With over 4 billion in sales, Revel Real Estate founder Ben Bacal is one of the most successful agents in the world. He’s the go-to agent for celebrities including Matt Damon, Jason Statham, Madonna, and Ellen DeGeneres, as well as the founder of several apps, including his most recent venture, Rila.
Ben recently sat down with Luxury Presence Founder and CEO Malte Kramer on the Presence Podcast to chat about building a successful team, how AI will change the industry, and why he still door knocks.
How did you get started in the business and what was your first year as an agent like?
I got into business in 2005. My mother was a realtor in Toronto. I saw her making a substantial amount of money from her sales and I said you know, I could do that.
So I decided to sign up with a top producer in Marina del Rey, and I went door-knocking for her. I went all around Venice Beach. Every single day I hit doors. I said, if one person says yes to me, I’m done for the day. I did that nonstop until I got doors slammed in my face. It was awesome. Some[one] says yes, and boom, that’s a potential $10, $20, $30, $40,000 commission.
I did my door knocking, my cold calling. Every day, I did whatever it took. For five years, my average sale was $1.5 million to hone my skills and learn the trade.
Between then and now, what are some of the challenges you faced?
The biggest challenge is scaling my business. To be able to remember all the potential clients that I have in my pipeline. CRMs are great to keep organized and to keep in touch with people and create relationships that will last. And to be able to put myself where preparation meets opportunity and to connect with those people and build relationships.
It’s a good problem to have that I have so much business that I’m not taking advantage of. I find it hard to scale the business because our minds can only remember so much. That’s why I think AI will help us connect in the future.
What do you think the impact of AI will be on the real estate business?
A lot of what I do, trying to match buyers and sellers to properties, can be done automatically and a lot of questions can be answered prior to showing a property. Questions about nuances of the property, the details, what the property actually looks like, setting up appointments, making offers, I think all that can be done using smart computers, artificial intelligence, machine learning.
And using large language models like a bot talking to my client instead of me. Them getting the answers and me being okay with not even talking to that person because the bot is basically gonna mimic exactly what I’d be talking about.
Tell us more about your app, Rila. What is it and why did you start it?
Rila is a social discovery platform. It’s basically a visual CRM that uses AI to catalog all the various attributes of a home, like a couch, a view, hardwood floors. When a user interacts with photos and videos on the app, it automatically connects to a property with that vibe and matches you with the agent who uploaded that photo or video.
Agents can take photos and videos of properties they like and create listings. We’re directing thousands of buyers there who can look at photos that they can’t see anywhere else and get a real perspective of what that property looks like. It’s like dating, people want to know the energy, the vibe. We’re using AI as a visual matching engine to connect buyers and sellers and agents together.
You mentioned door-knocking earlier. Even with your level of success, it’s something you still do, right?
Yeah. Because you never know where an opportunity can come from. You can buzz a door and they can be like, yeah, I’ll sell. I wanna encourage my agents to get out there. Door knocking, cold calling, your sphere of influence. I wanna show by example. Agents wanna learn. So I’ll go out with them. I did three door-knocking sessions this week, and every time we went out we got a client.
You’ve scaled your team to over 70 agents. How have you done that?
It’s been word of mouth. We’re excited to meet agents who have a fire in their belly and are excited to work hard. I want my agents to be even more successful than me. I want to make them into top producers and really coach them. I’m willing to put in the hard work for people who are also willing to.
What additional skill sets does someone need to go from being a great solo agent to being a great team lead?
The ability to give leads to your team, or to put them in a position where they can bring in leads to the person who can help close the deal. You need to be able to offer something to your team, whether it’s leads or mentorship.
You recently worked with Luxury Presence to launch the new website for Revel Real Estate. How was the experience?
Flawless. My experience with Luxury Presence has been terrific because the UX is simple. It’s really easy to upload and change my content and the team is really friendly. It’s been really simple to use and it really exudes luxury. It’s very sophisticated. And I can connect my CRM to it, which I’m trying to incorporate more into my business.
What are some of the most successful or interesting marketing campaigns you’ve done over the years?
I sold this home to the creator of Minecraft for $70 million. We shot a video and I used YouTube in-stream ads to broadcast it in Switzerland and all over Europe. He saw the video ad that I did and called an agent in the US and showed up to the door, and we closed the sale seven days later for $70 million.
Tell me about the idea behind doing lifestyle films for your properties.
I started doing little short scenes about these luxury homes that I’m selling, and they got a lot of views. I also broadcast them on all my social media. For branding purposes, it’s really good. I spend money to produce them, and then running ads is just as important as producing really good content.
Any tips you can share for someone who wants to build a YouTube channel?
Work with other top YouTubers and have them tag you. The same thing on your Instagram page and TikTok. It’s pretty powerful. It’s not so much about the followers as much as the views. The algorithms on those sites are pretty impressive. Branding’s great, once you’ve created something to brand.
What about agents who don’t have anything to brand yet?
As a new agent, everyone’s so focused on creating content and trying to be the next big thing. Selling real estate is really meeting people and connecting with them and making those matches to sell real estate.
People join a team and they think magic is gonna happen, and they’re just gonna have a lot of deals fall in their lap. But it’s really about learning from the best and then doing best practices and executing on that every single day.
This is an excerpt from The Presence Podcast. Watch the full interview above, or listen to it at the podcast links below.