Rapid Realty, the Brooklyn-based apartment rental agency in New York City, is expanding by leaps and bounds. New offices have just opened in Boston, New Jersey and Long Island, the company just won a couple of impressive awards, and it also leads the way in the number of…company-related tattoos sported by employees!
Company founder and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Lolli, along with Chief Operating Officer Carlos Angelucci, recently picked up a 2012 Inc 5000 award (from Inc Magazine), celebrating Rapid Realty as one of the fastest growing companies in the US.
They also won the 2013 Franchise Satisfaction Award from Franchise Business Review. After surveying 25,000 franchisees across the country, Rapid Realty placed in the top ten of all franchises in the nation in their size category, which happened to also be the top ranking real estate agencies.
Rapid Realty currently has 56 franchises around the city, making them fairly small for their size grouping of 50 – 99 franchises in this competition. But they were not at all surprised they got this award, which emphasizes their extremely close relationships with their franchisees. Rather, they were surprised that other, more established franchises weren’t ranked higher. “We’re a new franchise concept, so we’re supposed to be making all the mistakes,” says CEO Lolli, who will also be featured in the next issue of SmartCEO magazine.
His close-knit ties to the franchise owners and their staffs has spawned a high degree of loyalty, which is expressed by large turnouts to Rapid Realty events, such as working to refurbish homes in the Breukelen Houses in Canarsie, a public housing complex with 4,000 residents (pictured).
In addition, 51 agents have tattooed the Rapid Realty logo on their bodies. This enthusiasm comes from the culture of loyalty that Lolli has generated, with his rags-to-riches, American Dream rise in business, his willingness to help people learn and grow, and the fun and friendliness he and Angelucci exude.
They laugh when asked about the rash of Rapid Realty tattoos. “I ask them ‘Why do you do it?’ and they say ‘I love the experience here,’” COO Angelucci says. “People tell me ‘I want to show it as a badge of honor, it’ll help me close deals. It’ll show my clients my commitment to real estate and to this company.’” Lolli adds, “ It blows my mind to think that so many of our agents are so dedicated that they want to show it in such a permanent way.”
Lolli made a vow at a young age that his struggling single mom would one day have a beautiful white mansion to live in, and that he would make them rich. The Lolli Mansion, as it is called, today sits proudly in Bay Ridge, complete with swimming pool. This out-of-the-movies story has inspired hundreds of local residents to reach for the stars and attain their own dreams through selling real estate and/or owning Rapid Realty franchises.
Lolli and Angelucci point out that rentals are often overlooked by other real estate firms as a strong area of business. But Rapid Realty sees it differently. “Apartment rentals are more lucrative than sales,” Angelucci says, “because there is more inventory.”
He continues, “If we like someone and we think they’re the right fit as a rental agent, we’ll actually pay for their real estate licensing course. This works because we attract people who appreciate our investment in them, and they give us a good return on it. And then, the next step is to own your own Rapid Realty franchise. Many of our franchisees started out as agents with us.”
Residential renting makes up 80% of Rapid Realty’s business, with commercial rentals and property sales each composing 10% of the remainder.
Angelucci explains that Brooklyn is trending towards “a strong rental market. Most new projects are for rentals. Banks are eager to lend money to rental related projects because of that stability.”
Brooklyn is a growing market, with new development, plenty of employment opportunity, and a reputation as a good place to raise a family, but this popularity can make it difficult to get an apartment. “People are staying put in the prime neighborhoods, so they become more expensive. So you look at neighborhoods further out, with better deals,” says Lolli. When asked about the next neighborhoods that will be popular, but are still affordable, Angelucci cites several. “Bushwick, Crown Heights, Bed Stuy, and Williamsburg. These are good neighborhoods.”
Lolli adds, “I’m loving the direction of Brooklyn in the next ten years. I love the Fourth avenue strip. Neighborhoods like Sunset Park and Bay Ridge and some of those surrounding neighborhoods are going to go up. There’s a lot of new development, and these areas are no longer a second choice, it’s becoming a primary destination for renters.”
Lolli has this advice for inexperienced prospective buyers; “If you’re looking to buy, get yourself educated online for free. You want to see how many times a house has been listed with different realtors. It’s priced too high if it’s going through three or four realtors.” He went on to advise caution: “You also have to think about your intentions. If you’re buying and holding, you can’t really overpay. If you don’t know what your situation is going to be like in the next two or three years, you have to be more frugal. Don’t tie yourself up in one transaction and lose out on a couple of others you could have snagged right away.”
Angelucci also points out competition with institutional buyers. “Sellers are getting above their asking price. Before, a typical home would stay on the market for a year, now it’s staying on the market for less than three months. It’s easier if you have the financial wherewithal to get approved for a loan.”
The commercial market has tightened up. “There were landlords during the recession that were giving long leases, long term concessions. Now you’re lucky to get a five year lease,” says Angelucci.
The two do not predict another downturn in the immediate future, and note that “It’s a different market. Now there are institutional investors. This is a company that’s providing proper jobs, and infrastructure, and a game plan to rent out the properties at market value.” Lolli explains, noting the census bureau reported that more people stayed in New York in 2012 than moved out, for the first time in 50 years.
Rapid Realty steered up three more innovative customer and landlord services this spring. They now offer renters insurance through a provider called Suite Protector; renters can also sign up for phone, internet, TV and utilities right through a Rapid Realty office via telecommunications and energy provider ACN; and landlords can get assistance in making their properties eco-friendly by working with Rapid’s new Chief Sustainability Officer Stephanie Barry.
Next in the works for the company: their first international office. Stay tuned!