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Lab Coat Agents’ founders accused of violent, sexist comments during Inman SF

(REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY) “Hell yeah… who’s the hottest girl you have ever screwed off of Tinder?” women allegedly hear during a luxury shuttle at a San Francisco real estate conference.

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The story begins on August 4th, 2016. The opening scene is a private luxury shuttle where a group of men and women boarded to be whisked from the Inman Connect San Francisco tour of a posh mansion to the Inman Innovators Award event. On the ride over, something went awry.

The men believed that just a few rows away from the women, they could have a private conversation. Locker talk, if you will.

Three men allegedly said the following, which three women claim to have heard clearly:

“I swear, I would have punched that bitch if I knew I could do it without fucking killing her.”

“I mean, I know how to hit a cunt so that she can hide the bruises.”

“Now I’m back on Tinder just hitting that shit — I’m still married but fuck that cheating bitch.”

“You guys know what I mean — fuck all the bitches, amiright?”

“Yeah, man… you had every right to fuck that bitch up.”

“If my girl ever did that to me she would fucking regret it for sure.”

“Hell yeah… who’s the hottest girl you have ever screwed off of Tinder?”

One of the women began to recognize the voices. The women were then addressed directly. “Are you ladies learning something up there?! Don’t ever cheat on your man or he has every right to fuck you up.”

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None of the women shared their story until Thursday, October 13th when Stacie Perrault Staub outlined the encounter in detail, never naming the men or offering hints as to their identities.

The three men implicate themselves

All three men implicated themselves on Friday, October 14th, posting on Facebook that they were on the bus, but claimed they never said anything to that effect while they privately discussed a crumbling marriage.

Ronnie George, Real Estate Agent and Team Leader at Keller Williams Realty CENLA Partners in Louisiana, was allegedly one of the commenters on the bus, along with Lab Coat Agents founders Nicholas “Nick” Baldwin (the COO at Lab Coat Agents and Listing Specialist at The Baldwin Dream Team at Keller Williams Realty in New Jersey) and Herubay “Tristan” Ahumada (CEO at Lab Coat Agents and Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams World Class, Tristan & Associates), who were on their way to find out whether as finalists, Lab Coat Agents had won Inman’s “Most Innovative Technology” category (which Cloud MLX ultimately went on to win).

The morning after the bus ride in question, this picture was posted on Instagram:
instagram-screenshot
The three men have not responded to our requests for comment, but our email tracking system confirms they have opened the emails.

On Monday, October 17th, a Keller Williams spokesperson said, “Derogatory statements and actions have no place in our Keller Williams’ culture. We take these matters seriously, and have taken immediate action.” We have asked for clarification as to what actions have been taken.

Throwing gasoline on a fire

On Friday, the three men called Staub (as well as witnesses Valerie Garcia and Nikki Beauchamp) liars, even making videos on the topic to defend their innocence and subsequently deleted the videos from the “closed” Lab Coat Agents (LCA) group on Facebook. Anyone that watched this group today saw threads deleted in front of them.

While the videos, self-implicating status updates, and references to this incidence have been scrubbed from LCA, we have hundreds of screenshots as well as shared videos, just as countless private Facebook groups and real estate practitioners do.

For example, the deleted videos have since been uploaded to YouTube (courtesy of Rob Hahn):


People offended by the scrubbing efforts have re-posted screenshots of others questioning the LCA founders. Those have also been deleted by LCA.

Group members have gone as far as finding old tweets from George as far back as 2015, asserting that they depict an ongoing misogynistic attitude.

ronnie george on twitter

Another group member confronted Baldwin directly, alleging that moments after meeting, Baldwin bragged to him about having sex with one of the event hosts. That post was removed (and was defiantly reposted by other LCA members).

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A source close to the story tells us that this is far from over, and one of the women tells us she is “terrified.” Another source indicates the witnesses are upset at being named by blogger Rob Hahn, although many people have publicly tagged the three women in Facebook status updates to show their support. Several people have told us that there are private backchannel conversations going on that are being perceived as threatening.

The allegations have led to respected industry leaders to leave the Facebook group, along with others that are purportedly blocked from seeing or returning to the LCA group. Many have left, some have been banned by LCA administrators.

The three men have confirmed they were on the bus, had a personal conversation, and they have called the women liars, and apologized if anyone was offended, but have yet to recount what exactly their conversation entailed (which at this point is irrelevant, as they continue to deny the account of that day).

While numerous sources are speaking to us off of the record for fear of retribution, New York broker, J. Philip Faranda had intimate knowledge of this encounter prior to Staub’s original post being published and he opined brashly.

Faranda calls this “a brand-killing event” for Lab Coat Agents.

