On a "wing and a prayer" we came to be in February of 1999. Our core belief in change and positive energy has served us well -- this year we celebrate our 20th Anniversary! The four of us will never forget twenty years ago surfing the waves of our favorite beach and then over lunch conjecturing about the future of residential real estate in America as the largest real estate, hotel, and car franchise giant in the world, Realogy, had just gobbled up the premier independent luxury firm in Washington, DC, Pardoe Real Estate.
Tom was the Executive Vice President of Sotheby's International Realty in New York; Bill was one of Pardoe's top agents and the Mid-Atlantic Sotheby's representative; Dana was the Director of Finance, HR, Information Systems, and Business Support at global telecom giant Mitel; and Marc was the New York Managing Partner of Egon Zehnder, a "big 5" global executive search firm.
As had been the practice when Sotheby's affiliates were bought out by large franchise organizations, Pardoe lost their Sotheby's affiliation. With Pardoe having dominated such a large portion of the luxury real estate market in the Capital Region, a void was left for Sotheby's to fill, and we were delighted when Sotheby's agreed to fill that void by conferring the Sotheby's affiliation on our newly formed Washington Fine Properties (WFP).
Our goal was to form a firm unlike any other real estate firm we knew of in America. Not another "also ran" real estate agency, but a professional services firm who's vertical just happened to be real estate. We wanted to establish our operating principles to benefit our clients and agents, not ourselves; we wanted to re-invent the "gold standard" on so many fronts, relationally and technologically, and we thought establishing limits to our growth (number of agents and offices) from the start was critical to the culture we hoped to establish for our firm. A few brave souls joined us in launching WFP, and we have never looked back, only forward in anticipation. A handful of values and principles have guided us in our growth:
We founded our firm knowing that we would only be as good as our agents, and thus set a higher bar for recruiting our agents. Rather than focus on sheer productivity, we looked first to deep experience and cultural alignment. We wanted then, and still want today, agents who appreciate a highly collegial and collaborative environment, agents who, as we say, know how to share the toys in their sandbox, both within our firm, and with other real estate firms. Our roughly 150 agents are extremely self-directed, yet their actions and beliefs foster a harmonious, shared work environment packed with energy. It's not by accident that we have the highest average agent productivity (16M) on the Eastern seaboard.
We have always been guided by what we believe is right for our clients. Our clients entrust us with finding or selling what is often the single largest financial asset they have, or ever will have their home. Our "client first" commitment is a guarantee of the soundness and integrity of our advice. The combined experience of our Firm is unlike any other firm in the Capital Region, and our "shared knowledge" platform with only 150 agents (by design) creates a more powerful proposition for our clients than other firms in our market with three, four, or fifty times the number of agents.
Our power is not in sheer numbers, but in the connectivity between a small, tight, highly experienced agent base. It is why we are THE market makers in the Capital Region.
Technology is the driver of great change in the real estate industry today. It has been for decades, but today, with the constant talk about the disintermediation of real estate agents by technology, it has reached a fevered pitch. While we will always be first and foremost a relational firm, we have never lost sight of the importance of evolving technology and are very much market makers in the realm of technology with our "open architecture" approach to technology.
Focused momentum has everything to do with how we can exceed our client's goals by hitting the ball out of the park, and scoring home runs. It begins with our "client first" philosophy, continues with recruiting the most experienced, seasoned agents, and then giving our agents the tools they need to move with speed and agility. Momentum is a function of "mass" and "speed", and we have the perfect marriage between the two. We have the reach you need, and we're nimble.
Since our founding we have celebrated many milestones and seen many changes:
In 2004, when Realogy bought the whole of Sotheby's International Realty and was changing their affiliate structure to a franchisee structure, we dropped our affiliation with Sotheby's and aligned ourselves with a handful of "truly select" luxury organizations that we thought would better serve our clients at the luxury end. We thought that in the increasingly more democratic, "networked era" in which we were living, it was better to have broader, rather than narrower, exposure to international networks. In tandem, we launched "Fine Properties International, our own umbrella marketing network focused at both the national and international levels in order to deliver the broadest marketing exposure -- bar none -- for luxury property listings.
In 2006, we acquired Armfield, Miller & Ripley Fine Properties in Middleburg and Washington, Virginia, another former Sotheby's affiliate, based on the belief, which has been strongly borne out, that more and more Washingtonians and Virginians would want to have a footing in both places.
2008 brought a recessionary period which we here in Washington seemed to skirt better than most markets in the U.S. It actually began a robust period of growth for WFP which continues to this day. While firms began downsizing in earnest, realizing they were "bricks and mortar" heavy, we continued our office expansion in select markets. Today we have 10 offices in the Greater Capital Region, and have expanded "organically" to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
As mentioned earlier, advancements in technology and the use of technology have created step changes in our industry in the last 5 or 6 years. One of the most important developments has been the creation of an "equal playing field" in terms of accessibility and cost of technology. No one firm, big, small, independent, or public has an advantage over other firms in terms of the apps/tools they might deploy -- it now has everything to do with what agents and clients choose to use and not use.
To sum it up, we believe in positive energy, and we believe in change. It's all about serving you better. Market reach is critical, but bigger, whether in terms of sales volume or agents, is not always better, or more efficient. We have chosen the opposite path. Inspired nimbleness. Here's to inspired nimbleness in this virtual age. We look forward to serving you!