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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 1 year ago

New leader of 80-office residential real estate company offers optimism for 2021

In January, Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida elevated Duff Rubin to president.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, 2020 turned out to be a big year for residential real estate in Florida. Now, at the beginning of a new year that could be even bigger, a leading firm in the state is moving forward with a planned leadership transition.

In January, Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida elevated Duff Rubin to president. Rubin, who succeeds former president Clark Toole, previously served as general manager.

Courtesy. The property at 16814 Avila Blvd. in Tampa is listed for $3.997 million by Michelle Fitz-Randolph and Jennifer Zales of Coldwell Banker Realty.

Prior to that role, Rubin, 52, was president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the Mid-Atlantic, overseeing 28 offices and more than 2,400 agents in Greater Baltimore; Greater Washington, D.C.; Northern Virginia; and the Maryland and Delaware beaches. His resume also includes time as a regional senior vice president of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, overseeing operations for the Southeast Florida region, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.

Sarasota-based Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida has approximately 80 offices and about 7,000 affiliated agents statewide.

The Business Observer spoke with Rubin about making agents feel appreciated, international buyers and why there’s more promise on the horizon for Florida.

Agent appreciation: One of Rubin’s focuses is to make sure the company provides what agents need to succeed, from technology to education to appreciation. “Take care of the agents, and everything else will take care of itself,” Rubin says. “My job as a leader in Florida is to make sure our agents always feel connected and recognized.” To that end, Rubin regularly travels to the company’s offices — putting about 4,000 miles a month on his car. At the offices, he talks with agents, listening to their challenges. He also conveys appreciation. “Recognition and appreciation of our agents and their success [are] paramount to retention,” he says. “Our brand is only as good as our agents.” Amid the pandemic, Rubin has continued to visit offices while following social distancing policies. There are fewer agents in offices now, but the more productive ones are there, he says. “When you look at how successful the real estate business has been in Florida in the last 10 months, you couldn’t just take a backseat and sit at home and manage the agents.”  

Productive push: Florida has many real estate agents, but for Rubin, it’s not about the number of agents the company has; it’s about having productive agents. “We asked our agents to help us grow by referring us agents they’d like to work with, having our agents work as recruiters for us,” Rubin says. “That’s the organic growth we’re always striving for. We’re not looking at counting the amount of licenses we have. We want to look at production. The last thing we want is thousands of agents in an office that don’t do any business.” In 2020, Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida had a net growth of 700 agents.

Courtesy. The property at 110 Harbor View Lane in Belleair Bluffs is listed for $4.59 million by The Thorn Collection of Coldwell Banker Realty.

Surprise success: Despite the demand for Florida residential real estate in 2020, that was uncertain early in the pandemic. “No one could have predicted the market in Florida in March and April,” Rubin says. “We were scared for the company and agents.” Thankfully, that fear melted away. “It’s clearly a terrible, devastating event in our history that has challenged a lot of people's lives and livelihoods,” he says. But despite that, for the most part, the company’s agents have been able to do really well, Rubin says.

Flock to Florida: For decades, seasonal residents have been a major force in residential real estate in Florida, but now many parts of the state are experiencing an increase in year-round residents. “Because of taxes, weather, education and culture, we’re seeing more and more people move to Florida as primary residents,” Rubin says. Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida tracks where buyers come from, and in the past 12 months, it’s seen more people from California and the state of Washington, markets agents typically don’t see many buyers from. Historically, California was its 10th-largest feeder market. Now, within the past 12 months, it’s become the third-largest feeder market.

International interest: Another hallmark of residential real estate in Florida is the global nature of transactions. “It’s great to have a brand that’s globally recognized,” Rubin says. “We’re probably selling these clients homes in other locations.” Rubin, who is from Canada, says when Canadians come to Sarasota to buy a home, they see the name Coldwell Banker and recognize it from doing business in Canada. “Our brand really helps us win a lot of business,” he says. What makes the success of 2020 more remarkable is that it was done without the benefit of international travel. “Just think about how we’ve had so much success without Canadian buyers and without South American buyers, which used to supply us with a lot of buyers in South Florida especially,” Rubin says. “We have done all of this in the last 10 to 12 months without any travel. All of this is domestic demand, and that is amazing to me to think what happens when international travel will open up in the second half of the year. We think demand will just get bigger.”

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