The Real Deal New York

Rutenberg’s top guns to head up William Raveis push in NYC

Purcell, Braddock to spearhead Northeast powerhouse’s first foray into the city
By Hiten Samtani | April 29, 2014 02:56PM

On Wednesday evening, Bill Raveis, the man behind Northeast brokerage giant William Raveis, hosted 35 of New York City’s top brokers at the storied Four Seasons restaurant. Among those in attendance: Douglas Elliman’s Leonard Steinberg, Brown Harris Stevens’ Lisa Lippman and the Corcoran Group’s Maria Pashby. Prior to a meal of Dover sole and filet mignon, Raveis announced to his guests that on June 1, his firm would be opening its 100th office — in New York City. Raveis also revealed that Rutenberg Realty principals and veteran brokers Paul Purcell and Kathy Braddock would head up the new venture.

The freshly-minted firm, named William Raveis New York City, has already taken a 4,000-square-foot office space at Tower 56, an FXFOWLE-designed building at East 56th Street between Park and Lexington avenues. It will take more than a fancy office to break into what is arguably the country’s toughest market, however.

Purcell and Braddock, who will be co-managing directors of the venture, are no strangers to building a real estate company from the ground up. The pair turned Rutenberg into a successful firm — the city’s sixth-largest by TRD’s most recent agent count — on the back of a bold business model, in which brokers keep the lion’s share of their commissions in exchange for fixed monthly and transaction fees. Prior to Rutenberg, the duo were at the helm of Douglas Elliman, with Purcell serving as president and Braddock as his chief lieutenant. They enjoyed tremendous success when running Elliman, said Miller Samuel president Jonathan Miller, and it was “very logical” that they were chosen to spearhead William Raveis’ push into New York.

“I think Paul and I do consider ourselves serial real estate entrepreneurs,” Braddock said. “Bringing a new company to market is something we enjoy.”

Raveis, for his part, started his eponymous firm in 1974 above a grocery store in Fairfield, Conn. The one-room, one-agent firm has since blossomed into the largest family-owned brokerage in the Northeast, with more than 3,500 agents. In New York, the company plans to open up to four offices with around 200 agents, he said, stressing that he is actively looking to recruit out-and-out entrepreneurs.

Purcell said he’s known founder Raveis since the mid-1980s and sold him Elliman’s Connecticut offices in the late 1990s. Both he and Braddock expressed excitement about the challenge of putting together a new team from scratch.

“He believes his customer is the real estate broker,” Purcell said of Raveis. “And he’s looking to build the best business he possibly can. Every Manhattan firm is built from Manhattan out, while he’s built from the outside to Manhattan.”

Braddock said that though both she and Purcell “clearly had a stake in the growth of the business,” Raveis would maintain full ownership of the New York venture.

What distinguishes his firm, Raveis said, is its belief that “the agent’s brand is more important than the company’s brand.”

“We teach agents how to build their brands and teams,” he continued, “and then help them transfer their business and brands over to their team when they’re looking to retire.”

Other innovations the firm would bring, he said, included a “real estate concierge service,” a call center that passes leads on to individual agents, and real-time market data that will be available online.

“The business models in New York are a little stale,” Raveis said. “We’re going to shake them up a little bit.”

Together, Braddock and Purcell previously owned a third of Rutenberg’s New York division, according to court documents reviewed by TRD last year. Braddock confirmed that the move to William Raveis marked the end of their involvement with Rutenberg.“We hope it continues to prosper and grow,” she said. A Rutenberg insider said that the two no longer hold a stake in the company.

Michael Barbolla, Rutenberg’s general sales manager and now chief operating officer, wished his former colleagues the very best with the new venture.

“They were an integral part of the success here,” he said. “But the [business] model really is the driving force behind our success.” Rutenberg hopes to expand to locations in Park Slope and Williamsburg within the next year, Barbolla added, and will look to boost its agent roster to 600.

It’s possible, however, that the troubles that Purcell and Braddock had with their former Rutenberg partner Joseph Moshe played a part in their decision to join Raveis, sources said. In 2012, Moshe filed suit against the duo, alleging that they were improperly siphoning funds from the New York Rutenberg office and competing against the firm with their own consulting company, Braddock + Purcell. Both Purcell and Braddock have denied the claims.

William Raveis New York City has already received $70 million worth of business from the firm’s Northeast branches, and Raveis said he expects that number to jump to $200 million in a year’s time. Miller said that “if you’re in the markets [such as Connecticut] where a large part of the employment is coming from New York,” it made sense to establish a presence in the city and look to leverage existing relationships.

The challenge, though, will be to convince New Yorkers that William Raveis isn’t just a name to be associated with leafy driveways and cul-de-sacs. Indeed, the firm must show it can sell a Fifth Avenue penthouse with the same panache that it might a Colonial-style home in Greenwich, CT.

Miller did note that many other big out-of-towners, had tried, and failed, to make it in New York. Coldwell Banker, for example, flopped spectacularly in its first attempt at cracking the Big Apple, and is back in a new incarnation as Coldwell Banker Bellmarc Group. Century 21 Real Estate, another giant with more than 100,000 employees world-wide, wasn’t a smash hit here either, though it does have some activity in Upper Manhattan.

