New brokerage modeled on law firm to debut

If real estate brokers occasionally suffer from a bad rap, attorneys are surely afflicted with the same problem. But according to Joseph Ferrara, an attorney specializing in real estate and intellectual property for 28 years, those two professions can make a winning combination.

That’s the idea behind Ferrarra’s New York Real Estate Advocates, a new residential brokerage group — with a tentative early 2010 launch date — that will be run by real estate attorneys, with licensed agents making the sales.

“We’re trying to model it after a law office somewhat [and] we’re coming to the table with legal knowledge that other brokers don’t have,” Ferrara said. “Because we know real estate law, we know how to save [clients money] on transfer taxes, et cetera.”

Ferrara said he plans to upend other standard practices of the industry as well. Principals won’t be called “brokers,” but instead, “advocates.” The agency will run on a subscription-based model, meaning that agents will pay a monthly $100 fee to the firm and keep 100 percent of their commissions. There will be no quotas. He also hopes that the agency may even do some pro bono work.

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Of course, this is not the first brokerage to adopt a commission-free model — Charles Rutenberg Realty and William B. May both use the approach.

“You’re in a position to do things other people can’t do because your hands aren’t tied by a 50-50 [commission] model,” Ferrara said. “We’re trying to create this new culture.”

The firm is currently recruiting agents, and Ferrara said he plans to open up offices in New York City, Long Island and Westchester.

And, even though several firms have shuttered in the financial downturn, Ferrara said he’s optimistic that he could take the company national someday.