Each Friday, Robbie Briggs, president and CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, writes about luxury, trends, business and more in the advertising pages of the Mansion section of The Wall Street Journal. Below, a one-stop compilation of his 2020 letters, from January, February and March.
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE
JANUARY 17, 2020 You put the happy in our birthday This year marks our 60th anniversary — a milestone that feels like a blur and yet so hard-earned. (Do you know that feeling? I bet you do.) Even though it’s our party — and, boy, are we celebrating, with a new headquarters, a new website, new offerings and new ideas — I want to thank you. Our clients. Our agents. Our team. Every one of you. You got us here. With your support and God’s blessing, we have been designated by REAL Trends as the #1 luxury brokerage in all of Texas. People have been asking me how it all happened. It’s pretty simple, really. We were founded in 1960 as a white-glove brokerage — and we are that very thing today, just bigger. We’re the local brokerage with the global reach, as part of the Sotheby’s International Realty family. We sell homes, ranches, land and commercial properties — from and to the finest clients in the world. You. You see, it may be our birthday, but you take the cake JANUARY 24, 2020 What a new HQ can do I bet our fancy new coffee machine can tell some stories — already. Coinciding with the brokerage’s 60th birthday this year, we have just moved our Dallas flagship office, after 30 years in one spot, into a sleek tower at the edge of uptown. We were able to get entire floors of 3131 Turtle Creek, a modernist building along winding, tree-lined Turtle Creek Boulevard, and make the spaces exactly what we needed. That is to say, more collaborative than ever before. Agents, staff, executives, everybody: Our new headquarters absolutely crackles with new energy. That is by design. Wide-open spaces. Glass walls. Workstations that adapt to agent preferences. We thought about how agents work now, and what they need. Perhaps the biggest hit has been the café: a large, light-filled lounge that acts as a communal kitchen and an accidental meeting room. It’s got comfy sofas, docking stations and even a game table. Agents are naturally gathering there — and that’s where some real deals can happen. Right there, in front of the cappuccino machine, they’re trading tips, contacts and advice. They’re doing the same around their airy new desks, and in our big new training room — a place where they are gathering for new classes on digital marketing, social media and much more. We haven’t just shaken up our space: We’ve shaken up our training and our tech. We’ve improved our digital platform so that it’s even easier for our agents to get to everything they need, anytime — from contracts to marketing materials to customer-relationship management. And, we’ve got fresh new courses to take, online and in-person. (The word is getting out about us: Agents, both new and seasoned, are coming on board, regularly. Are you one? Know of a great one? Look at briggsfreeman.com/joinus.) Our big new spaces have also allowed us to bring in previously separate divisions. Our agents who specialize in uptown and downtown properties, and our agents who specialize in ranches and land, are now all together with agents who focus on greater Dallas, Highland Park, University Park, Preston Hollow and points beyond. It is, frankly, amazing to see the smiles and hear the wonderful conversations. This new energy isn’t just a bunch of hot air. Since we’ve moved into our collaborative new headquarters, our in-house sales are up. An in-house sale means that one Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty agent listed a property for sale and another one brought the buyer. This is good for everyone, especially our clients — our sellers and our buyers. They benefit from the best agents in the business working together. And if that happens to have started over espressos at the office, all the better. JANUARY 31, 2020 The house of the future? Your house is your shelter — but, it can be much more than that. It can be a symbol, an achievement, an investment, a haven. Today, we will learn what readers of The Wall Street Journal consider to be the 2020 House of the Year — a real standout from the homes for sale featured in the Mansion section throughout 2019. I look forward to the annual poll, as do our agents, because the House of the Year often symbolizes many of the things a home can be: well-designed, smart, soulful and just plain beautiful. Standout homes are what Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty sells, mixed with ranches and properties, too. (Now, I would argue that we sell much more than homes — we sell lifestyles, emotions and peace of mind — but that is a bigger topic for another time.) Homes are vitally important to another group, too — those without one. I’ve written before about New Story, a nonprofit where the vision is “to create a world where no human being lives in survival mode.” For about $6,500, New Story builds a house, one that much of the world would consider a modest shelter. But, for the people who move into them, from tents, shacks or worse, they are much more. They are hope, safety and a future. Sotheby’s