Dava Davin, Founder and CEO, Portside Real Estate Group
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Brokers in Focus: Community-driven approach is a winning strategy 

Dava Davin, whose firm did nearly $860M in sales volume in the past 12 months, believes a philosophy of altruism has helped her win clients — and agents.

July 22, 2023
4 minutes

Dava Davin, founder and CEO of Falmouth, Maine-based Portside Real Estate Group, built her independent brokerage from the ground up, starting with a few agents in 2012 and growing to more than 150 agents in multiple offices across the state.

Underpinning that growth, in part, has been a simple marketing strategy: give back. She bakes an element of altruism into every piece of promotional collateral, social media campaign and event her brokerage undertakes.

The end result? Clients who value Portside's investment in their community, and agents who are not only grateful for a community-driven brokerage to call home but are also so loyal, they practically recruit new sales professionals to the company themselves. That, in turn, has contributed to Portside becoming the top women-owned agency in Northern New England with nearly $860 million in sales volume over the past 12 months.

How do you benefit from being an independent brokerage?

We love being independent — it allows for more space to be creative and innovative, and it gives us an opportunity to be truly local and homegrown. Clients love that all of the commission money generated will stay here in our communities.

I would liken it to the cultural landscape of Portland [Maine]. We have a lot of really great chef-owned, farm-to-table restaurants, and we don't have many restaurant franchises. People are looking for something a little more authentic and unique, rather than something you can find in any major city across the country.

In the beginning there was a little bit of reinventing the wheel. There was no franchisor saying, "Here's how to launch a business." But now that we have the sales and brand recognition, we have the No. 3 spot for residential sales volume in the state.

How do you find — and keep — great agents?

Our biggest resource for recruiting is our agents. When agents do transactions with other great agents, they'll come to me or one of our managers and say, "They're a Portsider."

Our agents can recognize not only who is doing a great job on the other side of the closing table but also who would be a great fit culturally.

We also host a lot of events for the brokerage community. It helps to be present and offer value. We had our big construction event a few months ago, and 115 agents were there from various companies. There were panel discussions about how agents can grow their business working with developers and how to handle new construction contacts. It feels very collaborative and like a safe space to learn.

For the last 10 years, we've also been doing multi-agency networking every other week. We bring agents together to talk about listings coming on, buyers on the hunt, and the scoop about what's happening. It's really helpful for us to grow without having to cold call agents and say, "Hey, do you want to switch agencies?"

What makes your business and leadership style attractive to agents?

I am the sole owner and founder of the brokerage, and being a female-run business is important to me. I want to be an example for others to follow, and I think as far as our edge, it's about a common thread of kindness and warmth that runs through our agency. People will say things to me like, "I just knew they were at Portside. They're so nice."

We provide our agents with a place where they're safe. They can drop their armor at the door, come into Portside and feel the love and support. Agents have to choose a brokerage, so hopefully they're choosing one that will help them with their entire life, not just their business.

How have you incorporated philanthropy into your brokerage culture?

Our sister company is the Portside Foundation. We founded 1% for Maine, so 1% of topline revenue of the company dollar is going into a fund. We have 90% of agents participating in the program. Essentially, if a $10K commission check comes in, 1% comes off the top and goes into this fund. Last year we were able to generate $200K through this very simple program.

We have a board of agents who read through grant requests to make sure they check all the boxes — our brokerage community is trusting them with this money — and then vote unanimously on collective giving. Money is then pulled from the fund. Our mission is to break some systemic cycles we see throughout the state. This could be generational poverty or substance abuse or basic access to food, healthcare, housing — things that affect our next generation. We've gotten really good at directing funds so they are best suited for what we're trying to achieve.

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