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Realty Collective: A Fresh Take on Real Estate

The collective real estate firm makes inroads by acquiring local experts.

In Carroll Gardens, a new, collectively run real estate firm is growing fast. 

Realty Collective recently opened a Smith Street office, which joins their first office on Columbia Street. Last month, they asked Angela Vita, a local broker with her own 30-year-old firm, to join the collective. And this is the second acquisition in just two years – in 2009 Realty Collective bought Frank Manzione’s agency on Columbia Street.

The firm is run like a collective -- there is no inter-office competition or sales incentives. By upholding that ideal and bringing in the expertise of more experienced brokers such as Vita and Manzione, Realty Collective strives to improve the search for a home.

Realty Collective is only six years old, and is made up of 15 employees, several who double as artists and/or students. Staff members include a photographer, a sculptor and two architects, to name just a few. Victoria Hagman, owner, is currently earning her masters in historic preservation.

“It’s like one stop shopping,” Hagman said. “You can walk into an apartment, have somebody tell you how to stage it, how to set it up and paint it and how to use the space in a functional way.”

The addition of Vita offers, according to Hagman, “a great perspective.” The same is true of Manzione.

Frank Manzione also offers advice and occassionally helps with clientele. Hagman realizes that their years of experience provide an invaluable resource to the company.

Hagman says the shop's emphasis on working as a collective also sets it apart.

“We all work together,” she added. “We’re a collective of different types of people from all walks of life who each bring something different to the table.”

On a wall in the office is a work by Susan Weinthaler, with several small magnetic squares arranged on a metal sheet. Hagman walked over and started moving around the magnetic squares.

“This embodies what I want the company to be,” she said. “People can come and reorganize the art just like they’re re-organizing their life.”

Hagman fully understands the difficulty of buying, selling or renting a place. She tries to take the stress out of apartment hunting, working with clients to turn a house into a home.

One way of doing this is through a full on staging for prospective homeowners. Hagman, who admits to an addiction to Ebay, is constantly collecting art and furniture to design homes for sale.

“People want to buy somebody else’s life,” she said, adding that people often let their homes fall apart when things go wrong in their lives. “This is a way of coming in and showing people that they can have this great place and have a better environment to live in.”

Realty Collective also teaches realty related workshops -- how to buy, sell, or rent a home, and how to utilize your living space -- at the .

Decorating doesn't have to be expensive, said Hagman, adding that most everything she buys is from Ebay, and, as she said, “there is nothing wrong with Ikea.” In fact, the newly designed office on Smith Street is furnished almost entirely by items purchased there.

Hagman says Realty Collective understands that living in New York, and not just looking for an apartment in New York, is hard.

“It’s apartment therapy for the emotional, stressful, situation that is New York,” she said. “We’re here to be handholders and help make this process less stressful for people.”

Anthony May 04, 2011 at 11:56 AM
This is an interesting aspect to real estate I've never heard of. I think this article could have done a better job of telling how this "collective" works. I'm especially interested in "there is no inter-office competition or sales incentives." Real estate is totally that and I would like to hear more about the business side of this venture. I really don't care about the decorating of potential homes being sold to buyers. In a community that runs on real estate I want to see why this place is different than any other real estate firm in the neighborhood.
Gwen Ruelle May 04, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Thanks for the feedback, Anthony. I just did a quick follow-up with Hagman, and she gave a few examples of how the collective works. Basically, agents use other agents as resources based on their specialties or backgrounds. She said that if an agent has a client that is interested in Fort Greene, for example, they would consult with another agent who specializes in the Fort Greene neighborhood. Or if someone can't make an important meeting with a client, another agent can show up in their place. With larger projects, such as designing and selling a home, several employees often divide up the work to make sure that no aspect of the work falls through the cracks. Everybody gets paid for their work, but their is no competition between agents. I hope that answers your question!
Michael Brown May 04, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Perhaps is answers some questions, but the real question refers to comission structure. Totally understandable if thats not something you want to answer, but I'm sure that is what he was really getting at.
Anthony May 05, 2011 at 09:56 AM
I worked in real estate a long time ago and it's not really a new idea that you rely on other people in the office if they have a background in a certain neighborhood that you may lack. Usually, people in real estate come from all different backgrounds and they bring that with them into their new job. All I'm saying is this isn't really new nor newsworthy.

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