Cover Feature

Sandhya Espitia Leads REBNY’s Brokerage Division

Photographer: Jill Lotenberg

Last summer, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) tapped Sandhya Espitia to lead Brokerage Services, comprised of four units and 15 professionals. It was only a few weeks into the job when the City’s leading trade association arrived at a major milestone. The Residential Brokerage Division’s Board of Directors had unanimously voted to end the longstanding practice of sending out residential sales and rental listings from its Residential Listing Service (RLS) via hundreds of individual feeds, and streamline listings through a centralized, single feed. The new hire, Espitia would oversee the monumental task.

This move marked a significant upgrade for REBNY member firms. Plans for launching syndication through the RLS had been in the works for over a year, but there was a lot of heavy lifting to do. Espitia hit the ground running.

She had joined REBNY after nearly two decades of experience in executive leadership roles. She managed complex knowledge and innovation initiatives across industries at Harvard University, and most recently, as vice president at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the world’s largest association for the commercial and retail real estate industry.

REBNY President John H. Banks said, “Her diverse background and expertise provides unparalleled leadership to the brokerage team. She has dedicated her entire career to leading the design and implementation of complex and high-profile projects globally, making her the perfect fit to provide overall leadership for this effort.”

Espitia led the rollout of syndication with a talented team and leadership from the Residential Brokerage and RLS Boards of Directors.

  • Freddy Sarabia directs the RLS team that has helped to build and implement syndication. Sarabia is an MLS expert who has served as REBNY’s RLS director for the past five years and was recently elected as chair of the Customer Service Section Council for the Council of Multiple Listing Services. Prior to REBNY, he served as chair and vice chair of Fidelity National MLS user group, which represented more than 300 MLS’s servicing more than 600,000 realtors across the United States. With 20 years of experience in MLS operations, Sarabia has expertly navigated the complexities of listing services.
  • Stefan Martinovic, a real estate technology innovator who specializes in using data to rapidly understand complex challenges, serves as director of Product Management and Innovation for the RLS. With more than a decade of experience in RE Tech, Martinovic co-founded Create.io, a property database and 3D mapping technology startup serving real estate investors, development companies, financial institutions, government agencies, and architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms.
  • Sharon Morris serves as the RLS Data Services director. She is responsible for developing and maintaining data governance and analytics strategies. Prior to REBNY, Morris was the manager of Information Protection at PwC where she worked to ensure client information was protected and adhered to business, legal, and regulatory requirements.
  • Ossie Shemtov is the RLS director of Compliance, focusing on the proper submission of residential sales and rental listings submitted by member firms. Having spent nearly a decade at REBNY as vice president of Commercial Brokerage Services, Shemtov is a seasoned vet, working with members and their needs.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2017, a steady stream of major national and international real estate portals, one after another, signed up to bring the new syndicated feed to their consumers. Realtor.com, the New York Times, Homes.com, Apartments.com, The Real Deal, and one hundred others announced partnerships with the REBNY RLS.

Nearly one year later, the results have impacted the residential listings landscape and improved data quality for New York residential real estate agents and their customers. RLS syndication is helping 12,000 brokers and agents at 300 New York City brokerage firms to deliver higher value to consumers every day.

Espitia is humbled by the trial by fire experience in her first year at REBNY. She explains, “It was a long summer. We worked non-stop. At the outset it was like drinking water from a firehose, but the experience brought out the best in our team. We knew we had to respond to the concerns of our members and we had to get this right. So far the adoption has exceeded everyone’s expectations, and we continue to make improvements every day. Ongoing advice and leadership from our board of directors has been instrumental.”

In addition to the RLS, Espitia leads three other teams that focus on programs and services for commercial and residential brokerage members. She hired McKenna Warren, director of Commercial Brokerage Services; Melinda Evans, director of Professional Development; and Yilda Guerrero, director of Residential Brokerage Services. This group works with over 40 industry committees, oversees two industry certifications, handles member concerns, and delivers 150 programs and events annually.

“The Brokerage Division’s mix of new talent and experienced REBNY veterans makes for a strong team. These professionals are committed to member services, world class events, relevant education, and data integrity. I am very proud of [Espitia] and the work her team is doing to provide meaningful services to our members,” Banks said.

Bess Freedman, co-president of Brown Harris Stevens said, “[Espitia] is a listener and has opened up strong lines of communication with the residential community. She’s led the charge to roll out the syndication of our listings service and you can measure her effective leadership by the results of the past year. She connects with the industry to get advice and ideas, which is important.”

With an eye on innovation, Espitia is conducting a comprehensive review of REBNY’s products, programs, and services—from education to industry events, and from services to content.

“REBNY is committed to providing timely content to its members at every stage of their career. This has been invaluable to me for the past decade. The new team has brought new strategies and ideas to ensure we can continue this important work for the next decade and beyond,” said Vickey Barron of The Corcoran Group and REBNY Education Committee co-chair.

As Espitia reflects on her first year at REBNY, bolder goals are on the horizon. “There is a lot going on behind the scenes. My focus is strategy, people, and operations. We have increased program attendance by 30 percent, adoption of syndication is at 90 percent, and member engagement at our events is increasing. We are investing in our technology, streamlining processes, and re-thinking how we work. We are making great progress on matters pending before the New York State Department of State, spending more time with members, and supporting committees. I strategize and debrief with my directors every week and we are humbled by the incredible support and commitment from board and committee members. We could not take REBNY to the next level without them,” she said.

REBNY membership—a power-packed group of industry leaders and innovators who volunteer their time and knowledge to move the needle for the industry—has a team, comprised of new talent and REBNY veterans, that is striving to modernize practices and services.

The RLS initiative is changing the way the industry shares listings and maximizes co-broking.

“Over the past year, the RLS syndication rollout has proven to be an overwhelming success. We’re optimistic about how it will continue to grow and help more brokers do business more efficiently and help consumers make informed decisions. The expanding RLS team at REBNY has done a phenomenal job and is working on new initiatives that will continue to address the needs of both brokers and consumers,” said Steven O. Goldschmidt, senior vice president and director of Sales at Warburg Realty, who also serves as chair of REBNY’s RLS Board of Directors.

Syndication is designed to promote transparency for brokers, agents, and consumers. Data integrity and creating a better experience for everyone in the New York City real estate community are of the utmost importance to REBNY. “We are going to do things better one project at a time. It takes discipline to be laser-focused on 100 issues we want to solve. We have a strong team and, most importantly, the support from industry leaders to make it happen. Helping industries evolve and thrive is my career path and I’m proud to continue it at REBNY,” Espitia said.

A Forbes magazine contributor recently described REBNY as “a good example of a traditional player who made a strategic decision to become the disruptor, not the disrupted.”

Collaboration between the industry and their leading trade association leads to innovative products and services that benefit all. It is disruption at its finest.

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