A local real estate office’s reasons for dropping its longtime luxury brand are now clear.
Select Properties of Virginia, which recently walked away from its decades-long relationship with Christie’s International Real Estate, is now a franchise of Germany-based Engel & Volkers, which is expanding its presence in the U.S.
Select Properties, whose roots in Richmond go back to the 1950s, will be known starting today as Engel & Volkers Richmond.
The brokerage had previously shared its Christie’s affiliation with Long & Foster Real Estate, which is now the exclusive affiliate for Christie’s in Richmond. Doug Dorsey, owner and broker of Select Properties, said the decision to switch to Engel & Volkers was made easier by overtures from the company.
“They came to us,” he said. “We knew there was change on the horizon, but we didn’t necessarily know what it was or how to get our hands around it.
“We spent a year talking to them,” he said. “And it’s an exclusive territory for us, so there will not be another competitor with the same tools and training and technology that we’re going to have access to.”
Dorsey said Select Properties had been the exclusive affiliate for Christie’s in Richmond going back about 25 years, until Long & Foster signed on as a shared affiliate. He declined to discuss why Long & Foster was brought into the mix.
“I don’t want to talk about the past, but I can tell you for the future (Engel & Volkers) is very devoted to their clients,” he said. “Everything can change, but we’re just excited to be a part of the brand going forward. And they’ve had such success in Europe – they have 55 percent of the market – that being in front of the curve in North America is very, very exciting for us.”
Engel & Volkers currently has operations in the U.S. in California, Georgia, Texas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia markets. The company also has a presence in Canada and 37 other countries around the world, and it’s planning an aggressive U.S. expansion, Dorsey said.
“Engel & Volkers is not on everybody’s lips right now, but I think it will be as they do grow and as the brand is established in North America,” he said.
Dorsey said Engel & Volkers was attracted to his company in part for its volume of luxury sales, which he said account for more than half of its business. He said luxury listing is a subjective term but could be defined as a home priced $750,000 and above.
Scott Shaheen, regional manager for Long & Foster, said he welcomes the addition of Engel & Volkers to the Richmond market.
“There’s always room for competition in the marketplace,” he said. “They’re just the latest person making an entry into the marketplace, so we’ll see how they weather.”
Under the Engel & Volkers flag, Dorsey said his office’s 27 agents will have access to training, technology and marketing. Associate broker Page George is leading the transition, which she said will include new signage and other changes to the company’s office at 5610 Grove Ave. An open house for brokers and clients is being planned for October.
“Engel & Volkers has a certain look; it’s sleek and modern,” George said. “Of course, we’re going to try to keep some of our tradition in there if we can.”
Dorsey said the franchise agreement does involve a fee, but he declined to specify the amount paid to Engel & Volkers.
In a release announcing the franchise, Engel & Volkers said the addition of the Richmond office will add to other markets it serves in Northern Virginia.
“Following the launch of Engel & Volkers shops in Tysons and Lansdowne earlier this year, Richmond, with its natural beauty, rich historical and cultural offerings, and dynamic job market, presented itself as the ideal location to further our Southern footprint,” said Anthony Hitt, CEO of Engel & Volkers North America.
Dorsey’s franchise is the latest in a trend of luxury brands entering the Richmond market.
In addition to Christie’s, other higher-end real estate brands with a presence in Richmond include Sotheby’s Realty, which last year signed on local brokerage The Steele Group, and Berkshire Hathaway, which also entered the local market with an acquisition last year.
“If you look back 10 years ago and you look at the percentage of sales that were handled by franchises, it was probably not that big in Richmond,” Dorsey said. “So I think that’s a very interesting part of all of this: the fact that the franchise is becoming a major player around the globe, really.”