With recent additions to its ranks and a second office set to open, a homegrown residential real estate brokerage is securing a foothold on both sides of the river.
River City Elite Properties, led by owner and principal broker Susan Stynes, is setting up shop in the Libbie-and-Grove area with an outpost at 312 Libbie Ave. The location adds to the 5-year-old brokerage’s Midlothian homebase at 1700 Huguenot Road.
“Our name is River City Elite Properties, so we have been wanting for quite some time to get right into the river city,” said Stynes, who launched River City Elite with agent James Nay in 2017. “It expands our footprint and our reach and gives us more of a presence on this side of town.”
Leading the West End office is Brooke Barnard, who joined River City Elite in May after a pair of roughly five-year stints at Liz Moore & Associates and Long & Foster, the latter out of its nearby Grove Avenue office.
She joins other additions to River City Elite’s roster that have brought its agent count from 16 in February to 22 today.
They include Tonya Morrow, previously managing broker of Liz Moore & Associates’ local office in Midlothian. Morrow, who serves as an associate broker and vice president, helped bring Liz Moore & Associates to town six years ago along with Annemarie Hensley, who recently joined up with Richmond newcomer Compass.
Stynes and Nay previously worked together at Joyner Fine Properties, where both were based at its Westchester Commons branch. Nay, who helps lead River City Elite as a vice president, is also its top-selling agent, tallying $52 million in sales volume last year.
Stynes said total sales for the brokerage last year reached $86 million, representing about 300 closed transactions. That was with about half as many agents, she said.
The search for a second office coincided with talks with Barnard, whose addition helped the company decide on the location. A St. Catherine’s School alum, Barnard was familiar with the area and wanted to be based there, as her kids attend her alma mater and nearby St. Christopher’s.
While the Libbie-and-Grove corridor has become a residential real estate hotbed of sorts, with a half dozen or so offices clustered in the area, Stynes said that wasn’t a driving factor in their search, which included other options in the West End.
Stynes leased the 1,000-square-foot space for multiple years. It is between Zazoli Sweets and Westhampton Cleaners and was previously a home mortgage office for Wells Fargo.
Barnard, who will be based at the office with one other agent initially, said she’d been interviewing with a couple other brokerages before deciding to join up with River City Elite. She said the alignment offered a growth opportunity she wasn’t finding with other places.
“I was in a position where I was looking for growth and really wanted to be in the West End for a long time,” Barnard said.
“Speaking with Susan, she was able to see me for who I was and how I wanted my business to grow, not just a commodity or something to make her money. She really listened to what I needed in terms of coaching and growth. Within the first week of me coming over, she was able to sit down with me and put together an action plan with that, and part of that was us opening this office.”
At Liz Moore & Associates, Barnard worked several years with Morrow, who joined up with Stynes in February. In her role as vice president, Morrow is pushing River City Elite’s marketing, systems management and growth strategy, which includes additional offices and income opportunities for agents.
“We have big goals to do more and provide more for our agents, and to allow them to be involved in trying to create and build income outside of just selling real estate,” Morrow said. “A lot of times, agents get stuck and the market shifts. We want to teach agents different ways to work and better themselves and have other opportunities than just that.”
Morrow said one idea they want to pursue is a voluntary investment group in which agents could tap into the brokerage’s portfolio of rental properties as an alternate income stream when the real estate market is down.
“It will be helpful if the agents have used their good years, put some income into something else and have some income coming in when the real estate income is not,” she said. “Richmond’s definitely a tight market on rentals and investments, but we’re thinking in a bigger picture outside of the area.”
As for the new office, they’re aiming to open the space after a remodel by Jonathan Miller with Jsquared Interior Staging & Design.
Stynes said the brokerage has had a busy 2022 so far, with more closings each month and $12 million in sales volume in May. While her own listings are typically at the higher end of the market, with several million- and multimillion-dollar listings, Stynes said the brokerage is open to a variety of price points but keeps a focus on higher-end homes.
She said she envisions expanding River City Elite to markets in Hampton Roads and north of Richmond.
“We have big goals to continue to grow,” she said.