James Nellis is the steward of his family’s legacy real estate brand, The Nellis Group, a formidable Washington, D.C. area real estate team. In 2023, The Nellis Group celebrated its 40th year in business. After 10 years of being with the Keller Williams franchise model, he wanted more opportunities for himself and his agents and staff. After doing a deep dive into four potential brokerages and models, he chose to move the team to eXp Realty.
“Looking back over a decade at KW, I am thankful,” said James. “It is why I stayed so long. There is a true sense of community and I enjoyed my time with the local ownership and even meetings in Austin with Gary (Keller). We originally left RE/MAX in 2013 for KW with hopes of developing other revenue streams and opportunities for our agents and staff.
“But the challenge with the franchise model is the layers. Each office (franchise owner) controls a territory and the regional owners control office expansion and opportunity. The ownership levels within KW and traditional brokerages cap the ceiling of achievement for agents and teams outside of production and selling homes. I came to the realization that once you strip away territories and franchise ownership everyone can achieve at high levels.
Looking back over the past 10 years, James realized that profit share was never in his or his agents’ control.
“Revenue share is more compelling since it cannot be diminished by general office expenses, remodeling or large expenditures. It encourages you to not only attract others to the brokerage but also assist them in higher levels of production. In addition, I love that through production every agent has the opportunity to earn equity within eXp. Even if my agents do business the same way they’ve been doing it, they will receive stock and equity within an international brokerage.”
The Nellis Group Is Entering Its 40th Year in Real Estate
The Nellis Group is deeply respected in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia), where it averages 200 transactions and $100 million in sales volume a year. James’ mother, Vicki, started the company in 1983 and ran it with James’ father, Jim, for over 25 years. The next generation of family took the mantle in the early 2000s when Vicki passed away from brain cancer.
“My mother was an amazing real estate agent, mother and wife and we are blessed to be the third generation within the real estate industry. Our great-grandfather was both the lender and Realtor on a farm in Kentucky. People would come to his farm and pay their notes. It’s pretty epic to think about the families touched and communities impacted by our family business,” James said proudly. “One life lesson I learned from my mother is that people are the greatest asset. Every decision made at The Nellis Group over the last 40 years has been based on creating better lives for those who have trusted us with their careers.”
James’ father was a Navy pilot and after his service, he joined the company as an appraiser. Extending the family affair, James’s wife, Jessica Nellis, sister, Nicole Nellis Cockrell and brother-in-law Keith Cockrell also work to extend the legacy of The Nellis Group, which includes eight additional agents, and a robust staff, including two videographers, a copywriter, sales director, and operations manager.
The Nellis Group Had Four Options to Consider
When The Nellis Group decided to leave Keller Williams, it was heavily recruited by many brokerages, but considered four options and explored and interviewed each carefully for months:
- Going independent
- Joining a local brokerage
- Joining eXp Realty
- Joining Real Brokerage
Starting their own independent brokerage was not appealing considering the cost and infrastructure. A small local brokerage caught their attention and would have been the least expensive option, but James eliminated that possibility, desiring expansion beyond the DMV and giving his agents and staff the greatest opportunity of being part of a larger brokerage. It was important to James that his people saw the vision for moving brokerages and his management team (Venous Jones, Shari Beard and Burley Woods) was a part of this large decision.
“We looked at both eXp and Real and did a deep dive on the financials and they were stronger at eXp. The path toward multiple ways to succeed and invest had a longer track record. I also noticed that though eXp has over 89,000 agents they did not have a large market share in the Mid-Atlantic. This presents great potential for synergy and creating a new path for many agents under traditional brokerage models.”
While James was considering a change, the thing that really pushed him out the door at Keller Williams was that his office was going to be remodeled for six months, which also meant NO office space.
“I never really liked the office location but under the franchise model, you do not have the freedom to set up an office anywhere you want. Office space location is dictated by owners of the different franchises and defined territories. I thought, ‘If I’m going to be officeless, I might as well look at all brokerages and the ability to place my new office anywhere in the DMV. I mean, everything was on the table.”
James said COVID was also a blessing in disguise because having a physical office space isn’t as important to consumers. “In today’s landscape of real estate, we meet with investors and buyers online and sellers at their homes. It is rare to take an initial appointment in an office,” he said.
James still believes having a brick-and-mortar is good for coaching and the synergy of The Nellis Group. He leases two offices on opposite sides of the Beltway – one in the Mosaic neighborhood in Virginia near I-495 and Route 50 and the other in Bethesda, Maryland.
Nellis Group Has Big Footprint in the DMV Region
James is still in production and oversees the growth and production in all three jurisdictions (DC, Maryland, Virginia) while his sister, Nicole, is the lead listing agent for all Virginia listings.
According to James, “Growth has always been a focus and working with the best agents as we continue to create market share throughout the DMV.” James mapped out his agent locations as far north as Frederick, Maryland, south to Fredericksburg, Virginia, west beyond Berryville, Virginia and east to Baltimore, Maryland.
“I am truly thankful for each of our talented agents who have partnered with us to deliver the highest level of service to our clients throughout the DMV,” said James, naming his team of agents including Cameron Bernard, Edward Jones, Harleen Tur, Jasmine Vasquez, Paighton Brown, Ricardo Radulovich, Richard Kessler and Saneva Zayas.
- eXp Realty (September 2023-present)
- Keller Williams (2013-2023)
- RE/MAX (1998-2013)
- Top 100 RE/MAX USA
- Top 100 Keller Williams USA
- National Association of Realtors 30 under 30
- Harvard Negotiation Certification
- Carson-Newman College Young Alumnus
- CyberStar of the Year
- Washingtonian Magazine’s Top Real Estate Teams, 2015-2023
- Cover of NoVA Real Producers Magazine (2021)
James Is Excited to Grow eXp’s Footprint in the Mid-Atlantic
In joining eXp, James reviewed five different lines within the company. He wanted to join a local line with the ability to grow to a global approach, which is why he chose to partner with Keri Shull’s team.
“I want to revolutionize what eXp is and does in the Mid-Atlantic. Our MLS is enormous. It covers Pennsylvania, West Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Think about the opportunity for agents with the per capita that most geographic places don’t have. And so that’s why I chose the line that I did with Keri and Dan. We are both established in the local market through production and years in business. To me, it was powerful to partner up with another large local team to drive more agent attraction through giving back, teaching and providing value in person.”
His Bumpy Road Led to a Beautiful Place
In addition to production, James coaches his team with weekly two-hour sessions to keep everyone up-to-speed on the latest trends and information. He also spends time on the road as a national speaker. Social media and video are a big part of their operation, where James leverages time in front of the camera showcasing their listings, or having a fun takeoff on Bob Ross’ “Happy Little Accident” theme.
“The comforting thing is knowing that eXp can turn on a dime. Even though there are almost 90,000 agents, the adaptations are rapid. They are quicker than a franchise model where you are limited with changes. You can’t turn the ship because there are multiple franchise owners that all have to agree. So I love the fact at eXp that the people who are in command have the majority ownership and can turn the wheel and make a change. They can pivot. I’ve already seen that happen with their executive team and especially with (Chief Strategy Officer) Leo Pareja. He is committed to the best experience for every agent at eXp.
“As a local Washingtonian making a change in our industry I wanted to borrow from the manager of the (MLB) Washington Nationals. His quote during their championship run was ‘Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places and this is a beautiful place.’ I’m excited to see the evolution of what eXp will be in Washington, DC and beyond.”
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