The Agency Founder Mauricio Umansky Talks The Real Estate Firm’s Global Expansion And What’s Next
Before Mauricio Umansky founded The Agency in 2011, he was one of the country’s highest-producing realtors. At one point The Wall Street Journal recognized him as the #3 agent in the U.S. and #1 in California when he was with his brother-in-law Rick Hilton’s firm, Hilton & Hyland.
“The industry used to be archaic—nobody had redefined it in a long, long time,” Umansky tells Forbes. “The real estate industry was certainly lagging, and technology has not really been brought into the business when I started. We were still looking at MLS and the real estate inventory in physical books. It’s mind-blowing when you think about it.”
Since the inception of the Los Angeles-based firm in 2011, Umansky’s goal has always been to modernize the real estate experience through culture, collaboration and innovation. The company’s second pillar was to redefine the industry through marketing.
“We wanted to tell stories and sell a lifestyle, not just a three-bedroom condo,” he says. “We changed that model and told stories about the type of life you’d live at the property. We took the approach of sexy marketing. The next thing we did was create our own tech and have a collaborative CRM system with 100% participation.”
As a business owner and leader, Umansky credits his early success to being willing to fail.
“We dared to be wrong and stuck to our business plan, despite the pressure from other competitors raising money, like Compass and Redfin at the time,” he says. “We never chased what other people were doing and stayed true to ourselves.”
Under Umansky and his co-founder Billy Rose’s leadership, The Agency has achieved $41 billion in total sales volume. They employ more than 800 agents and have more than 50 offices in five countries and counting, with even further plans for expansion. The pandemic, as we know, sparked a major turning point in residential real estate, and Umansky, like many, panicked initially about what it meant for his business.
“For the first time in history, everybody changed their mentality of what they believe life should be,” he says. “By the same token, there were a lot of divorces and people upgrading their homes because they wanted more space. When the entire globe stopped operating, at the same time, new money was infused into economies allowing a tremendous increase in wealth and power. We saw a lot of wealth, people buying and moving, and low interest rates, at least during the pandemic.”
The Agency was founded in Los Angeles is known for its major transactions and has represented some of the world’s most noteworthy properties, like the Playboy Mansion in 2016. They have several listings well above $100 million, like La Fin in Bel-Air and have completed record-breaking transactions. With expansion throughout several states, The Agency most recently announced the opening of their first-ever office in New York City, which is set to open later this year. From Aspen to Cabo San Lucas to Austin and beyond, The Agency is known for selling the finest luxury real estate.
Most recently, the company acquired Triplemint, a technology-powered firm that will operate under The Agency. The Agency will adopt the company’s proprietary technology, like predictive analytics, a fully integrated search platform, machine learning, and real-time alerts. Together they will form an agent first, tech-driven boutique luxury global brokerage firm. In tandem with this acquisition, they also raised $35 million in growth capital from strategic investors as The Agency prepares for even more global expansion.
“The big question in real estate was always ‘how do we use tech?’” he says. “If tech is used for the creation of revenue and the creation of being better advisors, it can be really strong and powerful. We’re not interested in using tech to simply increase our valuation. We are going to continue to operate as we have over the past 11 years as a profitable company. The $35 million we raised is strictly growth equity.”
As far as the current market, he is seeing a bit of a slowdown from the crazy demand during the pandemic.
“The supply is still low, and the curve between supply and demand has shrunk a little,” he says. “Once the borders open to welcome Canadian, European, and Chinese buyers, the demand will increase again. Right now, the U.S. is still in good shape.”
Umansky, whose wife, Kyle Richards, is a longtime cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, says that one piece of advice for new and current agents is to take real estate-focused reality TV with a grain of salt.
“New agents think it’s really easy to get a $12 million listing right off the bat,” he says. “You have to associate yourself with the right company, find a team that makes sense for you, and work hard to get access to that inventory. When you enter or start a business, be patient.”