Northwood Takes Berkshire Name, Looks to Boost Sales

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Changes are in the works to boost the share of commercial real estate sales achieved through the purchase by Northwood Realty Services of a firm affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway.

Northwood announced in June that it is buying Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, a brokerage that is part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network. The merger of the two Pittsburgh-based firms is expected to be completed this month.

The merger has been discussed for 15 years or more, says Tom Hosack, CEO and one of the co-presidents of the combined firm, which will do business as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty.

“It was never the right time,” says Hosack, Northwood’s president and CEO. “This was the right moment for the [Berkshire brokerage’s] owner. He wanted to move on and so we were able to get things together.”

“The timing was right on all fronts to bring the two companies together and merge them together,” affirms James Saxon, co-president and chief operating officer of the combined companies. Both companies have “the same vision and culture.”

The new company will represent about $125 million in revenue, and have 1,800 agents in 54 offices in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

“Both companies have some strong tools and processes,” Saxon says. “We have taken the strengths of both companies … and brought them together” for the benefit of agents and customers in both markets, he says.

The co-presidents met with about 30 top-performing agents July 23 for a breakfast meeting at The Lake Club in Poland.

Growing the commercial share of the business – now about 5% – is one of the priorities for the newly combined firm, the co-presidents say. Sometime this year, Berkshire Hathaway is expected to unveil a new commercial franchise.

“We have not received all the details on what that is going to be yet,” Saxon says.

“Both companies are very strong in the residential marketplace. Commercial is something that right now we are working to build,” he continues. “We acquired a strong commercial agent last year, the Northwood operation has a couple of strong commercial individuals. So that is one of the segments of our business that we are focusing to build.”

In addition, the new company plans to expand its commercial footprint through acquisition and hiring commercial agents, Hosack says. He would like to see commercial activity represent 10% to 15% of business in the next few years.

The merger puts the new company in position to be “No. 1” in western Pennsylvania, Hosack asserts. The wide recognition the Berkshire Hathaway name enjoys will benefit the offices here, he adds.

“Since we expanded into Ohio, it was getting more and more difficult as we moved into new territories to support the Northwood brand, having been independent,” Hosack explains. “Having this relationship with a national franchise gives us a lot more credibility as we enter into markets.”

Bringing the prestige of the Berkshire Hathaway name and its affiliation with renowned investor and businessman Warren Buffett “makes it a good fit for the Ohio marketplace,” Saxon adds.

Local agents and brokers attending the July 23 meeting learned the various tools that will be made available to them as part of Berkshire Hathaway. Promotional materials include a booklet of luxury homes published twice annually and inserted into local newspapers delivered in high-end zip codes, property videos and agent biography videos, and Facebook ads to publicize open houses.

“It’s old school, but open houses work,” Deb Arrisher, vice president of marketing, told the agents.

The merger provides people selling their houses with “a much bigger marketing platform, much more exposure,” and “a lot more technology and marketing tools,” to help them, Hosack says.

Agents have to get new signs, pens, business cards and other materials, but the company is providing those. “Everybody so far has been very optimistic and excited about the change,” Hosack says.

Other than the new tools available to them, agents and employees will see very little change, Saxon says.

“They are excited about it,” affirms Marlin Palich, broker at Northwood Realty Ohio. Going into new markets with the Berkshire Hathaway name “is going to be a positive” because it is a “very well-known entity,” he says.

“Berkshire Hathaway is known throughout the world as the premium brand in real estate companies,” adds Andrea Lupton, who manages Northwood’s Boardman and Poland offices.

Lupton is a 22-year veteran of the industry. She says she is especially pleased with Berkshire Hathaway’s luxury property branding and marketing programs.

Commercial property agents also are enthusiastic because the new company has a dedicated commercial division, and agents overall are “overwhelmingly supportive” of the deal, Lupton says.

Among the features, Kim Webber, an agent in Northwood’s Howland office, says she likes are the videos of houses and agents.

“They’re such an elite company,” Webber says. “They’re going to bring that name into our area, which will be wonderful.”

Pictured: Berkshire’s James Saxon joins Northwood’s Tom Hosack and Marlin Palich for a meeting July 23 with top agents.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.