What began 30 years ago as a door-to-door labor of love for John Brian Losh has turned into a thriving, worldwide network of 131,000 luxury real estate professionals and a website that features approximately 55,000 luxury properties from around the world. Through a unique philosophy that welcomes agents, brokers, independents and brands alike, and a keen eye toward technology and marketing, Losh and team have kept Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate ahead of the curve and a vital force for its members.
In the following interview, Losh, chairman and founder, and Luxury Real Estate President Meghan Barry, share the story of how Luxury Real Estate evolved, and why it remains a leading gateway for the upper-end real estate market.
Maria Patterson: Looking back on your 30-year anniversary, please tell us what first led to the idea of forming a network for luxury real estate professionals.
John Brian Losh: I’m a real estate broker who entered the luxury real estate business in 1971. I bought my first firm in 1976 and realized from the onset that I needed to broaden my marketplace. I realized there were other firms like mine that needed to connect and refer, and expose their business to a maximum audience. I started contacting people I had met around the world, and before we knew it, we had a network that quickly grew to around 100 firms. I founded the network in 1986 and started publishing Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate (a compendium of luxury firms from around the world).
MP: The company has evolved impressively over the years. In your opinion, what are some of the most significant milestones in your history?
Meghan Barry: Obviously, the initiation of the network in 1986, but going online in 1995 was groundbreaking. When we first went online, lots of people thought the internet was a passing phase that people would tire of after a while. Being on the internet in 1995 was a big deal. At first, we only had member profiles and a web version of the directory online. We allowed members to feature five properties with their profiles. Eventually, this evolved into showcasing every property on the site, long before anyone was having conversations about big data and how to most effectively list properties on the internet.
JBL: When we went online, we went from being a small network of people and a book to an international network. Prior to that, people would ask, ‘What’s your exposure? Who sees this book?’ Once we went online, we were able to say, ‘The whole world sees the book.’
MB: There were also important milestones that weren’t tech-related, like hosting our first Luxury Real Estate Conference in 1995, starting Luxury Real Estate magazine in 2001, and forming our Board of Regents in 2004. These are just some of the key factors that have created the total package we have now.
MP: How many properties do you currently feature on LuxuryRealEstate.com?
MB: We have around 50,000 – 55,000 properties on the site. We only feature properties over a certain price point. Our website features more multimillion-dollar properties than any other like site.
MP: What differentiates your network?
JBL: First, we don’t discriminate based on the type of company—we work with independents, franchisees, individual agents. We just want the best, no matter where they come from. Real estate still is, and always will be, a people business. We know who’s who, who they are and what they do, and how they represent their communities. That’s why our membership has confidence in our network. They know there’s substance behind these individuals and their companies.
MB: Back in the day, Brian went door to door and met with people. Today, you can go on the internet and get an overview of a real estate company and its agents, but to actually go see someone’s office and their community gives you a much clearer picture of their company and the business they do. So the fact that Brian has visited these firms in person carries a lot of weight with our network. Brian is a broker, so he can relate. We know their families, their business struggles and successes.
JBL: What also sets us apart is that, unlike most relocation networks, we facilitate the interaction and referral, but don’t take part in the commission. The uber rich deal with brokers all over the world and they like it when their broker in New York knows the broker from Palm Beach. The connections are extremely important.
MP: How would you describe your membership?
MB: When you look at the scope of our members in terms of background, they’re all over the map. But what they have in common is that they are entrepreneurs running businesses at a very high level. They are constantly at the top of industry lists, breaking records and handling transactions of extreme complexity. They are also givers, and they love to share and learn.
JBL: These are also people who give to their communities and to charities. We give a special award to the person or company who’s done the most for their community each year.
MP: What are the key benefits a broker receives from being part of the Luxury Real Estate network?
