Stephen Capezza, President, Side
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Yes, the market is slow — but for boutique teams, it’s an opportunity 

Side President Steve Capezza, who moved to the brokerage platform in January after almost a decade at Zillow, believes there’s power in finding joy in the work.

October 13, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Capezza said the brokerage platform has been growing as it works with teams to gain market share.
  • Boutique teams are well-equipped to handle the market slowdown because of the local expertise and customer service they offer.
  • Agents are leaving the industry, bringing back memories of the Great Recession, but the churn will settle soon.

It's a challenging period for real estate professionals, but Steve Capezza believes this is when boutique teams can show their value.

The keys are community, connection, local expertise — and fun.

Capezza, who became president of Side in January after nearly eight years at Zillow, said that while this is a time to rigorously look over expenses and prioritize the basics, it's also good to remember why agents and brokers are in the business.

"When sales cease to be fun, sales cease. It is a difficult time, but not insurmountable," Capezza told Real Estate News. "Certainly acknowledge the difficulty of the market that we are feeling, but do your best to have folks find joy in what they're doing on a daily basis."

Boutique teams are better positioned to survive in this current market environment, said Capezza, because they are generally viewed as local experts and are well established in the community. They are also more focused on customer service, which, along with taking care of their agents, is critical to a successful business.

Those attributes will give them an advantage in capturing market share, Capezza noted, which is why brokerages are aggressively trying to land teams right now.

"A locally entrenched, differentiated boutique is generally set up to withstand the pressures of the macro environment," Capezza said. 

Pursuing growth — but setting a high bar

Side, a brokerage platform that helps real estate agents embrace independence without having to operate their own brokerage, is growing steadily as agent and partner count has increased. The company currently has more than 500 real estate businesses across the country on its platform.

But while Side could bring on teams more quickly, the company prioritizes quality over growth. In fact, Capezza said it's become more difficult for agents and teams to join Side during this current slowdown because the firm hasn't lowered its minimum transaction volume level requirements.

"We're getting more inquiries than ever before. If anything the macro effect (slowing market) has revealed to us that discipline… is more important than ever," Capezza said.

While Capezza is seeing more movement among teams, he's also seeing increasing numbers of agents simply leaving the industry. And he feels that trend is probably a bit overdue; the last meaningful churn Capezza remembers was over a decade ago during the Great Recession.

But, similar to that economic cycle, he believes the industry will rebound. "When you start seeing the space settle a bit, I would expect to see growth in agent count, much like there was in 2010," Capezza said.

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