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NextHome announces new Chicago-area brokerage

NextHome announces new Chicago-area brokerage

Zach Criswell

Pleasanton, CA — April 30, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Oak Street Realty, based in Libertyville, Illinois. The brokerage represents the fifth office location opened in Illinois for the NextHome franchise and the 465th NextHome office opened nationally.

The brokerage will serve clients across Chicago, including the city’s northern and western suburbs. In addition, NextHome Oak Street Realty will be licensed to serve clients in nearby Wisconsin. Libertyville is a charming town located about 40 minutes north of Chicago. The town of just over 20,000 people is just five miles west of Lake Michigan, and about a 45-minute drive south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Owned by second-generation Libertyville local Zach Criswell, NextHome Oak Street Realty provides a wealth of in-depth area knowledge. 

Zach began his real estate career in December 2012 under the tutelage of MJ Seiler at a local Century 21 brokerage. Zach learned everything he could from MJ, an industry veteran with more than four decades of experience running a Chicago-area real estate brokerage. 

“MJ took me under his wing and showed me everything,” Zach recalled. “I followed the No.1 agent in the office for a few months, and after that my career took off, I never looked back.”

Zach remained with the office after it was acquired by Baird & Warner in 2017 and was the recipient of many awards and recognitions. Zach consistently earned a President’s Club award, and also went above and beyond in the company’s corporate relocation department. Throughout the years, Zach consistently handled corporate transferees for some of the biggest names in pharmaceutical healthcare and food production. 

From the beginning of his real estate career, Zach has been motivated by his dedication to Libertyville’s small-town charm and the desire to mentor others the way that MJ mentored him. Those guiding principles led Zach to consider opening his own brokerage. 

“For my clients relocating from various parts of the country, I always seem to draw a comparison of Libertyville with Bedford Falls from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or Mayberry from ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’” Zach said. “I wanted to cultivate that culture of community in a real estate brokerage, and I knew that in order to do that I would have to partner with a franchise that prioritized camaraderie over agent count. I wanted to recreate the type of brokerage that helped to nurture my career and, in turn, nurture others. The impact that MJ had on me is the legacy I want to leave.”

As he researched all his options, he discovered a partnership with NextHome was the perfect solution. 

“After extensive market research, NextHome is the only franchise out there I feel will really resonate with the smaller, tight-knit group I am establishing,” Zach said. 

Today, Zach is offering buyers, sellers, and brokers things that bigger brokerages do not. 

“There is a level of one-on-one support at NextHome Oak Street Realty that you can’t get anywhere else,” Zach said.

In addition, Zach’s local knowledge is second-to-none. As a second-generation local he knows the area inside-out and will go above and beyond for his clients from beginning to end. 

“For me, it’s not about just selling a house and sticking a sign in the yard,” Zach said. “It’s about having an understanding of all the emotions that clients go through. I’m dedicated to making sure my clients feel as if I’m buying or selling the same house for my family. The level of personal touch I bring to every transaction is my pride and joy. I think about what is best for people and make the right decision for their future.”

Zach attended college and played football in Santa Barbara, California. He finished his undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina. He followed that up with additional studies at Northwestern University. When he isn’t helping clients or building his brokerage, Zach enjoys golfing, traveling, and spending time with his family. He met his wife, Michelle, in high school, and they were married in July 2017. Together they have an 18-month-old girl named Avery, and they are anticipating the arrival of another baby girl in July. 

Please join us in congratulating Zach on the opening of NextHome Oak Street Realty in Libertyville, Illinois!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome Statewide Realty opens in Michigan

NextHome Statewide Realty opens in Michigan

Aaren Currie

Pleasanton, CA — April 29, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Statewide Realty, based in Howell, Michigan. The brokerage represents the 18th office location opened in Michigan for the NextHome franchise and the 464th NextHome office opened nationally.

NextHome Statewide Realty brings an unparalleled level of area experience to clients across Livingston County including Howell, Brighton, Fowlerville, Hartland, and Pinckney. 

The brokerage is led by second-generation REALTOR® Aaren Currie. Aaren is happy to share his 30 years of local industry experience as he guides clients through residential, land, industrial, commercial, multi-family, and condo transactions. 

Aaren is also looking forward to breaking ground on NextHome Statewide Realty’s 6,400 square foot campus, which will be built in the heart of Howell. The planned office complex will house mortgage, title, and insurance offices alongside the real estate professionals at NextHome Statewide Realty. If all goes as planned, Aaren hopes to take occupancy in the winter of 2020. 

Howell is a small town surrounded by Michigan’s largest cities. The town of about 9,400 people is halfway between Detroit and Lansing, and from north to south the city is halfway between Flint and Ann Arbor.