International Realty is a partner with New Story and the donations from our global network, more than $1 million and counting, have provided homes in Haiti and Mexico. At our brokerage, we have started Love Your Neighbors, a program wherein agents can donate a portion of their commissions to local causes. When they do, the brokerage makes a donation in their honor to New Story. More than 2,000 homes have been funded since New Story began — and now it has upped the bar. In partnership with the construction-technology firm Icon, it is creating the world’s first 3D-printed community: 50 homes in Tabasco, Mexico. The homes are changing lives there, where the average family is four individuals living on less than $200 per month. The homes are created using a special cement-based mix and a large, portable construction printer brought to the site. The resulting home is thermally efficient, sustainable and resilient. The mortgage is $20 per month, for seven years. Even better, 3D-printed homes solve a lot of the problems of getting laborers and traditional materials to remote sites, to build traditional homes. This is a game-changer. More than a billion people are in need of a safe shelter — and this is one way to help get that number down. For these folks, a 3D-printed home isn’t just the house of the year: It may be the house of their lifetime. FEBRUARY 7, 2020 How to receive more than you give “A simple solution to a complex problem,” is how one North Texas outreach group describes its mission. And thank goodness for that. OurCalling executive director and pastor Wayne Walker is the organization’s inspirational founder. He has spoken to our team about the scope of homelessness in Dallas, and what can be done to help. From addiction recovery — Walker says more than 80 percent of the homeless deal with some kind of addiction — and one-on-one mentoring to resource distribution, OurCalling meets their challenges every day. “A blanket and a sandwich is a Band-Aid,” says Walker. “That will not fix the problem.” Says the group’s site, ourcalling.org, “we believe that the path to a healthy and productive lifestyle should be open to everyone — but none of us finds that path alone.” It’s not pretty. OurCalling’s work takes them into some appalling places and situations. But they also go to shelters, coffee shops and parking lots. OurCalling’s team runs a cafe in South Dallas designed as a rallying point, a place to help meet the needs of the homeless. There is even an app for phones or tablets, where you can quickly let OurCalling know about homeless folks in need, or look up helpful information about homeless services, or check on upcoming volunteer opportunities. The organization’s greatest objective? To introduce these victims to faith, and to help pave the way to a better life. This is a group that walks the walk. There is even an online OurCalling shop, at store.ourcalling.org, where you can buy modern, great-looking shirts, hats, drink tumblers and more — including a bundle of 20 directories to give to people in need, with information about shelters, food, medical care and more. The idea is to help people discover the reasons for their conditions — and to help them get the emotional and material resources to live beyond their challenges. Our brokerage is keenly focused on helping people who need homes or shelter. I told you last week about New Story, which builds modest but life-changing houses around the world. At our brokerage, we have Love Your Neighbors, a program wherein agents can donate a portion of their commissions to local causes. Our agents are real givers — to their clients and their communities. More than 400 strong, they inspire me every day. And, they prove that we receive so much more from serving others than we can ever give. FEBRUARY 14, 2020 Something you’ll really click with We’ve got a whole lot of new going on. Our brokerage is 60 years young this year and we are celebrating in every way. We’ve got an exciting new headquarters in Dallas, all kinds of new tech and training for our expert agents, and new ideas percolating in all of our offices across North Texas. We’ve also got a present for you: a brand-new website. The new briggsfreeman.com is up and stunning. It’s more informative, more robust and more fun. It can not only help you find the right agent and the right home for you, it can save you real time and real money. Just some of the new features? New property pages: They not only show our homes, high-rises and ranches brilliantly — with lots of photos and details — now they include robust information about each property’s neighborhood or area, including its population, education, taxes and more. We’ve got helpful drive-time calculators and route planners, so you can know exactly what it would be like to get to and from your new home. And, we’ve got market statistics for each property’s area, including how many homes are for sale there, with links to each. A new neighborhood hub: You won’t find this anywhere else. We have community information for more than 20,000 North Texas neighborhoods — including the market trends for each area. What prices are being achieved? How long are homes on the market there? The information on our new neighborhood pages is rich. For each neighborhood, it includes: All nearby homes