Mel Foster Co. Celebrates 2021 Achievements

Mel Foster Co. celebrated 2021 at a virtual annual awards event on January 27, 2022. Lynsey Engels, president of real estate brokerage, Marc Engels, president of Mel Foster Insurance, and Rob Fick, president and CEO, collectively honored 118 award winners for their 2021 achievements and released the company’s year-end results via video presentation.

Mel Foster Insurance, a locally owned and operated independent insurance agency, continued to expand its footprint in the Quad Cities region with strategic investments and expansion in 2021. In April, the insurance division acquired Capstone Insurance Group in the Cedar Rapids area expanding its presence in Eastern Iowa. To accommodate continued growth, Mel Foster Insurance completed a major remodel to its Davenport headquarters which modernized the entire office and added an additional 2,000 square feet.

In a challenging post-derecho insurance market, the insurance division increased both total premiums written, up 7 percent, and policy count, up 3.9 percent.  Mr. Engels said, “It was an extremely busy year with lots of market disruptions, but we are pleased to achieve 97 percent client retention rate agency-wide. Our entire team work diligently to provide a personalized insurance experience and we can’t thank our clients enough for their loyalty and continued business.” 

“We are glad to get the major storms of 2020 that hit our local communities so hard in the rearview.  It was unprecedented claim counts coupled with shortages in labor and materials and I am proud of how the team and our insurance partners rose to the occasion,” Engels stated. “Through our financial investments, growth, and market expansion we have made critical steps to position ourselves for the long term in this region as a trusted independent agency that can deliver a great insurance experience,” continued Mr. Engels. 

Mel Foster Co. is the largest land developer in the region and continues to expand its existing subdivisions. In 2021, Mel Foster Co. sold 38 lots in four subdivisions. The company plans to release 70 new residential lots in 2022. Mel Foster Co. residential agents sold 75 new construction homes or condos last year. The average Mel Foster Co. new construction sales price was $452,734, up from $401,649 last year.

Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate Services led by Thad DenHartog had over $82 million in commercial real estate sales, up 15.89 percent from last year. Two of the company’s commercial brokers ranked in the top 10 of the Quad Cities Commercial MLS. “We saw another year of positive commercial real estate activity in our market,” commented Ms. Engels. “Despite what is being seen in other parts of the U.S., commercial real estate is very strong in the Quad Cities. Due to supply chain disruptions, the demand for land and industrial space was up in 2021. We expect to see this trend continue in 2022 as the market works to overcome labor and materials shortages.”

Residential real estate continued to experience a lack of inventory nationally and locally however Mel Foster Co. residential boasted a five percent increase in sales volume from 2020. The year was marked by unprecedented competition with many homes receiving multiple offers within days of listing at record high prices. The average sales price for the company was up 10.5 percent from 2020 at $194,933, and the number of days on the market was 37 compared to 58 in 2020. On average, Mel Foster Co.’s agents closed 15 transactions (buy or sell) in 2021, which is higher than the national average according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

Ms. Engels stated, “Last year was a unique time in real estate. Buyers experienced skyrocketing home prices, limited inventory, and a fast-paced sales environment. Low mortgage rates worked in buyers’ favor, and our experienced agents were able to successfully close deals despite the high level of competition.”

Across the eight residential office locations within Mel Foster Co., the company had a combined nine agents in the top 10 of their respective MLS. Thirteen agents were named on RealTrends America’s Best Real Estate Professionals list that honors the finest real estate agents from across the country.

As part of its commitment to integrating technology with new services, Mel Foster Co. partnered with MooveGuru to provide buyers and sellers a free, value-added service. MooveGuru is an automated concierge platform that sends move-related, money-saving offers to new homeowners via emails. It helps them connect with utility providers and home services to make moving less stressful.

Melfosterco.com was awarded the Website Quality Certification from Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, one of 107 companies to earn the recognition of excellence for website design, content and functionality.

Fick welcomed 19 new agents/staff and congratulated 12 other agents/staff on their retirements during the virtual awards toast. Nineteen agents were recognized for volunteering on real estate association committees or boards at the local, state or national level. Forty-five agents and staff were thanked for their years of service with the company, totaling 680 years of service. Across all three divisions, the median number of years of service among staff/agents is 15.5 years. This number is nearly double what other companies experience, according to NAR. Fick continued, “We are proud of these milestones and appreciate the loyalty our agents and staff continue to show Mel Foster Co. Many agents have long-standing relationships with their clients, serving them or their families multiple times over the years. These valued relationships and the trusted guidance our agents and staff share with clients are key factors to the success of our 100-year-old company.”

