, tiny office on Beachland,” Dale Sorensen Real Estate Inc. has grown into the dominant real estate company in Indian River County, with four offices and 74 producing agents. A family firm, in which founders Dale and Matilde Sorensen and their children Dale Jr. and Elizabeth, all play vital roles, Sorensen doubled its market share over the past two years and sold more real estate in one month last summer than all but a handful of area real estate companies sold during the year.

“Our market share in Indian River County in 2009 was 12 percent,” says Managing Partner Dale Sorensen Jr. “Last year, it was 24 percent countywide, 29 percent on the island. Our best month was June, when we had one side or the other in $52.1 million in transactions.” After investing in a powerful suite of Brokermetrics software, Dale Jr. has the ability to slice, dice and analyze company sales data and MLS statistics, looking at the numbers from every angle to gain insight into what is happening in the market. “Our 2011 sales in Indian River County were $300,566,000,” he says. “We sold another $12.6 million in North Hutchinson Island for a total of $313,731,422. “Sales were up in every office and in every category. We did more on the mainland, more on the island, more luxury, everything. We were involved in 889 transactions in Indian River County in 2011, including 361 on the island and 528 on the mainland.” Activity was about equally divided

between 451 listing transactions and 438 sales. In dollar value, 65 percent of the company’s business was on the island, 35 percent on the mainland. The lowest-price property sold was a $6,000 vacant lot in Vero Estates, the most expensive a $17.7-million residential development parcel. “The most expensive home was a $7-million oceanfront we both listed and sold,” says Dale Jr. Prior to 2011, Sorensen’s best year was 2005 when the company handled approximately $240 million in transactions. 2011 sales were 35 percent above that number, even though prices have fallen considerably. If prices were at boom levels, last year’s sales might have totaled as much as $500 or $600 million. Sorensen’s achievement is due to a range of effective business practices and forward-thinking marketing innovations. The company has a robust and expanding Web presence with eight websites, including newly launched

www.luxuryverobeach.com, which highlights its growing clout in the $1-million-plus market. Through its association with Mayfair International Realty, Sorensen has a direct pipeline to a deep pool of European buyers and marketing opportunities. “Good news!” wrote Annette Reeve, director of Mayfair International Realty in London, in an email to the company on Jan. 20. “You have a nice lead piece in this month’s ‘A Place in the Sun’ magazine . . . in an article called ’10 of the Best Beachfront Buys.’” Sorensen’s longevity in the market and wide-bore focus are two more ingredients in the company’s success. People know the name and the family and associate both with a winning record of real estate transactions going back more than three decades. Though it now owns 29 percent of the $1-million-plus luxury market in the county, the company welcomes lower-priced listings and works just
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Vero Beach 32963 / February 2, 2012

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REAL ESTATE
as hard to sell them, according to Dale Jr. Its 608 listings in early January covered the real estate value spectrum, from $7,500 to $6.5 million. Of all the elements that drive the company’s success, Dale Jr. and Matilde say their agents are the most important. “The hard work of our sales associates and the trust the community has clearly placed in them to get the job done” is the key, according to Dale Jr. The feeling is mutual. “The whole family does a terrific job of managing the company,” says Sales Associate Cliff Lamb, who left another company to join Sorensen two years ago because of the quality of its advertising, marketing and agent support. “They create a positive energy in the sales meetings that I love and give us great support staff to help us do our jobs.” “Really, every decision I make has the goal of helping our agents grow their business,” says Dale Jr. Those decisions include providing in-depth training courses for associates and encouraging seasoned agents to help

Left/Right: Elizabeth, Dale, Matilde and Dale Sorensen Sr.

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those less experienced develop their sales and marketing skills. It seems to be working. “More than 80 percent of our agents had increases in their sales in 2011,” Dale Jr. reports after consulting Brokermetrics. With all those positives working in its favor Sorensen’s ascendancy makes perfect sense, but there is something mysterious about it, too, given the economic context of the times. “It’s crazy,” says Dale Jr. “It is hard for me to explain sometimes. When the history books are written, this will be the deepest and longest downturn in the real estate market ever – which makes it tough to understand how we grew sales from $127 million in 2009 to more than $300 million and had our best year in company history in 2011. “I believe some of it is something intangible that is hard to put your finger on – intangibles like momentum and energy and synergy.

