In the last four or five years, the tri-state real estate industry has borne witness to seismic shifts in the balance of power among real estate brokerage firms. Companies that are giants in their own right have merged with others, creating titanic real estate empires stretching across every borough, reaching into the Hamptons at the easternmost tip of Long Island, and even stretching down the East Coast into Florida within the tonier enclaves of Palm Beach and Miami.
Just in the last two or three years alone, many long-established brokerages have been absorbed by their larger colleagues; Halstead bought out William B. Ross Real Estate in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill; Brown Harris Stevens acquired William B. May's Brooklyn operations; Prudential Douglas Elliman bought out both Marilyn A. Donahue Real Estate in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill and Custom Wise Real Estate in Long Beach; and Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy acquired Charles H. Greenthal less than two years ago. Last but not least, the Corcoran Group extended its range of influence by purchasing Cook Pony Farm Real Estate and McCann Coyner Clark Real Estate in the Hamptons.
The absorption and acquisition of so many smaller companies by larger ones has forever changed the face of residential real estate brokerage in the city, according to Andrew Heiberger of Citi Habitats brokerage in Manhattan. "The real estate market is really a market now in the truest sense of the word - it was a business, but now it has become a market. Small brokerages and many of the larger firms alike have been acquired or merged with other companies."
And those mergers and acquisitions are making it possible for previously Manhattan-centric brokerage firms to extend their zone of influence into the outer boroughs, the communities of Long Island, and even as far away as Florida.
"It's about market share," adds Frederick Peters, the president of Warburg Realty Partnership. "Ever since the 1980s, there has been this whole notion of merger/consolidation and both provide you with additional market share that gives you more leverage in a variety of ways. You also hope you can enjoy economy of scale as a result."