Today many people prefer entrepreneurship over regular jobs. This decision is highly influenced by economic conditions, the desire to be their own bosses or to pursue their passion. Back in college, Sam Khorramian (CEO) and Oliver Graf (President), shared the same passion for entrepreneurship and loved the idea of starting a business together. Initially, the duo started with working in sales, doing face-to-face sales for several years, which they both excelled in and enjoyed too. Soon they decided to invest in sales full-time and as sales are commission-based, they wanted to sell something expensive—that being jets, yachts, or houses. Lacking the knowledge for jets or yachts, Sam and Oliver decided to enter the real estate business. This was around the real estate crash of 2005, which both sustained and built a reputation for closing difficult real estate transactions.
After being in the real estate business for several years, Sam and Oliver noticed that most brokerages looked at the people buying and selling real estate as their customers. These brokers only saw agents as a middleman to making profits, treating them like a number and not offering much in exchange for a large cut of the commission. With a mission to create a brokerage and environment that puts agents first, they incepted Big Block Realty-a brokerage which is different and forward-thinking for the agents. In addition to offering agents 100% commission, they have a model that combines the benefits of physical office locations and virtual experiences. This enables them to offer better training than the brick and mortars and a better culture and support experience than the virtual brokerages. Big Block Realty is primarily focused on working in the best interest of the agents and the mission has not changed since day one. Oliver asserts, “Over the years, we’ve said no to a lot of opportunities that would have made us more profitable, but did not favor our agents, because really, from top to bottom, we believe in putting the agent first. We believe in giving them amazing support, giving them a high commission split and giving them a system that they can just plug into and be successful with.”
Focusing on the welfare of Agents
Big Block Realty is primarily a residential real estate brokerage, with 85% of the business dedicated to residential while including some of the commercial deals. Staying true to its mission, the key focus has always been to prioritize the best for the agents. The corporate level team is not necessarily focused on the people buying and selling real estate, but on the agents. They believe that by giving the agents an amazing experience, they’re going to in turn be able to give the people buying and selling real estate the best experience. Big Block Realty has developed several programs and services for the welfare of the agents,
- Agent Concierge Program: the agents can reach out to the dedicated concierge team for anything non-transactional related. The team is available for anything from scheduling appointments, booking conference rooms, to making reservations. Anything that the agents need that’s non-transactional is covered by the concierge team.
- Broker Hotline: A broker hotline is available seven days a week for any broker-related requests. Big Block Realty understands that oftentimes agents work on the weekends and if the broker is not available then addressing the issue becomes a challenge. To tackle this issue, it created a 24/7 support team/broker hotline that’s available for agents on any transaction-related questions that come up.
- 100% commission plan: In the real estate space most of the brokerages put their agents on an 80/20 split, or a 50/50 split, depending on their experience, however, Big Block Realty offers the agents 100% commission with a monthly fee to be a part of the brokerage. That way, most agents by joining will be giving themselves a raise in addition to getting more support, better training, and more value.
Big Block Realty also offers a wide variety of services for buyers and sellers. It has a full compliance team, a seamless transaction management back-office, and a vast list of preferred partners for any type of vendors that an agent could be looking for. The company is well connected in the industry and due to its size, it also acquires a lot of off-market deals. “That’s another big advantage, especially in a low inventory market, like we’re having right now, to be able to find deals that aren’t on the market is important,” explains Sam.
Sharing the Candid Experience of Crisis
With the advent of the pandemic, companies worldwide had to go through unprecedented challenges. Sam and Oliver had their share of experience by dealing with the real estate crash in 2005, but the pandemic posed unforeseen challenges which no one was prepared for. As soon as the pandemic started, the leaders were quick to lean on their mentors and seek advice. Oliver believes that having good mentors whom you can turn to for advice is necessary. Over the years, they have built quite a few relationships with mentors that can guide them in the beginning. “One of the biggest tips they gave us was that you’ve really got to be forward with the communication. Almost over-communicate,” he adds.
At the start of the pandemic, it was difficult to adapt to the rapid changes. Oliver states that before the pandemic he did not believe the company could work 100% virtual. Entrepreneurs had to equally undergo a huge amount of stress concerning the uncertainties surrounding us. Sharing his candid experience with us Oliver says, “To be honest, the very beginning, when the world shut down and all the uncertainty first hit, it was super stressful. I didn’t eat for a week. I was losing weight like crazy. It was so much stress and questioning, ‘Are we going to be able to continue? Is the business going to be able to run? What do we do now with all these offices and all these leases and all these expenses. Are we going to be able to keep selling real estate? Are things going to keep moving?’ I think the biggest lesson I learned, on a personal level, was that nothing is guaranteed. You need to be truly thankful for everything you have now, be more present, and live in the moment more.”
The Big Block Realty team was swift in pivoting to a virtual platform. Sam shares, “I got to give big props to our team on this, because within 72 hours, they had the entire company set up to work remote. We haven’t really gone back since and the overall change for us has been nice.” The world is gradually reopening and the company has started opening offices. Big Block Realty will be following the hybrid model of operating, where people can work from home and in the office. Sam and Oliver believe that having this balance will make people happier and so far it’s been proven to be more productive.
Future of Real Estate & Digital Tools
COVID-19 has also welcomed a digitalization wave and the world is swiftly going digital. In order to stay relevant in the coming years, one has to not only adopt advanced tech but stay abreast of the trends. “We’re passionate about being on the forefront of that technology piece and really leveraging all the digital tools that are out there,” said Oliver. In the coming years, he anticipates that the real estate market would continually grow and remain strong. The amalgamation of new digital tools such as virtual reality, 3D home sales, and everything in between, is going to be key to successful years ahead. Today, one can build a brand over the internet and can easily give a ton of value and address people’s needs before they even have the needs, and creating content around that is how agents and brokerages are going to win moving forward. Sensing this trend, Oliver and Sam are striving to incorporate the changes and stay ahead of their competitors.
“We look at our business like a mad scientist looks at the stuff they’re working on. We’re always tweaking. We’re always testing. We’re always improving. We’re always looking to find that edge that tweaks that’s going to move the needle.”