Throughout its 100-year history, Mel Foster Co. has made it a priority to give back to the communities it serves. In honor of 100 years in business, the company donated $100,000 to local charities and organizations. Twenty of those charities/organizations were selected by the company’s agents and staff to receive monetary gifts in 2021 in honor of the centennial celebration.

Mel Foster Co. agents and staff pledged to donate 1,000 hours of volunteer service in 2021 to charities and organizations of their choice to complement the corporate financial gifts to the community. The agents and staff exceeded that goal by over 400 percent, with an average of 17.5 volunteer hours per person. Ms. Engels stated, “It’s heartwarming to see how much our agents and staff care and want to make a difference in the communities and with the organizations that they are passionate about.”

Mel Foster Co. continued its Think.Buy.Be.Local campaign in 2021. In support of this initiative, the company raised money to sponsor over 40,000 meals for local families by participating in the River Bend Foodbank Community Hunger Drive. Mel Foster Co. provided over 300 coats to various non-profit organizations, adopted multiple families in need over the holidays, made and delivered baskets to seniors, partnered with WQAD for a school supply drive, held a blood drive with the ImpactLIfe, and collected toys and money for the annual Toys for Tots drive. Mel Foster Co. agents and staff supported over 100 local businesses during Small Business Week. The company is also the defending champion of the Bix 7 Brady Street Corporate Sponsor Challenge.

Fick closed the awards with a virtual toast thanking the agents and staff for their continued perseverance, loyalty and commitment to clients. “The success we enjoyed together as a company during our 100th year would not have been possible without our clients. We look forward to serving the community during the next 100 years.”  

For a complete list of award winners, visit https://www.melfosterco.com/agent-achievements

About Mel Foster Co.

Founded in 1921, Mel Foster Co. is a recognized leader for real estate and insurance. Mel Foster Co. Real Estate specializes in residential and commercial sales and offers services for a broader spectrum of property transactions including farm and land, land development and management, relocation and new construction. Visit www.melfosterco.com for more information.

Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate Services is a leading commercial brokerage firm specializing in office, industrial, retail, land and consulting services in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. Visit www.melfostercommercial.com for more information.

Mel Foster Insurance, a full-service, independent agency with dedicated professionals focused on serving clients with solutions for business risk management, employee benefits, individual/group retirement planning and personal insurance. It was founded in 1932 and represents over 25 of the region’s most financially stable insurance carriers and offers coverage for personal and business clients. Visit www.melfosterinsurance.com for more information.

MEL FOSTER CO. CELEBRATES 2020 ACHIEVEMENTS

The challenges the pandemic created in 2020 led Mel Foster Co. to develop new ways to advance the use of technology for open houses, marketing and closings. The new technology was well received by buyers and sellers and will likely remain as a standard practice long after the immediate threat from COVID-19 has passed.

Mel Foster Co. President Lynsey Engels said, “The year 2020 made our agents pivot and try new ways to communicate with buyers and sellers, market listings differently and complete closing paperwork virtually. Many of our agents were already using our virtual tools, and COVID-19 made it essential for conducting business. We are so fortunate that we had these tools in place and were ready to modify the way we do business so we could continue serving buyers and sellers.”

Mel Foster Co. typically hosts an event each January to recognize agents and staff and celebrate achievements. This year, the awards were held as a virtual toasting to the year 2020. “While the pandemic prevented the agents, staff and management from getting together in person, the company felt it was important to toast our 2020 successes and kick off our 100-year celebration,” Ms. Engels commented. Each agent and staff member received a customized box with items from local businesses that allowed Mel Foster Co. to support its fellow local businesses.

Lynsey Engels, president of real estate brokerage, Marc Engels, president of Mel Foster Insurance, and Rob Fick, president and CEO, released the company’s year-end results collectively via video presentation. The video also recognized the achievements of 109 agents who received awards for their performance in 2020.

Mel Foster Insurance continues to be a trusted independent insurance agency in the Quad Cities region with exceptional client retention rates and the continued growth of new personal/business client relationships. In 2020, Mel Foster Insurance associates added 725 new clients along with writing 1,600 new lines of coverage.

The insurance division increased both total premiums written, up 2.9 percent, and policy count, up 3.1 percent from 2020.  Mr. Engels said, “We are pleased to have a 97.4% client retention rate agency-wide. We strive to provide a personalized insurance experience and we can’t thank our clients enough for their continued business.”

“Our entire team came together and delivered on our commitment to providing first class service to our personal and business insurance clients. That couldn’t have been more critical than in a year where we were handed a pandemic, major March hailstorm, and the August derecho,” Engels stated. “Our insurance partners and agency personnel all stepped up in a positive way to assist our clients in a year that saw unprecedented claim counts. I am so grateful to our team and the way we handled the challenges of 2020,” continued Mr. Engels.

Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate Services, led by Thad DenHartog, sold nearly $71 million in commercial real estate properties earning 33% of the market share in 2020. The division employs eight commercial brokers and two staff members. Three of the company’s commercial brokers ranked in the top 10 of the Quad Cities Commercial MLS.  “We saw positive commercial real estate market activity this year,” commented Ms. Engels. “In a year when our clients faced many challenges, our commercial brokers helped them navigate their unique short-term and long-term needs so they could continue to be successful.”

Across the eight residential locations within Mel Foster Co. that serve Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, the company had a combined 13 agents in the top 10 of their respective MLS. The average sales price for the company was $176,429 and the number of days on the market for 2020 was 58.  Like many markets across the country, our region saw record-low inventories as sellers waited longer to list their homes. On average, Mel Foster Co.’s agents closed 15 transactions in 2020, higher than the national median of 12, according to statistics from the National Association of REALTORS®

In 2020, Mel Foster Co. sold 47 lots in five subdivisions. Mel Foster Co. is the largest land developer in the region and continues to expand its existing subdivisions. The company plans to release 65 new residential lots in 2021. Mel Foster Co. residential agents sold 101 new construction homes or condos in 2020. The average Mel Foster Co. new construction sales price was $401,649, up from $377,731 last year.

During the virtual awards toast, Fick welcomed 11 new agents/staff and congratulated 13 on their retirements. Twenty-six agents were recognized for volunteering on real estate association committees or boards at the local, state, or national level. Forty-nine agents and staff were thanked for their years of service with the company. Across all three divisions, the median number of years of service among staff/agents is 15.5 years. This number is three times the national average as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in September 2020.

Mel Foster Co. trademarked their think.buy.be.local logo and slogan in 2020.  Even in a year with a pandemic, agents and staff participated in many projects to give back to the community.  They kicked off 2020 with the River Bend Foodbank – Community Hunger Drive, provided over 300 coats to various non-profit organizations, adopted multiple families over the holidays, made and delivered baskets to seniors, created Valentine’s Day cards for seniors, partnered with WQAD for a school supply drive, held a blood drive with the Mississippi Valley Blood Center, and collected toys and money for Toys for Tots drive. They also supported local businesses by purchasing over 150 gift cards for client appreciation events. During Small Business week, gift cards were purchased for agent and staff raffles to encourage supporting local businesses and encouraging the community to do the same.  All posts were shared and tagged on their Facebook page to raise awareness for supporting local businesses.  

Fick closed the awards virtual toast by offering a hopeful look ahead at the year 2021. “This is our 100th year, and we want to thank the community for its support all of these years.  We look forward to many exciting events and initiatives that we will be rolling out in the coming months.”   

Five Tips For First Time Buyers

Say goodbye to throwing away rent money every month and hello to owning your own home. It’s an exciting time in your life and following a few simple tips can make it a rewarding experience.

1. Know what you can afford.

Gather one year’s worth of your household expenses. Include credit card payments, loans, auto insurance, groceries, utilities and entertainment expenses for each month. All money that goes out each month needs to be tracked, even that $4 coffee once a week. Figure your monthly take home pay, minus the list of expenses, and that gives you a ballpark figure of what you can afford to spend. But remember, this includes your monthly mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance. Be sure to leave a cushion for emergencies.

2. Get pre-approved.

This step includes having lenders scrutinize your credit history and score, so make sure your credit history is accurate before this step. Read our blog, How To Prepare For Pre-qualification, for help in getting ready for this step. (include hyperlink to Dec 11 blog article, http://www.melfosterco.com/blog-detail.html?id=8)

3. Make a want vs. need list.

Set realistic priorities and make clear distinction between what you really need versus what you want. Your need list includes things you cannot live without and will be different for each person. Commute time and number of bedrooms usually fall into the need category. Stainless appliances could be added in the future, so they fall into the want category.

4. Scope out the hood.

Gather information about taxes, schools and crime rates from the neighborhoods you are considering. Take a drive through the neighborhood at night and ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable walking alone at night in this neighborhood?” If you see neighbors outside during one of your drive bys, stop and ask about the area. Find out if there is a dog that barks all day, a loud motorcycle that starts at 5 am or neighbors who like to have loud parties well into the night.

5. Find a trustworthy home inspector.

It’s wise to always have a home inspection before you buy. There could be dangers hidden behind walls, even in new construction. It’s always better to know about potentially costly repairs before you buy a property. You can also use that the home inspector finds as leverage when submitting an offer. Sellers are often willing to fix issues before you move in as part of the sales agreement.

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