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Howard Hanna Real Estate Services adapts to succeed in recession

Even as the real estate market crashed in 2008, Howard Hanna Real
Estate Services Inc. sold 22 percent more houses than it did in 2007
when the market was not as troubled.

Even as the real estate market crashed in 2008, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services Inc. sold 22 percent more houses than it did in 2007 when the market was not as troubled.

The Allegheny County-based company recently ranked fourth in the U.S. for most customers represented last year in Realtor Magazine’s annual Top 100 poll. It is the largest independently owned real estate company in Pennsylvania and the third-largest in the U.S. The company has four midstate offices.

Howard Hanna has been successful because it has adapted to the marketplace, said Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna III, company chairman and chief executive officer. The company’s customer incentive programs have helped in the wake of the economic downturn, he said.

Howard Hanna is diversified, offering services ranging from insurance services to corporate relocation to residential and commercial mortgages. The company has 52 years of experience and its expertise has helped buoy the company, too, Hanna said.

The company Hanna’s grandfather founded in 1957 has not strayed from its family-operated operating principals and continues to invest its profits in growth, he said. Hanna said he is not afraid to reinvest in the real estate business because it’s a cyclical industry and owning a house still is the American Dream.

Q: What’s the secret to moving forward in this business when the economy is bad?

A: We tried to be creative in how we do business. In March we kicked off a five-to-six-month program where if you involuntarily lost your job, (Howard Hanna) would give you $1,500 per month for six months. It was between March 17 and Aug. 1. It increased sales tremendously when consumer confidence was low. You have to adjust market efforts a little more.

Howard Hanna is a full-service real estate company and you offer several different services. How diversified is the company?

The full-service company specializes in residential and commercial brokerage service, mortgages, closing and title insurances, land development, appraisal services, insurance services and corporate relocation. The company has 131 offices across Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia, and more than 4,900 sales associates and staff.

You said you are continuing to add offices and are reinvesting in the company. Why add or invest during troubled economic times?

There will be a strong residential need. I think we will see 4.8 million (house) sales nationally next year. Our job will be to be there. I don’t think home ownership will not be there. It will still be the American Dream.

Are potential buyers making unrealistically low offers on houses?

We have seen buyers make low starting offers. Our job is to bring a willing buyer and seller together. Single-family house owners have to have a reason to sell, and have a (serious) buyer.

You have four offices in Central Pennsylvania. Is there anything about the region that makes it a desirable place to operate a real estate company?

We should have 10 offices (in the midstate). We should have one office for every 100,000 people. In Central Pennsylvania, we don’t have one type of industry segment, where if one goes, everything goes with it.

How are sales shaping up so far this year compared with 2008?

Each month gets better than the last. The momentum of the last 60 to 90 days should continue as we see more and more buyers coming off the fence. First-time buyers are taking advantage of the federal tax credit of up to $8,000 for home ownership, historically low interest rates and our 100 percent money back guarantee program. This sales activity creates the move-up buyer to the $300,000 to $400,000 price range.

What does the future hold for Howard Hanna?

Continue the growth pattern. We have been increasing every aspect of the company. Anything changes on a daily basis. Are we making the right choices?

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