Before the scourge of the coronavirus cast a shadow of uncertainty over the world and virtually all of its business plans for the immediate future, Thomas Balashev and his wife took a “fact-finding” trip from the United Kingdom to Los Angeles.
Their mission: to explore the luxury real estate market ahead of a planned expansion of their company, Montague Property, into the LA area.
“I was really somewhat inspired by the marketplace. I think it’s a really interesting place in the world,” said Balashev, 30, Montague Property’s founder and CEO. “The reason we want to expand there is I genuinely believe the U.S. real estate model is centuries ahead of what it is in the U.K. and Europe.”
Balashev dropped out of school at the age of 16, learned about the U.K. property market on his own and built the company from the ground up. His team now bills Montague Property as one of the fastest-growing luxury real estate companies in the United Kingdom and attributes its success to a personal, start-to-finish approach that makes the process “effortless and completely transparent” for its clients.
Expansion in select U.S. areas would be a good fit and a natural progression for the growing but still agile global real estate agency. Like art, film or popular music that achieves acclaim and success on the other side of the Atlantic, Balashev, whose roots lie in Eastern Europe and Scotland, said making it in America isn’t a given.
“When it comes to the U.K., we don’t take real estate that seriously. The way we do business is very American,” Balashev said. “My focus is not to try and be the No. 1 agency in the U.S. It’s to improve our business for the benefit of our clients by taking the best from both continents. That makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t know why more people haven’t tried that.”
A rebranding of sorts for the U.S. market would swap Montague Property to a more familiar Montague Real Estate.
While COVID-19 has forced everyone to at least temporarily suspend or rethink the timing of their plans, Balashev said Montague’s fresh perspective might provide value for developers once the virus threat subsides.
He said he isn’t afraid to fail by venturing into the LA market.
“I’d rather that happen than sit on the sidelines in Europe,” Balashev said. “The U.S. has that phrase, ‘Put some skin in the game.’ That’s what we’re trying to do.
“We want to be a part of the community. We don’t want to change anything. We want to complement it,” Balashev said.