From this central location, NextHome Statewide Realty offers real estate buyers a hassle-free purchase, from pre-approval through closing. Listers can expect NextHome Statewide Realty to put their decades of experience towards achieving a great sale with a quick and easy process. 

Aaren began his real estate career at 18, following in his parent’s footsteps. Dennis and Patricia Currie moved to Howell in 1971 and became professional REALTORS® in the early 1980s.

“Growing up in that environment, talk around the table was always about what property was getting listed or what property was getting sold, what issues came with the transactions, and so on,” Aaren recalled. “As a child, I got a very practical real estate education.”

In 1996, the family started their own brokerage: Statewide Realty. In those early years, Aaren fought for every client and earned broad experience with many different transaction types. 

“My parents weren’t about to just hand me the business,” Aaren recalled. “They would train me and show me the ropes and help on any transaction I could develop, but I still had to develop my own business.”

Aaren remembered working with clients who were emerging from bankruptcies or who might have been overlooked by other REALTORS®

“Through relationship building and hard work, I got those deals done when no one else could,” Aaren said. 

His competitive, won’t-quit spirit also helped Aaren guide Statewide Realty through the 2008 economic crisis. During that time, he became one of the top three REO agents in the county and their brokerage’s volume ballooned. Over the next 20-plus years, Statewide Realty grew to a peak of 20 agents. 

“Many came to Statewide Realty as new agents,” Aaren said. “We helped our people grow from entry-level to being some of the top-producing professionals in the county.”

Eventually, Aaren began to tire of reaching in a hundred different directions for marketing, technology, and support systems. He knew there was a more efficient way to do business that would also level-up his service for Statewide Realty clients. 

“There are a thousand different things in real estate that you have to do to stand out above the competition and it is difficult,” Aaren said. “It was hard to bring that all together and then do what I do best which is real estate. That’s when I started to look into franchising.”

Although he considered other nationally recognized brands, NextHome’s responsiveness caught Aaren’s attention. 

“Literally within 20 minutes of reaching out to inquire about the franchise, I was talking to a live person,” Aaren recalled. “Then, as I began to peel back the layers, I was increasingly impressed. I quickly realized this was an amazing opportunity.”

Aaren liked that all of NextHome’s corporate leadership came from real estate backgrounds. 

“They have been through the school of hard knocks and they know exactly what they are doing,” Aaren said.

Not only was Aaren impressed with the leadership, but NextHome’s suite of technology tools, back-end support, and social marketing also caught his attention. 

“NextHome’s Intranet felt like someone just shipped me a new Ferrari and I get to drive it every day,” Aaren said. “It’s just amazing. The agents who I have already set up with access to it are just as astounded as I am.”

Today, Aaren is combining his decades of local experience with NextHome’s powerful tools and marketing to bring unparalleled service to Livingston County clients. 

“With NextHome being our franchisor, the availability of tools is so far and away better than the competition that clients will be very impressed with us,” Aaren said. “There is no one in real estate that can compare to the marketing programs we have. I would put it against any other brokerage that is currently available.”

When he isn’t helping clients, Aaren loves giving back to his hometown. He has been involved with Habitat for Humanity, the Howell Junior Chamber of Commerce, and currently is a member of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. Aaren and his wife Jennie also are members of Marr Community Bible Church. 

Aaren and Jennie have been married since 1993 and are the proud parents of three children; Jacob (24), Arianna (21), and Caleb (16). 

Please join us in congratulating Aaren and the entire team on the opening of NextHome Statewide Realty in Howell, Michigan!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

Virtual Home Buying

Virtual Home Buying

How in the heck am I supposed to buy a house while I am sheltering in place?? I hardly know what day it is without checking right now. Is it actually possible for me to find a house, evaluate it, write an offer, get it accepted, and close on it? Not to mention moving… is that even legal right now? 

Trust me, we hear you. It is always complicated, stressful, and a little emotional buying a house. Maybe even a little more so in this “new normal” (nothing normal about this) of COVID-19. To start with, the answer to all of the above questions is “it depends.” Super helpful, right? The thing is, every state (heck, every county) is approaching this differently. In some states it’s kind of business as nearly normal – just add in vats of hand sanitizer, masks, and 6-feet-away hellos. Others are in lockdown but real estate is deemed essential so you can still transact. And in a few, it’s been deemed non-essential and it’s literally not even possible to close on a home, not to mention see one. So… it depends. 

If you are in one of the states (counties) with the first two options, there are some real opportunities out there for buyers right now. We’ve had an inventory shortage in this country for a while now and that is only going to continue with builders slowing down building and more and more millennials entering “household formation” years (a fancy way of saying they can now afford to buy a house). For the buyer with a little creativity and willingness to take action – and the right real estate professional – this could be the time. That being said, it is stressful and a person deciding to hold off to let the dust settle could make sense. The rest of this is for the creative and willing buyer. 

