Out on a morning walk, I saw a sign for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Hawai’i and decided to give them a call. I wanted to get the insight into what Allie Beth Allman’s crew have gotten themselves into. A few days later, I met local president Tracy Bradley at that first-seen home’s open house. The short answer is that others in Dallas real estate should be a bit worried by the Berkshire firepower and savvy.
The Honolulu real estate playing field was at one time dominated by local brokerages that over time were acquired by national brands like RE/MAX, Prudential and such. Often what was gained in national presence was lost at the local level with layers of mainland management out of touch with the islands. Also, like many conglomerates, technology tools were not the best. Bradley told me of one of her agents who had been screaming for years for a way to embed a video into an email – no link, no Dropbox. Spoiler alert: now she can film a property on her phone and embed the impromptu tour into an email to her client from her phone.
One of Berkshire’s first real estate acquisitions was Prudential. Apparently, franchisees had the option of opting out and that’s what Hawai’ian offices did. With no presence in high-priced Honolulu, Berkshire approached Bradley and a select group of agents to be their start-up in Hawai’i. Little did I know how timely my meeting would be.
The Hawai’ian branch opened its first office just five days earlier. Before the end of March, they expect to have over 60 agents and their second office opened with a third on the way. That’s what happens when a business like Berkshire wants to do something.
Bradley couldn’t be more impressed with Berkshire’s way of doing business. In another example, Bradley noticed that when setting up her own online profile, there was no selection for the Hawai’ian Standard Time zone (common enough when dealing with mainland companies). The next day she had an email thanking her for catching the lapse and noting that HST had been added … overnight. They also appropriately use the Hawai’ian ‘okina symbol (the apostrophe in the middle of some words that denotes pronunciation).
Berkshire also supplies their affiliates with tools that are at once encompassing but easy to use. They realize that making non-techy agents productive has to be easy and intuitive. Specifically building an agent’s business with contact database management, pipeline tracking, and various communication tools and templates. All of this is overlaid with tons and tons of ease. As an agent constructs or seeks a listing, a few bits of information pulls in all the rest. Canny search capabilities mean a few key words can bring in all the data required. The ease of Google brought into real estate. Again, as many harp, the younger, tech-savvy buyer will be met by experienced agents who’ve learned to speak their language. Berkshire gets that.
Berkshire brings a lot of cross-pollination to its operations as well. In addition to the local resident market, Bradley pointed out that their other large markets are government and military relocation, corporate relo and second homes.
Berkshire’s international footprint will serve as pipeline feeding clients to local offices. Allie Beth Allman will be similarly rewarded with corporate relocation clients and, while doubtlessly fewer, second home seekers.
There’s also a tidy business of inter-island relocations. You see, many Hawai’i second homeowners see a tropical paradise with the economic security, privacy and tranquility they desire being only available on the sparsely populated outer islands. However many come to realize that the outer islands are dead boring for long stays (amen!) with few entertainment and social options. And so, over to O’ahu (Honolulu’s island) they come to find a balance between amenities and peace.
Bradley has the ability to build a business from the ground up with the backing of an international organization feeding their pipeline and providing the infrastructure they need. Their goal is to be the #1 agency in Hawai’i. So far, Bradley is gathering a team of seasoned professionals eager for the energy of a start-up without the pitfalls of not knowing what you’re doing. Allie Beth Allman is already chock-full of seasoned professionals who will be even more fierce given their access to the tools and the network provided by Berkshire Hathaway.
How Berkshire Hathaway’s story unfolds in Dallas remains to be seen but the excitement is palpable. Part of that story will certainly be told in March 2016 when Dallas hosts Berkshire Hathaway Home Services’ annual convention. If Bradley’s experience and enthusiasm is any indication, Allie Beth Allman has not cashed out to a disinterested national chain, but has instead gotten engaged and is about to greatly expand her extended (and very well-heeled) family.
Remember: Do you have a secondshelters.com location you’d like to see featured? I travel quite a bit and enjoy poking around real estate. Realtors, have clients who’d like to document their second home journey? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)! firstname.lastname@example.org