WILLIAM RAVEIS: THE FAMILY ADVANTAGE

WILLIAM RAVEIS: THE FAMILY ADVANTAGE

As one of the industry’s most iconic firms, William Raveis Real Estate’s (WRRE) origin story is a classic tale of entrepreneurial moxie. Started above a Fairfield, Connecticut, grocery store by Bill Raveis in 1974, the firm now comprises 136 offices in eight states, and is home to 4,300 sales associates. In RISMedia’s 2021 Power Broker Report, WRRE ranked No. 7, reporting more than $16 billion in sales volume in 2020.

Today, Bill and the next generation of the Raveis family—brothers and co-presidents Chris and Ryan—share leadership responsibility for increasing revenue and expanding WRRE’s footprint in the coming years and beyond. In this exclusive interview, the pair explains how operating as a family-run business provides the firm with two critical characteristics necessary for growth: cultural agility to turn on a dime to innovate; and consistent leadership with an unmatched level of pride, passion and strategic vision.

“No matter how much we evolve, this is not just a business for us—it’s a family,” says CEO and Chairman Bill Raveis. “At our core, family values drive every decision we make. From the very beginning, I said our agents are our customers, and 47 years later, we continue to provide the tools, technology and mentoring to empower their success.”

Here, Ryan and Chris Raveis share what’s enabled the company’s extensive growth over the years, along with how they’re helping agents and clients maximize value and experience outstanding customer service in any market.

Maria Patterson: William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance is the No. 1 family-owned real estate company in the Northeast, and your father views the entire firm as family. Please share a bit about how you and your brother came on board.

Ryan Raveis: Growing up, Chris and I saw all those yard signs and wondered why our name was in front of everyone’s homes!

We definitely had an affinity for the company and saw what Dad was doing and how hard he was working. But as we grew up, Chris and I wanted to spread our wings a bit, like most young, post-college graduates. I decided to pursue management consulting and Chris worked in commercial real estate. Then, in our late 20s, we were offered the opportunity to join the family business, but with a very clear understanding. Dad sat us down and told us there were two conditions: You have to grow the company; and you can never sell it.

MP: I take it you’re happy with your decision?

RR: I have worked in a large public company and so has Chris. While every industry has its excitement in some way, shape or form, there’s nothing I’d rather do than work with my Dad and brother and continue to drive our goals of a family-owned real estate, mortgage and insurance powerhouse.

MP: What are some of the biggest advantages of being a family firm?

RR: The biggest advantage is the consistency in leadership. This is a family business, and our name is on the door. We take our reputation, professionalism and the way we support our agents very seriously, to the point where being a family business is part of our identity. We plan on passing the company down to our children, so we want to leave it in a position where it’s thriving in each of its markets and each of its businesses. The only way we do that is by delivering superior service for our clients and agents.

MP: William Raveis Inc. is one of the only privately held firms to offer mortgage and insurance services under one roof. What role have these firms played in your growth over the years?

RR: I don’t look at our mortgage and insurance companies as businesses under the real estate umbrella. Each of those companies was purposefully built with the ability to stand on its own. Granted, they service our real estate clients, but they also partner with clients who used another real estate brokerage prior to doing business with the mortgage and insurance companies. We strategically built these companies to a substantial level to support the overall entity, and this helps when we’re looking to expand into new markets.

MP: Does having an established mortgage and insurance business play a more significant role in today’s real estate climate?

RR: I think it does. In today’s market, we see plenty of large private equity and public companies that are trying to find their way. They’re struggling to figure out how to make a profit, and it’s not that easy. We’ve been running William Raveis Mortgage and William Raveis Insurance since the ’80s, and both have well-established operations and excellent reputations.

MP: How would you describe market conditions in your regions?

Chris Raveis: If I’m a home seller, I’ve seen my value increase by 30% in all the markets we serve. If I’m a buyer, I’m looking for solutions to help me find a home in this market. Overall, the market has been excellent for real estate brokers and agents, and that will continue through the end of the year, particularly in Florida, where we just had some of the largest sales in our company history—$80 million and $50 million in Palm Beach and Naples, respectively. The luxury market has taken off in those areas.

MP: WRRE serves luxury buyers in many of your markets. What role does the luxury market play in the company’s success?

CR: The luxury market is essential to our identity. We’re recognized by Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® as the globe’s top luxury broker. We serve some of the highest-end markets in the U.S.—Naples, Florida; Fairfield County, Connecticut; Nantucket—and we have many of the finest agents in the world serving those markets. Their local knowledge and real estate expertise enable them to best connect with affluent clients, which is a priority audience for us.