Step 1: virtual buyer consultation.  It could be over Facetime, a Zoom meeting, or some other virtual conference room software. We’ve been doing things remote at NextHome since we started our company over five years ago. It’s not quite as good as meeting face-to-face but it’s really close to the same thing. I mean, if virtual happy hours are popping up around the U.S., then we can set up a virtual buyer consultation to have all your questions answered. 

Step 2: virtual property search. Now you’ve already been digging through Zillow like a detective looking for the one clue to make your case. Now you’ve got someone to send them to so you can get more information. And you’ve got a partner in detective work who will be doing some digging with you and sending you properties that fit your criteria. Think of it as your virtual property concierge who is there to assist, and sometimes lead, the property finding process. Thank the technology gods that more and more have been developed to help you know a lot about a house before you see it. I know, I know, you’re already wondering what happens when you find your dream house online for that, it’s step 3.

Step 3: video home tours. We’ve all got a camera in our pocket (along with a calculator, take that my 6th-grade math teacher who said I wouldn’t always have one handy)and it’s as easy as ever to “see” a property at a distance. Your agent can get access to the property, fire up that Facetime, Facebook video chat, Google Duo, etc. and walk you through every inch of your future home. 

 Step 4: electronically sign things. Ok, we like it, no, we love it. Now what? It’s offer writing time. The ability to sign documents at distance has been around for years on the real estate side (come on mortgage side, step your game up, because not everything can be signed digitally there). We have all the real estate contracts, addendums, forms, and such available digitally and can email them to you. Then you would need to lean forward towards the computer screen to read the small print and smush a few mouse clicks –  you’re now in offer, counteroffer, negations, and starting the closing process. You will probably have to go somewhere to sign loan documents (see above about mortgage) but in most areas, they have changed their process to allow for safe signing. Some even have a mobile notary and closing specialist who can come to you to sign everything. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (it’s actually hard hard lemon hard but our trained real estate professionals are there to help you every step of the way).

Step 5: inspections. Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make. There are lots and lots of inspections you can have done. And each of them can be completed, then the reports sent to you via email. We can even set up a virtual conference room to review the report with the inspector and the agent so you can get all your questions answered.

Step 6: transfer funds by wire. Yup, that’s right. You can move money around like a high-powered hedge fund manager. You feel pretty dang cool when you tell the closing facilitator, “I’ll have my people wire the money over.” Trust me. You do.

 Step 7: keys, please! As an agent, this was always my favorite part of closing with a buyer.  Giving them their keys. As a real estate agent, there isn’t much more rewarding than seeing the people you’ve helped get the keys to “their home.”  It’s amazing. Now we just do it over a screen instead of in person. There are key delivery services that can have the keys brought right to you. You’ll just have to Facetime when you do it because I know your agent is going to want to see your smiling face when you get them.

 Do I write this with the thoughts that someone will buy a house without ever seeing it. No, of course not. What’s important right now is we all stay safe and we can limit the contact as much as we need to for everyone to feel safe. And we’re fully set up to take care of as much of the process virtually as we can. For some buyers, this is the right time to get bold, take action, and go find their house. And for others, they might want to hold off a few months. For both sets of buyers, we’re here to help you whenever you’re ready. 

NextHome announces newest brokerage in Idaho Panhandle

NextHome announces newest brokerage in Idaho Panhandle

Tom & Lisa Davies

Pleasanton, CA — April 23, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Living The Northwest, based in Sandpoint, Idaho. The brokerage represents the 10th office location opened in Idaho for the NextHome franchise and the 463rd NextHome office opened nationally.

The brokerage will serve a variety of clients with a focus on professional service and cutting-edge technology. NextHome Living The Northwest serves residential, waterfront, off-grid, vacant land, and commercial needs. 

The brokerage is owned by Tom and Lisa Davies, two top-producing agents who, since obtaining their licenses last year, have already propelled their careers to the forefront of Sandpoint real estate. Tom is NextHome Living The Northwest’s designated broker, Lisa is the team lead, Amy Lightbody is the office’s transaction coordinator, and Victoria Edwards is the inside sales agent.

The brokerage will serve clients across Bonner and Boundary counties including Hope, Sandpoint, Sagle, and Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Sandpoint is a stunning mountain town nestled in the Idaho Panhandle. Located less than an hour north of Coeur D’ Alene, it attracts vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts with its world-class biking, boating, and skiing. 

Tom and Lisa moved to the area in 2011 following a 43-year career in dentistry. The Davies owned a thriving practice in the San Diego area where they built a patient panel of more than 60,000 people and employed a staff of 25. 

After raising two children in Southern California, the Davies began looking for their perfect forever home – where they could live the values they hold dear. 

“California began to feel different,” Lisa said. “We raised our kids there and were incredibly successful, but we wanted to find our mountain home.”