for sale, at a glance, with prices, addresses and more. The schools nearby, with SchoolDigger ratings, student/teacher ratios and much more. Yelp reviews around the neighborhood, of dining, shopping, nightlife and activities. New agent pages: We’ve added lots of helpful information here, too. You’ll not only meet our expert agents on their own pages, you’ll see their available properties, their upcoming open houses and some of their sold properties. All of this can help you decide who is the perfect agent for you. The new blog: This is your go-to source for great properties, up-to-the-minute agent news and lifestyle stories. We’ve got trends — including which home features are hot, and which are not — plus news about the world of Sotheby’s, including upcoming auctions of art, jewelry, wine, cars and more. You’ll love the new blog — and you can easily share the homes for sale and all the stories. We have made briggsfreeman.com more immersive and more informative than ever, so that you have an even better experience with us. I think of it as a birthday gift to our greatest gift: you. FEBRUARY 21, 2020 Why would you sell with us? I can think of more than 400 reasons, right now, why someone would want to sell their home with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. They are our passionate, intuitive, smart and skilled agents. They are everywhere across North Texas, finding buyers for homes, high-rises, ranches, land and commercial properties. Our agents are the best in the business — and our sellers couldn’t be in better hands. Our agents’ superior knowledge and experience are backed by our own game-changing technology, a management team that supports them in every way and an in-house team of marketing professionals who can help develop a strategy for any property in digital, print, video and 3D venues. Because of that unequalled mix, I am proud to say that we are the No. 1 luxury real estate brokerage in Texas, per REAL Trends, an independent firm that ranks agents and teams across the country. To put it frankly: Our homes sell for the highest average price in the entire state. It doesn’t stop there. We are also a proud member of the global Sotheby’s International Realty network, now 23,000 agents in more than 70 countries and territories. Our agents harness the power of the world’s most prestigious real estate brand — its reputation, its reach and its strategies — to help sell the finest properties in the world, including yours. When your property debuts with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, it is instantly seen across North Texas and around the world, in every medium imaginable, by the most relevant, most affluent buyers possible. No other brokerage can compare — and our exceptional briggsfreeman.com and the powerful sothebysrealty.com are just the start of that amazing journey. But, despite all the bells and whistles — and we have the best ones — nothing will ever replace the skill and savvy of a professional real estate agent. The brokerage world has changed, absolutely. Big ideas are embraced, then abandoned. Quality experiences are promised, then not delivered. And there is a lot of talk about buyouts, sellouts and upstarts. It all makes me even more proud of who we are: a luxury real estate brokerage that has only ever sold luxury real estate. Here is our secret sauce: We are a North Texas brand, 60 years young. We were founded in 1960 as a boutique firm — and we are that very thing today. We’re the local brokerage with the global reach. The one with the iconic blue signs. We will never forget who we are. We sell homes, ranches, land and commercial properties — from and to the finest clients in the world. You. MARCH 6, 2020 The original urban pioneers Since 1960 and counting, no one has sold North Texas developments — in town and everywhere — like Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. Residential buildings, gated communities, urban districts and suburban neighborhoods: If you are developing it, we have the tech, tools and talent to sell it. Just one example? When we partner with developers as the exclusive listing brokerage of high-rises, it means high numbers. Our newest crown jewel to represent is Hall Arts Residences, a spectacular and smart super-luxury high-rise in the Dallas Arts District. The 28-story tower opens this summer, with incredible city views, unique health-friendly features, rich materials everywhere and top-notch amenities. Another ultra-luxury development we’re proud to be selling is the eight-story Terminal at Katy Trail. Sited directly along Dallas’ beloved walking, biking and running trail, it will be home to just 19 extraordinary residences, each with corner windows, a beautiful terrace and sweeping views. There will also be a lush park and a paseo walkway that bisects the building’s base, complete with shopping and dining. Those are just two of the developments we sell, exclusively. We help market developments, too. In fact, no one targets buyers more effectively. We not only offer our own in-house team of dynamic marketing professionals — each one working to maximize your investment — but also Keystone, the Sotheby’s International Realty program of exclusive marketing services for developments, including brand identities, websites, floor plans, architectural