By James Sanna | Banker & Tradesman Staff | Apr 30, 2023
Merit McIntyre CEO, Advisors Living Age: 55 Industry experience: 27 years
Advisors Living is bringing a fresh, new name to the suburban Boston residential brokerage scene. Under CEO Merit McIntyre, it opened 11 new offices in rapid-fire fashion last year after many years focused on marketing new-construction condominiums downtown. Staffed partly with agents McIntyre recruited from Compass and his former home of Coldwell Banker New England, it’s given the company a footprint from Andover to Canton.
McIntyre has been leading Advisors Living for two years, but he is no stranger to the local market. He started his career as a loan originator before jumping over to residential sales and climbing the ranks at Coldwell Banker New England into local management roles. After a six-year stint at his own commercial real estate firm that included managing hundreds of apartments, he rejoined Coldwell Banker in 2012 to restore its Maine and New Hampshire operations back to profitability. That experience led to a three-and-a-half-year stint as the company’s New England market leader, presiding over 4,000 agents and $15 million in annual sales volume, before departing in 2019. He joined Boston Realty Advisors, the parent company of Advisors Living, as a partner in April 2021.
Q: What was the strategy behind Advisors Livings’ desire to grow so quickly? A: I wanted to go and create a culture-driven, high-end boutique that plays in premium and luxury markets. They bounce off of each other: Premium buys mid-luxury, mid-luxury buys luxury, luxury downsizes to mid-luxury. To have a culture-driven company, my whole theory has been if you take care of the people, the money will follow. But you need to take care of the people first. And so that was really the impetus. Can I go out and create this and do it on a regional platform? I don’t want to go back to 90 offices and 4,000 people. We’re really trying to build a 20-office footprint in New England – around Boston and a couple other places: the Maine coast, the New Hampshire coast.
Q: Were there things about the brokerage landscape in Boston that made an opening for you? A: There’s a lot of freedom in a privately held company. We’re able to move quickly. It’s really quite refreshing. Most of the big-box brokerages ended up going public and now have an element that’s Wall Street-driven. On our end, to have an independent spirit to have a creative and fast-moving brokerage was appealing to both managers and agents.
Q: Tell me a little bit more about that. What does a creative brokerage look like on the ground? A: At one of those bigger brokerages, if you tried to go and implement something, you’d have to call headquarters.It might take four weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks, it may never happen. On our end, someone has a great idea, or we want to have a timely marketing piece going out, we have our in-house designers in Boston schedule a Zoom[meeting] and sometimes by end-of-day, you have a proof of what you want to drive. We have a whole campaign starting that “it’s about our people” – which has been an internal slogan we’ve had – but we decided a week in advance, “You know what? Let’s go out and push on this for Administrative Assistants Day, and really promote it in support of our people.” That’s fast-moving – it was done in a week. All the marketing is done. All the ad placements are made. It’s refreshing, it’s creative.
Q: You opened nearly a dozen offices last year. Why invest in so much physical office space when the industry is facing cost pressures and so many people work remotely? A: We weren’t stuck with preexisting leases, with a large footprint that existed before 2020. Most of our offices are done at 50 to 100 square feet per agent. Size-wise, they’re modest, and cost-wise, they’re appropriate. It really put us at a great advantage, rather than being in spaces that, say, were leased in 2019 for 10 years, that we’re stuck in and no agent goes to. We’re not burdened by our [office] space at all.
Q: When you designed the offices, did you incorporate any lessons from the last few years as we’ve all rethought how we work? A: Yes. Almost every office is an inviting space for the public, highly attractive. And then almost always, we move right to a conference room, and then the back part of the space is typically agent space, but because we knew for the most part who would be coming into the office and who wouldn’t be, we have some private workspaces there as well as what we call “hotel space.”
Q: Obviously, there’s still some time for the spring market to play out, but what do the trends you’ve seen so far mean for local brokerages’ strategies. A: We budgeted for the market itself to be down 15 percent. I’m not right very often, but it appears that [sales volume] will be pretty close to that. And so, what we also need on our end is to recruit and make up that gap [by bringing in more agents]. We’ve already increased our agent population by 20 percent in the first 16 weeks of the year.
Q: For agents, what challenges is this market creating? A: If they do the same exact thing as last year, they’re going to make 15 percent less money. However, today is much different than a year ago; the market has created opportunities that didn’t exist a year ago. About 11 percent of all listings are expiring [after not selling last year]. In the spring market last year, it was about 1 percent. So that means there’s over 2,500 properties in Massachusetts, single-families and condos, that have expired. Those are new opportunities that didn’t exist a year ago to take over a listing and get it sold. Bank-owneds are up 27 percent over last year, right, so there’s opportunities to go out, from an investor standpoint, on the buyer side, pick up a bank-owned and relist it. There are opportunities that also come from the challenges, and on our end, it’s really encouraging our agents to be proactive, step out of the box and actually outperform last year. And, you know, frankly, maybe work a little bit smarter not necessarily harder than a year ago, so that they can make up that 15 percent difference.
Q: In a market like this, how do you get sellers to jump into the pool? A: If you don’t need to buy [when you sell], it’s a great market. I expected prices to go up because of inventory coming down. But the fact that prices have already pushed up 2.6 percent this year is very healthy for a seller.Conversely, if you need to buy when you sell, and if you also have to take on a mortgage, that’s really the issue. We call what those sellers are doing “harboring.” Maybe they have $200,000 to $300,000 in equity, but then they look and see they’ll have a 6.5 percent interest rate. And right now, theirs is 3.1 percent, right? So, the cost to move, even though they might get more house and more equity, is higher. As things normalize, many of these people will start saying, “You know what, I’m going to deal with a 6.5 percent interest rate, or I’m going to switch and do a an adjustable-rate mortgage and do a 5.5 percent interest rate.” I always say: Buy the home, rent the rate.
The Five Things Always in McIntyre’s Front Shirt Pocket
1. A calculator
2. A pen
3. A debit card
5. Eye drops
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