After moving to Sandpoint, the Davies bought an Alpaca ranch and successfully sold the animals across the U.S. 

“Although we did very well, I developed an asthmatic condition that eventually prevented me from taking an involved role in ranch life,” Lisa recalled. 

After selling the business in 2017, they partnered with Mark VanDinter at an existing NextHome franchise to open a satellite office in Sandpoint. Tom and Lisa opened that office July 4, 2018 and then purchased the franchise from Mike in December. 

Their first year in real estate was phenomenal. Tom and Lisa’s hard work quickly put them in the top six in their MLS area, which has 740 members. In 2019, they sold an astounding 42 properties in an area known for its rural charm and low housing density. Tom and Lisa also attracted the praise of clients in Zillow customer satisfaction surveys. Those results earned the Davies the Best of Zillow achievement in both 2019 and 2020. The recognition is reassessed quarterly, and Tom and Lisa continue to go above and beyond for their clients. 

“Our overall business philosophy is basically the Golden Rule,” Tom said. “Do to others what you would want done for you. We built our success on being professional, efficient, and always holding our client in the number one position as far as any decisions we make.”

However, one of their proudest achievements has been local recognition in the Bonner County Daily Bee. Their office was voted the top real estate office in Bonner County in 2019, out of more than 20 other established and legacy brokerages.  

Now, as sole owners of NextHome Living The Northwest, Tom and Lisa are continuing to provide Sandpoint residents with a unique level of professionalism, polished marketing, and people-first service. When clients or agents choose NextHome Living The Northwest, they can expect experience and knowledge from top-producers who jump-started a business from scratch and built outstanding success in one year.

The Davies are passionate about serving their local community. Lisa is a dog-lover who volunteers with the Inland Northwest Chapter of Canine Companions for Independence. 

“Canine Companions for Independence combines the two things that I love the most – dogs and extending compassion toward human beings,” Lisa said. “Volunteering with an organization that blended those brings me great joy.”

Lisa also supports the local Community Assistance League. The league operates a local consignment shop, Bizarre Bazaar, where donated items are sold and the proceeds go to Sandpoint community organizations. 

When they aren’t selling real estate, Tom and Lisa enjoy relaxing at their riverfront home, where they fly fish, watch the Bald Eagles soar over the river, spot the occasional moose, and enjoy morning coffee around their fire pit. 

Tom and Lisa are the proud parents of two daughters. Their oldest, Taylor, lives in Sandpoint and works at Bonner General Hospital. Their youngest, McKenna, is a military wife who supports her Army husband as he serves at Fort Hood, Texas. 

Please join us in congratulating Tom and Lisa on their new brokerage, NextHome Living The Northwest in Sandpoint, Idaho!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome announces new Kenosha County brokerage

NextHome announces new Kenosha County brokerage

Dezarrea Kindle & Mini Samuel

Pleasanton, CA — April 22, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Signature Group, based in Bristol, Wisconsin. The brokerage represents the 11th office location opened in Wisconsin for the NextHome franchise and the 462nd NextHome office opened nationally.

NextHome Signature Group will serve residential buyers and sellers across Southeastern Wisconsin and Lake County, Illinois. 

The brokerage is owned by Mini Samuel and Dezarrea Kindle – two of the area’s premier real estate agents. Under their guidance, NextHome Signature Group has become the first minority-owned real estate franchise in Bristol. 

Mini began her real estate career in 2003 after leaving a nine to five job in human services. The majority of her first seven years in the business were spent with Shorewest Realtors before she opened up her own brokerage in 2011. Mini Enterprise LLC became a passion project. For the next nine years, she successfully ran her own business while raising two children as a single mother. 

Then, in 2018, she met fellow REALTOR® Dez at a book club. Mini would soon learn how talented Dez was as a buyer’s agent. 

Dez obtained her real estate license in 2015 after a long career as a math instructor. 

“Real estate was always something I was interested in and the transition to it was just seamless,” Dez said. 

Her first year in the business, Dez surprised even herself with an impressive number of transactions. Her success stood out at the Century 21 brokerage she worked with. Dez was the recipient of the brokerage’s Quality Service Award in 2017, 2018, and 2019. In addition, in 2019 she was recognized with the Quality Leader Award, the Multi-Million Producer Award, the Quality Service Pinnacle Award, and was recognized as the brokerage’s Rising Star Candidate. 

As she was helping negotiate a purchase for one of her many satisfied clients, Dez had the opportunity to work with Mini. 

“She knew her stuff and I was immediately impressed,” Mini said. 

Dez felt the same way.

“I trust her completely,” Dez said. “If she says she is going to do something, she is going to do it – and that is so refreshing. The trust factor is there.”

That deal launched a friendship that eventually led to a conversation about opening their own franchised brokerage. 

