British Columbia. Boca Raton. Pasadena. Park City. These locations are part of The Agency’s 2018 expansion into new domestic and international markets. Now with a half dozen agents currently doing business from El Segundo and the Beach Cities to Palos Verdes and Long Beach, agent Sharon Umansky Benton, real estate agent and sibling of firm co-founder and CEO Mauricio Umansky, tells DIGS: “We are committed to being a real estate force in the South Bay.”
“We had looked at expanding into the South Bay a few different times, but then got pulled in different directions,” she explains. With the South Bay’s profile ascending higher and higher in luxury, celebrity and global real estate realms, the time was right for the Beverly Hills-based firm to make its move.
The Agency is a glossy real estate success story that, since its founding in 2011, includes a steady march into high-profile real estate markets, predominately in California, and over $12 billion of real estate transactions.
There’s also a development company, a strong media presence and, for the last three years, inclusion in the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the nation. “The Agency is only 7 years old,” Umansky Benton muses. “It hasn’t taken us that long to get to the South Bay.”
Its extensive celebrity Rolodex and growing global presence (aided by an exclusive partnership with global real estate firm Savills) are helpful assets for The Agency in their new territory, given the increasing lure of the Beach Cities and Palos Verdes among athletes, celebrities and buyers from around the nation and the globe.
“It’s evolving without a lot of impetus by the company,” Kristin Regan,
The fact that the South Bay includes a large swath of properties— not all luxury—is another plus. Umansky Benton points out: “We are a luxury firm, but one of the things that people don’t realize is that we actually have a lot of business in the $1-million dollar range.” She points to her current roster of listings, for example, which includes properties ranging from $400,000 to $6 million.
And listings go beyond residential homes, with investment properties, vacation rentals, resort real estate and commercial properties part of the mix. “There’s a lot of business to be had here,” she declares, “and I think it’s a really good thing to bring in our way of doing business.”
Key to The Agency’s success is its culture. “We call ourselves a family,” Umansky Benton says. “We love each other. We support each other. We collaborate. We talk to each other.”
This “rising tide lifting all boats” concept is based on the idea that an organization—and the individuals within it—will reach greater heights working together, versus functioning as a lone-wolf outfit, where individuals work as solo operators or within small, cloistered groups.
“There’s an expectation of excellence,” says Regan, who lauds the firm for its access to high-net-worth clients throughout the world. That, along with The Agency’s robust internal communication network, enables an invaluable sharing of information among agents at the firm–particularly when it comes to off-market listings.
Calling on others within the company, no matter how seasoned or high profile, to work together or share ideas is encouraged. “You’ve got people like James [Harris] and David [Parnes] from Million Dollar Listing collaborating with people who have been in the industry for only a couple of years,” Umansky Benton points out.
These are not just feel-good measures, but rationally self-interested initiatives that have added up to phenomenal business success. “It benefits the client in so many different ways,” Umansky Benton adds. “You’re not only getting one agent. You’re getting the support of all the agents in The Agency.”
The concept can work particularly well in real estate, where collaborating agents get benefits beyond just increasing visibility for their listings. “It breeds an environment of people really enjoying each other’s company and support,” says Umansky Benton, pointing out the solitary nature of real estate: “You’re by yourself. You’re out there, you’re trying to find a listing, you’re trying to get a deal going. Sometimes it feels really lonely.”
The Agency’s annual anniversary party has become quite the soirée, with agents and invitees flying in from everywhere to attend. Every year, attendance swells. While the growth of the company is dynamic, says Umansky Benton, it is also carefully metered: “There’s only so many places you can expand to at one time without expanding too quickly and ruining the feeling of the company.”
This means keeping the feel of the company intact. A peek at The Agency’s website reveals an ever-growing page of agents and brokers, along with their headshots—a broad range of expressive, mostly black and white, images that signal a departure from tamer, traditional agent shots.
There are leather jackets and big grins, sleek suits and glamorous styling that indicate that at The Agency, self-expression is in. “We tend to try to do things differently,” points out Umansky Benton. “We don’t want to be one of the masses, or just another real estate firm. We want to stand out. We want to change things.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE AGENCY