Alex Wang, a local real estate agent who recently launched a new brand, wondered whether he should continue with moving into an office space in downtown Los Altos.
He had signed a lease prior to COVID-19. He wound up moving, using a door from Home Depot propped up by two file cabinets as a makeshift desk.
Wang’s boutique brokerage, Rainmaker Real Estate, announced a partnership with the San Francisco-based brokerage platform Side in June. The move comes during a pandemic, when the real estate market – like many normalities of life in the COVID-19 world – is uncertain.
During an interview in July, Wang said the Los Altos real estate market remains robust. But there was fear when the pandemic first hit in March. Contracts were canceled. Uncertainty lingered.
“The first week was scary,” he said.
The market is tamer now, according to Wang. Usually, the strongest time of the year for home sales is during March and April. That didn’t happen this year. July and August are the slowest times because families are traveling for vacations. However, because most people are sheltering in place, that norm is not occurring either. Instead, Wang has seen what he called a “delayed spring market.”
“Buyers still need to buy and sellers still need to sell,” he said.
Starting a new brand
The son of two real estate agents, Wang has been in the business for more than 20 years in Silicon Valley. He founded Rainmaker Properties in 2007 and had worked for Sereno Group Real Estate for the past six years. In 2014, he was listed by REAL Trends as one of the top 250 real estate agents in the country.
Wang transitioned from working at a large, “big box” brokerage to his own boutique firm because he wanted to focus more on building an agent-centric brand rather than a profit or IPO-first approach.
“A lot of these bigger companies, the focus is on monetizing me as an agent and on building their brand and their brokerage,” he said. “So there’s that constant struggle. I would butt heads with them every so often. I knew there was something more. I didn’t know what it was.”
A few years back, Wang’s wife, Lily, had run into a Side executive and described her husband’s interests. Last fall, they reconnected. After an introduction, Wang soon found himself enthralled with Side’s model that puts the agent first.
“Money, at the end of the day, is just some kind of measurement of numbers,” said Lily, who serves as the operations manager of Rainmaker. “What Alex wanted to see is impact, really being able to have a legend in how we treated people, how we brought about positive change.”
Wang is grateful the partnership with Side allowed him to ease into transitioning into his own brand during a pandemic.
“I didn’t plan to have this pandemic and launch this business during a pandemic,” he said.
But he said he decided to “pull the Band-Aid off” and move ahead. While the local real estate market remains strong, one uncertainty that will continue into fall is how the lack of in-person schooling might affect interest in new homes.
In the past, according to Wang, parents might drop their kids off at school and then have time available to look at potential home purchases. Now, with school likely to begin virtually, he expects a learning process for families to become accustomed to online schooling, and an ensuing week or two of slowing down the market. Typically, the strong local public schools have been an enticing reason for people to buy homes in Los Altos.
“The buyers’ attention span may be affected a little bit,” Wang said. “They’re focused on getting their kids settled in school, and then they can figure out the next home sale.”
To contact Wang and for more information, visit rainmakerrealestate.com.