Real Estate Brokerage Expands Presence with Libbie Grove Outpost

From left: Brooke Barnard, James Nay, Susan Stynes, Jonathan Miller and Tonya Morrow in front of the Libbie Avenue storefront. Miller is redesigning the space that Barnard will manage as River City Elite Properties’ second office. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

With recent additions to its ranks and a second office about to open, a local residential real estate brokerage firm is securing a foothold on both sides of the river.

River City Elite Properties, led by owner and principal broker Susan Stynes, establishes a store in the Libbie-and-Grove area with an outpost at 312 Libbie Ave. The location complements the 5 year old brokerage firm’s home base in Midlothian at 1700 Huguenot Street.

“Our name is River City Elite Properties, so we’ve wanted to get straight into river city for a while,” said Stynes, who started River City Elite in 2017 with agent James Nay. “It expands our footprint and our reach and gives us more of a presence this side of the city.”

The West End office is headed by Brooke Barnard, who joined River City Elite in May after working for about five years at Liz Moore & Associates and Long & Foster, the latter from its nearby Grove Avenue office.

She joins other additions to the River City Elite roster that have increased the agent count to 22 today from 16 in February.

The room at 312 Libbie Ave. was formerly a home mortgage office for Wells Fargo.

Among them is Tonya Morrow, previously Managing Agent of Liz Moore & Associates’ local Midlothian office. Morrow, who serves as an associate broker and vice president, helped bring Liz Moore & Associates to the city six years ago along with Annemarie Hensley, who recently joined Richmond-based newcomer Compass.

Stynes ​​and Nay previously worked together at Joyner Fine Properties where both were based in the Westchester Commons branch. Nay, who helps run River City Elite as vice president, is also the top-selling agent with $52 million in sales last year.

According to Stynes, total sales for the brokerage business reached $86 million last year, representing about 300 completed transactions. That was with about half as many agents, she said.

The search for a second office coincided with discussions with Barnard, whose addition helped the company make the location decision. A graduate of St Catherine’s School, Barnard was familiar with the area and wanted to work there as her children attend her alma mater and nearby St Christopher’s.

While the Libbie and Grove corridor has become something of a hotbed for residential real estate, with about half a dozen offices in the area, Stynes ​​said that wasn’t a driving factor in her search, which included other options in the west end.

Stynes ​​rented the 1,000-square-foot space for several years. Located between Zazoli Sweets and Westhampton Cleaners, it was formerly a Wells Fargo residential mortgage office.

The office building at 1700 Huguenot Road houses the River City Elite headquarters. (BizSense File Photos)

Barnard, who will initially work with another agent at the office, said she had discussions with a few other brokerage firms before deciding to join River City Elite. She said the alignment offers an opportunity for growth that she hasn’t found in other places.

“I was in a position where I was looking for growth and really wanted to be in the West End for a long time,” Barnard said.

“Talking to Susan she could see who I am and how I wanted my business to grow, not just a commodity or something to make her money. She really listened to what I needed in terms of coaching and growth. Within the first week of my visit, she was able to sit down with me and put together an action plan, and part of that was that we opened this office.”

At Liz Moore & Associates, Barnard worked for several years with Morrow, who joined Stynes ​​in February. In her role as Vice President, Morrow drives River City Elite’s marketing, systems administration and growth strategy, which includes additional offices and agent income opportunities.

“We have big goals to do more and offer more to our agents and allow them to participate in trying to create and build income beyond the sale of real estate,” Morrow said. “Often agents get stuck and the market shifts. We want to teach the agents different ways of working and improve themselves and have other opportunities than just that.”

The brokerage was founded in 2017 and plans to continue to grow.

Morrow said one idea they plan to pursue is a voluntary investment group where agents could tap the agent’s portfolio of rental properties as an alternative source of income when the real estate market is down.

“It will help if the agents have used their good years, put some income into something else, and have some income when the real estate income isn’t,” she said. “Richmond is definitely a tight rental and investment market, but we’re thinking outside of the region.”

As for the new office, they aim to open the space after a remodel by Jonathan Miller using Jsquared Interior Staging & Design.

Stynes ​​said the brokerage firm has had a busy 2022 so far, with more deals each month and $12 million in sales volume in May. While their own multi-million and multi-million dollar listings are typically at the high end of the market, Stynes ​​said the brokerage firm is open to a variety of price points but is focused on upscale homes.

She said she envisions expanding River City Elite to markets in Hampton Roads and north of Richmond.

“We have big goals to keep growing,” she said.

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