Two brothers preside over a successful real estate agency in one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world. The people who work for them are smart, sophisticated and dedicated to more than meeting the needs of their ultra-demanding clients. Welcome to…
If you’ve not already discovered it, Selling Sunset is the Netflix reality TV series that lifts the lid on the glitzy top end of the Los Angeles real estate market. It centres on The Oppenheim Group, run by small but perfectly formed brothers Jason and Brett Oppenheim.
So. Two brothers selling beautiful houses in one of the world’s most desirable locations to rich and often famous people. Sound familiar? I thought I’d ask Patrick and Charlie Hill, the two brothers who run Charles Marlow, the real estate agency in Deià, Mallorca and Ibiza with a difference, what they thought.
‘Well, we’re not twins, and we have hair,’ Patrick says, ‘but there are similarities, apart from the obvious – selling beautiful homes in an amazing location. For example, we love getting together as a team, although we’re not quite as bitchy as they are. Their salespeople are driven to do a good job and so are we. But the big difference is they compete for commissions as individuals and we don’t.’
Charlie explains, ‘With individual bonuses, you create divisive competition. Salespeople are desperate to push a home because they get the reward. The way we do things, with the person doing the essential administrative backup work receiving the same salary as the one selling houses, changes the dynamic and makes us much more of a team. We all celebrate when someone sells a house.’
‘It adds up to a better service for clients, Patrick adds. ‘Because salespeople enjoy a decent salary, they’re not going to hassle a potential client to the point where it gets irritating. They can also be more transparent about the homes they’re selling.’
What triggered this way of working, I wondered? ‘We realised that our people only had their eyes on their part of business,’ Charlie told me. ‘We wanted to open up communication because, for us, this is key. When you share responsibility, everyone becomes more active and we all win together. We feel this is a big shift.’
This new extra sense of unity extends clear across Charles Marlow, with the benefits of sales in either Mallorca or Ibiza being enjoyed by everyone. ‘We’re concentrating on creating a Charles Marlow culture that really supports our people,’ Patrick says, ‘they’re the most important part of the business’.
The move away from individual commissions to truly sharing the rewards of being a successful real estate agency in a high value marketplace is just one of the changes that’s happened as Charles Marlow has evolved.
Charles Marlow has always described itself as ‘mastering the art of real estate’. I was curious as to whether Patrick and Charlie felt that, after seven years, they’d actually mastered it.
‘We’re still no closer,’ Charlie says. ‘I don’t think any one company can master everything. If they say they have, it means they’re standing still. We’ve mastered key elements because we’ve concentrated on getting excellent processes in place. From simple beginnings, we’re now in constant communication with every member of the team. Now that we have processes we trust, we can look at how best to grow without demanding our people work themselves into the ground. While we’re in Deià and Ibiza, we don’t need to physically grow any bigger than we already are. It helps that our clients live online so much more than they ever did. They can look at pictures of a property, view drone footage and have a Skype call with us at the same time.’
How about Charles Marlow’s clients, have they changed? ‘Not really,’ Patrick says. ‘Our clients are still everyone from people buying their first apartment to billionaires. And they’re all incredibly enjoyable to deal with. We really do attract the most amazing people. I think it’s because our values shape what we put out, our style.’
‘I actually started watching Selling Sunset a few weeks ago and found it hilarious. Mainly because I’d been viewing at a house in Deià a couple of days before and I’d had to ask the clients to step over the paella BBQ blocking the hallway as I took them to the guest bedroom. When we got there, a guest was still asleep in bed, which was pretty awkward. The contrast is real!’
The way Charles Marlow communicates with its audience also reflects Patrick and Charlie’s commitment to their values. ‘We try to live conscious lives, and this includes how we make a living,’ Charlie says. ‘One client recently told me she liked the way we look like we have a sustainable business. Our website and other bits and pieces of communication are designed to make it clear that we have a genuine story and really love what we do. This is refreshing, particularly in a real estate agency – as you can see from the difference between us and The Oppenheim Group.’
Another difference between Charles Marlow and The Oppenheim Group is the emphasis Patrick and Charlie place on discretion. As Charlie puts it, ‘I like people not knowing we’ve sold that house and we have this client. We deal with incredibly famous people but I’m not pushing to be their friend. I’m a professional and expert in my field and they’re looking for a property. It’s as simple as that.’
What Patrick and Charlie do have in common with their clients is a great love of the places where they sell homes. ‘When I first came to Deià, I underestimated how incredible it was,’ Patrick says. ‘Now, whenever I return, I realise this place isn’t like anywhere else. It’s special, magical and unique.’
The same applies to Ibiza for Charlie. ‘You couldn’t recreate what Ibiza has anywhere else,’ he says. ‘But, most of all, I feel gratitude to those creative people who came before us and paved the way.’
Andreas has been with Charles Marlow in Deià for around 18 months and recently began ‘spearheading Mallorca rentals’ as he puts it. His new role involves ‘speaking to clients, showing rental houses and making sure we have the right portfolio to delight our rapidly growing clientele.’
A world traveller since childhood, 32-year-old, Danish Andreas learnt Spanish at school and found himself drawn to Spain and Spanish-speaking culture. ‘Before coming to Mallorca, I lived in Murcia, Valencia and La Paz, Bolivia – by accident and on purpose. I tried Argentinian tango and became completely hooked on it, which took me to Argentina where I met an amazing dancer who become my partner,’ he says.
Coming to Mallorca was intentional. ‘When my girlfriend and I knew we were having a baby, the options on the table were her going to Denmark or me in Mallorca. There was only going to be one result and here I am.’
Since joining Charles Marlow, Andreas has come to thoroughly enjoy ‘learning something new every day and being in and out of the office. And, of course, I love the spirit that Charlie and Patrick bring to the team and the company – the idea that it’s possible to be decent with people and still do good business. It’s a joy to be part of that.’
If you’d like to speak to Andreas about a rental, he’d love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org