Briggs Elwell is the CEO and Co-Founder of RLTY Capital, a specialty finance real estate firm that purchases commissions for sales and leasing agents spanning residential and commercial real estate in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida. RLTY is the only one-stop shop to educate and equip independent contractors with guidance for holistic business health and strategy while providing critical funding. The firm recently collaborated with UnitedHealthcare to offer agents in Florida direct access to insurance professionals who can educate them about their health care coverage options as self-employed individuals.
The commission advance space for independent contractors seems niche. How did you decide to enter the space and what made it attractive to you?
After working with agents on both the developer and brokerage sides of the business, it became obvious that the gap between when the work is done and when a commission is paid had a massive opportunity cost. Put simply, agents can activate the power of their commissions and reinvest in their business sooner if commissions are acquired faster. We sought to unlock this power for hardworking agents while creating a suite of services that independent contractors could utilize for efficiency across their business. The amount of paperwork, legwork and administration needed for agents is robust, often misunderstood and certainly overwhelming.
As a self-employed individual, there is no playbook and the extent of the support that brokerages can provide is severely limited. Our support services range from connections to accountants and healthcare plans so agents can appoint professionals and have a true team behind them.
The lack of housing inventory is creating a slowdown in the market. What do you recommend to agents who’ve experienced disrupted deal flow this year?
Remember, this is actually an ideal time to gain market share from other agents. Savvy agents are in building mode while remaining financially responsible. We recommend leveraging a slower market to plan for the future. Invest in your relationships, market knowledge, skills, approach to marketing and communications and think holistically about all aspects of your business. When buyer volume returns, agents who were consistent during a down market and strategically cultivated their efforts will experience ROI.
You worked at brokerages so had an inside look at the infrastructure and support that agents receive (or don’t receive). What stood out to you most in terms of glaring gaps and opportunities?
The brokerage/agent relationship can be trying despite good intentions in the industry. Most agents are 1099 independent contractors and inherent in this classification is limitation from a legal and tax perspective. Brokerages simply cannot offer the type of support they can offer a salaried employee to a 1099 worker. For example, one critical tip our support teams offer that many agents aren’t taking advantage of, is running their businesses through a legal entity, such as an LLC. Benefits primarily from a tax perspective aren’t captured and we don’t want any of our agents to leave money on the table when it could be used to find their next deal.
Commission advance firms don’t typically think about healthcare for their customers. What prompted your collaboration with UnitedHealthcare and can you tell us a little bit about how it works?
The origin of the UnitedHealthcare collaboration was simple: our customers told us what they most needed help with and we immediately got to work to alleviate this pain point. Second only to commission payment delays, healthcare has consistently been the biggest source of frustration for agents who understandably struggle to navigate the complex marketplace as 1099 workers. Our first-of-its-kind collaboration with United Healthcare just piloted in Florida as we work to expand it nationwide.
RLTY entered the South Florida market after launching in New York, do you plan to enter less ‘luxurious’ markets? How do you think about growth from a geographic perspective?
We launched in South Florida as Miami is a key market though RLTY is available to all Florida-based agents along with Connecticut, New Jersey and New York State. Long term we intend to offer our commission funding services and benefits programs nationwide.
Influencer marketing has been successful with Ryan Serhant, who is invested in RLTY via Serhant. Ventures. What kind of feedback do you get from agents when they see his content?
When agents see the content that Ryan creates it typically prompts them to contact us with questions. It’s a tool for them to realize new areas where they can improve. The content really serves as a meaningful touchpoint to gauge the sentiment of the moment and how comprehensive the knowledge base is for agents and how we can better serve them.
RLTY has deep connections to real estate development firms and its commission advance services are also available to commercial brokers. Is the process different for these users?
We service all real estate funding the same way following a seamless 30-second application process on our homepage. Many commercial brokers work with RLTY Capital on both sales and lease transactions. Our underwriting focuses on the transaction and does not affect your credit score or credit history. Typically funds are delivered within 24 hours and RLTY purchases up to 80% of an agent’s commission.
What excites you about the future at a time when the macro headlines continue to project further softening?
RLTY has incredible ventures underway that agents can utilize in any market condition, all of which originated based on the feedback of our clients. What excites us most is our unique ability to problem solve in real time as a fluctuating market dictates who needs what when. While general business services such as commissions, healthcare and legal/tax will always be necessary, we will grow with our clients as new requests and needs arise.
Why is it a good time to be a real estate agent for those less inspired than they used to be?
It’s a good time to be a real estate agent because new technologies offer endless opportunities to capture new clients, build your network and promote niches around your expertise. A sales career is only as successful as the network you build. We’re excited about the range of forums and platforms available to agents who have the commitment to stay on the cutting edge, experiment and innovate. There are so many touchpoints for connection with clients and the right personalities will find that this is their time to future proof their real estate business.