Moving forward in a post-Inman-bus world

According to Inman, Lab Coat Agents’ Baldwin and Ahumada are “de-facto consultants” for real estate tech firms in exchange for equity. Further, Ahumada told Inman he had been flown in by the VP of realtor.com to consult on various Move, Inc. products. Previously, Baldwin told The Real Daily that they were being brought in by realtor.com to take over the still defunct Tech Savvy Agent blog.

Move and realtor.com have not responded to our request for comment, although the email request has been opened 13 times as of publication. The National Association of Realtors has verified with The Real Daily that they have no affiliation with Lab Coat Agents, financial or otherwise.

In full disclosure, leadership at The Real Daily was previously invited (and we ultimately declined) to speak at the first LCA conference by Baldwin, who by all standards has maintained a professional tone during all of our interactions.

Ultimately, this is a black eye on the industry as Staub’s original blog post has been shared across social networks in front of endless consumers.

At home or at a conference, Realtors are held to a Code of Ethics, a Code of Excellence, and to higher standards of behavior. The egos of a few won’t be allowed to damage the reputation of 1.2 million Realtors in America. The real estate industry continues to protect consumers (and to an extent other agents) from this behavior; for example, NAR amended the CoE to protect LGBTQ couples from being discriminated against while the federal government continues to deliberate.

Consumers would not expect any other industry to tolerate even a hint of bullying, intimidation, sexism, or indirect threats of violence. Even from real estate vendors.

Since publication, Valerie Garcia and Nikki Beauchamp have both put forward statements corroborating Staub’s account of the incident.

This is an ongoing story and we will keep you updated.

UPDATE: Industry leader Jeff Lobb reportedly left the group and was blocked prior to this incident and for separate reasons.

UPDATE: October 17th, 2:18pm cst updated the story to reflect Beauchamp and Garcia’s public statements, and to add Keller William’s statement.

UPDATE, October 17th: Lab Coat Agents’ LCA Live speakers backing out

#LCAccused

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Real Estate Brokerage

Should brokerages have an internal communication strategy?

(BUSINESS) It’s not common to have an internal communication strategy, but your brokerage should. Here’s how to set it up.

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internal communication strategy

It’s never a bad time to start fresh, personally and professionally. Help your organization by taking into account what’s happened in recent history and where you want to go. From there, you will determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals.

Writing an internal communication (IC) strategy can be the first step in mapping your goals and is virtually unused in the real estate industry. According to All Things IC, an “internal communication strategy is like a map, an outline of your organization’s journey. It’s the big picture of what you want to achieve.” This can be done by a brokerage, or an independent agent alike.

Great! So, where do you start? First, know what an IC strategy needs to address. This includes the where, how, what, and why.

Write down the current state of the company, then state where you’re heading, or where you’d like to be. Create a list of objectives to support this.

Then break into your “how.” Explain how you are going to get to where you want to be, as well as how long it will take and why.

You’ll then venture over to a “what” by outlining what is involved along the way to your goal. Then, throw in a little “why” by explaining why this approach is the best for the job.

Go back to “how” and tell how you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination. This part will require tangibles, measurements to support a change in reaching your goal.

Finally, give one more “what” and address what will happen if you don’t change the way you’re currently operating. If things are working for your organization, that’s great! But, there is always room for improvement.

For an internal communication strategy, it is important to include the following: a title, an issue/purpose, structure, executive summary, audience segmentation/stakeholder mapping, a timeline, channels, measurement, communication objective, approval process and responsibilities, key messages, and an appendix.

Now, what was missing from the initial inclusions was a “who.” So, who should be the one to write this document?

Well, it needs to be someone with a strong understanding and implementation for internal communications. This can be done internally by someone on staff who is an expert; or, it can be outsourced to an expert. Regardless of who writes it, make sure it is clear and concise for the audience at hand.

What is most important to remember is that writing an internal communication strategy is just half the battle. Your work is not done once this document is agreed upon by the leadership team. And finally, you must be willing to enforce what’s written on these pages and be ready to make the changes you’ve outlined.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Pocket listings: The key to success in hot housing market?

(REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE) Despite NAR’s attempts to shut the door on pocket listings, the reality is that premarket sales are almost a necessity for buyers in hot markets.

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Dark house at dusk, a possible pocket listing to be snatched up.

Hot housing markets are like the “Hunger Games” right now – and the odds are definitely not favoring home buyers.

In fiery markets like Austin, high demand and low inventory are juicing prices and sometimes bringing an unprecedented number of offers. A home in the desirable, centrally located neighborhood of Crestview recently drew 27 offers, says Lisa Boone, Realtor, GRI, with Waterloo Realty. “Everyone is fighting over the same properties.”

For some buyers, that competition makes tapping into the robust, but controversial, “pre-MLS” private-listing ecosystem feel almost like a necessity. “My job has gone from trying to get people a deal on a house to getting someone a house, period,” says Anna Uliassi, associate broker with Compass in Austin. “I’d say it’s gotten crazier in the last six months.”

