The Real Deal Chicago

Coldwell Banker’s Ayoub Rabah talks luxury market, real estate’s tech revolution and more

In a Q&A, Coldwell Banker Residential’s new president also talked about how brokerages can adapt for the times
By Joe Ward | January 11, 2019 01:00PM

Ayoub Rabah, President of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Ayoub Rabah took over as president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in September, as the local housing market neared the end of a record year for luxury sales.

Now, the president of the Chicago area’s biggest brokerage by sales volume is staring down a cooling housing market and a growing number of competitors seeking to disrupt the traditional brokerage model.

Coldwell Banker is also dealing with the loss of two of its top producers, with Jennifer Ames leaving to open Engel & Volkers first shop in Chicago and Debora McKay jumping ship to @properties.

Despite the hurdles, Rabah said the future of the industry — and the broker — is in good hands, so long as companies continue to invest in brokers’ success. Rabah, a former broker, said that’s exactly what he’ll be working on in his new position.

Rabah talked with The Real Deal about his company’s investment in the luxury market, the technology revolution in the industry and how brokerages can adapt for the times.

Coldwell Banker just opened its first Global Luxury brokerage in Illinois with a Gold Coast office. Was that in response to the local luxury market’s record year in 2018?

“These things take planning, so I wouldn’t say it’s a response to what’s going on in that marketplace. It’s really just our way of trying to stay ahead of the game. We just want to make sure that the industry and our agents felt we had a strong presence and prominence in the marketplace.”

Have the tech revolution and tech-forward companies like Redfin impacted the local industry in any meaningful way?

“We’ve got great confidence in the marketplace and the viability of the brokerage model. In a time when there are disruptors and platforms that disintermediate agents, our No. 1 priority is to ensure that we’re providing our affiliated agents with tools and the technology to enable them to thrive. Agents have been, are and will continue to be, an important part of real estate transactions. As their partner, we’re really focused on bringing them the tools and technology quickly so they can deliver value to their consumers. Technology is not going to replace talent. Technology enables the talent.”

Regarding agents, Coldwell Banker has lost some top talent in Jennifer Ames and Debora McKay. How does that impact the brokerage?

“I can’t really speculate on why somebody leaves. However, when an agent does leave, I believe it presents an incredible opportunity for those who remain and who want to accelerate their business. I’m really focused on helping those agents strive for excellence and provide them the resources they need.

Compass is coming for the top spot arguably owned by Coldwell Banker. How do you assess their first year in Chicago?

“We have a lot of competitors and I won’t comment on any specifically. What I will comment on is we’re laser-focused on providing value to our agents through our value proposition and our technology. We’re marrying innovative technology with white-glove service to really redefine the future of real estate marketing. We’re shifting our culture from an IT mindset to a product mindset, which really focuses on innovation, product passion and an improved user experience. We’re rolling out a customizable productivity suite where our agents can find all our tools and apps in one place. They all work cohesively together. We’re offering a design platform that provides custom agent and team branding. We believe we’re pioneering marketing products that help serve our agents and help them be more helpful.

What initiatives are you undertaking in your first year on the job?

“I’m excited to say we’re going through a full re-invention on how we serve our agents. We‘ve established our core four values, our value propositions and are just altering our approach to technology. What you’ll see in the coming months is the introduction of high touch, boutique marketing service. We’re going to be automating some of our platforms where it makes sense. It’s an exciting time at Coldwell Banker.”