In the past five years, a new group of regional companies has pushed into the top ranks of Sonoma County’s residential real estate market.
In a county with a mix of regional and national real estate brands, the new players include Santa Rosa-based W Real Estate, San Rafael-based Bradley Real Estate and San Francisco-based Vanguard Properties. All three companies have broken into the top 10 rankings here based on dollar volume for residential and land sales.
Owners and managers maintain that with today’s technology, the smaller companies can now compete with the national brands. Among other things, they are using the internet to attract homebuyers, the vast majority of whom go online to start their home search.
“Curb appeal is not what it used to be,” said Randy Waller, who with partner Tony Shira founded W Real Estate in 2007, now the largest independent brokerage based in the county. “Curb appeal is what you see on your computer.”
Along with those new to the list, San Francisco-based Pacific Union International has grown dramatically here following an expansion five years ago and is now the county’s second largest brokerage. To date this year it has completed $723.9 million in sales, according to multiple-listings data compiled by Pacific Union Senior Vice President Rick Laws, who prepares The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report.
Some national companies also are expanding their local market share. Coldwell Banker, a brand of New Jersey-based Realogy Corp. remains the county’s largest residential brokerage and has continued to grow in the past five years, partly by acquiring the Frank Howard Allen brokerage. To date this year, Coldwell Banker has completed $891.6 million in sales.
And Sotheby’s International, another Realogy brand that focuses on the luxury home market, has advanced to the number three spot, with $403 million in sales.
Rounding out the top five are Century 21 Alliance, with $380.3 million in sales, and Keller Williams, $358.3 million.
In 2011 the top three companies were Coldwell Banker, Wine Country Group by Better Homes and Gardens and Frank Howard Allen. But Frank Howard Allen, a Marin County company founded in 1910, was acquired by Coldwell Banker in 2013.
And Wine Country Group, which five years ago had more than 200 agents and 11 offices in Sonoma and Napa counties, has slipped to number eight in the rankings. This week a new partnership announced it was acquiring five of the remaining offices. The new brokerage, with more than 90 agents, is named Better Homes and Gardens/Wine Country Group.
In the past three years, growth for the brokerages has often come by attracting agents who previously worked for Frank Howard Allen or Wine Country Group.
“A lot of folks are really disenchanted with the big box real estate brokerages,” said Paula Gold-Nocella, managing broker for Vanguard.
Market survived crash
The company opened its first office in the county in 2013 and now has five, including two in Healdsburg and one each in Sebastopol, Guerneville and Santa Rosa. Earlier this month the manager and 20 agents previously attached to Wine County Group’s Healdsburg office agreed to switch to Vanguard, bringing to about 125 the number of agents working in the county for the company.
However, affiliates of the national brands maintain they still offer good value to both clients and agents.