Take a drive through the streets of Westchester these days, and you’re sure to notice a plethora of lawns dotted with black-and-white “For Sale” signs bearing the understated Compass logo. Though Compass has only been a player in the Westchester market for a year and a half, the company launched from Manhattan in 2012 has quickly made a name for itself as one of the most desirable firms for local agents.
Currently operating 250 offices across the U.S., Compass is on a major growth spree. The company plans to open more than 50 additional offices this year and has raised $1.2 billion in capital since its founding. In Westchester alone, you’ll find Compass offices in Armonk, Chappaqua, Dobbs Ferry, Larchmont, Scarsdale, Rye Brook, and White Plains. (Compass also has Greenwich and Westport locations in the works.) In the first six months of 2019, Compass racked up some $228 million in sales volume in Westchester, an increase of nearly 45% over the same period in 2018.
“Westchester is an area where we want to invest a significant amount of time and energy because we see a tremendous opportunity,” says Rory Golod, Compass’ general manager for the New York region, which includes Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, Connecticut, and the Hamptons.
The decision to enter Westchester was due in large part to interest from agents, explains Golod. “The suburban markets that surround Manhattan are incredibly important. Our agents in New York City and Brooklyn indicated to us that Westchester was a market where they wanted to go.”
Ultimately, Compass’ foray into the 914 came in February 2018, when it acquired Platinum Drive Realty, a real estate firm founded in 2006 by Scarsdale husband-wife duo Zachary and Heather Harrison. According to Golod, the “great cultural alignment” between Compass and Platinum Drive helped to expedite the decision: “Heather and Zach had built a great company and were looking to continue growing. We all realized that together we had a better chance of accomplishing our goals than we did apart.”
Both Harrisons are still with the company, Zach as managing director and Heather as the manager of Compass’ number-one team in Westchester, which closed nearly $100 million in sales over the past year. “It’s been really exciting to build on what our brokerage accomplished,” Heather notes. “We were one of the Inc. 5000 companies in America for many years. Now, with Compass, we can leverage their technology and nationwide network to grow to even greater heights.”
At the heart of Compass’ growth is the company’s unique approach to selling real estate. “We have four key pillars of value,” says Golod. “Technology, marketing, brand, and culture.”
The technology may just be Compass’ strongest differentiator. “It’s not technology for the sake of technology,” Golod explains. “We’ve built tools that help agents save time, grow their businesses, and improve their quality of life. We use technology to create great experiences for agents, and they can then do the same for their clients.”
The firm’s proprietary-tech suite includes a back-end system that helps agents operate more efficiently and provides important data and insights that can assist with pricing properties and determining the best time to list a home. There is also an integrated content-management system that boosts agents’ digital and social media marketing, as well as a digital design studio, where they can choose templates for print- and online-marketing collateral. Another tool is Compass CRM, an AI-driven customer-relationship-management platform that helps agents nurture relationships and close sales.
These technologies are a huge asset, according to agent Ellen Schwartz, a licensed associate real estate broker who works in Compass’ Scarsdale office and has been selling real estate in Westchester since 2002, previously with such firms as Berkshire Hathaway, Prudential, and Douglas Elliman.
“Compass is a completely different real estate platform,” she says. “The products that we have to get business, to sustain business, and to offer our clients all of the best possible advantages are right at our fingertips.” She points to one tech highlight called Compass Collections, a Pinterest-style visual workspace that lets agents and clients collaborate in real time. Recently, Schwartz used the tool to put together a collection that she titled “Lake Homes I Love,” highlighting several homes in Katonah’s lake communities. Shortly after sending it, a client expressed interest to Schwartz, saying, “I didn’t even know there were lake homes in Katonah!”
On top of technology, Golod cites other differentiators that have allowed Compass to quickly stake a claim in the Westchester market. In addition to having dedicated “agent success” people in each Compass office who assist agents with administrative tasks, Compass takes its marketing very seriously. The in-house marketing team is some 200 strong, many with backgrounds at marquee brands like Vogue, L’Oreal, and Pixar. “Having these experienced marketers work to help agents market and brand themselves and their listings is truly powerful,” Golod explains.
Compass also has programs that allow its agents to offer unique assistance to clients when selling their homes. Licensed real estate salesperson Brian Milton, who spent his entire career at Houlihan Lawrence before coming to Compass and is largely focused on the Greenwich market, points to the Compass Concierge program as particularly helpful.
Compass racked up $228 million in Westchester sales in the first half of 2019.
“One of the challenges in the market right now is that there are a lot of houses that are 20 years old. They are still beautiful homes, but for what buyers want today, they are not the visual that is going to capture attention,” Milton explains. “A key part of going to market is making the best first impression.” The Compass Concierge program helps clients do that, he explains, by providing loans to sellers so they can stage or improve their homes before putting them on the market. “This lets homeowners do that kind of work first and get ahead of the game — whether it’s painting or doing new window treatments or staging the home. It’s a unique bonus to be able to offer to a client,” Milton says.
For Golod, however, the firm’s culture is the most crucial factor to Compass’ rapid, high-growth success. The company’s employees, he says, are the backbone of the business. “We have a very unique view on how we hire agents,” he explains. “They have to be likable, collaborative, experienced, fully committed, and ethical. Creating a culture where agents work alongside people whom they respect and can collaborate with really uplifts the company.”
As for what’s next for Compass in Westchester, Golod says, “The goal is to continue to grow by bringing on great agents and providing them with amazing support.”
It’s clear the firm — and its agents — are riding high right now. “Compass helps you change your mindset. It’s all about maximizing your strengths, collaborating without ego, and thinking and dreaming big,” Schwartz says. “It’s exciting and energizing, and I’m so glad I’m here.”