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Real estate brokerage boutique The agency aims for international growth

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Vice President Billy Rose, General Manager Mauricio Umansky and President Rainy Hake Austin.

What started out as a small Beverly Hills-based residential real estate brokerage has grown to over 800 agents and 50 markets with plans to grow further.

In the 10 years since the luxury brokerage firm was founded by real estate veterans Mauricio Umansky and Billy Rose, the company has followed a rapid growth path, but Rose and Umansky have said it has stayed true to its roots as a culture-driven boutique brokerage and giving its agents and clients a different experience from other brokerages.


“I felt the industry was very archaic and old in the way it worked and I didn’t feel there was any innovation in the industry,” Umansky said of why he created the company. He added that he felt he could teach others what he had learned during his years as an agent.


Rose had started a networking group before starting The Agency after working as an entertainment lawyer and talent agent before going into real estate. He said he had moved “from one business to another” and “observed that the brokerage itself no longer made sense.”


“The brokerages had become WeWorks,” he said, adding that often agents from the same brokerage were competing against each other.
When Umansky, who was part of the networking group, came up with the idea for the agency to make sense of the global brokerage firm, Rose said, “Let’s do it.”


A big change for the company happened last year when Rainy Austin was hired as president.


“When we started I wore so many different hats – general counsel, archives broker, COO, recruiter – we were and I was lucky to have been able to grow and grow big enough to be. able to hire people to wear all of these different hats, ”Rose said.


He added that neither he nor Umansky had run a large-scale business before, which Austin was capable of doing.
Austin has been involved in real estate for over 25 years, most recently working at Compass as the West Operations Manager.


Austin said she missed working in a boutique business and wanted to have a bigger impact on overall strategy, which is why she joined the agency. Under his leadership, the company continued to grow and open more franchise stores.


Sell ​​by showcasing

From the start, Umansky said, the agency has separated itself through its use of technology and a collaborative culture.

The agency’s software, he said, allows agents to be more efficient, for example by using artificial intelligence to help people make smarter choices, according to Austin.
The brokerage also stressed the importance of showcasing an ambitious lifestyle that buyers would have in the homes they showed.


Instead of a simple direct mail, it meant having open houses that looked like lavish parties and finding creative ways to show off the house.
“We started selling real estate through storytelling,” Umansky said. “We created a dynamic change in the way we built the business and the way we marketed and advertised real estate. “


The company also emphasizes culture and collaboration.
“You can help someone who is less experienced or who is moving into a new market or who needs a boost by improving their credit through what we do as a collective agency,” said Pink. “In the other brokerages, they would kill you if you mentioned one of their sales.”
High-ranking agents like Umansky often co-list with newer agents and share their big sales as an accomplishment of the brokerage and not just the individual, Austin said. Umansky added that he believes the agency is winning ads because its agents team up rather than fighting over the ads.


“When you’re able to all work together… you’re obviously going to do a lot better than if you do it all on your own,” Rose said. “We have been able to really uplift the young agents by providing them with a lot of resources. “


Umansky said he places a lot of emphasis on market share rather than agent count as a measure of success and only strives to add people to the company who are a good match rather than to fulfill a quota on the number of agents to be hired.
Austin said the agency now has “a waiting list of people who contact us and like the brand.”


“Finding the right person takes time and making sure the right person is the one we bring in the first time,” she added.
And although in recent years a number of agents have moved from one brokerage house to another, the Agency strives to retain talent by “recruiting our existing agents” and not by focusing solely on growth, according to Austin. This includes viewing the brokerage value.


A big name to join the Agency from the start, in 2014, was Santiago Arana. He led the company’s expansion in the Westside, running the Brentwood and Pacific Palisades offices and opening others in the Westside.
“For me it was important to be part of building something great,” Arana said of why he joined, adding that he believed the traditional brokerage model “was broken”.


Arana said that by joining the company he brought a large market share to the west of the 405 and a number of agents.
“From that point on, it just exploded,” he said.


Developing through franchising

Historically, the company has not used outside capital or had private equity or debt growth mandates and instead has grown from its earnings. But that strategy could change.

“We are very excited to move forward and find growth capital for the future and we are excited to bring this, but we want to be strategic about what we bring,” said Umansky said.
And as it contemplates future growth, the company also plans to expand through franchise offices.


She opened her first franchise office in Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2016.
Today the business is 50% franchised and 50% owned and operated businesses with approximately 25 of each. Umansky said he expects this to continue as the business grows.
Company executives joke that they want to be in cities where Umansky enjoys spending his vacations.


“We want to be in luxury locations where our customers are likely to be,” Rose added. “We want to be in places where there is movement, there is mobility, there is luxury.”
Company-owned and operated locations will be in California and New York City, while other regions will be franchise locations.


“We found that if we could find like-minded people… that we could create something very synergistic,” Austin said. “We are able to leverage the luxury lifestyle brand. “


The company’s goal now is to open new franchise stores around the world. It opened its first European office in Amsterdam this year and has other overseas locations planned for next year.
Franchised locations benefit from the same technology and culture as company-owned locations.


And going forward, executives agree the company is poised for continued growth.


“It’s a very, very exciting time at the Agency right now,” Rose said. “We are currently seeing a consolidation within the brokerage industry, the big companies are gobbling up the small ones. We have reached critical mass at the Agency where global awareness is greater than ever. “

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