“We missed a sales meeting in December because of the Christmas party. So on Dec. 20 we had two weeks of listed and sold to go over and we had 93 transactions. That included 43 contract sides written in the two weeks before Christmas, which I find hard to explain because that is normally a slow time. If we had done 10, it would have seemed busy. “A meeting where those kinds of results are reported energizes and inspires everyone.” The biggest X-factor is probably the Sorensen family itself. Somehow the four participating members have found a way not just to work together but to build a business legacy likely to last for generations, dividing up duties and sharing responsibilities so that each person can excel at what they do best. “My father and I run the office, the day-to-day operations,” says Dale Jr. “He handles the financial side of the office with the appropriate staff members while I oversee the market-

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ing and creative with the help of two full-time artists and a creative director. “My father has vast real estate experience and enjoys problem solving and being there for the agents when they have an issue, whether it is contract related or a legal question.” “Dale Sorensen, Sr. is the steady hand on the tiller,” says Sally Woods, a highly successful agent who joined the company in 2008. “He has an open door policy with his agents and always offers good advice and counsel.” Dale Sr. also oversees the commercial real estate and real estate development side of the business. Matilde Sorensen is the company’s salesperson in chief, routinely heading the list of top-producing agents in Indian River County or coming in second is she has a slow month. “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” says Matilde, who claims she enjoys everything about the real estate business. “Listing and selling is what I do best. I enjoy it because I like people. I like being a hostess for Vero Beach, showing people what we have to offer.” Stephan Cote, a Canadian who re-

tired to Vero Beach after selling his data center in Canada, has bought two homes from Matilde, a big oceanfront mansion where he lives and a second house acquired as an investment. “Working with her was great experience,” says Cote. “I got very good advice and very professional service.” Cote emphasizes the Sorensens go above and beyond what he expected of a real estate company, helping him select a school for his two sons, providing information about local clubs and golf courses, and generally helping him get oriented and situated in his new community. Elizabeth Sorensen is following in her mother’s footsteps as a super salesperson. Matilde was pregnant with her daughter when she took her first real estate training course, so Elizabeth has literally grown up in the business her entire life. “She is extremely hardworking,” says Dale Jr. of his younger sister. “One thing I find interesting is how much my sister and mother interact in the business. My mom has well over 30 years of successful real estate experience but my sister is still able to help her, motivate her, and bring

a new dynamic to the business. She helps my mom implement and utilize a lot of our marketing tools and resources and, while they are not technically partners, they work very well together and complement each other.” And then there is Dale Jr. himself. He says he had to fight his way into a position of influence in the family enterprise after he came onboard nine years ago, proving himself and his innovative ways to parents who already had a proven business model. “It took me a few years to get heard,” says Dale Jr. with a smile, but I now I can do pretty much what I want to.” “I think Dale’s way of marketing, giving us the tools to sell, is what has made the difference,” says Matilde. “There is no other reason for this level of success that makes sense. That may sound like a typical mother who is proud of her son, but I really mean it.” Woods says she joined Dale Sorensen Real Estate Inc. because of the company’s long-range vision and its fresh, bold approach and dedication to capitalizing on the latest technology trends. “From the beginning, I was impressed with Dale Jr.’s forthright manner and his clear articula-

tion of the direction he wants to take the company.” “He is worth his weight in gold,” says Lamb. Of course into every life a little rain must fall. Dale Jr. has his challenges and concerns, too, such as maintaining the company’s amazing momentum. “I am already worrying about growth in 2012,” he says. “I don’t think we can necessarily grow as much this year as we did in 2011, but I certainly want to surpass our 2011 sales and have some significant growth. “Where can I gain? We already have many of the top agents – four of the top 10 – and most of the other top producers are owner/brokers who are not going to move. That makes it hard to grow through recruitment. “If prices would start to rise, which I keep waiting for, then we would see some really significant increases in dollar volume.” “We are very happy with the production last year, but that doesn’t mean we are going to stop working to do better for buyers and sellers,” says Matilde. “It will be hard to beat our own record, but that is what I am geared up to do.” 

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