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Residential market ‘on fire,’ with little likely to douse flames

Western New York’s housing market continues to boom in early 2016, after setting records last year across nearly all measures, from closings and signed contracts to new listings and prices.

Local real estate agents say many houses are selling almost as soon as they’re listed. Multiple offers are becoming the norm in the hottest neighborhoods, and some homes are selling for well over the asking price.

“The market is on fire, and as long as inventory remains tight, prices will continue to rise,” said David Weitzel, an agent with Re/Max North.

Of course, that’s not always the case. Some city neighborhoods or suburban villages are doing better than others. And brokers say it also depends if the home is priced right, cleaned up and staged properly.

But agents are optimistic. “The market is still incredibly active and I do not see any change for 2016,” said Susan Lenahan, a broker with M.J. Peterson Corp. “Buffalo is back on the map again.”

Buffalo’s residential real estate field is dominated by locally based firms. Here’s a guide to some of the biggest companies.

RealtyUSA

With 55 offices and more than 2,000 agents and employees statewide – including 807 in Western New York – RealtyUSA is the largest independent brokerage firm in the state. With $3.3 billion in sales on 21,879 transactions in 2014, it’s also the nation’s sixth-largest firm .

The private firm is owned and led by Merle Whitehead. Its roots date back to 1959, when Joan and Morton Stovroff teamed with F. Donald Herman to form Stovroff Herman & Glass Inc., and 1962, when Howard Potter formed H. Potter Realtors Inc. Both firms grew before merging in 1996.

Whitehead had purchased half of Potter in 1985. Four years after becoming CEO of the combined firm, he bought the rest of the company and merged it with a seven-office brokerage in Albany called RealtyUSA, and adopted that name for the entire company in 2002. Since then, the firm has expanded over three dozen times through acquisitions, new offices and addition of agents.

The company also provides commercial real estate services, and owns 1st Priority Mortgage.

Hunt Real Estate

The family-owned Hunt Real Estate Corp., the second-largest local real estate brokerage, operates in residential and commercial real estate through the national ERA network.

With $1.3 billion in sales volume, it is ranked 110th nationally in sales volume and 47th nationally for closed transactions. The firm operates 38 residential and three commercial real estate offices, with 593 agents in Western New York.

Founded in 1911 by Delavan native Charles Stanley Hunt, the firm started by selling theatres Hunt owned in Springville and Arcade, and then opened a real estate office in Buffalo’s Arcade Building on Main Street. Hunt moved the offices and staff to the Brisbane Building in 1920, and the company, then called Hunt Business Agency, expanded into residential sales over the next three decades, opening its first suburban branches in 1948.

The leadership of Hunt Real Estate passed first to Hunt’s sons, C. Stuart and Myron M., and then to Stuart’s son, Peter F. Hunt, the current CEO. The firm launched its mortgage and insurance businesses in the 1980s and acquired a title insurance agency in 1993. It expanded to Rochester in 2001 and then to Syracuse in 2003 and Albany in 2009. It has also operated an agency in Arizona since 2008.

MJ Peterson

Based in Amherst, MJ Peterson Real Estate Corp. is the region’s No. 3 brokerage firm, with seven residential sales offices, a relocation division and one commercial office, all in Erie and Niagara counties.

Founded in 1930 by Marvin John Peterson, who came to Buffalo from Detroit after the 1929 stock market crash, it’s also a fourth-generation family-owned firm.

The firm has more than 163 sales agents and about 375 total employees. It also has property appraisal and mortgage brokerage businesses.

The firm is known for developing some of Buffalo’s older neighborhoods, as well as contributing to low-income housing developments and building luxury condominiums. It has built more than 6,000 single-family homes and owns 3,000 apartments, homes, condos and senior housing developments.

WNY Metro

Western New York Metro Real Estate is a network of brokerage offices, with a total of 147 agents and 10 broker-owners.

Based in Amherst, the organization has 14 offices throughout Erie and Niagara counties.

Keller Williams

Keller Williams is an international brokerage brand and franchise network, with nearly 700 offices worldwide and more than 129,000 employees. Founded in the 1980s by Baylor University graduate Gary Keller in his mid-20s, the firm has grown from its small roots in Austin, Texas,.

Locally, the network has two offices and 101 agents.

Century 21 and Coldwell Banker

Century 21 is the world’s largest residential real estate sales and brokerage franchise, with more than 6,900 offices and 101,200 agents in 78 countries and territories. In Western New York, it has six offices in both the Northtowns and Southtowns, with 96 agents.

Coldwell Banker, with a history dating back to 1906, is the longest-running U.S. real estate brand. It has four offices and 63 agents in Western New York.

Both brands are owned by Madison, N.J.-based Realogy Holdings Corp., which also owns Coldwell Banker, Coldwell Banker Commercial, ERA, Sotheby’s International Realty and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, among others. More than a quarter of the U.S. real estate transaction volume goes through its brands.

Realty Edge

Amherst-based Realty Edge is a five-year-old firm founded and led by veteran brokers Ann Edwards, who formerly ran the Keller Williams office and previously operated her own agency, and Connie Gerbush. The word “edge” comes from the first two letters of both owners’ last names. The rapidly growing, fee-based agency, which is already ranked 8th in the area, has 83 agents, with offices in Amherst, downtown Buffalo, Orchard Park and Ellicottville.

Nothnagle

Founded in 1948 by John T. Nothnagle, Rochester-based Nothnagle Realtors entered the Western New York market in early 2010 when it converted an Allentown real estate agency, Polis Realty, into a franchise office, and then opened a second office in Amherst, followed by Orchard Park and Buffalo. Overall, the firm has 30 offices in the Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse markets, and is the third-largest brokerage firm in the state, with more than 900 agents in all.

Last May, it merged with Pittsburgh-based Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the nation’s No. 4 brokerage firm, creating a larger new company with 7,300 agents and employees in 205 offices in eight states. But it retained the Nothnagle brand name and management in upstate New York. Locally, it has three offices and 56 agents.

The original Polis team, no longer with Nothnagle, formed Roycroft Realty, with one office in Kenmore and 18 agents.

Gurney Becker & Bourne

Gurney Becker & Bourne is one of the oldest full-service real estate firms in Western New York, with roots dating to 1864, and a white-shoe legacy of specializing in higher-end homes, particularly in the city of Buffalo.

Still based in downtown Buffalo, on Delaware Avenue, it expanded in 2011 to add suburban offices in Williamsville and Orchard Park and now has listings at all price levels throughout the area. The firm has 42 agents, handling both residential and commercial real estate.

Others

Stovroff & Taylor Realtors in Williamsville is an independent agency with 36 agents that was founded by president Joan C. Stovroff, the co-founder of RealtyUSA’s predecessor, and owner Jacqueline W. Taylor. Last year, it also signed an affiliation agreement with Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, making it a franchise of the national network.

Re/Max, another major real estate brand, has two local offices, with 28 agents.

Founded in 1992 by Isabel Robitaille, Robitaille Relocation & Real Estate specializes in residential relocation services and has handled some of the area’s most expensive homes in Amherst, Orchard Park and Buffalo. Based in the Village of Williamsville, the firm has 20 agents.

J. Lawrence Realty, founded and owned by America’s Choice founder Jed Carroll but operated as a full-service brokerage, is based in Depew, with an additional office in the Rochester suburb of Brighton. The firm has 12 agents.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com

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