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Stovroff Realty, the area's largest real estate agency, has extended its reach in upstate New York by entering the Rochester real estate market.

Merle Whitehead, president of Stovroff, announced Thursday that he bought 50 percent of Rick Leasure Realtors in Pittsford.

Leasure's firm is the fourth largest in the Rochester area based on sales volume. The firm deals mainly with high-end homes and executive relocations.

"Our plans are to add additional offices in the Rochester market," Whitehead said. "We thought this company was a great starting point."

Leasure's 35 agents sold $120 million worth of homes last year - more than some larger Stovroff offices in the Buffalo Niagara area sold.

Leasure will continue as president, but the company will now go by RealtyUSA Rick Leasure Division. Stovroff Realty will phase in the RealtyUSA name in early 2002 - unifying the company's brand name statewide.

Stovroff made its first step outside the local market in July 2000 when Whitehead bought a major stake in RealtyUSA in Albany. RealtyUSA sold $454 million in homes last year. Stovroff in the Buffalo Niagara area sold $857 million.

Stovroff will continue its expansion and has already begun talking to agencies in Syracuse, Whitehead said.

Stovroff's biggest local competitor, Hunt Real Estate, bought a Rochester real estate office in March on the same street and two miles from Leasure's office.

The purchase of Judy Columbus Real Estate & Relocation was Hunt's first expansion into a new market and one of its few acquisitions. Columbus' office is the sixth largest in the Rochester area.

However, unlike Stovroff, which wants to establish a unified name and network across upstate New York, Hunt does not plan to change the name of Columbus' office.


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