3 takeaways on Chicago’s resi market from Fulton Grace Realty’s new VP

Hernandez will serve as Fulton Grace’s vice president of agent development

Ruth ‘Drussy’ Hernandez leaves Compass for Fulton Grace Realty (Credit: iStock, Fulton Grace)
Ruth ‘Drussy’ Hernandez leaves Compass for Fulton Grace Realty (Credit: iStock, Fulton Grace)

When Compass acquired luxury residential brokerage Conlon/Christie’s last year, the Softbank-backed startup got an infusion of credibility and expertise in the local market.

It also got Ruth “Drussy” Hernandez, who was Conlon’s managing broker, overseeing 200 agents at the time of the purchase in April 2018. Hernandez then spent the next year as managing broker and director of compliance, helping to transition the former Conlon team into the new company.

Now, she has joined boutique brokerage Fulton Grace Realty.

“The local brand is something that appealed to me,” said Hernandez, who spent 10 years at Conlon and has 35 years in the industry. “Real estate is local. It feels more comfortable for me.”

Hernandez will serve as vice president of agent development, a newly created position at Fulton Grace, which has 200 agents and four offices, all on the North Side of Chicago. She will oversee new agent hiring and training, as well as help veteran agents grow their business.

Fulton Grace handled $220 million in sales last year, and also rented out 3,400 apartments, said TJ Rubin, president and founder of Fulton Grace. Founded as a rental and property management brokerage, the firm has been working to increase its for-sale division. It brought on Hernandez to help lead the way, Rubin said.

“As we’re trying to be a powerhouse in sales, we wanted to bring on someone who can help grow our agents,” he said. “Drussy has outstanding experience in managing a team of agents.”

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For the new role, Hernandez will lean on her nearly 35 years in the industry, much of which was spent in management positions. That includes over 10 years spent as the managing broker of Conlon. Before that, Hernandez worked in a number of different roles at Koenig & Strey, Prudential Preferred Properties and Coldwell Banker.

Hernandez said Compass’ emergence is one part of a changing industry that continues to consolidate, with the smaller shops getting absorbed by the national brands. Another part, technology, is something she said makes her more optimistic about the future.

“I remember thermal paper [rolls] on these little, tiny computers that used to shoot out all the information you were looking for, and we had one per office,” Herandez said, laughing.

“We’ve always evolved,” she added. “It’s about making the agents more effective.”

Hernandez sat down recently for an interview with The Real Deal. Here are the three big takeaways:

What’s the overall effect of new brokerages like Compass, Redfin and Engel & Volkers coming to Chicago? It’s giving the consumer a variety of platforms. They can see how these platforms can impact their buying power, or their selling opportunity.

Will technology-driven firms displace the broker model? No matter what, real estate is personal. The consumer is still looking for a personal connection. Selling a home, it’s an emotional transaction. There are a lot of tools [buyers and sellers] can use. If they are still looking for advice, having a connection with an agent is definitely going to be what they’re seeking, because the agent’s knowledge and experience can’t be replaced.

What has been the fallout from this sluggish housing market and what about the future? It has impacted everyone, in different price ranges in the market. I’m hoping the fall market will come in strong so we can finish strong. The spring season started a little later. That has lingered into a slow summer. But I’m hoping it will pick up.