Robb and Bryn Stroyke were born to be in the real estate business. The brothers and partners in Stroyke Properties—the boutique real estate firm in Manhattan Beach specializing in South Bay beach properties—were, at least initially, educated at their parents’ knees. For many years, Bob and Viva Stroyke ran Vintage Real Estate Group, which their boys rebranded as Stroyke Properties in 2010. As partners, the brothers specialize in Manhattan and Hermosa Beach homes. During a recent conversation with both brothers, they discussed their background, their business and the current state of South Bay real estate.
AS TOLD TO JENNY PETERS | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL JONASON
Why did you professionally pursue real estate?
Bryn Stroyke: We came from a real estate family (both Viva, our mom, and Bob, our dad, had long and distinguished careers as brokers in the Beach Cities), but interestingly, both Robb and I started in commercial real estate. Robb was in commercial development and I did commercial brokerage with what is now CB Richard Ellis.
What was the impetus for joining forces with your brother, and when was that decision made?
Bryn: Partnering with my brother was natural… we have always been close, despite totally discredited stories from him about how I used to torture him. We joined forces in 1992 and resurrected our father’s firm, Vintage Real Estate Group, which we rebranded as Stroyke Properties in 2010.
So, how long have you both been in the business?
Bryn: I started in real estate in 1983 and Robb started in 1986, but we grew up in a family where real estate was discussed around the dining-room table, so our exposure to [the business] was much earlier than that.
What aspect of this profession do you most enjoy?
Bryn: I was having this discussion the other day with a friend of mine who is an architect. [He] said that even though he is an architect—because he loves the creative part of creating new homes and buildings—what animates him [in the end] is making his clients happy. It is very much the same in brokerage. I enjoy the deal aspect of real estate, finding great buys for my clients or setting record prices for my sellers, but in the end what I enjoy most is making people I work with happy, whether that be because we found and purchased a great lot for new home or we just smashed the record for highest sale on the walk street. We have always had the philosophy that even though we are in a commission business, we do not pursue commissions, but rather we invest in relationships. We provide real estate solutions for people, and sometimes that involves commissions and sometimes it does not, but we are always directed towards meeting our clients goals and needs.
What sets apart your firm from competitors?
Bryn: We are a unique firm in that we are a small boutique real estate office, just Robb and I, and our two associates, Serena Polonis and Charlene Frias. Despite our small size, we consistently sell well over $100 million per year and easily have the largest average deal size in this market. In fact, if you were to look at a list of transactions over $10 million, you would see our names more than any other firm, despite the fact that we are competing with firms that have literally hundreds of agents. We have been accused (and it’s usually a compliment) of being market movers who consistently push values (on the listing side). A couple of weeks ago, I had a buyer acknowledge this by saying to me, “I definitely want to use you when we sell, but I can’t afford you when we buy,” which was funny because he thought we did a great job at selling, but took the same approach of setting record prices when representing buyers. While we remain extremely bullish [in] this market, when we work with buyers, we are looking for the best values at any given price point. I explained that the best buy last year in the Beach Cities was an oversized Strand lot that our client purchased for $12.5 million that is worth 50 percent more today. [But] I think the best explanation for our track record is Robb and I both come from sophisticated real estate backgrounds, and that has manifested itself in a very analytical approach to spotting and creating value. And while spotting trends and value is important, being able to communicate that value to others is just as important, whether that be to our own clients or to a broker representing a buyer for one of our listings.
On the subject of trends, what are the latest that you see in the South Bay market?
Robb Stroyke: We are seeing more high-end buyers than in the past. Due to the lack of available inventory of high-end new homes, we are seeing those buyers purchasing lots, paying a premium for location, and then hiring their own architects and general contractors to build new custom homes for themselves. We are also seeing [a] strong demand for bigger homes. Additionally, we are seeing more speculative development, the pace of which is still not meeting demand.
And how, exactly, have things shifted in the South Bay market in the last few years?
Robb: We are seeing more all-cash transactions. That phenomenon began in 2012. More second buyers are coming [to the South Bay with cash] and paying record prices for ocean view homes and townhomes. And with the likes of Google, YouTube and other leading tech firms expanding their operations in Playa Vista, we see this [as] being the beginning of that trend. Vacation rentals have become a game changer in some sense to the values of investment properties close to the water and downtown because the income potential—even with the increased management costs of 20 to 25 percent—surpasses the traditional yearly rental rates.
Where do you see the South Bay market headed in 2015?
Robb: I see the market continuing to appreciate. With respect to Manhattan and Hermosa Beach residential real estate, we have averaged approximately 10 percent a year appreciation on the sales price for the past 100 years. I expect 2015 to exceed that appreciation rate, as did 2014.