If real estate is all about location, Hunt Real Estate ERA thinks it has found a good spot in the Elmwood Village for a new office.
While Hunt is preparing to add a new office, it has also added a high-profile agent, Bonnie Clement, to its organization in the suburbs.
Hunt bought a former retail store location at Elmwood Avenue and Breckenridge Street, hoping to feed off that area's strong market for residential real estate. The office is expected to open in January, said Bret Llewellyn, Buffalo branch leader for Hunt.
Hunt acquired the property for $325,000 and expects to pour an additional $200,000 into fixing up the property.
"This is a long-term investment," Llewellyn said.
The corner location on Elmwood was most recently home to Lab Indigo, a clothing store, and before that was a Feel-Rite food market, which moved to North Buffalo.
Llewellyn said opening an office in the Elmwood Village was a natural fit for Hunt, given the strong demand for homes between Delaware and Elmwood avenues, as well Allentown and streets west of Elmwood, toward Richmond Avenue.
The new office will also be convenient for many of the firm's agents. "We have probably 15 very good agents in the city who can walk to this location" from where they live, he said.
Llewellyn said the new location should benefit nearby businesses, with agents dropping in at restaurants and coffee shops. And Hunt plans to get involved in community activities, he said.
Eventually Hunt plans to turn upstairs space at the location into two loft apartments, he said.
Dan Leonard, business development specialist for the Elmwood Village Association, said it is a plus that the property's owner will also occupy the location. "They're investing a great deal of money into the space," he said.
Leonard said Hunt will provide an anchor for the space, after a few years of businesses coming and going.
"The reason they're investing in that location is because they really want to sell the Elmwood Village," he said.
Hunt, which has multiple offices in the region, currently has space in the city in the downtown Brisbane Building. The real estate firm will keep that space as a satellite location, Llewellyn said.
Meanwhile, Clement, who is routinely the top-selling residential real estate agent at RealtyUSA, has made the jump to Hunt, which is RealtyUSA's main local competitor.
Clement had spent about 28 years with RealtyUSA and its forerunner, and said she is on track for $23 million in transactions this year. She said it was a difficult decision to leave, but she felt the time was right.
"I have the utmost respect for Merle Whitehead," she said, referring to RealtyUSA's chief executive officer. "He's a fantastic person."
Clement said one reason she was drawn to Hunt was its large share of the residential relocation business that comes into Buffalo Niagara, a segment she enjoys working on. She also liked Hunt's focus on technology and its support team.
Clement said she contacted Hunt, rather than the reverse. Her team of four people has moved to Hunt with her.