“We knew that if we wanted to grow, we needed more robust tools that would be attractive to not only top-producing agents but also to our consumers,” Mini said. 

As Mini searched Google for “up and coming real estate franchises” she discovered NextHome. 

“I watched NextHome’s online videos and their idea of ‘running your own race’ attracted me,” Mini said. “It is important to me that we partnered with a franchise that supported us as we worked to meet the needs of our unique community and business goals. That support was enough to say to me, ‘Mini, this is your next career home.’”

Today, Mini and Dez are focusing on building a brokerage filled with diverse agents who care deeply about customer service. 

“We want to be known as the real estate firm that provides a great customer service journey for our clients by providing the best talent,” Mini said. The two take great pride in education. Mini holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Administration and is a Certified Staging Consultant. Dez has a Bachelor’s degree in Math and a Minor in Biology and also holds an MBA. This means that a NextHome Signature Group agent will be highly educated with designations. Some will be bi-lingual, others might have military backgrounds. We want a very diverse group of agents who can serve a very diverse population.”

With Mini and Dez, these agents have a professional home built on ethical business practices and accountability. 

“Our agents will know that we are an agency that stands for honesty and integrity and we will hold our agents accountable for their success,” Dez said. “Because when they succeed, we succeed too.”

When they aren’t building their brokerage, Dez and Mini are active in their community. Dez teaches a first-time home buying class through Kenosha County’s Housing Resources as well as with Educators Credit Union. This will be her third year offering that class. 

Dez is celebrating eight years of marriage to her husband Robert and she is the proud mother of two children, Deja (21) and Tre (6). 

Mini volunteers as a Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and is a mentor to a 10-year-old. She also volunteers at her church in Antioch, Il, and in addition, she uses her passion for literacy and works with the Kenosha County Literacy Council. Two days a week, Mini teaches literacy classes through the council. When she gets some down time at home, Mini enjoys reading and catching up on her favorite shows. Her daughters, Amanda (25) and Ashlee (22) have grown up to be two very independent and strong women who she is very proud of. 

Please join us in congratulating Mini and Dez on the opening of NextHome Signature Group in Bristol, Wisconsin!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome Named a Top Franchise for Women along with other Highlights

NextHome Named a Top Franchise for Women along with other Highlights

Pleasanton, CA — April 21, 2020 — The NextHome Franchise was recently recognized by the Franchise Business Review in three different categories: Top Low-Cost Franchise, Top Franchise for Second Careers, and Top Franchise for Women (for the second year in a row). 

In February of 2020, the Franchise Business Review also named NextHome as the No. 3 top franchise out of 307 of the country’s top franchise brands. In the real estate category, NextHome ranked No. 1, an astonishing accomplishment for the six-year-old franchise.  

Franchise Business Review, a franchise market research firm that performs independent surveys of franchisee satisfaction, provides the only rankings of franchises based solely on actual franchisee satisfaction and performance. Franchise Business Review publishes its rankings of top franchises in its annual Guide to Today’s Top Franchises, as well as in quarterly reports throughout the year that rank the top franchises in specific sectors.

NextHome was among 307 franchise brands, representing nearly 7,700 female franchise owners, that participated in Franchise Business Review’s research on the Top Franchises for Women. NextHome’s franchisees were surveyed on 33 benchmark questions about their experience and satisfaction regarding critical areas of their franchise systems, including leadership, training & support, financial opportunity, and work/life balance. 

“The franchise industry provides many options to women seeking business ownership on a full- or part-time basis in multiple sectors,” says Michelle Rowan, President, and COO of Franchise Business Review. “The number of franchise opportunities can be overwhelming, so it’s critical to examine feedback from other female franchise owners on how well the franchise meets their expectations in terms of support, work/life balance, financial opportunity, and other key areas of business ownership. The brands on this year’s list are all excellent options for women looking to make the transition to owning and operating their own business.”

“It was always important for me when I was asked to lead the growth of the NextHome brand that we brought on the right people that share our vision, provide value, make a difference, and raise the bar in our industry,” said Charis Moreno, Vice President of Sales at NextHome. “Seeing that we made the list in a category I represent makes what we are doing that much more important and inspiring to me. Helping every class and gender become a business owner in our country is part of the American Dream, and to see we are leading in that dream makes our success that much more meaningful.” 

Since its inception in 2014, NextHome has been committed to providing exceptional service to the people involved in the real estate transaction, aiming to transform what can be a stressful process into a much smoother experience for the clients and the agents. The NextHome difference lies in our “humans over houses” mindset, our modern branding and technology, and our continued support of our members and their success.

For additional information about NextHome, visit:


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome opens brokerage in Prince George’s County, MD

NextHome opens brokerage in Prince George’s County, MD

Donnell Williams

Pleasanton, CA — April 18, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Prime Properties based in Fort Washington, Maryland. The brokerage represents the eighth office location opened in Maryland for the NextHome franchise and the 461st NextHome office opened nationally.

