It’s not much of a secret anymore – there’s a new real estate office in town and several local agents are banking on the new business.
Longtime Coldwell Banker agents Alice Nuzzo, Alicia Nuzzo, Jeanne MacVicar, Jane Bigelow and 20 additional experienced agents are now working for Sereno Group Real Estate in Los Altos.
Sereno Group’s President and CEO Chris Trapani quoted a colleague who summed up the professionals’ change in employer.
“Shift happens,” Trapani said.
Temporarily housed in second-floor offices above Heritage Bank at 419 S. San Antonio Road, Trapani said his business associate Alice Nuzzo has more than 30 years’ experience in real estate, 13 with Cornish & Carey. In 1979, she co-founded Seville Properties, which grew to three offices in the area with 110 agents before Coldwell purchased the company in 1998.
“Through her leadership, Seville Properties became recognized as one of the leading brokerages in the area for its high standards of professionalism and productivity,” Sereno’s vice president, Ryan Iwanaga, wrote in a press release.
Trapani remembered the high standards Seville Properties adhered to and the positive reputation the company enjoyed in the community.
Once Coldwell’s president and chief operating officer for more than 1,500 agents, Trapani left Coldwell Banker and launched Sereno Group in Los Gatos with 25-30 experienced agents in 2006. “Sereno,” a Spanish word, means “calm” in English – Sereno’s growth was anything but.
Today, there are 80 agents in Los Gatos, a second branch was established in Saratoga Village this year, and now, Los Altos.
Experience is key here. In this troubled economy, Trapani said it takes an experienced agent who has weathered similar situations to thrive in the real estate business.
“We’re not just anyone with a license,” he said. “People will tell you, (Sereno) is where the experienced agents work.”
Alicia Nuzzo, Alice’s daughter, recently joined Sereno Group and will comanage the Los Altos office with Trapani.
Trapani’s business ethic is guided by the words of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia. The opening paragraphs of Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing” (Penguin Group, 2005), state, “Yet business can produce food, cure disease, control population, employ people and generally enrich our lives. And it can do these good things and make a profit without losing its soul.”
The words are Trapani’s mantra.
“We have never done a subprime loan,” he said. “We’re a socially responsible business – our profit is a by-product.”
The Santa Clara County Green Business Program has certified that all Sereno offices are green, and Sereno agents are actively involved in the community.
From recycling to smart lighting, Trapani said the organization emphasizes environmental responsibility – all offices are converting loan transactions’ voluminous paper documents to electronic records.
“Historically, real estate has been the slowest to change technologically,” Trapani said.
Iwanaga predicted Sereno’s three offices would have 120 agents and produce an annual sales volume of $800 million to $1 billion by the first quarter in 2009. In addition to the 25 agents working at Sereno’s Los Altos office, Trapani said he expects to add 25-30 experienced agents over the next several months and expand up the Peninsula to include Palo Alto, Woodside and Portola Valley, with controlled growth and a long-term strategy.
“Our plan is to really hug the Peninsula,” he said, noting several agents north of Los Altos have expressed interest in Sereno.
In the meantime, the sign is up and Sereno’s new offices at 369 S. San Antonio Road are in the process of an interior makeover. Trapani said Sereno Group should be established in its permanent offices by the end of December.
For Alice Nuzzo, the move will be akin to coming home. “That’s the building where I first started my real-estate career,” she said.