Ben Bacal, one of Los Angeles’ most prominent luxury residential agents, has struck out to launch his own brokerage brand.
Earlier this month, Bacal left Rodeo Realty and is now doing business under his own label, Revel Real Estate.
“An agent who is truly passionate and innovative and connected needs to be tech savvy,” Bacal told The Real Deal. “Despite all of the efforts the other firms put, they really have become cumbersome and inefficient.” He said that most brokerages try to mold agents in their own image. Revel will stand out from the pack, he said, by encouraging and even assisting agents to develop their own brands.
“If they want to call themselves ‘John David Luxury Estates in the Platinum Triangle,’ we will help them do so,” Bacal said, adding that the company would back agents up with a full-service technology and marketing platform. Revel has recruited 17 agents so far — including from his team at Rodeo Realty — and is in talks with another 25, Bacal said. The company is currently in talks for space on Beverly Hills’ Canon Drive, a longtime hotspot for luxury firms.
Bacal’s clients include actor Matt Damon and film producer Megan Ellison, and he’s worked on everything from mansions in Beverly Hills to development deals in Bel Air. His current listings include a Neoclassical home in Holmby Hills asking just shy of $50 million, and a contemporary Bird Streets mansion asking $40 million. Bacal did not feature on TRD’s ranking of L.A. County’s top 20 luxury brokers in 2019 or 2018. Explaining his falling off the rankings, Bacal said he’s been focused on developing his technology platform for the past two years, and expects to ramp up his sales figures this year.
Syd Leibovitch, founder and president of Rodeo Realty, had warm words for his former protégé.
“Like I told him, ‘how can I fault anyone for doing what I did and opening his own firm?'” he said in an email. “I wish him as much success as I have had at Rodeo Realty!” Rodeo’s current crop of agents include top producer Josh Flagg.
Though Bacal’s signage and website emphasize the Revel brand, he is technically licensed with Side, a San Francisco-based brokerage platform that partners with prominent agents in several markets to support their businesses. Side’s other affiliations in Southern California include Anthony Marguleas’ Amalfi Estates, and Stroyke Properties Group, active in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. Side, launched in 2016, has raised over $36 million from investors, according to data firm Pitchbook.
“We transform agents into businesses,” Guy Gal, CEO of Side, said in an interview Tuesday. “We do it as the broker of record, we do all the work they don’t want, and the agents can focus on selling.” The firm maintains the same commission splits with every single agent they work with, Gal said, noting that in its home base of San Francisco, it works with 14 of the top 100 top-producing teams.
Bacal has always been willing to experiment. He was one of the pioneers of using flashy videos to attract eyeballs to his glitzy listings. In June, he launched Rila, a mobile app that he hopes will become the “Instagram of real estate.”