NextHome Prime Properties will serve clients across Prince George’s County, Charles County, Saint Mary’s County, Calvert County, and Montgomery County. The brokerage is also happy to help buyers and sellers in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Located just five miles away from the nation’s capital, the community is named for Fort Washington which, upon its completion in 1809, was the only defensive fort protecting Washington, D.C. Centuries later, the area is known for its sweeping park, offering views of the Potomac River and scenic hiking paths. Many enjoy the area for its picnicking, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

NextHome Prime Properties is owned by Donnell Williams, Jr. who was first introduced to real estate in high school as an intern at a local brokerage. After graduating from The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Donnell obtained his real estate license in 2007. Donnell also holds a Masters of Business Administration from Fitchburg State University. 

For the next two years after obtaining his license, Donnell worked with a local independent brokerage then transitioned to Wisdom Realty LLC. In the following years, Donnell became a top-producing agent and was recognized with several sales awards. His success eventually led Donnell to purchase that brokerage. For three years, he steadily grew the business alongside a partner. Eventually, Donnell sold the brokerage and stepped back into a sales-focused role at that same office he previously owned. 

“It was then that I really started to focus on the investment side of the real estate business,” Donnell said. 

In 2019, Donnell began considering opening his own franchise. He started attending broker’s school and discovered NextHome while working on a class project. 

“NextHome was everything I had dreamed about as an idealistic undergrad,” Donnell said. “NextHome is uniquely aware of what the consumer needs, as well as being aware of where the industry is going and how we will navigate those changes. I became intrigued with the whole company.”

Donnell jumped on the opportunity to introduce the brand in Prince George’s County. 

Today, NextHome Prime Properties is working to carve out strategies for the unique needs of each client.

“We are really focused on the consumer experience through providing valuable knowledge so they can better navigate their transaction,” Donnell said. “Real estate buying and selling isn’t a one size fit all experience, and that’s going to be our approach – discovering what the client wants and then best serving that unique set of needs.”

This year, Donnell will celebrate eight years of marriage to his wife Li Lee. Donnell and Li have two daughters Logan (7) and Dakota (4). Together, the family enjoys cultivating their urban garden and strolling along the walking trails in their neighborhood. 

Please join us in congratulating Donnell on the opening of NextHome Prime Properties in Fort Washington, Maryland!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

How to Buy a House When You Have Student Loans

How to Buy a House When You Have Student Loans

If you went to college in the U.S., chances are you have student loans. One in five American adults, or 44.7 million people, has student loan debt. And while most Americans with student loan debt are young, many are older — the number of people over 60 carrying student loan debt has doubled in the past decade. Some will be paying off student loan debt for their entire lives.

But just because you have student loans doesn’t mean you can never buy a home. Even large student loan debts don’t have to preclude homeownership, as long as you’re comfortable carrying two long-term debts at the same time. You need to plan carefully for a home purchase, but that’s true of every first-time buyer looking for a home, even those without student loan debt.

Prepare for the Costs of Homeownership

When homeowners have buyer’s remorse about a home purchase, it’s usually because they didn’t prepare themselves adequately for the realities of homeownership and its hidden costs. The costs of homeownership don’t end with your down payment and mortgage payment. They also include the cost of homeowners insurance, property taxes and homeowners association (HOA) fees.

If you have a small down payment, you’ll have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is an additional fee tacked on to your monthly mortgage payment. Get pre-approved for a loan so you can get some idea of how much you can afford and what your average closing costs will be. You’ll also have to pay for home maintenance and repairs, which can total thousands of extra dollars in a bad year, or no extra dollars in a very good year.

By preparing yourself to face these costs, you can mitigate their impact on your life. You can choose a home in an area with low property taxes or without an HOA. You can learn about the things that tend to drive up homeowners insurance, like wood-burning furnaces or pools, so you can avoid homes with those features. Educate yourself on current real estate trends in your market and what to look for when buying a house, so you can find a property that needs minimal or no work to make it move-in ready. And you can buy a home warranty to offset the out-of-pocket costs of home maintenance and repairs.

Clean Up Your Credit Score

You’ll be more likely to get a home loan and get a better interest rate if you have a good credit score. You should aim for a score above 680. Credit scores above 740 get the best rates.

To improve your credit score, pay your bills on time. Paying your bills in full and on time is one of the biggest factors of a healthy credit score, because it shows lenders that you can be trusted to make your payments. Keep your credit utilization ratio, or the ratio of credit account balances to total credit usage, below 30 percent. To help with this, keep old credit accounts open — doing so can improve your credit utilization ratio. Plus, the older the age of your open credit accounts, the longer your credit history, and the higher your credit score.

