Ditch Brokerages real estate agents become independent

Rayni and Branden Williams left Hilton & Hyland to start their own brokerage.

Part private member club and real estate brokerage, the newly opened Beverly Hills Estates occupies a prime spot on the famous Sunset Strip.

It’s the brainchild of Branden and Rayni Williams, two of Los Angeles’ top residential agents.


In November, the husband and wife duo moved from their longtime home at Hilton & Hyland and went independent. In April, they launched Beverly Hills Estates, bringing their team from Hilton & Hyland while adding new talent to create a group of around 20 agents.


“Branden and I are very entrepreneurial in mind. We’ve always done that, and we’re always intrigued by people and independent businesses, and we’ve always been interested in building something, ”said Rayni Williams.


They weren’t the only best LA agents to come out on their own. A plethora of the city’s biggest brokers have left the big companies in recent years to set up their own brokerage houses, seeking more freedom over their brands and their future.


Over the course of their careers, many successful agents will decide to start their own agency, said Kofi Nartey, a celebrity real estate agent like Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant.


“People like Branden and Rayni, they’ve been operating as their own brand for a long time,” Nartey said.


Nartey knows all about the need to diversify. Last year, he left the brokerage firm Compass to start his own agency, Society Real Estate & Development, based in Beverly Hills.
“Every agent at one level or another is an independent brokerage house. They are their own mini-business. Who they get their hat from depends on the size of their business, where their business is going and their ability to create their own brand, ”he said.


This is partly why Nartey left Compass.


“Part of it is owning my own brand. I have always built a brand wherever I am and have always contributed to a larger business structure, ”he said. “It was nice to take the initiative to own my own process, own my own outcome, and create a model that better served my clients. “


The decision to become self-employed has become easier thanks to companies like San Francisco-based Side Inc., which provides technical support and back-end operations to agents.


Technical support

In addition to Nartey, Side’s clients include Malibu-based Unvarnished Co. The specific house development company founded by former stuntman Scott Gillen started a brokerage arm last year. Side has also partnered with groups like Amalfi Estates, Caimeiju Realty, Stroyke Properties Group and Ben Bacal’s Revel Real Estate.

Side co-founder and Chief Broker Officer Hilary Saunders said the company, which was launched in 2017, now works with 1,600 Side partners and team agents.


“Setting up alone is difficult; it’s scary. You are now responsible for all transactions of all your agents. It takes a lot of expensive overhead which we also fix. This makes the transition smoother with much less stress than if you had to do it yourself. … We make it a lot easier, ”she said.


Jeff Toth, founder of Caimeiju Realty, which has an office in the San Gabriel Valley, also works with Side.


Toth said the reason he sees many agents now going out to start their own brokerage is to be able to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.


“Real estate, one of the biggest challenges is it’s a very tough and very tough industry,” Toth said. “One of the hardest things to do is be different and stand out from the competition. When you’re under a big umbrella and everyone has the same marketing, the same story, and everyone looks the same, you look like everyone else.


Nartey said it was possible to start a brokerage without the help of a company like Side, provided the new company invests in its own technology. Beverly Hills Estates does not have a technology partner and instead has developed its own platform and back-end operations.


More than a brokerage

The location of Beverly Hills Estates, as well as the decor, screams California.
The new space is adorned with green and gold, with crystals, a velvet sofa and a coffee bar. Enclosures that look like huts serve as offices.


Branden Williams said the Beverly Hills Hotel was one of his design inspirations. It’s normal that the space doesn’t look like an office, as it doubles as a private club.


The club is open to professionals working in the lifestyle and real estate industries, with a membership fee of $ 2,400 per year.


A board of directors, which does not include Branden and Rayni Williams, decides on the members. Beverly Hills Estates agents get automatic memberships and one member is introduced each month.


Rayni Williams said the club provides an opportunity for members to network and develop their clientele. Members, including agents, architects, interior designers and more, meet and make recommendations, she said.


“The concept of the hybrid of luxury brokerage and private members’ club arose out of Covid,” said Rayni Williams. “During Covid, we achieved so many lessons and important things about the human condition that we had never paid attention to before and that we just took for granted, one being how well we thrive as humans when we work together. Interaction, creativity and inspiration are born from the experiences of the round tables.


She said there was a waiting list to register.


Despite everything they do with the brokerage and the club, the Williams still plan to be active as agents.


“We have an amazing workforce and are ready to face whatever the day throws at us, which allows Branden and I to sell and be there for our customers and keep our operations running,” Rayni Williams said.


Major expansion projects

The Williams’ have ambitious growth plans.

“We want to set up satellite offices all over the city, so wherever you are … there’s a place where you can come and have a coffee, have a meeting and connect with other agents in a space that feels more like at a club than at an office, ”said Branden Williams.


He is looking to open branches of Beverly Hills Estates in the Westside, Malibu, Los Feliz and the Valley, where he grew up, “and hopefully someday around the world.”


The company is also looking to open locations in Miami; New York; Aspen, Colorado; Milanese ; and Monegasque.


Branden Williams said the locations will all open in a year or two.


“We’re still going to do what we believe in which is location, location, location, back to real estate 101,” said Rayni Williams. “We will always be in the best locations. “


And while all future locations will look similar, Branden Williams added that their “style and tastes will grow”.


Nartey expects more agents to follow suit and open their own brokerage houses.


And he continues to grow Society Real Estate & Development.


“We have created a model that allows us to build on our core competency, which is traditional residential real estate and luxury real estate on top of that,” he said.


“Through the relationships that have been created with it, we develop trust and opportunities.”

Side’s tech platform helps agents break up

San Francisco-based Side Inc. has partnered with many agents who have started their own brokerage houses, taking over the back-end and technology operations for these businesses.

The company was launched in 2017 and is now used by around 1,600 Side team partners and agents.

Side co-founder and Chief Broker Officer Hilary Saunders said the company was created to help agents “focus on what they do really well, which provides a wonderful selling experience for buyers and to sellers ”.

Side can handle other parts of the business as well, including marketing and “all the details that most agents aren’t so good at,” Saunders added.

Side only partners with agents who meet a sales threshold, which varies by state. The company takes a portion of the agent’s sales commission.

For now, Side operates in California, Texas and Florida, but plans to add more states soon.

Saunders said platforms like Side make agents stand out. When agents operate independently, they are not competing for a list with hundreds of other agents within the same large company.

Jeff Toth, founder of Caimeiju Realty, said Side enabled him to “take my vision and make it happen”.

Kofi Nartey, who left Compass last year to start Beverly Hills-based Society Real Estate & Development, said Side had “kept” promises too much and made it easier to focus on other aspects. of his business and growth.

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