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Can you own a real estate business without operating a brokerage?


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Anna Bellomo is the Founder and Owner of District Homes, a successful boutique real estate business. Ranked number one in the Berkeley area, Bellomo and her team facilitated $82.2M in home sales last year for 74 happy families. Below, Bellomo shares how she built her real estate business.

Bellomo moved to the US from Spain, and after purchasing a home of her own in Berkley, she became curious about real estate as a career. “I bought my house with the help of an agent, and I liked what she was doing. [My agent] said, you would be a natural — you have to come and join me.”

Bellomo had previously been in banking but with little ones at home, she wanted something flexible and didn’t want a commute. So when the opportunity to get into real estate presented itself, it seemed like an ideal fit, and Bellomo took it. Despite starting out in the midst of the 2008 housing crisis, she quickly fell in love with the industry.

“What’s beautiful about what we do is that there are so many different things we have to know how to do. It’s fun because you never get bored. One day, you’re doing paperwork. The next day, you’re at the listing appointment. The following day, you’re negotiating a deal.” Bellomo says.

While working at a small boutique brokerage in Berkeley, Bellomo’s career started to blossom but quickly hit a ceiling. Anna realized that she didn’t have enough time and bandwidth to support all of her clients the way that she wanted to, and that’s when Bellomo decided to build a team.

A fork in the road

Historically, there have been two drastically different paths that successful real estate agents could take at this point: (1) work for a brokerage, serving the broker’s business and brand; or, (2) open a boutique brokerage and serve your own business. The dilemma is, the first option is restrictive. You’re basically renting your career instead of owning a business. And the second option involves a lot of behind-the-scenes operations work and risk.

Ready to take the next step, Bellomo was at a loss. She says, “People identified me with a brand that had become limiting because there was nowhere to grow with it.” Her brokerage didn’t have the necessary tools to support her growing business, so she started to consider opening her own.

However, while studying for her brokerage license, Bellomo began to realize she didn’t want to spend her time managing processes, transactions, and marketing. Doing paperwork as part of a transaction is fine, but being stuck behind a screen all day just wasn’t appealing. “At the end of the day, my time is best-spent face-to-face with the clients,” she says.

So what’s a successful agent to do?

The answer to a structural industry issue

Bellomo says, “For a very long time, I had been thinking about going on my own. I needed the tools to grow my business, but I also liked the idea of having a team. There was nothing out there that fit the model that I had in mind. When Side approached me, I took the call, and Side answered a need I had that no one else could answer.”

After learning that Side would allow her to own her own business without having to operate a brokerage, she decided to take the leap. Now Bellomo has full-service back-end brokerage support, technology tools that make everything easier, and comprehensive legal, compliance, marketing, and business management resources available at all times.

Side helped Bellomo transition from her existing brokerage to her new company. “There’s so much involved. Switching your license, all your CRMs, your marketing, changing online profiles and websites… And when you’re starting a new business, you get a business license, an office space, design the office, and file with the state. I wouldn’t have known where to start. Side did all of that for me, which was great.”

Bellomo says, “I had a lot of concerns when I decided to go on my own, but I realized that I actually wasn’t going on my own. I was starting something, but I had help. A lot of the concerns that I would’ve had, I didn’t because Side was there.”

About Side: Side is the only real estate brokerage that transforms agents into businesses. The company exclusively partners with the best agents to create, grow, and power their own business, without the cost, time, or risk. Led by experienced industry professionals and technology innovators, the Side team is continuously developing technology that improves productivity, compliance, marketing, and customer experience, all to support their best-in-class partner agents. Side is headquartered in San Francisco. For more information, visit

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