Real EstateBrokerage

Cardinals of a different feather: Inside Samson Properties’ unique model

Samson Properties offers 100% commissions, relying on title for revenue. Can this work?

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Samson Properties CEO Donny Samson

Donny Samson is quite aware of this particular moment in residential real estate history.

“I don’t have any headline-worthy goals like 20% in 20 major markets,” Samson said about future plans. “But I think we’re going to bring our models to more and more states.”

Samson is the CEO of Samson Properties, a rapidly growing Northern Virginia-based brokerage. He is alluding to Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, who failed to deliver on a stated goal to have 20% market share in 20 major American markets by 2020. Samson has a different business model and branding than Compass, but both brokerages identify as “agent-centric.”

Samson is so agent-centric, in fact, that its agents receive a 100% commission split and services like training, office desks, and help with marketing. In return, the Samson agent is asked – not told, asked – to refer clients to Cardinal Title Group, a title insurer wholly owned by Samson.

“I try to kill them with kindness,” Samson said, giving agents “the resources to build that relationship” with Cardinal Title.

From one perspective, the U.S. real estate agent is in peril. The Department of Justice Antitrust Division is in its ninth month of a broad inquiry into what consumers pay on real estate commissions, which DOJ officials appear to think is too much. DOJ has swooped into lawsuits against the National Association of Realtors and top brokerage firms.

But RealTrends’ recently unveiled list of the top brokerages in the country, for which Samson is 19th by sales volume, revealed a different outlook. The fastest-growing brokerages, from full-service outfits like Compass to companies like Samson, Fathom Realty, and United Real Estate, businesses that RealTrends’ senior advisor Steve Murray call “low-cost brokerage models,” give agents more commission money and more services than five or 10 years ago with less upfront fees.

Samson Properties is perhaps the ultimate example of the agent – feared to be left for dead – seemingly in the driver’s seat.

“Donny Samson has been transparent about what he’s doing,” said Don Gurney, a longtime Century 21 broker in Pasadena, Maryland, who has observed Samson Properties’ regional rise. “It’s going to be interesting to see how he keeps making it without hitting a wall.”

The differentiator

Donny Samson’s father, Danny Samson, founded Samson Properties in Chantilly, Virginia, in 2001.

“My dad and a few of his buddies wanted to start a company where they played by their own rules,” Donny Samson recalled. “What my dad had was a passion for recruiting.”

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