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RealtyUSA name dropped. Now, it's Howard Hanna

Bye-bye, RealtyUSA. Hello, Howard Hanna.

One year after entering the Buffalo market in force with its purchase of RealtyUSA, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services is losing the region's dominant real estate brand — in favor of its own.

The Pittsburgh-based brokerage company will announce Tuesday it's putting its own name on offices and signs across the state, abandoning both the RealtyUSA and Nothnagle names. Howard Hanna acquired Rochester-based Nothnagle Realtors a year before purchasing RealtyUSA.

That will ensure more consistency for customers and agents, while reducing confusion. But while the brand will now refer back to a headquarters more than 200 miles away, the change shouldn't harm consumers' view of the firm as a local player in Buffalo, said Howard W. "Hoby" Hanna IV, the company's Cleveland-based president.

Former RealtyUSA owner and chief executive officer Merle Whitehead, who is now Howard Hanna's New York State chairman, still lives here, while former Nothnagle CEO Armand D'Alfonso — now New York State president — still lives in Rochester.

"We're as local as any other company that's in the marketplace," Hanna said. "Our agents live in Buffalo, sell houses in Buffalo and spend money in Buffalo. We'll support Buffalo, Rochester and the other markets."

The development will be unveiled at kickoff receptions for agents in Rochester on July 18 and in Buffalo on July 19, followed by other New York markets. That will be accompanied by television, print and online advertising campaigns to promote the change. Signs will begin changing later this week in Buffalo, and that process will continue for two weeks "because there are so many listings in the market," Hanna said.

By the end of September, the company will have one brand across eight states.

"There always will be a fundamental foundation that our operation in New York is built upon, the underpinnings of RealtyUSA and Nothnagle," Hanna said. "But we'll become Howard Hanna in Western New York next week, and we'll carry that through all of New York state in the subsequent months."

The combined company — the third-largest in the country, behind Berkshire Hathaway and Realogy - now has 259 offices and 9,000 agents, including 93 offices and almost 3,200 agents in New York state.

Officials had left open the possibility of retaining the three separate brands, pending an evaluation of the best course of action. There was also consideration of attaching the Howard Hanna name to the other brands. Hanna said the firm hired outside marketing consultants, talked to agents and managers, and coordinated a focus group, but the ultimate decision was made by Whitehead and D'Alfonso.

"At the end of the day, the two of them, in complete agreement, said it should be Howard Hanna across the whole footprint," he said.

The firm has also consolidated the mortgage banking businesses of the three firms under Howard Hanna Financial Group, in order to bring a broader range of products to consumers. But it will still maintain the 1st Priority Mortgage brand that RealtyUSA had operated.

"We bring a lot more in terms of tools and marketing that will help them sell more houses and list more homes," Hanna said. "We think the consumer will really enjoy and benefit."

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