Local Real Estate Group Gets High-Powered Owner
BY TED M. NATT JR.
Shock was the initial reaction when Kay Beran learned that Warren Buffett's company was buying Prudential's real estate agent network and launching a new brokerage brand.
"I was just flabbergasted," said Beran, president of Prudential Gouger O'Neal & Saunders in Southern Pines. "We had no idea that this was in the works."
HomeServices of America Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, and Brookfield Asset Management announced Oct. 30 that they had partnered to form Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, a new franchise brand that joins the existing brands and affiliate networks of Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate.
"I am confident that these partners will deliver value to the residential real estate industry, and I'm pleased to have Berkshire Hathaway be a part of the new brand," Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said in a statement.
Once the news sunk in, Beran quickly realized the benefits.
"To me, it's like having the best of both worlds," she said. "We get to keep doing what we're doing, but enjoy the connection with this major entity in the financial markets. People sit up and take notice when they hear the name Berkshire Hathaway or Warren Buffett.
"I couldn't be happier because we now have more opportunity to tee off on being a game-changer in the industry. This is good for the whole industry, not just for us, because I think it brings a little more energy to the real estate business."
The residential real estate market in the United States was nearly decimated by the recent recession and has been slow to rebound.
"The market in Moore County hasn't really moved a muscle in the past three or four years," Beran said. "The trend is boiler plate. It's exactly the same."
That means homes priced $300,000 or less are moving, while more expensive residences are languishing on the county's Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
"We're trying to track the market moving forward and position ourselves as experts in the market," Beran said. "We've always been a strong competitor in the local market. Now, we are associated with someone who has thrown their global weight against the oddsmakers."
Beran got a better idea of what the future holds during a conference call last Thursday with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services executives.
"First, the leadership team is a group of highly respected real estate veterans," she said. "They have a solid grasp of the keys to success in residential brokerage and related core services."
While not well known to most consumers, Beran said the name Berkshire Hathaway will give franchises like hers a powerful story to tell.
"There are positive attributes associated with the name, such as financial strength, integrity, longevity, respect, entrepreneurship and brand," she said.
Finally, through a connection with Brookfield Relocation, Beran said there will be significant referral and lead opportunities in cities large and small.
"Relocation clients have support that allows them to have more mobility in housing than those without the safety net that the corporate structure provides," she said.
Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, said the deal gives the company a national franchise network of 75,000 real estate agents to complement the network of 16,000 agents at local brokerages in 21 states it already owns.
"We are honored and proud to be entrusted with the use of the Berkshire Hathaway name as our new real estate franchise brand," Peltier said in a statement. "We will convey the strength of Berkshire Hathaway's reputation ... in everything we do."
The new brand name will be available to Prudential Gouger O'Neal & Saunders in January.
"It's nice to have some good news for a change," Beran said. "We're really looking forward to the next step."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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