The Real Deal Miami

Spike in Palm Beach activity spurs new broker hires

By Luis F. Perez | December 16, 2009 04:50PM

alternate textFrom left, new Brown Harris Stevens hires: Charlotte Curran, Elaine Edwards, Gregory Weadock, Mahnaz Whelton and Carla Coser

As the real estate market swings up in Palm Beach, leading brokerage firms are looking for and landing top talent.

Brown Harris Stevens of Palm Beach, one of the oldest and largest luxury residential real estate brokerages on the tony island, announced Monday the hiring of five associates. Linda A. Gary Real Estate is looking to hire new agents, and the Corcoran Group, which has brought on a number of agents over the last year, expects to hire agents as the market starts to look up.

At BHS of Palm Beach, Elaine Edwards came on board as a broker associate and Mahnaz Whelton, Gregory Weadock, Carla Coser and Charlotte Curran as sales associates.

“Individually, they’ve been very, very successful,” said Ava Van de Water, executive vice president and broker of BHS of Palm Beach. “Now, we’re pooling their talent together.”

Edwards and Whelton worked at Sotheby’s International Realty in Palm Beach. Weadock came from Barclay’s International Realty, where he was vice chairman and president of the mortgage brokerage division. Coser worked with Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors in Ft. Lauderdale and Curran was in luxury sales, including a stint at the Boca Raton Resort and Spa.

What’s happening in Palm Beach reflects the increased sales across the county and state.

According to Florida Realtors, formerly known as the Florida Association of Realtors, sales in Palm Beach County rose 36 percent, to 841 from 618, in October. Existing home sales rose 45 percent in October with a total of 15,160 homes sold in Florida compared to 10,444 homes sold in October 2008, according the association’s latest figures.

Even as hiring picks up, that doesn’t mean there are a lot of available jobs.

While she’s looking for new agents, “we’re being extremely selective,” said Linda Gary, who established Linda A. Gary Real Estate 18 years ago, and may add two agents to her stable of about 14 listed on the firm’s Web site.

Even during the worst of times, turnover rate at top brokerages is low, according to the National Association of Realtors. Most agents stay at their firms for at least five years, said Michelle Wardlaw, a spokesperson for the association.

“It’s a pretty stable industry,” she said.

In Palm Beach, there have not been wholesale changes recently. Some people have come and gone. But generally, it has been people looking for better opportunities in a down cycle, several brokers said.

Gary has associates that have been with her firm since its inception. However, she is interviewing agents who are unhappy at some of the start-up firms that popped up during the boom time, she said.

Those firms were offering higher splits on commissions. But when the market changed, so did those firms’ approaches. Agents found themselves having to pay marketing expenses and not getting the same commission, Gary said.

BHS has two Palm Beach offices with more than 50 agents and is the exclusive Christie’s Great Estates affiliate for Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. Van de Water said her new agents can tap into Christie’s marketing operation that stretches across the country. That’s something smaller firms cannot offer, she said.

For the top brokerages what’s most important is finding professionals who fit into their culture no matter whether it’s a down or up market, several real estate pros said.

“We’re always looking for and adding good people,” said William Yahn, senior regional vice president for the Corcoran Group, the island’s largest brokerage.

Yahn has added six people to work in the West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens markets in the last year, he said. And there’s a possibility he could add agents to the Palm Beach office in the next year.

“We’re expecting more activity, so we may,” Yahn said.