No accident: 1997 merger spurred Homesale's growth, but size can be a challenge
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty didn't become the midstate's largest residential real estate firm by accident.
It took planning — which has become more important as the growing company plans for future leadership — and a desire by its owners to expand outside of Lancaster County.
Early strategic planning led to the 1997 merger of Concept 100 Real Estate Inc. and Coldwell Banker Slaugh & Co., which created Coldwell Banker Homesale Services Group.
That move, which came together in about 30 days, immediately created a new No. 1 broker in the region, surpassing Jack Gaughen Realtor in Cumberland County in annual home sales, according to Business Journal archives.
The merger and, more importantly, the Coldwell Banker franchise at the front of Homesale’s name helped accelerate purchases of other Coldwell Banker companies in the Harrisburg area, York County and Berks County, said Doug Rebert, the firm’s co-owner and managing director.
It’s easier to acquire companies in the same franchise network than to negotiate payouts to break franchise deals. But over the years, Manor Township-based Homesale also has waited until franchise agreements have expired to buy other companies and expand its reach. The company now has 27 offices in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Homesale last year posted $2.6 billion in sales volume across its footprint, a 10 percent increase over 2014.
“It does matter to a large group of consumers as to which company sells the most,” said Rebert, who is always looking for cultural fits with other brokers and to attract top agents or teams of agents to Homesale.
Top real estate companies
Homesale Realty Services Group Inc.; $94.08 million
Charter Homes Building Co.; $88.3 million
Triple Crown Corp. Inc.; $29.73 million
Delta Development Group Inc.; $5 million
RSR Realtors LLC; $3.84 million
Merek LLC; $3.49 million
Rijoice LLC; $3.62 million
Joy Daniels Real Estate Group Ltd.; $3.37 million
Slatehouse Group Property Management LLC; $2.1 million
Name recognition is a big part of that, he said. The company aligned with Prudential in 2008. Berkshire Hathaway then bought Prudential, and Homesale took on the name in 2014.
Homesale’s large size helped secure exclusive brand rights to the Berkshire Hathaway name in the region, which could open up new acquisition opportunities as smaller brokers look to join with bigger names.
“If you believe in a world of brand names and want to grow, the top brand name will help you grow quicker,” Rebert said.
But scale also comes with challenges in the real estate industry.
Size does matter
Most of Homesale’s peers in Central Pennsylvania have one office, which means maybe one sales manager or the owner oversees operations. A few large brokers have multiple offices in the region.
But Homesale has 27 offices, so finding qualified sales managers is always a challenge, Rebert said.
To combat that issue and ensure seasoned agents have opportunities to grow, Homesale is creating an internal training program to develop managers, Rebert said. The program should be in place this year.
Realtors are there to help people achieve their dreams of homeownership. But it’s just as important for brokers to create leadership roles for agents who want to advance, he said.
Homesale has been at the forefront of creating new sales teams to cover its footprint, which also provides opportunities for professional growth.
Top agents often gravitate to teams because it creates more of a management role for them, and they can serve as mentors or facilitate leads for other agents. The team setup also can create greater work-life balance for some agents as some have a team leader who handles most of the sales while others serve in administrative roles.
The company has more than 100 sales teams across Pennsylvania, including the top sales team in the region.
“Our company will grow. It’s in our DNA,” Rebert said. l