Brokerage startup Casa Blanca lures Louis Buckworth from Zeckendorf

Former sales director at 520 Park aims to bring “white glove” service to millennials

Louis Buckworth (Casa Blanca, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
Louis Buckworth (Casa Blanca, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

Louis Buckworth, who had been sales director at Zeckendorf Development’s 520 Park Avenue since 2015, has joined the app-centric residential brokerage Casa Blanca as managing director.

Buckworth, himself an investor in Casa Blanca, is tasked with helping the proptech bring the trappings of “white glove” service to millennial and zennial residential rentals and sales.

“My role will be to craft a customer experience,” Buckworth said.

Landing Buckworth, who sold $1 billion worth of units at 520 Park, represents a milestone for the fledgling startup, founded in 2019 by Hannah Bomze and Erez Zaurer.

New York–based Casa Blanca bills itself as a “mobile-first” brokerage and has been described as the Tinder of home search. Its customers use a swipe-left, swipe-right interface in an AI-powered app to match them with a property. All communication and scheduling takes place in the app.

Casa Blanca uses the data it gathers to foster a direct relationship with customers, which distinguishes it from traditional brokerages that rely on agents to do that. It says its top-down model guarantees a high and consistent standard of service no matter the market, price point or property type, and wards off agent self-dealing.

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“Obviously the customer needs to enjoy the experience, but they also need to know that the agent, and the firm behind the agent, is looking out for their interests,” Buckworth said. “And I don’t think that’s something that really exists in our market.”

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The company operates in New York and Denver and raised $2.6 million in a seed round in April 2021. Eventually it will branch out to other markets, Buckworth said.

Casa Blanca is hardly the only brokerage trying to use technology to streamline operations and make transactions more pleasant for agents and buyers, while carving out market share. Many firms have burned through a lot of cash in the process. But Bomze said by email that Casa Blanca has been able “to leverage the initial funding to develop a profitable and sustainable business.”

A millennial-focused approach to brokerage is timely. The cohort, which was once thought to have largely abandoned homeownership, accounted for more than half of all home-purchase loan applications in 2021.

Casa Blanca says its consumer-facing model is better also for agents, who are fed leads by the company and are encouraged to work as a team rather than compete with each other. Casa Blanca prioritizes hiring agents with less than two years of experience. As of early February, it had around 34 in New York and six in Denver.

In his role, Buckworth will focus on how to train new hires to “translate the luxury experience” for customers. The company provides them comprehensive back-end support that includes marketing, legal, scheduling and car services.

“All the agent has to do is focus on the customer,” he said.

Buckworth called Casa Blanca a “gateway brand,” especially for first-time homebuyers. “[It] has the potential to shift the perception of the real estate industry to evolve into one that is progressive, modern and … trustworthy.”

Before his stint at 520 Park, Buckworth raised funds for other major developments in the city and was an agent at Brown Harris Stevens and Corcoran.

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