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Brokerage Beat: Growth at eXp, The Agency, E&V, Christie's, more 

eXp snags 200-person team; E&V expands to D.C. and Sarasota; The Agency opens in Indianapolis; Christie's now in Puerto Rico; Real, Sotheby's, Hanna make gains.

Updated May 20, 2023
9 minutes

Editor's note: The brokerage business is a busy one, with frequent moves, mergers and milestones. Here we highlight some of the latest activity among brokerages across the U.S.

$1.5 billion San Diego brokerage teams up with eXp

San Diego Homes & Estates, a 200+ person brokerage in southern California led by veteran broker Rich Johnson, has joined eXp Realty. Over the last five years, the team closed $1.5 billion in sales volume each year in the pricey southern California market, eXp Realty said in the announcement. 

Rich Johnson, San Diego Homes & Estates, eXp Realty.
Rich Johnson, San Diego Homes & Estates.

Johnson said that after many years in the industry, he made the move to eXp because it better suited his agents. eXp's low-to-no brokerage split and revenue share for agents who bring other agents on to their team has shaken up the industry and led eXp to quickly become one of the largest brokerages in residential real estate. 

"Over the past few years, despite our success, it became apparent that the traditional brokerage model was no longer serving the long-term needs of the agents or the brokerage," Johnson said about his move to eXp Realty.

In 2015, San Diego Homes & Estates was named California's Fastest-Growing Real Estate Brokerage by the California real estate news site First Tuesday Journal. And in the following year, the team was given the Brokerage Achievement of Excellence Award by the San Diego Association of Realtors.

Engel & Völkers opens first shop in Washington D.C., expands Florida operations

Engel & Völkers has announced its first shop in the District of Columbia. The firm, which specializes in high-end, luxury homes and markets, opened its newest storefront in the trendy U Street Corridor, and will serve the greater D.C. metro area, including Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland, and Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax Counties in Virginia.

Rick Foster, Tom Spier, Phil Di Ruggiero and Travis Gray, Engel & Völkers Washington DC.
Clockwise from top left: Rick Foster, Phil Di Ruggiero, Travis Gray and Tom Spier.

The D.C. operation is led by partners Rick Foster, Tom Spier, Phil Di Ruggiero and Travis Gray. Spier and Di Ruggiero were previously co-proprietors of the full-service Greenline Real Estate brokerage, founded in 2012, and bring their 20 agents to Engel & Völkers. Foster, who is the owner and license partner of two other E&V shops in the region, is expanding his ownership with the addition of Engel & Völkers Washington DC

"The real estate market in our area is very dynamic, with a constant influx of individuals relocating for work opportunities," said Spier. "The ability to connect with like-minded real estate professionals around the country — and the world — to service these clients as part of the Engel & Völkers network is compelling."

The company is also expanding its footprint in Southwest Florida with the opening of a new shop in Sarasota. The location will be managed by Victoria Stultz, who currently oversees the nearby downtown Venice operation which opened in 2021.

Victoria Stultz, Engel & Völkers.
Victoria Stultz, E&V Sarasota.

The Venice location has 23 full-time agents and produces $87 million in sales volume annually, according to a news release. Stultz herself has facilitated more than 350 transactions totalling over $135 million.

Stultz is aiming to bring 50 new advisors to the Sarasota shop in the first year, and she would like to eventually expand to nearby markets including Lakewood Ranch and Siesta Key with the goal of reaching $1 billion in sales.

"Victoria has been a model affiliate following our blueprint on how to launch the Engel & Völkers brand in a new market," said Peter Giese, CEO, Engel & Völkers Florida. "This expansion has been part of the plan from the beginning and we are thrilled to support this shop opening up and others to follow in the greater Sarasota area."

Indie firm merges with Howard Hanna in NY

J. Philip Real Estate, an independent brokerage serving Westchester and Putnam Counties since 2005, has joined Howard Hanna | Rand Realty, a regional powerhouse with offices throughout the Tri-State area.

J. Philip Faranda, J. Philip Real Estate
J. Philip Faranda, J. Philip Real Estate.

J. Philip Real Estate was founded in 2005 by J. Philip Faranda, who began his real estate career more than 25 years ago as an agent. J. Philip Real Estate has been the leading small brokerage in Westchester and Putnam Counties by unit every year since 2017, according to the news release. The firm's two locations and more than 80 real estate professionals will greatly expand Rand Realty's footprint in the area.

"We are thrilled to welcome J. Philip Real Estate and team to the Howard Hanna | Rand Realty family, as his expertise in technology and marketing within the real estate industry will undoubtedly enhance our position as the most innovative and creative brokerage in the industry," said Matthew Rand, CEO of Howard Hanna | Rand Realty.

"I have known the Rands for almost 15 years and ... it was important for me to align myself with a family-owned brand that was committed to professionalism and forward thinking," said Faranda. "I see this as a significant opportunity to help our agents be the best in the business and give the clients an experience that will be the standard by which all our competitors will seek to measure themselves."

