Hollywood's Top Real Estate Agents: Meet the New Players in L.A.'s "Knife Fight"

Allon Reffkin - H - 2016

Compass and Mercer Vine are shaking up the business with new models that deviate from the typical agent-client relationship.

THE STARTUP UNICORN: "I understood at a young age that real estate agents didn't get enough support from their firms," says Robert Reffkin, co-founder and CEO of Compass — and the son of a real estate agent mother. Headquartered in New York, Compass opened L.A. offices in November and recently raised $75 million, pushing the total it has raised from investors to $210 million. Part brokerage, part tech startup, it offers agents a suite of tools that help register open-house visitors and capture contact information, download information from the MLS to create marketing documents and provide up-to-the-second valuations and profiles of other agents for anyone looking to co-broker a deal. Andrew Rhoda, a Beverly Hills Compass agent who previously worked at Coldwell Banker and Douglas Elliman, says the tools set him up for one of the best years of his career. A free consumer app powered by the company's 50 in-house engineers offers data updated by the second. Compass, which has 900 brokers and offices in nine cities — including the L.A. agents it poached from Coldwell, The Agency and Nourmand & Associates — has reached a valuation of more than $1 billion (it's real estate's unicorn), with rumors of an IPO in the near future.

THE HANDS-ON BOUTIQUE: Mercer Vine, which opened its West Hollywood headquarters in July, is headed by founding partner Adam Rosenfeld (previously of Hilton & Hyland and John Aaroe Group). "What I learned from working at other places is that things are not collaborative," he says. "It's a knife fight. So we decided to create something where there is always someone there to answer your question." Most of Mercer Vine's 32 agents work in the traditional model, but Rosenfeld also is leading a team that will consult with developers on land acquisition and guide them through permitting, design, build and sale. The team has 55 projects set to hit the market during the next three years, ranging in price from $2 million to $100 million. 

This story first appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.