You should also try to use different types of credit. While using credit cards wisely can improve your credit score, showing a mix of installment loans and revolving credit accounts on your history shows your ability to juggle different types of credit.

Bring Down Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Lenders will look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which shows what percentage of your monthly income goes to debt repayment, when deciding whether to give you a mortgage. Ideally, your monthly debt payments should be lower than 36 percent of your total income, and your total housing expenses should be less than 28 percent of your income. However, some lenders and loan programs are more flexible when it comes to DTI.

To improve your DTI, you can consolidate your student loans to get a lower monthly payment. If you have credit card debt, try paying it off or consolidating it with a lower-interest personal loan. If you have federal student loans, try applying for an income-based repayment plan to lower your monthly payments. You can also try improving your DTI by raising your income, either by asking for a raise or taking on a second job or side gig.

Get Down Payment Assistance

The biggest challenge most prospective home buyers face is getting together the down payment. While you can use money gifted from a relative towards your down payment, your lender will require a gift letter to verify that the money is, in fact, a gift rather than a loan, and that the giver is someone you’re closely related to. Lenders will examine your financial history closely and will require an explanation of any large, out-of-payroll amounts counting towards your down payment.

Traditionally, you’d need a down payment of 20 percent, but that’s no longer the case. FHA loans require a down payment of only 3.5 percent, although you’ll have to carry PMI if you have a smaller down payment. If you want to buy in a rural area, you can get a USDA loan with no down payment. Veterans and active military members may also qualify for down payment assistance, and some states offer down payment assistance to low-income residents or single parents. With down payment assistance from a government program, you don’t need a substantial savings account or help from relatives to swing a house down payment.

Student loan debt might seem to preclude homeownership, but the truth is that you don’t have to let it keep you from realizing your dreams. With careful budgeting, almost anyone can afford a home of their own. Once you’ve got the keys in hand, protect your budget with a home warranty from American Home Shield®.

For more helpful tips from our partners at American Home Shield, check out their blog!

NextHome announces new Jacksonville office

NextHome announces new Jacksonville office

Andrew Bell

Pleasanton, CA — April 16, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Assurance Realty, based in Jacksonville, Florida. The brokerage represents the 71st office location opened in Florida for the NextHome franchise and the 459th NextHome office opened nationally.

NextHome Assurance Realty will serve residential, commercial, and multi-family clients across northern Florida including Duvall, Clay, and St. John’s counties. 

NextHome Assurance Realty is owned by Andrew Bell, a Florida native who has been helping area buyers and sellers since 2003. 

“Jacksonville is a wonderfully unique city,” Andrew said. “I am thrilled to be able to serve clients here.”

Andrew began his career in the mortgage business in 2003, and in 2005 he was recruited to open a new title company office in Jacksonville. During that time, Andrew was recognized for his outstanding work by the Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS®. In 2007, he was named Business Partner of the Year and in 2009 he was recognized as Affiliate of the Year. 

After seven years in the mortgage and title industry, Andrew obtained his real estate license and transitioned to real estate sales, working with a regional independent brokerage.

As a dedicated full-time father, Andrew spent his first years in real estate sales balancing his career progress with his kid’s needs. As his children grew, so did Andrew’s business.

In 2014, he began training, then became an assistant manager, and then manager.

When he started in leadership, the brokerage had about 30 agents. In November 2019, it had grown to 45 agents. In addition, the brokerage began a real estate school and Andrew was tasked with building out the material and training.

Although he loved his job, the long hours and demands on his family life began to wear on Andrew. 

“I began to miss the flexibility that came with sales,” Andrew said. “My kids, although they were older, were also home on their own during the summers and that was difficult for me.” 

Andrew began to mull over how he could both build his career and find time for his family. 

Then, a good friend told Andrew she was ready to convert her independent brokerage into a NextHome franchise. 

“I told her that was the dumbest thing you could do,” Andrew recalled with a smile. “It all seemed too good to be true.”

Soon, NextHome Arrowsmith Realty in Apopka, Florida thrived under the direction of Natalie Arrowsmith and Andrew began to think NextHome might be a good option for him too. 

“I reached out to Natalie and asked if she was happy with the decision she made,” Andrew said. “She said yes and that she had just signed her five-year commitment.” 

After talking with other friends who had joined NextHome, Andrew knew he had found the right opportunity. 

“The difference with NextHome is that it gives you the flexibility to operate as an independent, but with the support of a franchise,” Andrew said. “That was huge for me.”

Today, Andrew is using NextHome’s flexibility and support to provide superior client experiences.

“Buying a home is typically the single most expensive transaction that someone will make in their lifetime, and that experience leaves a lasting impression – positive or negative,” Andrew said. “With my background working in the title business, I’m able to provide my clients with a well-rounded experience and give them understanding through every single step.”

