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The Merage family a philanthropic pillar of Orange County, with a long history of diverse humanitarian, academic and cultural giving that has left an indelible mark on the community. Cameron Merage has remained true to his philanthropic roots, founding and personally overseeing “First in Our Hearts,” a charitable foundation that, he explained, “exists to build on and focus First Team’s long tradition of working to make life better in the communities we serve.”

First In Our Hearts

When caring hearts team, miracles are born.

Because our work brings us close to homes, families, and neighborhoods, we at First Team share a deeply-held tradition of giving back to the community. Now, through the creation of the First in Our Hearts Foundation, our impact is greater than ever.

Habitat for Humanity’s Struggling Families Receive a $50,000 Donation from Cameron Merage, First Team® Real Estate Founder

On May 11th Cameron Merage, First Team Real Estate President and CEO, once again will show his sincere desire to give back to the community by personally donating $50,000 to Habitat for Humanity’s Fullerton project, an ecumenically based Christian organization. This project will allow families to realize the dream of home ownership and to experience hope and the goodwill of others despite difficult economic times.
Giving back to the community is nothing new for Merage; it is a tradition he has been carrying out since First Team began in 1976. Merage states that, “given the support we’ve earned in serving our clients, it’s natural for us to seek ways in which we can help others in the communities where we live and work.”
The fact that Cameron Merage is passionate about the work Habitat for Humanity does and the needs they fill are evident from his continued support of the Christian based organization. In 2007, Merage presented a $55,000 check to the organization’s Anaheim, CA Project from money raised through the “personal generosity” of employees and agents of First Team Real Estate.
The example set by the founder of First Team is not lost on the members of his company. In addition to the generous financial donations, First Team Real Estate has had over three dozen employees and agents donate their time and labor, over the past years, towards the assistance of building Habitat for Humanity homes. Despite many of these volunteers having had little or no experience with construction, they were happily willing and able to be instructed and to do whatever work was needed. These tasks included everything from digging ditches to building fences.
Habitat for Humanity, Orange County CA, has built 124 homes in Orange County since it began in 1988, providing 550 men, women and children the chance to improve their lives through ownership of clean, safe, and affordable housing. Gladys Hernandez, Habitat for Humanity of Orange County’s Manager of Public Relations, states that the organization’s success would not be possible “if not for the financial and volunteer support of people in the community.” Hernandez is also quick to point out that the program is set up as a “hand up, not a hand out,” stating that the families who will take ownership of the homes provided are carefully screened, must make a one percent down payment, pay for closing costs, and assume long-term mortgages. These mortgages are recycled back into the Fund for Humanity and used to build additional homes.
Mr. Merage’s gift is in keeping with a Merage family tradition. The Merages are a philanthropic pillar of Orange County, CA & Southern California, with a long history of diverse humanitarian, academic and cultural giving. True to his family tradition of ‘giving back’ to religious charities, including Habitat for Humanity an ecumenical Christian organization as well as Jewish charities, Mr. Merage is also the founder and leader of “First in Our Hearts,” a charitable foundation that reflects First Team’s long tradition of working to make life better in the communities the company serves.
First Team Real Estate founder, President and CEO, Cameron Merage, is proud and honored to present Habitat for Humanity of Orange County with a check for fifty thousand dollars to aid them in their continued work of providing affordable housing to those who are in need.

First Team® Real Estate Jumps in National Sales Volume Rank from 16th to 13th in REAL Trends Top 500

Calm, steady focus on strategies to give their customers an edge in a constantly shifting real estate market has resulted in First Team® Real Estate leaping several notches closer to being among the top ten largest real estate brokers in the United States.

Despite a turbulent economy that has been especially hard on Southern California’s real estate market, Costa Mesa-based First Team Real Estate has gone from 16th place in 2007 to 13th place in 2008 based on REAL Trends’ list of the nation’s top 500 most successful real estate companies as ranked by sales volume. RISMedia’s 2009 Power Broker Survey ranked First Team as the leading independent real estate company in Southern California. Real Data Strategies, Inc., recently reported that First Team sold more homes in Orange County than any other brokerage in the decade 1998 to 2008, and Trendgraphix Inc. reports showed early this year that in 2008, the company sold more homes over $1 million than any other Southern California brokerage, solidifying First Team’s Estates brand as the luxury leader in the region.

Founder Cameron Merage, who started the company in 1976 out of a small office in Huntington Beach, said a counter-cyclical approach combined with innovative proprietary tools to increase growth and service, plus agility within the organization that allows for fast response to local markets, helped his company achieve the impressive advance in the national rankings.

“Our fundamental approach is to capitalize on cyclical changes. While others are still being immobilized by new challenges, we’re already implementing solutions.”

First Team Real Estate and its family of companies now have 56 offices in the Southern California region, an internationally renowned luxury properties arm, First Team Estates®, and an in-house commercial real estate side with agents who are veterans in the complex arena of non-residential properties. In addition, First Team boasts an escrow division under Coast Cities Escrow and Hallmark Escrow as well as Western Resources Title and mortgage unit, Banker’s Funding. As a result, agents are able to provide a much wider and full range of services to customers than the industry norm.
According to Merage, First Team’s unique in-house structuring attracts and retains the industry’s most talented agents by giving them a huge Internet marketing presence that is partnered with, Yahoo! Real Estate and dozens more; ongoing training and certification in specialized areas such as luxury and commercial properties; and a degree of autonomy many agents find especially attractive.

First Team has a leading reputation in the industry that reflects Merage’s constant quest to anticipate upcoming market cycles and to design market analysis tools and marketing strategies to help educate the consumer and maximize the success of their home buying and selling experience.

The approach has worked so well that it has dependably confirmed Merage’s assertion that First Team has always grown its market share in down markets. Most recently, the general public as well as real estate professionals throughout the region have seen First Team’s bold and focused adaptation to the current market in its highly publicized “The NEW Rules of Real Estate®.” The first rule, said Merage, is to “realize that the old rules no longer apply. Our ten NEW Rules have lifted the selling and buying process to a higher standard.”

The NEW Rules are clearly stated items dealing with everything from how quickly today’s agent responds to consumer’s property inquiries, to how First Team’s proprietary data tools can be best used to get extremely accurate and detailed pricing information and forecasting neighborhood by neighborhood.

“Many people think prices are declining further on a nationwide basis, so why go out and buy? With First Team’s proven tools and strategies, that concern becomes immaterial,” Merage said. “Real estate is a very local business. Prices appreciate or decline in variable that change from community to community.”

“I am pleased and proud to see the company advance in the REAL Trends ranking, but I am not surprised by it,” he added. “Our company has cultivated what I’ve come to call a ‘culture of invincibility,’ and it is contagious. Our agents spread that confidence of being invincible, and it is noticed not just by us, but by everyone who deals with our company. I believe it’s why our market share and our pool of talented agents continue to grow even in down markets.”
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