Building an Agent-Centric Business

Above, Chad Ruggles

Chad Ruggles spent his first 20 years out of college working in the consumer finance business for CitiFinancial before making a move in 2014 to the mortgage industry for Carrington, where he was asked to take over the company’s real estate brokerage in 2019.  

That’s how Ruggles became senior vice president and head of Vylla Home, under the Carrington umbrella.Vylla Home currently has more than 1,250 real estate agents across 39 states, growing from 700 agents and 30 states when Ruggles first took over. 

How would you analyze the market through Q1 2024?
Chad Ruggles: It’s been a bit of a struggle. The thing we have going for us is that we had a really strong fourth quarter for new listings, up about 23% over the same quarter of 2022, so that gave us some fuel coming into the first quarter of 2024. January and February were right where we thought it would be, though still low numbers. Transactions for agents are up year-over year, but that’s because we’re operating an efficient roster. 

What is the industry’s biggest challenge?
CR: Inventory. Our agents are able to find clients that want to move, that want to sell their home and buy another home and/or buyers who want to buy but don’t have enough inventory to look at. We’ve seen many buyers go to the sidelines when they saw rates pick back up. That doesn’t change how competitive it is because we still have a lot more buyers than we have sellers. 

What attracts agents to Vylla Home?
CR: We provide a unique opportunity for agents to work for a brokerage with a sister company that’s one of the largest non-bank mortgage servicers in the industry. We have preferred relationships with some of the largest asset managers in the industry. Vylla is the go-to brokerage for those assets. If you look at the tools we offer—you get a free website and a free CRM. We negotiate discounts on social media platforms that’s a third of the price. Because of our size, the amount of training that we offer is second to none. It’s an intimate feel here and a culture that people are attracted to. 

How do you stay up on the latest and greatest tech?
CR: We have a really good tech partner in Constellation1. We recently sat down with them and talked about the 2024 and 2025 roadmap for things that they are providing us. We review that closely and make sure they are staying up on things, but that’s what they do. We’re also staying on top of AI and how we can use that to help our agents.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about real estate?
CR: It’s an agent-centric business. The agent is your customer. You need them. They don’t need you, they have a choice. 

What is your growth strategy for the future?
CR: I don’t see dramatic growth coming this year. We’re having a decent year growing our agent count, but we are still identifying agents not cut out for us and actively removing some from the roster. What’s growth for us is to provide each of our agents with more opportunities than we were able to offer them in 2023. 

What’s your favorite thing about real estate?
CR: That it is entrepreneurial. It’s not just entrepreneurial for the agent who has to be able to create business plans that are unique to their strengths and weaknesses, but for the brokerage, as well. 

Vylla Home
Years in business: 15
Regions Served: 39 states; Illinois and Northeast have highest concentrations
Size: 39 offices, 1,250 real estate agents
2023 Sales Volume: $1.5 billion
2023 Transactions: 6,151 

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