Chad Sellers’ father Richard Sellers founded Equity Fifty-Five 21 years ago with a vision to blend technology and people without compromising customer service. As the second-generation owner, Chad Sellers is working to continue his father’s vision and last year expanded his company’s reach into St. Clair County. Business writer Will Buss recently visited the company’s office in O’Fallon to meet Sellers and learn more about his service:
Where does the company name come from?
“I’ve been asking a million times. Fifty-five was the one-time capital gains exclusion. So at age 55, our parents or grandparents could retire and they could tap into that equity, because the home equity loan did not exist and the reverse mortgage did not exist back then. So these older folks, the generation of my dad’s parents, they were house rich and cash poor. So they owned a house and there was no way to tap into that equity. But at age 55, you could sell your house and tax-free pull out all of the money on your house that you wanted and there was no tax consequence. So Equity Fifty-Five was born not to be a real estate company. My dad testified in front of Congress, and he was part of the founding members for the National Center on Home Equity Conversion, which became reverse mortgages. So his vision, and it could have went either way, it was getting done through a sale and a lease back where the elderly person could stay in their own home. But Congress ended up taking it to the banking industry. It was 1970, and he was researching that. He was on the front end. My biggest challenge came when I came out of college in 1996. I was thinking, ‘How am I going to market this name?’ But we had gotten so entrenched in our other markets that it has become a household word. But that’s where the name comes from. It had a meaning, and it had an origin and we’ve never lost sight of it. The equity is still the build-up in your home, and we help people find solutions to their real estate challenges.”
What is your background?
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“I’m a second generation. My dad never sold a piece of real estate. My dad actually got a real estate license to do home equity conversion. When I graduated from the U of I, my passion was to list and sell houses and help people find their dream homes. It grew from a single-agent office to 10, and then we partnered up with agents from all different companies. We have our own culture that is really about going the extra mile. It was all about trying to treat the customer the way we want to be treated and then going out there, if you did a good job, the money would come. It was never about making money, first. We’ve taken agents that were never real estate people, and we’ve instilled that culture in them, trained them from the ground up. We care on a real human level and we’re pretty good at what we do. We outperform the market at our other two stores, and we want to help people here in St. Clair County.”
Where else are you located?
“Breese is our main office, and Highland is a branch office. Ed Kleber is my partner; he runs the branch office in Highland. He’s just a great partner.”
What real estate services do you provide?
“Our main business is listing and selling homes, much like the mainstream real estate companies. We’re our own brand. We’re not a franchise. We are one of the only independents in the metro-east that has multiple offices that aren’t a big franchise. We are also in the title business, so we are part of the community title network, so we’ve got in-house title services.”
What else does your business do for the communities you serve?
“We try to be involved in the community at a grassroots level. From the schools to fundraisers and whatever we can do to get involved, our saying is ‘give where you live.’ That’s been our secret to success and service.”
How is the business going right now?
“As far as real estate in general, real estate is back vogue. You could have put a ‘free’ sign on one of our houses six or seven years ago, and I don’t think that anybody would have even cared. Real estate is back. We helped lead the way back to the financial recovery. The National Association of Realtors quoted a number, I don’t the exact number, but it’s astronomical. It’s above $40,000. Every time a property is sold in a community, in injects in the neighborhood $40,000 of capital back into the community, from the carpet layers to the insurance companies to the Home Depots of the world. What I see is more economic growth, and I think it’s the backbone of the economy, in general. And we don’t take credit for that, I’m just saying that we recognize our place in that.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 618-239-2526.
Job: Owner, Equity Fifty-Five Realty LLC at 397 North St. in Breese, 1B Woodcrest Drive in Highland and 715 Lakepointe Centre Drive in O’Fallon
Outlook: “We have our own culture that is really about going the extra mile. It was all about trying to treat the customer the way we want to be treated and then going out there, if you did a good job, the money would come. It was never about making money, first.”