When Mario Faggiano—one of three co-founders of the EXR Group, a Brooklyn-centric real estate brokerage that announced its official launch today—went looking for a Williamsburg loft not long ago, he so impressed his agent with his negotiating skills that the broker was moved to consider Mr. Faggiano as a potential business partner. The agent, Sam Rubin, is a borough native and a member of Williamsburg’s Orthodox Jewish community—and the scion of a real estate family with longstanding operations in the neighborhood.
Like many young men in the shadow of family empire, however local, Mr. Rubin, who is 25, yearned to strike out on his own, and was soon engaged in entrepreneurial rap sessions with the 27-year-old Mr. Faggiano and his friend John Le Vine, also 25. Since April, the trio—together with a team that now numbers 15—has been revving the proverbial engine in a storefront office on Havemeyer Street. “We had a lot of groundwork to lay,” Mr. Le Vine told The Observer. “We wouldn’t have felt quite comfortable stepping out into the public eye without having all our ducks in a row. And now we do.”
Active for the most part in the residential rental market, with a fledgling commercial and sales business that they hope to grow, EXR aims to parlay Mr. Rubin’s hometown roots into a competitive position in Brooklyn’s frenetic real estate environment. The Williamsburg waterfront might be studded with tasteless glass towers; a Richard Meier building might overlook Grand Army Plaza, but Brooklyn, Mr. Le Vine said, is not Manhattan. “It has a lot of different dynamics. You have all kinds of different landlords, as opposed to in Manhattan, where you have big firms managing many properties with large back end operations and billions of dollars in real estate. Here, you have a lot of mom and pop owners that might have a single building, or just a couple of units.”
By easing interactions between clients and nonprofessional or semi-professional landlords—owners, for example, who see no need to keep spare keys on hand—EXR hopes to carve a niche for themselves. Using Mr. Rubin’s Orthodox community connections, the firm has amassed a store of 100 exclusive listings—many of them clustered in Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bed Stuy, and some of which have virtually never been available to an outside market. Ambitious youngsters that they are, the EXR founders do not, however, object to expansion. The firm recently secured a leasing agreement for a sizable loft building currently being converted into upmarket apartments. (Sound familiar?)
When we asked Mr. Le Vine whether he would mind following in the footsteps of Apartments and Lofts founder Dave Maundrell, who used his local roots to position himself favorably during the Williamsburg condo boom and who has since become a major player in new Brooklyn development, Mr. Le Vine indicated that he would not. “I don’t think anyone would mind,” he said. “But I also don’t think we’re trying to follow Model X or Model Y. Parts of Williamsburg are still very underdeveloped. Booming. But underdeveloped.”