The recent proliferation of luxury real estate brokerage houses is irksome. I remember when Gibson – Sotheby’s International Realty first hung its shingle in Dorchester, because Dorchester is a bastion of luxury real estate, about eleven years ago. Gibson – Sotheby’s International Realty was borne out of Gibson | Domain Domain. I was working at Jack Conway & Co., Inc.’s office in Milton at the time, which has now since closed, and I remember when the new ownership of Gibson | Domain Domain raided the two Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage offices in Milton. I think that there were about 175 real estate agents working between the two Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage offices in Milton at the time. That’s a huge number! The two Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage offices in Milton, by the way, were borne out of a merger of:
- “Coldwell Banker – Hunneman” located at 60 Adams Street, Milton
- “DeWolfe Real Estate” located at 17 Canton Avenue, Milton
I heard rumors of the new ownership at Gibson | Domain Domain offering the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage agents a 70% split which was unheard of at the time. Maybe the new ownership of Gibson | Domain Domain was flouting their new partnership with Sotheby’s International Realty too? I don’t know. I think that the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage offices lost about fifteen to twenty agents to Gibson | Domain Domain. I don’t remember all of the people who jumped ship to Gibson | Domain Domain but I do remember that Lee Robinson was one of them and she’s still with the Dorchester office of Gibson – Sotheby’s International Realty today.
The question, if it’s true that the new ownership of Gibson | Domain Domain was flouting its new partnership with Sotheby’s International Realty, is: “Why?” Why did those agents scurry from Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage to Gibson | Domain Domain? I’m sure that some of the agents, if they were happy at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, could’ve renegotiated their splits and I’m sure that they would’ve stayed. Maybe some of them did? Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has it’s own Previews International division but that wasn’t enough. Not coincidentally, I did notice more of those Preview International yard arms in Milton shortly after the raid. So that leaves us with a flight to perception.
Maybe some of these real estate agents perceived that they would make more money with Sotheby’s International Realty because, well, it’s Sotheby’s, right? But wait! Sotheby’s wasn’t a real estate brokerage! Sotheby’s was, and still is, “… an innovative global art business serving the most discerning clients. Auctioneers since 1744…“. Huh?! From the from page of Sotheby’s International Realty’s site:
“Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC is a subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a full franchise system.“
So, Realogy licensed the Sotheby’s name because it sounded good. That’s it. Some marketing genius probably used the phrase “win win” and the word “synergy” and the deal was done. Sotheby’s had almost no track record in real estate brokerage but it seems like the strategy has worked because Gibson – Sotheby’s International Realty is seemingly doing well. It’s still able to recruit agents and I’m sure that the Sotheby’s International Realty name is the initial draw for many of them now as it was when Gibson | Domain Domain first started raiding the offices of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and the like.
Other brands with a perception associated with luxury have also jumped into the real estate licensing game. Christie’s International Real Estate, another real estate brokerage borne out of an auction house, is another example. Most recently, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has jumped into the real estate brokerage name game; it’s another odd choice for the name of a real estate franchise because Berkshire Hathaway is Warren Buffett’s company which is a holding company of many corporations across disparate industries. Sure, the name “Berkshire Hathaway” evokes a sense of success and wealth but if we follow that logic then why don’t we just franchise the name “Rolls Royce Realty”?
I’d love it if just one real estate brokerage were honest and would market the phrase “we sell really shitty houses in really shitty neighborhoods” but that would never happen. Real estate brokerages are lined down any main street in Massachusetts and they fall over themselves to market the phrase “we sell overpriced real estate to people that have just enough credit and just enough of a minimum down-payment so that they don’t demonstrate socio-economic or cultural inferiority“. It’s laughable.
And let’s be honest, the majority of real estate agents that are working at any of these so called luxury real estate brokerages aren’t selling anything. They’re not making any money. The perception that they’re aligned with a luxury real estate brokerage is enough for them. But if these real estate agents were smart and they really wanted to sell some luxury real estate instead of being perceived as selling luxury real estate then they’d align themselves with a laundry list of real estate brokerages that don’t take their names from business in other industries. Here’s a partial list of luxury real estate companies that are killing it in Massachusetts:
- Campion and Company – Boston
- Dean and Hamilton – Cohasset
- LandVest, Inc. – Boston
And don’t get me wrong, I had, overall, a good experience with Liz Bone of MacDonald & Wood – Sotheby’s International Realty when we did a deal together at 1 Phillip’s Brook Circle, Duxbury last year so this isn’t an indictment of all real estate agents at all luxury real estate brokerages that are named after auction houses or stock pickers.
Real estate agents should be more selective in the offices that they choose to affiliate themselves with. The trend is that real estate agents are chasing the perceived money but is that really what they should be doing? Loyalty and trust are two intangibles that truly can’t be sold. I’m not talking about loyalty to a brand or trust in a brand but loyalty to a person and trust in a person. Forget the glamour and glitz; it’s not going to make the average real estate agent any more money. In fact, the glamour and glitz sometimes lead to thoughts of self-doubt and “do I belong here”. Those are thoughts that you can’t divulge to brands and people that show little loyalty to you or brands and people that show little trust in you. Loyalty and trust are two way streets and neither can be cultivated immediately but use your five senses to the best of your ability and, hopefully, you’ll land in a place that is right for you.