Concierge Auctions had another record year, marking eight consecutive years of continuous growth for the New York City company. Much of its success is thanks to Laura Brady, founder and president of Concierge Auctions and one of the nation’s top-selling luxury agents before turning 30.
Although Brady is no stranger to extraordinary success, she’s not ready to settle — her luxury real estate auction firm, which represents buyers, sellers and agents for elite real estate auctions, generated $220 million in sales for 2015. In addition to outpacing itself in transaction volume, Concierge Auctions facilitated records in single-sales and raised headcount from 28 to 63 employees.
“Blazing new trails isn’t always easy, but our success is proof of the market’s need for our solution. As we near $1 billion in historic sales, with nearly a quarter of that achieved last year alone, it’s clear we’ve reached an inflection point,” Brady said in a prepared statement.
With high growth in a niche range, it’s not surprising Brady was recognized in “The 101 Most Influential People in Real Estate” by Inman this year, helping, “bring the concept of marketplace auctions to the mainstream housing scene.” USA Today and the National Auctioneers Association have also taken notice, awarding Concierge Auctions 13 awards, including “Best in Show” for Advertising and Public Relations.
Some of the highest sales last year for the company included a $12.3 million compound in Rancho Santa Fe, California; an $11 million custom home in Aspen that sold before the scheduled auction date; an oceanfront estate on the North Shore of Kauai that auctioned for $10.7 million; and an abode in Vero Beach, Florida, for $10.2 million — all courtesy of Concierge Auctions technologies, clients and real estate partners.
“It has been especially rewarding to expand our relationships within the real estate community. Laura and I were both real estate professionals before starting Concierge Auctions, and we experienced first-hand the limitations of traditional efforts alone,” stated Concierge Auctions Chairman Chad Roffers.
Although it’s aiming to innovate the way traditional auctions are held via new technologies, Concierge Auctions does not look to do away with the traditional model of broker-backed transactions. It has never auctioned a property without an agent partner, according to the company policy and website.
“One of the key tenants when founding this firm was to give control back to agents and their sellers. For this reason, in the history of our company, we have never conducted an auction without a listing agent involved and a commission offered to a buyer’s agent. The results are simply better through our collaboration with the Realtor community,” Roffers said.
Inman had the opportunity to speak with Laura Brady about her career history, the Concierge Auctions business model and her tips for nurturing annual progress.
Brady’s comments have been edited for clarity.
How did you enter the luxury real estate market niche, and do you prefer working in high-end commodities? Did your first job, although fashion-based, prep you at all for the luxury real estate sector?
My education is in marketing and retail merchandising, which led to my first professional career in the buying offices of Neiman Marcus. I was honored to work alongside Stanley Marcus during his final days and gained valuable insight into the art of servicing ultra, high-net-worth individual clientele. However, after a few years in corporate retail, my entrepreneurial spirit led me into real estate.
I’ve always enjoyed working with high-end clients, because every day is a new challenge. They know what they want and are accustomed to achieving it on their timeframe. Very few are wealthy because of luck. Most have worked hard to make, preserve and grow their net worth, and they are not only appreciative of it but also willing to pay for great service.
What sparked Concierge Auctions start in 2008? Being a highly successful agent, it must have been hard to breakaway and start something new. How did you encourage and inspire yourself to test a new venture?
Those of us with a keen eye on housing stats in Southwest Florida started to see the market turn as early as 2006. Inventory levels were rising, and the rate of transactions was not corresponding. Particularly for high-end clients who were committed to selling, our main options as listing agents were to spend more on marketing or lower the price — neither of which was a sure bet to land a buyer.
After seeking alternative marketing and sales tactics and working with my broker/owner (and now our Concierge Auctions chairman), Chad Roffers, who had researched the auction process for years, it was obvious to me that auction was the best way for my sellers to take control. And, since there was no other auction firm conducting business how I envisioned it could be done, I took a leap of faith: I left my brokerage business and went “all in” on this model that I knew could help so many other sellers and agents who were looking for solutions like I was.
The state of the market in 2008 propelled Concierge Auctions towards success from day one, as we started by helping clients who were in distressed situations and needed to monetize their real estate holdings. However, as the years passed we grew into the vision we foresaw would be possible as the market improved, selling one-of-a-kind, incomparable properties for clients who are not in a precarious financial state, but rather choosing to auction as a smart choice. Most of the world’s finest assets are sold through auction — art, jewels, classic cars, etc. Why not homes? With nearly $1 billion in sales at Concierge Auctions, we’ve answered the “why.” The process works.
Why the auction model over a traditional broker model? What are the pros and cons in your eyes, specifically for luxury listings?
The question for us is not whether to auction instead of sell traditionally, as we see ourselves as an added tool rather than an alternative and partner with a listing broker on every sale. However, we do know from experience that the traditional brokerage model has limitations. Especially in the ultra-luxury realm— in the rarified air where the buyer pool is limited— properties simply aren’t very liquid, even in healthy market conditions. When it comes to $5 million, $10 million and $20 million-plus homes, price often has little bearing on interest level, and reductions rarely make a difference.
The main pro of our auction platform on the sell side is that it gives control back to the seller and listing agent and enables them to name the timing and terms of the sale. We execute a targeted marketing, PR and sales campaign, activate qualified bidders, and generate a transaction within 90 days– and the agents still earn their full commission.
For buyers, we offer curated inventory from realistic sellers, and they rest assured that they are paying a fair price– only one bid above the next highest bidder.
Any tips for sustaining high growth?
We’ve been on a growth trajectory for eight years now, and we’re not slowing down. As owner and president, my high-level focus is on three main areas: Recruiting and retaining the best of the best talent, instilling systems to enable our scalability, and maintaining our core values in everyone on our team and everything that we do. (which is) cutting edge, composed, committed, broker-loyal and make history. Oh, and there’s always a need to have fun through the hustle!