John Beutler In real estate, it's referrals, referrals, referrals
By Cybele Weisser

(MONEY Magazine) – Century 21 Real Estate has more than 100,000 agents around the world, selling properties from Los Angeles to Paris. Yet their highest-commission earner last year, 50-year-old John Beutler, works in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho (pop. 36,000), where the average home sells for just $132,000 and a sale over $1 million is rare. His secret? "Volume," he says. No kidding. Last year, Beutler closed 281 sales, an average of 5.4 a week; in the meantime, Century 21's second-highest earner in the U.S. sold just 48 homes. When Beutler was a novice in the 1980s, interest rates were in the double digits and real estate companies were downsizing. "They gave you a phone and a desk and said 'good luck,'" he says. After months of cold-calling and knocking on doors, Beutler made his first sale, a $29,000 house that had to be shown 20 times. He could be more finicky these days, but he knows his success rides on maintaining a vast referral network--and a spotless reputation. Once, when a buyer was unhappy with the inspection results on his new house, Beutler spent his own money to buy back the property. And he tries to make sure that all of his clients get topnotch service. "I treat everyone the same," he says, "regardless of whether their home sells for $40,000 or $1.4 million." --C.W.