Fearing Zillow and aggregators, $85M Corcoran team jumps to Compass

Resi agents sold $85M last year, $1.2B to date
By E.B. Solomont | May 15, 2019 09:00AM

Susanne Columbia and Todd Vitolo with Cast Iron House at 67 Franklin Street

Susanne Columbia and Todd Vitolo with Cast Iron House at 67 Franklin Street

Todd Vitolo and Susanne Columbia — two longtime agents at the Corcoran Group — have quit the firm and joined Compass.

Along with six members of their team, the brokerage veterans started at the venture-backed firm on Tuesday, according to Vitolo, who said they moved because they think Compass’ platform will enable them to compete better in a fast-changing industry.

“Corcoran was our home; it was our family and we’re going to miss it,” he said. “But we were there for a long time and we’re ready for a change.”

In particular, Vitolo cited the rise of lead-generation firms and aggregators, who are pushing agents aside. “It’s quite obvious to me that StreetEasy and Zillow are coming directly at agents’ livelihoods,” he said. “After meeting with Compass, they seemed very prepared to fight them off, quite honestly.”

In a statement, a Corcoran spokesperson wished Vitolo and Columbia well.

The Columbia Vitolo Team claims to have sold more than $1.2 billion in real estate to date, including $85 million last year.

Most recently, Vitolo had the listing for a townhouse at 11 West 9th Street asking $8.95 million, as well as a 21,200-square-foot commercial property at 1908 Park Avenue in East Harlem asking $35 million. Vitolo and Columbia have handled several new developments, including marketing several condos at Knightsbridge Properties’ Cast Iron House in Tribeca (a project that has taken a while to sell).

Their leap to Compass comes at a time when New York firms are competing to attract and retain agents. According to The Real Deal‘s most recent ranking of top Manhattan firms, Douglas Elliman was No. 1 with 1,999 agents (down 14.94 percent year-over-year). Corcoran came next with 1,320 agents, followed by Halstead with 888 and Compass with 872. Last month, the SoftBank-backed company jumped up a notch when it struck a deal to buy Stribling & Associates, a boutique firm with 270 Manhattan agents and a presence in Brooklyn.

In response to the increasingly-competitive environment, residential firms have tightened up clawbacks to fend off poaching. Corcoran’s policy manual dated December 2018 says the firm can recoup certain commission and marketing dollars if an agent departs the firm.