Christie's International Real Estate moves into Puerto Rico

Clubhouse Real Estate, a six-agent brokerage in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has joined Christie's International Real Estate as the brand's exclusive affiliate on the island. The firm, founded by Brian Aronson in 2015, has rebranded as Christie's International Real Estate Puerto Rico. 

Brian Aronson, Christie’s International Real Estate Puerto Rico.
Brian Aronson, Christie’s International Real Estate Puerto Rico.

The team, which focuses on higher-end properties, has an average sale transaction price of nearly $1 million and has experienced 700% growth since 2018, Christie's said in the announcement.

Christie's sees the Puerto Rico expansion as a strategic move as more mainland U.S. residents relocate to the tropical island protectorate. According to Christie's, prices for luxury properties on the island can range from $700,000 to upwards of $6 million, with some even selling for as high as $15 million. 

"With 270 miles of sand beaches, mountains, waterfalls and the El Yunque tropical rainforest, Puerto Rico is amazingly beautiful, very easily accessible from the U.S. and many other countries but undervalued as a whole — it's really still a bit of a steal for luxury properties," said Athena Aronson, chief operating officer of Christie's International Real Estate Puerto Rico. 

The Agency expands Midwest presence with Indianapolis office

The Agency has expanded its midwest footprint by opening its first office in Indianapolis. The Indy office is the brokerage's second midwest location, following the opening of a franchise in Birmingham, Michigan in 2022. 

Traci Garontakos, The Agency Indianapolis.
Traci Garontakos, The Agency Indianapolis.

Managing Partner Traci Garontakos will oversee the Indianapolis office. Garontakos, previously with Sotheby's International Realty, brings 20 years of experience to The Agency, along with a team that produced $50 million in sales volume in 2022.

"Indianapolis is a thriving market that holds great synergy with The Agency brand as we continue to deepen our brokerage's presence in the Midwest," Jim Ramsay, executive vice president of franchise sales at The Agency said in the announcement. 

"We look forward to servicing this thriving destination as we bring The Agency's unparalleled network and resources to buyers and sellers throughout Indianapolis."

Sotheby's Realty adds 16th affiliate in Washington state

Greene Realty Group, based in the Washington state capital of Olympia, has joined the Sotheby's Realty network and has rebranded as Olympic Sotheby's International Realty.

Jim Greene, Olympic Sotheby's International Realty.
Jim Greene, Olympic Sotheby's International Realty.

Established in 2005 and owned by 30-year real estate veteran Jim Greene, the boutique firm includes 40 agents and serves the greater Olympia area including Lacey, Tumwater, Tenino and Rochester. Olympia is located an hour south of Seattle, WA.

"Olympia has become a destination city for South Puget Sound residents seeking natural beauty, due to its waterfront views and close proximity to multiple national parks," said Philip White, president and CEO, Sotheby's International Realty.

"Olympia and the Thurston County area is unique with a mix of high-end, tech, and rural roots," said Greene. "Affiliating with Sotheby's International Realty was a natural next step to better serve our clients. Sotheby's International Realty has vast experience in marketing global luxury properties, as well as farm and ranch listings, making them a perfect match for our business needs."

Real picks up indies in Virginia and Florida

Two independent brokerages have joined The Real Brokerage: ​​Lynchburg's Finest Real Estate in Lynchburg, VA, and JC Penny Realty in the Orlando area. 

Matt Ferguson, Betsy Ferguson and Yvonne Jansen, Lynchburg's Finest Real Estate.
From left: Matt Ferguson, Betsy Ferguson and Yvonne Jansen.

Founded in 2016, the 25-person Lynchburg's Finest was ranked as one of the top five largest independent brokerages in the region. In 2022, the brokerage completed 325 transactions totaling $185 million in sales volume, The Real Brokerage said. The team is led by Betsy and Matt Ferguson and Yvonne Jansen.

Betsy Ferguson has been in real estate for 15 years and specializes in luxury home sales. She also has a background in interior design which she brings to the team's home staging process.

Matt Ferguson, who focuses on finances and operations, transitioned to residential real estate in 2015 after a career as a broadcast meteorologist. Jansen, who joined the team in 2022, has a background in new home marketing and sales and was a previous brokerage owner.

Real snagged another 25-agent team in Central Florida. The JC Penny Team, now The JC Penny Team Brokered By Real Broker, LLC, will continue to serve central Florida. Established in 2013, the brokerage was founded by husband and wife team Jon and Deb Penny, who will continue to oversee the team. 

Jon and Deb Penny, JC Penny Realty.
Jon and Deb Penny.

Jon Penny is a two-decade real estate veteran who specializes in vacation home sales, while Deb Penny leads coaching and training efforts for the firm. The team serves a range of clients including traditional buyers and sellers, commercial buyers, relocating buyers and investors.

"The energy and excitement at Real, along with the technology and increased opportunity to grow, will allow the JC Penny Team to thrive through 2023 and beyond," Deb Penny said. 

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