When three Scottsdale businessmen teamed up to start a real estate company in late 2005, the housing market was starting a downward spiral.
But despite a slowdown, The Equitable Real Estate Co. rapidly found success in the Valley’s luxury home market.
The company did $724 million in sales last year and expects to do more than $1 billion in 2007.
Since starting up in October 2005, Equitable has also swelled in size from a few agents to 267 — many of whom jumped from other agencies.
It’s the depth of the agents’ experience that has spurred Equitable’s success despite a market slump, said Scott Barker, a partner in the venture.
Barker and John Vatistas, who owned a local mortgage and title firm, approached real estate veteran Dominic Scappaticci with the idea to form Equitable in mid-2005.
The group soon formed the holding company Equitable Arizona Holdings LLC, which operates the real estate business, Camelback Title Agency, Equitable Home Mortgage and Lovitt & Touche Insurance.
The combination of having agent, title and mortgage services in one place gives Equitable an advantage, Barker said.
“If you need something instantly, we can get it for you,” he said. “It’s easier to do that than working with a third party.”
Scappaticci, who serves as Equitable’s president and broker, said he expects to reach an estimated peak of 350 agents by the end of this year.
“That’ll be it,” he said. “Doors are closed.”
Scappaticci had worked for 15 years in Scottsdale’s Pinnacle Peak area before partnering with Barker and Vatistas.
Many agents who worked with Scappaticci at Pinnacle Peak Realty — later bought by Coldwell Banker — followed him to Equitable.
“It was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.
More than 100 moved over from Coldwell Banker alone.
Others came from firms such as Keller Williams and Russ Lyon.
It’s common in real estate for agents to follow managers to a different company, said Bill Jilbert, chairman of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, which has 40 offices across Arizona.
“Recruiting in our business is constant,” Jilbert said.
Some of Coldwell’s agents receive a dozen mailings and e-mails from competing com- panies every month, he said.
The exodus of agents from Coldwell’s Pinnacle Peak office was likely also driven by a company buyout by national real estate firm NRT, Jilbert said.
“That was a big chunk of sales,” he said. “Those were good agents.”
But Coldwell has rebuilt its agent base since then. “It’s water under the bridge,” Jilbert said. “There’s plenty of room in the marketplace for competition.”
Kathy Fuller was one of the first to jump from Coldwell.
The more than 10-year real estate veteran said she had confidence in Scappaticci. “He’s a phenomenal motivator without being unrealistic,” Fuller said.
Equitable, which now has five offices in Scottsdale and Carefree, has a team spirit, where the agents work together, she said.
That camaraderie and upbeat atmosphere are partly what attracted Robert Joffe to the company. Joffe folded his real estate business, ARJ Investments, into Equitable in December. “I’ve increased my business tremendously,” he said. “I think it’ll be my best year in 23 years.”