The top-selling agent team at SRMF Real Estate has broken off and formed its own firm, setting up shop in a space directly across the street from the residential brokerage’s home base.
Brothers Caleb and Dawson Boyer, along with co-owner Elliott Gravitt, have launched Providence Hill Real Estate, an eight-agent brokerage consisting of the team they’ve built since joining SRMF four years ago.
It’s the first such departure for SRMF — short for Shaheen, Ruth, Martin & Fonville Real Estate — since it itself broke away from a larger brokerage, Long & Foster Real Estate, in 2017. Gravitt and the Boyers joined the firm months later, moving from Re/Max Commonwealth and Long & Foster, respectively.
Where SRMF’s departure has been followed with lawsuits, Dawson Boyer said Providence Hill’s split is amicable.
“We told them when we left we were really leaving out of inspiration,” said Boyer, who started selling real estate under SRMF’s Scott Ruth in 2010, when they were both with Long & Foster.
“We told them it felt like that 18-year-old who loved his parents but was ready to go try to live on their own,” Boyer said. “SRMF was a fabulous place to be. But we got to that point where we couldn’t really grow anymore and do the things we wanted to do because we were under their umbrella.”
Scott Shaheen, who leads SRMF with Ruth, John Martin and Mahood Fonville, said they understood the team’s decision to go its own way. He said SRMF held the team’s broker’s license for a month after they said they’d be leaving, as a favor when the team’s business license was delayed.
“That’s the goodwill that, as a brokerage, you put out there in the marketplace,” Shaheen said. “Unlike what we had with our former company that we left, we feel like everybody has the right to do their own thing, and it’s been a very amicable split.
“They decided they wanted to do their own thing, and in this world of real estate, you can’t fault people for wanting to break off and do their own thing. That’s just the way things go.”
Boyer said Providence Hill’s location — at 421 N. Ridge Road, part of the former Impulse consignment space at Tuckahoe Shopping Center — should not be considered an aggressive move against SRMF, which is headquartered across the street at 420 N. Ridge Road.
Boyer said the team had been based at that office and had initially been eyeing the former Starbucks space at the Village Shopping Center about a mile away, but the square footage was too small. That led them to lease the Tuckahoe space, which totals 2,800 square feet. Boyer said they won’t be able to move in until mid-August.
“That wasn’t a shot across the bow or anything,” Boyer said. “It was just that that’s where we were, so everyone was accustomed to coming to that location. And from growing up in this area, it’ll be great name recognition for us. A lot of our client base and people we’ve known over our lives frequent that area.”
Freeman High School and VMI grads, Boyer, 35, and his brother, 32, also are known for their family’s business, Boyer’s Ice Cream and Coffee, which they sold to Gelati Celesti in 2018. At the time of the sale, Boyer’s was subleasing its Grove Avenue space from SRMF, which months earlier had set up an office in the same building. Boyer said the turn of events was just a coincidence.
Boyer said Providence Hill will be different from other brokerages by offering profit sharing to agents who reach a certain sales volume, and by guiding them through the ropes of growing their business. Gravitt, 41, and a VCU and Godwin High School grad, will serve as principal broker.
“There’s a lot of really solid brokerages in Richmond and they’ll teach you real estate, but nobody really teaches you how to grow and scale your business,” Boyer said. “We feel like we have a really unique offering to be able to show and teach agents how to grow and scale their business, in addition to providing them with the (office) space.”
Boyer said they’re also emphasizing new technology, but didn’t want to go so far as being without a brick-and-mortar office.
“We think culture’s really important, and it’s kind of hard to develop and create culture from a web-based standpoint, especially in a business where everyone’s under a brokerage but a lone wolf, so to say, with the way our sales work.”
Boyer declined to go into details about their profit-sharing model, which he said would be offered in addition to traditional agent commission splits. He said the team is on track to hit $90 million in sales and 225 transactions this year. Shaheen confirmed that the team has been SRMF’s top-seller, just above The Beran Group, which he described as a close second.
Boyer said they hope to grow Providence Hill to 30 agents in 18 months and no more than 50 agents in three to five years. He said their current agents range from 24 to 74 years old and all reside within a half-mile of their office.
Of their decision to go out on their own, Boyer said, “It was that entrepreneurial itch of, yes, we have our own businesses individually as agents, but we really wanted to be able to help grow other people and grow more of a business, and provide what we feel like is a unique real estate brokerage business model in Richmond.
“Since everyone’s in competition, no one really shares information, so it becomes a lot of trial and error for the individual agent who’s trying to grow their business past a certain point or grow a team,” he said. “We’re trying to take the guessing game out of that so people can reach their potential more quickly.”