I had a client who I sold a lot to years ago, recounts Charlie Raine. He built a beautiful house on the property. When the client was ready to sell that house, he called Charlie. The listing wasn’t automatically his, though—there were three other real estate teams in the mix, all gunning for it.
That’s when Charlie called Bill Ruth.
Both knew Palos Verdes like the back of their hands, down to its weather patterns and individual streets. “But we had to fight for it,” says Charlie of what was his first real estate win with Bill. “It was a big, big sale.” So big, the sale had the distinction of being the highest for over a decade in Palos Verdes. The two paired up again on listings from time to time over the next couple of years and, in 2009, made Ruth & Raine official.
“Bill and I went to high school together,” says Charlie. Both of the agents, natives of Palos Verdes, were born into the business: Charlie’s father was a commercial broker and his mother a residential agent; Bill’s father was a commercial developer and his mother, an agent at their namesake Ruth Realty.
Bill Ruth and Charlie Raine have each been in the business for nearly 30 years; Carissa Wright entered real estate four years ago after working in banking and nonprofit management.
Bill Ruth is a board member and recent past president of the Palos Verdes Association of Realtors; Charlie Raine has recently served as a board member of the Peninsula Education Foundation.
Ruth, Raine, and Wright collectively have approximately 65 years of real estate experience
The two have enjoyed a fruitful partnership as hometown agents, and a couple of years ago, another agent joined the mix. Real estate agent Carissa Wright and her husband were looking for a house in Palos Verdes and connected with Charlie and Bill. Impressed by her real estate savvy, they asked her to join Ruth & Raine.
“We have three of the top agents in our group, from three of the top brokerages,” Bill points out. He and Charlie are with Keller Williams and ReMax Estate Properties respectively, and Carissa is with Beach City Brokers. “And—you’re paying the same price. There’s nowhere else you can get the same exposure for a listing.”
Adding to this is the trio’s expanded geographic reach across Palos Verdes and the Beach Cities. “Carissa is in Redondo Beach and Charlie and I are up on the Hill,” explains Bill. Working together means greater exposure for their listings, and the ability to service clients throughout the close-cousin markets. (A specialty of Carissa’s, for instance, is relocating Beach Cities clients who wish to move to Palos Verdes.)
Another boon to the merger is chemistry. “There’s nothing written down,” says Bill about their partnership.
Everything’s on a handshake!
This speaks to their trust and easy camaraderie, evidenced by the good-natured joking and laughter throughout our interview. “My husband calls them my work husbands,” Carissa says with a chuckle. “We’re always texting each other, the three of us. Constantly.”
Whether choosing real estate after growing up in the business, like Bill and Charlie, or selecting it independently, like Carissa, success in the industry seems to require embracing it as a lifestyle, not just a job. At Ruth & Raine the firm, this approach is multiplied by three.
“One of us is always available to our clients,” Bill comments. “That’s the most unique part about us—you talk to a principal at all times. You’re never talking to someone who is not the rainmaker.”
Bill Ruth | 310.621.2885
Charlie Raine | 310.377.4932
Carissa Wright | 310.987.1829
Photos courtesy of Ruth & Raine
The creative streak that feeds Gerard Bisignano’s real estate acumen can be traced to a pivotal moment in his early teen years. “My dad was a war correspondent in Vietnam,” says the Palos Verdes native.
“On his last trip, which was his fourth, he walked into my bedroom and hands me the 35-millimeter camera that he was using in the jungle. ‘Here,’ he says. ‘This is yours.’”
Bisignano was 15 years old, and the gift sparked an attraction to photography that has persisted since then, and resulted in previous careers as a pro photographer and the owner of an agency that managed them.
When you work with a very successful client—you cannot sell them. All you can do is supply information, the information they want, and guide them through the decision-making process.”
These days the longtime agent is a partner at Vista Sotheby’s, where he’s also head of marketing. “I’m a lousy artist,” he laughs, “but I have a creative side to me, so photography helps express that. Even my marketing and passion for architecture comes from that creative base.” Being fluent in the art of visual language is a handy skill, particularly in real estate.
“We are such a visually driven society that we are keen on making sure that the images that I use, or the company uses, are impactful,” says Bisignano. “Every single photo that’s submitted for a Sotheby’s listing gets reviewed at the corporate level before being approved.”
That’s a lot of images, given the approximately 900 Sotheby’s offices worldwide. It’s a level of scrutiny that makes sense when one considers the brand’s cachet as well as its global reach, particularly in online marketing—a reach that Bisignano ranks as “unsurpassed.”
Another creative specialty that Bisignano has parlayed into real estate success is architecture. It’s a passion that started with a client who owned the Kaufmann Desert House, a 1946 Richard Neutra getaway in Palm Springs that’s considered one of the most shining examples of International Style architecture.
“I realized there was a whole artistic side to architecture that I hadn’t really begun to appreciate,” says Bisignano. From there he began representing architectural homes in the South Bay. Quite a few of them, including designs by Ray Kappe, Thom Mayne, Richard Neutra and Pierre Koenig.
The day we speak, Bisignano is listing another standout property: a $15.45 million oceanfront estate in Rancho Palos Verdes created by Richard Landry, known for designing sprawling star-studded properties, the likes of which snagged Robb Report’s Ultimate Home designation four years in a row.
Even in the hefty priced world of Beach Cities’ real estate, this listing is significant, but not a blue-moon occurrence for Bisignano. (A short time after we speak, he finalizes negotiations on a property in Rolling Hills that, when escrow closes, will represent the highest sale on record in Palos Verdes at just under $16 million.)
“He interviewed me by a recommendation and that was enough for him,” says Bisignano of the owner of the Landry listing.
“The fact that he’s trusting me with this enormous asset is very humbling.” It’s a trust that might be inspired by Bisignano’s style, which avoids traditional selling, per se, and often results in an exclusive client relationships that last for decades.
“When you work with a very successful client—you cannot sell them,” Bisignano says. “All you can do is supply information, the information they want, and guide them through the decision-making process.”
Photos: Courtesy of Gerard Bisignano
Vista Sotheby’s International Realty
16 Malaga Cove Plaza
Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274
310.990.4727 | coastalluxuryliving.com