drawings, digital and print advertising, digital and print collateral, customizable e-mails and ongoing marketing programs. The week of March 16, Mansion Global, the award-winning website about the global real estate market, is going to be focused on new developments. We can’t wait. One trend we’re seeing in North Texas is the entirely walkable community — walking to work, walking to your favorite restaurant, walking all weekend and never needing the car. Developers here are on the forefront of this movement, planning their communities, townhomes and high-rises to be ultra-close to offices, services and amusements. So, developers, whether your project is on the drawing board or well established, call us. Let’s see what develops. MARCH 13, 2020 The land that we love They’re not making any more of it, you know. I’m talking about land. And, in Texas, land is king. They write songs about it. Books and movies, too. That’s why we have a division of expert agents who work exclusively with ranches and land. Whether a working ranch or a luxury retreat: We represent the best — to buyers and sellers who could be anywhere from Texas to Thailand. Land is a very wise investment. “Real estate is real, and it’s always a good idea to put your money in real assets,” said Grant Cardone, sales expert and New York Times best-selling author, in a recent CNBC story. That is especially true in this time of stock-market shakiness. “While the real estate market has gone up and down, it has never declined over time,” said Marcello Arrambide, founder of The Day Trading Academy, in that same story. Investing in Texas land is perhaps the safest bet you could make, now or anytime, and you can enjoy that asset while it builds equity. Weekends with friends and family. Another income stream from livestock. The possibilities are endless, because Texas ranches come in all sizes and types, from 2-acre weekend getaways to vast spreads that could be thousands upon thousands of acres, dotted with multiple lakes, multiple residences and wildlife galore. “Ranch life taps into the American desire for space, freedom and a connection with the land,” wrote Paul Sullivan, the Wealth Matters columnist for The New York Times. And, he said, “owning a ranch … has emerged as an alternative investment class.” I know just the people you should talk to. Our ranch-and-land agents can work with you to find the perfect property — or to sell one. Their unbelievable expertise combined with the global reach of the Sotheby’s International Realty® network mean that everything is possible, every dream doable. An investment in a what-if phone call could be an investment in your legacy — in more ways than one. MARCH 20, 2020 How home is more than our business What a time in the world. Daily routines are derailed. Business are upended. Stock markets are volatile. As I write this, the coronavirus continues to spread — more than 5,000 cases now in America alone. All of the sudden shutdowns and sheltering have certainly reinforced something we live by at our brokerage, seeing as our business is selling houses: There’s no place like home. That concept — that feeling — has never been more valued. You’re already feeling some of the upsides of staying in. Getting those closets in shape. Getting back to that book, as you stay put by the fireplace. A board game at the dining-room table, with the kids. So many of us are working from home now, too — with all of the focus and distraction that can come with that! The main thing is: We’re all in this, together. You know, the author and motivational speaker John Maxwell once said, “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” So, what do people who sell homes do when everyone is staying home? They adjust the sails. Our 400-plus big thinkers at Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty are stepping up to the challenges — as always. Virtually everyone is working from home, with all systems firing. We’ve moved all meetings and agent training sessions online, or to video chats. And, everyone is following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Especially when showing a home, which we are doing only if everyone — sellers, agents and potential buyers — adheres to CDC protocols.) Now, while we love to see our clients in person, we’ve always had the capabilities to do business online or in the digital realm. Our agents have shown — and sold — many houses using video chats on their phones or tablets. They employ online document signing, online transaction management and even closings via web conference. And there are always phone calls, texts and e-mails for staying in close contact. We’ve also got another exceptional tool in the toolbox: our new briggsfreeman.com, where you’ll find big, brilliant photos and loads of information about all of our properties, plus videos and virtual-reality tours, too. Best of all, briggsfreeman.com is always open, day or night. Come see our beautiful homes, thrilling high-rises, wide-open ranches and lots more. We are seeing strong demand, low interest rates and a hopeful spring homebuying market — and that necessitates the careful balancing of needs in such unprecedented times. Reach out to a Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty agent. No one knows the meaning of home — now and always — better.