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RealtyUSA ranked among top 10 real estate firms again Two other realtors from area on the list

RealtyUSA can claim top-10 status on a national ranking of residential real estate firms for the fifth straight year.

The Amherst-based firm was No. 7 in number of sales, down one spot from the year before, among independent real estate firms that are privately owned and operated. Colorado-based Real Trends prepares the annual list.

Hunt Real Estate ERA and M.J. Peterson Co. also showed up in rankings that are part of the annual "Real Trends 500," providing some national recognition for Buffalo Niagara-based firms.

Nationwide, home sales cooled off in 2006, and the trend showed up in some of the results reported by the local firms on the list.

RealtyUSA's No. 7 ranking was based on its 23,101 closed transaction "sides," down about 6 percent from 2005. Each completed deal consists of two sides, one for the listing and one for the home sale, so it is possible for a firm to record two sides in the same deal.

Despite RealtyUSA's drop-off in sides, its national ranking among all real estate firms, whether independent or not, rose by one spot from the previous year, to No. 11. Topping the list was NRT Inc., a subsidiary of Realogy Corp., which is a $6.5 billion publicly traded company.

Merle Whitehead, president and CEO of RealtyUSA, has grown the local firm organically and through acquisitions. He was a partner at Potter Realtors, which merged with Stovroff & Herman in 1996. In 2000, Whitehead bought out the other three partners and bought the Albany firm RealtyUSA.

RealtyUSA now has locations statewide and in Naples, Fla., and in past years, its totals were bolstered by new acquisitions. RealtyUSA made fewer of those deals last year.

"We really wanted to focus on the team that's here and getting everything squared away," said Mave Milligan, a RealtyUSA spokeswoman. Even so, she said, the company continues to explore potential mergers.

Daniel Symoniak, general manager of RealtyUSA, said the firm made a substantial expansion in Syracuse a couple of years ago, which significantly raised its totals for that year.

Symoniak said RealtyUSA's home sales were down about 2 percent last year. Its biggest drop came in the Capital District, where a lot of its business is generated by new-home construction. That industry endured a much publicized slowdown last year.

Two other locally based firms improved their standings on Real Trends' list.

Among all firms, Hunt Real Estate ERA moved up seven spots in total sides, to No. 43, and M.J. Peterson improved to No. 265.

Peter Hunt, chief executive officer of Hunt Real Estate ERA, said he is pleased with how his company has performed in upstate New York markets like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, and he continues to look for expansion opportunities.

Unlike in some parts of the country, Hunt said, upstate hasn't seen a major fluctuation in housing values. "We didn't have a rush up in values, and we're not going to have a crash down," he said.

Hunt said his company is also taking steps to upgrade its technological infrastructure to allow it to do business anywhere.

He said the Real Trends rankings give Buffalo area companies a chance to be recognized for something other than the weather and a Rust Belt history. "It's nice to be able to point in a relative sense to industrial successes in our area," he said.

Phil Aquila, general manager of M.J. Peterson, said the company shares the rankings with its agents to show how the business is growing.

"It's closely watched by all the brokers in the industry," he said. "It's a big deal nationally."

Among independents, M.J. Peterson was No. 81. Hunt was ineligible to be ranked among independents because of its ERA affiliation.

In total sales volume, RealtyUSA reported $3.3 billion, down slightly from the year before but No. 34 nationally. Hunt's sales volume was $1.3 billion, good for No. 111.

M.J. Peterson's sales volume was not ranked, but it improved 37 percent from the year before, to $243 million.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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