Andrew has spent more than a decade serving and leading in various state and local organizations. He has been actively involved with the Women’s Council of REALTORS® Florida since 2006, and in 2019 Andrew became the organization’s first and only male president. In addition, NextHome Assurance Realty is a proud supporter of In The Pink – an association that helps women struggling with cancer. 

Andrew will celebrate 19 years of marriage this April with his wife Kristy. Together, they are the proud parents of two girls and one boy. Their oldest daughter, Anna-Marie Ashley, passed away as a prematurely-born infant; she would be 17 this year. The Bell’s second child, Katlynn, is 14 and their son, Andrew William, is 11. 

“Losing a child, and realizing how precious that time with them is, really changed how I approach life,” Andrew said. “Making money is important, but my true richness comes from my family.” 

Please join us in congratulating Andrew on the opening of NextHome Assurance Realty in Jacksonville, Florida!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome announces new brokerage in Hawaii

NextHome announces new brokerage in Hawaii

Michael Drutar & Lisa Vos Drutar

Pleasanton, CA — April 10, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Paradise Realty, based in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The brokerage represents the fifth office location opened in Hawaii for the NextHome franchise and the 457th NextHome office opened nationally.

The brokerage will serve residential, luxury, and investment clients across west Hawaii. Service areas include North and South Kona as well as North and South Kohala.

NextHome Paradise Realty is owned by the husband and wife team Michael Drutar and Lisa Vos Drutar. Michael is a 16-year veteran of Big Island real estate with a passion for helping the areas real estate professionals achieve their highest potential.

For the past 16 years, Michael has been affiliated with two nationally recognized franchised brands. In those years, he was able to develop a strong grasp on the Hawaii housing market and achieve outstanding sales numbers. In addition, one of Michael’s proudest achievements has been his legislative advocacy on behalf of thousands of REALTORS® and the area’s investors and owners. 

“I’m really proud of being able to give back to the real estate community,” Michael said. “In the last couple of years we’ve seen major legislation with short term vacation rentals and I was able to be a part of educating lawmakers through that process.”

Michael continues to serve with his area associations to help guide public policy. For his efforts and accomplishments in real estate, Michael was named REALTOR® of the Year in 2019 by the West Hawaii Association of REALTORS®

In 2019, his dedication to local REALTORS® led Michael to consider opening his own brokerage. 

“I began to notice subtle shifts in the real estate industry in general,” Michael explained. “I began to notice that many brokerages were passionate about building the number of agents working with them, but in the process, some agents were being left behind. I believe that wherever you focus your business strategy is where you are going to have success.”

Success to Michael looked like shifting the emphasis of his profession back to individualized training, personal coaching, and client-focused business. 

“I saw the opportunity to do something different,” Michael said. 

As he began looking into franchise opportunities, he discovered NextHome in an industry report. Although the company’s branding caught Michael’s eye, he knew that a strong brand will only get you so far. 

“The branding is truly a differentiator and I loved it,” Michael said. “But after that, it was the philosophy of the company that really fell in line with what I believed. It was 100 percent a natural fit. I really appreciated that the leadership team is knowledgeable about what the real estate industry is like today – they are in touch with what’s happening now, and where we are heading.”

In addition, Michael was impressed by how NextHome’s technology tools enhanced his agent’s customer service abilities. 

“I really appreciated that the technology can work with the agent to enhance their relationship with the client rather than putting up potentially difficult technology as a barrier between them,” Michael said. “Partnering with a truly client-centric company aligned with where I wanted to be.”

Today, Michael is providing west Hawaii agents with the career-building support and knowledge they have been craving. 

“The primary focus at NextHome Paradise Realty is not agent count, it is nurturing great agents and great relationships with our clients,” Michael said.

That focus is attractive to clients across the Big Island.

“We are going to get back to putting the client first,” Michael said. “We want to teach people how to provide such superior service that they create relationships for life. The best way to do business is to take care of your clients.”

When he isn’t supporting NextHome Paradise Realty agents, Michael continues to be active with his state and local associations and in his community. He has been the President of his local board and has served as Director and Executive Committee for his state association. Michael has also served as the chair of the West Hawaii Association of REALTORS® Government Affairs Committee and has served on many of the association’s other committees including finance and fundraising. 

Michael is also on the board of directors for Peoples Advocacy for Trails of Hawaii. Currently, the group is advocating for safer routes for kids to bike and walk to school.  

In his spare time, Michael enjoys road biking with The Coffee Talk Riders – a social cycling club he founded alongside his wife that has blossomed into hundreds of members. 

Michael has been married to Lisa since 2013 and together they enjoy networking and getting to know new people. Lisa is originally from Washington state and runs her own bookkeeping company.  

Please join us in congratulating Michael and Lisa on the opening of NextHome Paradise Realty in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.