Corcoran's Pam Liebman: 'We want people to live their best life on their terms'
During Liebman’s two decades of leadership, Corcoran has grown from a boutique firm to a national franchise with plans to expand into Europe.
- Known as a real estate visionary, Liebman sees the real estate market improving in 2023.
- The company last year added 600 agents, bringing its agent count to nearly 4,500, with a 98% retention rate.
- “We look at each agent individually and help grow their business,” said Liebman.
Editor's note: Each year, the Swanepoel Power 200 recognizes the most powerful and influential leaders in residential real estate. In this series of SP 200 Inside Look interviews, we're diving deeper and learning about these top leaders' aspirations and accomplishments, and the opportunities they see in the year ahead.
Pam Liebman, Corcoran Group's president and CEO for more than 22 years, has legendary status in Manhattan real estate. A player in some of the largest transactions in New York City, Liebman is the force behind the growth of Corcoran from a boutique agency to a national firm with expansion plans for Europe.
She also has a reputation as a real estate visionary, possessing an uncanny ability for spotting trends and shifts in the marketplace before other leaders in the industry see them.
So what does she expect in the year ahead? "We will be pretty OK in 2023," Liebman told Real Estate News. "The market will get better and better. Rates are starting to settle in and prices adjust to make up for the uptick in interest rates. Buyers need to buy homes — and they will."
Corcoran has flourished under Liebman's direction and leadership. Sales topped $36 billion in 2021, with Liebman overseeing the launch of the company's franchise network in 2020. In recognition of her accomplishments, Liebman was ranked 21st on the 2023 Swanepoel Power 200 list of the most powerful leaders in real estate.
She certainly has the magic touch. In 2019, Liebman was awarded the opportunity to oversee an important sale that had the potential to be huge, even by New York City standards.
Liebman recalled managing sales at 220 Central Park South – and its record-breaking penthouse transaction – as a pinnacle of her career. The $240 million sale at 220 Central Park South cemented her legendary status in the city's storied real estate market. "I don't know that there will ever be another experience quite like that," Liebman said. "I work with a lot of developers, I have a lot of great relationships. It's one of the favorite things that I do. But being part of a record-setting building — that was a real joy."
From humble beginnings to household name
NRT, now Anywhere, originally bought the brand in 2001 from founder Barbara Corcoran, a former waitress who started Corcoran 50 years ago with a $1,000 loan — and later sold the company for $66 million.
Liebman has been with Corcoran for her entire career. When she started out in 1984, she was one of just 30 agents. Today, the agent count nears 4,500. In 2022, Corcoran added more than 600 agents, with a 98% retention rate, Liebman said. "We are largely homegrown without buying companies in our main markets. We've had 90% organic growth," she said.
Liebman expects that 2023 will represent a "huge year" of recruiting growth for the company. "I think that people really trust our brand — brokers, buyers, sellers, developers — and when times are tougher, they turn to us. So we have always done better in tougher markets," she said.
Respect for agents builds respect for the brand
Liebman believes deeply in the brand and the company, which she describes as an extended family. "We look at each agent individually and help grow their business," she said. "We like to treat everyone with respect, and we're grateful and thankful to them everyday."
She continued: "People have such great respect for this brand, and how well some of our agents are doing and how well new recruits do with us. So I'm very proud of that."
While taking pride in her brand, Liebman said it's a mistake for real estate professionals to spend too much time focusing on their achievements or how to beat the competition.
"Sometimes agents across the country, at various firms, spend more time bragging about their own success than worrying about their clients' happiness," she said. "People are forgetting what's important, and they're very busy looking over their shoulder to see what the other guy is doing. And they should really be focusing on themselves and their clients."
Bringing the Corcoran name to viewers everywhere
For a leader, brand-building is another important part of doing business — which is how Liebman ended up on the real estate reality show "Buy My House." A skeptic at first, Liebman said she enjoyed the work and saw a boost to the Corcoran brand name.
"The people I worked with are terrific and it was a good learning experience. In the beginning, I was not such a fan but I definitely was won over and saw how important the show has been to our brand," Liebman said.
Liebman has always set a high bar for herself, pointing to "honesty, integrity, a high standard of ethics, empathy and a great sense of fairness" as characteristics she values in leaders. And, Liebman adds, "I live those values."
'We don't pigeonhole ourselves'
The Corcoran brand holds a unique place in real estate and Liebman is proud of that distinction. "We don't pigeonhole ourselves or try to pigeonhole people, like other brands. If you rent a small apartment for $2,000 or if you want to buy a large luxury apartment for $250 million, we are here to help," Liebman said. "We are about the clients and the customers."
The same is true for Corcoran agents and brokers. "We want the brokers to live who they are also. This is what defines us. I don't know any other brand that truly lives that mantra, and is so wedded to its DNA."