“Other firms have tried to make the connection,” he said. “It’s hard to do.”

  • GM in CT

    I’m a GM in the CT
    real estate market. William Raveis’ s
    entrepreneurial family run business
    model attracts the top agents with its unique concept “the agent is the
    customer”. Their focus on the
    agents and helping brand their agents
    has grown their agents business and ranked the organization in the top 10
    nationally. This concept attracts the
    top producers where they are allowed to be who they want to be and grow their
    business through teams. In addition to the marketing support Raveis provides
    their agents with state of the art tools to compete in today’s fast paced
    markets. Raveis is not only local to the
    northeast they have the global affiliation with the world’s largest broker
    network Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. I believe the NYC real estate agents will
    find this package appealing and worth looking into.

    • Liz Martinez

      William Raveis really is a great company to work for. New York City agents are really going to appreciate how we work. Being family-owned makes a huge difference in how the company runs, it really is a part of how we do business.

      • jon

        @Liz Martinez & GM in CT

  • Sam Hamilton

    Our social media and digital marketing strategies are constantly evolving to fit the changing needs of the market, entering NYC will just be another part of that evolution. We’re ready for the challenge!

    • say wha?

      If that were true you’d have been in this market years ago.

      • Sam Hamilton

        We’ve been waiting to put together the right team–which we’ve found in Paul and Kathy. Now that we’re working with then, we’re ready to go.

  • Glenn Felson

    Raveis is not just a suburban brand. We have been in Boston for years and continue to see double digit growth every year in that market. We have opened 13 offices in New York (Westchester, Rockland, and Orange County) in the past 4 years with additional Westchester offices slated to open this year. What makes us different from the competition is our agent focused business model. We are very excited to enter the NYC market and our 3,500 agents in CT, MA, NY, RI, NJ, and NH have plenty of referrals to send to NYC.

  • lettuceny

    How is this different than Keller Williams joining the NYC market? They, too, claim to be agent-centric, and try to get agents from the big firms to jump ship and join them.

    • jon

      How true…KW does not have the top producers just Elan.

  • Steven Csejka

    I’ve been with William Raveis for 13 years now and it’s
    amazing how much we’ve grown since I first started. Now that we’re entering
    NYC, I’m excited to offer branding to agents in the city—we really do have an
    amazing program. Can’t wait to get started!

  • jon

    Lived in NYC for over 25 years.
    Good Luck you will need LOTS of it Raveis!!!
    Ready for the challenge LOL all your promises and why we are better just won’t work here!
    This is not middle America and the burbs it’s NYC… firms that succeed there never do so in NYC just you see people!

  • Ray Belcher

    The list of companies I can list in my 24 years in business who have tried to infiltrate the NYC market…too many to name. This market is partial to insiders. Can anyone name a company who came from the outside?

  • c

    do not underestimate ..this company …competitors said the same thing in Boston….they
    are now #2 and climbing ….entrepreneurial business family …that offers a unique business model … never offered in before in NYC ….these are smart problem solvers …they will shake things up

  • MJ15

    As a former RE/MAX franchise owner, I am not sure that this model will work well in NYC.RE/MAX has lost enormous share nation wide with this desk fee and transaction fee model. I love an agent centric model and I wish you the best. I just don’t see the high rollers jumping ship so easily as they are doing pretty well and have carved out good deals where they are. In my experience, an agent doesn’t move unless there is huge pain and or huge gain.

    • HitenSamtani

      MJ15, just to be clear, Rutenberg has that desk and transaction fee model you’re referring to, NOT William Raveis.

    • Robby dig

      Re/max not good but this isn’t that
      Relax makes me cringe

  • Richard Gozinya

    Gargle, Gargle, Gargle! Keep slurping that Kool Aid! The Raveis I know offers cash incentives for agents to join their companies and then liens their homes. Every ethics complaint I have brought forward has been because of the actions of a Raveis agent. Their in house legal council is as equally shady. .

    • Clay fruit

      I wonder if this poster is using his real name. If so, might want to proof it next time

  • Tim

    Who the hell is William Raveis? Be prepared to hear that on every listing appointment you go to. I like the ambition, but you wont make a dent in the market. This is just another KW, you’ll get low to mid level producers, but nothing more than that.

  • Keller vs. Raveis

    So what are the specifics of their commission structure? Anyone know? I cant find anything on the internet about it. You’d think it would be out there somewhere, since its such a big company.

  • tj

    Just another Prudential, Weichert, Century 21, K Williams , Remax they just don’t work here and NO top producer is going to leave a top brokerage in NYC and join Ravies.
    Look at their website…o boy, says it all!

  • psilva8

    Raveis is a higher end Real Esate company than KW , Coldwell Banker or C21, they’re specialty is Luxury Marketing. It is still privately owned and they are out of the box thinkers! I’m certain they will break into this market in a big way!

  • Oouch

    If they have the financing to survive the next cycle, and they honor their word with brokers, which is more than most firms can say, then they’ll survive and someday eat the lunch of some of the animal farm getting greedy at the trough right now.

  • online grocery shopping

    I am looking forward at what it comes as when Raveis enters the NYC
    Grocery market
    . All the best.