Realtor seeks to build community
Last updated 10/24/2023 at 10:34am
As a Realtor for Avenir Realty, Stephen Saunders is committed to giving his clients outstanding concierge service in their real estate transactions. He's even more passionate about working with those clients to enhance the well-being of Sisters through an innovative community giveback program.
The program came out of Saunders' brainstorming, "how can we work together to solve our problems (in a way) that doesn't depend on a tax base? I can start it with my business, one client at a time."
In a detailed white paper, Saunders states that, "The priority is to build a 'community chest' to foster connection and champion improvements throughout our community with no intermediary. This system encourages community engagement and cooperation by providing the tools and financial means to collectively address shared issues as our community continues to evolve."
Saunders' white paper explains the funding mechanism: "A portion of net income from each real estate transaction is the initial and ongoing primary source of funding.... As the sales team hits certain production milestones... the rate of community giveback increases."
While the client and the company can direct a portion of the funds to charities of choice, most of the fund is in the hands of the community, Saunders explains.
The client has 20 percent of the donation amount to direct to a charity or cause of their choice. The company has 10 percent. Forty-five percent belongs to the community to be disbursed by vote. The pool of funds is publicly auditable.
Other portions are to be allocated though a network of "local community nodes," or time-released.
"There is an endowment component that's done in Bitcoin," and set up to be "completely owned by the community."
Saunders, whose background is in software engineering, was drawn to Avenir Realty by its relational orientation, and the opportunity to work with Laura Blossey, a highly regarded Realtor in Central Oregon.
"I'm not really sales-oriented," he said. "I really care about the relationships.... Now there's this component of giving. I've had two closings that are part of the program so far."
He sees the program as a benefit to everyone involved - those who are drawn to giving back will be drawn to working with Avenir, and the community will benefit.
"They have a vested interest, but they have no risk of loss," he said. "So, I think it's a good win-win. This has not been done before, which is really, really cool."
Saunders moved to Sisters in 2020 with his wife, Hilary Hedemark Saunders, and their three children. Hilary grew up in Sisters. Saunders worked on the software for Hilary's real estate service company, Side.
"Hilary always wanted to come back home," Saunders said. "I was a stowaway. I kind of came with her. I've only known big cities before this."
Though he grew up in Seattle as "kind of an inner city kid," Saunders has long been drawn to Sisters, which suits his approach to life.
"I love hiking, I love yoga, meditation - that kind of inner journey is really important to me," he said.
The small-town environment is what he wants for his family.
"We know that that's a better quality of life for our kids," he said.
Working remotely wasn't a good fit - he craved connection, which is what steered him toward real estate. And his love of creating effective systems along with a love for his newfound community drives his giveback program.
Saunders invites people interested in learning more - or just talking - to join him at Fika on Wednesdays from 10 to 11 a.m., where he hosts a "coffee hour."
For more information, contact Saunders at 480-452-9272.