Leading Independents Unite to Create Corcoran Global Living
In February, the Corcoran Group, Realogy’s premier lifestyle brand operating in New York City, Miami, The Hamptons, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla., announced its first foray into the franchising arena—and its first-ever West Coast presence—with the formation of the new brand Corcoran Global Living.
While the venture may be brand new, the players involved are anything but. Corcoran Global Living combines two well-established, leading independent brokerages: Zephyr Real Estate in San Francisco and Oliver Luxury Real Estate, serving Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nev. At the helm of the firm—at press time, comprising 450 agents across 13 offices with annual combined sales of more than $2.6 billion—is Global Living Founder and CEO Michael Mahon.
Mahon—former president of veteran firms HER REALTORS® in the Midwest and Southern California’s First Team Real Estate—embarked on the mission of uniting independent brokerages in key communities throughout the Western U.S. when he formed Exclusive Lifestyles last year. Corcoran Global Living marks the next chapter.
“This move amounts to a start-up brokerage looking to do two mergers at the same time and kick off a whole new franchise brand,” says Mahon of the formation of Corcoran Global Living. “We wanted to create a unique network that would also provide a certain level of technology support. This is a way of uniting what we as independents had developed, while creating access to great products and systems.”
Finally, an Affiliation That Made Sense
For Randall Kostick, president and CEO of Zephyr Real Estate, uniting as Corcoran Global Living offered a viable strategy for competing in the current real estate climate.
“So many independents in so many areas of California are facing the issue of competing with high-tech firms and national firms taking over the local environment,” he explains. “This was an opportunity that involved the coming together of independents from many different areas of California to experience economies of scale, and bring together their various talents to better compete in the market.”
For Zephyr and Oliver, which had been courted by many firms over the years, Corcoran Global Living was an opportunity that finally made sense.
“We’ve been approached many times over the years, and in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about an exit strategy,” says Oliver Real Estate Broker/Owner Michael OIiver. “But no one was on the level of what we were doing. When I met Michael Mahon, I was impressed. When he brought Corcoran into the fold, I finally felt that the brand was good enough to work for and pass on to my people. We’d been approached by Compass and a slew of others, but Michael was the one I had a lot of confidence in.”
Zephyr COO Matthew Borland agrees. “The Corcoran brand unites these independents and their talent and depth of experience in the brokerage business, which is lacking in some of the new companies in the market today,” he says.
Zephyr’s Melody Foster, now serving as chief experience officer for Corcoran Global Living, explains that previous suitors had the wrong intentions and the wrong chemistry. “There were plenty of companies that would have been a wild mismatch and a step down for us,” she says. “We didn’t feel that way about Corcoran Global Living. We knew we’d have the leadership and we felt good about the branding they could bring to agents; we knew that clients would be excited.”
Not Your Typical Franchise
Although the firm falls under the Corcoran brand, which is part of the Realogy family, Mahon emphasizes that Corcoran Global Living will not operate as a typical franchise, where the brand dictates the rules. “That’s not what we have going on,” he says. “We have the ability to pick and choose what services we want to be part of. We are creating our own destiny.”
Corcoran President and CEO Pamela Liebman supports the unique path Corcoran Global Living (the first of Corcoran’s franchising ambitions) is blazing. “Leveraging the extensive local expertise of Corcoran Global Living’s 450 agents, along with the strong recognition of the Corcoran brand and the unmatched resources of Realogy, this new partnership will enable agents to dramatically boost their visibility from coast to coast and tap into Corcoran’s high-impact tools, training and marketing,” she said when the brand was announced.
“We’re excited to be affiliated with and partner with a brand that was founded and led by a strong female entrepreneur, and where her handpicked replacement is still at the helm,” says Borland. “We find that exciting and inspirational.”
According to Mahon, Corcoran’s franchising plan is highly selective. “The Corcoran franchise group is not looking to be in every metro in the U.S., just as we as a brokerage aren’t looking to be in every metro across the West Coast,” he explains. “We’re looking for companies that match our culture and are more in the mid- to upper tier of the marketplace. We have every intention of expanding into other states throughout the U.S.—but only when it fits our unique culture and goal of creating a greater independent company under the servicing of Corcoran to help us leverage costs.”
