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Accidental Realtor Thrives on Change

Al Filippone's real estate career began almost by accident. "I wanted to be a writer," he said, "but I got waylaid." He became a school counselor and then Dean of Academics at Laurelton Hall, a girls' school in Milford. He got his real estate license on a whim and decided to give the business a try while he looked for another job. A couple of quick sales got him hooked. Twenty-three years later, he's running his own company, AFA Homes, with offices in Fairfield and Darien.

Al's secret weapon is what he calls the Stage-2 Sell . "Staging" means prepping a home for eye appeal -- clearing up clutter, re-arranging furniture or bringing in some accessories. "Research shows that staged homes sell for 3 percent more and are on the market 40 days less than unstaged homes," he says. All AFA listings are given a thorough going-over by Al's in-house professionals before they go on the market.

Two new services – Stage-2 Outdoors and Stage-2 Live have just been introduced. The Outdoors service ensures that new listings have curb appeal by fixing up the yard. Stage-2 Live grew from the success of Stage-2 Sell. Homeowners were so thrilled by the way their houses looked after the stagers were finished that they asked if the stagers would come and fix up their new houses.

AFA agents have lots of running room. They're each expected to close $5 million in sales each year. To help them do that, Al staffs his offices with enough support personnel to handle the mountains of paperwork the business requires. He also backs his agents with a full-time social media person, who keeps the AFA Web site buzzing.

Al isn't afraid to try new approaches in order to make his business more successful. In the mid '90s, for example, he decided to focus on listing properties, so he hired only listing agents. A couple of years later he heard about a trend in other states – listing agents were joining up with buyer agents to create super-efficient teams. So he started hiring buyer-broker specialists and formed his own full-service team. It operated as Premier Homes LLC, under the William Raveis umbrella.

In 2002, he headed Raveis' Exceptional Properties Division in Greenwich. But he preferred to run a business of his own, and Al Filippone Associates was born. What are Al's latest plans? "To move into Greenwich," he says. Back to his old stomping grounds, under a name that's all his.

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