All-star team works out of Los Gatos office
ALMADEN WEEKLY TIMES
July 21, 2006
By Carol Rosen
If you’re wondering where your favorite realtor went, there’s a new office in town, staffed with top sellers from the South Bay.
Nearly 40 realtors have joined the new Sereno Group, most of them coming from Coldwell Banker and selling into Almaden, Willow Glen, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell and areas up the Peninsula. All have experience selling higher-end homes and many are in the top 15 percent of sellers.
The Sereno Group is the brainchild of Chris Tripani, former president of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley. He and the realtors that have joined him, including Steve and Christine Perry, were looking for a more dynamic, but homogeneous group of realtors that know their way around the business.
The upshot is a smaller office, currently about 35 realtors versus 200 at Coldwell Banker, with agents that are seasoned, concerned about quality and know and understand the culture and communities they are selling into. He chose the name Sereno because it means serene, he said, and indicates that the group will do its work quietly and efficiently.
“Steve and I have been looking for what to do next [for a while now],” said Christine Perry. “With Sereno, we’re more into quality now. We’re working with a group of quality, seasoned people…and the core group of associates is in the top 1 percent. It’s a selective group that is ethical and not cutthroat. It’s a different type of environment and there’s enough business for everyone.”
Tripani’s idea was get back to the roots of the business. “My grandfather had a real estate firm on Lincoln Avenue, it was locally owned and community-based. Sereno is taking us back to the roots and richness of having a local company that is more exclusive and selective about the people it hires,” Tripani said.
When Tripani first started in the real estate business, he worked for small, local firms like Cornish and Carrey. But in the last 10 years, there has been a great deal of consolidation among realty firms leaving a few really big firms that are overloaded with a large number of agents. Typically, the newer agents need more help and the older, more seasoned realtors need to work with them to get the job done, he said.
That means that top sellers aren’t always able to do their own work. In the Sereno Group, all the realtors work together, but because all the agents are seasoned they have time to get their own work completed.
“Much of our job has nothing to do with sales,” says Carol Jeans, who has been in the business for 15 years and joined Sereno when Tripani set it up. “It has to do with a million things other than sales, including developing relationships with your customers. The large firms, with lots of new people, leave little time to do your own relationship building because you are busy helping out new agents.”
“The goal for large companies is to hire new people because the company can earn more from the splits,” Jeans added. “The agents at Sereno raise the bar. We have less liability and fewer problems, and we’re able to get back to community roots.”
She and Christine Perry agree being with a smaller, local firm allows realtors the ability to better understand both the community and the housing market.
It’s hard for a corporate company based in Cleveland to understand the buyers, the culture and the community in northern California, said Tripani. All realty firms have the same technical tools, but these work even better with agents that know the market and their customers, he said.
“This is very exciting and we’re all very happy,” said Jeans. “We [all] have kind of this new energy. Everyone is pitching in to make everyone successful. It’s a team approach.”
While some may not consider this a good time to start a new real estate firm, with the market declining, Tripani and Perry both said that’s not true for them.
“In the first week we were in business we have 40 to 50 listings,” Tripani said. “The average list price was about $1.5 million. The homes we were selling ranged from $700,000 to $4+ million.
Our goal is not the biggest brand. Sereno is focused on building a strong foundation. Sellers are looking for differentiation and the substance behind the agent. This is a good time for us to start.”
“It may be a declining market for some people,” added Perry, ”but it’s an opportune time for us. We’re established agents and that separates us from the rest of the industry. We’re passionate toward real estate, and we’re all busy. There’s always a need for good real estate agents.”
The Sereno group recently opened its first office in Los Gatos on Los Gatos Saratoga Road. Tripani envisions at least two more in the next several years with as many as five offices in the future. The plan is to move up the Peninsula into San Francisco. However, “I don’t want more than 60 agents in the Los Gatos office. We’ve already been asked to set up an office on the Peninsula,” he said.
The current group will be selling into Almaden, Willow Glen, the Rose Garden, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Campbell and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Besides the Perrys and Jeans, Almaden realtors Suzanne Freeze and Sam and Tammie Peters signed on to join the firm on July 14. Others switching teams include Raylene Kahn, who managed the Almaden Coldwell Banker office for three years, and realtor Lucy Wedemeyer.