Open to Opportunities, A Boston Brokerage Sees No Limit to Its Growth

An entrepreneur to his core, William “Billy” Senné finds opportunities to scale his brokerage at every turn.
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Don’t try to pigeonhole Billy Senné or his namesake real estate company, Senné. Entrepreneurship, with its requisite openness to opportunity, defines both the Boston-based company and its CEO. Growing up with two entrepreneurial parents—one in healthcare consulting and the other in data management— Senné followed suit, teaching sailing and delivering pizza during his childhood in Wayland, Massachusetts.

In 2008, while in his early twenties, Senné rented apartments and completed his first residential home sales while working as a real estate professional with CENTURY 21's Cambridge office. After becoming a top performer within the first year, he asked his broker for a larger split. When he refused, Senné quit, adamant that he wanted to be his own boss.

His Own Path

In 2009, he went independent, focusing on apartment sales and leasing. Soon, he successfully took a chance on a then-dilapidated triplex in Cambridge. After pricing the home well below appraised value, he received multiple offers. In the end, the property sold for about $170,000 over the asking price and $100,000 more than that third-party appraisal. That success propelled him forward, and over the next few years, his business was highly productive in the sale of multi-family and developable property in Cambridge.

Not long after, Senné saw another avenue of opportunity available, and he added property management to his company’s offerings. “I was going wherever I needed to go to make money,” he recalls. This line of his business took off in 2013 when his company began managing a well-known 50-unit association in Cambridge’s Cambridgeport neighborhood.

“This big pre-war brick building had a whole bunch of problems,” he remembers. “We snuck our way into being in the running to manage the property. When we won the bid, we thought we’d beat out the big guys but realized we won the deal because we were cheap.”

Opportunity in the Challenge

When Senné was hired, the building had only recently been converted into condominiums by a group of local developers. “We entered the assignment eyes wide open, knowing we had a building where units were difficult if not impossible to finance because of investor ownership percentages and a portion of the units having not been renovated.

“The recently formed association lacked financial reporting processes and operating standards. We did a deep dive to correct errors, and then made a plan to get them back on and stay on track.” After working hard to turn the building around, it was thriving and one of the most sought-after associations in the area within two years.

News of the turnaround spread through the community, and before long, other property managers started calling and asking Senné’s fledging company to do the same for them.

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By that point, many of his brokerage and management clients were developers, whom he’d helped source opportunities. In 2015, Senné teamed up with one of these developer clients, entering the realm of residential real estate development. “He had a strong construction management background, and I had the market expertise,” Senné explains. They purchased a duplex in Cambridge, dividing up the lot and building a new single-family home on the land.

After they sold that home, they bought a six-unit multi-family in Somerville, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston. They began by working through the various tenant situations and helping each resident find new housing through their brokerage. Then, they upgraded or replaced all building systems and renovated the apartments, with the goal of making each one safe and clean while remaining affordable. As they completed each unit, they found a new tenant. Within about six months, the building was fully stabilized.

A Proactive Approach 

From these experiences, Senné had an a-ha moment. “There’s this segmentation at the retail level in real estate,” he explains. “If you walk into a residential brokerage and say you need a good property manager, you’ll get referred out,” he adds. “You won’t get a good referral to an in-firm specialist. No firm understood how all the pieces worked together and so could create a better solution.

“I realized that my company could do that,” he continues. “Clients could hire us to help them find, acquire, develop and manage a property, and sell it for more. By offering all these services, we could have a longer and more valuable relationship with our clients that would be much deeper than a postcard on their birthdays. I wasn’t selling a service line—I was selling a relationship.” He knew his employees and agents fostered this relationship too, and realized the importance of cohesion between clients and his office. 

For example, in 2020, when one of his property managers said he needed to quit because he was moving to New York, Senné suggested he remain an employee. The company could begin offering property management services there—and this property manager, already familiar with the company and the job, could oversee them.

Instinct Over Planning

Emboldened by this mission, Senné continued to grow his company by instinct more than advance planning. “I wish I had some grand plan for every decision we’ve made but I don’t,” he admits. “We don’t search out opportunities; instead, we go where our relationships are taking us naturally and we try to keep up with the market and what makes the most sense.”

Today, Senné has more than 150 employees and operates in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York, in addition to its home base in Massachusetts. A self-described holistic or multi-faceted real estate company, Senné now encompasses residential and commercial brokerages, property management, development, finance, marketing and government affairs.

The synergy Senné had anticipated has come to fruition, with the company boasting many fiercely loyal clients and investors, he says. “We’ve helped them find, finance, develop, manage, market and sell properties,” he reveals. “Many of our customers and clients have so much trust in our work that they now co-invest with us,” he adds.

Though he's making no predictions, Senné knows that more growth is inevitable. In short, he would put a real estate office on the moon if he felt it would be profitable, he jokes.

“I don’t get out of bed in the morning and think, ‘I want to do the same thing I did yesterday,’” he says. “Instead, I think, ‘how can we advance or do things better or what is the next step?’”

Case in point: he’s currently considering amping up his company’s investment in multi-family housing, an area in which he doesn’t foresee a slowdown in rent growth. “Quite a few investors bought multi-family housing during the last few years, when interest rates were low,” he explains. “Now, rising interest rates could cause financial stress for some of these investors, which could be a good opportunity for us.”