CEO shakeup at Keller Williams NYC

Balbuena worked for owner Richard Amato on Long Island

From left: Keller Williams' Mark Chin, Richard Amato, and CEO Lauren Balbuena (Keller Williams; NY State MLS)
From left: Keller Williams' Mark Chin, Richard Amato, and CEO Lauren Balbuena (Keller Williams; NY State MLS)

The new owner of Keller Williams New York City is bringing in a new leader.

Richard Amato, who bought the franchise from Ilan Bracha and Haim Binstock earlier this year, has tapped Lauren Balbuena to replace CEO Mark Chin, the company said. Balbuena previously led Keller Williams Points North on Long Island, another franchise owned by Amato.

Chin, who ran the Manhattan franchise during a tumultuous few months, culminating with its sale in February, will stay on to help lead a new training program and consultancy for agents — a move he called a “win-win.”

“I am proud to have guided the organization through a really tough time,” he said, referencing the brokerage’s financial woes and agent churn. Chin said he could have stayed on if he wanted to, but preferred to step back from the daily grind. “We’ve reset all the things we needed to reset… we’ve been profitable every month since March,” he said.

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From left: Ilan Bracha, Haim Binstock, Richard Amaton and Mark Chin (Credit: Getty Images)
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With around 360 agents, Keller Williams NYC is a shadow of its former, 900-agent self. But executives have been pushing hard for a turnaround after the brokerage grew too big, too fast. Bracha and Binstock brought the franchise brand to New York in 2011.

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After purchasing their rights to the franchise, Amato consolidated two Keller Williams offices, in Midtown and Tribeca, which were run as separate businesses. In July, the combined brokerage moved into a 20,000-square-foot office at 99 Park Avenue.

Balbuena said key goals going forward are “growth and profitability.” Prior to working for Amato on Long Island, Balbuena was Chin’s No. 2 at Keller Williams Tribeca. She got her start at now-defunct Town Residential.

Over the last 90 days, Balbuena said, Keller Williams NYC has recruited six agents who sold a combined $60 million worth of real estate last year. And since June, the franchise has shared $140,000 in office profits with agents. (Keller Williams’ profit-share program gives agents a portion of the office’s monthly profits.)

In addition to recruiting new agents, Balbuena is looking to Chin’s coaching program to boost productivity and drive business to the franchise.

“The dirty secret is, if a brokerage has a few hundred people, the production is hugely concentrated in the top 5 percent,” said Chin, who is running the program with Janet Wilkinson and Susan LeFevre.

Nationally, Keller Williams is known for its agent coaching and training. Keller Williams Realty International is the largest real estate franchise in the U.S. with 169,317 agents and $351.2 billion in 2019 sales.

But it, too, is going through leadership changes. Earlier this month, founder Gary Keller stepped down as CEO, two years into a $1 billion plan to turn Keller Williams into a technology company. KWRI will no longer have a CEO, the company said. Instead, Josh Team is assuming Keller’s former responsibilities under the title of president.

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