That private, or pocket, listing ecosystem is shifting, too.

Well-connected agents who find or sell off-market properties through friendly phone calls to their networks and tapping into private online forums have been told to cut it out. In a bid to level the playing field, the National Association of Realtors has essentially banned pocket listings with its “MLS Clear Cooperation policy,” As of May 1, 2020, agents must list properties on MLS within one business day of “public marketing,” which includes phone calls, forum posts, and even the buzz-building “coming soon” signs.

“There are no more private listings, unless the listing is kept private within your own brokerage,” Romeo Manzanilla of Realty Austin told the Austin Business Journal in August. “It keeps the integrity of the MLS from the data perspective. It also allows all MLS participants to have access to the same listings and not necessarily have to go fish through, ‘What Facebook group am I supposed to join to get these under-the-radar listings?’ “

But there are rules… And there is reality.

With tight inventory and rising concerns about privacy, demand for off-market transactions simply is not going away. Especially when it comes to luxury properties listed on places like Austin Luxury Network.

Now savvy buyers want to check the pocket listings. They’ve read articles on how to head off competition with off-market homes. Or they’ve had their hearts broken too many times by losing out on too many properties.

Also, buyer wish lists are becoming more and more specific based on lifestyle changes, says Gray Adkins, Realtor, GRI, with Waterloo Realty. “As a buyer, if you’re looking for something really specific, you’re just waiting. You’re sitting on your hands checking MLS every morning wondering if it’s going to get listed. We’re only seeing a handful of things getting listed in each market area per week, so it can be a long, drawn out process.”

For sellers, the pandemic has added a new twist. Many want to avoid the showing frenzy’s disruption to their schedules. They’re working from home and helping their kids with virtual school, and the idea of COVID-status-unknown strangers walking through their house is not appealing.

Still, what might slow the use of pocket listings in Austin could come from the seller side rather than policy.

“It’s not really the best route for the seller unless that’s really what they want to do for personal reasons, because the market is so excited about every new listing that comes up, and that’s what tends to drive things into multiple offers,” Uliassi says. “So I’d say that finding off-market properties now is harder and harder.”

That tight inventory means Austin agents are working harder and harder just to find properties. Prospecting agents are calling, texting, emailing, mailing and even old-fashioned door knocking. Some are using companies offering “predictive analytics” to identify owners who are more likely to sell fairly soon.

They’re also looking at sources outside of MLS. “There are companies that are trying to compete with Zillow and MLS and have their own private listings,” Adkins says, as well as iBuyer programs uncovering homes. But there’s still no substitute for developing hyper-local expertise, keeping your ear to the ground and networking.

“If you’ve been in the business in Austin long enough – everybody knows everybody, and you can get a lot of information just by making a few phone calls,” Adkins says. “Word gets around, especially if you want it to.”

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Real Estate Brokerage

The first affordable housing REIT is here, and it’s Black-owned

(BROKERAGE) The first affordable housing REIT is here – and it’s founded by two of the largest Black-owned firms in the country.

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Sunrise over affordable housing REIT neighborhood

At the beginning of the month, California-based Avanath Capital Management and San Francisco’s MacFarlane Partners came together to launch a new real estate investment trust (REIT). The two firms state that this new REIT will be the first of its kind in that it will be the first publicly traded REIT to pursue a strategy focused on affordable and workforce multifamily housing. The trust – dubbed Aspire Real Estate Investors – is targeting $1.6 billion in investments.

This announcement comes at a crucial time. The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has left much of the country’s working class in shambles. Affordable housing is becoming an increasingly coveted but scarce commodity. Not only do Americans need affordable housing, but they need affordable housing that will be invested in, accessible, and respected.

Avanath Capital Management and MacFarlane Partners – both Black-owned – are two of the largest minority-owned estate investment firms in the country. Avanath Capital was founded by Daryl J. Carter in 2007, and reported $1.2 billion in assets under management in 2018. MacFarlane Partners was founded by Victor MacFarlane in 1987.

Hopefully, Aspire will inspire other firms to follow suit, and invest in meaningful, necessary assets that will uplift working Americans, like affordable housing. If the morality aspect doesn’t do it, then maybe the profits Aspire will reap from being the first of its kind will inspire.

The filing stated: “[The affordable housing sectors] historically have been fragmented in ownership and underserved by institutional capital, yet they comprise a majority of the U.S. multifamily market (by units) and offer strong long-term fundamentals to generate the attractive returns for investors.”

Aspire, who filed paperwork with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) already has an initial portfolio of 9 multi-family project investments. Six of these are located in Opportunity Zones – in Illinois, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California and Michigan that will ultimately cost close to $582.4 million. Down the pipeline, Aspire’s acquisition pipeline totals $1.1 billion.

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