When Chris Trapani, founder and CEO of Sereno Group Real Estate, graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1990, he immediately went to work in the real estate business as an agent, before having the opportunity to experience a number of different roles during his first 16 years in the industry.
“The first nine years I was an agent, closing 48 – 50 sales a year,” says Trapani. “Our firm was acquired by NRT, and I was a branch manager for one of the larger Coldwell Banker offices for two years, closing about $1 billion a year in the office. I was then capped to be the regional president in Silicon Valley, a job I did for four years, doing about $8 billion in volume.”
In 2006, Trapani decided to start his own firm, and founded the Sereno Group.
“I had been managing a really large operation before, and while there are a lot of pluses to that, what we really wanted to do was focus on being very agent-centric and bring in experienced people only,” Trapani explains. “We haven’t really brought in any people that were brand-new to the business throughout our first 10 years. That’s why instead of growing into a 1,000-agent firm, we sit at 325 people today.”
For the past five years, the firm has ranked in the top five in the country for per-agent productivity, which Trapani feels speaks to the caliber of agent the Sereno Group employs.
Although the Sereno Group has seen fewer transactions year-over-year in 2016, the company has seen sales volume up 8 percent. Trapani also notes that there’s less inventory going into the end of the year than years past.
“Even though things have been a bit softer and not as frantic, given the low inventory, I think we’re going to start 2017 with a lot of competition in the first quarter, which means we’ll see levels of appreciation,” says Trapani. “There’s simply not enough inventory to spread out among the demand that’s going to hit.”
In addition to their business acumen, Sereno Group is committed to fundraising endeavors, as well. One of the firm’s noteworthy achievements is their “1% For Good” movement, where agents can elect to contribute 1 percent of their gross commissions on every transaction to a charity of their choosing; the firm then matches the donation. Sereno Group has donated more than $500,000 each of the last two years.
“I feel the stronger our culture is on the inside, and the better our agents feel, the more we attract like-minded people,” Trapani says. “By focusing on the agents we have, they become our greatest advocates out in the marketplace because of their enthusiasm. That creates more momentum for us when it comes to attracting agents who share those values.”
Looking ahead, Trapani continues to seek opportunities north of Palo Alto toward San Francisco, and south to Carmel.
“We’ve really tried to be thoughtful about growth, and never opened an office just for growth’s sake,” says Trapani. “The people have to be right for us, and if the right people come together, we’re not afraid to open up a new office in a given market. We just make sure we do it right.”
Vitals: Sereno Group Real Estate
Years in Business: 10
Size: 9 offices, 325 agents
Region Served: Silicon Valley
Projected Sales Volume for 2016: $3 billion
Projected Transactions for 2016: 2,300
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