The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

New York realty firm to open office in D.C.

In selling his D.C.-based real estate firm, Lindsay Reishman, left, will become president of Urban Compass’s local office. The New York-based real estate firm was founded by Ori Allon, right. (Courtesy of Urban Compass)

In New York City, a start-up firm called Urban Compass has been generating buzz as the next big thing in the tech and real estate spaces with its plan to make the apartment and home search processes much quicker and more efficient.

The start-up was founded by Ori Allon, who sold his search engine algorithm company called Orion to Google in 2006 and his second search engine company, called Julpan, to Twitter in 2012. Urban Compass  just started about a year and a half ago. But much is being made in the New York press about the more than $65 million in venture capital it garnered this year from such powerhouses as American Express chief executive Kenneth Chenault; Advance Publications, parent company of Conde Nast; and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

The company is announcing Thursday that it is moving into the Washington real estate market by acquiring the boutique brokerage Lindsay Reishman Real Estate.

Both are small firms. Urban Compass has 108 agents, and Reishman about 40 employees.

Still, Allon says he hopes to make a big impact here by introducing his brand of innovation into a tech-savvy market which already has a plethora of real estate and apartment hunting apps at its disposal.

“On a high level, there are [other real estate] companies that do similar things, but it’s how we do it,” Allon said in a phone interview.

“You can view the properties [on the app] and see all the information you need,” he added. Like app-based taxi service “Uber, you indicate which properties you’re interested in and we pick the best agent [for you]. We have an algorithm that will determine which agent will be best for you. If you look in a certain area we know which agents do best there. If you’re a young person looking for an inexpensive home or older and looking for expensive home we match you with best agent.”

Allon says his technology background helps differentiate Urban Compass from other realty firms that use apps. He said he employs his own engineers, who have made his product more user friendly.

So why did he pick the D.C. market, which not only is saturated with realty firms but is experiencing a bit of a slow down?

“D.C. is important in terms of the type of market and sheer volume of transactions,” Allon said.

The proximity to New York City” is another factor, he said. “It’s important for my management team to go and make sure we shape the D.C. branch the same way we did in New York.”

Reishman started the Dupont Circle-based firm in 2009. Under the deal, he said, his operation will likely expand.

“We’re planning to keep the staff we have and will likely grow,” Reishman, whose new title becomes president of Urban Compass Washington, D.C., said in a phone interview. “We will see some substantial growth as a result of this.”

The two firms will officially unite in early 2015.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Lindsay Reishman Real Estate has 25 employees; it has 25 agents and 40 employees. Also Reishman’s first name was misspelled in one place.)