Rapid Realty picks up speed

By Candace Taylor | June 26, 2009 06:26PM

Brooklyn-based Rapid Realty is living up to its name.

The rental brokerage is expanding quickly and will open at least two new offices in the next several months, according to Carlos Angelucci, the company’s COO, who said the firm is also in the process of franchising its business.

The company, which currently has offices in Crown Heights and Park Slope, is opening small branches in Bay Ridge And On Northern Boulevard in Queens. The company is also planning to open a Williamsburg office, he said.

In addition, the company, founded in 1998 by CEO Anthony Lolli, is working on franchising, Angelucci said, noting that some of the new locations may become franchisees.

Angelucci did not release the addresses of the new offices, but said the Bay Ridge branch will be located on Fourth Avenue between 95th and 96th streets. The 400-square-foot office will house 11 agents and three staff members. The 25-agent Queens Office Will Be Located On Northern Boulevard at 97th Street, between the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Corona.

Both offices are expected to open in the next two months, he said.

Such an aggressive expansion seems counterintuitive at a time when companies like the Corcoran Group, Citi Habitats and Warburg Realty are closing offices. But others, like Prudential Douglas Elliman and Halstead Property, see the real estate downturn as an opportunity for expansion, and Rapid Realty is certainly one of them.

The company is doing more rentals than ever before, in part because more New Yorkers are renting rather than buying their homes, Angelucci said.

Rentals at the company are “at an all time high,” he said. The company has done 1,425 rental transactions since March, he said, a significant increase from the same period last year, when it did 1,118.

He added that the company’s Crown Heights office, which opened in September 2008, is doing unexpectedly well, with more than 70 rental deals per month.  

“That office is producing numbers we didn’t expect it to produce,” he said.

And with retail office rents dropping, he said, it seems like a good time for the company to expand.

“The overhead is so minimal that it made a lot of sense for us to do it,” he said of opening new offices. “It’s not going to take a long time to turn a profit.”

Meanwhile, the company is currently in the process of finalizing the franchise paperwork, and has begun making arrangements with investors, he said.

The company has been looking for a way to expand that would allow greater exposure for its star brokers, who in the past had left the company to start their own firms.

“We needed an alternative for our superstar agents,” he said. “We wanted them to be able to expand rather than be our competition.”

Other firms, such as Elliman and Corcoran, allow their biggest brokers to form their own teams within the company, a method Rapid Realty considered but rejected, Angelucci said.

“We explored that, but it’s more cost-effective for us to go the franchising route,” he said, noting that start-up costs for new franchise locations are usually paid by the franchise owners.

The company’s ultimate goal is for Rapid Realty locations to open all over the country, like Budget Rental Car or Dunkin Donuts.

“We want to take this thing and go to wherever there is demand,” he said.