As Oliver explains, “This is all about the people. It’s not a big corporate footprint. Michael is putting together like-minded independents. My company will benefit by being able to network with like-kind people. It’s an extraordinary advantage for all of us.”
The Competitive Advantages
Mahon believes that Corcoran Global Living will offer a first-of-its kind value proposition to brokers. “This is offering the flexibility for us to preserve the independent cultures of the brokerages we’re bringing together, while leveraging the luxury branding and marketing that the Corcoran brand has been known for across the East Coast,” he says. “We’ll also be fueled by the technology advancements that Realogy is providing.”
For brokerages that join the Corcoran Global Living fold, like Zephyr and Oliver, that technology offering is a big pull. “Technology is a big factor as it relates to lead development and conversion, and assisting our sales associates in getting to clients first, then servicing those clients in the way they want to be serviced,” says Mahon, also noting the opportunity the brand brings to brokers who are looking to move into new arenas, like new construction and development, iBuyer and concierge programs.
Mahon also believes that Corcoran Global Living will offer an important competitive advantage over the spate of venture capital-backed firms penetrating the real estate market. “We’ve got the financial resources to go out and acquire technology and marketing tools, but it’s the talent piece that’s the big differentiator,” he says. “They don’t have the recognition in the local communities that we have.”
Zephyr and Oliver echo that sentiment, seeing the opportunity to come together as Corcoran Global Living as an important competitive strategy for their future.
“We saw this as an opportunity to seize upon,” says Borland. “Could we have kept on as an independent and survived and thrived? Yes. But this is an easier path that offers synergies and networking and economies of scale.”
“We’re all pretty strong companies,” says Kostick. “This was more about looking for a company of the same quality we had created at Zephyr, so that we wouldn’t let people down. The market has become discombobulated with the Compass phenomenon. This creates a smart group of independents, which adds stability.”
Joining together as Corcoran Global Living provides new opportunities and competitive advantages for agents as well.
“In San Francisco, there’s been enough changeover with new firms coming to town, so agents eye everything warily,” explains Foster. “We told agents the only thing that’s going to change for them will be having more good stuff. Now, if anything, agents are not nervous…they’re clamoring for it. Michael Mahon is a visionary and people can see that the Corcoran brand fits with our culture of people and lifestyle first.”
“In San Francisco, especially, the rapid change of the marketplace has been dramatic,” says Borland. “We lost five storied brands that got gobbled up by Compass. Agents were looking to us and asking, ‘What are you going to do to stay viable?’ This answered the question. Now agents can take comfort knowing they’re doubling down with us.”
Growing the Brand
Moving ahead, Mahon will look for companies that are willing to leverage into shared equity partnerships or those who are looking for exit strategies. Top teams are in his purview as well. Corcoran Global Living offers an optimal solution for the right firms as industry consolidation advances, he believes.
“I think we’ll see consolidation like we’ve never seen in the industry in the next 5-7 years,” he says. “Having smaller companies in the field that are limited in the services they can provide to consumers is not beneficial to the consumer. The gaining popularity of iBuyers is consumers telling the industry that they’d rather go down the path of an easier transaction as opposed to facing the unknown in a very fractionalized transaction process.”
While the potential for expansion long-term is unlimited, short-term, Mahon is confident that Corcoran Global Living will soon have a presence throughout the West Coast. “We’ve pretty much got every major metro identified, and we’re in discussion with many brokers. There will be many announcements over the next 12-24 months.”
According to Oliver, there are several key factors that stand to guarantee the success of Corcoran Global Living path forward. “This is being created by a visionary, and a group of people who have been in the trenches of real estate for 20-plus years. We all understand each other and we understand the market, and the ups and downs of this business. That’s the difference between us and the disruptors.”
For Mahon, Corcoran Global Living is the ultimate expression of the culture he spearheaded in his previous roles at HER and First Team. “What I prided myself on at both those organizations—which were independent, family organizations—was that they were really known for their culture and growth. With every brokerage we join with at Corcoran Global Living, it’s imperative that we maintain that localized culture and family feel. People matter. As long as you’re investing in people, it’s hard to go wrong.”
For more information, please visit www.corcorangl.com.
Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at email@example.com.