Big Move: Conlon Leaves Koenig & Strey; City’s Top Agent Helps Form New Company

Metro Chicago
Feb 01, 2000
Dan Rafter, Managing Editor

New real estate companies pop up in the Chicago area all the time. Usually, they arrive on the scene quietly, posing little threat to the big names of local real estate.

But Sussex & Reilly, a new Chicago brokerage that officially opened in mid-January, is an exception for good reason. One of the three men leading the North Side company is Sean Conlon. This almost guarantees that Sussex & Reilly will be a big player in the local home-selling game.

Conlon, of course, is the city’s top seller of residential real estate. Last year, he sold $150 million worth of homes, far outdistancing his colleagues. While working with Koenig & Strey, Conlon’s face appeared on the covers of such prestigious publications as Chicago Magazine, while his name appeared on the "For Sale" signs of the trendiest condominiums, single-family homes and new construction in Lake View and Lincoln Park.

What does the arrival of Sussex & Reilly mean for local real estate? Just this, another big player has debuted.

Sussex & Reilly began operations with a 15-person staff toiling in an office at 2044 West Roscoe on Chicago’s North Side. For now, the company’s agents will concentrate on the city’s Lake View and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, the site of most of Conlon’s successes.

Tim O’Neil serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer, while Frank Parkinson is its Chief Operating Officer. Both men formerly of Bottom Line Realty & Investments. official title is director of sales and marketing.

So, what does the name mean? Sussex is the maiden name of Parkinson’s mother, while Reilly is the maiden name of Conlon’s mom.

Both O’Neil and Parkinson are thrilled to have Conlon on their team.

"What Sean has been able to do in this business is nothing short of sensational." O’Neil said. "No one is close to him as far as new construction goes. It’s a tremendous boost to us to have him working with us."

"Sean Conlon is the pre-eminent real estate salesperson in Chicago", added Parkinson.

Sussex & Reilly, as of Jan. 11, had already notched $50 million worth of listings. And the company was just getting started.

"Over the years, I’ve received many offers, may incentives, to leave Koenig & Strey," Conlon said. "But when Tim came to me, it was the first time I was really excited. A light went off in my head. Truly, this company represents the wave of the future when it comes to selling real estate."

What is it hat has Conlon so excited? Tow things: technology and a team approach to selling.

The principals of Sussex & Reilly have pledged to make their company a model for others seeking to use technology to sell more homes faster. The company will equip each of its agents with laptop computers and electronic organizers. Starting in mid-February, it will feature a Web site loaded with features, including one that gives sellers the chance to review the number of showings their property has had, and how many are scheduled. The site will also automatically e-mail buyers when an appropriate home has come on the market.

"We’re trying to empower our clients," Parkinson said. "We want to give them tools through technology and the Internet."

Customers are ready for this power, O’Neil said.

"The real estate community has been slow to adjust to technology. Too many companies use the Internet for flat advertising and nothing else," he said. "But what’s exciting is the exchange of information possible through the Internet. Say Sean is out on a showing. If you call him, you’d get his voice mail and have to wait for him to call you back. With our Internet site, though, this isn’t the case. Once the Web site is up, anybody in our office can pull up your file and tell you what’s going on with your property. No matter whom you contact, you’ll be able to get your information."

Sussex & Reilly is also focusing on a team approach to selling real estate. This means that everyone in the company’s office will work together to sell properties. Customers that call for information about a listing or property can talk to any agent in the office, not just their own personal one.

"This will make us much more efficient," Conlon said. "Usually in a real estate office, it’s everyone for themselves. Here, we’re a team. We will all communicate."

Conlon’s rapid rise to the top of Chicago’s residential real estate market has been well documented. Most of his success came during the six years he worked at Koenig & Strey, a powerful independent real estate company specializing in the North Side of Chicago and its northern suburbs.

Last year, the company notched suburbs. Last year, the company notched $2.6 billion in sales, an all-time Koenig & Strey record.

Leaving the scene of his biggest triumphs, not to mention the large and lush office he manned at Koenig & Strey’s Lincoln Park office, was not easy, Conlon said.

"I had a phenomenal relationship with Koenig & Strey," he said. "But one of the things that stops progress is comfort. Anyone who achieves success, they go out on a limb. They take risks. This is the way I want to sell real estate in the future."

Of course, Conlon needn’t feel too uncomfortable. He brought his team from the Sean J. Conlon Group, which he ran at Koenig & Strey, with him to Sussex & Reilly.

Conlon had nothing but praise for the officials at Koenig & Strey, singling out Chuck Goro, the manager of the Lincoln Park office that he once called home.

Though Koenig & Strey officials are understandably, less than thrilled about losing their top seller, they are wishing Conlon well.

"We wish Sean success in his new venture," said Chris Eigel, president of Koenig & Strey. "As a company that was founded by individuals who left another real estate company to go out on their own, Koenig & Strey supports the entrepreneurial spirit."

Conlon, O’Neil and Parkinson are now concentrating on recruiting. Already, they say, several city agents have contacted them about their new company.

"We want people working here that are excited about new technology," Conlon said. "We’re looking for progressive agents, and we’re very excited about recruiting these people."