Carolwood Estates enters Newport Beach market by affiliation

Caruso Group shares “commitment to elite service” with Beverly Hills agency

Carolwood Estates Enters OC Market by Affiliation
Caruso Real Estate's Phillip Caruso & Michael Caruso (Getty, Caruso Real Estate)

Another high-marquee brokerage is making a play for Orange County’s luxury residential market, this time by recruiting a local agency.

Carolwood Estates, headquartered in Beverly Hills, announced it opened its first Orange County office. It will work with a veteran firm in the market: Caruso Group, headquartered in Newport Beach. 

Nick Segal, Carolwood’s managing broker and partner, said that his firm also intended to open an office in Montecito next to Santa Barbara, probably in the first quarter of 2024. 

“Our primary focus is Beverly Hills,” Segal said. “We’re looking for locations that complement our client base.” 

Carolwood started business in late 2022 and is helmed by top agent Drew Fenton.

Caruso Group’s founder Michael Caruso opened and operated The Agency’s first two Orange County offices in Laguna Beach and Corona Del Mar in 2018, according to a company history. Caruso Group recently changed its affiliation to Carolwood, according to its California Department of Real Estate profile.

The team, staffed by Michael Caruso and his son Phillip Caruso, made about $77.5 million in sales volume in 2023, according to Real Trends. The group made $500 million in sales volume over the past decade, according to Michael Caruso. He said he is no relation to Rick Caruso, the developer and owner of retail center The Grove and a former Los Angeles mayoral candidate. 

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Michael Caruso said that he wanted to work with Carolwood because it offers a more boutique feel.

“There’s a commitment to elite service and protection of a client’s privacy that we identify with,” he said. “It’s discrete. It’s storytelling that is property-focused. It has always been our style.” 

The once-insular Orange County coastal market has become very hip in recent years, and Los Angeles area agencies such as The Oppenheim Group and The Altman Brothers have opened flagship offices. Both firms have produced reality TV shows based on the luxury real estate scene in Orange County. 

Bravo aired  episodes of “Million Dollar Listing” with Josh Altman in the Newport Beach market. Oppenheim Group’s “Selling Orange County” takes place in the exclusive coastal strip running from Newport Beach to Dana Point.

John Stanaland, a veteran Orange County agent who works with Douglas Elliman, said firms from outside Orange County seem to be gaining a toehold by partnering with OC agents and hiring people locally. 

“Carolwood made a strategic decision by picking local agents familiar with the Orange County market rather than choosing Los Angeles area ones,” Stanaland said. “It takes many years to know and learn the market. There’s a lot of local market knowledge that goes into working here and accurately representing properties.” 

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