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When Carol Audette and Steve Lipkin decided to team up, each had established, individually successful teams, with impressive marketshare to match. Audette’s career in real estate spanned 30-plus years; Lipkin’s, 20, specializing in the multifamily sector.

At the beginning of the year, the two united, forming the highest-producing team in Vermont, combined garnering more than $119 million in sales volume, according to data from their MLS from the past year.

Now, with energy and focus, The Lipkin Audette Team—16 members strong—is charting a course for long-term success, leading the market in Northwest Vermont, including Chittenden County, where Burlington is the county seat, and Addison, Franklin and Grand Isle counties. Audette and Lipkin, along with Luke Clavelle, Lipkin’s business partner, and nine other REALTORS®—plus administrative staff, including a closing coordinator—cover the residential side, as well as investment and land sales.

“Our two teams have been working collaboratively for over a year,” says Lipkin, who discussed the merger recently with RISMedia. “Merging our businesses to expand the services and expertise we offer our clients was the logical next step.”

Suzanne De Vita: Steve, what was behind the decision to join your two teams?
Steve Lipkin: I’ve been at it for 20 years with a laser focus on Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, but also on multifamily apartment buildings—Burlington is a big college town, so there’s a strong market for those. We have nearly 50 percent marketshare in that class, and we were maxed out. There’s only so many apartment buildings that trade, and as our team grew, we wanted to expand our opportunities.

Carol is a 34-year veteran, and had grown a team, as well. She was looking to partner up with a team that would continue on the tradition she’s had of excellence. It was a great fit for the two teams—and for us, to differentiate ourselves, to expand to residential and, geographically, into the four different counties. 

SD: You’ve been affiliated with Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty since 1998, and Carol affiliated with the brokerage in 2010. How did the firm support your teaming up?
SL: They were absolutely fantastic. You can’t even imagine all the nitty-gritty details that are involved in rebranding and getting all of our different systems integrated together. The owners and management at Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman has been so supportive—we’ve got a full-time IT guy who’s dedicated so much time and expertise, we’ve got a full-time marketing team…they’ve really been a great partner.

It’s a ton of work upfront, and it’s been over a year in the works. There’s been so much hands-on work from both Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman and our agents and staff, especially our key administrative team, Sue Mathieu, Keeley Painter and Dawn Harvey. Combined they have over 60 years of experience, so they have the best systems down pat. It’s been a terrific collaboration, and it’s been well worth it.

SD: Now that you’re combined, how will you determine who fits with the new team?
SL: First and foremost, it’s got to be the right personality, the right values and the right cultural fit, because we’re a really tight-knit family that needs to get along and trust each other. That’s why this merger was such a great fit. In terms of skills, certainly we want to have the best educated and the best salespeople out there in the industry. Some of those will be veterans who have the experience to do it; the others are new agents who will embrace the systems we have. There’s pros and cons to both.

SD: What about integrating new technology/tools? Who’s the decision-maker on the team?
SL: Our sales manager, Brian Racine, takes the lead on that, and then if it looks worthy, we huddle up and meet. It’s a collaborative process. We respect and want to get feedback. We run everything by the team to make sure it’s the right fit.

SD: With the merger, it’s been a busy start to the year for you. What’s next for the team?
SL: Ultimately, we’d like to grow—but for now, we’re going to hunker down and get our systems down pat and the merge underway. 2018 was a great year for both teams—the Lipkin Team was the No. 1 team in Vermont based on sales volume, and the Carol Audette Team was one of the top three teams in Vermont based on number of closed sales. Our combined team is looking forward to a fantastic 2019. The sky’s the limit!

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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