Boutique real estate brokerage The agency aims for international growth

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

In the 10 years since the luxury brokerage was founded by real estate veterans Mauricio Umansky and Billy Rose, the company has enjoyed a rapid growth trajectory, but Rose and Umansky said that it had stayed true to its roots as a culture-focused boutique brokerage and offered 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 like there was innovation in the industry,” Umansky said of the reason for which he founded 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 launching The Agency after working as an entertainment lawyer and talent agent before going into real estate. He says he went “from one company to another” and “find that brokerage itself no longer made sense”.


“Brokerages had become WeWorks,” he said, adding that agents from the same brokerage often competed against each other.
When Umansky, who was part of the networking group, came up with the idea for The Agency in an effort to make global brokerage mean something, 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, official broker, COO, recruiter – we were and I was lucky to have been able to grow and become big enough to be in able to hire people to wear all these different hats,” Rose said.


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


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


Sell ​​through enhancement

From the start, Umansky said, the Agency was set apart by its use of technology and a collaborative culture.

The Agency’s software, he said, allows officers 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 aspirational lifestyle buyers would have in the homes they showed.


Instead of just the mail, that meant throwing open houses that felt 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 shift in how we built the business and how we marketed and advertised real estate.”


The company also emphasizes culture and collaboration.
“You can help someone who has less experience or is moving into a new market or needs a boost in improving their credit through what we do as a collective agency “, said Rose. “At other brokerages, they would kill you if you talked about one of their sales.”
High-ranking agents like Umansky often co-list with new agents and share their big sales as an achievement of the brokerage and not just the individual, Austin said. Umansky added that he thinks the Agency wins listings because its agents team up rather than fight for listings.


“When you’re able to all work together… you’re obviously going to do a lot better than if you were doing everything on your own,” Rose said. “We’ve 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 number of agents as a measure of success and that he only works to add people to the company who are a good fit 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 love the brand.”


“Finding the right fit takes time and making sure the right person is the one we hire the first time,” she added.
And while in recent years a number of agents have moved from one brokerage to another, the Agency is working to retain talent by “re-recruiting our existing agents” and not just focusing on growth, according to Austin. This includes presenting the brokerage value.


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


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


Grow through franchising

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

“We’re very excited about moving forward and looking for growth capital moving forward and we’re excited to bring it in, but we want to be strategic about what we bring,” Umansky said.
And with a view to future growth, the company also plans to expand through franchise offices.


It opened its first franchise office in Los Cabos, Mexico in 2016.
Today, the company is 50% franchised and 50% owned and operated, with approximately 25 franchises each. Umansky said he expects that to continue as the company grows.
Company executives jokingly say that they want to be in cities where Umansky likes to vacation.


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


“We found that if we’re able to 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 is now to open new franchises around the world. It opened its first European office in Amsterdam this year and is planning further overseas locations for next year.
Franchised locations benefit from the same technology and culture as company-owned locations.


And looking to the future, 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 consolidation within the brokerage industry, with larger companies gobbling up smaller ones. We have reached a point of critical mass at the Agency where there is greater global awareness than ever. »