As of last week, potential home buyers in Alexandria and throughout the region, have seen the signs of a new kid on the block - Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage (CBRB).
On March 12, NRT Inc., the largest residential real-estate brokerage firm in the nation, increased its market share in the Washington metropolitan area by acquiring two Northern Virginia firms. Coldwell Banker Stevens of Vienna and Coldwell Banker Realty Pros of Bethesda joined Pardoe ERA Real Estate, Washington and O'Connor, Piper & Flynn, Baltimore, as part of the growing NRT network.
Two of the new company's 90 offices are located in Old Town Alexandria:. Pardoe Realty at 310 King St. and Coldwell Banker at 607 S. Washington St. Pardoe will continue to operate under its name, at least until the new designation gains recognition, according to Thomas Bryan, marketing director, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
Although NRT is headquartered in Parsippany, N.J., Bryan assured, "Each of the entities will be run locally. They will not be run from one location." But he further noted, "NRT now controls the Coldwell Banker name throughout Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia."
EVEN WITH THE LATEST ACQUISITIONS, the new firm remains second to Long and Foster Real Estate Inc. as the area’s largest real-estate brokerage firm. It has 8,000 sales associates throughout the metropolitan area, compared with 4,000 agents for CBRB.
"On a combined basis, the four former companies that now comprise CBRB registered more than $10 billion sales in 2001. We now account for one in every five home sales throughout the mid-Atlantic region," Bryan said.
"We will be adding more sales agents, and they will benefit from Coldwell Bankers' national advertising," Bryan assured. "NRT now owns Coldwell Banker operations in 22 of the top 24 markets nationally."
Immediately following the announcement of NRT's purchase, a tug-of-war began between CBRB and Long and Foster for agents. It was heralded by J. Wesley Foster Jr., president of Long and Foster, who announced, "A lot of ... agents don't want to be Coldwell Banker."
To some degree, that was borne out last week, when the manager of Pardoe's Old Town Office joined Long and Foster and took 22 agents with her. "We are talking with more agents and hope that they will also come our way," Brenda Shipplett, Long and Foster executive vice president, said.
Sarah Sinnickson, senior vice president of the new company, located at the Pardoe Office in Old Town, explained, "The situation in Old Town has not occurred anywhere else, and we have retained about 75 percent of the core agents at this location. As with any merger, there are always changes. But it's been going very smoothly."
AT THE OPPOSITE END of the enticement competition is Tom Stevens, former president of Coldwell Banker Stevens and the new president of CBRB. "We have picked up 65 new agents since becoming part of NRT. That speaks for itself," he said.
"It is a major undertaking when you take some of the best firms in the area and combine them," Stevens said. "We have already certified 280 agents in our Previews Program, which handles 54 percent of the luxury-home market over $1 million."
Stevens also noted, "When the announcement was made on March 12 about the new company, there was naturally some anxiety within the ranks, as there always is in these situations. But at the end of March, all four companies reported bigger sales than for the same time last year. That means we didn't miss a beat."
Both Stevens and Bryan indicated that "the new company has been very, very busy." Stevens added, "We are so much further ahead than we thought we would be just one month into the changeover."
Adding sales agents is not an easy task. According to real-estate training statistics, an average brokerage firm must replace approximately 10 to 12 percent of its agents annually, just to maintain its base. Most of this loss is because many who enter the field leave after a relatively short period of time.
LONG AND FOSTER has also been growing through acquisition. Their purchase of Bowers, Nelms and Fonville in Richmond made them the largest in that area, as well. But NRT has been one of the most aggressive in acquiring other companies. It has consumed more than 200-plus companies in recent years.
Since the four local companies came under the new banner, combined Web-site visits have increased 28 percent, open-house traffic is up 10 percent, listings are up 12 percent, and there has been a 5-percent increase in relocation inquiries, according to Stevens.
Bob Becker, NRT president and CEO, attributes this to the fact that "O'Connor, Piper & Flynn and Pardoe Real Estate have both established long and strong real-estate traditions. And both Coldwell Banker companies have earned excellent reputations throughout the region."
"It is also because the local management at these companies has a combined total of more than 150 years of experience. And decisions are being made locally," Bryan emphasized.
As part of the NRT family of companies, CBRB joins a network of 3,100 offices and 75,000 sales associates worldwide. NRT is a joint venture of Cendant, listed on the New York Stock Exchange as “CD,” and Apollo Management, LP. In 2001 it posted a real-estate industry record of $117 billion in closed sales volume.
ANNE BEST RECTOR, a real estate professional for 30 years and most recently with Pardoe's number one Virginia office in Old Town has joined Long & Foster to manage a second Long & Foster office in the city.
Rector and many of her sales associates are temporarily located in offices that are in the same building as Long & Foster's sales office at 500 Montgomery Street.
Rector began her real estate career in 1972 as a sales associate with a small locally owned Old Town real estate firm. She founded her own firm Rector Associates Realtors in 1981. In 1997 she merged Rector Associates with Pardoe & Graham Real Estate which was sold to realty giant NRT in 1999. Rector became the manager and helped establish what was to become NRT's largest Virginia sales office, the Old Town Alexandria office of Pardoe.