ACME’s Founder, CEO and Broker Courtney Poulos is featured in this article from Inman.
Small brokers may not get as much attention as the big guys, but they make up the majority of the real estate industry’s firms and manage to win David-and-Goliath struggles every day.
Amber Montanio’s managing broker didn’t believe in her.
Montanio has worked in real estate since 2002, doing stints in some of the bigger name brokerages including eXp Realty and Keller Williams. But in 2019, she finally decided to branch out on her own. She got her broker’s license and rented an office space. Then she received a visit at her new office from the managing broker of the company she was leaving.
“He told me I would not make it a year as a boutique brokerage,” Montanio recently told Inman. “That I would be swallowed up.”
Montanio said the broker was apparently trying to “intimidate me” into backing off, and he made an offer that would’ve allowed her to start her own brand within the confines of the bigger company. But Montanio would not be deterred. In fact, she said the comments only steeled her resolve to make her own company work — even in a market dominated by mega firms.
“I’m a natural born redhead,” she said with a chuckle, “so I’m a little more stubborn than most.”
Today, Montanio’s company, Black Label Real Estate Advisors, is a thriving small brokerage in Texas with 12 members. Montanio said her brokerage functions as a team and concentrates mostly on luxury sales. When the firm made it through its first year, Montanio sent a box of cookies to her old managing broker — the skeptic who paid her a visit — to mark the occasion.
The details of Montanio’s story are unique, but the broad arcs about an underdog defying the odds are actually characteristic of the real estate industry. Though headlines routinely chart the rise and fall of massive companies with thousands of agents, the reality is those firms are the exception rather than the rule. In fact, real estate today remains dominated by smaller brokerages.
And so as we say goodbye to 2023, Inman has chosen for its Person of the Year the small broker-owner. This year, we’re honoring people like Montanio who through sheer force of will and raw grit have managed to build something out of nothing, and who make real estate a unique and quintessentially entrepreneurial enterprise.
By the numbers
Though many real estate professionals intuitively understand that the industry is filled with smaller operators, the actual numbers are striking. For example, according to a late 2023 report from the National Association of Realtors, 81 percent of real estate firms have just a single office. Moreover, those single-office companies typically have just three real estate license holders.
Companies with just one office also do an average of 15 transaction sides per year and bring in an average of $5.3 million in sales volume, according to the report.
The report additionally shows that 86 percent of real estate companies are independent non-franchised firms, while 12 percent are independent franchises. Among the smallest firms, with only one office, 91 percent are independent and not affiliated with a franchise. That number drops to 48 percent for firms with four or more offices, but when factoring in independently owned franchises, the indies still overwhelmingly dominate the industry.