That said, we have a large audience base and serve other segments as well. Best practices honed by selling luxury properties are completely transferrable. We’ve fully embraced superior customer service at every point in the home-selling and -buying journeys, and consequently, invented new products and processes to support our agents. When we look at the level of service we strive to provide, we’re looking to emulate brands like The Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons.

MP: Tell us about some of the ways you’re supporting agents…

CR: Ryan, Bill, our senior management team and I are constantly in the field, constantly listening to agents. As a family business, we make decisions very quickly. Plus, we have the resources to compete with anybody.

Each branch has a full-time manager, and we have multiple layers of admin and marketing support for agents. We are the only company that provides personalized branding for our sales associates because we believe each one is an entrepreneur who cannot be fit into a single, specific mold. Every manager is extensively trained through our career development department to become a certified coach and mentor to our sales associates. And we also bring in world-renowned business coaches, like Tom Ferry and Mike Staver.

On the tech side, we’re well ahead of the market, particularly with automation. We have a completely automated listing launch platform, where in 30 seconds, an agent can get a listing launched, one that is personally branded with the agent’s name. Even better, we have integrated performance tracking, giving our agents and clients customized and immediate insights with real-time analytics.

MP: This year, you quickly rolled out products to help buyers and sellers navigate the unique challenges of the market. Tell us a bit about them.

RR: We truly walk the talk on exceptional customer service throughout the buying and selling journey. For the seller who has their home listed but can’t financially move or can’t get the equity out, we provide a bridge loan through William Raveis Mortgage.

Another option we offer is Raveis Purchase, where sellers benefit from the speed of getting out of their home and unlocking their equity to make a non-contingent offer on a new home. With this program, we buy the home from them and use Raveis Refresh to help prepare and stage the home with our certified network of designers and installation teams. And here’s the best part: When we sell the refreshed home at a higher price point on the open market, the client keeps the upside, which is different than any other model out there. We’ve moved a couple dozen customers in the 90 days since we launched this innovative offering (at press time), and the traction has been incredible. We have hundreds in the pipeline.

We also just launched the Raveis CashBid program where we buy the home from the seller—on behalf of the buyer—and take title to the home. Then we help those pre-approved buyers get a mortgage and repurchase the home from us. This creates opportunities for those buyers losing out on offers, as well as first-time homebuyers who can’t put down an all-cash bid. These are just a few examples of how we are empowering our agents to take care of their clients during a competitive market. We are always thinking outside the box and partnering for success. It’s all really exciting.

MP: Were programs like this borne out of the pandemic?

RR: 100%. When the pandemic hit, we knew that listing inventory was going to be slim, absorption rates would be fast, and that we needed to come up with solutions.

MP: It seems like only a company of your scope and size, with in-house mortgage services, could make programs like these work…

RR: Yes, it wouldn’t happen without the mortgage company. When the agent understands the 360-degree view of the consumer, it makes them a better agent.
We have the resources—the luxury, mortgage and insurance products—but being able to execute and help thousands of agents put those resources to use is another thing. With the breadth of our offerings and our investment in career development, our agents are better trained than anyone else in the industry.

MP: Do such programs represent the future of real estate, or are they temporary solutions to market conditions sparked by the pandemic?

RR: If a company’s business model is banking on programs that buy homes and resell them, that company will have a tough time in a downturn.

You have to be good at recognizing the tenor of the market and actively develop the right programs because each year has different needs. We constantly listen to our agents and innovate to serve their market needs. This was true in 1974, and it remains the same today.

MP: What other evolutions—to your company and to the market—do you foresee taking place in the next year or so?

CR: The market will remain challenging. The fourth quarter won’t be like last year, but it will be better than we thought at the beginning of the year. We are continuing to grow—having just expanded in Sarasota, Florida. Our footprint will encompass new areas in the Northeast and down the eastern seaboard as well.

MP: Finally, if you had to point to just a few keys to success that have been instrumental to the firm’s longevity and growth over the years, what would they be?

CR: You have to love the business; it has to be part of your soul. If you do, there’s a palpable energy that continually motivates you. And being a family business lends a lot to that—people are proud to associate themselves with real people as opposed to a large public or private equity firm. We thrive off each other and our larger business family. Our success is truly a collective team effort all around.

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