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Howard Hanna expands further with acquisition of N.Y.-based RealtyUSA

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services acquired Buffalo-based RealtyUSA in a deal that creates the nation’s third-largest real estate company and the dominant residential broker in a region that encompasses western New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The acquisition of the leading residential broker in New York based on transactions marries two family-owned companies that have focused on growing business in communities that are familiar rather than chasing hot markets.

The O’Hara-based company did not disclose financial terms of the deal announced Wednesday.

“It feels great,” said Helen Hanna Casey, the company’s president and CEO. “We have known (RealtyUSA owners) the Whiteheads for a long time. We have a great relationship, and this is an expansion of that.”

The merger creates a company that completed nearly 90,000 transactions last year, making it the No. 3 residential real estate broker in the country by that measure, according to Colorado-based industry consultant RealTrends.

The combined company will have 9,000 sales associates in 270 offices across eight states in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. RealtyUSA has one office in Northeastern Pennsylvania but operates primarily in New York.

The deal broadens Howard Hanna’s access to tens of thousands more customers to whom it can sell more profitable products, such as homeowners insurance and property management services.

“It gives you a much bigger scale to offer all of your homeownership services which, with the earnings from all the businesses combined, are much more impressive,” said Steve Murray, president of Real­Trends.

The merger comes a little more than a year after Howard Hanna’s purchase of Rochester, N.Y.-based Nothnagle Realtors brought it further into the western New York home market.

Like Pittsburgh, Realty­USA’s home base in western New York is a relatively stable housing market where prices grow steadily and are less subject to the boom and bust cycles of cities in the South and Southwest.

“It’s an attractive market to us because it’s a market we know well,” Casey said.

Howard Hanna has expanded its footprint through a number of recent acquisitions. In February, it announced it purchased Moyock, N.C.-based Remax Alpha Realty, adding 12 agents and the third-ranked firm in a market stretching along the northeastern border with Virginia. It also expanded commercial real estate services with several mergers in Ohio and the purchase in December 2014 of Langholz Wilson Ellis.

RealtyUSA owner Merle Whitehead approached Howard Hanna six months ago about the merger, reasoning that it would be better to combine operations than compete as Howard Hanna pushed further into western New York, Casey said.

Howard Hanna will retain all 2,200 RealtyUSA agents and staff in its 65 offices. For RealtyUSA, the merger will give agents access to resources and benefits that it never had before, said Thad DeMulder, the firm’s vice president for western New York and Southern Tier.

That includes Howard Hanna’s income stability programs that allow brokers to receive steady paychecks, based on the agent’s previous year’s sales, instead of relying on the feast or famine of commissioned sales.

“That’s something that we couldn’t do,” DeMulder said.

The companies have similar workplace cultures. They were founded two years apart in the late 1950s and have remained independent, family-owned firms since then.

DeMulder and Casey said they were pleased to be continuing that tradition.

“We are people that are very committed to our communities in the markets we’re in,” Casey said. “If they didn’t share that commitment, then we couldn’t do this.”

Chris Fleisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7854 or [email protected] tribweb.com.


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