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E&V_Cover_PhotoWhile every real estate brand has certain assets that set them apart, Engel & Völkers just might have cornered the market on differentiation. For starters, founded in 1977 in Hamburg, Germany, the premium real estate franchise is still actively led by its namesake, Christian Völkers, lending an independent, entrepreneurial vibe to a firm that has expanded to 38 countries around the globe and is comprised of more than 5,000 real estate professionals in more than 541 brokerages. Add to that background a successful push into some 45 North American markets, a leadership team that reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of real estate, and a worldwide network that interacts in real-time, and you’ve got an unparalleled business model that discerning brokers are quick to recognize.

A Reputable, Reachable Leadership

One of the factors that sets Engel & Völkers apart is the quality and accessibility of its leadership, beginning with Christian Völkers himself.

“Christian Völkers is a living namesake of the company who is also very active in its direction,” says Anthony Hitt, CEO of Engel & Völkers North America (see sidebar on page 101). “Because we’re not a public company, we can do what we want to do on our own timetable. Christian Völkers told me to take our brand and evolve it for the U.S. market; to take who we are on a global basis and create something special in North America. That is extremely exciting to me.”

Engel & Völkers began their foray into the North American market in 2006. “For the first five years, we had to come in and take the time to understand the market, and the last two years have really been our 2.0,” says Hitt. “There were a lot of people, however, who understood the brand and had the foresight to join us years ago, such as Colleen Holmes of Engel & Völkers Lake Placid. People have a desire for something that is fresh and different, which is also fun.”

“We couldn’t be prouder of the firms that have joined Engel & Völkers over the years, and especially those in the past year,” says Holmes. “This is a collaborative culture. Each new brokerage enhances what we can do for our agents and clients.”

To help create Engel & Völkers’ North American presence, Hitt assembled some of the best and brightest leaders this industry has seen, such as: Tom Kunz, former CEO of CENTURY 21 Real Estate; Stuart Siegel, former CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty; Jim Ramsay, former SVP of sales and operations for both Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and CENTURY 21 Real Estate; and Jacob Stepan, who was formerly a senior executive at Cendant Corporation.

According to Hitt, recruiting this real estate dream team speaks to Engel & Völkers’ core values: competency, exclusivity and passion. “We actually live by those values, starting with competency,” says Hitt. “We want to attract smart, competent people to join our brand who are at the top of their game. I had no other choice but to find that level of competency when it came to creating the team that would support the North America franchises and their agents.”

And these real estate vets were eager to be part of something so exciting. As Kunz says, “Engel & Völkers is the reason I returned to real estate, because I believe what they offer is truly different and will ultimately change our industry.”

This all-star leadership team is an important selling point to brokers who are signing on with Engel & Völkers. As Shirley Gary, a license partner and broker of Engel & Völkers Buckhead Atlanta, says, “Think about it—my mentor is Tom Kunz! Nobody else has that type of support system that I know of, that’s readily and easily available.”

As Siegel says, “The company has a North American leadership team that is experienced and proven. If one of us hasn’t seen it, it hasn’t happened.”

Siegel, president of Engel & Völkers New York, watched as Hitt successfully redeveloped the brand and began to open in new markets across the U.S., and realized something truly unique was unfolding.

“The marketplace was ripe for the introduction of a brand like ours and this was proven by the reception Anthony was receiving in launching Engel & Völkers nationally,” he recalls. “It proved that the market was very open to a brand that wasn’t just the same-old, same-old in the global luxury business. Over the last 35-plus years, E&V had successfully built a credible business in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Having launched one of the first international firms in the business, I knew that this truly represented a unique opportunity.”

The same degree of selectivity used in assembling the Engel & Völkers North American leadership team is used when considering brokerages to join the brand. Only those firms that fulfill the core values of “competency, exclusivity and passion” are considered, and thus, stand among an elite few.

“Culture is very important to us, as is exclusivity,” says Hitt, “but exclusivity is not necessarily about price point, but rather about who should be part of this organization. We have protected territories, meaning we cannot put another shop in the same location. So it’s very important to us that we have the right partner who can grow with us and whom we can grow with. We are adamant that this brand be something different and be something special, so we only want to attract the type of people who belong in our brand.”