After nearly 64 years in the real estate market, Traders Realty is one of the largest real estate companies in central Illinois. Founded by Dewey Wilkins in 1938, with only two realtors and staff, they now have more than 70 agents and brokers, and develop land for both residential subdivisions and commercial centers.

Today, under the direction of its president, Bob Wilkins, the company continues to be one of the largest independent brokers in the tri-County area, with an annual sales volume of more than $100 million.

In keeping with the active growth and expansion on the northern edge of Peoria, Traders developed several new residential subdivisions to accommodate the needs of buyers looking for new homes, including: Nettle Creek, Copperfield, East Brentwood, Cedar Hills Estates, Northgate Park, and Sycamore Trail. "Courtside Villas is an upscale condominium project currently under construction and targeting buyers who prefer that type of low maintenance, upscale lifestyle," said Carol Hitchell, Traders’ commercial manager.

Traders Realty also maintains a rental/management division, a separate insurance company, and a relocation department to help families when moving to a new area, and Traders employs a full-time closing manager in both offices to direct and supervise the closing of each residential transaction. "In addition to providing the best and fastest closing possible, it permits our salespeople to do their most important job—marketing the real estate and serving our customers’ individual needs. This includes advising customers on how best to prepare a property for showing and also identifying any defects, which could possibly deter a buyer," Hitchell said. "Traders also insures all showings and negotiations are coordinated through our office or through the individual agent personally.

"Part of our success is attained through educating both buyers and sellers. For many years, purchasing a home was considered a ‘buyer beware’ situation. With major changes in real estate laws over the past several years, both buyers and sellers can choose their own agents and expect to get expert service and specific information to allow them to make the correct choices," she said.

The commercial division allows Traders Realty the ability to expand services to customers on a different level. This division experienced a high degree of success in commercial land sales, leasing, business brokerage, development, and commercial sales over the past several years. "We offer first-time business owners the ability to buy or lease a building, and we aggressively market our listings through InterBusiness Issues, as well as on the Internet," Hitchell said. "Our listings appear in the MLS system, on the Internet at www.tradersrealty.com and www.realtor.com, as well as in our monthly display ads in InterBusiness Issues. With the use of specially designed brochures prepared in-house, we can distribute up-to-date information to any prospect or inquiring agent."

The commercial market in Peoria is somewhat different from residential sales. Commercial properties are marketed through more specialized advertising, in conjunction with the Economic Development Council, and largely through networking with other commercial brokers in the area. "Therefore, our efforts to find buyers, sellers, tenants, landlords, or developers becomes very tailored to each individual situation," she said. "Even the smallest tenant, for a one-year lease, deserves the best our company can offer. In the same sense, out of town retailers require our guidance and expertise in regards to zoning details, city ordinances, procedures, time frames, and construction in order to make these details come together. We can also help develop a tenant’s space for his own particular needs or create a build-to-suit structure with direct input from the tenant."

Willow Station is the newest Traders commercial development, located in the 3400 to 3800 block of Willow Knolls Road. These upscale, 6,000 to 7,000 square foot buildings will continue to be constructed westward along Willow Knolls Road, towards Radnor Road.

The vision of real estate continues to change and Traders Realty is continually changing along with its customers. "As part of the Peoria Area Association of Realtors, our listings are immediately processed through the MLS system.

Traders’ Web site offers prospective buyers the opportunity to tour their residential or commercial property through the use of a 360 degree virtual tour. "This gives national exposure to our listings and helps customers focus on a particular area, type of home, or commercial building that best suits their needs, by taking a 360 degree tour of the property from their own home or office," Hitchell said. "With increasing use of the Internet, we envision offers, loan approvals, and closings will take place on-line over a computer screen, particularly with the recent passage of legislation authorizing electronic signature to be legal and binding."

Hitchell added that much of Traders’ success can be attributed to being an independent real estate firm. "We are all a part of the tri-County area, and it is important to maintain our level of excellence by making in-house decisions and providing the best possible service. Our agents are very active in the community, and we recognize the importance of having qualified, educated, motivated employees who are well trained and interested in the area in which they live and work."

As technology has changed, so has the real estate industry and the laws that govern it. "Buyers are much more sophisticated today and have access to volumes of information before they ever choose an agent to help them in their search for a home, or to market their property," she said. "Traders is constantly updating our agents with the latest computer skills and how they can apply this ever- changing technology in their marketing efforts.

"Though we use every venue and marketing tool we can, there is still no substitute for returning those phone calls and making personal follow-ups to keep the customers current. Now more than ever, ethics is a major part of the real estate industry, and your customer has to be made aware of what their agent can do for them under these laws," she said. "You can represent only a buyer, never have any listings of your own, and just show other listings to your customers. In all cases, the need for disclosure is crucial, and the need to keep adequate and detailed records of your transactions is more important now than ever before."

Traders maintains two separate office locations. The main office is a central city location at 721 W. Lake Street and Sheridan Road.

The Lake of the Woods office on North Knoxville covers the expanding community on the north side of Peoria, as well as the Chillicothe and Dunlap areas. IBI