"Brokers in Focus" - Bill Raveis, Chairman and CEO, William Raveis Real Estate.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

William Raveis: ‘Pivot, innovate, downsize, upsize and lead through it’ 

As his namesake firm celebrates 50 years, Bill Raveis says the key to surviving rough cycles is to look for opportunities and “figure it out.”

April 29, 2024
4 minutes

Key points:

  • Real estate is a profession that relies on relationships, says Raveis. Build connections and show your value.
  • “What can you do differently from the competition?” asks Raveis — look for opportunities to differentiate yourself.
  • Market cycles can be painful, but they also help agents build resilience and learn how to get through the next one more easily.

Finding a way over hurdles in the marketplace — and making it to the other side feeling better off for the experience — are hallmarks of Bill Raveis' career.

Raveis is navigating our current low-inventory cycle the way he navigated the previous eight or nine cycles of his five-decade career: Full speed ahead. As chairman and CEO of William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage, and Insurance, he believes the only option is to get through it and focus on the upsides.

Push through the rough stretches

Although real estate cycles can be painful and involve suffering, he said, they offer an opportunity to build your resilience and expertise to get through the next one more easily. "You pivot, go through innovations, downsize, upsize and lead through it," he said. 

"That's the way you can build a business for 50 years. You figure it out."

Raveis, who has written four books on leadership and entrepreneurship, shares the brokerage's helm with his sons Chris and Ryan as co-presidents. Raveis handles strategy; Chris is involved in residential sales and manages sales associates; and Ryan leads mortgage, insurance and operations at their headquarters. 

Chris Raveis, Co-President; Bill Raveis, Chairman and CEO; Ryan Raveis, Co-President; William Raveis Real Estate.
Chris Raveis, Co-President; Bill Raveis, Chairman and CEO; Ryan Raveis, Co-President; William Raveis Real Estate.

Get to work — and 'don't be a victim of change'

In a competitive market, brokerages and agents should ask themselves: "What can you do differently from the competition?" Raveis said. 

"Look for opportunities in situations. Don't be a victim to any change. Everybody has a value proposition that they offer to buyers and sellers. Figure out what you can do to add value to the process that somebody else is not going to do, and do that."

And to demonstrate that value, you have to make connections with people. "The most important part of the real estate profession is relationships," he said. "People get sidelined with the internet. To build relationships in a down market, you still have to do traditional things like contact people you know, knock on doors, hold open houses and send postcards."

His brokerage is not among those covered by the NAR settlement, but Raveis acknowledges that his firm will need to make some changes to comply with new rules. "There will be some changes to the new buyer brokerage contract, but we're just going to continue doing what we're doing as a luxury brand," he said.

"We add value to our service from the listing and buyer side of it, finding houses when there are no houses. Negotiating with multiple offers. We're not a discount brokerage, and we don't plan to become one."

Lead with an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit

As one of the largest independent brokerages in the country, Raveis and his sons relish the ability to make their own decisions without seeking approval from anyone else. "If I had to work with a big national firm or Wall Street, maybe they'd want to do something else. I have the freedom to do whatever I want," Raveis said.

The brokerage, which recently celebrated its 50-year anniversary, has about 5,000 agents and 140-plus locations across Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont.

"We're entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are independent-minded people," Raveis said.

"We like doing things differently. We started doing direct mail 48 years ago, when nobody else was doing it. We have our own technology platform. Now my son Ryan is into AI, spending a lot of time understanding not only ChatGPT but also video and what it does to enhance properties. The agent will always be there, but they will have enhanced tools."

Raveis is proud of his company's independence — and it's something he wants to retain, even though his firm has long been an acquisition target. 

"We have a unique business model, a combination family-owned, luxury real estate brand that has insurance, mortgage and title," Raveis said. "Plus, technology, career development and education are strong suits. We're big enough to compete with the big boys. We have a nice position and we're starting to expand. We made five acquisitions recently: one in South Carolina, two in Massachusetts and two more in the South that we'll announce shortly," he added.

"Why would I give that up?" 

'The journey is fascinating'

Raveis left a job as a tech expert at Westinghouse to found his real estate company at age 27, and he has no regrets. 

"I'm happy I started out naïve about the whole process and learned throughout the journey," he said.

"I had confidence in myself and that got me through the ups and downs. But the journey is fascinating. It gives you the opportunity to find out whether or not you're good at something. I also went into it knowing I didn't want to fail and disappoint my parents and my family. It was important to me that I succeeded."

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