Despite low inventory across the country and locally, Mel Foster Co. President Lynsey Engels said Thursday that 2019 was a very productive year for the company. Engels joins other real estate experts in forecasting home sales across the region will hold steady in 2020.
The company’s year-end results were released collectively by Lynsey Engels, company president of real estate brokerage, Marc Engels, president of Mel Foster Insurance, and Rob Fick, president and CEO. The annual release of performance stats also recognized the achievements of 115 agents who received awards for 2019.
Mel Foster Insurance continues to be a trusted insurance agency in the Quad Cities region with exceptional client retention rates and the continued growth of new personal/business client relationships. In 2019, Mel Foster Insurance associates added 775 new clients along with tallying 1939 new lines of coverage. The insurance division increased both total premiums written, up 8 percent, and policy count, up 3.8 percent from 2019. Mr. Engels said, “We are pleased to have a 96.3% client retention rate agency-wide, which is a confirmation that we continue to provide a personalized insurance experience that our clients value. Our entire team collaborates and focuses on providing first class service to our personal and business insurance clients.” Mel Foster Insurance made a large investment and converted to a 100 percent digital agency in 2nd quarter of 2019. Engels stated, “This technological advancement is a game changer in the market and will allow us to work even more efficiently, improve customer service, and build even stronger relationships with our clients.”
Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate, led by Thad DenHartog, sold over $62 million in commercial real estate properties earning over 35% of the market share in 2019. The division employs eight commercial brokers and two staff members. Two of the company’s commercial brokers ranked in the top 10 in the Quad Cities Commercial MLS. “Our commercial division continues to be a leader in the Quad City market, and we are quite proud of their ongoing accomplishments,” commented Ms. Engels.
Across their nine residential locations within Mel Foster Co. serving Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, the average sales price across the entire company was $178,238 compared to $170,676 in 2018, representing a 6.5% increase in value while the number of closed transactions stayed flat in 2019. On average, Mel Foster Co.’s agents closed 14 transactions in 2019 as compared to the national average of 11 according to statistics from the National Association of Realtors. Average days on the market for their Quad Cities market remained steady at 49 days. Their Galesburg location closed over 45 percent of the transactions in their area and their Kewanee office remained dominate handling over 50 percent of the business in their MLS. The company had a combined 13 agents who were in the top 10 of their respective MLS.
In 2019, Mel Foster Co. sold 61 lots in six subdivisions. Mel Foster Co. is the largest land developer in the Quad Cities and continues to expand its existing subdivisions. In 2020, tentative plans include opening up to 83 new residential lots. Mel Foster Co. residential agents sold 130 new construction homes or condos in 2019. The average Mel Foster Co. new construction sales price was $377,731, down from $417,200 last year.
The company added 16 new or transferring agents and two new staff and now employs 39 brokerage staff, 42 people in the insurance division and has 204 residential agents and eight commercial agents. At the annual awards event, Mel Foster Co. recognized five retirements and honored 43 agents and staff for their service years with the company. Across all Mel Foster Co. divisions, the average number of years of service among staff is 12.5 years. This average is three times the national average as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in January of 2018.
Looking ahead, Ms. Engels said several economic indicators are continuing to point in a positive direction again in 2020. “Our economy is experiencing low unemployment rates and there is the potential of higher wages to be set in 2020. Experts predict today’s low interest rates are expected to continue into 2020, which will fuel price gains and increase buyer confidence in 2020.”
In closing, Fick commented about some of the company’s greatest achievements in 2019. “While we celebrate our sales success, it’s important to celebrate the work we do in giving back to the communities we serve. Mel Foster Co. has a long tradition of supporting causes and we are so proud of the staff and agents for volunteering and donating to the causes they are passionate about. A few examples of our agents and staff making a difference include: participating in local food, book and blood drives, donating and collecting school supplies, toys and shoes for area children, and purchasing Christmas gifts for families and seniors in need. Agents and staff stepped up during the floods, made Valentine cards and blankets for local nursing home residents, and donated financially to over 25 local organizations and charities. We promoted a successful social media campaign ‘Think. Buy. Be. Local.’ to encourage people to visit local businesses. This is our community and we are proud of the role we play.”