J Philip Faranda, Manager and Associate Broker, Howard Hanna Rand Realty.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Photo courtesy of Phil Faranda

Brokers in Focus: Choosing to merge and retire a brand 

Facing a contraction of his brokerage business, J. Philip Faranda made a previously "unthinkable" decision. Now he wishes he had done it sooner.

July 2, 2023
4 minutes

Read part one of J. Philip's story here.

In 2022, the brokerage I founded in 2005 — one which began as a sole practitioner based out of a spare bedroom and became a top-producing firm with nearly 80 agents and three offices — was at a tipping point. The market had cooled, and for the first time, my business was at risk of contracting. 

I'm no stranger to stress, but this was different. The state of the market was uniquely challenging. The state of the firm was an unfamiliar contraction where closing one office seemed inevitable. And the state of my mind was coming to grips with the fact that the quality of my life going forward could no longer be subordinated to the fire in my belly. 

Retiring J. Philip Real Estate as a brand had always been unthinkable. But unlike 2008 when my 40-something status was still new, being in my mid-50s and rebuilding in a risky environment seemed to invite that old definition of insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly and hoping for a different outcome. 

Ultimately, the question was how I would best keep my promises to my agents to reach their goals. The answer was to seriously entertain options that had, for decades, been reflexively dismissed. But a good friend in the industry reminded me that no matter what my stationary might say, I will always be my own brand as a figure in the industry. 

I looked at two growing privately held companies. As I studied their offerings, I came to the humbling conclusion that, although I was always a tech-forward broker, my agility to do more with less had waned. The two firms I was considering had already built what I aspired to. Their back office, systems, support and tech stack could only be matched with more time and money. After 18 years, I didn't want to reinvest for tomorrow anymore. I wanted to focus on my joys and jettison my headaches. 

The answer seemed clear. My wife felt very strongly that quality of life had to be paramount in my plans. A merger would give me the ability to continue doing what I loved in the industry and let someone else handle the things that weren't in my wheelhouse. The official announcement was last month, and everything that has happened in the weeks since has confirmed to me that not only was this the right decision, I wish I had made it sooner. 

It is impossible to summarize an 18-year journey in a handful of paragraphs.

But I'll say this, and if it speaks to you, then maybe you need to weigh your options too: This morning I was on a Zoom call with all my fellow managers at Howard Hanna Rand preparing for a project that will be released in July. During the discussion, it dawned on me that I didn't have to do everything. I didn't have to create the content. I didn't have to pay for the publicity. I didn't have to rent out any space, negotiate with any vendors, or even convince any agent why they should jump through some hoop. There were many other people doing their part in this, and I just had to do my part. 

That realization, that sigh of relief that I wasn't carrying it all on my shoulders, was one of the most liberating feelings I've had in a long time.

If you get a chance to catch it on Amazon Prime, check out the 2017 movie Wakefield starring Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner. At about the 53-minute mark in the movie, Cranston picks up my yard sign with a "sold" rider and carries it across the yard. The scene is barely 10 seconds, but over the years, a number of people have paused it and called the number on the sign. 

When Ronnie, my 16-year admin and renaissance person answers, the callers express shock that the company actually exists (long story, but the producers wanted realism, and that meant a real company). If you call that number today, Ronnie will still answer and let you know that the name on the sign may have changed, but if you want J. Philip Faranda, he's still here.

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