In a move that surprised the industry, Re/Max’s top team in British Columbia and Metro Vancouver has switched over to cloud brokerage eXp Realty.
Katrina & The Team were with Re/Max for almost two decades, closing $365 million in sales on 402 transactions in 2022 and a whopping $400 million on 501 units in 2021. Team leaders Katrina Amurao and husband Neil Bellosillo say that while the move to eXp aligns with their vision of growth, “it wasn’t an easy decision.”
Losing this powerhouse team from one of the country’s most competitive markets can’t be a walk in the park for Re/Max, although the franchise acknowledges that agent moves are “incredibly common” within the industry.
From Re/Max to eXp
“While we do see agents leave to explore other options, oftentimes we see many top producers return to our brand,” says Elton Ash, executive vice president of Re/Max Canada. He cites the examples of Quebec’s Marty Waite Team, which recently returned to ReMax from eXp, as well as southern Ontario’s Woolcott Real Estate team, which last fall made the same transition.
Ash continues: “We’d like to thank Katrina and Neil for their contributions to Re/Max during their time with us and wish them all the very best (in) their next endeavour. We also look forward to continuing to work with some of their former team members who opted to stay within the Re/Max network.”
Amurao and Bellosillo brought 20 agents and almost as many support staff along with them to eXp.
“But we’d started to plateau in growth. And the market had changed and was tough for our team members.”
– Katrina Amurao, Katrina & The Team
“Re/Max was disappointed,” says Amurao. “We’d built our brand with them and had personal relationships within the organization that we cherish. But we’d started to plateau in growth. And the market had changed and was tough for our team members,” who were finding it increasingly challenging to keep up with the financial commitments of a traditional brick-and-mortar brokerage.
She and her husband considered various options, including starting their own brokerage. Initially, eXp wasn’t on their radar, they admit, “because of fake news around the brand.” They’d heard rumours that it was a pyramid scheme, all about the money.
Their friend Ibrahim Hussein – leader of eXp’s number one Canadian team, Affinity Real Estate – convinced them otherwise and became the key to their recruitment. A little over a year ago, Hussein had jumped ship himself, taking the leap from Keller Williams to eXp.
“Katrina asked me why I’d make a move like that,” Hussein recalls. He’d previously been where she and her husband were, feeling they’d outgrown their brokerage but not wanting the headaches and expense of owning and managing their own franchise.
“It’s a model that builds on collaboration over competition.”
– Ibrahim Hussein, Affinity Real Estate
Hussein maintains that with eXp being a publicly-traded online brokerage, that gap is bridged. Profits are freed up, as there is no costly overhead and no desk, royalty or franchise fees. Stock and revenue sharing options are available, which empowers agents to succeed, says Hussein. Elite teams receive ‘mega icon’ status, which along with financial benefits, bestows incentives such as the opportunity to network with other leading agents.
“It’s a model that builds on collaboration over competition,” says Hussein. “Our team members have more opportunity to build residual income.”
And “there are no territorial restrictions,” he stresses.
Virtual brokerages aren’t for everyone. Amurao and Bellosillo understand that no brand is perfect. But they anticipate that with eXp’s lower financial commitment, they “can attract more talent,” says Amurao. “It’s a more practical approach.”
Eventually, Hussein won them over, armed with the extra leverage provided by the fact that various other elite performers have also made the switch to eXp, among them Daniel Beer, who heads up one of the highest-ranking teams in the U.S.
Like these other heavy hitters, the Katrina & The Team brand is already deeply rooted in its market. Over the years, Bellosillo has taken some unenlightened ribbing about his wife being the face of their business. Not surprisingly, the pair now take to heart the maxim, “Stop caring what other people think and focus on what works for you.”
“It comes down to taking full ownership of any mistakes, always wanting to learn and improve.”
– Neil Bellosillo, Katrina & The Team
This is a team that’s built its brand on exceeding expectations. “That’s how we differentiate ourselves,” explains Amurao. “We provide a five-star experience.” This includes complimentary services above the norm— everything from junk removal, home redesign, and lawn mowing to movers and even “moving day sandwiches.”
They were among the first in their market to embrace 3D virtual tours and video narration for listings. They’re big believers that the best way to inspire their team is to continually work on themselves. “We look at every opportunity to get better,” says Bellosillo. “It comes down to taking full ownership of any mistakes, always wanting to learn and improve.”
There’ll be time for that as they step into their journey with eXp. “We’re still learning the ropes,” says Amurao. “There’s a lot to explore.”
Susan Doran is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has been contributing to REM since its very first issue.