Brokerage

How boutique firms are changing real estate

Independent niche brokers share their secrets for success

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Takeaways:

  • Boutique brokerages march to the beat of their own drum.
  • Independent brokerage leaders are vigilant about cultivating their firm’s culture and brand.
  • Boutique brokerages curate a specific look and feel for their firm.

SAN FRANCISCO — Boutique real estate brokerages march to the beat of their own drum — and they’re on fire.

Their popularity is fueled, in part, by the passion of their owners, who cultivate unique brands, cultures and business models.

Take Courtney Poulos, founder of 14-agent Los Angeles firm Acme Real Estate, for example. She built her firm to exemplify her independent, rebel spirit, she said at an Inman Broker Connect San Francisco panel today.

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Courtney Poulos

Courtney Poulos

Poulos shared the stage with Stephanie Lanier, co-founder of 12-agent The Lanier Property Group in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Heidi Rickerd-Rizzo, vice president and principal of 45-agent San Francisco Bay Area brokerage Terra Firma Global Partners.

Instead of generic lead generation, Poulos targets the hip, edgy, East Los Angeles clientele in her peer group.

That’s reflected in Acme Real Estate’s sleek website, built by a designer from outside real estate.

It also shows up in the type of agent Poulos hires: She’s after those who can represent the brand well and deliver a high quality of service. Training agents isn’t her bag, so she’s more apt to bring on midcareer agents, who won’t chip into her quality of life or her firm’s culture.

Stephanie Lanier

Stephanie Lanier

Lanier and her husband, who co-founded The Lanier Property Group, have a different vision. She views agents as part of a work family who should be enthusiastic about their work. She exemplifies that desire: For example, she did a cartwheel in a pencil skirt recently, all in the name of team-building.

The firm celebrates Mondays with margaritas and massages, because Lanier wants to celebrate the excitement the firm and its agents have for their work.

Maintaining that positive spirit starts with hiring agents who are a good fit, Lanier said. She wants the agents who take action and who proactively choose her firm.

If you’re an agent and unhappy at your firm, Lanier had some advice: “You’re not a tree; move.”

Culture is extremely important to Rickerd-Rizzo and her husband, who founded Terra Firma Global Partners in 2010.

They’re vigilant about protecting culture, she said. The moment she and her husband can’t keep a hand on the pulse of the business by attending frequent office meetings or visiting the firm’s eight offices frequently enough, they know they’ve hit their size limit.

Email Paul Hagey.