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Bicycle-riding real estate firm looks to start franchise in Madison

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Bike-friendly Madison could soon be home to a new kind of real estate company, one that operates — at least when the weather is good — on two wheels and a kickstand.

Based in Boulder, Colo., but now developing a nationwide chain of franchises, Pedal to Properties shows homes for sale by taking clients on bicycle tours of neighborhoods.

Though only an option, company President Tim Majors said the tours are a more calming and personal way to choose a home and get to know an area, with a level of detail supplied that car rides can’t match.

“It’s a great way to engage with your Realtor and your spouse and take a relaxed ride,” Majors said, “looking at the proximity of the schools and parks and churches to the house.”

What’s more, he said, it’s a new concept that real estate agents can use to help them stand out in a housing market that continues to be difficult for many.

“There’s too many Realtors and not enough homes that are selling,” he said. “Realtors need to reinvent themselves. They have to think outside the square about how they can market themselves as a brand.”

Using words to describe his company that some might also employ to sum up Madison, he added, “we are a little bit left of center, a little bit abnormal.”

Amanda White, director of the Madison office of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, welcomed the possibility of a new business in the city tied to biking. She also vouched for the bike tour approach to home shopping, noting she and her husband have been doing just that as they look for a new house now.

“It’s just a little bit slower, so you have an opportunity to see more of your surroundings,” she said. “You can interact more with people who are out and about walking and biking. It certainly gives you a different perspective, and it’s a great way to experience a neighborhood.”

Majors, 40, is an Australian entrepreneur who bought half the company from founder Matt Kolb after Majors moved with his wife and three children to Boulder last July.

Trained as a lawyer, Majors started and sold a national school supply business with some $60 million in annual revenues in Australia. He met Kolb, a real estate agent, when Majors used a bike tour offered by the company to find his house in Boulder.

After six months of growing the Boulder office and preparing the company to go national, Majors in January began marketing franchises for a $25,000 fee for a 10-year-agreement and 5 percent of sales royalties. He has two signed contracts so far, he said, in Northampton, Mass., and Sonoma, Calif., with 11 agreements being reviewed for franchises in Florida, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

Majors said those contracts should be signed within 60 days, while negotiations on an agreement continue in Madison. Majors wouldn’t reveal who he was working with in Madison, but said he thought the deal would be finished within four months, with a likely opening next spring.

A franchise creates a new real estate office typically with five to 10 agents. The franchise gets to use the Pedal to Properties name and support services including marketing and training. Those considering franchise agreements tend to be agents leaving established companies to start their own businesses.

“But it’s getting tougher and tougher to do that,” Majors said. “You need a point of difference (with the competition), and the technology, social media and market exposure are really important.”

Majors said he was targeting his concept to cities he described as health-conscious, green-minded and collegiate, with some tourist activity and an affection for bicycling.

“Our concept is made for a town like Madison,” Majors said. “It’s world-renowned as a bicycling hub. It’s a college town, it’s intellectual. It’s in my Top 10 places of where I think the business will work.”

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What: Full-service real estate company that offers the option of bicycle tours through neighborhoods to view homes for sale

For more local and regional real estate-related notes and happenings, check out Karen Rivedal’s Property Trax blog.

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