Ed Smires stands next to one of his favorite paintings, “The Closing” by Jimmy Dyer, in the office of Smires and Associates on September 13, 2010. (Photo by Stacey Pastorella.)

It is fitting that Smires and Associates Real Estate officially opened for business on Jan. 1, 2010. Owner Ed Smires says the agency takes a fresh, new approach to real estate.

“We have agents from other offices, established agents from other offices coming on board because they realize that we’re something new. It’s just a new book. It’s just a new idea to go into the next era,” Smires said.

The agency itself was established in a similar way. Smires, who has been a real estate agent for 16 years, was working at a larger franchise, when he and some coworkers, a group of about 10 agents, decided to start their own company.

“Even though my name’s on this, we did this as a group,” Smires said. “This isn’t like a single person’s idea and efforts here.”

The team mentality is evident in the office, where work stations are arranged in the same room, without doors separating the employees.

“It’s a refreshing feeling to go in and have your broker-owner and staff readily available to help you, and the agents are a family. So, we all work together and it’s a team effort,” said Theresa Kolb, a sales associate at the agency.

Bernice Bigley, also a sales associate, said the collaborative approach benefits the agents as well as their clients.

“Here, we discuss it. We sit and we come up with the best ways,” Bigley said.

Smires and Associates uses a combination of traditional and innovative methods to serve its clients. Smires said that one of the benefits of not running a franchise, is that the agency is able to focus its financial resources on promoting properties for their clients.

They list homes online, in newspaper advertisements, and in the company’s magazine. The magazine is distributed for local businesses to provide as a free resource for their customers. It is also mailed to residents who are actively involved in the real estate market.

Smires said he believes in spending resources on serving the clients, rather than self promotion.

“The key is that we spend the money promoting the client’s property, not promoting ourselves,” Smires said. “We promote ourselves by getting those ‘for sale’ signs out there.”

Smires said that the agency has had a fast start in what many people considered a less than ideal market. Although it has been open for only nine months, it has already surpassed a lot of its competitors, and the company has received many referrals from satisfied customers, Smires said.

Smires, who also lists and sells homes, is optimistic about the future of the market. He said that current prices and interest rates provide a good buying opportunity, and that the agency has had great turnouts at recent open house events.

“The market has become very positive,” he said. “The fall market looks very encouraging.”

Smires said that the agency prides itself on the personal service it provides to clients, The agency’s team of sales associates handles every aspect of each transaction from start to close, Smires said.

“We’re big on being accessible to our clients,” Smires said. “We’re available 24 hours a day. We all work off our cell phones. Even our phone systems are designed so that when someone calls in, looking for us, it advances to our cell phone.”

The agency focuses on central New Jersey, but does business in several counties, including Mercer, Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex. The company currently employs about 33 licensed agents, and it continues to grow. Although the agency already offers commercial real estate services, Smires said he hopes to establish a commercial division within the organization. Another goal is to build the company and open offices in other counties, Smires said.

Smires said the sales associates are continuously learning about the best ways to serve their clients. There are training programs and mentorships for new agents, as well as advanced training opportunities for those with more experience.

Smires and his agents live in the area and are familiar with the local communities. That is a valuable resource for clients, including those who are moving into new areas, he said.

“Some of us have children in the school systems, some of us grew up in the area, so we know the areas, and we believe in the areas. It’s very easy to sell something that you believe in,” Smires said. For more information on Smires and Associates, call (609) 259-1414 or visit its Web site at smiresandassociates.com.