Its signs, and tiny cars, may have seemed ubiquitous. And the basic idea — transacting home sales at commission rates lower than those typically offered by real estate brokers — seemed like a winner.

But local upstart Foxtons is sputtering to a close, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The West Long Branch firm announced last night that it was done in by the sharp slowdown in the residential market and will lay off 350 of it’s 380 employees, the Press reports.

A bankruptcy filing remains a possibility, a company official told the newspaper.

From the story:

“The plain fact is that we have been battling against a real estate market that recently has turned into a sharp decline, and the company no longer has the liquidity to operate as a going concern,” said John D. Blomquist, Foxtons’ senior vice president and general counsel.

The decision marks the latest casualty in the softening real estate industry, and it brings a stunning end to a company that was a lightning rod among real estate agencies.

It was founded in 1999 as by Glenn Cohen, a Shore area entrepreneur who was put off by having to pay a 6 percent commission to a real estate agency when he sold his home.

His idea: He would pay his employees a salary as opposed to a traditional agency, which pays agents a commission from the sale. In turn, consumers would pay a 2 percent commission. And the company would win business through an intense marketing campaign that included agents driving around in purple and yellow Chrysler PT Cruisers.

Or Minis, as seen on South Street, above.

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