Vancouver Island agents Jason Binab and Brian Danyliw were looking to branch out on their own and find a brokerage that says it does residential real estate differently.
“I just wanted to be part of something bigger than just being a Realtor at a different company,” Binab says. “Brian and I had similar frustrations.”
The solution came to them in the form of The Agency, say Binab and Danyliw, who both worked previously at Engel & Völkers. “The nice thing about The Agency is it’s not dog-eat-dog. It’s a collaboration-based company,” Binab says.
Launched in 2011 by Mauricio Umansky and Billy Rose, The Agency bills itself as shunning the traditional brokerage model and says its agents share knowledge, contacts and expertise. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., The Agency has offices throughout the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.
Binab and Danyliw cold-called Umansky to discuss the possibility of The Agency expanding into Canada.
“They didn’t plan to come to Canada for another three years,” Binab says. “But they invest in people not in timeline, so he said, ‘If you guys are the right guys we’ll do it.’” A few conference calls followed and Binab and Danyliw went to L.A. to meet with the brokerage’s principals.
The meetings were a success. The managing partners obtained The Agency master franchise for B.C. and opened a Nanaimo office last September and a Victoria office in February.
Binab, who has 13 years of real estate experience, has sold close to $800 million worth of real estate and has won a number of top agent awards. He has appeared on the real estate show Design District and on the Netflix real estate program What’s For Sale With a View. He also created the YouTube series Rides with a Realtor that combines exotic cars and luxury real estate.
Danyliw has more than 20 years of real estate experience and has owned construction and adventure tourism businesses. Also a top producer, Danyliw has closed more than $140 million during his real estate career. In 2015, he recorded the highest sale price in Tofino on Vancouver Island – $3.612 million for a 10,000-square-foot house on the beach – a record that still stands.
Other brokerages “are definitely not built out of collaboration,” Binab says. “It is an eat what you kill mentality and that’s not the case at The Agency. That’s what we wanted to be part of – something that wasn’t just what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours.”
The partners say The Agency has a “no assholes rule” when it comes to colleagues – which resonated with them because they were tired of working for such people.
They say if two agents at The Agency are up for a listing, they’ll co-list, which is not the usual practice in residential real estate. In fact, Danyliw says the first deal he and Binab did at The Agency involved the co-listing of an island.
The brokerage has a full-service creative department, The Agency Creates, that produces marketing and public relations material for agents. The Agency Creates provides brand consistency and a number of options for everything from brochures to door knockers, Danyliw says.
“It’s all done for you, so that agents can focus on listings and selling homes,” he says. “It’s a tech-savvy, social-media-driven company.”
The Agency is certainly not a discount brand, Danyliw says, “but it’s relative to what you get. Compared with other brokerages, the difference is, “Yeah you’re going to pay a bit more but you’re getting a whole team of creative behind you and some of the best technology I’ve seen in the business.”
To increase awareness of The Agency, Binab, Danyliw and agents at their two offices are paying into a marketing fund dedicated to brand advertising, currently in the form of a billboard campaign on Vancouver Island. There is also a heavy online presence that includes social media and traditional advertising in magazines and radio.
Binab and Danyliw say The Agency is not price-point driven and has no minimum listing prices but tends to get many higher-end homes among its listings because it provides a high level of service.
The two are planning to sell sub-franchises in Vancouver, Kelowna and Whistler and hope to have one or two new offices there by early next year. Many Realtors from those locales have been calling The Agency in L.A. to inquire about buying the rights to those cities, Binab says.
Vancouver should have at least two franchises and Binab says he has heard from large brokerages that are thinking of switching their brands over to The Agency.
A soft recruiting campaign is underway but The Agency will hold a grand opening launch on May 9 in Victoria.
The two expect to significantly increase their agent count as a result. As of late March, the Victoria office had 11 agents and the Nanaimo office had four.
However, The Agency does not have a “bums in seats mentality where you get 100 agents,” Binab says. At its maximum, the Victoria office may have 50 agents in a few years.
Binab says agents who work for The Agency are more involved in their firms than those he’s seen at other brokerages where he has worked. CEO and founder Umansky is a top agent in L.A., but “he still works longer than anyone else,” Binab says, and “everybody else feeds off of that.”
For example, turnout was high and agents were engaged at a meeting of The Agency he sat in on in L.A., compared with meetings at other brokerages he worked at that were boring and had poor turnouts.
“It’s definitely up to (agents) to hustle and work hard but the brand does bring a certain clout and appeal that makes people want to work with them,” Binab says.