MB: All members can put listings over a certain dollar amount on the site, and that amount depends upon what’s considered luxury in their respective markets. Members receive a page in the directory and get access to our PR and social media services. They gain access to the Luxury Lounge, which is like a members-only intranet site where they can manage information and connect with other members. Members participate in our Global Luxury Search (GLS), our IDX feed. Members also receive a separate member site branded by Luxury Real Estate and property websites for every listing. Additionally, members are invited to our private events, they can participate in marketing campaigns and advertise in our magazine.
MP: How many members do you currently have?
MB: When you look at the total encompassing number of members, we have an agent count of just over 131,000, an office count close to 3,900, and 515 member companies. Those 515 members are either companies or agents. We represent 68 different countries.
JBL: Our goal is to have the best listings in the world on our site. Sometimes that comes from a company, and sometimes from an individual agent member. The number of members who are franchisees has increased. In many relocation networks, if you are acquired by a franchise, they expel you. If one of our members becomes part of a franchise, they are encouraged to stay involved in our network. Our philosophy is, companies do what they feel they have to do to remain competitive, and we encourage people to do what they believe is necessary. We have top brokers who are part of different umbrella companies; they are all welcome in our tent.
MP: How have you managed to keep the network ahead of the curve when it comes to technology?
JBL: We have a team that only works on technology. All they do is innovate with LuxuryRealEstate.com and the other products and tools that serve our members.
MB: We also stay connected to other companies in our industry that are very technology-minded. We are senior leaders in the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), so we’re at the table when discussions around technology happen in our industry. It’s important to be communicating in the industry so that when we see a need to pivot, we are part of the wave.
MP: Tell us about some of your most cutting-edge technology.
MB: First, our site has been translated into multiple languages. This is not just an instant translation; these are sites created in other languages. Also, our award-winning mobile presence. Mobile is 50 percent of the traffic we get on the site today. Video is also really important, and our Apple TV app now showcases property videos from LuxuryRealEstate.com.
MP: Generally speaking, is the luxury real estate clientele more tech-savvy than most?
MB: Years ago, the answer would have been no. Luxury clients tended to be older and more established. These days, there’s so much wealth in younger generations, we have people of all ages searching for property on our site. We have to aim high, and assume that our consumer is highly tech-savvy, and wants information easily in the most user-friendly way possible.
MP: How have your live events and conferences evolved over the years?
JBL: We get together four times a year and meet with members to share ideas and concepts. We limit the size of our conferences to facilitate an intimate setting—it’s all about making it approachable. That’s why our conferences are like reunions. At our last meeting, a member had just sold a property for $725 million in Texas, and he talked about the whole transaction in a room full of his peers—how he got the buyer, the listing, and how the deal came together.
MB: Members really look at our conferences as a way to create business relationships, but also as a way to decompress, recharge and build their business as a luxury broker.
MP: Please tell us about your Board of Regents. Why was it originally formed, and what is its current role?
JBL: The Board of Regents is the governing body of Luxury Real Estate. They give us feedback on what we can do to make the network better. It’s comprised of about 75 people, and they take the responsibility very seriously.
MB: The member has to commit to a higher level of involvement in the network to be on the Board of Regents. They have to come to conferences and participate in the magazine. This way, we can be assured that we’ll have a thorough geographical swath of attendees. The same with the magazine—this assures that consumers see worldwide representation.
MP: How are you celebrating your 30th anniversary, and what are the company’s plans for the future?
MB: We’ve celebrated a lot on Facebook (the LuxuryRealEstate.com page has over 100,000 likes). We’ve leveraged our 30th anniversary with 30 weeks of Throwback Thursdays, using fun photos from past events, archive pictures of the directory, screenshots and property listings from years back.
JBL: We’re also celebrating our 30th anniversary through our events. For example, we had one panel with legendary agents who have been in the business for over 30 years, followed by a panel of enthusiastic 30-somethings just getting into the business.
MB: In terms of what’s ahead, we have some big plans on the horizon. We’re always striving to be better, improving upon what we’ve built and refining what works well.
For more information, please visit www.LuxuryRealEstate.com.
Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at email@example.com.
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