TAKING THE NEXT STEP

Written By: Jen Laskey

How a luxury real estate broker landed a showing on the small screen.

Imagine that you’re a bright, young whippersnapper fresh out of college and you’ve decided to pack up your dorm room and move to New York City. You’re ready to hit the ground running, but when you start sifting through real estate listings in The Big Apple, sorting the wheat from the chaff turns out to be harder than finding an affordable vacation rental for you and your friends in Sconset during the height of summer. That’s where The Next Step Realty comes to your rescue.

The brainchild of 27-year-old CEO, luxury real estate agent, and entrepreneur, Blair Brandt, and championed by former Nantucket resident Jason Briggs, a shareholder in the company, Next Step is a real estate company started by a twenty-something for twenty-somethings. “Our target audience is recent college undergraduates, post-grads from business, law, and medical school, and other young professionals relocating to New York City,” explains Brandt. “We get kids right in their first transaction and we give them luxury services at a discounted price with the hope that it turns them into lifelong customers.”

With Next Step, Brandt and Briggs have not only made the apartment-search process easy, they’ve made it cool. Brandt’s successful young team transformed a demographic that is typically considered undesirable by most real estate agents (due to the renters’ inexperience, lack of credit history, etc.) into the most desirable by offering a gratifying experience to this otherwise underserved annual wave of new renters—and nailing it with a 90 percent customer satisfaction rate.

Next Step has become so cool, in fact, that it recently caught the attention of television producers. The company landed its own reality television show called Next Step Realty: NYC that will air on ABC Family on Tuesday, August 11th at 9:00 to 10:00 PM ET/PT. Brandt describes it as kind of a hybrid that weaves together two narratives.

The first focuses on what it’s like for Next Step’s clients to transition from college to the real world, and includes all that goes into finding a home in the big city, from roommate and parent issues to losing the apartment of your dreams because you didn’t move quick enough to sticker shock.

The second focus is on what it’s like for a group of ambitious twenty-somethings to build something out of nothing. “From that standpoint,” says Brandt, “it’s the untold story of what’s really going on inside a firm where you have young people in management and young people working in the company.” As he points out, the average age of the Next Step employee is 25 years old. Brandt, the CEO, is 27. The clients are typically around 22. And yet, Next Step is a multimillion-dollar business. “I hope that the show gives people in the country a chance to see what happens behind the scenes and what goes into this type of project,” says Brandt. “I also hope that it gives people who are interested in moving to NYC and starting a career a glimpse into what that process is like,” he says.

So why was Next Step considered TV worthy by ABC Family? Perhaps because it’s a glimpse into how the other half rents an apartment. Unlike your standard NYC rental broker experience in which you can find yourself schlepping around the city from apartment to apartment and paying the broker 15 percent of the annual rent to do little more than unlock a door for you, Next Step offers a personalized, concierge-style experience complete with luxury services that include ferrying you to prospective apartments with a chauffeured Next Step-branded SUV, presenting you with a “welcome” gift tote upon lease-signing, guiding you through utilities set-up, and bringing you into the Next Step fold by inviting you to schmooze with other Next Steppers at open-bar rooftop cocktail parties and other post move-in social events throughout the year—you may even get invited to one of Next Step’s exclusive parties on Nantucket. To top it off, Next Step’s broker’s fee is a bargain compared to most at just 12 percent of the annual rent.

As he awaits his television debut, Brandt plans to stick to his guns and continue building the Next Step brand. He’s already on target for doubling his company’s client base in 2015. He also has some ideas for potential expansion to other select cities. London, for example, is currently in his sights. But one of his big dreams is to acquire a permanent residence for himself on Nantucket. The island has been a formidable part of the last five years for Brandt. It’s where he has gone to celebrate his company’s biggest milestones. “I love the colonial cobblestone feel of the town,” he gushes. “The cell phone service is bad, which I love too. And I like that it’s a small town with big people.”

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